Thursday, June 30, 2016

This is my Garden

My garden is a riot of life.

meadowsweet

Sitting here at the height of summer, I am surrounded by flurries of activity and everywhere I look there  are creatures and beings singing, eating, dozing, flying, building, arguing, or doing any other number of things. I have watched this small plot of land transform over the years from a simple yard to an oasis. And I can tell you in one word how it happened… plants.

chamomile

The first to arrive were the birds. There had always been some, but once we began planting with trees and shrubs, increasing the perching and nesting areas, the bird populations multiplied quickly. As the trees grew taller and filled in, and berry bushes started to produce fruit, we saw even more species. Our garden ecosystem is home to cardinals, finches, wrens, robins, jays, woodpeckers, bluebirds, chickadee, sparrows, blackbirds, starlings, juncos, kingfishers, owls, orioles, catbirds, mockingbirds, doves, hummingbirds and many more. In the mornings we are greeted with a cacophony of bird song that I wouldn't trade for anything, and our days are filled with their calls in every waking hour.

Trees and bushes bring the birds.

spikenard

This pattern has played out for other creatures as well. As our garden has grown, more of a ecosystem landscape really, life of all kinds has moved in, and it's always been welcome. By day we are surrounded by birds, squirrels, cats and buzzing insects, the nocturnal shift brings out the opossums, raccoons, bats, frogs, toads and snakes. If we are lucky, we catch a glimpse of the bunnies in the morning. Rarely seen, but always present are the moles and voles, chipmunks and fox. In the richly composted soil reside magnitudes of macro and micro critters, and ants are simply everywhere.

All of this makes me happy. It gives me hope that life can always thrive and we can live in harmony on this earth. And all it comes down to is habitat restoration (i.e. build the soil and allow plants to grow).



If you read this blog, you know I have an affinity for the healing plants. My aim from day one in this garden was always to grow, cultivate and harvest medicinal plants. But I have always taken a larger view of my gardening efforts. I never imagined a medicine garden patterned after commercial gardens or farms, with single crops lined up in rows, where the soil is tilled every year and all other plants (weeds) are expunged. My view was more inclusive. Instead of crops, I imagined communities. I wanted a living space, with niches and microclimates, with spaces that invited sitting, and wandering, and tree climbing. I dreamt of multi-storied corners and a sunny spot for the medicine wheel. I used permaculture as my guide and never looked back. The result is an every changing habitat that is home to countless other creatures, that provides my family with the beauty and spirit nourishing gifts of Nature, that feed us fruits and vegetables, that gives my children the places to climb, swim, play and hide that are so precious in childhood, and that provides me with the medicine I need to do my work and take care of my family.

All this happens on three quarters of an acre.

california poppies

There are many meanings to the word medicine. As an herbalist, or wortcunner, I use the word mostly to talk about the herbs and their healing effect on the body. But in my garden, I am awash in medicine. The plants are here, yes. But the true medicine comes in the totality of all the components of life in this garden, from the smallest to the largest. How can I possible describe the feeling I get in my heart as I sit in the shade of a tree I planted 10 years ago (now 25 feet tall) and feel the breeze cool my skin as I hear birdsong and an insect buzzes by on it's way to pollinate the meadowsweet, which I inhale into my lungs and gaze upon the many shades of green, accented by fuchsia, red, cream, pink, orange, yellow and violet flowers? It is a state of blessing.

angelica

This is my garden.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Handcrafted medicine to get you through the winter months...


It's time to sign up...
Winter Sweet Medicine Subcription
Sweet handcrafted medicine to get you through the cold season


Enjoy three months of herbal medicine installments...

Sign up for three months of medicine, beginning in December and stock up on herbal wellness through the dark and cold days of the year. If you would like some local, handcrafted herbal medicine made just for you each month, take a gander at this opportunity to have me make some yummy concoctions designed for cold season support for you and your family.

Each monthly share will include one bottle of herbal syrup and one bottle of herbal elixir. These sweet medicines will be formulated with healing herbs traditionally used for treating and preventing the common complaints of the cold season and building our natural defenses. 


I am offering this share in two sizes

Standard size includes a 4 ounce bottle of syrup 
and 1 ounce bottle of elixir each month
(this is perfect for a single person or a couple)

Family size includes an 8 ounce bottle of syrup 
and a 2 ounce bottle of elixir each month.

I am also offering a shipping option 
for those of you who cannot make it out to our place for a pick up.


Each share will be available for picking up or shipping out on the third Saturday of each month, December through February (three months worth of herbal sweetness!).
Examples of medicines included in each installment are…herbal bitters for digestive wellness, elderberry elixir for immune building, cough syrups, stimulating tonics and others. 



In addition to your sweet medicine, I will also put together an 
informative newsletter about the products in each share and how to use them.

Whenever possible my medicines are made with herbs I grow and wildcraft myself and are always chemical free. Herbs that I cannot harvest myself are always organic or ethically wildcrafted from a reputable source. 

Here's the cost breakdown...
Single/couple share…$70 (with the shipping option…$100)
Family share…$130 (with the shipping option...$160)
Anyone interested can send me an e-mail at nettlejuice@gmail.com to sign up 


I look forward to making handcrafted herbal medicine for you this season!!!

P.S. I'm only selling 20 total shares, so sign up quickly before they run out.
Deadline for signing up is November 30th, to give me time to get the first share together.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Autumn Sweet Medicine Shares 2015


Announcing...
Autumn Sweet Medicine Shares
Sweet handcrafted medicine to get you through the cold season


I am re-introducing my sweet medicine shares this fall!

Sign up for three months of medicine, beginning in September and stock up on herbal wellness as the seasons turn and the days shorten. If you would like some local, handcrafted herbal medicine made just for you each month, take a gander at this opportunity to have me make some yummy concoctions designed for cold season support for you and your family.

Each monthly share will include one bottle of herbal syrup and one bottle of herbal elixir. These sweet medicines will be formulated with healing herbs traditionally used for treating and preventing the common complaints of the cold season and building our natural defenses. 


I am offering this share in two sizes

Standard size includes a 4 ounce bottle of syrup 
and 1 ounce bottle of elixir each month
(this is perfect for a single person or a couple)

Family size includes an 8 ounce bottle of syrup 
and a 2 ounce bottle of elixir each month.

I am also offering a shipping option 
for those of you who cannot make it out to our place for a pick up.


Each share will be available for picking up or shipping out on the third Saturday of each month, September through November (three months worth of herbal sweetness!).
To begin with, September's share will include an coltsfoot cough syrup, and an elderberry elixir to gear up our immune function. Subsequent months will include winter medicines like my gypsy flu elixir, a winter warming elixir, fire cider immune tonic and lung wellness syrup and other healing winter medicines. 


In addition to your sweet medicine, I will also put together an 
informative newsletter about the products in each share and how to use them.

Whenever possible my medicines are made with herbs I grow and wildcraft myself and are always chemical free. Herbs that I cannot harvest myself are always organic and from a reputable source. 

Here's the cost breakdown...
Single/couple share…$70 (with the shipping option…$100)
Family share…$130 (with the shipping option...$160)
Anyone interested can send me an e-mail at nettlejuice@gmail.com to sign up 

The first 5 people to sign up for a share will also receive a free bottle of lemon balm hydrsol!

P.S. I'm only selling 20 total shares, so sign up quickly before they run out.
Deadline for signing up is September 12th, to give me time to get the first share together.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Gift Of Medicine

Medicine is a gift from the earth. 



Have you ever thought about that? 

When I first stepped into the story of the medicine plants, this one simple fact just blew my mind. I remember sitting in my little yard, looking upon all the weeds growing around me that I had thought of as nothing more than nuisance for most of my life with new eyes. "You are medicine", I thought, "and I never knew". All this time, the medicine was under my feet, coming back, returning, no matter how many times I refused their gifts. 

Gifts.



The earth offers us her medicine as gifts. It is right there for the taking. How amazing is that? Amazing enough to blow your mind?

But wait, let's examine the meaning of the gift, because I think there is some confusion about this term in our culture. Does gift mean "free"? Well, yes and no. 

In our consumer culture we tend to equate gift with free, with getting something for nothing. But just because something is offered to you, without expectation of payment in exchange, doesn't necessarily mean it is "free". 



Herein lies the difficulty…because we must slow down…drop into our hearts…feel the difference. When a gift is given, especially one we need very deeply. We feel grateful. Our hearts open. A connection is made. A bond. 

This is inherently different than something given for fee, like a pen advertising a bank. There is no bond created here. It is a false gift. A gift not to connect, but to extract. 

A true gift is offered in love, because the giver is aware of the value of relationship, of connection…


like your grandmother baking you cookies.



When I receive the gift of medicine from the earth, I am not taking something that is free. I am choosing to participate in a relationship. And to honor the gift, I acknowledge my part. I want to give back, to continue to participate in the dance of give and take that keeps our connection alive.

Just as we say thank you to grandma and offer a hug, or a drawing to give back, we can give thanks to the earth, to the plants, we can do more, we can enter the dance of relationship.

It is the difference between a multinational company removing mountaintops to extract the coal beneath, taking without any sense of relationship to the land, and the native medicine man who offers prayers, only takes what is needed, nurtures the land, and then protects it from harm. 



We choose the type of relationship we cultivate with the earth. We wouldn't barge into grandma's house and take her cookies, leaving the kitchen a mess and walking out without a word. Why do we do this to the earth? We have forgotten. She is our mother, our grandmother. She has always taken care of us. 

The medicine we make comes from the earth, it is a gift. When we honor the gift by respecting our relationship, our medicine is strengthened. It has the power of love compounded. 

I have met medicine makers who have deep respect for this gift, and I have met those who see only what they can take for themselves. The earth is patient. She keeps giving. Waiting for us to get it, to enter the dance, to hear her song,  to join in the great give and take of life. When we do, we suddenly realize, we are so much more that what we receive.




Sunday, March 8, 2015

Herbal Case Study…The Sliced Foot


As a mother of three boys, I am constantly thankful we don't have more bodily injuries than we do around here. With all the wrestling, tree climbing, play fighting (real fighting), and general rowdiness, it is truly amazing emergency room visits aren't a weekly occurrence. To be perfectly honest, the herbal treatment my boys' rough and tumble interactions lead to are more often than not a round of nervines for mama.


On occasion though, there is an actual injury to address. One such injury happened recently, not while wresting or tree climbing, but while doing that oh so dangerous activity...walking to the dinner table. Well, the boy was actually running (How many times do I have to tell these kids not to run in the house?). Yes, in all his rushed exuberance to eat a wholesome meal, the boy smashed his foot into the corner of the bookshelf. A moment later I heard the exclamation, "mom, I'm bleeding".

Blood always induces panic, and soon the other boys were jumping to see the level of gore and shouting reactions that quickly threw the injured boy into a panic. By the time I had walked across the room, I not only had an injury to deal with, but crowd control and full blown panic. (Really? Right before dinner?) I saw there was a quantity of blood issuing from between the boy's toes. I quickly grabbed a washcloth and applied pressure to the injury, then I looked up at all three boys and smiled, saying in the calmest, most confident mama voice I could manifest, "Everything is fine. Please take a deep breath and calm down. We are going to take care of this." Of course, at times like these my outward demeanor and the reality inside are completely different. Anytime one of my kids is injured all my mama fears rear their head. But in order to keep everyone calm, I've learned to quiet those thoughts and stay calm and reassuring.

After a moment I lifted the cloth to get a view of the injury. Somehow, the boy  had managed to slice his foot open between his baby toe and the next one. Blood immediately started to gush again. I asked my husband to get the cayenne powder from the kitchen. I placed a nice pinch of the powder into the wound and reapplied pressure to stop the bleeding. Then I turned my attention to my boy. He was shaking and he voice betrayed his panic. The damage of his brothers' reactions was done. I assured him that the injury was not that bad, that the blood would stop in moment and we would take care of it. Then I checked his foot. Although the baby toe was smashed up, it was not broken. Also, there was no noticeable nerve damage. I felt confident that we could deal with this injury without a trip to the hospital. Once the bleeding stopped, we went into the bathroom and ran water over the wound to clean it out. I also pour some hydrogen peroxide over it. It soon began bleeding again and my boy's panic started to escalate. I packed the wound with more cayenne, used a butterfly bandage to close the fleshed and wrapped gauze around his foot, taping it in place. Then, I took my boy into the living room and sat him down. I gave him flower essences for trauma and stress, and put a washcloth soaked in diluted lavender essential oil on his forehead. By this time he was shaking uncontrollably. I spoke to him soothingly about how he had a fright, but he would be OK. He needed to try to relax and take some deep breathes. Soon the shaking stopped and he was able to talk normally. Half an hour later, we even managed to eat dinner. The crisis was handled, but that injury needed daily attention in order to heal properly.

Now, the biggest concern with an open wound like this is to keep out infection until the wound is closed. That becomes even more tricky with a foot injury. For the first week, my boy was still very squeamish about his injury and not wanting me to touch it too much. We washed it once a day, changed the bandage, and applied some topical herbs, usually in the form of a diluted yarrow tincture (anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and to promote healing). Then I generally left it alone. After about a week though, I wasn't happy with the progress. While one side of the wound seemed to be healing nicely, the other side (going down between the toes) was not knitting together as fast, and even appeared a bit inflamed. This side was also extremely tender. At this point I had a serious talk with the boy. I told him we had to be more vigilant with taking care of this injury. He started to hem and haw, so I laid it out for him…it's either you help me do what we need to do, or we go to the doctor. Now I had his compliance.

So we started doing soaks twice a day. For wounds like this, I have found that nothing beats an herbal soak. The warm water really helps to open the pores and allow the herbs to get deep into the wound and tissue to do their stuff. Here is the way I made his soaks…

Since I usually have quite a large supply of dried herbs in the pantry, I always try to use what I have on hand. I wanted herbs that were strongly anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and promoted healing (but not too much…no comfrey, which may promote cell regeneration too quickly and seal in any infection present). I settled on a combination of oregon grape root (disinfectant and anti-bacterial), yerba mansa (anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory), yarrow (anti-inflammatory and anti-septic), calendula (promotes healing, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic), and chaparral leaf (strongly anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory). I could have used any number of other herbs, but these were present in the pantry and seemed also to call out to me as I pondered what to use. (Never ignore the voices of the herbs themselves)

To make the strong tea for soaking, I filled a small glass pot with water, brought it to a simmer on the stove, and added a small handful of oregon grape root and a pinch of yerba mansa. I simmered this for 10 minutes, then strained the tea and added it to a mason jar into which I had placed a small handful of yarrow leaves and flowers, a small handful of calendula flowers, and a pinch of chaparral leaves. I added more hot water to bring the water level up to a quart. Then I put a lid on the jar and let is all steep until the temperature had come down to a comfortable level for soaking (still warm, but not hot enough to burn…comfortable) After a bit of experimenting, we discovered that the best vessel for foot soaking, at least for a small foot, is a bread pan. I left the butterfly on, but removed all other bandages and had my boys soak in this concoction for at least 30 minutes morning and evening, making the tea fresh each time.

Within only a couple days of this treatment, there was noticeable improvement. The wound was no longer tender, inflammation was gone, and we could see signs of healing. We kept this protocol up faithfully for a full two weeks, noticing improvement every day. After the first week there was a nice scab formed over the entire wound, protecting it from bacteria and debris. Once the scab was formed, I added comfrey root to the simmering herbs to speed up the healing. We continued with the soaks and one day the scab fell off, revealing a beautiful new layer of skin over the wound. Yay!


Now, I offer this story as an example and encouragement on the path of the healing plants. But I must also say that if I didn't feel qualified to treat this wound, I would not have attempted it. I have studied herbal treatments for first aid and I also have experience working with herbs to treat minor wounds. I knew the injury was not serious beyond my level of competence, or I would have turned to professional medical help. However, as the vast majority of healing issues we experience around here are minor, I am more often than not able to handle them myself. It is empowering for me, as a mother, but also for my children, to see that for most things, we can take care of ourselves (with the help of the healing plants, of course).

I also apologize for the lack of photos in this post. It pains me to have such a wordy post without the intermittent photos. While I do pride myself in my ability to remain calm and composed while examining a bit of gory flesh, I don't particularly like looking a photographs of open wounds. When I see them posted on other sites, I have the tendency to quickly scroll down so they are out of view. Therefore, I have no photos of the lovely open wound for you, only the beautiful healed area with newly grown skin. Forgive me.