Do you subscribe to my substack? I don't want to double post (though it seems a lot of stackers do as the platform gets established), but don't want to lose the posts over there ever, so am also posting some of them here as well!
Nurturing the Seasons of Self: Aging, Nature, and Authenticity
In a world that often glorifies youth and resists the natural progression of time, the cycles of the seasons stand as a reminder of the beauty and the inevitability of change. Just as the Earth transforms her vibrant hues of spring to the warm embrace of summer, then from the golden shades of autumn to the stillness of winter, so do our lives follow patterns of growth, transformation, and maturity. These natural rhythms resonate deeply, especially for women, as we navigate the intricate terrain of aging, and the intimate connection between tending to the earth and nurturing one's own essence.
My journey through the seasons of self has always felt intertwined with the changing landscapes of nature. Born in the middle of September, a month that both holds my heart and challenges my spirit, I now find myself facing the milestone of turning 56 (gulp) in a few weeks. September has always been a time of paradox—a month of reflection, as summer fades into memory and autumn paints the world in hues of warmth and transformation. Beauty and change. Hot and cold. Growth and death. It begins as a fiery crescendo in the garden bounty and ends with the fading of the garden and the beginning of cold darkness. Every fall around my birthday, I feel that I too must acknowledge the passing of time...finish the article on substack by clicking the link below.
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Hello! I wanted to let everyone know that I will be presenting for the Lilium Initiative again, this time to go a bit more in depth on organizing and planning medicinal gardens and small-scale crops. Lilium Initiative webinars are free to members, or a sliding scale donation for non-members. Register at the link!
Making a Plan: Plotting and Organizing Your Medicinal Garden & Crops
Hope to see you there!
I think our culture has always pushed the worker. And, when we are young we hinge a lot of our self worth and value on the status of our job and our level at our job. We work a lot, and we are encouraged to be consumers. So for a lot of people, especially when we are younger, we don’t see where we live as home as much as a place to keep our stuff.
I was not a homeowner until I was 36 years old. I had been a renter. And I moved a lot. I lived in only 4 places by my Junior year in high school when we moved to another state, Illinois. I moved from my parents home to a friend's home, then onto an apartment in the burbs, and then to an apartment in NM, and then new roommates in NM, then back to IL with my mom, then into the city of Chicago with a roommate. In Chicago I think I lived in approximately 13 places in the 1987-1999 window in Chicago alone, plus 6 other rentals in 3 other states. When we finally moved to Wisconsin in 2000, we had 2 rentals at about a year each before we purchased our first house. When we moved to Wisconsin I was 34, and had lived in 24 places or so. When we purchased our first house I was pregnant with my 2nd child and A was only 15 months old. It felt so good to have a home. And, it felt really tied down. It took me 12 years in that home to feel that maybe being in one place might be ok. We then moved to a new home thinking that would be it, but 3 years in, we found this house and knew we wanted to live here.
We moved into this place a week before my 51st birthday. It was the first home that felt like a grownup house. It was the first place that felt like a real home and not some cookie cutter in a planned neighborhood (we had bought in new developments due to financing options).
The reason I’m sharing all this history is because I lived for so long being able to pick up and move using a car or a van for so long that having a whole home felt so weird. I still have panic attacks that we now have so much stuff it would take a semi to move. I don’t like “stuff” but with 4 adults living here and a 2 acre homestead with chickens and a coop and ride-on mower and tools and all of that, it is a lot. I don’t think we need to own a place for it to feel like home, but for me, owning a place was the first time I slowed down enough to be in the space and feel like I wanted to make it a refuge for me and my family, and to feel comfortable and enjoy it.
That was when I finally started thinking of a house as a home and not a place for my stuff. I have always been more of an introvert and wanted to raise my kids being happy and content being at home. Being OK entertaining themselves and not always searching for some external stimuli because they couldn’t be alone with themselves. Being at home and homeschooling meant we had time to do things intentionally - bake our bread. Can and pickle foods. Grow herbs and food. Preserve the harvest. Have cats. Get a dog. Have chickens. Anyone with animals that are not cats know that basically you cannot leave your home for more than 24 hours ever again.
Last night I was reading about how in France there is a huge problem that people get animals and in August before the entire European continent takes off on their month of summer break, tens of thousands of people dump their pets next to the highway, in local parks, at interchanges, by gas stations. France animal shelters have already picked up over 12,000 dumped animals and it is only the 16th of August (and that is only what they have found - how many were hit by cars, are in the woods or in cities fighting to survive?). If where we live is only a place to keep our stuff, then our animals are our stuff, and they are disposable like everything else. We have no connection and deep bond with the land, the space, the wildlife that lives here, the habitat, the pollinators, the plants, the pets, the family. When we send our kids to school/sports/summer camp their whole life as well, I wonder if kids fall into that disconnect a little bit as well. Other people take care of them, and we can barely keep up.
I’m not saying that people who have to work outside the home are callous or selfish, I’m saying our capitalist system keeps people so busy working and consuming that it can be hard to feel fulfilled or content spending time at home. Our fast-paced, consumer-driven culture often pushes us to prioritize external stimuli and achievements, leaving little time for meaningful connections and self-care. We know that when lockdowns happened and more people worked from home, people were suddenly gardening, spending time with their children, walking their dogs over their lunch break, and people felt for the first time that they had more work/life balance while also getting more work done. People were wanting to be more healthy and make their own food and grow their veggies. More people had chickens for eggs. Why can’t we take that momentum to create a system that doesn’t exploit the workforce with excessive hours and allows people to do things like (gasp) see their children for more than 30 minutes before bedtime.
We will always be busy. Our world today makes people busy. But what if we all took more time to just be at home to read a book. Bake a loaf of bread. Grow a garden with herbs and food. Learn new things. Connect on a deeper level to everything around us. Perhaps with that time comes caring, and to care for the world around us, the plants and animals, and our role in preserving things before they become extinct, we can make a bigger change.
Making your abode a home is not about owning, it is about settling in, I think. It is about finding joy in making your room cozy and comfortable. It is about spending time at the kitchen table with your kids while the bread is in the oven. It can even be about simply sitting down on the couch with a blanket and a book to wind down. They say you cannot love someone else until you love yourself. Maybe it is that way with the world. If you don’t care for yourself how can you care for all of the living things on the planet that are threatened and endangered right now. If you can’t care for your family in the frantic pace that is life, how can you care for everything in the world?
Promoting a work-life balance, fostering connection with nature, and encouraging more intentional living are essential steps towards a healthier and more sustainable way of life. In a world that often celebrates constant movement and rapid progress, the reflection on the meaning of home stands as a gentle reminder of the profound value in settling into a space that nurtures our souls. To find joy in creating a comfortable sanctuary, where the simple acts of baking bread, tending to a garden, or sharing moments with loved ones become cherished rituals, is to embrace a deeper connection to ourselves and the world around us. This connection extends beyond our personal boundaries, weaving into the very fabric of the earth we inhabit. As we learn to care for our own well-being, we inevitably extend that care to the environment that sustains us.
Amidst the constant whirlwind of the modern world, there exists a path to slowing down and truly embracing the art of being present at home. It begins by carving out intentional pockets of time, where the demands of external commitments fade into the background. Set aside moments for yourself, your family, and the space you've crafted. Unplug from the ceaseless digital chatter and immerse yourself in the tactile world around you. Engage in activities that ground you—whether it's savoring a homemade meal, tending to a garden, or simply relishing a quiet cup of tea. Create rituals that anchor you to the present, allowing each moment to unfold without the weight of multitasking. Through these deliberate choices, you transform your dwelling into a sanctuary of serenity and connection, fostering a harmonious coexistence with your surroundings and nourishing your soul in the process.
Time can be a privilege, as is having a place to sleep and put our things. That doesn’t mean we should not work towards more balance in our own lives. By having time to shift our own perspectives and embrace the richness of the present moment, we not only unlock a deeper connection to our surroundings but also gain the capacity to extend our hands to others and take time to build community.
I see designing a life that is meaningful and connected as a part of permaculture. It aligns with my own system design for my life and family. That design includes community, giving, reciprocity, and using what we have to help others as well. You can design your life to make an impact for not only your family, but your community.
Interested in designing your own permaculture space? Interested in being a more self-sufficient herbalist? Join us for the launch party for The Regenerative Herbalist Online Course and get started on a journey to self-sufficiency and wellness. This launch party is part party and part free masterclass to get share more about what we will cover in The Regenerative Herbalist course launching this fall. Visit the website to join the waitlist!
Today I had the opportunity to be the first guest on a brand new podcast series from Mary Colvin - The Herbology Talk Podcast. If you don't know Mary, she has this amazing way of breaking down complicated herbal topics in easy to understand ways. Today we chatted about herbal education, aromatherapy, permaculture, business skills, sustainability, and preserving our medicinals for the future.
Listen below, or click the link to go to the feed. https://sites.libsyn.com/465651/herbology-episode-1
Gavin (18) and I have been working on videos as he is pursuing his interest in video production and editing and is learning DaVinci Resolve. We have done a few shorts, and now moved up to a longer video as we walk through Wholly Rooted and some of the smaller bed areas and gardens to see the impact of our severe drought and how our design has kept things pretty green even without much rain. We have bigger videos in the works now, with speaking and sharing more in depth topics and experiences as we show more of our permaculture systems and designs moving forward. Can't wait!
You can find our latest video below - head over to YouTube to subscribe!
I have a lot of folks talking about mutual aid, ad thought I would share a little about a mutual aid network that I started a few years back for Herbalists Without Borders. Back in 2017 when I started volunteering for HWB, I noticed that when something happened people would make a callout and post their address and everyone in the whole community would ship things. Of course it might take 2 weeks. You wouldn't necessarily get what you needed. You would be overwhelmed with too much stuff (if you were popular) or wouldn't get any help (if you were not popular). The stuff you got might not be labeled properly (or only with a magic marker on a rusty old canning jar), which was not safe to distribute. And, right when you were busy trying to respond in YOUR OWN community to a disaster, you would have to wade through a garage full of random things that were shipped to you, sort through it, throw things away that were not safe/verifiable, make things (while you might not even have running water) following GMPs, label things (when you might not even have power) to the labeling laws, and then still manage your own safety and then also outreach to your community. Also, once the disaster response fizzled out, the person was inevitably left with a ton of unused supplies that would sit in the garage for a year until they thought - hmm, I don't want to waste this - but shipping all of their excess was too expensive and it wasn't stored in climate controlled area, it might be expired, and they had no idea where anything came from and couldn't track source, so it was often wasted. I heard at that time about how Standing Rock had issues with receiving tons (literally) of herbal supplies that they had to throw away because it was not safe to give people to ingest since it was not labeled, identified, in good containers, wasn't what they needed, etc.
So, I decided to coordinate the donation of supplies to one central spot for the US Groups. I would intake unexpired supplements, herbal supplies, containers, ingredients, salve, tinctures, etc. and track source, conduct inspections to ensure quality and safety, and store it in a climate controlled area of my farm. I use a master list of inventory and HWB groups can review the list and email me their wish lists. I gather all of the wishlists for that week and box everything from top priority to low priority until the box is full. Everyone who has extra chips back into the system via extra supplies they may have, dried herbs, or via helping chip in the shipping costs. This keeps the system running and allows me to ship boxes to those who most need them. The system also allows for people who have to chip back in to support those that do not have, and it helps redistribute resources in a more equitable way,
I of course am still volunteering as US Donation Distribution Coordinator and US Seed Grant Coordinator for HWB now in 2023. I ship well over $150K retail value of supplies from my house a year all from my farm (Any locals interested in volunteering? I could use a hand!). I have about 800 square feet of space dedicated for the HWB community apothecary and cold storage for seeds. I also grow medicinal herbs to donate into the system myself, since there were many things we were not getting donated and I have the privilege of land. I ship out dried herbs, supplements, disaster relief supplies, salve, chest rub, ointment, carrier oils, containers, tea blends, tinctures, and then also I make things from donated supplies. In the past few weeks I have made almost 200 inhalers, 150+ rollerballs, 60 muscle/joint lotion, 50 chest rubs, and bagged about 50-60 bags of dried individual herbs. I do it twice a month now, so on the first and third Mondays each month I box all day and then on Tuesday I label and package everything and then ship the boxes out. What goes out varies as different groups request supplies based on what is happening where, the season, and community needs and response. If there is a disaster, this system works really well because we already have things and I can literally mobilize overnight and ship supplies out for folks doing foot/bike/truck free clinics or first aid stations. I also can ship exactly what folks need so it minimizes waste. I can manage inventory, sourcing, donors, and track where everything goes. That means I do the grunt work and the people receiving the supplies have more time to serve their own communities. I use a dedicated room for HWB packing boxes that also has a small kitchen space. I have GMPs in place so that everything is managed and inventory expiration dates tracked.
I also started a seed grant program in 2017 where I intake donated seeds from seed companies and make seed grant boxes and distribute to HWB groups to grow food and medicine in communities around the US. Since I was getting mostly food seeds donated at first I started growing out medicinals to save seeds and then bagging them up and sharing them in the seed grants every spring. Of course food is medicine and communities without access to healthy food need food, not only herbs, so HWB groups are encouraged to grow food too. They can give the produce away at free clinics, donate to their local food pantry, use the gardens for educational community purposes, host events to help people learn how to make healthy food, and so many groups get food, knowledge, and empowerment to their local people. I have shipped probably something like 12,000 packets of seeds out over the past few years. Some groups host free community clinics or events and put bins of fresh produce out for folks to take. I have also helped people plan their gardens too, especially if they are a new grower, or review their plans to make sure it will work for them. I met an amazing medicinal seed grower last year who is donating into the system now so there is a lot more variety of seeds and I don't have to grow so many plants just for seeds myself. We also swap seeds within the network, so if there are seeds I cannot grow but need, folks will grow them and mail me seeds from their region so that I have them. Sacred plants that are culturally relevant and important to bipoc folks stay in those communities as well (like white sage).
It may seem like a lot, but it is just me doing this and it is manageable. People always seem to think they need a lot of money and a lot of time, but I do a whole lot primarily working with a mutual aid/reciprocity based system and almost no money coming in but for shipping costs. We do have a tiny budget for supplies (I usually have to buy the containers to put the donated supplies into). The budget is so low for how much is shipped out, it is amazing. Seriously. While we could always use more funds for shipping or containers or carrier oils or supplies to make items for free clinics and disaster relief, we get a LOT done with almost no money.
I also do webinars and knowledge sharing when I can and have written several eGuides that HWB members can download to help them get started growing, harvesting, and using their herbs. I co-presented an herbal preparedness webinar as well with 3 hours of video content plus a whole workbook. Community models are not hard, they just require thinking outside the box, organization skills, and awareness of the power dynamics and historic oppressive policies that impact communities, to help brainstorm solutions to the problems in a way that is equitable and flexible. Knowledge sharing is an important part of mutual aid - and education is empowering and helps folks feel that they have some control in often uncontrollable situations.
I don't often talk about this work as I don't do this for attention, I am not a fan of white saviorism when there are people on the street working in their communities making things happen - and it isn't about me - but so many people have asked lately how I started and how I set it up, it was time to share. The equitable redistribution of resources is important, and it helps get supplies to historically excluded communities. It also allows people to continuously feed into the system and share their excess while those that need it get just what they need. Charity is the idea of only getting, whereas reciprocity is about creating a system of GIVING AND RECEIVING (not only stuff, but knowledge, time, information, support, etc.) as any system where people only give or get tends to break down over time. When there is some kind of mutual aid/reciprocity, it creates a stronger foundation of respect and support, and also doesn't only burnout the givers, as there is always something being contributed back in and there is appreciation and support. I find that is the hardest thing for people to get in mutual aid, and often in group dynamics the givers burn out (crash and burn) and the takers get upset. While equitable access is important as well - giving more to marginalized or historically excluded communities who often don't have access to the same resources - equity can also accompany reciprocity in that giving doesn't only have to be things with monetary value, but knowledge, information, time, skills, and can be shared in a manner that is reciprocity based while acknowledging history.
I also used to volunteer as clinical herbalist for free clinics via zoom (2017-2022), but I stepped back from that for family health needs, but I am always happy to help folks figure out how to host free clinics as I have experience with it myself. I stepped down from the Executive Director role of HWB at the same time I stepped away from the free clinics, for family needs - but I am still happy to engage and manage the networks.
So, if I can do this on a national scale, it can definitely be done on a local scale. All of this also ties back in with permaculture - social permaculture - and the 3 tenets of people care, earth care, and fair share. Permaculture is systems design to create sustainable systems that work and provide abundance, but not only in your garden. It is also about creating social systems that work to meet needs, reduce waste, increase yield, and so on. Systems design works, and mutual aid is a social permaculture part of design.
This is a lot of talk about me, which is not the point, but I think it does help to know where people are and where they are coming from when we start talking about community models, mutual aid, and all of that. I'll share more soon with some tips and ideas of how to start the conversation in your community to build local networks, how to start seed libraries or host community seed events and activities, how to do community assessments to determine needs and support.
What interests YOU the most about mutual aid or community work? Where do you hope to learn more or explore options and ways to engage more in your own community? Let me know if you are interested in the comments!
Read more about the HWB US Donation Distribution Network:
I have been writing so much this summer, which has been amazing. My family is working with me to create online courses in permaculture related to herbalism, sustainability, and regenerative practices. It has been wonderful to sit and write for hours at a time. I have almost 600 pages of content written in that we have created the content for the course modules, and then several workbooks to go along with them as well as a draft for a book!
have also been working to include pollinator plantings and sustainable garden information as a part of the Pollinator Steward Certification I have been working on for the past few months. It was wonderful to watch their 10 hour virtual training over the course of planting planning and planting season so that we could review what we are doing and incorporate more pollinator friendly elements in our acres. For that certification, we have been honing our pollinator gardens as well as organizing educational content, working on including more articles and information on growing pollinator plants, and working on educational materials that people can use to make their own gardens pollinator friendly. So many medicinal herbs that we all use are also native plants and pollinator plants, there is not any reason to not include as many pollinator species as possible in our plantings and add habitat, shelter, water, and other pollinator-friendly elements into our designs to support them. Supporting pollinators also increases our yields, reduces pest damage in many cases, and keeps our ecosystems healthier.
With that, I have been writing over on SubStack as a platform that I think is easier to use for folks and is more on demand. So, if you have not subscribed to my Substack, you can do so at:
I will be sharing more of our pollinator tips and sustainable gardening info this summer as we create more content and record our videos!
Summer is about warm sunny days spent at the beach, park or in the garden and steamy nights full of fireflies and mosquitoes. Cold, refreshing drinks don’t only cool us down when we are overheated, but also replenish all of the much needed nutrients lost when we have been in the sunshine working all day. These drinks are both refreshing and nourishing. Replenish our depleted reserves, while also tasting amazing.
I published these recipes many years ago and I thought I would share again as it heats up and I'm in the kitchen concocting things to cool down and refresh.
Fizzy Kombucha Lavender Lemonade
Juice of 4 lemons
2 cups/475 mL kombucha (citrus is nice)
1/2 cups/118 mL lavender honey
1-2 cups/235-475 mL of water
Mix your fresh lemon juice and lavender honey in a small pitcher. Add the kombucha. Stir gently. If you plan to drink straight chilled with the kombucha, then add the water to taste. If you plan to pour over ice, you can leave a little more concentrated, drinking chilled no ice, you may want the higher water amount. Be sure to taste and add more water or honey as needed - depending on how big and juicy your lemons are and the flavour of your kombucha you may want to tweak just a bit to taste. If you are making a pitcher for a party or picnic, the best bet for optimum carbonation is to pre-make the lemon/honey/water base and keep it chilled, and then add the kombucha to the base blend right before serving!
Serve cold. A few lavender buds and a slice of lemon make a nice garnish.
To make lavender honey, gently warm your 1/2 cup/ 118 mL of honey (LOW - no boiling!) with 2 Tbsp of dried lavender buds added. Let sit for 20-30 minutes on *very low* heat and then strain. The honey will be infused with the lavender aroma and flavour.
Tip: Add your honey to the lemon mix when slightly warm so that it will stir in and not sink the bottom. Whisking while slowly pouring it in helps too.
Chia seeds are not only for cheesy ceramic sheep planters. It is a very nutrient rich seed, which has the interesting ability to swell and plump up on its mucilaginous outer layer while keeping a nice crunchy seed inside. Chia contains fibre, protein, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and so much more! Chia frescos are very common in certain parts of the world - a Mexican food cart with a large pitcher of lime chia fresco is a beautiful sight on a hot day. This is delicious, refreshing, and helps revitalize. And don’t worry, it is nutritious, but you won’t believe how good it tastes, even with the seeds in there!
2 cups/475 mL coconut water or plain filtered water
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 tsp honey
Mix your ingredients together, stir or shake well (a canning jar with a lid is a good container to use so you can just shake shake shake) and let sit 20 minutes or so for the chia to swell. Serve chilled with a wedge of lime.
Sipping vinegars, also known as shrubs or in some variations as a switchel, have been around for a long time. A few hundred years ago vinegar was used to preserve fruit for the off season and the resulting beverage was called a shrub. Switchel was another drink from that era, made from ginger, honey, vinegar, molasses, and water - also called haymaker's punch - and was often taken to the fields by farmworkers.
The ratio is basically 4:1. 4 parts honey/vinegar with 1 part herb. I measured by cup for this reason. With medicinals it is preferred to weigh not measure, but this is a beverage with some boost, so using cup measures will work just fine.
Bring to a boil on the stove top and reduce heat immediately, stirring. Simmer, covered, for 40-45 minutes or so. Let sit for 10 minutes off the heat.
Strain this into a large bowl through a few layers of damp cheesecloth. Don't squeeze it or you will end up with a cloudy liquid.
While the mix smells great, don't stick your nose in the pot because the vinegar will be a bit intense. And don't worry - the resulting drink doesn't taste like vinegar…you only get that strong aroma since you are simmering it on the stove!
You should end up with around 1.5 - 2 cups of liquid (herbs will absorb some, some will reduce in cooking process - so it can vary). Add fresh vinegar to get you to two cups if necessary. Mix it with equal quantity of raw honey. It should be 2 cups herb infused vinegar, 2 cups raw honey. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of molasses. Shake or stir very well - it will be completely separate when you pour the honey in at first (see below) - but if you shake or stir really well for a minute or more, it will combine. You may need to stir before each use.
You can store in your fridge for about 8 - 12 weeks or so.
To drink, add 1/4 cup sipping vinegar to a glass, fill with sparkling water, club soda, or seltzer. Try mixing a bit into your pitcher of iced tea. Mix with sparkling wine or champagne. Or, take as a tonic by sipping a tablespoon or so in a small shot or cordial glass. For kids, the best is 1/4 cup of your shrub in a glass with ice and sparkling or soda water.
Combining the concept of alcohol free tincture or oxymels with the day to day deliciousness of a shrub means you can have a tasty refreshing fizzy soda with the benefits of the herbs!
Other Cold Summer Recipes I Have Posted Previously:
Iced Hibiscus Tea
Juniper Sage Soda
Banana Maca Frozen Smoothie
This is the time of year where I want to use the herbs as I pick them as they smell so AMAZING, I want to make things that everyone loves and that don't take too much time, and that are cooling and delicious. If they can be poured into a popsicle mold and frozen as well, that is a bonus. While I do love a nice iced herbal sun tea, different drink mixes using the amazing variety of summer herbs keep it interesting!
I can't believe it is almost June. Time flies, especially during planting season. We have planted in several thousand seedlings, just in time for the heat to start. We have a lot of perennials going in again this year, and I love finding the perfect spots for those to live in harmony with other plants that work well together.
In addition to planting, we have been working together as a family to create an online learning experience to teach folks how to use permaculture principles and sustainable practices to be more self-sufficient, incorporate regenerative practices, and focus on sustainable herbalism and aromatherapy. These courses will be for everyone - one is focused on folks just wanting to grow their own medicine at home, one is focused on herbal businesses implementing sustainability on all levels of their business and how to do that. Both will also cover some of the community building and social permaculture as well so that people can grow local and share their bounty. And, finally, one course will be focused on aromatic herbalism, integrating the practice of herbalism with aromatic plants and uses. I have literally written 588 pages of content for this all over the past 2 months. The courses will be in Thinkific and I am writing and video recording modules and lessons. I also am creating a 100+ page workbook on permaculture principles, sustainability, garden planning, compost, and so on with dozens of worksheets to help students make their own designs, implement change, and grow their own!
I focus on self-sufficiency and permaculture principles because that is what I focus on here at Wholly Rooted. When the pandemic lockdowns hit in 2020 so many people were out of everything and it took months for many folks to get new containers, herbs, supplies, and so on. I had enough to last the full year for my family with enough to share and donate to HWB for free clinics. I know that by growing our own we can be more sustainable as we produce more of our own supplies and ship less from around the world. I can't wait to share more about the courses as we get closer to launch! If you want to be on the list to get notifications as the courses launch, sign up here for my newsletter and updates.
I have also been working on 2 books, one with growing instructions for over 100 plants, including sample recipes, tips on use, and so on. One is focused on creating a self-sufficient herbal homestead (I am not a huge fan of that word, but it does describe having a small farmette where you grow your own food and medicine).
I've been cranking out graphics and worksheets for the courses and book, and love combining my love for writing, my love of herbalism and aromatherapy, my background in sustainability and permaculture, and my experience as an artist and designer, all together into one big program. I am lucky to have my two adult (!!!) kids helping me by editing videos, proofreading, compiling info, and making recordings we will use in the course. It is truly a family effort. So excited to share as it is ready!
And, as I have been working so much creating graphics and worksheets, I thought I would share one. Scroll to the bottom of the post for 3 easy steps to make your garden more eco-friendly!
I am excited to be presenting at the home growers group of the Lilium Inititative in June. I will be presenting in their "Start Small, Grow Big" series. Can't wait! It will be posted to the website soon. https://liliuminitiative.org/
The Aroma Summit REPLAY & RAFFLE WEEKEND
June 2-4, 2023
The Aroma Summit has a replay and raffle weekend coming up this weekend! You can hangout live with everyone again and watch the replays. Come connect on June 2nd, June 3rd and June 4th at 3:00 PM EDT each day.
Enter for a chance to win - there are so many wonderful raffle prizes. I am raffling a 1-hour consultation to chat garden, garden design, sustainability, permaculture, and anything you would like to get support on! If you are already registered you just login for the replays - but don't forget to register for the raffle prizes. If you haven't registered yet, you can sign up to access replays and enter the raffle. Visit the link below.
Some of the great raffle prizes:
One of my 2023 goals is to teach and present more often, and pivot to an educational focus. We have been working hard working on courses and videos and content, which is exciting. I have also been focusing on presenting at herbal and aromatherapy schools and events.
I am excited to be a presenter at The Aroma Summit by AromaTrust, happening April 29-May 01. There are 35 speakers presenting, including my own presentation, Choosing Aromatic and Medicinal Plants for Your Sustainable Herb Garden.
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I love growing new plants, trying new things. As an herbalist, I have my tried and true plants that I know are most commonly used by me, and the folks that run the free clinics we donate herbs to. I also love the challenge of growing new plants that I have not grown before. I love growing new herbs to try - culinary use and medicinal use - tasting and smelling the amazing diversity of plants on this planet. I also just love to learn more about plants and herbalism around the world and the similarities and differences of the different herbal practices and plant uses in the many global herbal traditions. I try to add a few dozen new herbs every year, to experience and learn about. Some things I keep growing year after year because they are amazing and I love them. Some things I try once and let it go. There are so many plants I still want to grow, so we will continue adding every year!
Over the past few years, I have been compiling herbs used in Asian Medicinal Practice as well as other Central and South American traditions. Many of the more tropical and subtropical plants I cannot grow (without an insulated greenhouse), but many of the herbs used in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Herbalism, are plants that I do already grow, or that can grow in my zone. We have slowly been cataloging what we are growing that is used in many traditions, so that we know we have herbs to donate that will work for different herbal practices.
There are many plants that overlap in Asian herbal traditions what we grow for western herbalism - yarrow, anise, monarda, blackberry, calendula, hyssop, lemon balm, lovage, meadowsweet, peppermint, nettle, parsley, rue, St. John's Wort, and so many more. There are also many herbs we have from Asian medicine such as ashwagandha, astragalus, schizandra, tulsi, and so on. Over the past few years we added plants such as Schizonepeta, Codonopsis, Gingko, and a few more.
So, in compiling what we already grow and what to add to our list, we decided to add several new plants this year so we can use them, share them, and save seeds.
I am working on compiling our master list of herbs that are used in multiple traditions, but we did also get seeds to start a few key new plants. We have been using the list from Mountain Gardens to organize our lists. Access their list and info here.
New plants we are growing this year in this category include:
And a few more.
I hope to see how well they do this year, how much we can grow! Are you growing any new for you herbs this year?
I love growing my own herbs for everything. Tea, tincture, salve, first aid, food, you name it. Growing my own herbs all summer long and then filling my shelves makes me feel prepared for anything. When things became very hard to come by during the early year of COVID, I felt secure knowing I had everything I needed, even if no stores could ship for months.
As herbalists, we are lucky to have a head start. We can identify the herbs we want to use out on a walk. We know what to pick for scratches or cuts or stress or stomach aches. Having a well stocked home apothecary can also be used to build ready-to-go kits that are easy to use and targeted to the specific needs and situations in our regions. Some people have one kit for everything, but I like to have a few types of kits on hand for different situations. When a well thought out first aid kit combines with skills, we are better prepared. My kits have a lot of what I grow and make myself, along with some key items that I purchase. Some of that changes based on what I'm growing, the season, and the needs of my family.
Today I want to share more about how to build a day/camping/weekend outing kit. This is a small kit organized by season and region that is great for taking with you in the car, when hiking, or when camping.
I live in the midwest, so my needs definitely vary from summer to winter. In summer my kit tends to focus on injuries, sun, ticks and fatigue. If we were hiking in a more remote location I might add water filtration, food, batteries, and other items in case we get stranded/injured. If I put a kit in my car during blizzard season, I might include the first aid kit in a large lidded container along with bottled water, blankets, warm socks, extra hats, a box of instant hand warmers, and gloves. When my kids were younger I always carried extras - suckers, granola bars, sunscreen, backup shoes, and outfits along with a first aid kit. I also have a child that gets overheated easily, so I always carried instant cold packs and/or coolers with re-freezable ice packs, which were good for not only keeping food cool, but also cooling down and on injuries.
There are a few main categories to consider when building a first aid kit. To start, let’s look at all of the supplies as a whole first, and then focus on the herbal first aid elements.
Allergies: If anyone in your family has allergies, having a few antihistamine tablets can be a big help. For skin allergies, having salve or balm that help with the itch and inflammation is great. For more serious allergies, keeping benadryl in the kit is a great idea, and always having epipens in the kit for those that experience anaphylactic reactions. We also carry a cooler with an ice pack in summer to keep epipens cool if it is really hot. For seasonal allergies, making an iced tea blend for camp that includes peppermint, goldenrod, and nettles can be nice and support lowering histamine response as well.
ENTE: Ears, nose, throat, eyes. Q-tips are great for mixing things as well as clearing out bugs or gunk in the ears or nose. With small children during the cold and flu season, mullein ear oil might be on your list. Eye drops or single use saline ampules are great for rinsing the eyes or inflammation. If you are on a longer hiking trip it might be a good idea to carry a dental kit or have clove essential oil and a mixing medium to apply to any broken teeth or on gum injuries until you get back to civilization. Teething gel can help as well, especially if you have little ones (though I have used it on a few adults as well). Chamomile tea bags are a great addition to a kit as the tea can be used for calming and stomach upset, as well as an eye rinse. I keep salt in my small kit because it can be used as a gargle for sore throat, to make a saline rinse for a wound, or mixed with honey and lemon juice to create an oral rehydration mix. Salt is lightweight and doesn’t go bad, so it is great for emergency kits.
General/Seasonal: This is where you think of where you live and what is happening around you.. If you live in the desert southwest, something for snake bites may be important. . If you live near the ocean and are always at the beach, burn spray or eye rinse cups might be useful (or jellyfish stings). Just try to think of where you are going and what the climate and top needs/issues might be. In extreme heat you might want cool packs, in cold, hand warmers. On longer hikes in remote areas a whistle or a water filtration straw might be very important to have. This also includes some staples/basics such as tweezers, safety pins, tape, multitool, flashlight, scissors, a notebook and pen, electrolytes, and extra baggies. I also put things in baggies where I can - they can be used over a bandage on a hand, finger or foot. They keep the contents dry in case of torrential rain or falling into a creek or river. They can be used to mix something together, to place over gauze and taped on an injury. There are many uses for a few extra plastic bags, it is good to have a few in the kit.
Gut/Digestion: Chamomile tea is mentioned above and can be good for an upset stomach. Ginger tea or ginger chews can also help with stomach upset and nausea. I love ginger chews. Bismuth tabs are great for diarrhea, heartburn, nausea, and indigestion, and are lightweight and obviously identifiable. For poisoning or other more severe issues, having activated charcoal tablets on hand is important. I also like carrying capsules of ginger/chamomile or oregon grape root, depending on the season and length of outing.
Illness: Illness can be from food or water, viruses, bacteria, or other causes. During cold and flu season you might want to stock elderberry syrup and natural cough drops. In the summer, it might be nausea or diarrhea (see above). For a short hike or weekend camping trip, stocking just the basics can help get you home. For longer trips or hikes, having items that can help reduce a fever or soothe a cough might be what is needed. Yarrow is a good multi use herb that can be used to stop bleeding or for a fever. I like to have powdered yarrow on hand, but also often include a squeeze bottle of yarrow tincture for cleaning hands or for fever as well. Echinacea tincture is always in my bag for illness (and wounds) as well.
Infections/Wounds: This category not only includes having bandages, compresses, suture tape, or wraps, but also antibacterial support for cuts, scratches, and punctures. Lavender essential oil is a good one to carry as it can be applied to a burn, used in an inhaler for anxiety, has antiseptic properties and is antimicrobial. You can make rollerballs with first aid blends and have them ready to apply. Lavender is also safe for kids and the elderly - and if you carry a small vial of carrier oil or have a pre-mixed rollerball ready to go, it can be easily blended for other topical applications. This category also includes salve - I like making salves in small sticks so that they are portable and solid enough to not melt in the summer heat. To keep from contaminating the stick, you can scrape some off with a clean Q-tip, popsicle stick, or finger and apply to any wound. I like having a stick of salve that can be used for blisters, cuts, sunburns, and is a good all around ointment. I also always pack a soothing sun spray in the summer, that helps relieve sunburn, but can also be used for other scraps and scratches. If we are already carrying a cooler with ice packs, I put the burn spray in with the cold things, as a chilly burn spray feels amazing on a sunburn. Echinacea tincture can be used internally for infection and illness as well as topically on wounds.
Kids/Pets: This is a big variable category. With small children you might want to include suckers, herbal gummies for stomach issues, and even things like extra socks and cute bandages that make it easier to keep them on. If you hike with your dog, having a folding bowl, extra water, and some sort of liquid bandage can help with pet paw injuries and overheating. I like the paw wax for pads in winter, as if my dog gets a cut, it can be heavily applied and help us get back to the car. The dog flexible wrap tape that discourages them from chewing on bandages can help, too, and it can be used for humans or pets. I also like the dog bandanas that are of the cool cloth material, as you get it damp, squeeze it out, and it is cooling. Good for a hot dog as well as hot kids, in a pinch.
Medications: If you have important medications, having some extra in case you get caught out is a good idea. Important medications become critical if you are stranded along a raging river for 2 days, or have an injured person and are waiting for assistance. This can also include glucose tablets, candies or honey sticks for blood sugar, an inhaler for asthma, or other critical needs.
Pain: Pain can be from a wound, sprains, overexertion, or fall. Keeping some aspirin and other NSAIDs on hand can help, as can having topical pain relief for tooth problems, wounds, burns, or other injuries. One spray I always have in my kit is Kloss’s Liniment. This recipe has been around for over 100 years, and is well known in the herbal community. This can be used for pain, swelling, bruises or boils, toothaches, sores, and more. This is also a good skin cleanser on wounds to reduce chances of infection. I love the little sampler spray bottles for these things, as they take up little space, but have enough to use many times.
Safety: This may not be a big need for a short hike or camping at a busy campground. But if you are hiking backwoods or are kayaking Lake Superior, you may have to add safety additions to your kit. Things such as a whistle, bear spray, flares, extra emergency blankets, a flint or waterproof matches, and food rations might be important depending on the location. If you have younger children, you may want them to carry an emergency whistle and your contact information at all times. When my kids were small and we hiked a lot, I got the fishing vest lots of little pockets. The pockets could carry the whistle, compass, snacks, ice packs (to keep cool), little bottle of cold water, contact info in a baggie for waterproofing, etc. That way they carried their own things too, which is less for me to carry, and critical items would be WITH them if we got separated.
Sanitation: No matter how many herbal aids you have on hand, if a wound cannot be cleaned out it can get infected. Salt is a good option when mixed with water to rinse out a wound. Kloss’s Liniment is a good option, and so is lavender essential oil. The first step to working with any wound is having clean hands. I like carrying soap, but if you don’t have a clean water source that isn’t helpful. A mini hand sanitizer is good. If you are in an area without access to any water that is a problem too, and I try to always have a small water source in the kit in case we are out otherwise. Water and salt can also help clean hands. I also pack some natural antibacterial wipes for hands, surfaces, tools, tweezers, etc. Sanitary gloves are important too, and I always have a few pairs on hand.
Skin: Skin crosses over with wounds and infection, but also includes bug spray, sunscreen, tape, gauze, burn pads, wound repair and more. Bug bites can use an anti-itch balm or salve, which also crosses over with skin reactions to water, sap, or plants. I always carry a few moist burn pads or ointments as well, for any bigger burns when we have campfires. With skin goes ticks as well, and a tick remover for those in tick areas is good, or really pointy tweezers. Those little honey sticks can be used on skin or for blood sugar. Yarrow powder can be used to slow bleeding. Plantain is for scratches and scrapes, and I like to have a little jar of dried plantain that can be mixed with some water to make a poultice or compress. I also keep moleskin tape as it is a great cover for blisters.
Trauma: Trauma can involve injury or a scary event. I like to keep a skullcap glycerite on hand for calming after injury, pain, or frightening event. It can help calm when scared of the dark or when stressed due to an accident or storm. I also carry a blank inhaler container with a wick that can be used with lavender essential oil to calm, or, the wick can be used to help stop a nosebleed. Rescue Remedy is often in kits for this, as can be other glycerites or calming tools.
Other: There are a few things in my kit that I have found are a must when we are also packing herbs. A container that holds q-tips can also be used as a mixing jar. Yarrow and Plantain can be crushed and sprinkled in, mixed with water, and applied to an injury. I keep a few muslin bags that can be filled with plant material and placed on a wound. They can also be used to steep herbs for an infusion or compress. I keep a small empty squirt bottle for blending salt and water and used for cleaning a wound or gargling. Q-tips can be used as applicators or stir sticks. I like an emergency blanket in the kit as it can be used not only as a blanket, but also a dry groundcover, a sling, a blanket, a tarp/rain cover, ties/straps for a splint, and even as a reflector.
Herbal First Aid RECIPES
So, now that you have all of this information, how do we put it all together? I created a sheet you can download to use as a checklist when you build your own portable camping/car/day trip herbal first aid kit. This can help you go over the categories, and cover your bases as you adjust for seasons, region, and family needs. You will see modified and expanded versions of this checklist in the future as we also talk about a home family first aid kit and a bug out bag kit.
Of course the point of all of this is that we have an herbal first aid kit that utilizes herbs and plants we have grown ourselves and that we have in our home apothecary. If you don’t have all of these items you can purchase them all, or slowly add to your kit. To get you started, here are some recipes for a few key elements in your portable Herbal First Aid Kit.
1. Yarrow Powder
Take 1 ounce of dried yarrow (flower and leaf). Put into a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, and grind until a fine powder. Put into an airtight container such as a small jar or tin. To use, infuse in water and use as compress for fever. Soak a splinter in yarrow infusion to draw it out before you pull it out with tweezers. Sprinkle ground powder on a wound to stop bleeding and reduce inflammation. Drink the infusion for fever and colds (not for infants).
2. Kloss’s Liniment
This liniment recipe has been around for a long time. It was first published in 1939 in Back to Eden, by Dr. Jethro Kloss. There are variations online and in herbal books. Google search to find options that fit with your needs. The recipe is for sore muscles and can also be used as a disinfectant. I change it up based on what I have on hand.
The base recipe is:
1 oz echinacea powder
1 oz myrrh powder
½ oz goldenseal powder
½ oz calendula powder
½ oz thyme powder
¼ oz dried cayenne pepper
1 pint rubbing alcohol
Add dried herbs (powdered works best) to a pint or quart canning jar. Add about 1 pint of rubbing alcohol to the jar, and screw on the lid. Shake well every day or two for 4-6 weeks. Store in a warm location during this time. Strain well and bottle.
Label EXTERNAL USE ONLY very clearly. Pour into a small spray bottle for your first aid kit and label properly.
You can choose other herbs to add to the infusion including St. John’s Wort, yarrow, or plantain. You can also add essential oils to the final blend to enhance certain properties. Rubbing alcohol is used here as it evaporates well and is a great disinfectant, but you can also use witch hazel, vodka, or another menstruum of choice.
3. Sun Spray
½ ounce calendula infused witch hazel
½ ounce aloe vera (liquid type is good for a spray bottle)
Mix together and put into a small spray bottle. Label and use for sunburns, inflamed skin, bug bites, etc.
8 drops lavender essential oil
32 drops of Solubol or dispersant
4. Joint & Muscle Rub Stick
3 oz Arnica, Willow Bark, & Comfrey infused jojoba oil
½ oz shea butter
½ oz cocoa butter
20 drops black spruce essential oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil
Gently melt the butters with the infused oil until liquid. Add the essential oils and pour into travel deodorant stick or small balm stick molds. Quantity made varies by what size container you use.
If it gets really hot where you are, you might want to add a little extra butter or beeswax to get a nice solid stick. I find my summer sticks need a little more butter/wax than the winter sticks so they apply smoothly.
5. Muscle Ache Oil20 drops Helichrysum Essential Oil
10 drops Roman Chamomile essential oil
2 oz Trauma Oil (blend of St. John’s Wort, Arnica, and Calendula, usually)
Blend together into a flip top bottle.
To use: Shake well, squirt a little onto hands, and massage into aching muscles.
Safe for kids 10& up
6. Lavender Salve Stick (boo boo bar)
1 oz Lavender & Calendula infused babassu oil (or other oil of your choosing)
⅓ oz shea butter
6 drops lavender essential oil
3 drops tea tree essential oil
Melt together the shea and infused oil until liquid. Add the essential oils. Add a few drops of vitamin E if desired. Pour into lip balm tubes. Let harden.
If it is very hot where you are, you may need a little more shea butter or some beeswax to make this a solid enough stick. I like pouring this into large lip balm tubes. Quantity varies by what size tube you use.
Activated Charcoal Tablets: Activated charcoal comes in a large container of powder, which is really messy to handle. I like using a capsule maker with ‘00’ capsules. I fill a bunch with the activated charcoal and keep them in a baggie in my kit. They can be swallowed as a capsule, or broken open and used for other things such as emergency water filtration. (Requires basic knowledge to properly and safely utilize in this way).
Bug Bite Sticks: You can make your own or get the little sticks that break and the cotton swab get saturated that you run on the itch.
Other Tablets: Other capsules that come in handy include ginger, chamomile, slippery elm, or oregon grape root. See what your seasonal needs would most likely be and make what works!
Building a first aid kit doesn’t have to be complicated. Tick the boxes of your needs, put together something in a case or container that you will remember to carry and that is easy to carry - if it is heavy or inconvenient, you will leave it behind. I have a great bag that velcros or straps onto any backpack, making it super easy to take along, and to find when in a panic. Start small, build as you go. Check through it seasonally and see what needs a seasonal change or a refill. By starting with this daytrip/weekender first aid kit, you are on your way to having a fully stocked set of first aid kits that keeps your family ready for anything!
I plan to share more about making full family first aid kits and bug out first aid kits soon, so subscribe to be sure you get it in your inbox.
I first wrote this article back in 2019, when it was published in Home Herbalist Magazine. This article has been edited and updated over the years, and I wanted to share it here! This has been edited for the times and my own first aid kit!
While I love the clinical education on plants used for aromatherapy and herbalism (I love teaching!), I also love love love just talking to folks about how to grow their own, and demystify growing medicinals for anyone who wants to use herbs in any way.
I started growing medicinal and culinary herbs in pots on our deck when we first moved to Wisconsin. In Chicago I had some window plants, but no outdoor space, so I craved green. We were on the second floor, and had a 6x12 or so small deck. At first I had a few pots, in the second year I had a packed deck with barely enough room to sit. From there we moved to a duplex rental, which was much larger and had a back deck by the kitchen and a small front porch. I had some plants there, but also had a newborn. When I became pregnant with our second (when the first was 11 months old), we moved to our first home. It was a 1400 square foot small home with a new urbanism design. That meant almost no yard. New urbanism works to decrease expanses of lawn and waste of water for lawns. The houses had a 10' or so front yard and no back yard as the garages went out the back to a carriage lane. The yards were only on one side, going from our siding up to the neighbors siding. Our yard was 18 feet wide, and less than 100 feet long. When we moved in, I started by planting food in our landscaping areas. Then I expanded into pots on the deck. And then I started carving out both sides of the yard - over 11 years we ended up with all food plants and only a walking path down the center. Every other space was perennials, annuals, fruit, vegetables, medicinal herbs, flowers.
We moved to have a bigger yard, but quickly realized we needed a community garden plot as well. Our next home had a traditional backyard, but an HOA, so we managed the plantings within landscaping for visual appeal. It was still food and medicine - but the blueberry bush along the front entry sidewalk was next to flowering Echinacea, Black Cohosh, Hyssop, and other beautiful flowerin plants.
The next year we realized we needed more space for our #happyflowerproject, where we grew flowers for the food pantry, so we managed to find someone who bartered for space to grow on her farm. We did that for two summers while still growing on our deck and in landscaping on our home.
After a few years there, we realized we could grow in a larger space and that we wanted acres. My worry was always as a person with RA/SLE and other autoimmune issues combined with getting older, it would be too much to manage. But, gradually scaling up made me realize that as long as you plant perennials as well as annuals, expand a little every year, carefully plan location, water, expansions, and plants, that you can create a low work high yield garden space, no matter how much space you have.
I always tell folks how easy it is for them to grow their own herbs, no matter if it is only pots on a small deck or acres of blank canvas. I know this is true, because I have done it all myself!
This year our plan is to do more sharing on the blog and YouTube to help people grow their own medicinal and aromatic herbs, culinary herbs, and perennial foods using permaculture and organic, regenerative practices. We have some Lunar Hollow Farm online classes in the works, and plan to publish more ebooks, garden plans, and other freebies! We also hope to do mini courses on the things we love to do and we always get questions on - sourdough, smart home systems, smart farm systems, herbs for chickens, seed starting, and so on. This is a whole family endeavor, and we are all excited to share.
Growing herbs is not hard. The more we grow our own the less waste we generate - no plastic baggies in shipping boxes coming from around the world - and the more we appreciate and connect with the plants we are using, as we nurtured them from seeds to tea. We don't have to grow everything, but we can start with a few of our favorites that can grow well in our zones/regions/climates. Growing our own also saves money, and super fresh, carefully harvested at their peak and gently dried herbs, are often more flavorful, colorful, aromatic, and vibrant than bulk herbs. Growing something yourself that you can pull out of a jar in January and drink while sitting by the fire is one of the most rewarding feelings. Can't wait to share more!
Seed starting season is upon us. I manage a seed grant program for HWB every year, so I manage a lot of seeds in general for others. With the seed grants I intake donated seeds for HWB and then create seed kits for groups based on location and needs, and share the seeds out to HWB members growing HWB chapter, clinic, or project gardens in their communities.
So, with all of the seed grant program happening, and it also being seed starting season for me, I have seeds everywhere. I keep the HWB seeds in large totes and I keep my seeds I purchase in large photo boxes and bins. I literally have a whole space filled with the seeds as I prepare them for shipping.
I like to organize my seeds for our land by seed starting date - so I make folders that are # of weeks before avg last frost. For the indoor seed trays the seeds just go into the folder and I pull the folder for the current week and start those seeds. I note them all in my seed calendar (see last post for a free download). For the direct sow folders, I keep the seeds in baggies so on that week I take the whole bag outside and direct sow those weeks.
Every year I grow medicine and food for my family here, and then I grow extra herbs to donate to HWB. I try to grow all of the herbs we need for our family for a whole year every year - with some items every other year if I know we use them less - so I first calculate our own needs and then see how much space I have left or am creating new for additional herbs for HWB donations and community outreach/mutual aid work. I also try to make sure I am growing some for seed, especially items that are not often donated so that the seeds can be shared out. The goal is that people start saving their own seeds for these less common varieties and then share them back as well, so we have those unusual varieties in perpetuity. What most often happens is that I am the only one saving and donating seeds, but mutual aid over time is the ultimate goal, so the system is not dependent on one single person. Me.
For our family food, we are adding to our perennial foods and food forest ongoing. Every year we try to add more plants - veggies, fruit, perennialied unusual vegetables or landrace varieties or those that were historically popular but have been falling out of the seed catalogs. A goal is always to maintain a rich and diverse garden of varieties that were used or grown historically, and may be at risk or rare. By growing more varieties of food, we are maintaining seed diversity and food diversity that will help us when dealing with issues such as climate change. I love experimenting and trying new things as well. This year a few things we are growing that you might not have heard much about includes duck potatoes, skirret, huacatay, landrace parsley, maral root, garden patience, skulpit, mitsuba, Good King Henry, hablitzia, sea fennal, saltwort, naranjilla, pipicha, yauhutli, altai dragonhead balm, greenthread, papalo, upland rice, and a few others.
This year we may also have our business products open again due to a change in Wisconsin cottage food laws, so we may open custom product sales a few times per year for special events or on farm pickups depending on how that goes. So, we are planning alot of herbs. SOOOOO exciting!
I am also expanding the dye garden this year, so will be growing a few more dye plants. We will grow greenthread, dyer's chamomile, woad, founcy soapwort, weld, indigo (will try!), and dyer's coreopsis, to name a few.
My goal this year with the dye plants is to dye more textiles and yarn, as well as create natural paints and dyes for weaving and art.
The plants that I always grow a lot extra of to donate include those plants that I can harvest throughout the season such as lemon balm, catnip, peppermint, monarda, lamb's ear, comfrey, nettles, elecampane, mugwort, blue vervain, mountain mint, hairy mountain mint, and a few others. I often donate a bit of Tulsi as well, as there is never enough. As well as raspberry leaf, yarrow, violet, and a few others that grow wild here. I will also share pipicha, yauhutli, huacatay, epazote, and prairie sage this year, I think, depending on how well it does.
Hopefully others will also grow a row to donate back, so that the folks who need supplies for their community free clinics, community outreach and education, disaster relief response, and other free community programs, can get what they need! It takes a village.
I had a week or two of garden panic again this year, thinking maybe I shouldn't grow so much, but that passes, and I know it will be fine, I will get it all done, and even if we are able to leave more next summer, things will be OK without me staring at them - plants should be able to survive without babysitting.
As I pack up seeds to go to others and work on my own garden plans, I have been realizing I wanted to write a whole guide on how to grow medicinal herbs with basic monograph information for each plant as well as the growing conditions, zones, parts used, how to harvest and dry, how to save seeds, etc. Just one full page per plant with growing intensive information for each. I have about 50 plants outlined so far, and am filling them all in. I hope to then also add to the medicinal plants with other perennial permaculture plants and dye plants eventually. Perhaps it will become a large book. But it seems people want to grow more of their own. I heard someone once say how so many herbalists are "mail order herbalists" these days- only ordering dried materials from online retailers and not growing their own, and more importantly, not able to identify those plants in the wild. So, sharing information on herbalism not only from the perspective of a practitioner, but someone that wants to have a relationship with the herbs from seed to seed, is so important as we lose more of our precious plants due to climate change, natural disasters, and habitat loss from growing urban areas. Growing our own is easy and can be done even in pots on a windowsill. So, I will be using the growing season this year to photograph more of these plants, input more info into my growing guide/book, and share small videos of the garden all summer long. Can't wait for the snow to melt and for spring to arrive so I can get my hands in the dirt.
What are you growing this year that you have never grown before?
One of the things I have been working on, is created large sets of permaculture and garden design tools that I would eventually love to list on Etsy. I have a designer background, and I am always making things just for my use because I cannot ever find what I need, or the design styles are all the same. I like using technology in a way that makes my life easier, and this week that included downloading and starting to use Good Notes, which is a note management tool that allows you to import PDF files and use them as templates. So, I created a layout for seed starting that I can import as the template in Good Notes, and then directly write or type over.
When I start seeds, I organize them by number of weeks back from the last frost date. So, May 15'th or so is week 0. The week before is -1, and so on to -10 or so. Each week has a folder and in that folder are all the seeds I am starting that week. Once I get to about -6 I also have direct sow folders as well, but for seed starting, it is by week. So, my calendar really only needs to have the week listed, a spot for me to enter my # of weeks to last frost, and then I want to track what I started on that week and how many. So, I created a calendar that has weeks from Feb 01 to June 15, and each week has a place to write and record. With Good Notes I can handwrite or use the typewriter. It is so much easier to organize and then I quite literally have Feb, Mar, Apr, May, June as pages to save to reference what and how many I grew. I will transfer the info into my master spreadsheet, butI can also just printout my final list and put it in my garden binder
I am testing this iteration to make sure it has what I need. I thought I would share it with you all, if you would like to download.
There is a PDF that is in color or B&W so you can import into your notepad application on your phone or tablet. There is a standard letter size B&W PDF if you only want to print it out and write directly on the paper. I also saved the color version as a Canva template if you want to create your own color palette and dates for your region (you need a free canva account to use).
So, feel free to download one or all of these freebies.
I have had a mailchimp signup for years, but my self-doubt and thoughts that nobody wants to actually hear from me has consistently prohibited me from sharing my writings or posts. Oh, people who want to read will find out, will come, but I felt people would find me if they wanted to. It is funny, because I manage social media for clients and volunteer work and have no issue promoting their work, because it is not personal about me. I know a lot of us, especially those of us that have taken on caregiving of our children for many years of their lives, diminish our own contributions and values in our minds and in the work we do. I recently counted up the volunteer hours in the past 5 years for one single organization, and the value of time was in the hundreds of thousands of hourly wage value. That is just ONE organization. Throughout that time, I rarely promoted the fact that I was volunteering thousands of hours per year, or, that I was doing important work to support others. Parenting is like that. We work work work work so hard but don't feel we deserve acknowledgement or recognition because that type of work is undervalued. Why am I telling you all this? Because I finally decided to use mailchimp and send out reminders to my subscribers, and to focus on posting more consistently to here and substack/medium. To create discussions and essays on things that are important to me. I updated and typed and worked and went through the process of using a new mailchimp feature I have not used before, and clicked begin, and the RSS feed didn't work properly. I noticed immediately that the link to the blog post was not in the mailchimp notification to my subscribers, but I thought nobody is going to read it, so I won't even bother sending another update. I didn't want to bother anyone. I did get several unsubscribes immediately, and my imposter syndrome me said, see? Nobody wants to hear from you. One single person emailed me and said what link? Where is the blog post? THANK YOU for acknowledging me, and seeing me out here in your sea of inbox messages. That one small error made me completely reverse from happily starting to utilize the mailchimp that people actually signed up for, to doubting the value of communicating with folks or putting any more emails in the inbox.
That small error and the subsequent anxiety from that error made me think about how much of our lives we spend diminishing our own work. We, meaning caregivers. Often parents who put their needs in the backseat for years to care for their children. Often moms, or people who identify as the mothers in the family dynamic, especially. We do spend thousands of hours per year serving others - our others - and society does not really value of the work we do. It is not only physical work, it is also emotional work. So, when we also attempt to talk about the work we do, share our input in our homes and lives and communities, it is often done in a minimizing way. Nobody likes braggers, but self-promotion even in a sharing and community oriented platform can feel weird. Even if we are not selling anything.
So, this is all to say I messed up the mailchimp on the blast yesterday - sorry. I know some folks have been subscribed for ages, and I have never sent anything out to your inbox. So, hello, I am Denise, and I like to write about permaculture, gardening, growing, making food and herbal products for my family, canning and preserving, baking, herbal health, plant conservation, solar power, chickens, homestead living, homeschooling/unschooling, parenting, books, handmade things, and more. I have been working on a book and garden designs and things, and wanted to start publishing here in this space more often and sharing more again. I apologize for the blankish email yesterday, but now I got it figured out. Now, I just need to see the value in what I share to other people, and continue to work to connect and build this community. Working on it.
Leadership, Part 1
I've been thinking a lot about leadership lately. It sounds trite and cliche to say there are leaders and there are followers, because that isn't quite it. There are people that do lead, naturally, and well. There are people that lead through bullying and domination. There are people that think they are leaders, but hide behind the pretense of busy-ness and important-ness. There are also those that are naturally charismatic, and some sense of leadership just happens because that is how our society tends to work.
I think many of us work with people with some sense of intuition. I know at 55 years old, I can gauge a person within a few minutes, and rarely am I wrong. What we call our intuition is based on thousands of minutes and hours of our life experiences, culminating in an innate understanding of a persons behaviors and likely behaviors based on body language, verbal cues, choice of words, attitudes, and how they interact with others. Leadership, I think, takes those experiences of social cues and human behaviors, and works to identify and leverage the strengths of those we are working with, to attain a result through a common goal. Leadership is not so hard in a space of people of all of the same backgrounds and experiences - and goals. The problems happen when there are individuals with different experiences that impact how they interact and work with others, when there are individuals with their own agendas, and when there are individuals who are dominating, aggressive, manipulative, or who rock the boat when their personal power issues and struggles impact a group. We all know what it is like to work with someone that dominates rather than collaborates, who bullies or forces rather than communicates, or who attacks and belittles others rather than working together and lifting people up. Many people also confuse pushing papers and doing office tasks with leadership. They are two distinctly different things, and leaders must have skills beyond organizing papers and making spreadsheets. Leadership requires trust, collaboration, vision, respect for others, and, that intuition of experience. Leadership is not a solo endeavor or about the one, but about the many.
So, what does this have to do with growing, permaculture, herbalism, and community action? So often we see leaders in this community who don't have good leadership qualities, who do not inspire or lead by example and don't collaborate. We see people who are considered experts who are abusive and who harm others. Many of us are educated in facts of our industries, but not in human interaction, community building, developing collaborative environments, or leadership. But I think we should be.
In Permaculture, we work within the concept of Social Permaculture, which includes areas such as egalitarian leadership, building communities, right livelihood, reciprocity, and re-imagining social structures and societies. To do all of that, we have to look to leadership as a piece in the collaborative puzzle, guiding, mentoring, supporting, and engaging, instead of dominating, overseeing, forcing, and bossing. In permaculture we look to the ecological principles to guide how we understand the world around us, and create communities that work. In this model leadership is not about lording over, but playing a role in the success of an entire community (or family or workplace or group or school or event). It is about understanding different learning styles, different communication styles, and the needs of the whole. In our actions, as in permaculture, we look to REGENERATIVE practices, which includes human interactions. In sustainable practices we only maintain the status quo, but in regenerative practices, we improve and grow, and create a better system than existed when we started. In permaculture that might mean we reduce plastic or compost or divert waste into resources. In communities we might practice kindness, value knowledge over material wealth, look to collaborative groups rather than hierarchical structures to create a movement. Creating strong teams and partnerships that build resilience, belonging, community, and right relationships, builds forward supporting all involved.
Some might think the concept of leadership at all, especially in non hierarchical collaborate groups seems hypocritical. But leadership does not mean a singular person dominating in a top down way, and leadership can be a collaborative group dynamic of shared responsibilities and mentorship using regenerative practices and philosophies to create dynamic working relationships and community minded models. In the methodology The Art of Hosting, they break it down and remove the word leader completely, just calling people hosts. With any group of humans working together, we have to form some kind of agreement and consensus to move forward and grow/proceed. Traditional top down leadership forces a dynamic and power structure that reinforces a lot of our societal norms, whereas
The Art of Hosting is described as “an approach to leadership that scales up from the personal to the systemic using personal practice, dialogue, facilitation and the co-creation of innovation to address complex challenges.”
While tossing out the old and bringing in the new paradigms can help people overcome some of the power struggles of hierarchy, leadership still happens in a group dynamic, in encouraging others to listen, to show respect, to take turns, to concede and debate fairly and consistently, and I think we can keep the word if we rethink and restructure how we approach it. To develop new leaders in our communities that are collaborative and regenerative minded is important. To form new regenerative leadership systems that drive our schools, organizations, clubs, groups, and communities, could create communities that work better together, reduce conflict and power struggles, and create a more sustainable future.
One book I have been reading is The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander. My husband recently picked it up because it is being used in software engineering. When I told him it has been in the permaculture community for a few decades, he looked at me like I was crazy. After all, what does architecture and systems have to do with permaculture. But patterns, order, communities, and symmetry in the whole is as much about philosophy and community and leadership as it is about ... buildings. I hope to share more about that book, and others, as I have been working through a big stack of reading.
We define organic order as the kind of order that is achieved when there is a perfect balance between the needs of the parts, and the needs of the whole." ~Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building
I hope to continue this thread, to talk more about leadership and collaborative environments, and building better teams. Permaculture principles extend to leadership, community building, relationships, teamwork, and regenerative processes. By talking about this, thinking about it, and creating new systems, we can create the work and life environments that are better for everyone.
This is the time of year for garden dreaming, but also for optimism, high hopes, and taking time to look at and consider the grand plan. We like to grow our plantings annually so we can establish things over time, not have any total loss if one year is a bad one weather or pest-wise, we don't have too much work all at once, and so there is not too much water demand all at once if we have a dry year (new plantings often need more consistent watering until established).
We always have our master plan in mind, but we also need to evaluate how things went every year and change based on data. If we install new bed areas and the soil or drainage or light or wildlife just make it a bad place, we need to move and adapt. One of the areas of adaptability is our orchards. We did plant tree orchard space in the front, and bush orchard in back. We underplanted existing mulberry, black cherry, choke cherry, and apple trees, but some of the underplantings were destroyed by wildlife - we also had a very wildly fluctuating weather season from extreme cold and snow in May to record heat in June. The deer also keep eating the baby trees and bushes, and there is not enough chicken wire in the world to wrap as much as we have planted as tall as is needed (we put tree guards and hardware cloth around a lot, which is ugly, but they still ate the tops). So, this year I hope to layout a lot of no dig contours to connect the bush orchard and retain moisture, create mounded planting areas for the underplantings to be expanded with plants the deer do not like, and then also work to put in temporary fencing around them in certain times of year.
We also are planting more trees, and we need to fertilize and supplement existing trees as they are growing slowly due to the deer damage. All of the bushes planted within the brambles and medicinal beds are doing well, as the deer don't really like getting in there except in winter, and the groundhogs and voles and field mice and rabbits do get in there, but the coltsfoot, walking onions, and thyme seems to keep them from doing much. The mint on the other side seems to keep them back as well. I thought wormwood would be a good deterrent, but it seems
Our goal as a UpS Botanical Sanctuary is, and has always been, to preserve endangered and at-risk plants, and use our space for education and support of conservation. OVer the past 3 years we have planted a lot more at risk plants throughout our wooded area and in a few new areas established for prairie/sun and shaded spots.
I know long lists of plantings are not the most exciting, but I like having this all written down in this space, so that it is there for me to look back on the future, and to also offer some kind of overview or look into the process of others wanting to do this type of work and planting more integrated permaculture layered gardens with a focus on also plant conservation and not just food and medicine.
So, last year we added a lot of native and medicinal at-risk plants - we won't know how well they are doing until this year and future years as they get established. A few things we planted in 2022 (many of these we plant more every year to grow the planting areas):
That adds to the ongoing list of the UpS species-at-risk we are growing:
Planting bare root and seeds of these natives and at risk plants means we don't always know how they are doing for a while. We planted our first wild ramps, ginseng, blue cohosh, black cohosh, wild ginger, goldenseal, and more back in 2019, and I just saw new plants emerging just last year, so they are actually alive and spreading, but it will be many more years before they become a large developed stand.
We also are focusing on the Wisconsin's Natural Heritage Working List to plant "species legally designated as "Endangered" or "Threatened" as well as species in the advisory "Special Concern" category" in the state of Wisconsin that often have also been used historically as medicinal plants by the indigenous people of this area for millennia. Wisconsin native plants we are working on growing and establishing here at Lunar Hollow include:
Every year I cold stratify natives around this time of by year as most need 30-60-90 days of cold moist stratification before being planted to break their dormancy cycle. They always say put all the seeds into a baggie with moist potting soil or sand, but I can't ever find the seeds again and end up with waste as I end up with a lot of seeds in one potting cell and none in another when I have to just divide the soil and plant it (except for larger seeds which I can see and manually extract). This year I decided to use some old pill containers. Each little cell is big enough for a spoonful of potting soil that I moistened in a bowl, and then each cell gets a few seeds. If you were planting thousands of seedlings this would not work, but I am always planting 4-6-8 of each thing, and planting them out annually to slowly grow and expand natives, so this seemed like a good idea. I labeled each section of seed by name and how long they need to stratify. I put each tray in a baggie to retain moisture and popped them in the fridge. I am hoping this makes the planting into seed trays easier and more consistent!
In addition to starting from seed, I also purchase spring shipped bare root plants that should arrive in spring to go in ground. So, other new plants coming in this spring for bare root plantings include:
And of course I order potatoes, onions, and other spring planting food plants as well.
So, that is a start. I am beginning to organize all of my food seeds from the last few years, clear out varieties that didn't grow well or we didn't like. Adding new things as we get input from the family. And putting everything into my folder system to be ready for seed starting. The grow light setup is up and ready, and we have a few new lights to try out this year as well. We always grow a lot of things, but for this year we hope to increase our storage veggies. We had a bad squash year last year, so we are moving the whole thing to a new spot and will see if we get luckier when the surrounding farms are on soybeans and not corn, as the corn rootworms took over our squash last year and most of the farms in our immediate area were on corn, so we think the weather made for a huge year for them and they strayed to our acreage. Most of the farms around here rotate so if it was a big corn year it should be a soy year, and we shall see. The good thing is that means I can grow our own sweet corn, as we choose to grow heirloom sweet corn only in soy years to prevent cross pollination.
I'll be sharing more about what we are growing food-wise soon. I will also post herb lists soon -as well as my Grow a Row choices for donating. I always try to grow enough for my family for an entire year without needing to purchase anything from a store that we could grow here (basically grow enough to be entirely self-sufficient in dried herbs), and then also grow enough extra to donate some. Wisconsin had a big update on cottage food laws, so I may also be selling dried herbs, herbal teas and spice blends, and other herbal products next year. We shall see! All of that impacts our expansion plans and beds, so we may look to adding many more no dig spaces to grow even more herbs depending on how this all goes. Exciting!
Do you grow any at-risk plants in your gardens?
I have always struggled with darkness. I love winter - the fluffy snow, the excitement of big snowstorms, the silence of the world in the snow, the tracks on the snow of all of the wild visitors, the smell of crisp clean air, the break from the same thing day after day. I love sitting by the fire with calm music, a cup of steaming tea, and a book. Living in the country I love winter even more. The hard work and heat of the summer gone, forcing us inside for more domestic pursuits such as baking and homekeeping. Winter is the time for art and writing and books. The time for baking and stitching and sitting down. But that said, I also struggle with darkness. If it snowed every 2 or 3 days all winter followed by the post-snow sunshine and blue skies, I would be OK. But we do tend to get months of cloudy days. Combining gray and darkness is hard for me. So, I look at snow as my relief, the bright spots between the repeated gray cord on the string of lights.
This year we got a light therapy light. We have all been sitting in front of the light a half hour a day at least. And of course we are all still trying to get outside, take walks, enjoy the quiet, and do a lot of baking. But since it does not get light until pretty late and is still dark before 5pm, the light is helping us continue. We have had so much gray and so many fog warnings this January so far, that the light is a relief. So is garden planning, seed sorting, art making, bread baking, and spending time with my teens.
So I will still enjoy the snow, the quiet, the fluffy snowflakes swirling, the crisp cold air, the crunch of snow under my mukluks, and the sunshine when it comes, I also feel like I have another tool in my toolbox to help get through the long winter.
What do you do to get through the darkest days of the year?
January is here. This is the time of year I vacillate between wanting to grow EVERYTHING next year, and wanting to grow nothing. In that, I mean I have so many plants, and wouldn't it be nice to have a break. But then I love the warm sun, soil on my hands, and walking the garden on a warm summer night. I don't like ticks, which come with country living, or having to change clothing when I come inside from the garden to ensure I am not a host to one. Do you watch YouTube? Do you see all of the channels that have women in long, flowing skirts, with hair to their waist, walking through tall waist-high grasses, laying down on the ground, and picking herbs with bare arms and shoulders? Does that seem as unrealistic to you as it does to me? What I mean is that the dream of the idyllic garden and the reality of the hard work that goes into growing thousands of plants is at odds in January, when it is cold and there is much time to idle and read, hangout with my (adult) kids, and work on home projects. Of course in the end, I crave and dream of the garden, even if I am wearing ankle and wrist guards and have my clothing all tucked into my socks and have my hair under a hat. I enjoy weeding and picking and harvesting, even if wearing rose gloves to the shoulder. And, I know that though there were some failures last year, there are new plants to grow, new things to try, more space to fill, and more challenges to learn and grow as an herbalist, aromatherapist, and grower. There is always more to do, more to grow, and new plants to experience.
Every January I sit with my boxes of seeds that I put away last fall, and I sort them. I filter out the things we didn't really like or that didn't work well, and I box and organize the things I know I want to grow again. We do grow a lot of perennials, and some are short-lived perennials, so they must be replanted every year or two. Some are root perennials, so I dig them up and they need to be replanted every year or two. And, every single year we continue to plant more fruit and perennial food, so that eventually we have a significant amount of plants that need minimal care and produce a LOT of food. Trees can take years, so I continue to plant new trees from seed, bare root, and transplants, every year.
I also dig through all of the veggie and fruit seeds to see what I have still, and filter out any old seeds or seeds that performed poorly, or what we didn't really like. I remove what didn't do well in our soil. I always want to buy all the new veggie seeds, but make myself go through and see what I have still, first. It is hard to resist buying all the seeds, but I try.
I do buy annual flower seeds every year as well, so I love going through all of my seeds and then picking a thematic color for the bouquets and flowers I'm growing. Two years ago I had all the colors - but last year I picked all warm pinks and creams, and this year I am going with all peach, brown, cream, and warm gold. I love having a cutting garden, where I can walk and cut fresh flowers for the house every day. I do also grow some flowers that don't come into the house as they are not safe for my animals (lily, etc.) but I do grow them to deter deer and for their beauty and fragrance.
Other considerations for seeds includes at-risk plants, woodland medicinals, and natives that I want to grow and expand. There are many native plants that I grow a few of every year, and plant out annually to expand the stands we are developing in the shade and wooded areas. I also do purchase bare roots, rhizomes, and transplants to go in ground each fall and spring. One of my projects is to also expand the sweetgrass that is already growing here. I think it is my most favorite aroma on the planet. It is the smell of the upper midwest prairies in the summer. I love that we have enough so that even walking out in the prairie areas of our land I can smell it in waves. Every time anything is mowed the smell wafts and drifts down the road from all of the roadsides and neighbors. I want to plant more sweetgrass in other grassy areas we have, so that I have more to harvest. And so that the world smells of Sweetgrass in July.
I so love aromatic plants in general (I'm also an aromatherapist) and want to continue to grow aromatic plants that I can distill into hydrosols and infuse into oils and other carriers to create my own aromatic apothecary of plants in addition to those that I carefully select from ethical producers to use. So, with that, perennial and annual aromatic plants and plants that have amazing properties as hydrosols are wonderful, including those natives that I love so much such as yarrow, violet, and sweetgrass. We also have pine, spruce, juniper, and cedar on our land, as well as cottonwood, rose, sweet woodruff, goldenrod, plantain, chickweed, cleavers, and other cultivated plants such as other rose varieties, lilac, thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, tulsi, lemon balm, mountain mint, hairy mountain mint, catnip, peppermint, spearmint, hyssop, chamomile, yauhtli, pepicha, and others that have amazing aroma and flavor.
This year I have gone through my main list of seeds, and have a growing list of what we will be starting from seed and growing this year. This first list ONLY has new herbs and flowers, and does not yet contain vegetables except for fruit bare root trees I have purchased and potato starts I have coming in spring. This list is on a separate tab from our existing natives, and from the perennials we are planting in succession in past years. I also have dye garden herbs in this round, and will probably add a few more, but need to decide what to purchase!
It feels like a good start. Next, to hone the list and fix up the names, and then start adding the final vegetables/greens/fruit seeds we will be planting. I bought a lot of seeds last year, but we had a lot of poor germination, so I might try purchasing my food seeds from another company, to see if we can get better results.
Anything special you are starting this year, or excited to try growing?
How do you store your herbs? How do you inventory and track what you have?
We made it to 2023. I will say it again. We made it to 2023. As a family that has been on lockdown since March of 2020, that is almost unbelievable to think. 3 years. No dining out, no grocery stores, no shopping in person, no restaurants or cafes, no events or festivals. No family holidays, no vacations, no hotels, no business trips, no hotel pools, no dentists or hair salons, no road trips, no museums. No book stores, no clothing shops, no live music. No visitors in the house, no friends over, no driver's education classes, no botanical garden. As a family with several high risk people including one with a compromised immune system, we have done all touchless, curbside, online, shipped to the door for everything. While we regularly go into Doctor offices and hospitals for ongoing medical needs, even our Doctors have done telehealth and video visits to protect the high risk here. I cannot believe it is 2023.
One thing I always focused on when my kids were young was creating the life we didn't need a vacation from. To work so hard at things we don't love only to desperately get away from it all every single day off seems off balance. While I have traveled and enjoyed travel, I also spent most of my childhood wandering the woods by myself. I am so grateful that I can be with myself and family for a long time. I know that means something to be able to sit and read a book. To sit and write for hours. To make sourdough bread from scratch at home 3 times per week. To have time for art and making and tending the home. To spend every day with our kids. To have time to garden and grow things. To have time to cook meals. To have time to just be. So, while we would love to get out and about more, we also are OK being safe and keeping our most vulnerable safe, spending time as a family, and living our life from our home, as people have done for millenia.
Does anyone else remember the early days of blogs? Back when we all wrote and shared and visited each other and left comments that became conversations? When it was about feeling the roots we made with our family and our connections to them? When we all became penpals and wrote paper letters as well, with the people we met and connected with? When sharing was about sharing and not a hustle? When we cared enough to visit and comment on our lives and ask questions, and have meaningful exchanges? I can tell I'm getting old when I say it was not like the tik tok of today with people faking entire lives and filtering faces and hair and clothing and location and food and experiences to get attention and people only clicking the little heart or thumbs up button, it was interactive. I think constantly seeking new experiences and constantly running and looking for more attention and more clicks and more approval is a product of our modern society in many ways, as old as it might make me sound. ;) In the beginning of the pandemic I thought here is everyone growing vegetables, being home with their kids, having quality time just being, engaging on a deeper level...and then it was gone.
I hate New Year resolutions (esp In january - hellooooo regeneration and new life is in spring, not deep winter), but my wish for the world is to have more time. Time to be home with family. Time to spend reading or hanging out with the kids. Time with teenagers before they leave. Time with partners to talk and dream and think together. Time to read and write and draw and bake. Time to plant feet on the ground and smell the fresh clean air. Time to feel the sun on your neck as you weed the garden. Time to enjoy a bite of a freshly picked strawberry. Time to take a long walk and look at every plant along the way. Time to scribble in a notebook and explore your ideas and inspirations. Time to sit by the fire. I wish that for everyone in 2023. The year of home, the year of simple living and being where we are.
Winter for me Is a time for Introspection, stillness, recovery, connection. In winter we cocoon and prepare to emerge with the green grass and golden sunshine. With that, I plan to post more often this winter, like we did back in the olden days of blogs, with conversation, sharing, and inspiration.
Happy New Year.
If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. What are you dreaming this January? How do you rejuvenate yourself in winter? What are you doing at home that makes you feel grounded?
Making change in our own lives can be hard. As a "type A" person I have to do it all. I am sure many of you overachievers can relate. The house must be clean, the laundry must be folded, the beds must be made, the work must always be caught up, the to-do list is before anything resembling sitting, relaxing, or enjoying. I was realizing last spring that I was working so hard to keep working at 150%, that I was not able to actually do any of the things I enjoy - such as working in my garden, harvesting herbs, distilling hydrosols, making herbal products. I was working. Working. Working. And I was stressing. Panic attacks, heart palpitations, waking up 5 times a night with full on heart pounding sweating shaking panic feelings. That is no way to live. So, over the past few months we have been making change. It takes time to plan, move, wiggle, resign, transition, step away, resignresignresign, just say no, and walk away from so many things. But, it was the right thing to do, and I am feeling better about the future.
When we work only for others, we burn out. It is a guarantee. While I have always rolled my eyes at the whole take care of yourself first idea, as I think we can take care of ourselves AND others at the same time, I was stuck in that rut of always doing and being everything for everyone else, without thinking ever of myself. It was definitely impacting me in being unable to sleep and having panic attacks. I could feel deeply things had to change, and I could not continue. I know many of us steamroll full speed ahead until something happens that forces us to change or stop - cancer, heart attack, injury, illness. But we shouldn't need an excuse to make deep life and systemic changes for our health and wellbeing. We should be able to make these changes JUST BECAUSE WE WANT TO, and not have to justify why we have to prioritize ourselves and our families over...everything else.
This is something we all need to do in some way - to take time to dabble, sit, be, and not feel that we must fill all the gaps with some other measure of success or achievement.
So, as my roles are wrapping up and I have more time, I am slowly working to give myself a break. To bake bread. Pick herbs. Read a book. Sit still. To read something that is not for a business, or a skill, or a function. To give myself permission to not complete or achieve anything if I don't want to. Spend time just hanging out with my teenagers. To focus on the health needs they have with time, attention, and consideration. To focus on my health needs with time, attention, and consideration.
What do you do for yourself? How do you take time to be?
One of our goals this fall and winter, is to start building a YouTube channel with more videos and life. To start, we have been practicing with small video editing, drone footage, music editing, and playing around with Davinci Resolve as our video editor. Gavin has also been creating content for his TikTok and Instagram, and I have been playing with making short videos. I am enjoying the process, and look forward to building more skills at both filming and editing.
August is a hard month. It starts out slow and forever feeling like the heat and sun will never stop, and ends with cool nights, and the hint that the garden is ending in those wilting leaves and fading squash vines. While it is here, I dream of September, when September begins, I wish summer would hold on just a tiny bit longer. I love fall, but I also love that golden light and those amazing sunsets that came with August. Looking forward to fall, with a small peek back at our last month.
I can't believe I haven't posted in a few months again. This year has been an intense year with major life changes for my kids (plus the loss of my mom), and every time I have wanted to write and share, I feel blank. We have had huge losses and huge changes as a family - just like a lot of folks - and a lot of that hit my own system pretty hard. While I was already having stress issues, losing my mom toppled me right over, causing me to start experiencing intense health issues.
So, we as a family did some deep thinking and reflection and decided I need to make some major life changes to allow myself the time to focus and care for the needs of myself, my own health, and, the needs of my kids. Well, more like my family stepped in and said I needed to stop before all of the stress took me out, so I listened.
It is hard to step down, step back, do less, and change our entire schedule and daily life to accommodate the impacts of change, and, to find some kind of balance that allows me to release that stress. I'm so grateful we are so close to our teens, and that they felt comfortable reaching out and asking for what they need, to ask for more time and support from me, and, to support me in my own needs as they saw the impact stress and anxiety was having on my health and wellness.
With that, I have stepped down or am stepping down from everything. This is something I have thought long and hard on with the full support of my family. I think this fall is the perfect time. I will be turning 55, my youngest will be turning 18, my oldest will be starting some amazing life changes that needs my support and time. I feel like the slowing down of fall into winter is a good time to wind down, take some down time, and focus on what is important.
I have resigned as the Chair of the American Herbalists Guild. I have given my 90-day notice and will be stepping down from Executive Director of Herbalists Without Borders as well. I am closing my herbal practice work. I will still volunteer with HWB as the lead donation distribution person for the US network, as I have the entire lower level of my home dedicated to HWB donations and packing/shipping boxes out to free clinics. But, that will not be 40-50-60 hours per week, it will be a few Mondays per month for boxing/shipping, and 2 other days per month for inventory management, cleaning, prepping, organizing the donations that go out throughout the US. So, instead of every waking moment being this work, and 40-60 hours per WEEK being this work, it will be more like 30-40 hours per MONTH of this volunteer work.
As I am working on transitioning out of the roles and reducing my stress and working on improving my own health by stepping back and focusing on wellness, I am feeling a call back to my art - photography, writing, and painting/visual art - and know I will be taking more time for those creative outlets that help me feel who I am and calm my restless and anxious spirit. Having more time for my art, design, writing, photography, permaculture gardens, handwork, kitchen, and home, is just what I need. It is funny, because I was so busy managing and organizing herbalism, that I haven't had any time in over a year (or more?) to actually make herbal support from my own gardens and use the herbs I work so hard to grow (other than simple tea). I want to have time again to make things and ferment and tincture things and cook with things and share what we do.
I have already started supporting G on a new business endeavor that we are working on together to get him started in one of his areas of interest. And, I have started supporting A in some of the life changes that we are focused on over the next few years. Having more time with my kids in these key years as they enter adulthood and find their own paths is SO IMPORTANT. There is nothing I would rather do.
So, I will be here, hopefully more, but it will be different as I make major life changes and transition to a new stage of my life. As I try to look at my stress-related health issues, and return to the calm equilibrium I had for so many years before taking on too much. I look forward to sharing more about life, home, gardens, art, handwork, design, words, and things that make me feel healthy and strong and happy.
Looking forward to the fall.
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, permaculture designer, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two young adults in south central Wisconsin.
©2007-23 Denise Cusack, all photos and text. Feel free to share my posts on FB or Twitter or online media or pin on Pinterest (thank you!), but please keep the links back to my website intact (meaning please do not take or copy my images off of this website and share them unattributed or without linking back here or use them without permission). Thank you! :)
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