Monday, April 28, 2008

Yarrow Tincture, my way

How do I make my Yarrow tincture?

Quite simply actually. First, I harvest the areal portion; newly opened flower heads with a few leaves; of this panacea of a plant friend. It must be a perfectly dry and sunny day. I lay the blossoms and leaves (stems removed) out on paper bags or a shady, airy spot, and let them wilt for a few days. i save the stems for my kids to play with, I ching style :)
I place all the flowers and leaves into my handy quart sized jar until gently full. Then, I cover the herb with either vodka, grain/water dilution, or a nice brandy. There is a kind of scotch you can use too ... have to go back and remember what that is.
Then I cap and label, and put it up in a cabinet for six weeks. Any time after that you can strain and bottle.
I have used a blender too even with the stems and rendered wonderful tincture. I just love the look of the flowers floating in the jar :)

This is a simple kitchen folk method. Nothing complicated, nothing scary. Enjoy!

I have this on hand everywhere. My daughter gets spring nosebleeds so come April I throw a bottle into her bag too. I use it for colds, fevers, stomach upset, sinusitis, bug bites, bug repellent, poison ivy (in the company of mugwort), and a million other things!

I had many lovely photos - but they all went away last summer with a computer crash. So I'm on a mission come July!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Just a thought

Being in nature makes me perfectly happy, this kind of happiness that exists in unity and contentment. It is the place where the less I do, the more impact I have. The most effective, profound actions I can possibly take, are to listen, to watch, to feel, smell and be open. I don't have to prove anything to her. She doesn't care what achievements I have, how much or little I know, or what kind of jeans I have on. She doesn't know my sorrows or my joys, for they all melt together into the thin air of existence. It all is what it is. The duck floats. The Goose sits on her nest. The frog hops. The tree grows. The matrix is self sufficient.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Eighth Intelligence: The Naturalist

Indeed. A long overdue recongnition, despite the underdeveloped understanding of it thus far. I am not sure why I thought it was brand new, maybe in the last five years, because really this information was explored in the 80's. Well, at least by this Gardner guy - if you ask me, it was probably the most primitive, original and intrinsic intelligence possessed by humans.

Here are some explanatory links courtesy of google:

Newer Views of Learning

The Eighth Intelligence, by Leslie Owen Wilson

The Seven Intelligences, plus a new eighth

Another basic article with pinpoints


Yeah - lets me know I'm living my purpose when I get to dig up roots, walk through bogs with a bunch of kids, and shudder with awe as I watch the magic of the great blue heron gracing the sky.

But I have to say, I do wish something a little deeper was revealed here. It all sounds so scientific .... more in the arena of the logical intelligence ....all that sorting and classifying; a small expression of what's really happening. I feel like there is an uncanny gift within the Naturalist. Something that comes from an alchemy of intuition and extra-sensory awareness. Something that recongnizes the interdependence of all living things. Someone who knows that while they are in nature, they are not greater than, or less than, but can seamlessly immerse themselves into the symbiotic dance of nature itself. This awakens the deepest, keenest facets of the intellect and psyche, rendering a dynamic sensitivity to every cell, every line, every expansive shape and predator and vein ... details beyond ordinary, details and patterns with meaning, details which tell secrets. The best scientists are the ones who left room for creativity.

In essence, it is the Artist awakened to Nature that defines the Naturalist.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My favorite tree and another mystery

The Sycamore just sings to me. This one, especially.

What tree dare such earrings? A Box Elder I think.

I love my Library

I really do. It's a place of abundance for me. Wells of wisdom, moments of serendipity, and a refuge from the greedy world. Today I came across some real treasures, that I can't wait to get my nose in. Sometimes kids books are the best; they spell things out and are usually very well organized. I love that I found books just on one single topic or plant, and the really cool one at the top is a real find - it's near impossible to find an herb book with the name stories in in, much less in one spot. This will really come in handy as it will also for those of you who have recently been talking with me about teaching herbs to kids.

The second book down is very cool. Down to Earth, historical, practical, and humming with old-world charm.

Hope your library has these too :)

Catnip worship

Now that's plant love!

Needless to say I can't ever harvest my catnip until it's taller than where the cats rub. Right now, there's more cat fur on it than leaves!

But, I swear, it keeps my cats close to home. They even clear out all the surrounding leaves to have at it. It's absolutely adorable.

And while I'm on the subject, I'll cheat away from my next post on some treasure books I found by showing you the little book on catnip. Those Labiatae's sure know how to make good plants.

More Bloodroot

Did I say 11? I meant 25. What I didn't see was how many little babies were nestled underneath!
OK so I am a bit obsessed with this plant. I watch her every year, in endless awe of her beauty and sensual embrace. I have had folks write me in question of offering a bloodroot salve for sale, but I have never harvested Bloodroot. The application of bloodroot for the curing of cancerous skin spots is somewhat documented, with both success and distress. Some report great pain and burning of holes in the skin, and some report complete healing. I would do some serious research before I tried it. There is an excellent account of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis) in the compilation book "Planting the Future" the entry written I think by Brooke Medicine Eagle.

I have however, as I got to do with my Jr. Herbalists last Friday, unearthed the incredible root to study. She grows laterally, technically a rhizome, and is easy to uncover from the one or two inches of soil. I have found it to be anywhere from a few inches long to several, varying in thickness from skinny to maybe 1 1/2 inches. And yes, when you break it, it bleeds the most riveting crimson color you can imagine.

This end tip of the root, if you were to harvest a little for some reason, is the bit you could take. The rest of the plant can still grow and reproduce. But as an at-risk plant, I would check with your local regulations on whether this is legal or not, and use common sense as to whether there is enough for you to take a few snippets.

The root has also been used, and perhaps still is, in oral care. It is said to strengthen and repair gum tissue, and prevent gum disease. I know herbalists who add a little of this tincture to their mouth rinse. This potion definitely warrants a 'do not swallow' label. It is said to be dizzying and in regular quantities toxic. The fresh juice of the plant can also give sensitive skinned ones blisters. I have not had it happen, but my little neighbor girl learned her respect-for-nature lesson with this plant quite expressly. The Latin genus name: Sanguinaria, means blood, appropriately, and although obvious when looking at the behavior of the root, could also indicate a native use relating to the blood.

Bloodroot likes loamy, partly shady soil. I usually find her in the woods or the periphery thereof.
I am convinced that she only grows where the fairies are.
Despite her threatening claims, she is certainly medicine. But all you have to do is just watch her.

Herbal Parenting 2 - Jinxed!

I guess when you pack yourself a first aid kit, and put it in your car, you'd better expect to use it. After my daughter cutting her knee, I figured we met quota for spring. Unfortunately, that nice thought was followed up by her whacking little brother in the mouth with a hoe. On accident of course, but when you're eight and gushing blood from your face, blame isn't on the radar. So this time, the call I got was in reverse and very short:

"Mom - uhh, come down quick. He's bleeding, like, a LOT. I accidentally hit him with the hoe."

"Shit" - click.

This is when a two minute drive suddenly takes 30 seconds.

The kids came walking down from the path towards the driveway and I took the freshly packed -but not completed- first aid set out of my hatchback. The only actual medicine I had added yet(tissues, towels, cotton, and ice packs were there) was a bottle of Yarrow tincture. Which, of course, is often the first thing I grab. It cleans the wound and staunches the bleeding. Unfortunately it smarts a bit, but in this case it was hardly more than the cut already hurt.

So tissues were quickly unravelled, moistened with yarrow, and applied to the cut.

At home, our next application was fresh Comfrey root. Thank Goddess for gardens. The slippery sliver of fresh inner root sealed itself to the cut as though it were skin. This was good since there was a wee bit of lip missing ... and I wanted to ensure proper closure and minimize scarring. Of course, the wound was not deep enough to merit the no comfrey policy.

When the cut was comfortable enough to remove the root, we then added a little paste of smooshed fresh comfrey root and leaf, dried comfrey root, and a little Goldenseal powder for good measure. This got it healing quite speedily by the next day. Our follow up measure was just a mixture of Comfrey/Goldenseal powder held on by a band-aid. Now it's good to go with a little bit of healing balm.


And they weren't even gardening! Nope. They were running from a mad swan.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Forget equinox

It's really the opening of the Bloodroot that marks the arrival of Spring. Isn't she exquisite?
The veins on her underside are a lovely purple shade.
She's so eager to bloom, she runs ahead of the leaf.
These are just a few of the babies in my garden this year ... I planted four and now I have eleven. Lucky me!
A spider's eye view. Feeling small isn't always so bad.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What's up

Prunella Ramps

Pretty little Blue flowers - Lilliacea family?
Open wide! Skunk Cabbage in flower Mystery Shrub with interesting scales - opposite in pairs, yet the pairs alternate and are perpendicular. Rather reptilian looking.
Knotweed shoots. cool color.
Dependable little Cat's Paw. aka Ground Ivy
Nettle Babies!

Mark's Mystery plant ... I'm stalking it to see what it ends up being.
Hopefullly I can capture a mug of the coltsfoot flowers (shy as they are), and the bloodroot flowered today too. The chives sprang up in a millisecond and so did the comfrey. Nature is waking up indeed.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kitchen Witch, Welcome!

Well .... I guess my brain got twisted up or something .... because I was suppose to include Sasha's exquisite take on Manzanita for our blog party last week. And I never put the link up.
Of course, this was after I had reminded participants to include a link-back to Herbwifery. !
The gall I tell you.

I'm so sorry!!

I added it to the original post, but since people may not return there after reading the first time ... I'm re-posting it here to give more folks a chance to indulge in reading and to redeem myself as blog-party hostess.
Thanks Kitchen Witch for your writing! And Amber for your nudge.

Green Blessings


Monday, April 7, 2008

Herbal Parenting: When your kid bashes their knee

The dreaded announcement:

"mOm ..... Sis is hUrrrrt...... uh ...... baAad"

My girl is known to ignore anything that isn't catastrophic. I'm not sure how she got this rock-steady - but thank heavens because I would be a blubbering mess otherwise, well, like I nearly am when her younger brother gets hurt.
"OK hunny ..... come on over, let's see"
Ohhhh. hm .... breathe deep honey, it's not so bad. (ok so I can almost see the bone, but we don't say that, do we? ... silent gag...)
Her 'tough' face is looking rather pasty. But she breathes, and permits a small, adrenaline induced shutter to run through her.

I think to myself, ugh what to do. Stop infection, stop the pain. My two main goals. In fact, they should almost be the other way around when you are treating your 11 year old child - because the first thing you want to ensure is this: Don't make it hurt any worse!
My trusty spice cabinet has the first key: Cayenne powder. Did I post about this before? I used it a couple years ago for the first time, when a window slammed down on my finger. It reliably stops excess bleeding and also dulls the pain. It's not a tincture so I don't worry about it stinging extra or dripping all over the place and preventing a bandage. It also prevents bacteria from making a home in the wound.

My second remedies are Rescue Remedy. First me, then the child.
Then Meadowsweet or other strongly salicylic herb, internally to deal with the pain, and externally for both cleansing the wound if needed, and also for helping to relieve the local pain. I only put a couple drops in, as the wound had begun to coagulate, but it will work well for a wound wash if needed.
Thirdly, I wrap. I don't say band-aid here because we didn't use a band aid. They aren't very breathable, or helpful. In this case, pine pitch works wonders. It helps keep away the pain, and packs the wound with sticky healing magic. In this case, I didn't have any fresh, but I do have some that I harvested, rolled into balls and coated with rose petal powder last summer - the inside is still quite soft, making it easy to open up and use.

I did pull out my favorite books and look for some quick references about what do do. I indexed cuts, first aid, and wounds .... and frankly didn't find anything that seemed better and in some I didn't even find any quick reference, to my disappointment. What kid wants alcohol or peroxide poured on their fresh wound? I'm very thankful that I had a few things stored in my memory for emergency use. It's no good to have a wounded child and nothing in mind for it... Can you imagine? "sit here honey, while I go read some books. I'll get back to you on that smashed up leg of yours."
The last remedy to mention here, that I didn't use but have in the past, are essential oils. Lavender, Tea Tree, and Blue Chamomile are all widely used for an array of first aid needs including open wounds and burns. The latter I have used with the greatest most reliable results. Lavender and Tea tree seem to have variable results - from sighs of relief to curdling screams of burning stinging pain. Unless the would MUST be cleaned out with something liquid, my first choice is an antibiotic-styptic powder.

Well, she's a good sport - but there'll be no soccer this week. Oh, and no more 'balancing' on the guard rails, either.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Blog Party: Plant Devas

Here are the wonderful entries for this month's blog party! We have some new folks with us ..... Welcome!
(ALL the posts are just beautiful. I could hardly read them through my tears.)

Sasha at Kitchen Witch takes us through the beautiful world of the Manzanita.

Darcey Blue from Gaia's Gifts on Grandmother Juniper

Tales of a Kitchen Herbwife on Yarrow

Kiva from The Medicine Woman's Roots on The Heart of the Forest

Urban Herbwife on Willow

The Witchen Kitchen on Self-Heal and other healing friends.

Granny Sam from The Poke Patch speaks about her ally Poke

And mine is below.

Happy reading!

Sister Secrets

She arrives early, ready to take on the tasks of the season with sheer delight. There is no hesitating, no questioning, no doubting. She shakes off the wet soil as if it were fresh water after a swim. She is perfectly refreshed. She isn't worried that obstacles will come her way, for when they do they are mere reminders of life's surprises and unexpected turns. She tames them with her candied lemon perfume and soothes them with her hypnotically bright green skin.

Despite her popularity and host of extreme talents, she is not obnoxious. For any troubles you might have, she's listening, openheartedly and with a full embrace. A long lost sister she is, braiding your stories into pretty sounds, offering to you her older sister secrets. Big sister Melissa knows all about real beauty, real confidence, real magic, and true sisterhood. If you meet with her, she'll share.

I first met sister Melissa when I went to the Coventry Herb Farm, Caprilands, many years ago. The garden's were something of another land, like I imagined England or Ireland to be. So many sweet little plants everywhere. I stuffed my nose in every one I could, soaking in the prana. Sister Melissa struck me with a consciousness that was something of an ancient memory, a playfulness and abandon and depth of beauty. Ever since I could have my own parcel of land to grow, I would always plant her right away. She always grows big and bushy. Like a good Auntie, she comes when my children are ailing; when life has gotten them down with a bug or an ache or a woe; she heals all. She knows that restoring joy is priority and even more so with children for that is their source. She wastes no time worrying if that is true.

She comes to me when my skin is troubled, soothing it with her cooling oils. She flirts with me when I am grumpy, gently lifting my eyelashes. Her incredibly feminine flowers are small but many, swarming the bees right to her. She knows the Matriarchal family secrets of the Labiatae. She is sweetness! She knows honey and alchemy. She knows change. Dear Melissa isn't afraid of grief. She grows in rich soil and poor soil as well, knowing how to make glory out of any situation. She is unconditional. She's happy in Grandma's garden and happy in the best of the Botanical Gardens. She teaches me adaptability, and versatility.

I am an only child. Where else will I find my Sister?

In the Green.