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!
I've been absent here for quite awhile. While I have been busily working on and contributing to Tend Magazine, I have been more quiet here and about our daily life. To be honest, the past year+ has been tough on us, as we went from specialist to specialist for my oldest son - hoping to finally find out what has been making him so sick. For years and years he has had all of these symptoms that are not explained by his severe food allergies. And of course every annual check-up he had never coincided with a time that he had an episode so nobody knew what I was talking about - until last spring. So we trekked from endocrinologist to gastroenterologist to immunologist to gastroenterologist to autonomic nervous system specialist and back. Last October we had a lucky hit when an allergist ran a test he has never seen a positive for - and it came back positive. That helped get us referred to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, and in April we visited Mayo for four days for more tests. And we got answers. My 12 year old was diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) which explains so, so much. So we have been head down driving forward with this for so long, and now we are coming out of the laser focus into the reality of managing things for him day to day. And in the midst of all of this, I was diagnosed with more than one autoimmune disease. I am aware the stress of all of the severe food allergies and health stuff that has been going on with my son has contributed to my own health, no matter how organic and healthy I eat. I laughed when I was told to eliminate stress - any food allergy parent knows it all requires 24/7 attention and diligence. But we pulled our family even closer together, tightened our focus on reducing exposure to A's allergies and triggers in his daily life, and have been managing this all as we go, enjoying life and yes, thriving.
And I find myself here now in July of 2015. !?!?! We moved into a beautiful new green built home two months ago. We still live in the Madison area, just in a small outlying town atop a hill with views of rolling hills, fields, and prairie grasses as far as the eyes can see. We have more space, more light, more quiet. We have a community garden plot in our new town. We have an art space with giant windows in the basement. We have room to create an apartment downstairs for my sons as they get older. We have a brand new (very large!!!) yard and garden to start from scratch. We have new small towns to visit, trails to wander, and country roads to explore, windows down and music blasting.
We are working with the specialists at Mayo to learn everything we need to know to help my son feel better - we have seen some improvement for him already - and we will continue to work on figuring it out and tweaking our life. And while I've been gardening, cooking, writing, photographing, and creating, it has been more confined to Instagram and Tend Magazine - but as we get into our new home, our new town, our new routines, and our new normal, I'm feeling like sharing more again, so I think it is time to return to this space. Here is to a fantastic second half of 2015. xo
"I'd made it this far and refused to
give up because all my life
I had always finished the race."
Ah, weekends. Winters are long here, and after half a year of cold - just when you think that is IT you cannot do one more winter - THIS happens. An emerald land with a cobalt sky. Wisconsin wildflowers blooming in a riot of color everywhere you go. The garden. Not too hot yet, with cool breezy evenings. That is why we are here.
"I wonder what it would be like to live in a
world where it was always June."
- L. M. Montgomery
Hope you had a lovely weekend!
And, of course, I couldn't forget the drawing for the Summer 2014 Tend Magazine giveaway!
In Wisconsin, winters are long. We don't warm up much in between snow storms like some places. We go into deep freeze, and there can be over 5 months between 50-something degree weather. And this winter was colder than most. Last week we finally had some days that were edging up to almost 60! Warmest it has been since last October. When we get a week of mild DRY weather, we have to jump on it. We started playing tennis again, we visited a park a day, we went kite flying, we hiked, we walked, we wandered. We swang on swingsets, our feet touching the sky. We sat in the sun listening to the birds.
It feels good to get out and feel sunshine on our faces, breathe deeply, and walk lightly without heavy gear. Spring is a bit later this year, so nothing has been greened - yet - but it is still beautiful in its optimism. The rains came over the weekend, and we are getting some more snow (tomorrow!). But there were days we were outside, and it will tide us over until the rains work their magic and the land is green again and we can feel the grass under our feet, and the sun on our faces.
Have you ever seen
in your life
than the way the sun,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone--
and how it slides again
out of the blackness,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance--
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love--
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
as it warms you
as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world--
or have you too
~The Sun, Mary Oliver
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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