10 tips for self-care during times of need

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Navigating Lyme once again has given me a wonderful opportunity to practice some good, old-fashioned self-care. (You can’t keep this Pollyanna down. Silver linings abound, I say.)

And whether you’re on a month-long course of antibiotics or just feeling a bit under-the-weather, the suggestions below will surely boost your health, energy, and general wellbeing.

But these tips don’t just serve us during a time of physical struggle. Many are helpful when your crisis is emotional or spiritual as well.

All herbal recipes mentioned below can be found at the bottom of the post. Won’t you join me by making some to nourish yourself or your dear ones?

(A few afflinks follow.)

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1. Slow down

During times of physical, emotional, or spiritual stress the first step in self-care is to slow down.

This pause allows us time to turn inward and restore ourselves in whatever way feels best.

Since beginning my Lyme treatment, I’m putting slowing down first. I’m doing only what I need to do and giving myself a pass on the big projects that were on my plate for this week and next. That wallpaper stripping project and planting out a few more garden starts, and drying another two gallons of nettle and horsetail and catnip? They can wait. And saying “no” to things that pop up on my calendar while I really need to heal? I give myself permission to take a pass.

Instead, I am making space for smaller, more nourishing projects that are a balm for body or heart. Harvesting some catnip here, making a motherwort tincture there, and spending a little extra time with my knitting. It’s soul medicine.

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More than just doing less, I’m also prioritizing sleep. A daily nap when my body begs for rest; going to bed earlier in the evening when my body asks for sleep once more. And while I am fortunate enough to never have to wake with an alarm, it feels that much more nourishing these days to sleep until I am rested. Make space however you can for better sleep.

2. Magnesium epsom soak

Soaking in a hot bath with 2 cups of epsom salts is a wonder for body and spirit. Some claim detoxifying properties of this simple soak. At the very least it dissolves muscle tension and deeply relaxes us to our very essence.

This is the kind that I buy, but honestly – epsom salts are epsom salts. Pro tip: If you pick yours up locally, be sure you’re getting unscented, as some are treated with synthetic fragrance oils, and that’s not going to help with anything.

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3. Stay hydrated

Whether with good, fresh water, herbal teas, or other deeply nourishing drinks, stay hydrated. Your body and mind will function and feel better. Keep a water bottle on your nightstand, and sip soothing herbs like tulsi, lemon balm, and elderflower throughout the day.

If you are experiencing grief, rose flower infusions with lemon balm can be very soothing. For agitation or anxiety, see how your body responds to catnip and chamomile. Limit caffeine and other stimulants which can exacerbate stress during illness or periods of unrest. 

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

4. Nourish with nettle

When I feel well and when I feel down, I make a habit of drinking a quart of nettle infusion per day. (My how-to/recipe is at the bottom of the post). Honestly, I can’t say enough about this deeply nourishing habit. Be sure to steep your nettle infusion overnight to extract the most goodness possible from your herbs.

I harvest and dry my own nettle, but if you don’t have a local source to forage, by all means purchase some.

Though often maligned, nettle is, perhaps, my very favorite herb. To know her is to love her, in my opinion.

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

5. Support your immune system

During times of physical or emotional stress, be sure to give your immune system some love. Elderberry is our family’s favorite immune supporting herb, and can be taken to prevent (ie: before) an illness, as well as during and after. Gummies (like those pictured above) are an easy way to enjoy them at any age, but a homemade tincture is even easier. (My tincture recipe is here.)

Another preventative we adore is astragalus, while echinacea is ideal during an acute sickness. Medicinal mushrooms like rishi and chaga, and the lichen usnea (old man’s beard) are also on our immune allies list.

Research these herbs to see if they are a match for you and your own family.

6. Herbal tonics

We make a habit of herbal tonics (or oxymels) over here. Oxymels are tasty medicine, made without alcohol by macerating herbs in vinegar and mixing with honey. Deeply nourishing, I find they are just what I need when my body feels taxed.

Customize your tonic to suit your family’s needs, your own herbal allies, or the plant medicine you can grow yourself or source locally. My recipe is below.

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

7. Liver support

Because I am taking antibiotics, I want to support my liver that it detoxing my body from all the Lyme die-off debris. My liver needs love! Yours probably does too, even if you’re not taking meds. Truly, our livers work hard and do such important work for our bodies. A little herbal support can go a long way toward overall health.

If you’ve never made a tincture before, this is a fine place to start. Made with just four herbs plus alcohol for extraction, it’s a cinch to put together. But plan ahead–tinctures need to steep for a minimum of 6 weeks, with 6 months being even better.

Make it now, so you’ll have it when you need it.

8. Probiotics supplements

My daughter asked me what “antibiotics” meant. I had her break the word down. “Anti-life?!” she asked, incredulous. Never fear! We’re adding plenty of probiotics to the mix as well.

Our integrated medical doctor strongly encourages us to take these probiotics while on doxy or other antibiotics. And so we do. They are insanely expensive, but the really seem to help. Ask for a probiotic recommendation at your local coop or natural foods store or from your holistic health care provider.

9. Feed your flora and soothe your gut

Find nourishment in satisfying, nutrient-dense, gut-soothing bone broth. Stir in a spoonful of miso for added nutrition and healthy bacteria. Homemade bone broth supports overall health, is easy to digest, and loaded with the nutrients your taxed system needs. For more gut-soothing, sip gentle herbal teas like licorice root, tulsi, and peppermint.

Gut flora take a beating when we take antibiotics and other prescriptions. And it takes a long time to recover what was lost. To feed your gut flora, homemade probiotic lacto-fermented vegetables are key. We eat them at every meal regardless of there being an acute healing opportunity at hand. And unlike the probiotics linked to above, they cost almost nothing to make. All you need is a cabbage and some salt to be on your way! (Here’s a recipe sharing how.) Currently I’m making a batch of gingered carrots and a cabbage-and-nettle kraut. I can’t wait to dig in on both batches!

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

10. Trust

Finally, find trust. Trust your body, your inner wisdom, your capacity for healing, and your path. Because therein lies the real magic of finding your center once more.

 

The Recipes

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Nourishing Nettle Infusion

As I mentioned above, I drink this nearly every day. Putting together a batch each evening is my nightly ritual, and I’m always disappointed when I forget. My body craves this, and my daughter loves to drink it too.

Yield: 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried nettle leaf
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger root, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 3 tbsp dried peppermint (optional)
  • 1 quart of water

Instructions

  1. Place nettle, ginger, and peppermint in a clean quart-sized mason jar.
  2. Bring water to a boil, then add a small amount to the jar to gently warm the glass and prevent breakage. Loosely cover and allow the steam to warm the jar to the top.
  3. When the jar is warmed, fill with freshly boiled water and loosely cover again.
  4. Allow to steep for 6 to 12 hours. I normally infuse mine overnight.
  5. After steeping, pour infusion through a fine mesh strainer. Compost solids and enjoy your infusion cold or at room temperature.

Drink one quart (or more) of nettle infusion daily for adults and up to a pint for children.

Storage

Nettle infusion will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Discard if it becomes sour, or better yet use to water your garden or houseplants. (It’s their ideal food, too!)

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Herbal Oxymel

Plants are eager to give up their minerals to vinegar, creating rich, nutrient-dense tonics for us to enjoy. We’ll make this tonic as an oxymel, or vinegar-and-honey extraction. Delicious and nourishing. The herbs used here are infinitely flexible. Anything mineral-rich will do!

Take daily as a mineral-rich tonic.

Yield: approximately 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup grated fresh beets
  • 2 cup wilted fresh nettle leaf, or 1 1/2 cups dried
  • 1 cup dried raspberry leaf
  • 1/2 cup dried oatstraw
  • 2 tbsp dried horsetail (optional)
  • Raw apple cider vinegar to cover
  • Raw honey

Instructions

  1. Place beets and herbs in a 1/2 gallon glass jar, or mix then divide between two quarts. Jars should be approximately 2/3 to 3/4 full.
  2. Fill jar with vinegar to the shoulders and gently stir.
  3. Cover with plastic lid or line metal lid with a piece of a plastic bag or waxed paper (as metal may corrode). Label jar with plant name and date.
  4. Place on a saucer in a dark cupboard for 3 to 4 weeks, shaking daily. (Add additional vinegar if needed to keep your plant material well submerged.)
  5. After 4 weeks strain your mixture by pouring through a fine mesh strainer. Squeeze or press with your hands to extract all the liquid that you can. Compost solids.
  6. Measure the volume of liquid extracted, and add 1/2 the amount of honey that you have vinegar extraction (1/2 cup of honey per cup of vinegar extraction). Stir gently to combine.
  7. Transfer your oxymel to a clean glass jar or bottle, lid and label. Store in the refrigerator for up to one year.

To use: Adults take 1 to 2 tbsp daily or as desired; children take 1 to 2 tsp. Stir into water, or–better yet–use as a salad dressing, drizzle on cooked greens, or try it as a simple sweet-and-sour soda syrup.

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Liver Support Tincture

This tincture has become a standard in my home apothecary. You will notice it is made with 100 proof alcohol, not my usual 80 proof. (The irony of making a liver support formula with such potent booze is not lost on me.) This is because milk thistle is particularly difficult to extract and requires a stronger solvent.

Yield: ½ pint

Take daily to support healthy liver function.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp (.3 oz.) milk thistle seed
  • 2 tbsp (.07 oz.) nettle leaf
  • 1 tbsp (.28 oz.) Dandelion root
  • 1 tbsp (.20 oz.) yellow dock root
  • Approximately ¾ cup 100 proof vodka to cover (do not substitute 80 proof alcohol unless omitting the milk thistle)

Instructions

  • Combine herbs in a half-pint jar.
  • Pour alcohol over herbs, being sure to fully submerge all plants. (Don’t fret if some float to the surface.)
  • Cover with plastic lid or line metal lid with a piece of a plastic bag or waxed paper (as metal may corrode). Label jar with plant tincture name and date.
  • Shake daily for at least one week, then shake weekly (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks to 6 months.
  • Strain tincture through a fine mesh sieve or through a piece of cheesecloth, carefully squeezing as much liquid as you can from the herbs.
  • Transfer tincture to a clean glass jar or amber dropper bottles. Label and store in a cool dry place.
  • Keeps indefinitely.

Dosage: Adults may take 1 dropperful, one to two times per day.

Contraindications: Milk thistle and yellow dock may affect the function of several prescriptions medications types, including some allergy medications, some antipsychotic and seizure medications, and Coumadin, as well as general anesthetics. If you take prescription medications, check with your doctor before taking milk thistle to ensure safety.  Check with your midwife or doctor before using if you are pregnant or nursing.

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Big, big news (It’s a book!)

I’ve had a big project tucked away since this time last year, and I’m so thrilled to finally share it with all of you! (It’s been terribly hard to keep under wraps for so long.)

Last spring, shortly after I announced Green Magic Summer Camp, I was contacted by a publisher who wanted me to write and photograph a children’s book about herbs and herbal remedies. A book about wonderful weeds, homemade remedies, edible and medicinal plants, and so much more.

Needless to say, I jumped at the chance!

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

I spent much of last year out and about in the countryside near my home – foraging, dreaming up new recipes, and photographing ten of my favorite common edible and medicinal plants. (And dragging willing friends and family out into the fields and forests for photo shoots all season long.) And what fun we had.

The result was this: my first ever book. Pinch me!

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Honestly, I couldn’t be more delighted. The concept, the process, the plants, the recipes–everything! This project brought together my lifelong long love of the natural world and passion for photography with my current love affair with herbs, and my my skills as a writer, naturalist, and educator. It’s the book 10 year old me would have done cartwheels over. (And, as it turns out, 45 year old me as well.)

Herbal Adventures begins by providing kids and their families with safe foraging basics. Then we dig deeper, exploring ten safe, common, backyard plants. Many of which you and your kids will already recognize!

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Children get to know the plants through first-person introductions, then head outside to safely gather their own herbs for the recipes that follow. Or if you prefer, most recipes will accommodate purchased herbs as well if you’d like to skip the foraging and just get making.

Then snacks and drinks, oils and balms, sodas and syrups, and so much more are crafted with easy-to-follow instructions and recipes. I’ve even thrown some whimsical herbal crafts like flower crowns and seed bombs!

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Herbal Adventures is the perfect first-step for beginners–or next-step for children and parents who have already dabbled in herbs, but want to take their knowledge further using safe, local plants.

In essence: this is the book that I wished I had for my own kids (and myself!) not so long ago.

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Herbal Adventures is available for pre-order now!  (Release date in early December.) Or add your name to the email sign-up form below, then I’ll be sure to drop you a note when the book is released.

What a year this has been! And what a joy to put together this book for you and your kids. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Which brings me to one more thing. One very important thing that needs to be said:

Thank you.

Thank you for coming here to read my words, week after week, year after year, some of you since the bumpy beginnings back in 2009. Through your feedback and having someone to write for, I have found my voice and further discovered my passion for sharing these things that I love with the world. Without you this book truly would not exist.

You did that. And I’m profoundly grateful.

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Herbal Adventures includes:

  • Foraging safety and basics
  • Introduction to plant medicine
  • Field ID and uses for 10 common, safe, and easy-to-recognize backyard plants (chickweed, mullein, bee balm, plantain, nettle, catnip, dandelion, elder, yarrow, and pine)
  • Nearly 50 recipes for herbal snacks, syrups, teas, treats, balms, and more
  • 10 craft projects ranging from herbal seed bombs to fairy houses to natural dyes
  • Basic, adaptable recipes to use with other edible or medicinal herbs of your choosing

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

What fun I have had! And soon, so will you and your kids.

Big love,
Rachel

Herbalist Day/Birthday

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When I stumbled upon “Thank an Herbalist Day” earlier this week, and discovered that it fell on my birthday of all days, I was tickled. Because what better newish holiday to overlap with my birthday than this?

And though here in Wisconsin this year Herbalist Day/my birthday looks more like Winter Solstice, I’ll take it!

But enough about birthdays (psst… 45!). Let’s talk about herbs.

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Several of you have reached out to ask if I’ll be hosting another Women’s Herbal Retreat or Green Magic Summer Camp this year. And the short answer is: no. (Not yet anyway.) While I absolutely loved doing each and every retreat I have done so far, other projects have risen to the top and retreats are on hold until further notice. (More on that very soon. I promise!)

In the meantime, I’ve been expanding my own herbal knowledge, which feels fabulous. After months of research, I finally decided on where to study and signed up for a class with Herbal Academy (afflink). They offer classes at a variety of levels, from beginner to advanced, and the kids and I decided to study together as a part of our homeschool and my continuing education.

Herbal Academy is currently releasing a foraging and botany class that looks lovely, and speaks to skills many of you have asked me for tips to develop. (They have the class discounted today on account of Herbalist Day, so I thought I would mention it for those of you who were interested in furthering – or beginning – your study.)

Learning new things is, perhaps, the best part of growing older, don’t you think?

And with that, I have birthday goodness to get on with. We’re off to make pottery together, drink good coffee, and eat all manner of delicious foods – cooked by my favorite people.

Happy Herbalist Day, friends!

April colds

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We managed to get through most of the winter without a cold in sight, but then April happened. Sage and I are both feeling under the weather, though him more than me since I started tinctures earlier when he didn’t think he was getting sick.

Our days have been full of naps beside the fire, chicken soup, and copious mugs of hot toddies all day long. And tinctures, tinctures, tinctures.

If you’d like to know what we do to support our health during cold and flu season, I’ve posted a revised list over on the LüSa blog! You can find all of the juicy, tincture-y, brothy details here.

I’ve added a few things since I last shared it, including my recipe for a fever-taming tea, plus our favorite for cold season: pine needle decoction. Oh, how we love this simple (free!) remedy.

Moonlighting (and moon tea!)

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This is a post about tea, but also about blogging. Two things that frequently coexist in my world. The short story is that I have a brand new recipe to share with you – one for Women’s Moon Tea.

The long story is, well, longer. (As one might expect.)

The long version seems worth sharing however, so that those of you who’ve been around a while aren’t super confused by the increasingly complex list of URLs to my name.

You see, I’ve been doing some work on my business ownership skills (which, if I’m honest, could use some work). Because frankly, I’d rather be friends with everybody than market to them. It turns out that’s not necessarily the best business model.

So I signed up for a marketing class, and the first thing the instructor said was: focus your blog.

IE: Don’t blog about your kids, your dog, your month-long trip to Ireland. Blog about things that are relevant to your audience! Tighten it up. A lot.

Focus.

I do not focus well.

Nor, if I’m honest, do I really want to. I want to come here and tell you about our latest discovery in the woods beyond the creek, or what we’re whipping up in the kitchen. I want to talk about how fast my kids are growing or the sudden abundance of chainmail, plate armor, and foam swords in my house. And so I’m going to. Forever and ever, end of discussion.

Focus schmocus. 

Humph.

But at the same time, are those things relevant to most of my LüSa customers? The original target audience of this blog, way back nearly a decade ago? Um, probably not. In truth, they might not want to see my messy kitchen. It might frighten them, and I can’t say I blame them.

But other things are relevant and interesting to them – things that are equally fun to write about.

Including some things that I don’t often write about here because I’m not sure they’re relevant to you.

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So with some degree of internal conflict, I made the decision to split my blog into two.

One, the CLEAN you know and love and have since way back in 2009 when this ride began – the messy house, homeschooling, sriracha recipe, imperfection blog – the blog you are reading right this hot minute. And a second one, a focused one, with tips and tricks for a happy, healthy family.

Things like DIY herbal remedies, 1000 uses for apple cider vinegar, and yes, more LüSa than I normally share here.

In short, I’m doubling down.

It’s about offering you more, not less. On two different platforms.

The new blog is the official LüSa Organics Blog (as the name reflects), while this one is the official Rachel Wolf blog (if that is an “official” sort of thing). And while there will be some minor overlap, my hope is that you’ll be a good sport and follow both, as my posts will be divided between these two homes on the interwebs.

Whew. That seems unnecessarily confusing, but really, it shouldn’t be too much to digest.

In short: forget about my old blog and follow my two new blogs! Easy peasy, right? Right.

And with that, let’s get on with the Moon Tea! A shiny new recipe over on my shiny new blog. Pop over, sign up for emails, and get busy brewing up some tea.

Thanks for sticking with me, friends!

Hugs,

Rachel

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Chaga Medicine

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I’ve had a knob of chaga (Inonotus obliquus) languishing in my herb cabinet since last fall, when my sister and I foraged a chunk for each of us near Lake Superior.

Chaga, a native fungi that is tops at boosting immune function and reducing inflammation, has long been a go-to for me. Yet despite it growing in abundance throughout Wisconsin, I had yet to forage my own. I’d been looking for it in my woods and on my parent’s land in northern Wisconsin, but had yet to find any that was growing on a live tree within my arm’s reach.

Even if you’re not the medicine-making type, chaga may have worked its way into your healthy lifestyle habits  in recent years, as “mushroom coffee” and “mushroom tea” seem to be a thing in healthy circles.

And just like so many things you find in your favorite box of herbal tea, I find that homemade is fresher, more vibrant, and yes, even more healing than it’s boughten counterparts.

So homemade chaga extract was near the top of my list for remedies to craft at home.

THE TRICK TO MAKING YOUR OWN?

Double extraction.

(It’s not as complicated as it sounds!)

Chaga (and other fungi) are interesting additions to medicine making, in that some of the medicinal components are alcohol-soluble (think: tinctures), while others are water soluble (think: bone broth, tea or decoctions).

So while tossing a chunk in my nettle cha or adding a knob to my bone broth was good, a double extraction was so much better.

The instructions below are suitable for chaga and other medicinal mushrooms. Try rishi, shitake, turkey tail, or whatever mushroom is your favorite. And feel confident than your homemade mushroom extraction will be far more potent and useful than anything you can buy in capsules at the store.

HOW TO MAKE A CHAGA DOUBLE EXTRACTION

Making your own double-extraction is easier than you might think! I’ve demystified it below, with three simple steps. In step 1 you literally put the chaga in a jar and cover it with alcohol; in phase 2 you simmer the same mushrooms in water; and in step 3 you bottle.

REALLY! IT’S THAT EASY.

All of the details follow.

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PHASE 1: TINCTURE

  1. Remove any stray bits of tree bark from your chaga. Break the mushroom into small pieces, between the size of a pea and a large cherry tomato.
  2. Fill your jar halfway with mushroom pieces, then cover with 80 to 100 proof alcohol. (I prefer high quality brandy for my tinctures, but use what you have. Any  mild-flavored alcohol that is 80 proof or higher will suffice.
  3. Line a jar lid with with waxed paper or a small plastic bag (to prevent corrosion) and label.
  4. Place in an out-of-the-way corner of your kitchen (out of direct sunlight) for 1 to 3 months, shaking gently whenever you think of it.
  5. After your tincturing period is complete, strain your infusion through a cheesecloth-lined colander, reserving the liquid in one jar and the chaga in your strainer.

20180225-DSC_8234PHASE 2: DECOCTION

  1. Transfer the same mushrooms to a medium-sized glass or stainless steel cooking pot. Place 2 quarts of water in the pot for every pint of tincture you infused. (My example pictured here was made in a pint jar, so I added 1/2 gallon of water.)
  2. Add the chaga that you previously tinctured, then insert a skewer into the pot and make a pencil line where the water level is. Make a second pencil line 3/4 of the way down the stick. (You will use this stick to determine when you have simmered off enough water.)
  3. Bring pot to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently for for two or more hours, or until liquid has reduced by approximately 3/4, bringing the water level down to your second pencil line. (If you accidentally simmer away too much liquid, you my add more to bring it back up to the appropriate amount.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, then strain through a cloth-lined strainer.

PHASE 3: COMBINE AND BOTTLE

  1. Combine your tincture and decoction, then transfer and bottle. You’re double-extraction is complete!

LEARN MORE ABOUT MAKING YOUR OWN REMEDIES IN MY DIY HERBAL REMEDY MAKING ARCHIVES!

Edited to add: if you can’t forage your own chaga, you can always purchase it locally from a forager or herbalist in your neighborhood, or buy online. (afflink)

Make your own DIY chaga mushroom extract at home. Simple to make, chaga extraction is easy homemade medicine for immune support.

Making bitters

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Lupine and I spent the morning prepping two small, personalized batches of digestive bitters. We enjoy drinking them in either carbonated or still water before meals, boosting our digestion and giving us something to sip on while we cook. I've been dealing with some persistent eczema since fall, and I'm certain that better digestion will be key to healing that from the inside out.

If you're looking for inspiration for crafting your own bitters, our ingredients lists (sans quantities, since we measured nothing!) is below. Mine also contained a pinch of dried elecampane root that I neglected to add to the list.

I suppose this can also serve is a working demonstration of what unschooling or interest-led learning looks like, since the whole project was learning-by-doing, and as a bonus Lupine decided this was the opportunity she's been waiting for to practice her cursive. (She asked me to practice mine, too, and I happily obliged.)

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If you need more than this rough list, my basic how-to can be found in Taproot WEAVE (along with the knitting patter for the green and purple hats that several of you asked about from my Instagram over the past week or so). That issue is almost sold out though, so don't wait if it's on your wish list! 

Edited to add: Taproot WEAVE sold out in a hurry. If you're looking for another resource for DIY bitters, this book looks promising! (Afflink.)

 

 

What magic is happening in your kitchen this week?

 

After the retreat

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I'm never sure how to properly sum up a weekend like the one that just came to a close. Because so much unfolds in such a short space of time – where can I even begin?

Planning and preparations melt into excitement and nerves, which soon give way to ease as friendships begin and connections are made. Stories are told, experiences are shared, and strangers quickly become friends. 

And then, as suddenly as it began our time together came to a close.

If pressed, I would sum up our weekend like so: nourishment and rest, connection and conversation, tears and laughter, learning and play, refilling and recharging. 

Our group was a just right mix of (brave!) introverts and at ease extroverts, all learning and sharing side-by-side. A community of women coming together from places as far flung as California, Colorado and Indiana; and from all corners of Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

The weekend began with a bang and a crash when a pair of spruce trees came down in a fierce storm, blocking the driveway but sparing our cars by just a few feet. Once that excitement passed the relaxed weekend energy unfolded and everyone found ample time to craft and make art, relax by the fire, eat glorious food, explore the Northwoods and the lake shore, and – of course – learn about and make herbal remedies. 

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I am so grateful to share the weekend with this amazing community of women. Fifteen joined me here (fourteen pictured above, on account of an early flight), and I daresay many new friendships were forged.

My summary? 100 belly laughs, 15 brave women, over a dozen herbal recipes, 9 organic meals, 4 glorious days, 1 beautiful barn, and 1 big lake.

And what a wonderful weekend it was! 

Thanks for this wonderful few days, ladies. You are beautiful souls – each and every one. 

 

 

Autumn Herbal Retreat

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Since returning from Ireland I've been busily preparing for the upcoming Women's Herbal Retreat. Compiling recipes, filling boxes with herbs, jars, and supplies, and generally getting excited about the long weekend to come. 

In just over a week I'll be gathering with a wonderful group of women for four days of cup-refilling and medicine making in the north woods, with Lake Superior spinning her magic literally just outside our door. 

Counting Green Magic Summer Camp, this will be my fourth retreat. And I have so enjoyed each and every one! The community, the sharing of wisdom, the laughter, the food… it's hard to choose a favorite part of these long weekends together. A passion for making remedies and life-long friendships have taken root at these gatherings, and I'm honored for the part I have been able to play.

I don't have any more retreats planned at the moment, so if you've been holding off now would be a great time to join us. (There is just one bed remaining!) Details follow. 

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Included in your retreat:

  • 3 nights lodging at the beautiful Lake Superior Barn, all linens provided
  • Home-cooked, organic meals and snacks
  • Guided plant walk
  • Hiking trails through 300 acres of private forest and the Lake Superior shoreline
  • Outdoor wood-fired hot tub, sauna, and campfire circle (weather permitting)
  • Relaxed, casual classes to learn about and handcraft herbal medicines
  • Herbs, ingredients, and packaging for the remedies you will create and bring home
  • Recipes and instructions to make the remedies again

Though food and beverages will be included in your stay, alcohol is not provided. However we invite you to bring along a favorite bottle of wine to enjoy in the evening around the fire!

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Location:

We will gather together near Maple, WI on the shores of Lake Superior. The Barn will be our home for the weekend, providing ample space for classes, meals, and relaxing. 

The Barn is approximately 1 hour from Duluth, 3 hours from Minneapolis, and 5 hours from Madison. If you will be flying to the retreat please email me and we will arrange affordable transportation from Duluth International Airport to the Barn on Thursday and a return trip on Sunday.  

Meals:

Meals will be simple, nourishing, and home-cooked. Most ingredients will be organic and many will be local. Some will even be herbal! If you have special dietary restrictions do let us know and we'll do our best to accommodate.

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Activities:

Our schedule is relaxed, providing plenty of time to hike in the woods, sit by the fire, or soak in the bath. Be sure to bring your walking shoes, outdoor clothing, and any handwork projects you enjoy like knitting, sketching, or journalling.

And – of course – we will have ample time to learn about herbs.

Each day (Friday through Sunday) we will explore herbs and making remedies. These sessions are designed with beginners and advanced beginners in mind. Don't be deterred if you have limited experience working with herbs! Weather permitting we'll also take a guided plant walk, exploring the woods and field for medicinal plants. 

At the end of the retreat each participant will bring home a collection of their own hand-crafted remedies including tinctures, teas, syrups, salves, oils, and more. (Pictured below is most of what each participant created and took home from the Spring 2017 gathering.)

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Arrival and Departure:

Arrive on Thursday October 26 between 5:30 and 6 PM. Depart on Sunday October 29 by 1 PM.

Accommodations:

There are four different room options for your stay. (The more affordable options tend to sell out most quickly, so don't delay if that is your preference!)

TS: Twin bed in shared bunk room (five guests per room): $675 per person (one bed remaining)

QB: Queen-sized bed in shared bunk room (five guests per room): $700 per person sold out!

QD: Private room, queen sized-bed, double occupancy: $750 per person sold out!

QS: Private room, queen sized bed, single occupancy: $925 per person sold out!

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About your hosts: 

Rachel Wolf has a background in Environmental Education and spent her career-before-motherhood working with children and adults both in the classroom and out in the natural world. More recently Rachel's time has been divided between interest-led homeschooling her two kids, freelance writing about herbs and plant remedies, and running her herbal body care company, LüSa Organics. Rachel is a passionate teacher who delights in making topics accessible to a wide age range and hands-on learning is her specialty.

After a decade owning her own business, Kate Zomboracz is finally willing to admit she is, in fact, a cook.  Her devotion to local, organic food came from a strong environmental ethic developed while studying philosophy, environmental biology & sustainable agriculture and has evolved into her family's Community Supported Kitchen.  She works, lives and learns side by side with her three (wild and free) kids and husband.

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How to Register:

Registration is now open! If you are interested in joining us, please RSVP via email at your earliest convenience. 

As we anticipate all of our slots filling quickly, please reply with your first choice bunk option and any acceptable second choices using the codes above (TS, QB, QD, QS).

50% of payment is due at time of registration, with the remaining 50% is due on October 1. Registration is non-refundable but we'll certainly do our best to fill your spot if life gets messy and you find you can't make it.

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Some words from past retreat participants:

"This retreat was everything I dreamed it would be and more. Because how often do your dreams become reality? Rachel's warm and gentle spirit permeated the whole experience. Her wisdom is priceless. We shared an amazing fellowship, phenomenal food, and learned lifelong skills as well as took away a remarkable amount of herbal remedies! So grateful for the experience and cannot wait to do it again!"

and…

"The herbal retreat was incredibly relaxing and fulfilling and the food provided was amazing, wholesome, and nourishing. The herbal information provided was invaluable. This is the information your grandmother and mother would have given you centuries ago, but here you are, in a company of beautiful women, learning it midway through life. It is wonderful, uplifting, freeing, and will forever be in your heart and mind."

 

Green Magic Summer Camp

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Last weekend, Lupine and I gathered with a delightful group of 21 parents and kids for four days of crafting, play, and medicine-making. 

And what fun we had!

Over the course of the weekend these 10 moms and 11 kids hiked together in the woods, did copious amounts of crafting, forged new friendships, and explored 9 common backyard plants. Then each family learned how to make salves, syrups, tinctures, and more – and brought home more than a dozen new remedies, made by their own hands. 

The kids, ranging in age from 6 to 13, didn't miss a beat in connecting and sharing with one another, regardless of age. Coming from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and even North Carolina, there was much of that new-friendship magic unfolding throughout the weekend as the kids (and parents) got to know one another better with each passing day.

Before we knew it our remedy and craft project stashes were adding up, and our weekend together was drawing to a close. By the time Sunday rolled around addresses and pen pal promises were exchanged and enthusiastic goodbye hugs were given.

And while I came home profoundly tired, I also returned profoundly grateful.

Grateful for these 21 beautiful souls that I was honored to share and connect with for four wonderful days in the woods. Grateful for their passion, curiosity, and willingness to try something new. Grateful that these kids (and their moms) are going home just a little more confident and a little more aware of all that plants can do.

And grateful that Lupine and I got to play along, too.

Green magic indeed.

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