muck, mud, swamps and the primordial ooze.

recently i spent some time looking for a home. and let me tell ya, those realtors sure do downplay the muck that exists. “oh, don’t worry you can fill that shit in, honey.”

NO! give me muck! i love it! i live for muck. no, really.

jewel

cause have you all seen what springs forth from the primordial ooze?

have you seen the jewel of a lotus bloom from the muddy depths?

is it not a blazing freaking neon metaphor for life, the magical beautiful flower coming up from the sludge of muck to bloom and grow and bloom and make seeds and make friends and bloom and bloom and bloom? and then to give back to the cycle….

and is the miracle not fleeting, and a statement on life and US and our whole “human” deal?

muckity-muck!

sometimes the joy is not as obvious and easy as we would like it to be. sometimes the joy doesn’t look like a better homes and gardens centerfold.

bonjour, little frog

but isn’t life worth getting muddy for? isn’t it worthwhile to roll up your damn pants and dig in, to find some soothing scullcap or some delicious calamus root or some queenly angelica? to hear the song of the ancient  bullfrogs and see the buzzing  blue dragonflies? to enjoy the swoops of bats flying and the slithers of snakes crawling?

did i mention “muck” yet?

i do believe that good things come to those who are not afraid to get a little mud on their outift, literally and figuratively, and even better things come to those who ARE afraid but do it anyway. and if there is nothing else i contribute to this paved-over wetland of an earth which i so love, i would like this one point to be chiseled on my gravestone while i slowly turn back into the swamp from which i came:

all things which are good and beautiful in this world owe their existence to the mysterious, the muddy, the dark, and the sludge in some way, shape or form.

what is reflects what can be.

emotional toolbox for the care and maintenance of the rare wild spotted herbalist.

10. Powers of Observation: One can read every single book in the universe. All the best herbal authors can line your shelves, next to brilliantly, straightly labeled jars and a big ol’ framed degree. It is all meaningless if you can’t or won’t observe your surroundings. You don’t necessarily have to spend hours gazing at seeds sprouting, flowers opening, leaves blowing in the breeze and honeybees flying from one flower to the next in a field of motherwort, though that does sound like fun. But looking holistically at people, animals, plants and ecosystems will go a long way towards making you an effective healer and that means opening up all your senses and rising to the challenge of observation.

9. Vision: Vision is the opposite of observation. It is the inward side of the seer’s two-part system. Vision involves dreams, sleeping or waking, as well as making connections. Sometimes there is more than one level of what is, and we can peel the onion of reality in our minds, observing each one as we go. And sometimes we must eat the blooming onion of reality deep fried at a carnival.

8. Perspective: The ability to take a step back is a gift when we are overly involved in any given situation. Perspective helps us to see another side, another way. Perspective tells us that though it rained on our parade, some other  folks just got their shanty town washed into the ocean or lost ¾ of their family to a volcanic eruption. Think it through! perspective reminds us that we are all privileged to varying degrees and we must carry thankfulness with us at all times, lest we find a bedfellow in self-pity.

7. Curiousity: Without the desire to continue learning the herbalist is as good as dead. Taste everything. Smell everything. Listen to the birds frolic and goddammit, do a little frolicking of your own while you still can.

6. Self-reflection: Asking questions is good. am I doing the best I can? Where do I need to improve? How may I best serve others? Is that my goal here? What is my goal? A favorite reflective practice of mine is a good long walk to sort things out in my heart and head. Some people write, others pray. But some folks get just as much reflection done  while lying in a hammock drinking a beer. Find out what works for you, and make a point of doing it.

5. Alliances: Forming alliances with others of like mind and heart provides much support in the unusual path we have chosen. It also gives us the opportunity to teach, give back to and support others. We take our place in the ancient cycle of healers. Even if you don’t like other people it helps to respect their humanity. And practically, sometimes you just have way more rose petals, maitakes  or catnip than you need-spread the plant wealth.  Sharing information, bartering goods and services and giving trusted recommendations when we are unable to provide the needed healing are all bonuses of a good alliance. When we build a community of herbalists and healers who we respect and who respect us we build a beautiful house of refuge on a strong foundation.

4. Tolerance: When you open your doors one never knows just who might show up in need of help. Though it can be difficult, reserving judgement helps us to be more effective. (obviously,Take appropriate actions against those who are actively doing harm.) Acknowledge the  variations in race, class, gender, religion, national origin, sexuality and ability and extend your acceptance and ears. Love and respect to everyone.

3. Humility: So you have fixed some people up, gotten some good feedback and had a few articles published. Big whoop. Yes, you are awesome….and so are millions of other people. Remember, you are the humble servant of the plants and of the earth –who are using you to do their work. You still put your pants on one leg at a time. Congratulations, you worked hard! But you came from compost and to compost you shall return.

2. Sense of Humor:

“Humor brings us back down to earth, and reminds of our place in god’s universe”-James Martin. Bringing a sense of humor with us to every life event insures we bring truth. Humor is the spoonful of medicine that makes my medicine go down. Truth delivered with a side of humor has more healing potential than a thousand Echinacea tinctures. Laughter builds bridges, mends fences and opens up clogged drains. Healing takes place in body, mind and soul and humor has the ability to touch all 3.

1. Butter:  Self-care is important. Give yourself time to heal, a warm bath, a spritz of rosewater and a foot rub. And get yourself a good vice.  Whether you take a nip of brandy at sunset, want a little sugar in your bowl or feel like making love don’t think you have to be saint. In fact, I don’t trust anyone who has no vice at all….“Vice is its own reward” –Quentin Crisp

queen motha-wort

leonorus cardiaca. lion-hearted.

motherwort

a mint family plant with a big square hollow stem, bitter leaves, neat bright flowers and a lust for life. pollinators love motherwort.

motherwort

ladies love motherwort too, pms, menopause, menstrual woes–ease it all with motherwort. anxiety, palpitations, pain, cramps, tension and thyroid…motherwort! when everyhting goes ding!-ding!-ding! like you just won at pinball but you’re freaking out….yeah. motherwort.

all hail queen motherwort

if you are a bee you may make a visit. pay homeage to the church of motherwort.

vive la reine motherwort

if your heart is hurting you may find yourself looking for motherwort.

motherwort!

restore yourself with motherwort. internally, externally. leaf and flower. grow motherwort. make friends with motherwort. make tinctures and oils and dry the flowering tops. hail the queen of hearts, lionhearted motherwort, who grows in crappy soil and brings healing to us all.

hazardous weather outlook!

so. summer is arriving with a big ol’ pile of HOTT. yeah, baby. have you heard the warnings? DO NOT go outside! punishing heat! and my favorite-stay in an air-conditioned environment! cripes.

yes, it is going to be hot. yes, it will be humid. yes, we should take precautions against heatstroke, dehydration and spontaneous combustion. but can we take a freaking deep breath? can we stop the fear of sweating?  drink water, carry it with you. don’t jog at high noon. dress appropriately. wear a sun hat, seek shade. tie a wet hankie about your neck.

and here are some more fun natural ways to stay cool without running up huge electric bills, cutting ourselves off from the outdoors and FREAKING OUT!!

-make a nice spray to carry around with you. use hydrosols or brew a strong tea of rose, mint, cucumber or whatever cooling plants you prefer and spray your face and neck as you go about your day. keep one in the refrigerator to really freeze your ass off.

-how about some iced herbal infusion? mint again is supremely cooling. i also like peach leaves, roses, oatstraw, lemon basil, red clover, scullcap, lemon balm, tulsi  and linden.

-carry water with you in reusable bottles. you can add fresh lemons or mint sprigs, or try seltzer with a little bitters tincture or lavender elixir in it. i believe the shift in our society from free public water to the need to buy stupid bottled water is harmful to us all on many levels.

-carry a little tincture to cool and soothe yourself. again, the rose petals, lemon balm, most of the mints, all parts of peach and moistening milky oats can help you stay calm, moistened and cooled.

-use adaptogens, in general, to help your body adapt to stress well.  i like ashwaganda with milky oats and tulsi but there are many great options here and i suggest you find the right combo for you!

-limit coors light consumption during a heat wave–or at least counter all alcohol by drinking water.

-eat juicy fruits and cooling cucumbers, lettuces and fresh greens rather than donuts and doritos-loco tacos and put some spicy hot sauce all over everything.

-how about accepting sweat and mild discomfort as part of life? lay off the full-face makeup, use a little body powder to prevent chafing, and enjoy the lymphatic cleansing.  some  people pay good money for that!

WHAT WOULD DUCK DO?

additionally, and here is the wacky part, let us all  cultivate a little thankfulness. let’s see our incredible privilege to have abundant free water-so much so that we spray sidewalks with it, flush our crap away with it, use it to water vast chemical monocultures of hog feed. let’s thank and appreciate those who are sweating their asses off up on a roof, directing traffic, repairing our infrastructure,  driving school buses and farming. let’s sympathize with and aid those who are homeless and have no escape, no outlet to plug a fan into. let’s get to know our bodies and our ecosystem better, understand cycles and patterns. let’s stop paving every damn thing in sight! let’s bring back shade, plants  and water fountains in our cities. let’s stop fearing frizzy hair and a moist upper lip. we are alive and it’s awesome and goddamit let’s see and share the beauty in joy in life before it’s too late!

so, did you hear the one about the ragingly awesome flowers?

two flowers walk into a bar…

rose love

why did the flower cross the road?

beach legume

knock knock! who’s there? flowers!

makin’ bee barf

flower? i hardly know her!

hollyhock

who flowers on first?

roadside tansy

what do i look like, a flower?

yarrow

and then the flower says….

chicory

what is the sound of 2 flowers clapping?

st john’s wort

 

 

 

mullein!

mullein

i am a huge mullein fan. i love the biennial in every phase, i lvoe how it grows in the cracks, i love how it towers over me, waving it’s beautiful bright yellow flowers at pollinators and herbalists.

mullein

the lungs of the earth, mullein has no problem growing in the crappiest of soil, all along the highways where we have totally wrecked the ecosystem.

mullein

i use mullein for lung ailments, for coughs and colds, for muscle pain, slipped discs, knee pain. it is part of an immune tonic to move the lymph. the flowers address pain and help to resolve infections. i make tincture and oil, a whole plant salve, i dry it for later use in tea and baths. it is a plant i would never want to be without it.

mullein

however,  mullein is not a toilet paper. survivalist blogs and misguided herbalists call it “cowboy toilet paper”.

“the leaves make a wonderful alternative to carrying toilet paper with you in the woods”-desert bloom herbals

“the leaves of grandfather mullein may be used as cowboy toilet paper”-ezherbs.net

“the leaves are so soft, thick and velvety that until the invention of toilet paper it was considered to be nature;s best wipe”-debi pearl

oh, really? mullein is a fabulous counterirritant. i love it for that purpose. but whenever i harvest mullein leaves i am covered in an irritating rash. it itches like crazy! have you ever used mullein as toilet paper? do you have a vulva? try it. if you are going to write about herbs,you should try them first. yes, if you have a bionic ass, mullein leaves make great toilet paper. maybe if you are a dude mullein is fine. i do not know. but mullein absolutely has the ability to irritate the living hell out of your vulva and urethra. it is in the top 3 worst toilet papers i know of! #1: poison ivy. #2, thistles. #3! mullein!

but don’t take my word for it. try it.maybe you’re into that kinda thing. fine.

growing and making medicines with milky oats

I would love to share some photos and thoughts on the process of growing and making medicines with Milky Oats. That would be Avena sativa, for those of you who speak Latin! Avena means oat and sativa means cultivated, more or less.

Oats are an easy medicine to grow, an annual with a short growing season and quite hardy. The seed is cheap and easy to come by at feed stores or in bulk bins at the hippie market. I have also ordered a few pounds from Johnny’s. Sow the seed thickly as birds assume you are scattering it just for them! They sprout quickly but then spend quite a bit of time looking like grass, leading  passersby to wonder why you devoted so much of your precious garden space to tall grass. But wait! Here comes the oats! When the first little oaty dangles appear you can  be excited, but not so excited as to harvest. Oats aren’t like some plants where it is quite obvious when to harvest from 1/2 a mile away, with a big ol’ flashy flower, an enticing scent or a plump fruit. One must observe, and gently squeeze the little oat-seed-to-be, waiting for the miracle. One fine day the milky juice shall exude, and the bees buzz, and the birds sing. Houston, we have Milky Oats!!! The window of perfectness is small here– harvest immediately, and set to medicine making!

I like to strip off the milky seeds and tincture them right away. If I am near an electrical outlet, I will blend them up in my cuisinart. I make a lot of strong tincture, a little nice mellow brandy tincture for blending, and an elixir with vanilla beans and maple. I dry some of the oatstraw for a decoction or winter syrup, feed a lot to my chickens and use some for mulching in the garden. I also like to leave a small amount of the oat plants to go to seed and replant themselves.

Just note here: dried Oat seeds are NOT Milky Oats. They are Oatstraw, which is lovely just not the same thing.

Milky Oats act as a replenisher for the whole body, especially the nervous system. The keywords are nourishing, gently moistening, rebuilding. I think most people could use a little of this medicine, but specifically those dealing with exhaustion, depletion, addiction, cycles of stress and insomnia, dryness  and poor tension management. I blend it with Scullcap  for a relaxing evening tincture, with Rose for a heart healer, with Blue Vervain for muscle tension and/or high level of stress. Think of the Oats blowing in the breeze. Think of the strong horse running. Think of a cover crop for the garden of your heart. Fortifying your soil.

about to harvest!
fresh immature green seeds
a mess of oatseed
the milky phase is fun and fleeting
a different type of “blender sports”
now we wait.
milky oat elixir, close-up!