Friday, October 25, 2013

Beads from Woody Herb Stems

I've been talking and thinking about it for years, so it seemed like time to give it a whirl.  Working with holy basil for many years, I've seen mention of using the woody stems to make beads that are used in meditation.  There are malas available made from holy basil stems.  Since I grow many plants each year, it seemed like a project to make time for.  Our goal was to just try making a few.  108 beads is far more than we have in mind. 
While considering this project, the woody stems of lavender, rosemary, and sage also came to mind.  Although some of each were cut, only the lavender held a fragrance.  So those were the ones we used along with the holy basil.  After today's adventure, I will stick to making the beads with herbal powders, but it was fun.

First we cut the woody stems into the desired size.  They were held firmly with a wrench and drilled.

The large ones are lavender, the small ones holy basil.  The holy basil stems were really too narrow to get much shape from them, while the lavender gave us a lot more to play with.

We shaped them with the Dremel tool, although I personally found regular flat sand paper to be just as easy.  My arm is pretty sore now, though...

The finished beads (at the bottom of the picture) are fairly rustic.  We could add essential oil to them, paint, stain, or any kind of decoration we like.  I think they'd look nice with some glass beads.
That was fun.  I don't think we need to do it again, but it was one of those things that's been nagging at me for years, so we had to try it once. 
Now back to the workings of herbs and soaps and all the other things that have been piling up for the past couple of weeks!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Roots & Wings Fall Fest - WE DID IT!

Mid-August, in discussions with Susan Hess and Maryanne Schwartz about the upcoming fest, it seemed like it was forever away.
If I told you how quickly and smoothly it fell together, you probably wouldn't believe me.  Fact is, both my sister (Maryanne) and I AND Susan had in the past planned something similar, but both of those plans had been tabled for various reasons.  The moment we started talking, it was as if a fire was ignited.  Within 3 days we had a full roster, a site, and were up and running, ready to accept registrations!  We worked away over the next couple of months as they zoomed by, and last Friday night we found ourselves in a hotel room with all the supplies in the back of the car, our friend and speaker Betty Pillsbury ensconced, and some other friends in the room down the hall, all waiting to see how the day ahead would unfold.
And unfold it did!
With nary an unsolvable glitch, Roots & Wings took place on a glorious Autumn day.
Every session was attended by excited, happy learners.  People made friends, laughed together, and were inspired and jazzed to find new things to try.
Throughout the day, when I talked to attendees, the feedback was invariably wonderful.  We heard over and over how glad people were to find this in their own backyard.
It was so much more rewarding than we ever expected when we set out to organize it.  Now to get together, talk about it, and start planning for spring!  Here are some scenes from the day:

Betty Pillsbury's workshop on dream pouches.

Composting with Erica Lavdanski

Happy partakers at Susanna Reppert Brill's cordial class.

Everyone taking Tamara Sheen's workshop on live cultured foods got into the sauerkraut!

2 of the first 3 sessions - Barb Steele and Susan Hess took opposite ends of the large pavilion.

It was great watching people getting to know each other over lunch!

Maryanne Schwartz did a cold-processed soap demonstration using the sage hydrosol and essential oil from my distillation earlier in the day.

Susanna speaking.
There were so many other great talks that I just didn't get to with the camera.  Wonderful speakers, wonderful attendees - a wonderful day!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Essential Herbal, Nov/Dec '13 Issue

Here it is folks!  The newest issue of The Essential Herbal Magazine.  Subscribe now to get it!
So much good folk herbalism, lore, herbal holiday tradition and gift-making came our way for this issue that we took the rare step of adding 4 pages (I can't remember the last time we did that).  It's a beauty and it has enough to keep us all busy right up until the new year!  A subscription makes an ideal holiday gift for an herbie friend.  It may seem early, but we'll hold it to send shortly after Dec. 15th.
And for an idea of what's inside, here is the Table of Contents...
Field Notes from the Editor
Tina talks about the fun she had with this year’s experiments.
About the Cover, a little discussion of the barn star. The cover is from Susan Hess.
Balsam Fir, Sandy Michelsen
We know them as Christmas trees, but what of the essential oil, the pitch, the needles? What can we do with them?
Flavors of the Season, Jackie Johnson
The spices that warm us in winter, included in recipes for Spiced Seafoam, Gingerbread, Rum Punch, and more.
Fun, Sillies & Puns for the Happy Herbalist, Jessica Morgan
A few more jokes and puns from Jessica, to lighten the quickly shortening days.
Recipes for Making Kale a Regular Part of Your Diet, Carey Jung
Carey eats kale every day, and has done so for years. How does she do it?
Roots of Herbal Medicine, Joe Smulevitz
There have been many steps along the way in the evolution of herbal medicine. Many traditions have borrowed from and built upon each other.
Herbal Gifts, Jean Smith
Vinegars and oils to make using herbs and spices.
Beyond the Winter Blues, Marita Orr
Many terrific ideas, recipes, and suggestions for staying ahead of the winter blues. If you’re one who dearly misses the sun, be sure to take note.
Winter Craft Ideas, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Even more fun, exciting, and welcome gifts to make (maybe just for yourself). Something for everyone.
Der Butzemann, Susan Hess
Bridging the Sacred Connection Between Plants and Humans. A fascinating look into some PA German folk tradition.
Weaving the Yule Wreath, Heddy Johannesen
Learn to make a wreath with found, natural items like cones, pods, leaves and pine boughs.
Holiday Lathers, Marci Tsohonis
Oh my… Mint Chocolate Truffle Soap? Need we say more? Like Chocolate Almond Truffle Soap?
Five Seasons Teas, Suzan T Scholl
How to blend medicinal remedy teas. Suzan provides a chart showing different notes and the types of herbs that fall into those categories.
SouthRidge Treasures, Kitchen Spice Rope, Mary Ellen Wilcox
A great fall project that will bring the fragrances of spices into the kitchen and get you right into the mood for celebrating.
Buttery Spa Scrubs, Marci Tsohonis
Keep that skin supple and smooth all winter long!
Grocery Store Preparedness, Tina Sams
Sometimes it’s all you can do to drag yourself to the kitchen. Get prepared now and you’ll thank yourself later!
Retail or Wholesale, Maryanne Schwartz
Do you know the difference? If you’re starting a business, you should.
Old Country Store Percolator Punch
A favorite to serve in the store for many years, now shared with us!
Corn Chowder, Susan Hess
Something easy and inexpensive to warm you up and stick to your ribs.
Why Not Make Your Own? Rita Richardson
Some condiments you might not have considered making yourself.
Pumpkin Butter, Karen Hegre
Oh delicious concentrated spicy pumpkin spread, how we love you!
Persimmon Cake, Tina Sams
I always keep persimmon pulp in the freezer over the winter, just to use to bake moist, dense cakes and cookies.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Everyone does something...

We've been at this for 13 years now, putting The Essential Herbal Magazine together.  It's been interesting to watch the content evolve since it is driven by our readers who are also most often our writers.  The shift has been gradual and heartening to see, as we, as a community, continually find ways to more consciously tred upon the earth. 
One of our goals from the beginning was to gently lead people to find ways that bring them back in touch with the plant world, to look up at the sky, to remember.

I am of a generation that first partook of the "miracles" that are now destroying the earth.  We were amazed at the availability of woody winter strawberries from 1000's of miles away.  We were impressed with MORE of everything.  We were indoctrinated to believe that in a lot of ways just because we could do something, we should do it.  Might equaled right.  A person was judged by the size of their bank account.  The earth had unlimited resources, and we'd earned them.  That's what we were taught.

I'm not defending this - only explaining.  Even in my early teens, this was turning out to be an uncomfortable thought process as our chemicals killed off the raptors from the skies and the teeming life within our waters.  We were being taught about the undeniable value of the rainforests in class while they were being cleared in the name of progress.  But even then, when faced with the undeniable truth, we tried to make changes.  We stopped the use of DDT, took lead out of gasoline, and reformulated detergent.  All of those changes were met with resistance, but they were the right thing to do, and so they happened.  Unfortunately the backlash meant that those who felt we deserved everything (or really, nothing) came into power.

Now you'd think that you could just say, "Stop doing that!  You're hurting the earth!  We'll have nothing left!"  But how do you tell someone whose whole life has been infused with McDonalds and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that they have to stop that immediately and start cooking from scratch?  Do they even know how?  This is not due to callous disregard for the earth as much as it is asking people to look at everything they were taught from birth, and change.  How do you convince people who have been raised believing that convenience is paramount (while work-weeks get longer and longer), that there is meaning in doing something by hand?  How do we learn to see the world differently?

And so for us, that has meant trying very hard to lead without judgement.  We recognize that it is possible to be a person whose lifestyle and beliefs clash with the necessity of making a living.  We know that many of our readers live in apartments with no land, work at jobs that go against their own grain, and feel like they can't live the life they dream.  Reality can be brutal, but we all want to learn how we can do better.  For us, it means trying to keep a foot in both worlds, remembering that our earthy, wild friends who seek to learn the old ways are not as typical as it may seem just because they surround us.

It has been immensely rewarding to get letters and notes from people who want to share that the things they're learning in the magazine are making a difference in their lives.  Their first hand-blended tea, or plantain poultice, or homemade nourishing soup.  With each issue, we hear from those who have taken a step on the way back.  Every step is powerful and meaningful and leads to the next step and a deeper appreciation of the natural world.

Now we have put together the Roots & Wings Fall Fest, another piece of the puzzle, another way to show that a different way is possible.  I'm so excited to be getting ready for that next Saturday (and there is still time to sign up).  We hope to have a Spring Fling as well :-)

Yesterday, there was an anti-GMO march locally.  I could not attend, but a friend ended the march with a beautiful speech.  It is posted on her blog HERE  I know that she is making a difference.  We can each make a difference - one step at a time. 
Even better - watch her here - Natasha's Speech

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Autumn Melange at TEH

The pace changes here as the angle of the sun moves.  The deep blue of the sky is offset by golds and ambers, flashes of crimson, and still the deep, lush green that has been everywhere for months.  Instead of the rush of planting and weeding and putting things by, we have a little more time to venture into the woods (that have been clogged by immense growth until now) and wander around a little bit on deliveries.  The cooler weather makes it more enjoyable.
And so in that spirit, I thought I'd take you on a little tour of our past month, the things we do between working on the magazine, soap and Roots & Wings Fall Fest planning (there's still time to sign up for this Oct 19 event!) that make up most of our days.
A farm market in Ronks had huge bins full of gourds and pumpkins.  How could you choose?

Learning to catch the seeds as they spring from the pods is a pretty fun way to spend a walk in the woods.

The only thing left to harvest in the garden is the saffron and some vitex berries (for a friend).

Making lots of medicine with honey, garlic, lemons, ginger... we're ready!

Our "baby" pawpaw grove.

Found these at a farm market yesterday!  Yum!

A storm knocked these from a tree that I stalk every fall.  Bonanza!
We wound up with a quart of pulp from the persimmons and froze it in 1 cup portions for baking.

Spice berries on a prolific bush.  Gathering lots of twigs, leaves and berries.

The mushroom log I got at an herb faire in May is pushing out shrooms beside the front porch.

Bottled up the black walnut cordial we made in mid-June.  It still needs a few months to mellow.
This is just a taste of what's been going on.  We have a pretty good time.  There has been a class or two, trips to farm markets, visiting friends, and evenings on the deck watching the sun go down.  It's a good life!