Postcard 6: Sweet Maine

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The final leg of our trip was perhaps the most eagerly anticipated: Maine.

The kids and I took a previous roadschooling trip there 2 1/2 years ago, and they’ve longed to return ever since. I’m not sure when a place has spoken so deeply to them as did Maine (excepting the western coast of Ireland).

Acadia: the moody Atlantic, the mossy forests, the stony wind-whipped shore.

We spent a brief few days there, but it refilled our cups and readied us for the long journey home. The persistent rain that arrived before our departure was just the encouragement we needed to pack up the tent and begin our journey home.

But first, one final detour.

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Before leaving Maine, we headed to the home of some friends, and spent two days with Amanda, Steve, and their sweet family–resting, swimming, and recharging for the journey ahead.

Our visit was crowned with an authentic Maine lobster dinner, a certain highlight of the 3 1/2 week journey. (Amanda snapped the photo above before I managed to splatter my glasses, face, and shirt with lobster bits. I’m a class act, I tell you.)

They were such gracious hosts, and took good care of us before our long journey home.

And then we were off! Three long days pushing back across Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and the rest of the mid-east, until we were held in the arms of these green hills once more.

Wisconsin. The Driftless.

Home.

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How delicious it is, to be back in the familiar embrace of of home once more. The comfort of our cozy (cramped, chaotic) house; the familiar feel of favorite tea cups and worn wooden spoons; our suddenly green and overgrown landscape; our riotous overflowing garden.

4,500 miles later, and there’s no place else we would rather be.

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Postcard 5: The International Herb Symposium

IMG_9235IMG_9206We spent last weekend at the International Herb Symposium in Norton, Massachusetts. The days were brimful with wonderful people, inspiring conversations, and more good juju than we’ve seen in a long while.

I attended a couple of herb walks, but mostly the kids and I were in our booth, talking about Herbal Adventures and LüSa Organics, and and connecting with herbalists from the world around.

Of special note: Rosemary Gladstar.

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Rosemary’s books were my very first introduction to herbalism some 16 or more years ago. They were warm and approachable and made me feel like herbs were something I could delve into and fall in love with.

So many have this experience with Rosemary’s work. She makes herbs accessible and approachable to everyone.

I came to the symposium in part to meet her and thank her for the glowing endorsement she gave my book, Herbal Adventures, a snippet of which appears on the cover. We emailed back and forth last year, and I was so encouraged and inspired by her kind words (an excerpt is below), that I wanted to thank her in person.

Herbal Adventures has everything I appreciate in a good herb book: sound practical information and great remedies and recipes, all enhanced by personal stories and insights. This may be my new favorite!

– Rosemary Gladstar, herbalist and author

The best part, however, was that Rosemary and Lupine were the ones who really connected, after Lupine attended a plant walk that Rosemary led on the second day of the symposium.

Lu chimed in a few times on the walk with observations and her own experiences, and Rosemary appreciated her so. At the end of the walk she gave Lupine some props as her “co-teacher” which was fairy dust upon this twelve year old’s hearts.

The next day, I attended a class with Rosemary (without Lupine this time), and she was talking about Lu to her students, in the context of the importance of raising the next generation with a love and knowledge of plants and herbalism.

Oh, my. So sweet.

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On the last day, we found Rosemary just before we left. I told her we wanted to say goodbye and capture a photograph, and she said, “I want a photo with Lupine!”

Of course she did.

And so did Lu.

Hearts full to overflowing, we’re on to the next destination. But we’ll be back to the International Herb Symposium, and for another Rosemary hug in the next few years. Of that we are certain.

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Postcard 4: return to the Atlantic

My kids have an inexplicable, undying love of the ocean. Not your basic, everyday love, but an exhale-deeply-and-sink-into-the-sand love of sea. It’s hard to fathom they’re lifelong Wisconsinites, but perhaps that’s part of the magic.

They adore the sea. And I adore watching them there.

So when we rolled into Cape Cod last week, I was ready to chill out at the wooded campground, nesting and settling in, but they needed the beach. So we set up camp in a hurry, then found the nearest stretch of salt and sand.

The water was cold (yes!), but there were swimming, splashing seals and diving birds and so much magic to behold.

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After a couple of days exploring the cape and playing in the cold Atlantic, we headed up to Plymouth Plantation.

We wandered slowly through the Wampanoag village, then wound our way through the European settlement at Plymouth. As always on this trip, each piece of information or new-to-us perspective sparked meaningful conversations and further research to take on at home.

I was captivated most by the medicinal herbs at Plymouth, and we all enjoyed the perspectives and thoughts shared in both the native village and the English settlement.

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The learning never ends on a trip like this.

One burst of curiosity sparks a deep dive into further questions and research, and we’re off down another rabbit hole–whether about heritage livestock breeds, medicinal herbs, or cob oven designs.

How grateful I am to walk this path with my kids, all of us learning as we go along.

 

Postcard 3: Vermont

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After the lovely Finger Lakes Region of New York State, we veered north and headed into Vermont.

As torrents of rain were in the forecast, we ditched our camping plans spent a couple of days at an Air B&B in the mountains. The rain didn’t pan out and I had non-camping guilt, but it was lovely to have some space to stretch out and I decided to let it go. We unhitched our bikes and did some riding, and explored a few rivers with bare feet in the cold, mountain water.

To all of us, Vermont was reminiscent of the forests of Northern Wisconsin overlaid on the landscape and community of the Driftless. It feels like home. And we exhaled.

From the mountains in the south we traveled northward to visit with some dear friends we haven’t seen for a couple of years. We spent a week with them on our last eastward journey 2 1/2 years ago, and we were looking forward to some time together again–for spoon carving, for coffee drinking, for laughter and conversation.

They delivered all of that and more (of course).

As the icing on the cake, on our last day, we piled in the van and they took us to Bread and Puppet. Such a feast for the senses, the heart, and the mind!

Here’s a tiny sliver of all that we saw…

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If you haven’t heard of Bread and Puppet, here is founder Peter’s own words. (Peter, pictured above, founded Bread and Puppet in 1963 and is still at the helm.)

“We are the Bread & Puppet Theater because we offer good old sourdough rye bread together with a great variety of puppetshows, some good, some not so good, but all for the good and against the bad. The art of puppetry helps women, men and children alike to overcome the established order and the obsessive submission to its politics and consequent brutalities.”

–Peter Schumann

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The performances were unapologetic, pointed, and timely. Some were humorous, others thought-provoking and most were politically sharp. They opened doors to many conversations with my kids in the following days about current immigration policies, consumerism, political action, civil disobedience, and the power of the people.

I was grateful for the opportunity to attend, and have my mind widened and heart opened just that much more.

And now, we’re bound for points further south. To the Atlantic! And to the International Herb Symposium in Norton, MA.

Perhaps I will see a few of you there? Be sure to swing by my booth and say hello. I’ll have be signing books, selling soap, and enjoying the beautiful company of this sure to be lovely event.

See you soon, dear ones!

Postcard 2: history lessons

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We spent much of yesterday at the New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center and the Harriet Tubman Home, both in Auburn, NY.

We journeyed through many layers of America’s mixed past: an often brutal, sometimes triumphant, messy mix of shame and victory.

We dug into the history of slavery in the United States, and reflected on how 14 of the 21 “founding fathers” were slaveholders themselves. What does that say about our history as a country? And how does it feel as a descendent of enslaved people to see their faces on the currency in your wallet each and every day?

We explored the steps that led to abolition, and the brutal back-slide our government took with Convict Leasing, which was another iteration of slavery after its abolition at the end of the Civil War.

We dug into Jim Crow Laws, voter disenfranchisement, and gerrymandering which ensured the continuation of whites holding power throughout the 1960s and even through today.

And we explored the history of suffrage, the women’s rights movement, and the many battles for equal rights for BIPOCS and LGBTQ community.

All battles that are ongoing even today.

We were befriended by a bright, fascinating woman named Lois who was also visiting the museums yesterday. A retired physicist and historian, she described her experiences as a Freedom Rider in the 1960’s, registering voters throughout the south.

Listening to her stories, and reflecting on how recent our country’s legacy of slavery and systematic oppression really is, we reflected on how even today people of color navigate a very different world as Americans than whites do.

And we reflected on how very far we have yet to go.

I kept seeing parallels. From convict leasing to the school-to-prison pipeline. From segregation to the longterm impact of redlining. (If you don’t know what redlining is, this video lays it out clearly, and explains the ongoing, snowballing impact. My kids and I have watched it several times.) From women’s rights marches in the 1900’s to the women’s rights marches today.

We keep looping, doubling back. Demanding the same rights, fighting the same fights, walking in the footprints of our mothers, our grandmothers, our great grandmothers.

And I felt more than ever how important it is as people with privilege to have these conversations. With our parents, with our kids, with our friends and our neighbors. To talk about racism, to talk about equality, to talk about what we can each do to make this country a better place for everyone.

Because goodness knows it’s time.

The only way to dismantle oppression is to look it in the eye. To speak up in the face of injustice. To listen with an open heart to what someone else’s experience is.

“Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it is not a problem for you personally.” 

Want to learn even more? Great! Me, too. Let’s dig in.

The podcast Seeing White is a great place to peel back the layers on America and race. I’m currently listening and it’s perspective shifting.

Author Layla Saad recently published a powerful 28-day challenge that will soon be a book. White Supremacy and Me (afflink) is a must read for white people who are striving to do better and to be a force for positive change in the world.

White Fragility (afflink) is on my book list for this summer. I hope you’ll read it, too.

Postcard 1: heading east

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Last Friday the kids and I departed on a 3 1/2 week road trip to New York State, Massachusetts, and Maine (then back again). So far we’ve spent plenty of time alone (just the three of us), lost in books and knitting and other quiet pursuits, as well as days visiting family and friends. We spent the night with a dear friend from elementary school, and caught up on a bit of what’s transpired since our days were consumed with Strawberry Shortcake and forts in the woods.

All of us are feeling so grateful for the kindness we are shown when we venture out of our comfort zone on journeys like this. We’ve been offered meals and beds, family cottages, and backyard yurts (and that’s just the beginning). It’s humbling, really, to be shown such generosity.

People are good.

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After a couple of long driving days, we landed in upstate New York, where we settled in at a family cabin that some friends were kind enough to share with us. The weather was perfectly moody, and we enjoyed both sunshine and rain as we explored the glens, lakes, and towns of the Finger Lakes region.

Before departing for points further east, we were lucky enough to be offered a tour of Aurora Shoes by the owner, David.

Aurora was one of the first blog sponsors I had back in the days when I posted here five times a week, and my own beloved pair of Auroras were on my feet when we arrived at the factory for our tour! (Mine are probably nine or ten years old, and still going strong. Their quality is unsurpassed.)

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The tour was fascinating, and we were so grateful for David’s generosity (with both his time and leather scraps for my crafty kids).

If you find yourself in Aurora, NY, they’re open to the public on Fridays (and so worth the detour).

Before saying farewell to New York State, we detoured through Ithaca for a last hurrah (and something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager). We headed out to lunch at the Moosewood Cafe. Squee! (Sage lacked our effervescent enthusiasm and so stepped out of our selfie, but enjoyed the food nonetheless.)

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If you’ve been around for a while, you might know that I was a vegetarian for most of a decade, from the time I moved out of my parents house. Learning to cook as a young adult was a vegetarian adventure, and a stack of Moosewood and Molly Katzen cookbooks was my guide.

Needless to say, taking my kids out to lunch at Moosewood was a delicious way to check something off my life list (and Lupine’s as well).

Finally, we detoured through a bookshop (Buffalo Street Books) before hitting the road. Delighting us all, we unexpectedly stumbled upon Herbal Adventures there! What a delightful surprise on our cross-country road trip.

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And with that, we’re off to points further east! I’ll share more the next time we find ourselves with internet. In the meantime, I’ll be posting occasional stories and posts on my Instagram feed.

See you there, friends.

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Grace, acceptance, release

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Yesterday I burned my journals.

Decades of stories that I no longer remember; sadness that I’ve long since healed; struggles I still work to overcome. It felt symbolic, doing this on Mother’s Day. As the pages fluttered in the flames I caught glimpses, memories. And then they were gone.

The grace and acceptance we give our children is a gift we rarely give ourselves. And these were stories I didn’t need to retell. Stories that I’m ready to thank and let go of. They shaped me, but I don’t need to carry their weight any longer. Grace. Acceptance. Release.

I also recycled a beautiful baby book with lovely prompts like “our midwife“; “our homebirth story”; and “family bed”. I had desperately wanted to pour myself into those pages as I had into my teen journals, but never did. And those mostly empty pages left me feeling a twinge of inadequacy every time I saw them for 16 years. Unlike my youthful journals, there wasn’t space on these beautiful pages for my struggles and my grief. For motherhood in all of its complexity. So it was cathartic to finally let it go.

With it went a weight of old ideas of the perfect vision I once held for what motherhood would be. Because in truth, it was harder than anything I’d ever done. Especially those early days! And I didn’t have the capacity to write down milestones when I was simply trying to keep my head above the surface.

Another release. Another long overdue Mother’s Day gift to myself.

The second baby book I released yesterday was empty as well. This one was free of guilt, because after the first I had no false expectations that I’d pen even a word. We added this one to our “cutter bin” for art projects. Transform awaits.

Today, my sense of self is not defined by who I was, or the assumptions and mistakes I’ve made along the way. My quality of motherhood is measured not in my perfection (nor in a predetermined collection of milestones lovingly penned for posterity) but in my unconditional love; in tenderness and laughter; in presence and apologies.

So here’s to embracing our own messy truths, to letting go of what no longer serves us. Here’s to grace and forgiveness and the messy magic of our own imperfections.

 

Tired, sore, happy

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I think we’re finally figuring out how to do weekends around here.

Two parts work and one part play, we found a fine balance between hauling compost and playing frisbee over the past couple of days.

Weather like this will do that. Sunny and not too hot, after such a long winter we were all drawn outside, for as many hours as we could manage. For garden prep and sipping iced tea, hauling brush and riding bikes.

We did a ridiculous amount of yard work in the past three days, something that has been back-burnered since we moved here some 6 1/2 years ago. It’s never top priority, so in our world that means it simply never gets done. But we’re determined to reseed the “lawn” (more accurately the mud amoeba with a grass border), and rake away the hard-packed spruce cones and needles, branches, and dead leaves and give this yard a fresh start.

When not giving the back yard our all, we were rebooting our raised garden beds. We built them one year ago, but made some mistakes in our shooting-from-the-hip construction techniques. So this year they needed a do-over. Our original design was compost-over-strawbales. But the bales collapsed, dropping deep inside of our raised beds, and the compost was a bit too rich for some of our crops.

We set to work removing the contents of each bed, then layering limbs from our fallen boxelder in the bottom of each bed as a modified huglekultur bed. On top of that we layered chipped branches, the straw-compost mix from the emptied beds, and finally topped with a few inches of additional chipped trimmings.

This latter layer was inspired by the Back to Eden deep mulching method. We’re excited to give it a try for weed control! As usual, we’re winging it, so time will tell.

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After gardening, Lupine and I set to work digging parsnips.

This invasive species is an escaped garden cultivar, and the leaves and stems contain a photo toxic compound that causes wicked, fluid-filled blisters to form on the skin if you come into contact with the plant on sunny day.

Despite their nasty above-ground tendencies, below ground they are ordinary (if rustic in appearance) parsnips! Delicious, nutritious, sweet root, suitable for sautéing, adding to soups and stews, or grating raw.

It was a rewarding wind down after a busy day.

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And, at long last, we paused to celebrate spring this weekend. Yes, we already celebrated May Day (the mid point between spring and summer), but on account of first snow and then the stomach flu, we had delayed our spring celebration longer than was reasonable. So on Sunday we indulged in some treats, and our usual celebratory goodness.

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On an evening bike ride, Lupine was distracted by the litter along the roadside. “Why would people do this?” she agonized.

Finally, she couldn’t bear it any longer. She pulled her bike off the road and leaned over to pick up a beer can. I got off my bike as well, and scooped up a second can. We placed them in her bike basket and rode on.

She stopped again and again and before we knew it she was scrambling up the road cut to pull take-out boxes, plastic bags, and beer bottles from the weeds. All of us joined in. (How could we resist?)

On the ride home, her basket was overflowing. There was so much litter heaped in her basket that plastic bottles and bags were flying out as she zipped down hills, and we were perpetually making U-turns to gather what we’d lost, amidst peals of laughter.

Back home—without a word—she set to work sorting it into the bags she had found to take in for recycling. I was reminded of the words of a friend who said, “The world is full of two kinds of people: takers and givers. We must decide which sort of person we choose to be.”

And perhaps this is how the world is saved. Through small, loving actions; through caring; through the belief that even one, small person can begin to change the world.

And just like that—through awareness, love, and action—the world became a more beautiful place. “That was so fun,” she said. “Let’s do it again tomorrow.”

 

And now–somehow–it’s Monday. Back to work, back to homeschooling, back to a slower pace as we heal our sore muscles in preparations for next weekend’s marathon!

As spring unfurls

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Spring is unfolding especially slowly this year. We’re still warming the house with the wood stove each morning, and as recently as last weekend there has been a blanket of icy snow on the ground. It makes us appreciate each warm or sunny day that much more, I suspect.

And there’s still warmth enough for tromps through the marsh and foraging expeditions in the pastures; prairie burns and garden prep.

However cold, spring awakens us. Stirs us back to life with the promise of warmer days to come.

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Last week (despite threat of snow) the kids and I loaded up and headed for Milwaukee. My sister lives there and leads a coalition to address children’s mental health needs (The Milwaukee Coalition for Children’s Mental Health). Lupine and I planned to join her for the day to help teach a workshop about herbs and herbal self-care.

It was an energetic day filled with parents and grandparents, community organizers, and some truly fabulous kids. We talked about home herbalism, urban foraging, making remedies, and our general adoration of plants. Together we infused oils, made a balm, and blended an herbal tea from my new book, Herbal Adventures.

We made seed bombs with native wild bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) seeds that I gathered last fall, and engaged in some serious earthworm appreciation (complete with screaming!). What fun!

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Settling in back home yesterday, Lupine and I realized it was May Day, and couldn’t resist spreading a little magic around the neighborhood, as befits the day. Every year we stealthily deliver May Baskets (amidst raucous giggles!) to several of our neighbors. How could we resit?

This small, annual celebration is one of my greatest delights.

Because the truth is, it’s this easy to bring joy, love, and magic to those around us. To lift someone up. And to celebrate the earth and the turning of the year.

A few wildflowers, a sprig of catnip, and a sprinkling of the fairy dust that each of us carries.

Oh, spring. How I love you.

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Herbal Ice Cream and Sorbet Recipes

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If you’ve been around here for a while, you know I’ve got a thing about ice cream.

Likely my favorite dessert of all time, I can think of nothing more delightful than a rich, tasty scoop of homemade ice cream, dairy-free ice cream, or sorbet.

Today, I’m thrilled to be over on LearningHerbs sharing two of my favorite herbal frozen treats: hibiscus + tulsi sorbet (with or without an ice cream maker), and chamomile and lavender ice cream (dairy-free variation included).

Find the post here, and get churning!

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