Sunday, October 23, 2011

Gail Faith Edwards at The Rosemary House

We spent the day yesterday with Gail Faith Edwards, who gave a day-long class at The Rosemary House. The class was held in the tea room of Sweet Remembrances next door and selfishly, I was so happy the group fit into the tea room - intimate, comfy, and like a group of friends talking about their favorite subject. In fact, I did get to see some old friends and meet some subscribers I hadn't before. It was a wonderful day!
Gail gave an exceptional presentation. One of the things I have always loved about Gail is that when she speaks (especially) about herbs, her voice has a quality that reminds me of when I was young and my mother would tell me fascinating or exciting stories. There is that feeling of secrets being revealed. As the day went on, I noticed that she became more and more beautiful. Yes, I DO know how odd that sounds, except that on the way home I asked my sister if she noticed it too - and she exclaimed that she had been seeing the same thing. It is so clear how much she loves the plant realm.

Between the materia medica and the specifics for making medicine and treating conditions, she sprinkled the information with personal stories. It was when I realized that even though I've been acquainted with Gail for well over 10 years, I'd had no idea how humble she is. For instance, I'd never heard about her going to Bhopal to work with the people suffering from the massive chemical gas leak. The only reason we heard that story was because she was affected severely with some of the afflictions she'd treated after she got home, and she was describing her self-treatment. Some of the things she shared seemed to surprise even herself, and I think that came from the intimacy of the group. I am so glad to have been there. Even with 40 years working in herbs (which she says has only taught her that there is so much more to learn) she made everyone in the room feel more at ease with their own level of knowledge. It was a completely magical day and I enjoyed every morsel.
I was particularly fascinated with the segment on Baltic amber. Having read some of her writing on amber, I'd gotten some from her before and a small bottle of tincture. It was much more powerful to hear her talk about it. I don't think many people left there without some amber.My sister, Susanna, and Lorie after the class wrapped up.

My camera dropped last week, and it seems that the lens got jostled. That's disappointing, because I would have loved to have shared more with you here. Not that pictures of the scrumptious scones, spreads, soup, salad, and desserts would have expressed their flavors... not that the grins and smiles from the other attendees would have conveyed their delight in the class... but still.

I hope Gail had a splendid trip back to Maine. We certainly enjoyed her time here :-)
Many thanks to Susanna and Nancy for bringing herb experts to our area and for making it such a spectacular event.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Natural Bridge, VA

There was another stop for the Essential Herbal contingent coming back from the SEWHC a few days ago. Driving along Rt 81, there were signs tempting us to stop at Natural Bridge, a property that at one time belonged to Thomas Jefferson. We looked at the signs wistfully until we saw the one for the butterfly house. That did it for us.
It was fun for a while, even if it was in a cement block basement with no windows. Then I started noticing the dead butterflies under the plants and began to wonder about the lack of caterpillars.
So I asked one of the youthful attendants if the butterflies were able to complete their life cycles by reproducing. "No," she said, "we don't have the plants they need here, and besides, there would be caterpillars everywhere eating the plants... and we'd need a greenhouse."
They just continually order in the chrysalis stage of butterflies, hatch them, and that's that. I might be over-reacting, but that just ruined the whole thing for me. A cheesy roadside attraction with no regard or respect for the magnificent living creatures that draw the crowd - that's how it felt to me. We left the display saddened, and continued the walk.
Along the way, there was a series of perhaps 150 steps down to the rock-walled creek that led to the natural bridge. Going down the steps we saw some lovely scenery as water coursed down the hillside beside the steps.
There was still lots of lush growth in the underbrush.
And finally, the bridge itself.
It was stunning, no doubt about that. The bridge is probably at least 100 feet high and breathtaking.
We skipped the wax museum and the dinosaur museum. The whole thing (except the actual attraction) had the flavor of South of the Border - the crazy village of hotel rooms/cottages on the border of North and South Carolina.
It was fun to walk around and see the plants and the bridge. The rest... not so much.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Asheville (NC) Botanical Garden

After the SE Women's Herbal Conference ended, we (humorously dubbed "the Essential Herbal magazine staff") decided to wander around a little bit before heading home. Asheville was calling. We were completely enchanted by the town of Black Mountain, and Asheville has the same flavor ... x10 The area is filled with artisans and craftspeople. We just snooped around a little, but the vibe was very clear and open. Eventually we stumbled across the botanical garden.
In our local area, we have a couple of great gardens. One - Shenk's Ferry Wildflower Preserve - is a series of trails that is awash with unbelievable spring wildflowers each year. Another is the Tanger Arboretum that adjoins Wheatland and the historical society headquarters. The former is wild, the latter mowed and formal. The Asheville Botanical Garden is a splendid combination of both.

I have not figured out all of the plants yet. Some were marked, and some were not in a stage that was easily identifiable, but it was beautiful and the breezy warm sunshine made us want to stay much longer.
Below, the seedheads of Common Wingset, a member of the aster family. About waist high, these were actually quite lovely.

A concrete table with benches snuggled up under a large tree next to the softly winding creek that runs through the gardens.
A large patch of sweetfern grows along the border in front of the gift shop. We were a little surprised to find lots of information and field guides on birds inside, but not very much on the local wild plants. I have a field guide specific to southern VA, but of course it was at home (along with my business cards - just a peek into how my brain was working when I left home last week).
Wild Ginger spread luxuriously under some Tulip Poplars and Hemlocks. I was envious. The deer in our woods keep both of our varieties nibbled pretty closely, and I imagine the roots are immense.
Fall is definitely underway. Beautiful painted leaves scatter the walkways and blew around us as we walked. Such an invigorating time of year.
Maryanne was taking a picture of something when she saw movement at her feet. This little one, a garter snake was happily enjoying some sunshine and didn't move away, allowing me to get within a few inches.
Some of my friends in the south seem to have trouble growing jewelweed, but that was not the case in the garden. Along the creek there was tons of it, getting ready to spring their seeds outward at the slightest touch.
Indian Hemp was quite common along the path. This was one of the marked plants.
The creek was sweet, babbling and bubbling, carrying leaves along the way. In one spot, platforms were hung from a tree by wires, and filled with birdseed so that from a deck, one could watch the little chickadees.
A bench with insets of stained glass along the path, decorated with trillium. When my daughter was in the Waldorf school, her nursery school teacher gave each of the children their own wildflower that indicated their possessions. Molly was a white trillium, and that flower has been special to me ever since.
I was amazed by the Bald Cypress trees (no, those aren't Brussels Sprouts) because we have several large Bald Cypress here on the hill, but none of them has yet produced these balls. I had to look it up when I got the chance to be sure that the name wasn't actually "balled" cypress. The tree is called "bald" because it isn't evergreen and loses her needles (at least up here in the north) each winter.
There were still a few wild Bleeding Hearts in bloom. Ours finish up before June here. Although... you never know. I haven't checked, and have been completely astounded that the tiny bluets in the backyard have not stopped blooming once since spring, even though they are a spring blooming wildflower. Weird year.
Under a huge hemlock tree, drifts of asters bloomed. You may notice how restful the whole garden feels. Families were visiting and there were people wading in the stream, running and playing, and it all fit together.
We also found a fairly large patch of wild Senna. I don't believe I've ever seen this before, or maybe just didn't notice it, but this was sort of thrilling to find.

The stop took us an hour or so and we were only a wee bit off the main road. It was well worth visiting!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Essential Herbal Nov/Dec 2011 - what's inside?

We're a little behind getting this cover and table of contents up so you can see what's on the way to your house. Yup, it's in the mail and should arrive by the end of the month (although it can be ordered at any time at you can see below, this issue is brimming with things that help swing into the next season, enjoy the holidays, stay healthy during the stresses of everything that entails, and some fun reading between all the information. It is a great issue!

Field Notes from the Editor
"This is the way it is; this is what we do."

List Article
Readers share family traditions that include herbs and spices over the holidays.

Calm Amid the Chaos, Tiffany M Psichopaidas
Simple traditions help us stay focused and centered in the midst of chaos.

Delicious Wintertime Remedies, Kate Ferreri
Luscious blends can make wintertime discomforts feel a lot better.

Celebrating Martinmas, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Celebrate Martinmas with Martinshornchen and Weckmaenner after learning about the holiday.

Fire and Ice Balm, Marci Tsohonis
After lots of trials and tweaking, this is Marci's favorite balm for chronic pain.

Dreaming of the Medieval Physic Garden, Heather Nic an Fhleisdeir
Travel through time and space with Heather, to the gardens of medieval herbalists.

Goldenseal History and Use, Joe Smulevitz
Just what makes this shy, endangered plant so special?

Cottonwood Buds - A Winter Foraging Adventure, Marci Tsohonis
Let's get sappy about the cold winter woods!

Nutrients for Your Skin, Cindy Jones, Ph.D.
Learn simple remedies to keep your skin healthy and happy in the harsh weather.

Pomanders, Buena Tomalino
A fragrant, pleasurable craft to make with family or friends, for family and friends.

The Herbal Adventures of the Twisted Sisters, Part 5,
Tina Sams & Maryanne Schwartz
Our take on essential oils and making incense from natural botanicals.

Creating Sacred Gardens, Marita A. Orr
"We can create a space where we come into contact with all that lies both within us and outside us."

Sharing the Gift of Wisdom, Melissa Sidelinger
" I gain a deeper understanding of traditional skills and folk wisdom I realize how necessary it is to keep this knowledge alive in today's modern world."

Louisiana Lagniappe, Double Dates, Stuffed Dates, 2 Ways, Sarah Liberta
The grown-up herbie in Sarah embellishes these recipes passed down from her father's Sicilian grandmother.

Be Prepared, Karen Mallinger CNHP MH
Would you be ready if a natural catastropy came knocking on the door? Here's some help.

Holiday Gift Basket, Kelli Scott
Some great ways to share herbal crafts and medicines in gifts to loved ones.

SouthRidge Treasures, A Spice Necklace - The Magical Power of Spices, Mary Ellen Wilcox
Make a scentuous and lovely necklace to keep the holiday fragrances close to you.

Historic Herbal, Candy Comfits, Kathleen Setzer
These tiny tasty seeds are often seen in Indian restaurants, and now you can make them at home!

Holly and Ivy - A Duet of Green Allies, Amanda Dainow
These traditional greens are often an integral part of holiday celebrations, and they have much to share.

Winter Reading, Rita Richardson
Now is the time to study and plan the herbal paths to follow in the springtime.

The Story of Humans and Herbs, Jackie Johnson
Mythology, gods and goddesses, herbs - what's not to love?

Herbs of the Zodiac: Capricorn,
Susanna Reppert Brill/Bertha Reppert
This time around, those born betwixt December 22 and January 19 learn of the plants that are astrologically beneficial to them.

Order your subscription or renewal today, and get started on some of these empowering projects! Single and back issues are also available - as well as books and lots of herbal goodies. It's time to get your herbie on!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Southeast Women's Herbal Conference

Every year there are a number of herb conferences. Some people get to one or two, some go to many, and for some, the one attended this year is the first. The feeling after an herb conference is always one of rejuvenation, of finding like minded people, and of being part of something greater than one's self. And so it was with the SEWHC.
For me, this conference was even more than that. We'd had a drawing for 2 tickets earlier in the year. After awarding the tickets to the winners Julie...
and Mary...Maryanne and I decided that we would go too. On the last day I got a chance to talk to them both about their experience, and both of them told me that they had found pieces to a puzzle, that the conference had helped them to define their paths. Truly, just being able to see them both attending their first conferences was enough of a joy to me, but the thing is, my life's work is about sharing the love and power of herbs. It is impossible for me to express how thrilled I am that both of these incredible women got exactly what they were looking for. What a gift to ME that is!
This was also the trip during which my sister and I realized that as much as we love being outside among the plants, we enjoy a clean, soft bed at night, a warm shower in the morning, and basically, a Super 8 IS camping at our age. Okay, I'll cop to that. Oh believe me, if you added it up, we've both spent years sleeping under the stars or in lean-to's, waking up with bugs in our hair and leaves and twigs in our creases and folds. We were sorry to miss the camaraderie, but also happy to be able to go back to the hotel and keep up with the word on the occupations taking place all over the world.
We enjoyed the conference very much on our own terms, and it was good.
So I will share some memories with you.
Jars of tea infusing in the sunChildren playing The class we took on wild fermentation with Charli VogtWatching Brooke Medicine Eagle drumming in the center of a women's circleJanna waking up on the last dayCeara Foley on herbs for farm and familyOne of the many expressive vehicles in the lot
The overflow of diners from the immense dining hall, many of whom chose the Nourishing Traditions meal options. The other food options were scrumptious too!I have scores of pictures of the mountains - which I adored. The winds were amazing, following the storms from earlier in the week, and they seemed to be blowing away layers of care and worry.
It was a wonderful conference and everyone was welcoming and open to new friendships and opportunities. It was very inspiring. Thanks to the crew at SEWHC and all your hard work. Amazing job - we loved it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stress and the college student

The junior herbie in the house spent last year as an editor on her school's newspaper. She shared information to help her fellow students get through the fall semester.

Molly Sams

Fall semesters can really take their toll on even the most seasoned student. With the dark and dreary days and the bitter walks to class, the endless amount of quizzes, labs, tests, and papers begin to weigh down on a person. Sadly, sometimes relief seems out of reach for any student be it time or financially. As much as I would love it I will probably never have my day at the spa.
But there is something you can do. By using herbs like chamomile, St John's Wort and holy basil, you can feel more healthy, wealthy, and wise to keep going through the endless winter without having to take out another student loan.
For me, rainy days are the worst.
They always seem to be the days I need to run all over campus and have all my work done before the day is out. On those days I still feel wired afterwards and can't seem to stand still. Chamomile tea is always a great remedy for that sort of restlessness.

It gives me an excuse to sit down and relax and I can feel the weight lifting off my shoulders with every sip.
During finals week you may also want to unwind even before an exam as to not scare yourself out of doing well on the test. When this happens, taking St John's Wort can help you relax but stay focused.
It has been known to help the overall focus, happiness, and commitment in many people. Perfect for test-taking mode.
For the scariest days when you have a game, three tests, and need to battle your girlfriend's seven ex boyfriends, holy basil can really help you get through your day without a meltdown. Holy basil, also known as Tulsi, has been around for centuries and is used in India for nearly every ailment.

This can be quite useful in the winter months because it is also anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. It is also known for increasing memory which is great for that language exam you've been dreading.
These herbs are pretty inexpensive as well. Chamomile tea has become quite common and can be bought in an grocery store while St. John's Wort and Holy Basil can be purchased as tincture, which is meant to be taken in drops with water or in your morning orange juice - or teas.
With these little remedies you should be prepared to take whatever this semester throws at you. Be it a huge test, sixteen page paper, or whatever.

 Find these and other helpers: