Class in Rupert – Sunday July 26

 

A very quick update today – class has been confirmed for this weekend, Sunday July 26, at 1:30 pm. Our theme will be “Actions and Energetics” – such an important topic for the aspiring herbalist. Whether you wish to use herbs and home remedies for your own family, or are looking to deepen your studies and work within the world of herbs professionally, this class is foundational knowledge. In it, we will go through the sometimes confusing world of herbal actions, take a look at the many actions just one plant can provide,  and introduce the idea of synergy and complementary actions in formulation. We’ll look at Energetics – an overview of three systems, and how we in the Western tradition can start experiencing herbal energetics in our own bodies, and come to know the importance of matching the herb’s own  pattern of temperature and moisture with that of an individual.

 

Actions =  a description of what a herb is doing in the body(reducing inflammation, supporting the movement of fluid, relaxing the nervous system, many more)

Energetics = an experiential language that describes both the constitution of the person or animal you’re working with, as well as the properties of the herb – broadly speaking we can think about temperature, moisture, excess/deficiency and relaxation/stimulation
Fluency in this area takes years of work and dedication, but this Introduction will set you on a road of discovery with clarity and purpose. This class will open your way of seeing herbs and people and enhance your selection process with the insights all herbalists use n our process.

 

Plus, we’ll be tasting things and having fun.
Sunday, July 26

1:30 pm – 400

Rupert Community Centre

Shouldice Road, Rupert

$25.00

 

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Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Actions: warming and mildly stimulating expectorant, antimicrobial, antitussive

 

 

(Class is taught in English only).

On the Death of the Porcupette

Not a herbal post today… not a happy post. This one can get filed in,a new category called “Tiredness”: I am tired of my empathy, tired of “humanity” and sick in my heart about a sweet faced, unassuming little spiny creature hacked to pieces by a farmer today.

Porcupette, little one. I hate that you had to live in this world. I hate that I knew you were going to die. Most of all, right now, I hate that black hearted farmer. I’m not in a good place. We humans, we have to do better. And, I despair, at the same time I summon all the hope I can.

The farmer started the hay harvest today and he plowed right over the little fellow I was talking with yesterday.

Yesterday: I was sitting out back, talking to Alex on the phone, getting my bit of VitaminD. Watching the birds and sky. Circle of cats,  Ridgeback at my side. The back field was half-cut; on the left, the cut side, a movement of something black and thoughtful. Not a runner, not a cat. Lumbering, a little. Too small for a fisher, and they never come out in mid day. A skunk? “Hold on” I say to my partner “I think there’s a skunk out there. I’ll call you back”.

Danny knows the second I see, or think I see, something moving out back. It’s uncanny how I can raise the binos fifty times to look at a bird, and he never bats an eyelash. The second I see a fox, a coyote, a deer, he’s on his feet with all the fur around his ridge standing up, every muscle and nerve just crackling. He did that yesterday. I had to disappoint him, and head out to the field on my own.
There he was. A young porcupine, a “porcupette”. Ambling, lazily, delighted in the day. He stood up and eyed me, not without consternation, but no evidence of panic. “Hey” I said, affably “Porcupine. I am so pleased to meet you. Can I ask, that you don’t go into that yard there? It never ends well, I have three big canids.” I was struck by how beautiful this fellow was, cute, yes but beautiful too, a wild creature at ease with the world, eating, sniffing, exploring it all. After a few more minutes of a somewhat one-sided conversation, he decided the only way I was going to stop talking, and let him enjoy the day, was if he  headed off in the other direction. Which he did.

I came in, and immediately posted to a forum I run. I wished I’d had my camera, but I didn’t think he would still be there if I ran back out and I didn’t want to chase  or worry him. I found a picture that looked like him. Here it is.

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And then, while I carried his image in my heart all day, I went about my business – working, herbing, the usual. This morning, taking coffee on the porch out back, I saw him again, further up the hill. “Well” I thought, “I best not take the dogs out there for a bit. ”
And then the darkness overtook me and I had such a terrible premonition. I had to shake myself out of it – no no no no no. I was shaken up, but told myself as I sometimes will, not to trust the “irrational” – it’s my fear talking. But, I know those flashes. I know them well.

An hour later the farmer came out to cut the rest of the field and my heart literally shook in my chest. I knew, right then, what was about to happen. And of course, no way to stop it. No way at all. He cut the field, and I tried to calm myself with passionflower and chamomile  and roses, wishing I had some Monotropa. One’s heart can only take so much. It seems we are surrounded with suffering in the animal kingdom, is this a trial by fire I must endure?  As soon as the cutting was over, I went out. I followed the turkey vultures who are quick to land and spread their wings in a show of ownership of the find. It’s ok, they are necessary and important.But I HAD to walk that hill and find it: the pathetic, mutilated body of my little friend, with his unassuming ways, sweet face and abundant delight in life.
What can we do, but weep…

One thing I take away from these observations (I have found groundhogs before, and last year, most horribly for me, a fawn) is that even the elimination of meat from our diets will not ensure that animals do not suffer at our hands. If one small field can beget such suffering, think of the whole agricultural world. Countless millions of small wild animals and ground nesting birds die horribly every year. Limiting or eliminating meat and dairy is great, if you can do it – but so important to grow food, buy locally, support small operations….we humans are doing things wrong, doing things all centered on and geared toward growth and profit and exploitation, and these innocent creatures will suffer. Not *just* in our laboratories and factory farms and in legholds everywhere, but in the fields that produce our grains and hay. A true spiritual species would never allow any of this to occur. And what can we do? well, for today, I will just light a candle and say a prayer – for all the animals slaughtered and suffering at our merciless, blind and selfish hands.

As a  Pagan, I turn to Brigid, often, for solace and support, spiritual guidance and healing. Just yesterday, a writer I admire posted a prayer to Brigid on her blog. And these lines seem especially applicable.

Holy Brigid:
In these times of grief and anger
And these days of stolen lives…
Pour out the quenching waters from your well.
Come, bathe our tear stained faces.

We call to you with voices raised.

http://www.thorncoyle.com/blog/2015/07/03/a-prayer-for-troubling-times/

I think I will adapt this as a prayer to Flidais, in memory of, my porcupette…and all the days he will not know.

Little porcupette, I will never forget you.

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Class This Sunday

Once again I have the lovely and talented Caroline Citrine to thank for this great poster – which I finally managed to distribute around Wakefield. I am so looking forward to class this weekend, getting together with my core group of students, maybe seeing some new faces, and having fun with the process of creating usable medicines from our beloved wild and cultivated herbs. Medicine-making is a large topic, and I don’t expect everyone to master it in a day, much less a two and a half hour class. But as we get started, there are some things we need to bear in mind – some is a little technical (which plant constituents extract best in which medium, for example) and most is just learning techniques to try at home. I’ve been doing this for a while and still have failures, still learn (endlessly) from others, still find new ways of doing old things, that improve upon the end result. I’m inspired by the creativity of others, inspired to try new combinations – for example, my many elixirs now brewing in the back of the cupbaord which feature combinations I doubt I’d have come up with on my own (tip of the hat to mountainrose herbs!) In this class, we will start by covering the basic terms,  and methods of preparation. This includes – tea, infusion, decoction – what’s the difference? – tinctures, how to measure your plant material and use of alcohol – various approaches – oxymels, elixirs, ointments, salves, compresses, poultices, fomentations, electuaries, capsules, pessaries, syrups,  honeys and vinegars – a look at all of these, how to make and when to use them..and then in the second part of class, we’ll make a few/taste a few, and generally have fun. This will be an Introductory class but very thorough and plenty of handouts(terms, recipes) at the Facebook group for you to download. I’ll be bringing dandelions for tea and dandelion cookies (cuz it’s that time of year!) and have some seedlings to give away mostly  borage, calendula, some monarda and chamomile(German) too. Looking forward to seeing you all – 1:30 pm at the Rupert Community Centre – and to our walk next time ,which we shall all petition the rain gods to stay well away from!! 11208915_10153257374196635_1633978196_n

Dates and Class Topics for Summer 2015

A little later than I’d hoped – here are the class dates and topics.

May 17th – Medicine Making 101 – oils, salves, tinctures and more.
June 21st – Building your Home Apothecary/Basic First Aid
July 19th – Actions and Energetics
August 23rd – Herbs by System – Part One: Skin, Cardiovascular and Respiratory
September 20 – Herbs by System – Part Two: Nervous system and Digestion
October18 – Herbs by System – Part Three: Reproductive and Urinary tract

This is as far as I have booked, and remember there will be plant walks in between.  The likeliest dates for those, are as follows:

May 10

June 14

July 12

August 9

September 13

October 11

These walks will visit the same plants in different  stages of growth, as well as go to various areas to see a range of wild herbs and hone our ID skills. I’ll post a list of what you will need here as well as on the FB group, so everyone can be well prepared. You will need some materials for the medicine making class, and I’ll be sure to post that as well before the date. For the most part, we will meet at the Rupert Community Centre as for the classes.

I’m looking at doing a fullday workshop towards the end of the year where we review all our studies this year, make  medicines with the plants we’ve harvested(roots, in particular) and review our herbal apothecary for the coming winter. More on that TBA.

Please mark these on your calendar, let me know if  you have special concerns and please feel free to add suggestions.  Here comes the summer! I look forward to seeing the regular faces and some new ones as well. :)

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A Forest Year

So, I decided to do this a week or so back, both because it’s fun to share, and  because I suspect some of my students might benefit. The idea is, just to take photos of my world here, especially the plants, over a full year, tracing the rhythms of nature and  sharing what I can about the flora and fauna of this much-loved part of the land. Maybe I will weave in a few stories and some magic as I go, we will see. ;)  At the least, I want to document the beauty and bounty of this wild  enchanted region. In pictures, which I am not so skilled at taking – and in words. And so,  I bring you,  A Forest Year.

First, to be clear. I don’t actually live IN a forest, though I hope to someday. I live, more accurately, surrounded by forest, I’m a dot in the centre of a bowl of farmland, rimmed all around by forests and hills. Kind of like the nucleus of a cell, my little house and garden. Just outside the village, just outside the forest – liminal space.  I often visualize my home as a glowing jewel, a New World Avalon, whose energy swirls out into the surrounding area. When I feel blessed and bountiful, I send some of that outwards.  It often seems to me that the ridges of rocky hills to my East and West look like the spinal ridges of sleeping dragons; the magic here is always vivid.

And never more than in the Spring.

I took a little wander today with camera and Ridgeback; it’s so early in the year but there are tantalizing images of what’s to come. So, because I tend to put off blogging until some perfect slot of time arrives-  and it never, ever does-  let me make a start. New Moon in Aries, that’s a good energy!  Here is what I photographed today.

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Before leaving my property, I snipped some lively young Comfrey pushing through the dead stuff, and my cherished Blue-eyed grass already putting out flowers. I love blue-eyed grass(Sisyrinchium spp)  for it’s delicate beauty and the fact it’s almost always the first bloom of spring. It rings the entrance way to the back filed, and now is growing enthusiastically in my  “faerie corner’ under the hawthorn, apple and raspberry cane.  There are medicinal uses: the root was used in decoction for children with diarrhea (Cherokee) but the root was also used by the Iroquois for constipation, suggesting an amphoteric effect. Most uses I could find pertain to gastrointestinal problems although  there were mentions of gynecological application in some bits of the literature (for cramps,injured womb). The leaves were eaten as a vegetable all across the continent, but the root gathered and used mostly for GI disorders.  I plan to investigate this plant more, for now the happy fresh presence of this flower is medicine enough for me.

Next, I wandered out back, off to the East, and found some lovely babies to share.P1340130P1340138P1340140P1340142

Clockwise from the left/top: ramps, trillium,  a straggly but determined little mullein,and trout lily.Give these guys two weeks and they’ll be glorious!

As I wandered around I couldn’t help but visit a very special tree, an ancient Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) who seems to preside over the Southeast corner of the land here, and whom I also associate with that sad incident last summer, where a local doe guarded the body of her dead fawn for three days before finally leaving. This is the tree, and the little “deer grove” the mother took shelter in. I plan to  make a solar cross of some kind to honour that tree and the lost fawn. Meanwhile, I gathered a great bunch of twigs to use in a besom I’m making this year.

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On my way home, I stopped to tie a prayer cloth – a “cloutie” as the old terrn has it – onto a dying hawthorn that hangs over a small spring out back. The hawthorn, like so many wild plants around here, is dying young because of the bombardment of herbicides poured into this sacred place every year. Last year the farmer who does this went nuts on the small springs that feed into Indian creek every spring, and it broke my heart so much. My prayer was for sanity to be restored, for the poisoning to stop, for whatever it takes to bring respect back, please, let it come. I left an offering of conifer shortbread and some herbs I blended for this petition, and a little silver. Here’s the cloutie, and here’s me, with mascara smudges from the tears my prayer brought.

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More on the cloutie tradition here: http://www.cornishwitchcraft.co.uk/clouties.html

One last check around the grounds and I found these youngsters:

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Motherwort, Wild strawberry and Dandelion.

And that, really, was it today. The birds are trickling back – I’ve seen and heard Song sparrows,  Dark-eyed juncos, Starlings, Canada geese and robins, as well as my darling Phoebe (one of the last to leave and first to come back every year). Every day we’ll see and hear new birds, such a big part of the beauty of the season. My deer have arrived too, but that emotional reunion is a topic for another entry.

For now, at least I got started – welcome to A Forest Year.   Let this year ahead be blessed with learning, healing, and joy.

Deep peace, a soft white dove to you;
Deep peace, a quiet rain to you;
Deep peace, an ebbing wave to you!
Deep peace, red wind of the east from you;
Deep peace, grey wind of the west to you;
Deep peace, dark wind of the north from you;
Deep peace, blue wind of the south to you!
Deep peace, pure red of the flame to you;
Deep peace, pure white of the moon to you;
Deep peace, pure green of the grass to you;
Deep peace, pure brown of the earth to you;
Deep peace, pure grey of the dew to you,
Deep peace, pure blue of the sky to you!
Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.

From “The Dominion of Dreams. Under the Dark Star
by Fiona Macleod, 1895

White Pine Heaven!

So, while we wait for  the first spring shoots to reach a wee bit more above ground – day lilies and comfrey are heading the pack but still very small – I went out on a white pine adventure, last week, with Danny of course! looking for  beautiful new branches to bring home and make medicine with. I had a stand in mind, a place we need snowshoes to access in winter,  but is easily reached in springtime. I took a thermos of my well-loved “Spring Mold tea” – (doesn’t that sound appetizing? but it’s the best blend ever for  these pesky allergies that plague me  every April) – my favorite gathering basket, and of course, my DanDan – and in about an hour had the most lovely and luscious basket of boughs, ready to process.

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The problem with harvesting anything, these days, is I am so infernally busy with my dayjob I need to squeeze in hours here and there to make sure I can get garbling and making; it’s not the harvesting that takes so much time. Just a couple of weeks ago I was emphasizing in class, the importance of setting aside time to process wildcrafted plants, don’t go to the trouble of picking them and then let them mold in a bag on the back porch! I knew this was going to be a task, but a task I love, so I have been working with the needles and  twigs over a few days, doing a bit here and then yesterday, several hours to finalize the job.
First; I took the boughs and sorted them into two piles, the very best for anything internal and the ones with slightly rusty tips for oils and perfume. With this batch there were more “perfect” boughs than I have ever seen, which was good as the bulk of what I’m making is indeed, for internal use.
Next, I snipped off the boughs I intend to use dried, and placed them in paper bags for drying. These will go into teas and a lovely herbal blend I adapted from a friend’s recipe, to be used as a seasoning for all kinds of culinary delights.
That’s Stage One, separation. Garbling (the process of making sure there’s no bird poop anywhere on your plants) is part of this, with any questionable looking branches set outside to feed the earth.
Stage two is usually  decided by what it is I absolutely cannot wait to make first. In this batch it was shortbread! I’ve made a lot of conifer treats over the years, but I found a recipe in which you actually simmer the butter first, and then strain out the needles – had to try it.  Here’s the end result:P1340080

Yes those are BARBERRIES in there, I am totally obsessed with them this year (and that’s another blog entry) and I did also take a handful of well diced up pine needles and threw them in as well. This is a delicious cookie, if I say so myself, but I found the texture a little too rich, if such a thing can be said about shortbread. I’m doing a second batch today with no simmering of the butter. But, I can attest – there will be barberries. There may be an orange-honey glaze as well. We shall see.

The next projects were tincture, honey, oil and elixir, and just a pint each as I am always making quarts of things and then they don’t get used. I give them away, often to people who squint at the label and say…slowly…”Dandelion and cacao bitters….umm, thank you! Do I, like, drink this?” and so on. Until I set up a little etsy shop, which to be fair will not be soon, I have vowed to make only what I can use –  and possibly, what I know for sure some of my local herb-geek friends can use as well. With these medicines, it’s not going to mean quarts.

Fruits of my labour:P1340067P1340068 P1340092

So, now you’re thinking, wow, a bunch of pine needles in Mason jars! well, true, but I WAS trying to take pictures in some cool outdoorsy settings – photography isn’t my best thing, but it’s fun anyway. Elixir, honey, oil and tincture. That might not sound like a lot, but since I insist on chopping everything by hand, it really is . (Ok, I used a grinder for the shortbread, but just that one). I feel that the process of working plant material by hand contributes to its medicine and bestows a peacefulness on both me and my house, the presence of a healing spirit, so I do the work mindfully and usually with both a special candle burning and the right music playing. (right for me that is, for someone else, Aerosmith or the Rite of Spring might work; for me, it’s Ani Williams, Hildegard von Bingen and the Waterboys). I have finally learned not to make wildcrafting yet another chore that must.get.done, or I lose that extra level of serenity and mystical peace it brings. Seems obvious, but we are all so busy these days, and  when we consider the idea of healing…of folk medicine…the very idea of being overbusy makes no sense at all.
So – today, some treats already made, some mediines brewing (I am doing an oxymel today and then this lovely chai I make with white pine) and much blessing on this house frm the beauty and egntle strength of Pinus strobus. I plan to do a full monograph on the Pinus spp later this year – you know, when I have time – but for now,  gratitude and appreciation for these magical beings we call trees. And for my beloved ally White Pine, the deepest love.
Now — what are YOU making today?

Introduction to Wildcrafting

Anyone who lives in this beautiful part of the world will know what I mean when I say, where the Hell is Spring? It’s been a long winter and I am so eager to get outside, planting and wandering. In Rupert, I have seen the first Great Blue Heron of the year, plus turkey vultures, a hawk of some description(too far to tell) and the yard is filled with starlings, grackles, and the unmistakable sound of spring – the redwings. Out with Dan early this morning I heard a lone Canada goose, and I do think he sounded disoriented.

But the weather has been unpleasant – teasing us with a sunny afternoon here and there, then back to the gloomy grey skies and yet.more.snow. My little patch of crocuses will pop up, say hello and almost as quickly be covered in wet, slushy snow. I have rarely been as  restless for sun, warmth and..wandering.

The class this Sunday is a kick-off to the season and sets us up for the walks ahead. Wildcrafting is wonderful, and the Hills are rich with medicine – but, there are guidelines to follow, tools you will need and some commonsense practises to bear in mind.  Part one of the class will cover all of this,  and after our break we’ll go over 25 local plants you can absolutely expect to find easily enough, and how to  make use of them.  The plants we’ll cover are:

Dandelion

Burdock

Plantain

Evening Primrose

Stinging nettle

St. John’s wort

Boneset

Gravel root

Yarrow

Chickweed

Motherwort

Mugwort

Solomon’s Seal (true and false)

Elder

Blue Vervain

Self heal

Mallows

Shepherd’s purse

Goldenrod

Mullein

Trillium

Comfrey

Raspberry leaf

Hawthorne

Coltsfoot

New England Aster

Cleaver’s

Agrimony

various Violets

and the Tree Medicines;Alder, Birch, Elm, Willow, Poplar and more.

That was more than 25…methinks.

This is an Introduction to Wildcrafting and by no means covers the plants we will be able to see when we start the walks locally. Last year I found Bugleweed (Lycopus americana) Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Spikenard (Actaea racemosa) all very close by, not that I took any! but it’s thrilling to see.

A few pictures from last season’s meanderings:

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Evening primrose, Oenothera biennis, in all her radiant loveliness

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Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum), White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis), Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)and probably a little baby Fraxinus(Ash) –  early growth, last year

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Blue Vervain, Verbena hastata, in my gathering basket last summer. I can’t wait for the summer!

Looking so forward to seeing you all, and to cocoa-quinoa cake, with wild rose syrup too of course.

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