The things that we gather

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There is an intimacy that comes from harvesting your own.

And intimacy of life, of death, of healing.

This feels like a contradiction at first glance, but truly, these three are inextricably interwoven.

The fact that we harvest a life when we pick even a single bloom is evident if you pause to notice, cupping the still warm harvest in your hands. To be present to what we are taking as we reach into a field of flowers or a garden of greens and pick. It changes our hearts… so different than the task of of filling a basket at the grocery store with sterile, plastic-wrapped fruits and blooms.

Whether cucumbers from the garden, flowers from a pot on the porch, or wild food and medicine from the hills beyond your door, we connect deeply with that which we gather.

Because what a thing it is that we are taking! A bloom, a handful of seeds, a life. It takes life to give life, indeed, and I strive never to forget that as I move through my daily food and medicine preparations and consumption.

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This weekend, Lupine and I wandered to the neighbor’s to forage one of our most beloved wild things, monarda (Monarda fistulosa). Also called wild bee balm, its fragrance is weaving through our hillsides these days, and the roadsides are alive with bees drunk on nectar and swaths of lavender blooms.

We love bee balm for sore throats, chills, tooth pain, and colds. Truly, I don’t know where we’d be without it. It’s a plant that called me to her years ago, with a summer sore throat. I was soothed, and instantly connected to this July beauty.

Monarda is one of my top three winter remedies (alongside elderberry elixir and elecampane syrup) for cold and flu season, and even this week a bottle was in daily use as a sore throat worked its way through our family. (It’s one of the ten plants I feature in my book, Herbal Adventures.)

But that’s the practical side of monarda. Today I’m musing about energetics.

I’m thinking more deeply about the connections we are so hungry for in our culture. Connection that we can find, just beyond our door.

In a neighbor, a friend, or a field full of wildflowers.

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In western culture, we are starving for depth and connection. In a world of soundbites, social media comments, and isolation, we are hungry for intimacy, depth and meaning. And while there is no substitution for the real, warm, human connection, we also need nature.

We need earth medicine. Perhaps now more than ever.

And so everyday I step outside. In town, I look above the buildings to the birds winging overhead, and the tree branches dancing in the wind. And out here, where the wild things grow, I take my basket and set out to see what unfolds.

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An I find what I’m seeking–always. It’s just not always what I expected to gather into my arms.

Some days when I return home my basket is empty, but always my heart is full. Other days (like this weekend) we come back with both–a full basket, and a full and peaceful heart. And a deeper intimacy with myself, the plants, and the planet.

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Back home, as we processed our monarda harvest, the scent of our home was intoxicating. Our hands smelled of bee balm, our hair smelled of bee balm, our kitchen and hallway and bedrooms were electric with the scent.

The spicy, pungent medicine was already working, spinning its magic throughout our nest.

The lives that we gathered were becoming a part of us.

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And I wondered… could this connection be so rich if these herbs arrived via post, packed plastic and paper and cardboard? Perhaps, but for me, stepping out and gathering my own makes me careful to not waste even one bloom.

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How fortunate we are to have medicine growing right beyond our door.

The truth, of course, is that you do, too. From the central city to a family farm, shiny downtowns to the endless lawns of the suburbs: the medicine is there, just waiting for you to notice. It might be something you harvest with your hands, or perhaps only with your heart. Keep looking. You’ll find it.

As a teenager I still recall the sunflower that I watched over the course of the summer sprout, grow, and bloom on my daily commute between work and home, springing from a crack in the concrete on an exit ramp in the heart of Milwaukee.

I didn’t need to harvest that bloom to take in it’s magic.

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What magic is blooming around you? Can you feel it? Smell it? See it? Take a moment today to find deeper connections, and to feel a few of the cracked pieces of you begin to heal.

Community does that, the plants do that, the earth does that.

They help us feel connection and intimacy. And all of it is free.

How fortunate we all are to share in that healing.

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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In the thick of it

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Nurturing sick ones when we’re already feeling stretched or depleted can be challenging, can’t it? Yet it’s a frequent theme of motherhood—to give the things that we most need.

I’ve been feeling pulled in too many directions these past few weeks. Spread too thin, I have been desperate for some hard to come by solo time to simply nurture my own thoughts and dreams and desires. How grateful I was to carve out an hour last week for a much needed coffee date with a friend. It refilled my cup, and left me with some space to breathe during this brimful season.

And then last week Sage started feeling under the weather, and ended up with the flu. Needles to say, it’s been an intense week of parenting in that ways that illness or injury always area. That’s life, that’s motherhood, but I’m tired.

These ordinary bumps in the journey of having loved ones under the weather are just that–ordinary. Yet they’re awfully trying, too. I think we sometimes negate the feeling that bubble up around these ordinary hiccups of motherhood and life.

What might shift if we instead honored these messy feelings, and ourselves along with them?

So I’m reaching for balance as best as I’m able. Knowing when to say no, when to dial in my expectations, and when to rest. To sleep as long as I’m able, to pause for tea or to knit a row when I can, to steal away for a long, quiet soak in a hot bath. To remember that I, too, matter. And that I can’t nurture others without first taking care of myself.

It’s something many of us struggle to honor.

My self-care game has never been strong. But during these moments of need, it’s imperative I do better.

And so I will.

To all of the mamas out there, just struggling to get through this day or this season for whatever reason: I see you, I feel you; you’re not alone. You’ve got this.

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One piece of my keep-it-together medicine is to get outside everyday, no matter what. Alone, with dogs, or with family, it’s keeping me sane. Fresh air, the light on the hills, the weather varying wildly day after day.

Yesterday Lupine and I headed out for white pine needles (Pinus strobus) from the tree in the yard for tea for Sage’s cough, and it was restorative just to feel the cold air on my skin. It wasn’t even a walk, but it was still a pause.

Back inside she chopped the needles and brewed tea for her brother, I organized the herb cabinet, and we strained tinctures, elixirs, and oxymels together. It felt like order in the chaos. It felt like an exhale.

We’re keeping the tea and bone broth and hot toddies flowing, and we’re keeping our sanity, day after day. I’m grateful.

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As his illness moves its way toward closure, and the rest of us are doing our best to stay well in this small house full of abundant germs.

We’re all taking daily doses of elderberry and echinacea to shore up our immune systems and keep the crud at bay, sipping lots of herb-spiked teas and broths, and Sage continues to take elderberry, chaga, and other herbs as the symptoms call for.

Wild Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa) and ginger-sage tea for sore throat and chills, yarrow and elderflower for fever, white pine and elecampane for cough, etc., etc. I even offered him a little rose elixir last night for his (emotional) heart, which is so weary of all this time in bed, feeling miserable.

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Since the flu has largely settled out at this stage as throat discomfort and cough, Lupine and I crafted two types of throat lozenges for him yesterday as a part of our homeschooling day. Unlike the sugar- or rice syrup-based candy-like throat lozenges, these are crafted only of powdered herbs, raw honey, and an optional few drops of herbal tinctures or elixirs. Intuitively, they feel much more nourishing than a sugar-based remedy.

The herbal pastilles we made were based off of this recipe. We modified the formulation based on Sage’s symptoms and the herbs we are most called to use.

Our first version (shown at right) we crafted from homegrown marshmallow root powder (in place of the slippery elm), homegrown garden sage, powdered rose petals, homemade wild rose elixir, and a pinch of ginger root powder.

In our second version we substituted Monarda (wild bee balm) for the sage, omitted the ginger we added to the first batch, and added some elderberry tincture for good measure.

As we rolled these little herbal throat balls in slippery elm and marshmallow powder, Lupine popped one in her moth to test our formula. “These are amazing!” she said. Amazing little herb balls.

So there you go. We made Amaze Balls. 

And if nothing else, there will always be humor to get us through!

It’s Book Day!

Today is the day that my shiny new (and first ever) book, Herbal Adventures, takes flight out into the world. I’m a bit awe-struck by the whole process, from being asked to write it, to spending an entire summer season experimenting, photographing, and writing about herbs.

And just like that, it’s a real thing that I can hold in my hands.

And – as it turns out – so can you! So many of you have already emailed to tell me that your copy already arrived, and you are already curling up with cups of tea and eager kids to read and explore.

The idea that your kids will grow up knowing more at a young age about herbs than I did as a kid? Well, that makes my heart glad.

If you haven’t yet picked up a copy, there’s still time. I stocked them in my own shop, and you can find them in plenty of local bookstores. (When you order directly for me, be sure to add the code “DOUBLE HERB BOUNS” for a couple of happy extras as well.) And if you share any public posts about the book or your family’s creations, add #herbaladventuresbook so that I might see it, too.

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What more is there to say? Except: happy tea-brewing, poultice-chewing, balm-making, oil-infusing, and syrup-crafting, dear ones!

I can’t wait to see all that you and your family create.

 

Digging roots

It had been raining on and off for more than a week. Sometimes a cold, driving rain, others a depressing and meek but soak-you-through-anyway drizzle. I had planned to dig roots, but nothing about an unseasonably wet, windy October was calling me out to take on the task.

Finally, the clouds broke, the sun peeked out, and the roots (and leaves, and flowers) called.

We went for it.

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From New England asters and mountain mint to one last abundant round of nettles, to roots of burdock, dandelion, chicory and yellow dock, there was so much to harvest–it was hard to know when to call it a day.

Finally Sage’s voice drifted down to the stand of asters where I was crouched, slowly picking, down in the creek bottom. “Mama, dinner’s ready!” (My kids each cook one dinner per week. This was his night, affording me the time to slip off and forage, since he’s self-contained in the kitchen.)

It was music to my ears. I picked a few more sprigs and headed home through the marsh.

20181003-DSC_764020181003-DSC_760120181003-DSC_762820181003-DSC_763320181003-DSC_7634tableBack in the kitchen, Sage’s meal enjoyed and the dishes done, processing time began. We scrubbed roots, chopped leaves, filled the dehydrator, and jarred up fresh tinctures and oxymels and elixers.

Lupine’s gigantic burdock root (pictured in her hands above) was the crown jewel of the day, and she carefully scrubbed away the soil, then tucked it into the fridge, researching recipes for her bounty. She’s considering giving it to Sage to use in his next batch of root beer, or perhaps making sweet-and-sour gobo, pickled (live-fermented) burdock root, or chopping and drying for tea. She’ll decide soon, then we’ll work on it together.

And today, I expect, we’ll set out again–this time to the garden for elecampane, marshmallow, and horseradish roots. Destined for homemade elecampane cough syrup, dried marshmallow root for winter colds and tummy aches, and horseradish to add to our fire tonic.

Oh, I do adore this time of year.

What’s happening in your kitchen, garden, or forest this week?

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P.S. For those of you who pre-ordered my book, Herbal Adventures, they’re shipping soon! (Squee!)

Be sure to tag me on any social media posts when your book arrives with #herbaladventuresbook, and let me know which recipes your family is excited to try first.

Look what just arrived!

When Pete checked the mail this weekend, he brought inside a large padded envelope. Handing it to me he asked, “Are you expecting a package?”

My heart leapt.

The advance copy of my book!

Lupine squealed, found a pair of scissors, and stood beside me (literally jumping up and down) while I opened the envelope.

And there it was. My book! In my hands, for the very first time.

And it was every bit as thrilling as I thought it would be.

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If I’m being honest I would admit to being a bit terrified as well. (What if it didn’t live up to my expectations on some level – the book, my work, or this long-awaited experience?)

But all of that fretting was for naught.

The book is big, beautiful, fun, and inspiring. It blew away more best expectations with how lovely it is! And to see my photos (and our friends!) glowing out at us from every page, well, my heart was in my hands.

Lupine and I curled up together on the couch, and slowly flipped through all 170-plus pages, drinking in the experience of holding our copy for the first time.

We laughed at some of the goofier photos of her, remembered many of the captured moments, and gushed over how lovely it all looked and felt.

My very own book. At long last!

To each of you who has encouraged me along this path, I want to express my profound thanks. To have found my niche and my voice and to bring together my love of herbs, my passion for writing, and my background as an educator–well, it’s a feeling that is difficult to describe.

And you helped me do that, by coming here and reading my words, by attending retreats and summer camps, and by otherwise connecting and encouraging me along. So… thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

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As an aside, for those of you who were waiting to pick up your own copy (or copies for gifts this holiday season), there is a wild and crazy sale running right now on Amazon. The book is just $16, but I’m not sure for how much longer. (If you pre-ordered already, don’t despair! Your price will drop to this one as well.)

You can find that deal right here.

If you’d prefer to pre-order your copy from your local bookshop (yay, you!) you can find one who carries it here by clicking on the red “I” icon next to US, or the appropriate link for your country if you’re not in the States.

Wishing you each Herbal Adventures of the most delightful sort.

 

This is summer

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Summer is a curious one for me.

In my childhood memories, it is the epitome of freedom. Lingering days that spin on for what feels like forever; riding off on my bike at lunch time; my only agenda to be home before dark.

While it was never my favorite season, I enjoyed it fully.

As an adult (and as homeschoolers), summer is different. In truth, this season isn’t distinct than any other as our learning and work time go, except that our school friends share some of our freedom. Then there is the heat, and here in Wisconsin anyway, the near 100% humidity for days, even weeks on end. (Have I mentioned that I’m a spring and fall girl? It’s true.)

This year, though, I’ve made an effort to embrace these sticky hot days. To let it sink into my bones, then relish the relief found in a plunge in our spring-fed creek, the unheated outdoor shower, or a mist from the icy-cold garden hose.

And this year, of course, we began gardening again, which has fed my soul–and my family–in the most nourishing of ways.

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And then, of course, there is the foraging.

This time last year I was in the thick of book writing and photography. There was an intensity to my need to get out and harvest, photograph, and recipe test while I had the chance. I found myself racing against time, catching blooms before they faded, the season at its peak. There was an urgency to the season that I am unaccustomed to.

This year though it is simply for the joy and pleasure of the harvest that we forage. No agenda, no deadline, no fuss. We’ll fill our bags and our jars and our larder or we won’t. No pressure, just the joy of this process and this moment in life, in season, in time.

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With that in mind, Lupine and I set off a couple of days ago in search of bee balm, yarrow, and magic.

And, indeed, we found all three.

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We filled our foraging bags with more monarda than we had picked all year, then set to work picking a late flush of St. John’s Wort, some self-heal, and blue and hoary vervain. We picked mullein flowers and motherwort, yarrow and more.

And then Lupine looked over, as I paused, my hand slowly moving over a flower.

“Are you petting a bumblebee, mama?”

“Yes,” I whispered.

“That is the cutest–the cutest–thing I have ever, ever seen!

“In my entire life,” she added.

The next thing I knew, Lu and I were wandering the pasture in search of docile bumblebees to pet. It’s something I’m certain we will never forget.

20180722-DSC_3994And then it was time to go. We said goodbye to the bees, and headed home to process our bounty.

In my world, I suppose, this is summer. It’s not water parks or swimming pools; it’s not store-bought ice cream or bright and busy theme parks. It’s foraging bags brimful with a fragrant harvest; it’s petting bumblebees in a pasture as the sun sinks low, it’s the scent of bee balm on my hands.

This is summer–in its abundance, in its magic, in its simple, messy, homegrown perfection.

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Four recipes for homemade rose remedies

June is rose season. From the old cultivated roses that crowd our back walk, to the wild pink roses along our road, and the smaller white blooms in the neighbor’s pastures, they’re a sight–and a smell–to behold.

If ever there was a case for smell-o-vision, this would be it.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose remedies are (emotional) heart remedies. During times of grief, trauma, fear, and transitions they can be a soothing comfort. These remedies do not stand-alone, of course, but represent one more piece in your healing journey. Rose also provides an energetically protective space in which to process, grieve, and heal.

Rose remedies are a balm for those feeling alone, vulnerable, tender, or broken. Stephanie from Sweetbriar Farms sent me two bottle of rose glycerite when Charlie died last summer, one of which I subsequently passed on to a friend whose brother was dying. This act of kindness was healing in and of itself, all roses aside.

I like to keep rose remedies on hand to share with friends going through painful transitions or experiencing loss, as well as for soothing our own bumps in the road of life. Rose is also an ally for soothing inflammation and reducing pain.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

I spent much of the week making five different types of rose medicine. Sage also dried some petals for culinary use, and Lupine infused a jar of honey for a friend with her harvest.

I wanted to share some recipes and a quick how-to with you, incase your neighborhood, too, is overrun with these fleeting beauties.

Field ID

To identify roses in the wild, you will observe stem, leaf, habitat and flowers.

Wild roses bear curved thorns along their woody stems, and toothed, compound leaves. They grow in pastures, along country lanes, and at the edges of forests.

Blooms vary by species. I will focus on the two species found in my region. There are many wild rose species throughout the world, so ID yours, and use that instead if you don’t have the same type as me.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rosa carolina

Here in Wisconsin (and throughout much of the US) you will find mainly two species of wild rose. One is native and one is invasive.

The native wild rose in my region most commonly found (pictured with larger pink blooms, above) is Rosa carolina, or Carolina rose. Single blooms bear five petals each and the flower center is dominated by a large cluster of yellow stamens.

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Rosa multiflora

The second species is invasive Rosa multiflora, or multiflora rose.

Also bearing five petals (these white and frequently heart-shaped) around a center of yellow stamens.

Multiflora rose (along other fun transplants like house sparrows, wild parsnip, Asian beetles, and Japanese honeysuckle) is a distinctly human problems. Like so many invasive species, it was touted as a solution to our many problems and a pretty one at that. It was intentionally introduced, passionately promoted, and then promptly got out of our control.

There is a strip through the central US (from the Dakotas in the north, angling southward to Arizona) where this species has yet to gain ground; otherwise you can find it from coast to coast.

For so many reasons, I’ve always been partial to the native sort, and have had a bias against the invasive for as long as I can remember.

Because: it’s invasive. What could I possibly love about an invasive? (Remember, I was a naturalist before I was an herbalist.)

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But plants, of course, have so much to teach us.

And I realized at last that an invasive species is not an bad or evil plant; it is simply a plant out of place, doing it’s best to survive. And it’s doing it well.

So slowly, unconsciously, I began to shift my bias. Instead of seeing the multiflora as an invasive and rolling my eyes at these hillsides of delicate, fragrant blooms, I took a step back and viewed it–for the moment–as simply a rose.

And that, of course, changed everything.

And with that in mind, I spent the week making rose medicine from both our native and non-native roses. Because of the abundance of multiflora rose, I focused primarily on them, but we did two special projects with the native roses as well.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Making rose medicine

Below, I share how to make five of my favorite rose remedies (rose petal honey, rose elixir, rose tincture, rose oxymel). I also made wild rose flower essence, but that’s its own creature that I can go into in a separate post if you are interested. (If so, please let me know.) Choose one or more to make yourself to have on hand when you or your loved ones might need it.

The general process outlined below applies to all of the other remedies. Always work with roses that are free of surface moisture. 

1. Harvest roses

There are two different methods for harvest wild roses: picking flower clusters or picking petals. The method you choose will vary by the way you intend to use your roses.

Whichever method you use, always pick in the morning on a dry day, after the dew has dried on the flowers. (However tempting, wet flowers do not make good remedies, as the resulting medicine is prone to spoilage.) Only pick from areas free of car traffic (50 feet from roadways), pollution, chemical sprays, and pet waste. Never make remedies with purchased, conventional roses.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Flower clusters are chosen when you are infusing the medicinal qualities of the rose, then straining.

To forage flower clusters, use a hand-held pruner to gently clip the entire flower cluster (with a leaf or two now and then). Place the flowers, stems, leaves and all a tight-weave basket.

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Flower petals are harvested when the rose itself will be consumed or when you want to avoid the woody qualities: say in baked goods, infused honey, or tea.

To harvest the petals, gently grasp the flower head (for the native rose) or flower cluster (for multiflora rose) and pull. The petals will easily slip off, leaving the center of the flower behind. Drop these into a very tightly woven basket to keep them from escaping.

2. Clean your harvest

Back home, pick through your harvest and gently remove and release any interlopers. Pick out and discard any dirt or debris or really questionable flowers or petals.

Never rinse or wash your harvest, as it will introduce too much moisture and your remedies will easily spoil. (Plus you will wash away much of the fragrant essence of the flowers.)

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

3. Make your remedies!

Now it’s time to make some medicine and treats. Below you will find basic instructions for rose petal honey, and three other rose remedies.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose Petal Honey

The flavor of this rose petal honey is ethereal. Make enough to last the year, to stir into warm milk or almond milk, or enjoy straight off of the spoon. Useful to treat first degree burns as well – apply the honey directly to the cooled burn.

Using: petals only.

Instructions

  1. Loosely fill a glass jar of your choice to the top with freshly foraged rose petals. Do not pack tightly, but fill it so it’s fluffy and loose.
  2. Cover with raw honey.
  3. Stir wit a knife to release air bubbles and top off with more honey.
  4. Allow to infuse for 4 days to one week, inverting or gently stirring daily, and enjoy by the spoonful, in tea or warm milk, or on toast (No need to strain, as the petals are very soft.)
  5. Store finished honey in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose Elixir

I love elixirs. One part tincture, and one part infused honey, the bring the best of both to the table. Tasty yet potent, elixirs are easy to love. Useful for healing conditions of the heart.

Using: whole blossoms with a few leaves.

Instructions

  1. Without removing the stems or leaves, coarsely chop your blossoms. (I have done this with both a sharp kitchen knife and a strong food processor, so choose your whichever method suits you.)
  2. Fill a clean, dry jar 3/4 full of the loosely packed chopped blossoms. Pour in brandy or other 80+ proof alcohol (a mild tasting alcohol is strongly preferred!) until the jar is 3/4 full. Add honey to fill to the shoulders.
  3. Lid with a nonreactive lid, or line your regular canning jar lid with a piece of waxed paper or a plastic bag. Label with remedy type and date and gently shake.
  4. Place in a cool, dark place, and shake daily (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks to 6 months.
  5. When ready to strain, pour through a fine mesh strainer, then press to extract as much goodness as you can from the roses.
  6. Transfer strained remedy to a clean, glass, labeled jar. Stored in a cool, dark place, elixirs will keep for at least 1 year.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose Tincture

Tinctures are powerful remedies. Take by the drop as needed when working through acute trauma, like you would rescue remedy.

Using: whole blossoms with a few leaves

Instructions

  1. Process your roses and fill jar as above. Pour in brandy or other 80+ proof alcohol (a mild tasting alcohol is strongly preferred!) until the jar is full to the shoulders.
  2. Lid with a nonreactive lid, or line your regular canning jar lid with a piece of waxed paper or a plastic bag. Label with remedy type and date and gently shake.
  3. Place in a cool, dark place, and shake daily (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks to 6 months.
  4. When ready to strain, pour through a fine mesh strainer, then press to extract as much goodness as you can from the roses.
  5. Transfer strained remedy to a clean, glass, labeled jar. Stored in a cool, dark place, tinctures will keep for at least 2 years, and in some cases indefinitely.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose Oxymel

We love oxymels. This sweet-and-sour mixture of vinegar and honey infuses different properties of the plant than a tincture or honey, and we love having the variety on hand. It’s also a nice alternative to the elixir for those who prefer alcohol-free remedies. Take by the spoonful or stir into water or carbonated water.

Using: whole blossoms with a few leaves

Instructions

  1. Process your roses and fill jar as above. Pour in raw, organic apple cider vinegar until the jar is 3/4 full. Add honey to fill to the shoulders.
  2. Lid with a nonreactive lid, or line your regular canning jar lid with a piece of waxed paper or a plastic bag. Label with remedy type and date and gently shake.
  3. Place in a cool, dark place, and shake daily (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks.
  4. When ready to strain, pour through a fine mesh strainer, then press to extract as much goodness as you can from the roses.
  5. Transfer strained remedy to a clean, glass, labeled jar. Stored in the refrigerator, oxymels will keep for at least 1 year.

 

What is your favorite wild rose remedy?

 

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Tincturing Solomon’s seal, and questioning what we really know

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal alliesTincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies-DSC_2742

Looking upon Solomon’s seal as a naturalist I would tell you that yes, I “knew” this plant.

I knew Solomon’s seal by sight, it’s common name, Latin name, habitat, and range. I knew how to distinguish it from false Solomon’s seal, whose latin name I had also memorized.

(Sidebar: Because the educator and naturalist in me will not die and I know at least one of you are wondering: true Solomon’s seals bears understated clusters of flowers beneath it’s elliptical leaves, versus false Solomon’s seal’s single showy terminal cluster, above similar leaves.)

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

I  first learned Solomon’s seal in a college Plant Taxonomy class. This was my first favorite class since the high school art room, and I credit it (and my instructor there) for helping redirect my life’s path.

I spent hours after class in the herbarium, the city spilling out beyond our windows; me, thumbing through page after page of glorious dried plants, lost in the bliss of taxonomy and botany, amidst a sea of pavement and glass.

I ached for nature.

I remember my instructor looking up from his grading one day and asking thoughtfully, “Why are you here?”

I knew he didn’t mean in the lab, I was always there. But in that city; at that college. And I didn’t really have an answer. He told me then about the college that I ended up transferring to the very next year, one with a College of Natural Resources and an Environmental Education program; a college made for plant geeks like me.

But I digress.

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

Back to Solomon’s seal. And what it really means to know.

With plants, I am realizing, knowing comes with time, with experience, with history. Knowing means learning much more than what is offered in a basic botany class. It springs from curiosity, intuition, and an open heart. It is rooted in our honoring of the past, humility in our present, and curiosity and passion leading us into the future.

For me, it comes from sitting with the plants, and sitting with myself.

And so truly, I do not know Solomon’s seal, though I do hope to someday.

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

But let’s dig in anyway. Just to get us started, here a few more things that I do know, (about Solomon’s seal as a medicinal plant, that is):

Solomon’s seal has a long history of medicinal use, specially by First Nations peoples in the Eastern half of North America, dating back countless generations. These are the herbalists who knew and who know Solomon’s seal, deep within their very bones.

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

It’s an apt analogy, as bones are one place that Solomon’s seal is a powerful herbal ally.

The nodular, white rhizome even looks something like a bone. (This commonality between a plant’s appearance and it’s medical usefulness is known as the “doctrine of signatures”.)

Solomon’s seal is used to treat injuries and inflammation of ligaments, tendons, bones and joints.

I’ve felt pulled to dig some for many weeks, after noticing it more and more in my neighborhood while I simultaneously navigated my first (and hopefully last) bout of plantar fasciitis. I finally decided that now was the time (despite early spring or late fall being a more proper time for digging most roots).

I found a plant that felt willing to share a length of rhizome with me, then using what I learned from Jim McDonald’s work, I felt around in the soil with my bare hands to determine where last year’s plant had grown. This was the place to dig, to prevent damaging this year’s plant or next year’s growth.

Because, as it turns out, when we learn just a little more before racing out the door; when we pause before we dig, as it were, we can lessen our impact.

I like that notion very much.

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

After a profound amount of scratching about in the soil–and with earth clear up to my armpits–I came home with a small section of the largest Solomon’s seal rhizome I had ever seen. (They’re normally the size of a pinkie finger. This one was more like the meat on a chicken leg.) Within minutes of emerging from the earth, it was washed, grated, and ready to be tinctured.

This little mason jar will sit patiently in my herb cabinet for the next 3 to 6 months, and I will shake it gently every day that I remember it is there. Then it will be ready to strain and use.

I will make more Solomon’s seal tincture in the fall, when the time is more suitable for digging, but for me, right now, this is enough.

This exercise in listening and learning and getting my hands into the earth… that’s my path toward knowing.

A path I am grateful to be on.

Perhaps someday this is a plant that I, too, will know.

* * * This seems an appropriate place to mention that Jim McDonald, the herbalist mentioned above from whose work I first discovered Solomon’s seal has suffered a huge health crisis. If you have the means to support the Kickstarter set up for him and his family, please do so. Many thanks. You can find it here. * * * 

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

Too much of a good thing?

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There is a distinct possibility that I pushed myself a tiny bit too hard this weekend.

But I woke on Saturday feeling good (really good!) for the first time in more than two weeks. No vertigo, scant dizziness, and a clearness in my head, heart, and limbs that I haven’t felt for a while.

I couldn’t stop myself.

There were adventures to have and plants to find and roots to dig and remedies to make and a caterpillar house to set up and… you get the idea. I was alone for the weekend as well, a rare event indeed, while Pete and the kids were off on an adventure and I was in charge of farm and pets and home.

Mostly, I stayed home to rest. Which promptly went out the window at 6:45 AM on Saturday, when I set out, foraging basket in hand.

And what a morning!

I made wild rose flower essence, Solomon’s seal root tincture, and so, so much more. Partway through the day, though, and after a flurry of activity, I had to pull the brake.

On account of my overzealous day, the dizziness and brain fog had returned with gusto. I felt much like I had in the weeks before, and took it easy for the rest of the weekend to further recuperate. Darn.

Or, to quote Lupine: “So you felt good and decided to overexert yourself?”

Something like that.

But the vibration of all that goodness on Saturday morning was enough to carry me right through until Sunday. A day that I spent, a mug of nettle tea in hand, finalizing the very last round of book edits! One step closer!

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Today? I’m still feeling ‘meh’ but that’s making me think die-off, which makes me thing this might have been the right path after all.

Or maybe it’s just my gut flora dying and my brain not knowing what to make of it.

Either way I’ll be back here later this week, sharing some of the projects I was working on this weekend. After the fog clears!

Until then, never mind my spelling (it always goes to heck when I have Lyme), and I’ll see you soon.

Love,

Rachel