winter is wonderful!

IMG_5461IMG_5518IMG_5508IMG_5495IMG_5470aH, WINTER, time to huddle in front of the fire complaining about how life sucks, right? NO! Winter is a great time to get off your ass and go for a hike.
Hiking is 90% of my mental health care plan and I sure as heck won’t let a little thing like “one degree temperatures” stop me from being well. Attitude goes a long way–We are not victims of weather-we need to learn how to coexist with the earth and that means all of it. We don’t just get to live here when it is 70 degrees and sunny, people. We are here on earth every darn day from birth to death and we can take the opportunity to know all different types of weather.

Winter is beautiful. I hear folks say “everything is dead” but really that’s bullshit. Just because a plant isn’t flowering doesn’t make it dead. Are you dead when you are resting? And hey-what about lichens? ferns? mosses? sheepsorrel? evergreens? mullein? celandine? ajuga? garlic mustard? HELLO! You have to get down there on your hands and knees and look!
We have created highly unrealistic conditions indoors, with temperatures which do not in any way reflect the reality of life. The disconnect is shocking. I saw 2 different humans outdoors in pajamas yesterday. The high was like 7. I was cheerfully sweating in my thrift store coat and wool socks.

And I value a feeling of accomplishment. I value building character. I don;t wish to avoid discomfort at all costs, and I question how our culture constantly gives us messages that our comfort and convenience are more important than
our character! Additionally, we would benfit from feeling responsible for our own wellness, and both exercise and outdoors time contribute immensely to our well-being.
So my advice is get yourself appropriately dressed and motivate to get outside and move, check out the amazing ice and brilliant sky, keep moving and soak up a little sunshine. The best way to really feel grattitude for the warmth we have is to feel it deep down in your bones… coming in from the cold!

a different view of urban foraging: winter edition

"are you gonna eat that?"
“are you gonna eat that?”
hibiscus flowers
hibiscus flowers
galangal root
galangal root
smoked bluefish
smoked bluefish

As much as I love being outside in nature I enjoy a different type of foraging too. I like to go from one little market to another in my hometown (Providence!), usually on foot, pushing my rickety-ass little market cart and collecting treasures. That is what food is, treasure, worth its weight in gold really. Cause you can’t eat gold, baby, and food is devotion.  Food is my expression of love, my reason for gathering friends and family, my voice.

I like the so-called “ethnic” markets the best, the little places. I like the people, the stuff, the skills needed to find what I’m looking for–or didn’t  know I was looking for. I like the dust-covered monkey salves and knobby roots, the tiny dried fish and the salamis hanging from the ceiling. I like butchers that say “hey, mama” and buildings painted hot pink. I like mysterious pastes, stuffed peppers, tamales, boxes of dried peppers and stacks of tortillas.

I like chubby tomatillos, eryngium foetidum and the guy who effortlessly hacks up the whole roast pig with a butcher knife. i like chicken feet, i like live crabs and live ducklings in a box. chicory coffee, korean ginseng and slurpy noodles. i like old teapots and banana flowers and tubs of bean curd.

this satisfies my need to forage, my need to stock up and try new things. I just made a vat of recaito and a jar of curry paste. Bones are simmering with cinnamon, star anise, shallots and ginger for pho. nothing cures my cabin fever like good food, spicy, sweet, fun, healthy, delicious food made with love and a little adventure.

Ear infections: natural support


So, otitis media–the common ear infection. It is very common in children and not unusual in adults. It is the number one reason for antibiotics prescriptions in the US and costs 3-4 billion-yes, billion-dollars each year to treat in the us alone. WHY?

Ear infection with no complication can be easily treated at home by a caregiver. And the world of standard medicine is beginning to see this. Many studies have been done in the past 10 years or so. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics, a VERY conservative group, is suggesting the “watchful waiting” approach-where the parent keeps an eye on the child or on oneself in case of worsening while treating the illness at home. Wow!

WEb MD, a bastion of meds and alarm,  recommends using garlic/mullein ear oil at home. The New York Times says “Most cases of acute otitis media do not require antibiotocs”.  Harvard Medical School says “80% of children with acute ear infection will get better without antibiotics.” Well, then! maybe it’s time to stop the madness, eh?

I have personal experience with ear infections. All of my kids have had at least one. I myself am prone to ear troubles, and get an ear infection each winter. I also have dealt with  ruptured eardrums, which also usually resolve on their own.

I do not recommend an emergency room visit for ear infections. My personal opinion is, I don’t think a doctor’s visit is needed at all for an ear infection unless there is a secondary complication, an underlying condition or it goes on for more than 3-5 days.

So how does an herbalist Mama treat herself and her family? Lymphatics. Heat, rest, time. Good food. This is a situation where I will use an otc pain med. A few of the treatments I use:

1. Ear oils. If there is no rupture in the eardrum, a slightly warmed ear oil can be droppered into the ear. The gold standard is Mullein flower and garlic. Some folks like alder, willow, aspen or another anti-inflammatory. This should be done every few hours, cotton balls can be used in the outer ear to keep it al in there. You can make this oil yourself!

2. Heat. When my daughter told me she received ice for her ear pain at school I shuddered with horror. Heat is soothing, moving and brings pain relief. I use a hot water bottle but any kind of heating device can be used. Additonally, keep ears and head warm and dry. WEAR A HAT! even in the house if needed. Keep your neck warm too.

3.Pain management-contrary to popular opinion I am not against all otc medcines all the time. There is a time and a place for using acetaminophen or nsaids to reduce pain and inflammation.  I use them sparingly but ear infections can be shockingly painful. However, be sure not to mask pain altogether, we must know if the condition is getting better or worse, or if it is resolving itself.

4. Herbs-I use frequent high doses of lymphatics in tincture form such as Cleavers, Calendula flower, Violet leaf, Mullein leaf, Alder bark. My intention is to support the body’s natural healing process. In the case of a ruptured eardrum I used a more intense approach, with frequent high doses of  Alder,  fresh Echinacea root and 1 part Calendula flower alternated with a tincture of Elecampane root and  goldenrod. This is a short term protocol as it is quite drying. I love to use Monarda fistulosa here, and Propolis, Linden, California Poppy. I also like lymphatic massage, high doses of vitamins C and D, medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi and Maitake, simmered broths and soups with ginger and garlic and a drink of warm water or Elder flower tea  with raw honey and raw apple cider vinegar. I can’t say enough about supporting our own healing process with nutrition–cut out crap food, sugar, milk if needed and nourish yourself through the illness.

5. Movement-gentle exercise supports drainage and healing. While I do NOT recommend doing vigorous exercise with a severe ear infection due to balance issues I have found movement to be a great way to support healing. Do what works for you, but don’t automatically lay on the couch for days moaning “IIIIIIII’m DEEEEEAD!” if you can help it.

And, of course if the infection does not resolve with natural treatment there is no shame in getting some help. Antibiotics can help in severe or prolonged cases, and we must remember not to judge. It’s hardly a radical view to recommend this wait-and-see approach when the staid aap suggests it and many studies support it.  I strongly recommend taking basic responsibility for our own healing in non-emergency cases. I believe that to transform our ideas of healing we need to watch it happen! And to observe the body’s own healing power which is a truly wondrous thing. To have faith in our own abilities and to cultivate patience and observation skills. And, ultimately, to view the doctors and hospitals as AN option, not THE only option in dealing with our well-being.




wonderful *early 2014-update* apothecary inventory listing!

IMG_3984honeysuckle 003Dear lovely people,
What follows is the super-exciting list of all the lovelies in Fellow Workers Farm apothecary. Tincture of fresh plant “aboveground parts” in organic grain alcohol unless otherwise stated. If the listing is followed by a * there is a limited or very limited quantity. Tinctures made with “folk method” and tend to be strong.
How can you get some? Use my Local Harvest page(link at right)-anything here can be purchased under the “special order” listing. Use MEMO or e-mail to specify your special order. I can also take orders via e-mail at, I take paypal and I’m open to more creative options too-barter, worktrade, cash by passenger pigeon. ALL products are available on a sliding scale if needed! Just ask.
Tinctures are $10.00/1 oz, $16.00/2 oz or $30.00/4 oz, inquire about larger when available.

Agrimony, Agrimonia eupatorium, fresh pre-flowering leaf
Alder, Alnus glutinosa, freshly dried bark, cones, catkins
Angelica, Angelica archangelica, fresh root, dry root, seed, elixir
Anise hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, fresh flowering tops
Arnica, Arnica chamissonis, fresh flower
Artichoke, Cynara scolymus, fresh leaf
Aspen, Populus tremuloides, fresh bark and buds
Ashwaganda, Withania somnifera, dry root
Aster, New England, Aster novae-angliae, fresh flower
Barberry, Berberis vulgaris, fresh root and stem
Basil, Ocimum spp., fresh flowering tops of Italian basil, Mrs. Burns’ lemon, Thai, Tulsi(holy basil)-elixirs too!
Birch, sweet, Betula lenta, fresh bark and twig. tincture, oil, elixir
Blackberry, Rubus vilosus, fresh root
Black cherry, Prunus serotina, fresh bark, fresh flower elixir
Black Haw, Viburnum prunifolium, fresh bark
Blessed thistle, Cnicus benedictus,fresh flowering tops
Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, fresh root *
Blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium, fresh leaf
Blue Vervain, Verbena hastata, fresh flowering tops
Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum, fresh flowering tops
Burdock, Arctium lappa, fresh root

Cacao, raw paste from Heartblood
Calamus, Acorus calamus, fresh rhizome *
Calendula, C. officinalis, fresh flower, also in oil
California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica, fresh whole plant
Catnip, Nepeta cataria, fresh flowering tops
Celandine, Chelidonium majus, fresh whole plant with roots
Chaga, Inonotus obliquus, dry fruiting body
Chammomile, C. recutita, fresh flowers
Chickweed, Stellaria media, fresh whole plant
Cinnamon, C. aromaticum, dry bark
Cleavers, Galium aparine, fresh whole plant
Cloves, Eugenia Caryophyllus, dry bud *
Cramp bark, Viburnum opulus, fresh bark
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, fresh leaf
Cottonwood, Populus deltoides, fresh bud, fresh bark, also oil
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, fresh root, leaf, flower

Echincace, E. purpurea, fresh root
Elder, Sambucus nigra, fresh flower, berry
Elecampane, Inula helenium, fresh root
Evening primrose, Oenothera biennis, fresh flowers/tops
Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, dry seed, fresh whole flowering plant*

Ginger, Zingiber officinale, fresh organic root
Ghost pipe, Monotropa uniflora, fresh whole plant *
Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis and spp., fresh flowering tops, oil too
Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis, fresh root from cultivated sources *
Ground ivy, Glechoma hederacea, fresh flowering plant

Hawthorne, Crataegus spp., fresh flower/leaf, fresh berries
Heal-all/Self heal, Prunella vulgaris, fresh flowering tops
Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, fresh flower and buds
Horsetail, Equisetum arvense, fresh whole plant
Horse chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum, fresh husk, in witch hazel (external use) (temp.out of stock)
Hyssop, H. officinalis, fresh flowering tops
Jamaican Dogwood, Piscidia piscipula, dry bark
Japanese knotweed, Polygonum cuspidatum, fresh root *
Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum, fresh root
Juniper, J. communis, dry berry
Kava, Piper methysticum, dry root

Lady’s mantle, Alchemilla vulgaris, fresh flowering plant
Lavender, Lavendula angustifolia, fresh flower, also elixir
Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, fresh flowering plant, also elixir
Licorice, Glychrizza glabra, dry root
Linden, Tilia americana, fresh flowers and leaf
Lobelia, L. inflata, fresh plant in flower and seed, tincture or acetum

Magnolia, M. grandiflora, fresh bud*
Maitake, Grifola frondosa, fresh fruiting body
Marshmallow, Althea officinalis, fresh root
Meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria, fresh flowering tops
Milk thistle, Silybum marianum, dry seed
Milky oats, Avena sativa, fresh milky seed, elixir too!
Mimosa, Albizia julibrissin, fresh bark and flower*
Mint, Peppermint, mentha piperata, Poleo mint, Mountain mint, Pycnanthemum virginiana, fresh plant
Mitchella/Partridgeberry, Mitchella repens, fresh whole plant*
Monarda, M. fistulosa, bradburiana, didyma, citriodora, fresh flowering tops, elixir too!
Motherwort, Leonorus cardiaca, fresh flowering tops
Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, fresh flowering tops
Mullein, Verbascum thapsus, fresh root, flower, leaf
Myrrh, Commiphora mulmul, resin
Nettles, Urtica dioica, fresh young leaf, fresh seed
Orange peel, Citrus spp., fresh
Oregano, Origanum, fresh flowering tops
Oregon Grape, Mahonia spp, fresh root
Osha, Ligusticum porterii, dry root *
Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata, fresh flowering plant
Peach, Prunus persica, fresh flower, leaf, bark, pit all in brandy
Peony, Paeonia lactiflora, dry root
Pine, White, Pinus strobus, resin, fresh bark and needles, pollen
Plantain, Plantago major, fresh leaf
Poke, Phytolacca americana, fresh root
Pond Lily, Nymphaea odorata, fresh root *
Propolis, raw resin
Purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, fresh flowering tops
Ragweed, Giant, Ambrosia trifida, fresh pre-flowering plant *
Red Clover, Trifolium pratense, fresh flower
Redroot, Ceanothus americanus, fresh root*
Reishi, Ganoderma spp., dry fruiting body
Rose, Rosa rugosa, Rosa multiflora, other rosa spp., fresh flowers, fresh flowering plant, rugosa flower elixir
Rose thorns, fresh *
Sage, Salvia officinalis, fresh flowering tops, elixir
Sage, Russian Perovskia atriplicifolia, fresh flowering tops*
Saint John’s Wort, Hypericum perfoliatum, fresh flowering tops, oil too
Sassafras, S. albidum, dry root*
Scullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora, S. galericulata, fresh flowering tops
Schizandra, S. chinensis, dry berry *
Shepherd’s purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris, fresh whole plant
Spilanthes, S. acmella, fresh flowers
Spruce, Picea spp., fresh bark and resin, whole plant
Solomon’s seal, Polygonatum biflorum, fresh rhizome
Sweetfern, Comptonia peregrina, fresh leaf and twig, elixir too
Sweet Annie, Artemisia annua, fresh flowering tops
Teasel, Dipsacus, fresh root
Thyme, thymus vulgaris, fresh flowering tops
Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris, fresh flowering tops *
Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipfera, fresh flower*
Turmeric, Curcuma longa, fresh rhizome, oil too
Usnea, U. barbata, U. spp, fresh lichen
Valerian, Valeriana officinalis, fresh root
Violet, Viola odorata,V. spp, fresh flower, fresh whole plant
Vervain, White, Verbena urticifolia, fresh flowering tops
Walnut, Black, Juglans nigra, fresh hull, dry hull, fresh leaf
White sage, Salvia apiana, fresh whole plant *
Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, fresh seed and flower
Wild Geranium, Geranium maculatum, fresh root *
Willow, Salix alba, fresh bark and twig
Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginianica, fresh flower and bark *
Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, fresh flowering plant
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, fresh flowering plant
Yellow Dock, Rumex crispus, fresh root
next up: blends, herbal teas, salves, and “stuff that’s not tinctures”

my canine personal trainer

This new year a big thank you is due to my personal trainer. she has motivated me to walk every single day for over 2 years now. Well, ok i missed one day. It was a hailstorm!
But truly, every single other day we have taken a walk together. I’m sick? walk. It’s hot? Walk. It’s cold? Walk. Hell it’s zero degrees out today and we took a walk. Yesterday we took two!
And, sure, my ass is getting a workout. But the awesomeness goes deeper for me. I get to see my land in every season. I learn to push past my default snuggle-under-the-covers behavior and get out there, and I never regret it. Our walks are brain food where I think and write. My lungs like it.
I would never get myself outside during a hurricane or in shockingly cold weather if it weren’t for her intensely pleading looks and her tendency to chew up my house if she doesn’t get a walk. I don’t put it on my to-do list, it’s just a given. every day. it’s a constant.
So let Aster be an example to you, to get off your ass and take a hike. Or to stop chewing up the house and go leap the creek. Perhaps you are already hiking but need motivatoin to do something else? Well, Catahoulas don’t discriminate. Aster would like you to do that too…follow your nose, babe, all the way to the stinky rotting animal carcass. And roll, roll, roll!