Monday, January 31, 2011

Seed Starting Time

It's almost time to start some seeds! If you don't have your ally growing in your own yard, you might consider ordering some seeds and starting from the beginning. In fact, further down the road on our year long journey we will be doing just that, observing our ally from seedling so even if you do have it growing, you might consider starting a pot so you can watch it from day one!

Here are some tried and true seed sources I like:

Horizon Herbs

The Thyme Garden

Botanical Interests

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Ugh. I ran out of my homegrown nettles and purchased some from the local health food store. I believe they get theirs from Frontier and I have to say, the taste is NOTHING like the previous batches. If this were my first experience with nettles, I don't think I'd like it very much.

In their defense, this has steeped longer than 8 hours, probably more like 12 hours but still, I've over steeped the stuff growing in my backyard several times and the taste wasn't even close to this.

Just goes to show, try several sources because not all plant sources taste the same!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Herbal Ally Challenge #4: Impressions

How is everyone doing? Have you been making infusions with your ally? Noticing any benefits from doing so? I've noticed a slight increase in my energy level. My family has noticed it too, as I "feel" like cleaning house more often, lol!

This week's challenge is going to take us away from the books again and back into our hearts and minds. Read over everything you wrote down about your ally last week and get a picture of your ally in your mind.

Over the course of the next week, do a series of impressionistic drawings, sketches, paintings of your herb. I realize this can be hard without having an actual plant nearby but the internet is a wealth of photographs! Use what you know about your ally, what you remember about him from previous experience and a few photographs you may have or find online.
Try to do 1 drawing a day if possible. Use a different medium each time: pencil, charcoal, pastels, crayons, watercolors, acrylics, colored pencils, markers, whatever you have on hand or can pick up locally. You are not going for perfection and details, just your impression of your ally.

Don't confuse your impression with the famous art period "Impressionism." What you are going for is your feelings about your ally, your impression of his personality, his uses, etc. If there is a doctrine of signatures associated with your plant, accentuate that. For instance, Nettles has a way of causing irritations, his sting causes a reaction of rashiness when you touch him. Therefore, he can be applied to treat rashes. Another example of this would be yellow flowers of Dandelion represent the liver. You don't have to limit your drawings to just pictures either. Feel free to add any words to each piece that you feel necessary. If you have photo editing software such as photoshop, upload a few pictures of your ally and play with the features to transform your ally as well. Print them off and add them to your journal. Have fun with it! Think about your ally and how he is with you on this journey and how he is working with you.

Share some of your creations at the end of the week for us to see!

Herbal Ally Challenge #3 Complete

One of the most fascinating things I learned this week about Nettles was that she is considered a specific herb to use for LOW BLOOD PRESSURE by an Australian herbalist and an American nutritionist. All my life I have had low blood pressure so it seems fitting that I'm drawn to this herb and she is reaching out to me.

There are several species of nettles that can be used medicinally. Urtica dioica gets most of the attention but there's U. urens, U. gracilis, U. procera, U. canadensis, U. pilulifera and U. holosericea. I have no idea how to tell the difference between them but I plan to find out this summer.

Nettle is in his own family, Urticaceae and is native to Europe, Asia, Northern Aftrica and North America. He has naturalized all over, including Australia and New Zealand.

Nettles is very nourishing and is great taken long term as a tonic. He has an affinity for the liver, kidneys and muscles.

He can be used to treat hives, low blood pressure, kidney problems, asthma, diabetes, promotes milk production, anemia in pregnancy, diarrhea, arthritis and gout, hypothyroid and his roots have been used to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy.

He is great for all constitutions and will play his part accordingly. According to Matthew Wood, he feeds and builds up the thin and undernourished; counteracts the protein-sensitivity (allergies) of the medium pitta constitution and helps remove excess stagnation of water and mucus in the thick kapha types. Funny, because I suffer from all three of those problems: I'm abnormally thin, have allergies and problems with excess dampness and moisture in my body (think candida although I haven't suffered from that in a few years now but also mucus, sinus, lung congestion).

As a nourishing herb, Nettles is best taken as a food although he works great in infusions, teas, powders, elixirs, tinctures and cordials too. And don't forget Nettles BEER!! (although if you are using Nettles to de-tox your liver, I'd stick to the infusions, teas and food).

All parts of Nettle are useful, the roots, stalks, leaves, flowers and seeds. Although the leaves/tops are most often used, each has it's own place medicinally.

Nettles has also been used as a fiber. His stalks are processed very similarly to flax, stalks are allowed to soak and rot, the outer fiber is removed and then the strands are set aside to dry. Then they are separated and spun into yarn. Something I've wanted to try for years, I'll be doing this for sure this year!

How did everyone else do on their research challenge?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Note Tab Idea

Just a quick tip:

I wanted to add a tab to my journal but didn't want to use sticky notes so I drew, watercolored and cut out several nettles leaves. I placed a pocket in the back to store the extras in.

Viola! Quick and cute tabs. Now when I want to record my blood pressure, I can quickly flip to that tab and write the information down. I used a glue stick to add the tab to the page.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


How is everyone's research going? Are you finding out lots of fascinating things? I sure am. And not just in my research (which I'll share later in the week) but also in my infusions.

My infusions of late are quite green! I had 2 separate jars of nettles stored away from last year's harvest, one from the spring, sometime between mid-April and mid-May and the other harvested in September, both from young plants that had not yet flowered.

The difference was more than noticeable. The color, flavor and aroma were very drastic. I thought I could get away with harvesting in the fall from new plants but after seeing the above infusions, I'll only harvest for food in the future!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Herbal Ally Challenge #3: Research

This challenge will be an ongoing challenge that I'll refer back during the course of the year. You can never research your herb too much! We'll keep expanding upon it as the year progresses.

With the resurgence of herbal medicine over the past few decades, a whole variety of herbals have become available. I love having herbals from all sorts of herbalists as it gives me a wide perspective. There are so many styles and traditions and each one offers a unique perspective.

Some of my favorite herbals are:

Gail Faith Edwards
Opening our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs
Through the Wild Heart of Mary
She also has a third book which I have not read yet but I imagine it is just as wonderful as these two!

Susun Weed
Healing Wise
I also have Breast Cancer? Breast Health!, The Menopausal Years and The Childbearing Years

Matthew Wood
the Book of Herbal Wisdom 
The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism - I just received this one in the mail today and I'm looking forward to diving into it tonight after the kids go to bed!
The Earthwise Herbal Volume I and II - This is next on my list to get!

Timothy Lee Scott
Invasive Plant Medicine

These herbalists do not have books out yet but I love to read their articles and videos they post on their blogs and elsewhere in the Herbal Community such as

Jim McDonald
Kiva Rose

What are your favorite herbals?

Assignment 1:
This week it is time to read up on your herbal ally and write down notes in your journal. If you don't know already, make a point to learn:

1. The botanical name of all species used
2. The plant family your ally is from
3. Where your plant is native to and where it has naturalized
4. If you plant is an annual, perennial or biennial (if it's a tree, deciduous or conifer)
5. The primary actions of your herb (the main use)
6. Secondary actions (other known and/or lesser known uses)
7. Forms used (teas, tinctures, poultices, powders, syrups, elixirs, lozenges, etc)
8. Parts used, seasons to harvest (roots, aerial parts, bark, leaves, flowers, seeds)
9. Edibility, seasons to harvest for eating
10. Organ/system affinities (which body organs/systems does your ally affect the most)
11. Other uses for your ally ie: dye, paper, fiber, etc.

Write all this information down in your journal. Make any notes of anything interesting you might find about your herbs. I recommend looking through at least 4 different herbals and/or online articles about your herbs.

Also, get in the practice of writing down your sources when you write down information. You can create a system and use the back page to list your resources so you can just write down a number or letter code that correlates to the herbal next to your notes or you can choose to write out each herbal as you write it. You might also choose to write down the page number(s) for easy reference.

This doesn't have to be an elaborate monologue on your herbal ally at this point. This challenge is to just get you familiar with your herb, a sort of introduction of sorts.

Assignment 2:
After you've learned the actions (both primary and secondary) of your ally, make a point to write down each action and its definition in your journal. This will help remind you what each action is and you'll have a quick reference back in case you forget in the future. As a bonus, write down other herbs that share this action if you know of any. Another bonus: compare and contract your ally with these other herbs.

Jim McDonald has a great article about herbal properties and actions. There's also a list of actions and what they do.

I also recommend Kiva Rose's article on Terms of the Trade: An Introduction to Herbal Actions


Continue to do your infusions as often as you see fit. Be sure to write down any new observances you may have about drinking your daily infusions. Have you gotten into a routine of making a daily infusion? Do you have a preference for temperature or does it vary daily with your mood/the weather?

If you are blogging about your experience, be sure to update your blog with the past challenges and leave a comment on my blog and I'll add your post to the appropriate completed challenge posts.

How is everyone doing with their journals?

Herbal Ally Challenge #2 Completed

Every day this past week I made nettle infusions to drink. I drank them warm, I drank them cold and I drank them at room temperature.

I had one noticeable difference in energy levels after drinking the infusion, a day when I was extremely tired. I drank the nettles within a half hour and then felt a boost in my energy. Not large but enough that I didn't feel the need to lay my head down and take a nap.

The nettles I am using were wildcrafted from my property over the past growing season. The first batch I used was harvested later in the summer, early fall. I had found a late patch starting so I harvested it. Even though it hadn't gone to seed, the difference between that and the second batch I used when that one ran out was amazing!

The second batch I harvested in the spring. The dried leaves were darker green than the previous batch and when I brewed the infusions, the color of the infusion was more green and darker.

In addition, the taste was different as well. There was a fresh, green taste to the infusion. Much more flavorful. Great lesson in harvesting time periods!

The infusions themselves were mild with a metallic/bitter aftertaste. It was cooling and astringent.

As a slow acting tonic, I didn't expect to feel much of a change after this week. I will continue to drink infusions as often as possible. I do feel a slight upgrade to my energy level but I wouldn't say it was drastic.

How were your infusions this week? Did you have anything noticeable happen while using them?


Other notes about nettles this week:

As part of my anima medicine woman tradition mentorship, one of my assignments is to spend time in nature daily. I made it a point to go out and photograph herbs in winter. I found my stand of nettles next to the garage still erect, with dried seeds still dangling. It was neat to be able to observe them in winter.


Challenge #3 will be posted shortly.


Karisma's post on her week of infusions with Tansy

free owl printable calendar

how adorable! i found this link through another blogger, piper and had to share:

i know my 13 yo will be printing it off!

Friday, January 21, 2011


I just found a new plant to study this year, lol! As if I didn't have enough to do!

I planted Spiderwort fall 2009 and all last summer, I was rewarded with pretty blue flowers on a daily basis. They would bloom in the morning and be done by afternoon.

I found this website when I was looking up more information after I discovered they are also edible through a friend's posting on facebook:

I'm looking forward to trying out these for eating and dying!

Dye recipe for future reference:

8 cups of water
8 cups of blue flowers, no green
Combine flowers with water and bring to boil, then set away from heat and let set overnight.
Come morning, strain the plant out, and save the blue water.
Dissolve 1 tablespoon alum with 1 teaspoon cream of tarter in a small amount of hot water, and stir into dye.  Use a long wooden spoon and be sure it dissolves good.
Add white fabric, soak over nite or till it is as dark as you want.
The alum sets the dye in the fabric and the cream of tarter makes the dye a brighter color and softens the fabric.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

first lambs of the season 2011

we got about 9" of snow (and still falling over the past 12 hours and lost our elder ewe to age and cold. my sweet angelica, the one who had coriander last year died.

and, with sorrow comes joy, peppermint lambed twins first thing this morning, a boy and a girl. we brought the boy in to warm him up because he's not nursing so great and was shivering. i milked out some colostrom and spoon fed him.



moondog loves the snow (doing snow angel doggies in the snow...)

more snowy pictures

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

the hazards of living with an herbalist

repost from my old xanga blog dated april 9, 2006

(inspired by greg's comment this morning as he peered into a pan simmering on the stove "what is this?!")

herbs can be found growing in all sorts of places in the house
herbs12  herbs1

there's always something brewing on the stove


jars and jars and jars of dried herbs take over the pantry shelves and products too!

no matter what the season, there are herbs hanging around, drying
herbs2  herbs7   herbs6

the counters are inevitably covered with jars of tinctures and other forms of herbal preservation

herbs4  herbs5

you can usually find fresh herbs in a basket that are waiting to be used or processed or dried
herbs11   pokeroot

herbal books and recipes are always piled up within easy reach
herbs9  herbs10

mortar and pestles are tucked into nooks and crannies

and they tend to live by the seasons instead of the gregorian calendar

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Spending Time in Nature on a Daily Basis

Give time every day to be in nature, to purposefully deepen my connection to the Anima, to the plants and all the forms and powers of the living Earth.  Describe any significant experiences of feeling directed, nourished, healed or inspired.

(1/11)Today, I had to get outside was last week when it snowed. The flakes were so pretty coming down and when I gazed out into the back yard, the snow covered cedar tree beckoned and i had to go out and photograph him. I was drawn in by the snow gathering on the rough bark and watched patterns forming on the branches and needles as the snow thickened on the tree.  I felt more alive when I came inside after spending that quiet moment under the tree.

(1/15)Today I made a point to go outside and enjoy a few minutes, even though day was waning and it was below freezing. The snow on the ground and the skeletons of plants inspired me to get my camera and take a few moments photographing them. Evening Primrose, Nettles and Wild Cherry all caught my fancy and I took delight in examining them closely in their naked glory. The open pods of the evening primrose, the dried seeds of the nettles, the snow covered bark of the Wild Cherry were all naked and waiting in anticipation of the longer days and warmer sun to return in all their glory.

Snow is so much fun because I can see what animals have come and gone...i saw rabbit tracks, deer tracks, chicken tracks (ha!) and cat tracks. I love to watch them meander in the snow, wondering what their destination was as they passed through our strip of land.

(1/16) greg and i walked through a local park to collect cottonwood buds today. as i was picking them up, i felt compelled to break a twig and inhale the amazing smell. we were mostly alone, no one really goes to a park when it’s cold and snowy outside, at least not around here. it was peaceful and i started to observe. birds chirping, lots of them, almost like spring or summertime. tracks in the snow, a larger bird, maybe a wild turkey? although it seemed smaller. a smaller 4 footed animal such as a raccoon or possum that was walking a wavy path and left drag marks in the snow...rabbits, deer.

i looked up at the Cottonwoods, so tall and mighty, their limbs arching down while the buds pointed up to the sky that was blue. i laid against a cottonwood and felt his energy melting in to me. i kissed the tree and thanked him for his generosity. looking down, i noticed the moss on the tree, clinging, green, fresh in this moment of cold and snow.

the cold was getting to me, my hands were painful and numb, my body chilled but my spirit refreshed and my mind wide open.

(This post to be updated as necessary as it is a journal of my activities for my mentorship with Kiva Rose)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Herbal Ally Challenge #2: Infusions

Hopefully you've done a bit of research by now and know whether or not your herbal ally is safe to consume in large quantities. If not, take a moment to research it.

If your herb is safe, start by making 1 infusion a day for a week to drink. To make an infusion you will need:

1 quart jar with lid
a metal knife or spoon
dried herbal ally
boiling water

Note: if you can use more than 1 part of your ally (ie. aerial parts, roots, flowers), try this exercise with each part individually and combined to see which experiences work best. You may need to space this out over the course of the next month to complete it, if so, that's perfectly fine.

To begin, place a handful of your dried herbal ally in the jar and add the knife or spoon (this will keep the jar from shattering from the heat of the water). Pour boiling water in to fill to the top. Let it sit for a few minutes then remove the knife/spoon and put the lid on.

Let this sit for 4-8 hours. Some herbs don't need to infuse as long such as chamomile. If you are unsure how long your herb should steep for, ask me in comments and I'll let you know. For the majority of the herbs, 8 hours or overnight is perfectly fine. I like to make my infusions right before bed and then they are ready to drink the next day.

Once the herb is infused, strain out the infusion and drink within 24 hours. You can chill it, heat it or drink it as is. Try to drink it straight, at least for the first day just so you can really taste the flavors and feel the reactions. After the first day, you can add a bit of honey to sweeten or other herbs (peppermint and licorice are great at masking bitter flavors) if you need but do so in moderation. You are wanting to get the full effect of your herb. Try it hot, chilled and room temperature to see which flavor you like best.

Each day as you drink this infusion (you don't have to drink it all at once, you can drink it over the course of the day), pay attention and write in your journal about the following:

1. how you feel before you drink it
2. how you feel while you are drinking it
3. how you feel 30 minutes after drinking it
4. what your herbal ally tastes like
5. any after tastes
6. what it feels like going down, if you can feel any part of you opening, such as your chest, lungs, heart,  or more peripheral
7. notice if it is drying (think banana peels) or moistening to your mouth...does it make you pucker or make you drool?
8. does it warm you up (think ginger, cinnamon, cayennes) or cool you down (think cucumbers, avocados)

Don't worry if you have troubles identifying these things at'll be doing this exercise over and over periodically throughout the year. The idea is to get yourself familiar with your herbal ally.

Continue doing this every day for a week and record your experience every day. At the end of the week, review your past 7 days' experiences and write a summary of your experience with your ally.

Did anything change for you over the course of the week?
Did you find a bad tasting herb start to taste better?
Did you find your senses sharpened over the course of the week to your reactions?
Did you notice any changes in your body such as energy changes, appetite changes, digestion changes, etc?

If your herb is generally regarded as safe to take long term, you can continue to do this exercise daily as you see fit. Otherwise, try to do it once a week or every other week throughout the course of the year. You can also add your infusions to soups as part of the broth if your herb is a nourishing one such as burdock, dandelion, comfrey, chicory and nettles. adjust for taste as some infusions are more bitter than others. Susun Weed lists several herbal allies and their safe dosage amounts here.

Post your experiences on your blog and leave a comment here and I'll add your post to the end of my post on January 22.

If your ally is not safe in large dosages, do this exercise in moderation, 1/4 - 1 cup of tea a day, infused 30 minutes - 2 hours depending on the herb. If you are doing an extreme low dose botanical such as poke, do a dilute portion of tea, say 1 teaspoon of tea to 1 cup of water. Proceed with caution.

If you have any adverse effects at any time during this exercise, STOP. This goes for any type of herb, not just the low dose botanicals. You may be allergic if you are having a reaction. If you are, you may choose to switch to another ally or continue observe the herb without consuming it. You can still learn a lot about your ally without ingesting it.

Please also note that not all challenges may pertain to your herbal ally. If you find a challenge to be too extreme for your herb, skip it or adjust it as necessary. The point is to fully immerse yourself in your ally and learn all you can about him. Since different herbs have different healing methods, these challenges are not a one size fits all. On challenges that you don't feel you can do with your herb, spend the week doing alternate challenges such as:

-writing poems and/or songs about the ally
-drawing the ally with all types of mediums and all styles you can: colored pencils, water colors, pastels, ink, cartoon, impressionistic, realistic, etc.
-reading about the ally
-writing a story about the ally
-meditating with the ally

If you do not have your ally growing nearby for observation, you might want to consider purchasing some seeds to start some to grow in your garden or a pot. I've had great luck with these seed sources:

thyme garden
horizon herbs

Although you can also get some plants to start growing, seeds are the best to watch the growth cycle from the beginning since we'll be observing the growth cycle of our allies.

To get ready for the next challenge, gather as many herbals as you can that have information about your plant including field guides, wild food cook books and herb books. Go through your library loan system, they are often a wealth of book collections.

PS. When you are writing in your journal, you can make it extra special by adding borders, sketches of your ally and anything else that strikes your fancy. Also, creating elaborate fonts for your titles or journal entry headers makes it extra special too. For great tips and help on creating beautiful journals, check out Irene Brady's ebooks. I have purchased a few in the past and really like them for helping to spark my creative side.

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