First Imbolc in the Nemeton

I will start off by saying, while I deeply love Imbolc now, and have for two decades, ’twas not always so. In fact, when I was a fledgling Witchlet, back in Toronto in the 80s, I found everything about Imbolc…weird, impossible to connect with, and frustrating. Last week, in preparation for the first Imbolc in my new home, I reflected on my first Imbolc ever, and it was both hilarious and bittersweet. I was living in downtown Toronto, King and Dufferin area, in a warehouse with a loft, that doubled as rehearsal space, and had recently discovered the Occult Shop, Ben Abraham Books, and the Fifth Kingdom – all stores catering to the needs of people such as I, interested in/practising some form of magic or esoteric spirituality. It was the classic case of “coming home” – feeling like I wasn’t alone after all – for many years I’d been reading everything I could on astrology, had been gifted with clairvoyant dreams and was said to have a “mystical” connection with other species (this last one always baffled me, I couldn’t understand how anyone DIDN’T feel what I felt from other creatures). I’d always been said to be a Witch, with my blazing red hair in a dark haired/olive skinned family, my visions and familiars, but it felt like a very lonely thing to me, not a badge of specialness at all, just proof I was a freak. Childhood was lonely, but saved by my weekend trips to the forest, or helping my veterinarian father in his clinic, or just reading my stacks of books on insects, dinosaurs and birds.

P1380744 (2)
me, very excited to be going to see some puppies

Puberty hit, and my need to fit in swelled to incredible proportions, with a temporary abandonment of all the mystical stuff. Still, I think I was 15 when I found my grandmother’s Big Book on astrology and was completely smitten. When I look back, well before I found the Occult Shop and all those books and..others like me, the current was there. But once I did find it – there was no turning back, the long journey had begun.

And so, February 1 1985, I set out on a frigid Toronto night to hike my ass all the way down to the lake, with a bag of candles, an offering or two and a heart full of excitement and hope.

ye gods, how did I ever live there?

It all went a bit sour as I crossed the bridge towards lakefront and the freezing rain began. A hasty retreat, hot tea and an offering/candle in my loft window had to suffice. What I find so endearing about this… earnest, if misguided effort is, I truly did not know what Imbolc even WAS, it’s meaning on the Wheel of the Year or relevance to modern life…just that The Book told me this is what one does. And as is my way, I tried to “do it right”. Getting things done properly has always been a sort of Grail for me, and it’s a double-edged sword – leads both to a laudable focus on excellence, and a painful tendency to set the bar so high I can never relax into feeling truly accomplished about anything. Unscrupulous people can smell this on me and know just where to ram the knife when they go on attack, calling me a poseur, a fake and all the things that people with my perfectionism fear most. Learning that nothing makes those claims real, that they are projections of the Wound of the Other, and that setting the bar too high is a form of self abuse, have been profound experiences for me the past few years. But, in the early days, as (to some extent) now, I wanted to “get Imbolc right”. I was relieved not to have developed pneumonia for the effort.

Nowadays, I still try to follow the Old Ways while incorporating authentic new traditions, but I worry less about things “being correct”. I live the Wheel in a way that honours the ancestors and the Old Gods, as well as invigorates and expresses my own experience of the Solar Wheel and Inner Mysteries. So yes, my very own Imbolc involves dairy foods, leaving my prayer shawl and ribbon outside for Brigid to bless, it involves a little altar and some Inner work – there are candles in windows, bannock, and white flowers(if I can find any). I don’t know if I’m “getting it right”..but it comes from both head and heart, knowledge and emotion – so I think the Old Ones are ok with that. And three decades later, I find Imbolc one of the dearest of the Festivals to me – given its association with the goddess Brigid, and my personal affinity for Her. At Imbolc, I reaffirm my dedication to healing, to the work I do with animals, to the creative fire that keeps me whole. It is a pause after the gorgeousness of Yule, a moment of quietude and rest in the depths of Midwinter, and a time of reflection. For me this year, that reflection centered on my recent move, my new home, and the power of grief paired with hope and vision. I set an altar in the livingroom, on the mantle of our fireplace, I made rosemary bannock (from the Gather Victoria site) I decided against my usual decadent noodle kugel, as it evokes memories too painful to revisit just yet. Alex bought me a small potted heather plant, which I adore, in lieu of cut flowers, likely pesticide-treated, and I spent a quiet day in the woods.
And then, on the 1st, this happened.

A cutting I brought from the Ark in Rupert, and nurtured all last fall, brought forth a bloom. Ten days later, it is still intact.


The Wheel turns, the light grows.
Happy Imbolc, everyone.


Further reading

Snow Falling on Hemlocks

Today I spoke to them again, in prayerful silence and mystery, and let them know I am still wounded, still slow to heal, but that only comes from the depth of love and connection I bear for my last home. You can’t just run headlong into a new relationship, after the old one dies, can you? Not if the old one had meaning and power. Honestly, I’d have endured all the crap of that place just to embrace the silver maple and smell the balsam poplar in spring, after a rain…watch the glint of sun on willows lining a sacred stream, and visit my various mossy thrones and sitspots forever.

I wander out to the firepit and tell them – I hope you will welcome me when my shattered heart starts to say it’s time.
And then a squirrel throws something at me and Danny has a flip-out and I’m back in regular time, the hemlocks are sagely watching, I know they know much more than I.
I trust their wisdom.

Yeah, love like that can endure a lot of crap, and it isn’t easily replaced, not if you have any kind of a soul.

But I think the hemlocks know that.
I’m amazed to learn how old they are,these trees, even smaller ones! and to feel the special magic of a hemlock forest, and feel too, their great energy when I step into the deep shade they create(because hemlocks need that shade to keep growing).

Beech, red oak, hemlock, and grouse, porcupine, great horned owl…amanita.

I bring you my heart, my sad and wounded heart, and you stand silent under the snow, spirits waiting for the quickening of spring, and the turn of the Wheel yet again.


Bits and Pieces, not Pieces and Parts

So, for many days now my drum has been home, and I’ve been meaning to write a Part Two, in which I thank the amazing spirit that is Nikiah Seeds, and link to her site so people who read these ramblings can see where I had my beautiful drum made. Life is going very quickly now and I may not have time  again for a few weeks – although I must say the inspiration is HIGH – as we are finalizing the move this weekend, leaving for ever the blue jays and the guardian trees and the raccoons, red squirrels, chickadees and deer.
Yes I know there are others in this world…and there will be some I can stay with till the end of my days, the purpose of this next house is to get so many things healed and move to our sanctuary. I know, I know. But still there are days when I am not actually buried alive in work, wherein I do, admittedly, cry and cry and cry.
I stop when Alex produces ice cream, or Korky starts to get agitated and needs to comfort me, or Tatiana rubs her face into my bare calf over and over and I think – well, Hell. All of these beautiful creatures will be in the new house, and it also has a floor (and windows that one can see out of, doors that close fully, toilets that flush etc etc etc.)
The tears, when they come, are hard.

But the waves are only bits and pieces of the whole experience, not “Pieces and Parts”…that iconic song by Laurie Anderson, that foreshadowed and then seemed to perfectly sum up the days and weeks after my brother’s death. Yes, I was in pieces and parts then.

These must be the bones of a fallen angel
These must be the bones of a fallen angel



This state of grief is much different. I remember that black hole I went into for years after John died; this is nothing like that. It’s sadness, only…and we know sadness is normal …it’s part of life, it’s a gnaw at the heart, an ache in the bones, as opposed to the searing pain of grief and irreplaceable loss. Does it seem strange to compare? It helps me keep perspective. There was no good at all to come from my brother’s death – in the case of losing my home at a time we could least afford the financial or spiritual upheaval, well actually much good has, and will come out of it all.

Hence, I am eating Ben and Jerry’s chocolate something- or -other before dinner and I’ve had Korky on my shoulder since about 2 pm (my sweater will be poopy, but really, I don’t care. That’s what soap is for). Earlier today, I was dancing to Beats Antique.We bought a new (used) sectional sofa.

I think for my last dinner here, I’ll make spagetti. Just old fashioned Bolognese. Or maybe a big Nicoise and we’ll drink wine, a really good Sancerre, and fresh fresh bread from Pipolinka. When we get moved in, we’ll make an Ottawa run and get Thai.

I intend to buy curtains for the new house, which in 12 long years here, I never managed to do.


Here is Nikiah’s site. Please go look at all her offerings. I adore her beautiful work,  her jewelry, and this drum. May it carry my song of hope and remembrance all the days that lie ahead.



Gifts from the Forest

Sometimes I look back at the younger person I was and think about how much I’ve changed… don’t we all do that? And I like the changes, hard-earned as they’ve been. To some I know it’s pure eccentricity, my Druidry and snakes and plant-whispering and…well all of it…to me it’s allowing who I am to just…be.  When we get older many of us feel freer to be who we are, and that’s certainly true for me. I look back at some of the things I wanted and longed for and I both smile at the silliness and cringe a little at what looks like wasted time… but, in the end I believe as long as we get to where we need to be, it doesn’t matter how long it took. I still like jewelry and clothes and art and good food, don’t get me wrong, but some of the things that mean the most are, shall we say, different from what some might think of as valuable.

This morning on a walk I had one of those compelling feelings I get just out of the blue – stopped in my tracks and right at my feet was a very fresh owl pellet…with the tiniest bones imaginable. I’ve only found two in all these years of living here, loving these forests and Hills – and one of THOSE, was left on my doorstep by a little saw-whet owl who spent a few days with us after Jasmine died.I… felt sure it was thank you note, in that case.

The other was on a small altar I built out in the woods. It’s a place I go for spiritual quiet time, and one day, an owl had just left me a pellet there. Those are the wild magics in my life that mean more to me than anything. I prayed at that altar many times,  and sent up  offerings in handcrafted incense made from the resins of the conifers, but  I hadn’t asked for anything. Somehow, the forest knew what would delight me most.

But today, and recently: I keep receiving gifts from the forest and I’ve been so torn up about moving, it took a while to be clear  about meaning. To be fair, I am always wary of the idea that anyone can be *always* 100% clear and certain about omens and visions; in many cases, part of the whole point is that we have to work for it, to figure it out. But in this past 12 years, in this house and surroundings, I’ve grown confident in what I see. I just can’t figure out if these gifts are in support of my plight, or if they are saying goodbye.
The forest keeps speaking to me and I’m intently listening. Here is my gift from earlier today:              P1360836So, this is Owl Medicine, which advises me to shore up energy, stay true to my path and higher purpose,trust my own intuition,  and make Right Use of magic. I as called out to that precise spot in this large field and called to stand still and look down – when a Voice like that speaks, I think it’s good to listen, and take heed.


Now, many of you know I have fed deer here, and on occasion, nursed an unwell deer, and that my affinity with and love for them is deep and abiding. I’ve written about them elsewhere on this blog and a fair bit on my Facebook Page; I love these creatures with all my heart and have felt gifted by their presence all the time I’ve lived in Rupert. I know it is controversial to feed deer, but I’ve done so very specifically, to help build them for the winter, and until recently, to bring them in close while hunting season was on. (The area is crawling with sport hunters, but until recently the land out behind where I live was protected, no hunters allowed.) I read extensively on deer over the past few years and there are a range of ideas and perspectives about feeding. In many cases it’s not  good idea, but since this area was off limits to hunters, and since I fed mostly in fall when they are fattening up for the winter, I felt it was fine to do.

Some of my sweetest memories of this house will always be of the deer.


Stripey Doe, the last time I saw her, fall 2014.

So: I received a beautiful gift from them, too (and yes, all this does feel like the forest saying goodbye)      just last week, out walking Danny in the back, and it was a hard walk (since the bursitis in my hip started, pretty much all walking is challenging, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let a little pain tie me down)..and here is what I found right out back, by the entrance to our yard:


Now, in my own spiritual life and practise I am a great believer in learning what others have written about an omen, a spirit animal – I respect the insights of other witches and medicine people, and like to research across cultures to see how, various animals and birds may figure in ways both similar and unique, in world mythologies and religions. But at the end of the day I heed my own counsel;  what  something meant, what lesson it offers, how am I to respond (if indeed a response is called for)… these are personal conclusions. With these antlers I felt something so powerful and important,  that it can’t be ignored. I also believe, that once we have received a message and understood it, in many cases the wisest thing is to keep that knowledge to yourself.  In this case, that’s what I’m doing- sharing the gift but not what it means to me. I share a sacred bond with these deer, and these lands, and there are challenging times ahead. No matter where I move to or when I go, the spirit of the forest will be with me..and my spirit will always know how to fly back here, when needed..  and so these gifts have eased the pain of what has been a terrible time of uncertainty and loss.
May the animals bless you as they bless me, and may you honour those blessings and send them right back.


Animal Medicine

This morning as I sit down to write what is a somewhat emotionally challenging article for the Spring Issue of Plant Healer Magazine, I find myself musing on the many ways in which I have personally been affected by my work as an animal empath and healer. Those who know me, know I don’t use words like “Healer” lightly – this word in particular is often bandied about by people  who have no business using it at all, in my opinion, and it carries with it  a huge responsibility. My belief is, that once we use a word like healer or teacher, we need to be sure we are embodying that which we purport to be, otherwise it’s  hypocrisy… and in many ways, an insult to others who do walk these paths with integrity. I can often become caught up in the need to run a business and make income, and this takes sacred time away from my life – so frequent check-ins are important. I had the opportunity to do one such check- in over the Christmas Holidays, and I found, predictably, a few areas that need evaluation. (I’d worry about myself if I didn’t – the goal of embodiment is not perfection but authenticity, and who among us doesn’t need ongoing work?) These areas, in my own life, include resisting the impulse to anger, when confronted with values or behaviours I find undesirable, and my recurrent  difficulty in reconciling the work I do professionally with the demands and prerogatives of the Inner Path I walk. But perhaps hardest of all, is remembering the importance of  focus and intention in ordinary,daily life – the good, the bad, the (sometimes) really REALLY stinky.


I work with animals professionally, but they also form the central hub of my daily life and spiritual practise. And by that I don’t mean meditating on  Animal Guides, wandering through the forest listening deeply, studying the mythological and folkloric  attributes of various species, or lighting candles on a shrine to Flidais, all of which are lovely and meaningful and yep, spiritual parts of my life. What I mean here is, the other stuff, the gruntwork – cleaning the litter, cooking the food, prepping herbal formulations, washing the bird cages and snake tanks, traipsing through snow to get the dogs walked, TTouching an ailing feline, filling bird feeders, making sure I spend time with them all (including the snake) and generally honouring their needs to the best of my ability.
This is where my focus, my intention, the purity of my heart and my discipline to not waver,  are tested. Yes, there are days I’ve wanted to run screaming into a snowbank when it all became to much, but I didn’t. There are moments nearly every day where I would give my eye teeth to have somebody else do the work or at least help out, for a bit.But whoever said that waking a Path of Spirit, with your whole being,was going to be easy, or fun all the time? If we are not challenged, if we don’t have to face head-on, the Shadow aspect of our goals and dreams, and grapple with it all – where is the growth?


I estimate that every day, including walking dogs, I spend between 3 and 4 hours on animal duties, some of which are a pleasure and others, not so much.I have fibromyalgia, so there are days this work takes much longer, as I have to take constant breaks to manage anything heavy or demanding. And I  fight the resentment on those days – that I have FMS, that it all takes SO SO LONG, that I feel relatively alone in this task and always the pressure to get to my day job…but still. My goal is to perform all of it with focused love for my calling, and steady, conscious gratitude I am able to do the work I do at all. Once I get to my desk, there are flurries of emails from people who respect my knowledge enough to reach out for help, and that is humbling.. Once I get to the forest, there are mossy meditation seats and hidden woodland altars to be fed, prayed or meditated over….once I can put my feet up at night, there is a ridiculous stack of books by my bedside to inspire, inform and delight me, with magical tales of Animal Medicine from all over the world, or simple stories about how an animal changed one human’s life, and so on. I often start my day by pulling a Medicine Card and considering the meaning, how I might need it that day, what I might need to be on the lookout for (within or without). And it’s all good, a blessing….but, the real test of commitment is what we do when we don’t feel like doing it, when it’s smelly or late or tedious or otherwise unrewarding. I can’t say I’m always this perfect person, scrubbing the poopy bed or reeking litter  or shoveling the yard full of dog droppings with gratitude and glee…but, I hold the goal in my head and heart, keep clear and conscious about my sense of calling and blessing – and day by day, one task – one breath! at a time – I am getting there.


Finding Strength in Dark Times

Although I have wanted to post many times over the past few months, drafted entries in my head, sometimes made aborted starts on writing – there’s just been so much going on I have to relegate this work to the back burner, but that is becoming increasingly hard as my creative energy wells up into a volcano that has to erupt or I may actually, physically explode. Over the past year I’ve been dealing with the challenges of a partner who basically lived 1500 miles away all year, an INSANE workload, and the seriously traumatic pressure of suddenly having to leave my home of 12 years..stress…stress…stress. My health is holding, but it took a hit – and the constant uncertainty about where on earth we will live, is terrible. It’s a tough time – but it pales in comparison to what’s going on in the world stage, and by that I mean, of course, the election of Donald Trump to the White House.

I can sum this up simply by saying, I just have no idea how this farce ever got this far. Or as the meme goes:


But, it is happening, and it is terrifying – and the waves of despair, outrage, anger and fear have hit many of us who are sensitives, empathics – Hell, I think it’s hit anyone with a heart, really. And people are responding in various ways…outreach, demonstrations, escapism and denial – I see a range, and my own feeling is, do whatever you need to do, to get through it and be strong. If you feel up to working for change right now, do it! but if not, or if you are unable to/more inclined to inner work, don’t feel bad about that…prayer, is always needed…and so too, does personal outreach, a shift towards kindness, forgiveness, solidarity, make for some powerful Medicine in these challenging times.
And this last thing,this focus on an inner shift – is what I plan to do, my small bit, over the next year at least. (After that, if I’m more settled, time to reassess).

When I look deeply, I see how personal experiences – negative ones, or superficially so – have influenced behaviours well beyond what is reasonable, for me. Professionally, I enjoy overwhelming good results, great clients, and love the work I do…but, one difficult situation or unreasonable person and that seems to overwhelm all the good I am able to do, and calls into question whether I can continue in my calling or not ( not for long, but it happens). Likewise, I’ve chosen a fairly reclusive lifestyle, and while I’m very comfortable with that, there are many cherished people in my life whom I have often failed to keep up with, and that is a sad state of affairs. In 2015, I had some truly awful personal experiences, losing three people I would have called among the most important in my life, for various reasons (one, a long series of disagreements and differences arising; two, a bad mismatch, wherein I thought I was dealing with a friend, but was in fact, not the case at all; and three, I actually have no idea about, she just vanished without a word). That year damaged me, in ways that haven’t been clear until recently – I allowed the hurt and anger to drive me away from people in general – well, that and incessant exposure to animal cruelty (thank you, Facebook) combined to push me further away from feeling like “people matter”…. and into feeling more and more, that we humans are just parasites and channels of negativity here on this earth.
Not a good place to be in.


Recently, a number of personal events called attention to the fact that I have buried my pain in workaholism, avoided my anger with a cloak of “forgiveness” I didn’t really feel, and allowed my reclusivity to become isolationism and estrangement. With the election of Trump into office and the terrible threats to so many of my friends and so many, period – the threat to all strides made in protecting the environment and animals in general – I felt slapped upside the head, snapped out of my focus on the personal. I can no longer allow myself to be weakened by unresolved conflicts and emotions, I cannot afford the apathy and bitterness that comes with resignation and retreat. I have accepted that I will never receive the apologies I am owed, the hand in reconciliation I waited for, and that is absolutely fine – we should not expect nor crave relationship with those who are not capable of it, in any adult and meaningful way. So those chapters close. And I am amazed, even after all these years of Innerwork, how intense is the response once we turn our attention to our pain, and how rapid the healing once we make it a priority.


How does this relate to our troubling world situation, you ask? I believe we all have to do something, have to act in someway to offset the energies that have made their presence known of late – I am not going to use the darkness/light paradigm, as for me, darkness is not evil – it is as holy and as  much a part of “goodness” as the light. But there are…energies, now, awakened. And  I do believe this:

So – for me, I intend to reach out more to my community, to those I love whom I sometimes don’t check with for months, I intend to set up my initiative to bring accessible herbal medicine to low income people (I mean for humans and pets!) and to start up my local classes once we have moved, on a pwyc basis. I’ll call friends more often and invite them over, go out and visit just a little more – strengthen the bonds between me and my loved ones, my new and old friends, and my community.I decided FINALLY to set up a woman’s group (again, once we are moved) and share support, healing and celebration with like-minded sisters. All of this will be supported by intensified personal Work, and reflected too, in a shift in attitude professionally. While I have long been irritated to the point of distraction by what I see as quackery, undermining the validity of my profession, I plan to let it go and just focus on my own contribution. A kinder, gentler me – with more social outings.


These are hard times, scary and surreal, but we have to stay strong to face them. And we have to face them together. If there is any personal good for me in  the situation, it’s that it has taken me out of the slump – maybe even the depression I’ve been in for a year and a half now. I’ve worked on myself, worked on my spirit, I’ve studied, learned and grown for close to 60 years now – I hope my own contribution can be that of solace to others,  a sanctuary to visit and be held in safe space, even from afar – to bring what I can through the conduit of my spirit and outwards to those who may need it. And do so with good cheer, good humour, and  above all, good coffee.

Much love to the world, I will leave with this quote, which I believe to the core of my (somewhat recovered and optimistic) being.



It’s funny how time gets away from us…today was one of those days where I struggled to pace myself and not get sick, but somehow I can’t recall how, the whole day is a jumble. I spent time with Korky, and that’s so important to me…I did my usual workstuff, but right after supper I realized Danny had not had his walk, and the days are growing shorter all the time…so off we went, “marching” as Alex calls it, around the perimeter of the big field out back. It was one of those early fall evenings wherein the light is so gorgeous and the air so beautifully sweet, you want to grab the nearest camera and video it to share with the world…just loveliness…but then the realization that it’s impossible to capture the essence of some beauty on any kind of film.In front of the house, the ancient Bur Oak was, as it always is in September, filled with starlings to such an extent it actually shimmered with the setting sun catching their iridescent feathers, and they all rustle about emitting their magical, mysterious sounds. That oak full of those birds…is something I will miss like I can’t describe. But I’m not going there right now, into the pain of upcoming change and uncertainty. I just stood and reveled in the magic, and then headed out back with Dan, shuffling a little in my inappropriate shoes, as he bounced about cheerfully, as only Dan can do.

No deer anywhere….last night Tilia and her two fawns, plus the sweet female I call Funnyface, were here by the end of the news, 6:30 ish. Tonight was clear. So we followed the treeline, around the little spring lined with hawthorns – amazing red berries! and past the  silent place where an oak, ash and thorn intertwine, where Amidala’s spirit dwells. I let myself think back on the 11 years since we moved here, all the changes – so many changes! and settle into gratitude for the opportunities, the growth, the passages and  the time.
Certainly, I will leave here almost a different person from who I was when I moved in, 11 months almost to the day after my brother’s death…still dazed and numb with disbelief and pain. And the air stayed heartbreakingly sweet and fresh, a lone mallard flew awkwardly overhead, the birches sighed sympathetically. It was sorrow without despair, intermingled with immediacy, the starlings, the promise of fall everywhere, from the crimson Virginia creeper to the soft yellowing on the maples, to the lengthening shadows at 7 pm.
September. We come home to hot elderberry tea and a quiet snuggle, all of us together in our den….windows still open to catch the owls and wolves deep into the night.
And this I know…there will be another sanctuary, and with any luck, the right one this time.

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




Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Actions: warming and mildly stimulating expectorant, antimicrobial, antitussive



(Class is taught in English only).

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. 🙂

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.


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:


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:



P1340068 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 medicines brewing (I am doing an oxymel today and then this lovely chai I make with white pine) and much blessing on this house from the beauty and getle 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?