Sunday, March 23, 2014

Now Accepting Sign-Ups for 2014 Herbal Medicine Shares!

2014 Summer Herbal Medicine Shares!!!

Five months of herbal medicine, May through September

As the garden begins to awaken and the wild greens start to burst from the ground, my thoughts are turning once again to a new season of herbal medicine making. Every year brings new inspirations along with old tried and true recipes. Each growing season I offer an herbal medicine subscription program during the growing season. Each month will feature handcrafted herbal products made with local, chemical-free plants which I grow and wildcraft myself. I believe that the quality of these products is a direct result of working with vibrant, fresh healing herbs, along with my love and respect for the gifts of the green world. Knowledge, experience, creativity and gratitude come together to form unique and nourishing products that preserve the vitality of the plants. I am honored to do this work and share this medicine with my community. 

Each pick-up will include three handcrafted herbal products for first aid or daily use and will be accompanied by an informative e-mail about the products and how to use them.

Folks who come out to pick up their shares will also have the option of taking fresh cut herbs home with them as well.
    Just like a vegetable CSA, the exact contents of your share will depend on the season and what grows well this year. Last year's shares included many products I hope to make again, including...
    • healing salve
    • burn salve
    • skin creams
    • lip balms
    • healing oils
    • relaxing teas
    • wellness elixirs
    • herbal tea blends
    • ...and many others.

    By the end of the season your herbal medicine cabinet will be stocked with lovely handcrafted, locally grown, ethically wildcrafted and chemical-free herbal products.  But...I'm only accepting 20 shares per season. 

    This year's summer herbal medicine share will start in May and run through September. That's five months of herbal goodies to look forward to.

    The cost for the season is...
    $200 per share ($230 with shipping option)

    Each share will be available for pick up the first week of each month.
    Folks can arrange a date and time to come out and pick up their shares.
    I will ship orders out the first Monday of each month.

    Folks in Delaware will be able to pick up their shares this year at a location in the Wilmington area.

    Sign up by e-mailing me at 

    I look forward to making medicine for you this season, and sharing the gifts of the healing plants.

    Tuesday, February 11, 2014

    Thoughts on Living Close to the Earth...

    One of the many things I love about studying herbal medicine is the way it naturally draws you closer to the earth. I suppose it is possible to become an herbalist and not move any closer in your relationship to the earth...if one were to be very clinical and sterile and only work with the plants in their processed form from suppliers. However, for the most part, nearly any path into herbalism involves some kind of an invitation to meet Nature on a more intimate level than most westerners are used to. It starts with noticing the plants we are studying growing wild around us, and then noticing a bit more about the wild around us. Perhaps we begin an herb garden, and soon we are digging in the earth and meeting the creatures that crawl under our feet. Gardens invite in the birds and toads. The sun begins to warm us and the wind speaks in our ears. If we dare to get lost in the rhythms of nature for too long we may even find ourselves moving into that place of resonance where, even if only for a moment, we realize that we are a part of this mysterious natural world as well, no matter how far we have pretended to be removed from it. From here it is only a short step to the desire to live closer the earth, to organize our daily lives in such a way as to honor and respect this relationship, to cultivate it, to live in alignment with the laws of this beautiful natural world we are so intimately connected to.

    When I was in my twenties, I fell in love with Tasha Tudor. I never met her, except through photographs in books. But these photos mesmerized me. So beautiful was this woman to me, who had chosen to live so electricity, heating with wood, a hand water pump in her sink...yet every aspect of her life was infuse with the simple beauty of her daily life. She lived with the seasons and did the work of living, not complaining about the burden, but embracing the joy to be found in each task. Something in my heart longed for this simple beauty in daily life. Some ancient memory was stirred by these photos of this sweet old woman smiling contentedly like the Buddha in her garden. I just knew there was a very important message for me here. Tasha is now gone from this world and can no longer tend her beautiful garden, but through the example she lived, she has planted seeds of inspiration in the hearts of countless others who recognized the treasure she had found. I wanted some of that treasure, and now, as I approach my fortieth year, I feel like I am beginning to discover the same treasure for myself. 

    What started with a knowing in my heart, blossomed over the years to a slow and steady tweaking of my life and lifestyle. Making little changes, and at times big changes, but always drawn along by the wisdom awakened in my heart. I wanted to live close to the earth, to ebb and flow with the seasons, to simplify my needs and indeed to nourish and be nourished by natural world around me. I wanted my children to grow up in a garden, to know where food comes from and to eat that vibrant food still warm in the sun. I wanted to grow my own medicines and learn the weeds (and love them). I wanted to live on the same piece of land for many many years, to learn from it, love it, watch it change with the seasons and the years, and give back to it...become a part of it.

    As the years moved by and my babies grew along with my garden, my partner and I slowly made the changes that we were able to live more gently on the earth. We switched from heating with oil to wood.  Now most of our wood comes from trees on surrounding farms that either fall down or are trimmed. We decided to do away with our clothes dryer and dry everything either outside on the line, or inside by the wood stove. Our simple construction projects are built with local reclaimed lumber and salvaged materials as much as possible. We switched to a composting toilet system that allows us to return nutrients to the land. There is still so much more to do as we consider meeting energy needs more sustainably and continuing to learn more life skills along the way. But we are moving in that direction every day.

    As we move further along this path, the rhythm becomes more established. There are tasks to complete each day and these tasks change with the seasons. We are tending the land, cooking our food, maintaining our house, preparing for the winter, and the spring garden... we are taking care of each other within a meaningful relationship with the earth. But at the same time, it doesn't feel like work, it feels like life. And because we have simplified our needs enough to maintain this lifestyle on a very modest income, we are home more than we are elsewhere. 

    As the trees we planted in reclaimed pastureland become taller, as new birds appear, as the diversity around us increases, my heart becomes filled with joy that is hard to describe. It is like watching someone who was dying come back to life, and realizing you never knew they were dying until you saw what they were like fully vibrant. As the land becomes vibrant, our energy in turn is nourished. How many of us believe that the earth, feeling our love, will then return love to us? How many of us know it, because we have felt it? Once you have a relationship such as this with the land, once you open yourself up to feeling that love, I can tell you that you will also feel pain and suffering of the earth when you visit areas of abuse and destruction. I very rarely go to the city anymore. I just cannot take that energy for long. And when I do, I am filled with gratitude to be back in my earthspace, so much that I often will fall down to kiss the earth.

    But we all know it is all connected. There is only one earth we all live on, and she is the same earth in the city as in my garden. She takes in all our energy and does the best she can to support the life on her body. My garden, my way of living as gently as I can on this earth, is my way of helping her in some small way. I suppose, like Tasha Tudor, I am hoping my example will plant the seed in others, so that more people do what they can to love the land they live on, to treat her gently, to nourish her with love and kindness, she does feel it I can tell you. And she will return that love in beautiful ways.

    I'm thinking all these thoughts lately, about how we have set up our life, because we recently lost power for two days because of an ice storm. Some folks around here were without power for much longer. And though it is often very difficult to lose power for an extended length of time in this day and age, I can say that we were quite comfortable. At this point we have not become completely independent of the grid, but we have come far enough along to experience these disruptions and minor inconveniences instead of the major ordeals they are to many others. We don't worry about losing heat, we can easily switch to using oil lamps, and although we don't yet have a hand pump for water, we do have drinking water stored in the pantry. We don't even need to flush our toilets. To be honest, the most difficult part of losing power is having three boys who are used to using the computer for so many things, but even they start to appreciate the simplicity of letting go of that last bit of false light that remove us from the environment around us. When we are not worried about meeting our daily survival needs, losing power becomes a beautiful invitation to appreciate the natural beauty around us, yes even after an ice storm. 

    We are not there yet. And will never simplify to the level of Tasha Tudor. But we are becoming more conscious of how our lifestyle impacts the earth we live on, the earth we are a part of. I am grateful for the distance we have come, and I look forward to moving further along this path. Our daily lives can be lived in artful beauty, in loving give and take with the natural world. Some call it walking the beauty way. For me, it becomes more and more like breathing, like the simple in breath and out breath that just feels right in my heart.

    And so, as we ready ourselves for another winter storm this week, I am grateful for the changing seasons, for the sleeping earth beneath the snow, for the medicines in my pantry crafted in my garden, for the wood keeping us warm and the spirits dancing in the empty branches. In a few weeks winter will ebb and the earth will green. It's already beginning, with a stirring as buds swell and sap flows. The same changes occur within ourselves. Can we recognize this connection? Can we honor it? 

    Friday, January 3, 2014

    2014 Folk Herbalism Series

    Herbal medicine has been the medicine of the people in all cultures since ancient history. Only in recent times have we lost our connection with the healing plants that our ancestors knew and relied on. But the plants are still here, growing all around us, and waiting for us to remember their gifts. This series of three hour classes was designed with the beginner in mind, as a way of offering practical ways of using these safe healing herbs, and reconnecting with the plants around you. Each month we focus on one topic, but I always include brief herb walks in the garden to introduce the living plants. Also, folks will bring home from each class either a living plant for their garden, or an herbal product we make in class. This year's classes will all be held on the second Sunday of the month, except for May, which will be on the first Sunday because of Mother's Day.

    April 13th  Food as Medicine-
    Spring tonics growing wild in your yard
    Identify the herbs and weeds that are most nourishing and toning to our systems. Learn how to harvest and use these plants as edibles and infusions. Prevention is the best medicine, and many of the wild plants are loaded with the nutrients we need to stay healthy and energized throughout the season. We will be tasting some simple recipes made with these nutritious and tonic plants.

    May 4th Herbal First Aid
    Learn what herbs to reach for when those little emergencies happen. We will look at my favorite plants to turn to for cuts, scrapes, bruises, bleeding, pain, poisoning, diarrhea, infections, bites, burns and other minor emergencies. Nature offers abundant and safe solutions to heal our traumas. We'll be getting to know some of my most relied upon plants.

    June 8th Tinctures and Elixirs
    Learn to make your own tinctures and elixirs to last all winter. These potent and portable herbal preparations will preserve your herbal bounty, and making them is easier than you think. We'll be making some in class.

    July 13th Oils and Salves
    Herbal oils and salves can heal and soothe, stimulate or relax. In this class we'll make some together and look at recipes and techniques for making your own at home. 

    August 10th Poultices and Fomentations
    From chew and stick poultices in the field to carefully prepared fomentations in the kitchen, we'll look at the lost art of laying on the herbs. These techniques are useful for anything from treating minor skin problems to helping broken bones heal faster to drawing out toxins and poisons and infections.

    photo by Amelia Rehrman

    September 14th Harvesting and Preserving
    We'll cover harvesting techniques for varies plants and their parts, with a bit of wildcrafting ethics thrown in. We will also discuss various ways to preserve your herbal harvest.
    (tinctures and oils will be briefly discussed in this class, but are more thoroughly covered in previous classes)

    October 12th Digging the Medicine
    Fall is the time to dig the roots, both physical and proverbial. We'll be talking about underground medicine (literally and figuratively). Come unearth some healing roots while discussing the history of the suppression of herbal medicine and why it continues, like a stubborn root in the garden, to persist.

    November 9th Teas and Syrups
    Tisane, Infusion, Decoction...what's the difference? Teas are among the most simple and effective of herbal medicines. We'll sip some in class and make some sweet syrup too. This class will also focus on herbs and recipes that are useful as we move into cold and flu season.

    All classes will be from 10am to 1pm
     at my home and garden outside of Oxford, Pa.

    Space is limited to 15 per class, so sign up early to reserve your spot.

    Cost is $40 per class ($10 for interested young people)
    In the event of cancellation due to weather, 
    classes will be rescheduled for the following Sunday

    **Adults who wish to sign up for the entire season of classes can do so for a 
    discounted price of $280
    (however, I cannot refund money for missed classes)

    To sign up, e-mail me at

    I look forward to sharing another season of herbal medicine!

    Photos in this post by Earth Mama

    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    My Herbal First Aid Bag

    Carrying herbal remedies with us when we travel is another way to be prepared when accidents happen, which happen to happen more often when traveling with kids. I've had many different ways to carry my herbal first aid kit over the years. Sometimes it has worked great and provided just what I needed. Other times I've found myself not having access to a needed remedy or adequate supplies. This spring I brushed up a bit on herbal first aid with 7Song's herbal first aid course through Learning Herbs. 7Song runs the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine. He has mega first aid experience and his herbal first aid bag is incredible. The course really inspired me to put some more thought into my own first aid bag and really think about the remedies and supplies I might need. It's still a work in progress, but I feel it is at least ready to use, and therefore present as one solution to the question...

    So what does an herbal first aid bag look like?

    I wanted a bag that was sturdy, light weight, not too fancy, not too big, but adequate for carrying the supplies I needed. I finally decided on a small canvas that cost me less than ten dollars. It looked very drab and militaristic, so I sewed on some fabric more to my liking. I'm sure the appearance will continue to morph over time, but for now I am happy with the bag itself.

    Everything inside is packed neatly and securely, but within easy access. There are two smaller, zippered bags which are foam lined inside the main compartment. I used these to hold my glass bottles so there is no risk of breakage. Other items are tucked around these two bags.

    The zippered bags are easily removed from the big bag.

    The first zippered bag basically contains the contents of what used to be my whole first aid kit. These items are my essential that I don't leave home without...the bare minimum. You can see how the writing on the labels is faded and smudged. These remedies have traveled with me for a few years now and have been quite used. They include...a liniment, blackberry root glycerite, skullcap tincture, shepherd's purse tincture, echinacea tincture, anti-spasmodic tincture, rescue remedy, lavender essential oil, a bag of bandages, and a handkerchief. If I need to travel light, I can simply remove this small bag and toss it in my shoulder bag.

    The second zippered bag carries the additional tinctures I wanted to add to my first aid bag. They include oregon grape root, propolis, osha, cramp bark, yarrow, and calamus. I've also included an empty dropper bottle in case I need to mix up a combination tincture for someone or give them a dosage bottle. The last item in this bag is one eye piece from a an old set of swimming goggles. This is to be used as a travel eye wash cup so I don't need to pack a glass one. (I can't remember who gave me that idea, but I think it is genius.) All of the glass dropper bottles are half ounce size.

    The rest of the contents of the big pocket are tucked around the two zippered bags. They include my inventory list, a thermometer, a bandage roll, a roll of vet wrap, three kinds of tape, charcoal powder, cayenne powder, an anti-inflammatory salve, an all purpose salve, a burn salve, a throat spray, a pair of reading glasses (useful when removing small splinters), and two ABD pads.

    My bag also has two small pockets on the front. In one of these I have bandages of various sizes, including butterfly bandages and steri strips. In the other I have gauze and a pair of latex gloves.

    And that's about it. Like I said, it is a work in progress and I'm sure it will morph over the years, but I'm  pretty happy with it for now. My bag hangs on a hook in the mud room, not far from the car keys. On my way out the door I grab it and plunk it in the car, which is usually where it stays, as I'm not often too far from the car these days. But it is light weight enough that it wouldn't be a problem to carry it along either. The removable essentials bag inside is great for conveniently carrying my most basic remedies (I will not be caught again at a wedding without my blackberry students know what I refer to here). Many thanks to 7Song for inspiring this process and for his herbal first aid teachings!!!

    Monday, November 18, 2013

    Musings Down the Path...

    mullein and me through a pin hole camera ~2001

    I have come to realize lately that herbalism is my path. I don't mean simply that working with the healing plants is the career choice I have made, but more of a deeper study, a walking with, a way of being and seeing and exploring this earthly experience. Anything can be your path. For many people, religion is their path, but I feel that we can arrive at the deep understandings that life has to offer through just about any exploration, and the correct path for each individual is the one that makes their heart sing, the one that calls to them in soft whispers and tempts their curiosity.

    For me, plants have always done this. And though I've always known that I have been drawn to working with the plants, I have only recently had the perspective to look back and see the beginnings of spiritual framework I didn't even know was being formed, all based on my work with the green ones.

    Right from the beginning there has been a sense of wonder, of awe, in discovering the magic of the plants. Yes, we understand now more than ever the biological functions of botanical organisms and how they interact with the world, but we still are not anywhere near understanding all of it. And it seems the more we do understand, the more amazing it all seems.

    Rumi once said we should trade our cleverness for wonder. And I am in wonder at the amazingness of the green world. They provide the air we need to breathe, they provide food that nourishes our body, and many other essentials for our lives. We've known about these gifts. But we are just beginning to understand how very amazing the green world really is. We are just beginning to understand that trees in a forest communicate with one another, and even share resource! We are just beginning to understand that the plants remove toxins, not just from our bodies, but from the earth! (yes, the herbicides you spray on your lawn will actually attract more weeds in the long run) We are just beginning to understand that we are biologically adapted to be in relationship with the green world, that we need a bit of the wild to be truly healthy, both physically and mentally.

    When I first began to study the healing plants, I was amazed that the weeds growing outside my door could be used to restore my health. I now realize they do so much more. The healing plants are one of Nature's players on this living planet, and she moves them where they are needed most, whether it is our backyards, a crack in the pavement, or a Superfund site. The plants are working to clean up our mess as fast as they can. They are remineralizing the soils and breaking up hardpan. They are cleaning the wetlands and the waterways. They are removing chemicals and radiation. They are cleaning the air and feeding the entire plant kingdom. And they do all of this in the environment of our own bodies as well. How could we ever expect to outdo Nature in her infinite wisdom when it comes to bringing things back into balance?

    And so, I walk my path, working with the plants, but also smiling with heart felt gratitude, for Nature's loving wisdom. And I wonder, how many of us can smile at every plant they see, no matter where it is growing, knowing that it is part of Nature's plan to bring things into balance again.