Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
A delicious and supremely soothing staple is a good quality comfrey salve. This one I kicked up a notch for gift giving - ok fine, for my own guilty pleasure! I put in a little cocoa absolute and clementine co2 and it smells out of this world delicious! The wrap on the left is a wash cloth I crocheted out of some really buttery wool blend yarn, and tied up in it is some good soap.
Recovery will be a breeze.............
I can sit back for a little while and sip my infusion amidst the boxes, new books and calendars, and watch the juncos collect seeds,
Friday, December 19, 2008
From there, we took on the world of evergreens. We put our order of questioning to work, tracking the least to most subtle details of each bough. Conifers are incredibly fascinating! And the perfect type of plant to learn to use a key from. They also make good material for a starter talk on the evolution of plant life. And it's always interesting to teach kids about 'naked seeds'.
After noting all the defining features of our green trees, we used the information to finally ID each species. We had a wonderful round table debate on the 'Blue Spruce', commonly known but not listed in my books. With a little help from our lead instructor and the Internet, we found it to be synonymous with the Colorado spruce - of which we did not have a bough.
The kids successfully ID'd at least the genus of each evergreen, in some cases they got all the way to species. Woohoo! Ok, I know the poster looks simple.... but the observational skills that get exercised in the process is a lot more noisy and fun and complicated!The middle one is supposed to follow through to list the Norway Spruce, one of my personal favorites - the way the boughs drape along it's sides like gypsy sleeves. If you get a good blister of sap it makes wonderful salve or wound dressing. They seem to line the highways of Western Connecticut in an elegant way that buffers the otherwise preppy atmosphere.
Hopefully the kids will be examining their Yuletide tree up close this year!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Comes understanding. The more I learn about plants, the more I realize I don't know. The world of plants and their intricacies is so vast and layered. Understanding plants on a simple and spiritual level is deeply satisfying, but in order to pass on the knowledge to the next generation I am finding that concrete understanding is most essential.
Take for instance, the simple twig. Or an herbaceous plant. Or second year growth.
As an herbalist these words get taken for granted; tossed around in the books with the assumption that us lay herbalists actually know what they mean. I know they assume because they aren't explained in the glossary or given any special attention. It wasn't until recently that I finally read how to identify the "second year growth" of Mullein. The first year is the basal rosette and the second year is when it sends up the stalk. (hmm, what happens in the third year?) With the rise of global warming, we are paying attention. I for one thought that the tree was confused... with her little buds already on the twig tips in December. Upon more studies.... I now understand these buds as the terminal buds, which hold the genetic information for spring's renewal and supply food for wildlife in the winter. An herbaceous plant actually has a useful definition.... it's not just a random term for low growing nifty plants that aren't trees.
"The inner bark was used to treat stomach disorders"
This is a common type of explanation we might find in an enthobotanical text or a modern herbal. For historical purposes this is very nice to know.
But I am left hanging by a thread. HOW on Earth do I get the inner bark? WHEN do I harvest it? Do I just take my pocket knife and start hacking away? WHAT part of the tree to I take from- the trunk? The twigs? How do I peel back the outer bark? What preparation do I make and what is the safety level? Not to mention that we don't even know what kind of stomach disorder we are dealing with. So many herbals are just infuriatingly uninstructional. They are theoretical.
I realize that the flip side of this can be books and studies that are entirely too dense and overwhelming to feel grounded.
I need to know more. I need to know more variety and how all this harvesting will impact my environment if I teach others to harvest it too. What if we all go harvest the Nettles? The birch bark for fires? The cattail for food and tinder?
The more I study, the more questions I have. And I am not sure I know where to go to get untangled. I'm certainly not going to "Herbal School". I have a family and a job. And I am very bad at following rules and orderly instructions.
I suppose the best thing to do is continue to apply myself to the experience of nature, take extremely good notes, (my latest obsession being leaf rubbings) and follow up with some of the actually good books. I'm finding the herbals less and less appealing, and the nature education books increasingly satisfying. Since I avoid buying herbs and prefer harvesting them myself, identification is essential. Which means botanical detail is essential too... and I'm on my own for learning it.
In case you are another baffled herbalist.... here are my latest favorite books you might find refreshing:
Hands on Nature by Lingelbach and Parcell / Vermont Institute of Nature Studies
Keepers of Life by Joseph Bruchac
The Tree Identification Book by George W.D. Symonds
Mountain Medicine by Tommie Bass
Although not released yet, I have high hopes for Kiva Rose's Medicine Woman Herbal :)
And, while not technically a book, the indispensable www.herbmentor.com
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
At the water's edge grow two trees I hadn't yet had the pleasure of meeting up close. The profusely papery river birch makes not only a striking visual display, but superb fire tinder. My son collected a nice big bag along side his cattails, to bring to his Pioneers day on Thursdays.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Folks discuss their fall plans, their food menus, their busy work schedules, and their travel experiences. It's weird how many people have travelled so much nowadays. The juxtaposition of old town folks and new corporate families has created a language divide, making directions confusing and history thwarted. Everything has two names.... the "Berry Farm" is now Settlers Park, and so on. Locals have taken stock in our place so much as to create a Southburyopoly game. Good for them.
Of course, it isn't too long before they are hook line and sinker in love with the land. The sweet Earth smells, the apple pies, the old world farms and the new world extreme affluence. It's tempting and romantic. And hard. And no one is as hooked on the virtue of hard work as Connecticut and New York. I'm not sure it's gotten us anywhere closer to ourselves, but gosh darnet it's gotten us closer to being worthy. (yes that was sarcasm)
The corn maize is another great tradition. If you've ever gotten lost in a corn field, you know what a crazy thing it is. Obviously there is no path like the mazes created for us - they are just miles of bewildering unison. The only way to get out is to hope you are paying attention to the sun, and it's not night time. Each time I enter one of these mazes I have mixed emotions. They are so beautiful, with their golden tassels and claw footed roots, and finding your way through is really fun. But I also think of my dear childhood friend back in Iowa (the King state of corn fields) who's older brother, bless his heart, had taken some kind of drugs, wandered off into a corn field, and got lost. He was missing for several heart wrenching weeks. Finally his body was discovered by the farmer, while reaping his crop. It was the saddest thing I'd seen yet, at the tender age of 14. His mom was the apple queen of the town, and perhaps her days spent peeling apples on the back porch became her closest ally. For me, the fall means deadline. Get the warm clothes set up, the wood stacked, the chairs and cushions in, and hope you got all the herbs you needed. Dig up the roots before the soil is too hard, and think ahead. It means 'get ready'. For cold, snow, holidays, and mostly anything that feels like hardship - or really is. So far we've replaced an entire door system and our well pump which broke. I'm stamping 'done' on my quota sheet.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Sweet Everlasting. The sweetest little plant indeed... a new one to my repertoire, at least from meeting in person. I thought she was a faery in the woods, dancing along the sides of the path, like a translucent little pixie tugging at my skirt. Skipping along with a twinkle, she tugs each time I pass, hurriedly, as I host others along the trail to and fro. But the moment I was alone, she batted her eyelashes so big I had to stop. Hmmm, I think, looks a little like a tiny boneset, or a small kind of closed up aster.... or....
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Who would I nominate? I'll have to go simply with the ones I really read often, as opposed to an objective analysis. If you frequent my blog, these won't come as any surprise.
1) Of course, she's probably already nominated, but the lovely Kiva Rose writes deliciously and informatively.
2) Desert Medicine Woman who I also adore and always look forward to what she has to share.
3) Julia Butterfly Hill - she doesn't write very often, but each piece is succulent, moving, and important.
4) Kitchen Witch - love her un-separateness of plant spirit medicine and tangible earthy wisdom.
5) The Blessed Thistle - just the perfect balance of happy herbal info and political kvetching.
6)United Plant Savers - just as the name describes, this is where you get the info about endangered species and what is being done to caretake them. Important stuff and everyone should be a member :) Perhaps it's not technically a blog, but it has a feed.
7) Red Tent Temple TN - This one fills my heart with joy; to watch the Red Tents across our Earth rise up and evolve brings me a sense of hope and peace for our women, culture, and planet. The author Yarrow has been a special little spark in my life. I love the writing and resources on this blog.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Half Moon lake holds the prayers of the women, girls and children who attend each year. The plants grow wild and unencumbered here. The wild blueberries ripe and sweet, the elder drips with copious amounts of fruit, the goldenrod scents the air with honey, and skullcap sneaks into the moist and shady pockets.
And yet the return to life brings the deepest sorrow imaginable. Despite the comparatively 'fine' life I have, fine seems unacceptable. Fine seems more like doom. Filled with bills and deadlines and obligations and 'shoulds', injected with laws and societal expectations, and self inflicted limitations, I spend this in between day to both grieve and to effort myself back to alleged reality. While home is an essential foundation for me - the deeper sense of home meaning rooted in one's being always and often through connection to land or place - 'home' in the modern sense of house laundry mortgage and work is truly the dessication of my spirit. Perhaps this is what happens when the 'home' you arrange, is not aligned with the inner home that your soul is; not aligned with your purpose, needs, and venues of gifts and expressions. Perhaps it is through this misalignment that we become trapped in a vicious cycle of obligatory gratitude and deep despondency. Life traps life in unforgiving ways. Life allows room for only a couple passions at a time.
While being anointed with the astonishing sounds of these Appalachian soul sisters, I grew roots. I may have even gotten drunk on the intoxicating rhythms, caramelized harmonies and side splitting humor. My feet pressed closer to the earth and my wings flew me across each mountain and valley of lyrical habitats and cultural diversity. My breath rounded and my latent artist heart began to beat again. Partaking in their 'singing out your soul' workshop we danced, sculpted layered sounds, learned celebratory songs from around the globe, and opened our creative lungs together. I'll be singing these tunes forever. Leah and Chloe if only you knew the vast ripples your droplets make.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
When we drummed in the ancestors at the Daughters of the Earth Gathering, I expected to meet my long lost fore mothers. I thought they would finally come to me, let me know where I came from, inform me of a great lineage. But no one showed up. I still don't know my lineage, really. At the tail end of ruckus heartbeat drumming with forty other women and a Voodoo Priestess? I realized the one who showed up
I am the ancestor.
I will be the past someday.
It's me, my Mom, my daughter, and my husband and son, that carry this moment into something special. You too. The future is the same thing as the now.
I'll see you all back here in the now on Monday. Or maybe Tuesday.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
My hide away time of no-posts hasn't been out of spite. In fact it is because the cauldron of something new has been brewing. Yes, Hecate has had her hands full with me lately.
I am truly thrilled (the thrill quieting the accompanying fear) to announce to you all my new role as the Homeschool Program Coordinator. And what better way to give everyone a window into this amazing place, than to give it a friendly www portal! (I hear Kiva laughing now, thinking back to when I couldn't come to open a blog at all - now I run three).
So for all of you curious ones, come and check out what I am diving head first into at
Great Hollow Wilderness School
and while you're at it? Wish me LUCK!
If you are local - i hope to see you at the Hollow soon!
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
It's no mystery why Mother Nature blossoms this beauty right now. The Rose of Sharon is perhaps the largest of the Mallow (Malvaceae) family, providing ample mucilage to us hot humans. The cooling flowers are truly delicious, and a beautiful addition to a wild salad. Crushed, the flowers can quickly soothe an over heated face while gardening, or ease an itching rash or insect bite. A strong infusion (cool water, please!) will coat all of your insides with slippery healing, a perfect remedy for hot digestion, IBS, UTI, ulcers, and hot tempered summer folk. (think: Pitta)
Mallow in tandem with Red Clover would be a most wonderful fertility combination, fortifying the lining of the uterus in preparation for implantation of sperm. Mallow also gives sheen to our skin by increasing suppleness and hydration, and because of it's lovely mild flavor, an easy one to share with children. And exceptional sore throat remedy, combine with some prebrewed Echinacea root infusion and your sore throat will vanish in no time flat.
Rose of Sharon's flowers are the plant part I use, and of other Mallows I believe you can use the leaves as well and of course there is Marsh Mallow root - of which I have not grown or wildcrafted (yet!). I use them (the Rose of Sharon flowers) generously ... as a nutritive plant you really can't use too much unless your natural constitution is already too cold and wet. (think: Kapha) But even those types can stand some Mallow in the heat of the summer.
Hibiscus is a particularly delicious (a fruity-sour taste) and very cooling (some consider it a refrigerant, energetically) Mallow species. The flowers are used in the classic "Red Zinger" tea by Celestial Seasonings, and in many other citrus flavor teas on the market. If you grow your own, you have to bring it inside during the winter months, but she's a patio pleaser in the summer time - that is, if you don't eat all the flowers.
Rose of Sharon's equal directions of upwards and downwards growing patters remind me that her moving energy is mostly neutral, perhaps adaptive; not too stimulating or sedative, but rather "even keel". This is how I feel when I eat and drink of her medicine. And similar to the Rose genus, she feels like a heart soother; emotionally healing and uplifting but without illusion. A gift of Nature indeed.
mmmmm, the smell.
Speaking of gifts, the Wineberries are ripe and very plump this year, keeping the kids happily picking bowl fulls each day.
And the Wormwood got so tall it began to fall over on itself .... so I harvested plenty and made a long smudge wand for my friend's Lodge.
Some wild teas for my women's circle....
My hobby on the side, inspired by my daughter who crochets far better, but less often, than I. These special medicine pouches will probably go to the Red Tent Temple Artisan Fundraiser, coming soon.
Oh yes. And my beloved Catnip, the Don Juan of Cats. I go to him for vibrational healing .... he has the most incredible purr.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
I keep the scents of the plants in my skin, never to wash away.
I keep the records in my bones.
The Grandmothers beckon us to speak
The ancient language of Mother Earth
Who lives inside our bodies
The landscape teaches us if only we listen and receive
The Grandmother is shaking her feathers wildly
To us, now, in command. To become and to step up
It is time
To kiss the tears of our men,
To worship the stretch marks of our bellies,
To sing like Frog Woman from the waters deep inside our needs unmet
To announce our right to remain whole
To scream like Hawk Woman in protection of our territory: Earth!
Our water, our air, our soil, our own Earthly bodies, searching
I heed the call of the woman lost
I let in the medicine through my hands on her flora, her stone, her pitch
I let in the medicine through my cheeks on morning dew, my knees in the sentient river, my heart paying vibrant attention
I keep the memories in my blood,
I tell them
To the girls and to the women and to myself
I tell them to the paper and the garden and the unsuspecting neighbor
I ink them into others when I cast my gaze,
A spell of needed change
Bring it on I say. We are ready. We are strong. We are remembering.
It was thick and syrupy. I stirred it every so often, keeping the pitch melted and suspended in the oil and wax. It cooled over a few hours and became opaque and creamy. I poured it into little pots to finish cooling.
The salve remains a softer consistency, more soft than my usual salves, I think I overestimated how much hardness the pitch would contribute, because I eased by about half an ounce on the beeswax. It's more of a firm ointment than a balm or salve. I like it though. I have a feeling this one will get a whole lot of loving use.
And a special thank you to Darcey who enlightened me on melting pitch into salve or oil.