Child guided learning or Going with the Sappy Flow

The other day, Leif and I picked up our camera from the repair shop and noticed a large pine tree just outside of the front door.  The tree was dripping with sap.  In fact, there was so much sap that it looked like the sidewalk next to the tree was covered in candle wax.  Leif began asking all kinds of questions about how the tree makes sap and what it does.  He stuck his fingers in it and got himself all gooey.  We talked about how the sap is part of the tree’s immune system and when there is an injury it makes a scab, just like our bodies do.  I told him that the sap helps fight infections and that you can make it into a salve and use it on wounds.

“I want to make a sap salve for my wounds, Mommy!”  Leif said as his eyes lit up with excitement.  And, of course, I thought, ‘Yay!  An herbal project!!’.

I happened to have a little stash of pine sap that Kaia and I collected when we were out in Arizona this summer.




So, we grabbed the sap and pulled out our HerbalRootsZine about Pine (have I told you how much we LOVE this zine?!). We read all about Pine and it’s uses, and then headed to the kitchen for a little mixology 🙂



We warmed the sap in Olive oil and added a bit of beeswax.  Kaia asked to add some Lavender Essential Oil for its healing properties.  So, we tossed that in, too.




Once it was all mixed, we poured it into our jar and let it cool.


Super simple, super fun, and lots learned.  Leif went around telling everyone that he has a pine sap salve for his cuts and boo boos, and though his chocolate-covered face looks sad, he was actually super excited about his accomplishment.  He said he’s looking forward to his first cut so that he can try it out. 🙂




Winter Chicken Soup – Keeping the Immune System Strong

chickensoup I love to have a big stash of chicken soup in the pantry.  On those cold, blustery days of winter, nothing is more satisfying than a big bowl of hot soup (well, maybe chocolate, but that applies in any season).

A few years ago, I discovered this recipe and the whole family devoured it.  I’ve tweaked it a bit over time… adding my own arrangement of herbs and spices to increase the immune boosting properties of chicken soup even more.  I also leave out the noodles so that I can pressure can it and store it in the pantry.



Here you go.  I hope you like it.  The elderberries and burdock grow in our yard, so I have easy access to these nourishing and immune-supportive herbs.  You can usually find them at the health food store or you can omit them.

Winter Chicken Soup


  • 1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds.  I keep the kidneys and liver in the chicken, but take the neck out and give it to our animals… they love it! You can also break the bones up a bit to let the marrow out)
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup celery, sliced
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup burdock root chopped (if using dried, use 1/2 cup)
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh (or frozen) elderberries (1/2 cup if using dried)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
  • 8 cups of water or chicken broth


Put all of the ingredients in a large stock pot.  Cover and simmer for 3-5 hours.  Once it is done, take the chicken out (be careful, it’s hot!) and remove the skin and bones.  Shred up the meat.  The chicken literally falls apart in the soup, so I usually strain what’s left in the pot and go through everything to be sure there are no bones left, removing the bay leaves when I do this.  It takes a little effort, but it’s very worth it!  Put all of the veggies, meat, and broth back in the pot.


If you want to make this in your crock pot, put everything in the crock, cover, and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

I usually make a double batch and can up the leftovers.  Ladle the soup into quart jars with 1″ head space.  Process in pressure canner for 1 hour 30 minutes at 10# pressure, sea level.  (We are 3000 feet above sea level, so I add one pound of pressure for every 1000 feet above sea level….. so where I live I process at 13# pressure for 1  1/2 hours.)

Enjoy a scrumptious bowl of nourishing soup!


Tincturing Black Walnut

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) trees are all around here.  This time of year they are thumping on roofs, smashing into cars, and sending the squirrels into a frenzy.  I was first introduced to Black Walnut as a medicine over 15 years ago while in herb school, though it wasn’t until we moved onto our little homestead, and had outdoor animals to take care of, that I really got to know it.

Black Walnut is traditionally used as an anthelmintic (That’s your vocabulary word of the day.  Use it the next time you are talking to your vet or doctor about worms and they’ll think you are super smart! 🙂  )  That basically means that it works by expelling parasitic worms from the body.

Animals that spend most of their lives out doors (in our case, our farm dog and our chickens) are super prone to getting worms.  I’ve talked about my use of Black Walnut with Suki and heart worm (see the comment section of that post), but I also use Black Walnut as a dewormer for our chickens.  Twice a year, in the spring and late summer, when the weather is humid and muggy, I give them a Black Walnut preventative in their water (60 drops in a gallon of water) for two weeks.  If I ever notice those classic symptoms of a wormy chicken (sluggish, droopy wings, decrease in laying), I will give them another week of it.  It works wonderfully!

Black walnut tincture can cost $10-$15 an ounce in the store…. I can make a quart of it (32 ounces) for about $10.  That’s about .31 cents an ounce!

So, how do you do it?  It’s easy!

Here’s what you need:

  • Black Walnuts (I used about 12 to make a quart of tincture)  You can harvest them this time of year.  It’s easiest to grab them off the ground after they have fallen, because they grow pretty high up in the trees.
  • Alcohol (I like to use 100 proof vodka, but any alcohol that is 80 to 100 proof, or 40-50% alcohol is fine.  Since my chickens aren’t picky about the taste of their tinctures, I just use the cheep stuff.  This 1.75L bottle cost me $18)
  • A large jar (I’m using a 1/2 gallon mason jar)
  • Sharp knife
  • Wax paper
  • Gloves (though you can see, mine are mysteriously absent from this picture.  Oh, yeah.  I wasn’t wearing any.)

The state of your black walnuts is important.  You want them nice and green.  A black spot like this on the outside:

will look like this inside.  Ewwwww!  Though the chickens might not mind tinctured worms, I do!

This is what you want your walnuts to look like when you cut off the hull (or outer layer).

Cut the hull off of the walnuts and put the hulls in your jar.  You will see the black walnut start to darken before your eyes!  Seriously!  It starts oxidizing immediately!!

I begin pouring the alcohol into the jar as I’m cutting the hulls.  This keeps them from oxidizing so rapidly in the air, and puts all the good medicine in the alcohol.

So, the gloves.  Yeah.  It’s a good idea to wear gloves while you are cutting Black Walnuts as they can stain really badly.  I forgot to pick any up at the store, so I just went for it.  I think, from all the Black Walnut juice that I soaked up through my skin, I can safely say that I am now free of worms!

By the end of the cutting process the color of the alcohol had already changed dramatically, as had my fingers.


Once you cut the hulls, put them in the jar and cover them with the alcohol, you want to put the top on the jar.  A layer of wax paper goes in between the glass and the lid.  This keeps the alcohol from reacting with the metal.

You will also want to label your tincture!!  Always label!!  ‘Cause you might just forget what you put in there and what a waste it would be to have to throw it all out because you didn’t label it.  On my labels, I always put the name of the plant, along with the percentage of alcohol, and when it will be ready to strain.  (Sometimes, on you might see things on tincture bottles like 1:2 or 1:5…. that is the scientific method of tincturing and it means amount of herb:amount of alcohol or menstrum used.  We’re not doing that here.  We’re keeping it simple.)

Put your tincture in a shady place indoors and shake it gently for the next two weeks.  Here is mine, happily resting on the kitchen counter.  (Yes, those are many bottles of home made hard apple/peach cider that you see in the background!!  You are very observant!)

About 15 minutes after taking the above picture, Leif asked if he could be in one of the pictures with the Black Walnut.  Check out the color difference already!!

And my hands…… My fingers are about 10 shades darker as I type this!!

After letting the tincture sit for 2 weeks, you can strain the hulls out.  I use muslin/cheese cloth to get all the little bits out of the fluid.  Save your tincture in a clean, labeled jar (don’t forget that layer of wax paper) and store in a cool, dark place.  You can bottle it up in little dropper jars for easy use.

See, wasn’t that easy???

(The happy, worm-free ladies say ‘hello!’)

Oh, and unlike many of the chemical dewormers for chickens that are on the market today, you can still eat the eggs of your chickens while they are taking Black Walnut tincture!!


3+ months

This video was passed along to me today and I thought it was a great explanation of why the hunter/gatherer diet feeds our bodies in such a healthy way.  I’ve been eating this way for a little over three months now and I feel fabulous.  My changes have not been as dramatic as the woman in the video, but they have created a dramatic change in my life.  I’m not tired anymore, my brain feels calmer, less chaotic, my skin is clearer, I’m not clearing my throat all the time from allergies, I’ve dropped 2% body fat and 10 pounds, I look and feel fit and capable…  There is so much more, but it’s not easy to put it all into words.  I just love how I feel these days.

Dr. Terry Wahls – Minding Your Mitochondria

The Healthier, Happier, Stronger Me!

Two months ago, I took the huge step of clearing my house of all grains, legumes, processed sugars, and processed/prepackaged foods.  From now on, my family and I were going to eat only meats (including fish, fowl, and eggs), veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, herbs and spices.  We were going Paleo.  For most Americans, (especially us former vegetarians) this would be a huge and daunting task, but I felt like it was needed.  We had become so use to grabbing a quick carb-loaded snack from the pantry and forgetting about the veggies in the fridge.  Our daily intake was super high in grains (mostly processed) and very lacking in vegetables and digestible protein.  I say ‘digestible’ because Toby and I have food allergies/sensitivities, and imagine we’ve probably passed these on to our kids.  Toby and I are both sensitive to dairy, soy, and beans, which doesn’t leave much in the way of protein if you are vegetarian.  I was vegetarian for almost 20 years and began eating meat during my pregnancy with Kaia.  WOW!  Did I feel good!  My body had seriously been lacking in protein!  Still, even after we added meat and eggs back to our diet, those made up a very small portion of it.  The carbs led the way and with them came the frequent blood sugar roller coasters, anxiety, depression, temper tantrums, bowel issues, acne, weight ups and downs, PMS, bloating… (Obviously, the kids had the temper tantrums and I had the PMS…. OK, and the occasional tantrum).  For many people symptoms run even deeper and they develop inflammatory and auto immune diseases, and more.

I saw and felt immediate changes, my energy was up and my moodiness was down, my blood sugar stabilized while I lost weight and inches.  Really, I feel fabulous!  I feel strong and healthy!  I use to work out here or there occasionally, but I found that I needed a place to put all of my new found energy and decided to start doing workouts at home.  This only increased the feelings of strength!

Since it was my decision to clean out the house and change my lifestyle, Toby and the kids can choose to eat as they please when they are out of the house.  However, in the house we are strictly paleo.  Nothing comes in that doesn’t fit into our new food pyramid and the whole family follows this lifestyle when we are at home.   (Well, unless a certain Nana comes to visit and brings along tempting tasties.  You know who you are!)  But, I’ve found that I’m not tempted to eat any other way.  I feel so nourished, and I don’t want to go back to the way I was.  Our meals are nutrient dense and toxin free.

Now, I know many of you are saying “Oh, I could Never go without my morning toast!” or “I just LOVE muffins too much to give them up”.  Well, here’s the kicker.  I can still have toast and muffins, but I make them myself and I make them without grains.  I use nuts, seeds, and coconut in most of my ‘bread’ recipes and love the results.  That being said, I eat those bread-ish type of things much less than I use to.

I know I’ve not talked about the science behind paleo… I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the research and science behind the benefits of living the paleo lifestyle. (How the insulin and glucose are processed in the body from one type of food or another, the gastrointestinal inflammation caused by grains and legumes,…)  But, there are many fabulous blogs and cookbooks out there to get you started if you are interested.

Mark’s Daily Apple

Everyday Paleo and her super, fabulous cookbook

Nom Nom Paleo

Primal Palate and their scrumptious cookbook

Paleo Comfort Foods and their delicious cookbook

Paleo Parents

The Primal Parent

The Primal Home

The Crunchy Pickle

The Foodie and the Family

The Paleo Home

Practical Paleo

And this is just a short list!  There is so much information out there and so many recipes!  I felt like it was a pretty easy change because of all of this support.

So, what do I eat, you ask?

Well, breakfast usually consists of eggs (fried, scrambled, omelets, egg muffins…), sometimes pancakes/waffles (yes, without grain and usually with veggies shredded up and added in),  sausage or bacon, muffins, or leftovers.  Lunch varies greatly and often consists partly of leftovers.  Dinner… well, for the next few weeks are dinners look like this: Tex/Mex Chicken and veggies, Biscuits and gravy with mashed ‘potatoes’ and green beans (yes, all without grains or dairy), Farmer’s Pie, egg salad sandwiches (with paleo bread), chicken and vegetable ‘lo mein’, mini-egg pizzas , lasagna (ok, this one does have cheese, but zucchini instead of noodles), red curry beef stew,  gingered butternut squash soup and lots of carrots, broccoli, other veggies and salads.  Yes, we eat well!!  No, I don’t feel deprived!

Oh, and please don’t worry about that fabulous new ice cream maker I just bought this summer.  It will still get good use!

Southeast Women’s Herb Conference


I spent this last weekend with Kaia at the Southeast Women’s Herb Conference.  And what a wonderful weekend it was!!  Though the wind threatened to blow our tent away a few times, Kaia came through her first conference with a big smile on her face and asked to go again next year.  She went with me to learn about aromatherapy and candle making, and then headed off to play with friends while I went to classes on fermentation, the respiratory system, biodynamic gardening, and more.  We danced the night away at a bhangra/bollywood party.  We fell in love the Rising Appalachia (if you haven’t heard their music, you should get a CD right now!!!).  It was a great mother/daughter weekend!


The Faeries’ Guide to Green Magick from the Garden – A Review

Earlier this month, I was asked if I would like to review a newly published herbal on my blog.  “Sure” I said, “sounds like fun”.  Though I have to admit that part of me was apprehensive to spend my sparse free time looking through yet another herbal journal.  I have a gazillion of them at home already and most of them repeat the same basic herbal information.  Still, it sounded interesting so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

I’m happy to report that The Faeries’ Guide to Green Magic from the Garden by Jamie Wood and Lisa Steinke is a wonderful herbal journal that stole my heart from the get go.  Really, after receiving it, it was a few days before I actually read any of it.  The illustrations, done by Lisa Steinke, are so breathtaking that I had to take my time absorbing each of them before I could move on to the words.  Each of the 33 herbs in the book is represented by an image of a faerie that is absolutely captivating.  It’s hard to take your eyes off of them.  But if you move to the edges of the faerie figure you notice the images of the plant they represent.  You don’t really see it when you first look at the picture because your eyes are drawn to the faeire, but if you focus you see wonderful detail in each plant picture.  (And of course my faerie loving daughter needed to take her time devouring each picture before I could have the book back to read!)

I also really liked how this book was designed … each page adorned with flowing leaves or swirls.  This certainly isn’t necessary, but being a homeschooling mom who often doesn’t get out of my pajamas all day, it is nice to feel pampered when I’m reading a book.

Ok, so on to the words.  The beginning of the book does a brief but solid job of describing Green Gardening, Complementary Medicine, Faeries, and how they are interrelated.  I especially appreciated the mention of why Magick is spelled with a ‘k’ and what a faerie is.  I was not brought up with religion or taught much spirituality as a youngster, so believing in something I can’t see has been hard for me as an adult.  I thought the authors did a nice job at explaining faeries in a way that most people would be able to understand and not just see the image of Tinkerbell in their heads.

As I’ve mentioned, the majority of the book focuses on 33 herbs that can be easily grown in the house or garden.  Each herb description contains it’s scientific name, common names, and the parts used as well as a description of the plant.  I especially enjoyed reading about the energetics of the plant and the history.  (I love to hear how people in the past used plants, whether for physical medicine, spiritual use, or in cooking.)  There is also a recipe associated with each herb.  They range from edibles (Lavender Truffles!!) to cosmetics (Nettle Hair Tonic), to medicinal (Comfrey Salve), and spiritual (Cinnamon Protection Splash) recipes.

I’ve enjoyed this book.  It packs a lot of information into an enchanting design.  I think I’ll keep it in a prominent place among my herbals (if I can just get it back from my daughter).

(Note: I have not been paid for this review and have no association with the authors or the publisher.)

Sewing and the Great Herb Trade!

I finally did it!  I’m taking sewing lessons!  I’ve been wanting to learn how to sew for a long time now.  I can do a little on the sewing machine, but I’ve wanted to learn from a professional.  Well, as luck would have it, I won a raffle for 7 sewing lessons from a professional seamstress!!  I’ve taken two lessons so far and I’m having a blast!  I won’t tell you what I’m making yet…. I’ll show you when it’s done!!! Anyway, I’m already planning all the things that will be made… a skirt for Kaia, pants and bibs for Leif, a skirt for me… I love the idea of making clothing for my family.  Knitting them is certainly one way to do it, but knitting an outfit take ages.  Sewing is instant gratification! So, here’s where the Great Herb Trade comes in.  I have over 150 dried herbs in my apothecary… culinary, medicinal, spiritual, you name it (see list below)!  But, right now I’m only seeing a few clients and spending most of my days with the kids.  I have all these herbs and they are just sitting around.  However, I don’t have any sewing goods.  I have a sewing machine, and that’s it!  So, here’s my proposal:  You tell me what herbs you would like and how much and I’ll send them to you!  In trade, you send me any fabric, notions, and sewing goodies that you want.  You get to build/stock your herbal pantry, maybe even experiment with some that are new to you,  and I get to build up my sewing supplies!  Nothing wasted, lots gained!  How’s that sound? Here is a list of the herbs that I currently have in stock.  If you are interested, leave me a comment (and make sure I have your email) and let me know  what you’d like!!  Yay!!  This is going to be fun!!! (oh, and ‘c/s’ means ‘cut and sifted’)

addendum – List edited 2/23/10 to reflect the herbs that are still available-

Alfalfa c/s
alfalfa powder
Amalaki powder
Angelica root c/s
anise seed
Artichoke leaf c/s
artichoke powder
Ashwaganda Powder
Astragalus root c/s
Beet Leaf Powder
Bilberries whole
Black Cohosh root c/s
Black walnut hull powder
Bladderwrack c/s
Blue Cohosh root c/s
Blue Violet leaf c/s
Boneset herb c/s
Burdock root c/s
Calendula flowers – whole
California Poppy leaf c/s

Catnip leaf and flower c/s
Cayenne powder
Chamomile Flowers
Chicory rot – roasted
Cloves – whole
Comfrey Leaf

Coleus Forskholii c/s
Coltsfoot c/s

Copal Resin
Cornsilk c/s
Cramp bark c/s
Damiana leaf c/s
Dandelion leaf c/s
Dandelion Root c/s
Dong Quai c/s
Echinacea Purperea root c/s
Echinacea purperea root powder
Elder berries
Elder Flower
Elecampane root c/s
Eleuthero root c/s
Eyebright herb c/s

Fenugreek seed – whole
Feverfew herb c/s
Frankincense tears

Ginkgo Leaf
Goldenseal root c/s

Holy Basil
Honeysuckle flower
Hops strobiles
Horehound herb c/s
Horse Chestnut c/s
Horsetail herb c/s
Hyssop herb c/s
Jasmine flowers
Juniper berries
Ladies Mantle c/s
Lavender flower –whole
Lemon Balm herb c/s
Lemon peel c/s
Lemongrass leaf c/s
Licorice root c/s
Licorice root powder
Lobelia herb c/s
Maca Powder
Malva (Mallow) flowers
Marshmallow root c/s
Marshmallow root powder
Meadowsweet herb c/s
Milk Thistle
Milky Oat tops

Mugwort leaf c/s
Mullein leaf c/s
Mustard powder
Nettle leaf c/s
Nettle root c/s
Nettle seed
Oatstraw c/s
Oregon Grape root c/s
Oregon Grape root powder
Osha root powder
Partridgeberry herb c/s
Passionflower leaf c/s
Paw d’Arco root c/s
Peach Leaf c/s
Pepper – Black Malabar
Peppermint leaf c/s
Plantain leaf c/s
Prickly Ash bark c/s
Queen of the Meadow (Joe Pie) root c/s

Red Raspberry leaf c/s
Red Root c/s
Reishi Mushroom powder
Reishi Mushrooms
Rose hips seedless c/s
Rosemary leaves
Roses – petals
Rue c/s
Sage – ceremonial whole pieces
Sage c/s
Sarsaparilla (Jamaican) root c/s
Sassafras root c/s
Saw Palmetto powder
Shatavari powder
Shatavari root
Sheapherds Purse c’s
Slippery Elm bark c/s
Soapwart c/s
Solomon’s Plume root c/s
Solomon’s Seal root c/s
Spearmint leaf c/s
St. Johns Wort flowering tops
Stevia powder
Stoneroot c/s
Sumac berries
Thyme leaf c/s
Triphala powder
Tylophora indica c/s
Usnea lichen
Uva Ursi leaf
Vitex berries
White Willow bark c/s
Wild Cherry Bark c/s
Wild Hydrangea root c/s
Wild Yam root c/s
Witch Hazel Bark c/s
Wormwood herb c/s
Yarrow leaf and flower c/s
Yellow Root c/s
Yellowdock root c/s



OK, I’ve been hearing about this board game for a while now and, I have to admit, I have been very resistant to it!  I’m not totally sure why, but I think it has to do with the feeling that if I’m a good herbalist, I shouldn’t need the aid of a board game to be able to teach my kids about herbs.  (I know, that is stupid… if it’s fun, who cares, right.)  Still, when the game went on sale (1/2 off!)  last week, I decided to give it a try.  I really didn’t think Kaia was going to go for it.  It doesn’t have anything to do with mermaids, castles, or the like.  But, when the mail was delivered and Kaia saw the game, she flipped out!  She was so excited to play, that we had to schedule an emergency “family play night” that night! 🙂

So, did I like it?  I have to say, I am thoroughly impressed!  It was SO flippin’ cute and fun!  Kaia loved it and for once wasn’t all competitive about who won!  (No one wins, it’s all about cooperation.)  We all liked the story that went along with it… collecting herbs to help with our ailments…. picking huckleberries…. It is just fun!  I even learned some new herbs!

Here’s how the story starts:

Grandma needs huckleberries to bake a pie. You and your cousins embark on an adventure up the mountain to collect berries as well as herbs she uses.

Will you all harvest the right plants to help with the trouble you run into along the way?

Will you make it back before nightfall?

The only way to win is by helping each other out.

Wildcraft! teaches you 25 important edible and medicinal plants and their uses in mostly first aid situations. (Wildcrafting is the harvesting of wild plants)

It also teaches team work, for you will rely on each other’s knowledge of plants and good fortune to make it to the Huckleberry Patch and safely back to Grandma’s.

You should definitely check it out!  You may still be able to win a free one here.  I don’t know if the contest ended yesterday or if it’s still going…

Check out what I picked off of the roof yesterday! There are lots of calendula flowering, too… if they don’t freeze tonight, I may harvest them and make a nice oil or something.

And, since I begin my third trimester tomorrow (Oh My God!! Where did time go??!!) I thought I’d post a belly picture. I really feel very large! I’m still not 100% convinced that there aren’t two in there 🙂 And we already know that this child will not sleep all the time like Kaia did, ’cause he never stops moving!

Look at my find!

It’s an 1874 edition of John M. Scudder’s Specific Medication and Specific Medicines!!! This may not mean much to some of you, but for those of you who know herbal history, this is a very special find! John Scudder was an Eclectic herbalist who wrote fantastic herbal books, this being one of his better ones! His later (and maybe his best book) materia medica can be downloaded from here and printed out! It’s 770 pages long though… so get lots of printer ink!

Oat Medicine

I harvested the rest of the milky oats today. Almost 3 pounds worth!!! I made a half gallon of milky oat tincture and laid the rest out to dry to use for tea later.

Milky oats (Avena sativa)are when the unripe seed heads can be squeezed and a milky juice comes out. At this stage, the oats are very high in minerals, particularly minerals that are good for relaxing the body and dealing with stress (like b vitamins and Magnesium). Taken as a tincture or tea, milky oats are wonderful for exhaustion and soothing frazzled nerves, moistening and nourishing the nervous system and brain, and helping get to sleep. I find I use it a lot in my practice. Good stuff!

Feeling Crafty

I’ve been feeling like making things lately. Kaia’s birthday is coming up and I have been wanting to make her a ‘princess canopy’ for her bed for years. So, I finally got around to it. It came out pretty well, but I have to secure the hoop on the inside better so that it hangs level:

I also promised her that I would make her a ‘hoop skirt’ for her birthday. We’d seen this design at a festival and she loved it, but they were $40. So, I decided to try my hand at it. The first one I made came out badly, so I planned harder for the second one…
First I cut out three panels of fabric all the same size (9″ on top, 24″ sides, and 21″ on bottom). Then I hemmed the sides of each piece and sewed them together (leaving a strip ~2″ in between two of the strips that was not sewn together. I hemmed the top, leaving a small gap and enough space to thread an elastic in. I threaded 19.5″ of elastic (since Kaia’s waist is 20″) and sewed closed the little hole that I put the elastic in through. I then hemmed the bottom so that there was a 1/2″ gap to thread in 1/4″ flexible tubing (I used some plumbing tubing). Along the hem, I used some lace for decoration, and to conceal the hoop. (Remember that 2″ strip on the bottom where the sides weren’t sewn together? Once you hem it, it leaves a gap where you can thread in the tubing, and take it back out if you don’t want to use the hoop.) Thread the tubing in (~5 feet of tubing) and use another piece of tubing that has an inner diameter the same as the outer diameter of the hoop tubing to hold the hoop together.
OK, so if I haven’t totally confused you, here’s how it turned out:

When she walks the hoop holds the dress out away from her… and it has ‘great spin’, which is very important to an almost 5 year old! And the whole thing cost me ~$10.

I also found a skirt in a magazine that I really loved, but it was way out of my price range. So, I tried my hand at making that too. First I needed 20 ‘strips’ of fabric. I used 4 strips each of 5 different fabrics. I cut out a piece of paper to trace my strips from.
Here you see the paper and the pieces traced, before I cut them up.

Once I cut all the fabric, Kaia helped me put it into a design. This is what one of the four panels will look like

Then I sewed all the edges together, sewed an elastic the size of my waist into the top, and hemmed the bottom…

I like it, but it’s not as ‘flowy’ as I had hoped it would be… then I realized that the skirt in the magazine is made of silk, and I used mostly cotton.

I’ve also been gathering some herbs on the land for medicine.
Here’s a giant mullein that I got some flowers from to make an oil:

I also harvested some oats in milky stage to make tincture out of. The tincture is SOOOO green!

And here, just because it’s so beautiful, is a clary sage flower:

I’ve got a moment of reprieve right now, but it’s been go, go, go! The first weekend in June I spent 4 days at the Medicines from the Earth conference taking classes and assisting Rosita Arvigo. She was the keynote speaker and gave some great classes on fertility enhancement, and spiritual bathing. Then I spent 6 days (ending tomorrow) with Rosita assisting with her Professional Maya Abdominal Massage training. It’s a very intense learning time, not to mention all the things that come up with the students after giving and getting so many abdominal massages. It’s pretty amazing! This morning I went in to class completely exhausted, so she told me to go home and take a nap. (I just got up from a 2 hour nap, so don’t give me crap about being on the computer :-)) Tomorrow is our last day.

So, you can imagine that things are still not unpacked or cleaned up around the house. And the cabin is just full of unpacked boxes. I’m hoping to get the office/cabin set up this week (it’s funny how much I dread going in there now that we have the house built). Maybe I’ll put up some pictures tonight… or maybe I’ll go see a movie and eat some chocolate… hmmmmm, which should I choose…?

All is well

Sorry for the slack in posting. All is well here.. just busy. We are settling into the house and really enjoying the space and amenities! Kaia and I are especially having fun cooking together (something that was really hard to do in the little cabin). We ate so poorly the past two years. I had no desire to cook and PB&J was often a main meal. So now, I’m trying to get back on track with healthy, whole foods and lots of local fresh fruits and veggies. I’ve singed up for a weekly recipe mailer through Cooking Traditional Foods. Every week she sends 6 recipes and a dessert, shopping list for those recipes, and when to prepare stuff in advanced. Her site also has recipe and discussion forums, and the recipes are loosely based on Weston Price’s ideas. It’s been really helpful in getting back on track with cooking. I figure I’ll do this for a while until I get into a good rhythm. My only objection is that 5 of the 6 recipes include meat. That’s a lot of meat for me (and gets expensive), so we may use bean and other substitutes.

The animals are doing pretty well. Ralph has decided she has had enough of being a mom and got off the nest. So, no chicks from those eggs. (We can’t invest in an incubator right now.) The cats are all adjusting really well. They have already started snuggling up together, which is really cute. Suki went to the groomers last week and when I picked her up they said a lot of her hair was falling out and she had redness and bruising on her skin. She looked almost bald in patches. I took her to the vet the next day and the blood work showed that her clotting time was a little slow. They think that she either had a really bad allergic reaction to something or that she may have gotten into some rat poison. So, she is on some Vitamin K to get her to stop bruising and increase her clotting time (this is the antidote for Rat poison, too). Her skin is looking mostly better already.

Business is going well for me. I’ve got as many clients as I can handle right now, which is nice. I’m excited to have my office space set up in the cabin. It will be so nice to be able to hear the frogs and the birds during my consultations and not the 18 wheelers rolling by. I’ve had to cancel a few appointments this past week, cause my forearms and hands are covered in poison ivy. Because of the pattern on my arms, I think I might have gotten it off of Suki. I don’t think I’ve ever had it this bad (I usually only get a blister or two). Both arms look all bumpy and scaly. I’ve been using high dose licorice powder (as a paste on my arms, and as a tea) to decrease the swelling. It works well.

I’m giving an herb walk this weekend at the LEAF festival. I got a free ticket the the festival in exchange for the class. So, Kaia and I are going to spend the weekend playing, dancing, swimming, hooping, and having fun!!!

Mate Cocido

Last May, when I flew up to NH on a trip, I sat next to a really interesting woman from Paraguay.  She was probably in her 80’s, but she was a spry little lady!  We talked about family, raising kids, traveling… but mostly we talked herbs.  She talked a lot about Mate, which is a major drink in Paraguay.  She mentioned a couple of different recipes that her parents made with the Mate when she was a kid.  Mate terere was one, which is mate made with cold water and lemon, or cold juices.  But, the one I really wanted to try was Mate Cocido.  She gave a detailed description of how you take the mate leaves  and cook them with sugar on an open flame until it caramalizes.  But, once I left the plane, I couldn’t remember all the details.

Anyway, today, what do I get in the mail, but a package from this woman.  She bought me a pound of Mate when she got back to Paraguay and sent it to me with instructions on how to make Mate Cocido!  Isn’t she great!!  I can’t wait to try it!

In a pan put 6 tablespoons of yerba mate leaves and 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Cook gently while stirring and  brown the sugar. Be careful not to allow it to burn. Turn off the stove and pour 2 cups of water (or a mix of water and milk to make a total of 2 cups) over the mate and sugar.  Strain out the herbs and enjoy the drink! (If it’s too strong add more fluid)
I read a recipe on the internet that also suggested adding a little dried orange peel to the caramalizing process.  Mmmm, sounds good!

AHG Symposium

Things have been cruising along busily for the past few weeks.

I spent much of last week in Columbia, MD at the American Herbalist’s Guild Symposium, which was fantastic, as usual! I spent most of the time in Paul Bergner’s classes. He’s got a fantastic way of explaining things in a way I understand. First was a 6 hour intensive on Clinical Nutrition in the Herbal Paradigm. We talked about macro and micro nutrients in the prehistoric, agrarian, and modern diet, and how the deficiencies and imbalances that have come about since industrialization have led to modern diseases. After that we began to discuss patterns of imbalance that are seen in the modern day diet: 1) The SAD pattern
(Standard American Diet), 2) The Anorexia pattern, 3) The Junk-Food Vegetarian pattern, 4) The Stress-Carbohydrate pattern, 5) The Insulin Resistance pattern, and 6) the Food Allergy pattern. It was fantastic! I have such a hard time with my clients and being able to describe why food is so important to health. I think the research he presented will help me to educate my clients in a way they can understand.

The next day I went to a talk on HPV and the new Gardasil vaccine given by Mary Bove. I was enraged when I left the class! So far, here is what we know about the vaccine…
–In June of 2006 the FDA approved Gardasil to be used on females age 9 through 26.
–The vaccine trial for Gardasil was a 14 day trial on women averaging 23 years of age (there were no girls under 12 in the study, yet it is being recommended by the FDA for 9 year olds!). The 14 day trial showed protection against 4 types of HPV (Two of these types of HPV cause over 70% of the cervical cancers, but there are over 100 different types of HPV.) Gardasil was tested alone. It was not given with any other vaccinations (yet we often give vaccinations in groups, ex: MMR and DTaP)
–As of May, 2007 (one year after approval by the FDA) there have been 2227 adverse reactions reported to the CDC (and only ~10% of all adverse reactions are ever reported). The reactions included 13 cases of GBS (Group Beta Strep.), 239 cases of fainting with temporary loss of consciousness (some also with head injuries and fractures), and seven deaths reported after receiving Gardasil. There have also been respiratory and cardiac problems, neuromuscular and coordination problems, and convulsions.
–The vaccine does not contain mercury. As a substitute preservative, it has 225 mcg Aluminum. (so if girls get all three shots, they will be getting 675 mcg aluminum)
–The 3 series of shots cost $360 wholesale. So if states made it mandatory to get this vaccine, Merck (the only producer of Gardasil) stands to make $3 billion dollars a year!)
–There is no long term testing on this vaccination. We have no idea long term effect on women, fetuses, health… and how long it will remain effective.

So, what about education??? We will force our girls to get a vaccination against potential cervical cancer, but we won’t teach them safe sex practices?? And what about getting our girls to have PAP smears as a preventative for cervical cancer? Cervical cancer is a slow progressing cancer. If we get pap smears, we are much more likely to catch cervical changes before it progresses. And what about educating our girls about healthy nutrition and body care? With a strong immune system, about 80% of HPV infections will be cleared rapidly from the body.

There is so much we don’t know about this vaccine! I would encourage all of you to become educated so you can make the best decisions for your children!

Next I went to a class on Herbal Gastroenterology talk by David Winston. This was another fantastic talk on how the digestive system is key to good health!!

I spent the next day with Paul Bergner again hearing his talks on Patient Energetics. Herbalist and fellow blogger, Guido Mase, give a great description of the class on his blog.

Then, it was on to Tongue Diagnosis with Christopher Hobbs. Tongue diagnosis is something that has been skimmed over in all the herb schools I have been to. I realize that it is not really a diagnostic tool, but more of a way to confirm what you may be seeing in a client. I really enjoyed his class. He kept it pretty simple (what a hot or cold tongue looks like and where different regions of the body are reflected in the tongue). But, it definitely helped.

Next years symposium is supposed to be in Seattle!  I hope I can make it!  They can really add up in price, especially if you have to fly.  But, you really can’t put a price on knowledge, education, and feeling of community with fellow herbalists.

The Chemicals in our World

One of the things I see in almost all of my clients (and that I have been working with in my own self) is an endocrine system that has been over taxed.  Many of us live in a state of ‘fight or flight’… driving at high speeds to work, eating highly processed foods while on the run, taking on too many projects, fitting too many things into our days…  And even those of us who have managed to bring down the stress levels in our lives still have to deal with an environment full of stressful and illness causing chemicals.  My friend, Juliet Blankespoor, wrote a wonderful article about this that I think everyone should read.

shroom medicine

A good friend of mine called me this morning. She said she and her two boys were out mushroom hunting and found some Ganoderma tsugae (or Hemlock Varnish Shelf). It’s closely related to the Reishi mushrooms and is used in a similar way medicinally.  So, she asked if I would like it. I said of course, thinking I would make a little medicine for the winter. WELL, a little medicine would be the understatement of the year! They brought in 8 mushrooms ranging in size from 3 inches across to 2 feet!! Absolutely beautiful, stunning examples of Ganoderma tsugae!! So, right now, they are on the stove. I chopped them up (while they are fresh and I could still chop them, ’cause they get hard as a rock if you let them dry) and put them in a pot of water. They will simmer until the water is reduced to a thick, dark brown concentrated liquid. Then, I will measure out the liquid and add enough alcohol to make the final product 35% alcohol. Then I will put the mushrooms back in the liquid and let it sit for 4 weeks to macerate. After that, I’ll strain the mushrooms out and voila! This process helps to extract all the medicine available in the mushrooms.


Above are the smaller ones!!

The two largest mushrooms (below) I saved to dry and hang on the wall… one at my house, one at the clinic. If I need them later, I can process them, but I really like the idea of hanging them on my wall (a little energetic/home immune support :-))  Yes, that is my foot in the pictures for size comparison!  (I don’t have small feet, by the way!)

Summer’s here!

Happy (almost) first day of Summer everyone!! I always love the longest day of the year, but it also comes to me with some sadness. ‘Cause that means every day after it is getting shorter 🙁

Things are going well here at the homestead. The chickens are happy, Suki is enjoying time in the shade with her favorite bone. Unfortunately, our great friend and house-helper, Mattie, is moving back to Canada at the end of the month! He’s been an amazing help and support with the house so far and we will really miss him. Another friend may begin working for us in a few weeks. Plus, a few years ago, Toby helped install a veggie oil conversion kit in a school bus in Chapel Hill. Well, the woman who owns the school bus now lives near us and she wants to give a few days of work on our house to repay the favor!

Toby and I have started talking about whether or not we want to have another child. Part of me really wants to. I look at Kaia and I think “how could I not want another one. It’s so absolutely amazing to be a parent… to watch her grow and learn… the complete love I feel” and part of me is like “why would I ever want to put myself through that again?! The nausea of pregnancy, the immense weight gain, the pain and depression after the birth, the endless nights without sleep… ugh!!” So, you see, I am torn. Now that I finally have my energy and my sanity back (though unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever get my body back), it seems like having another child would be easy… ’cause I’m in a good place. But all that changes after not having slept in 2 years. Toby and I would both really like to adopt, but no one will approve us right now… you know – tiny cabin, out house, now shower, no money and all that. So, maybe in the future. Kaia is up for another child, without a doubt. She gives birth to some kind of pretend baby every day in preparation for the real thing 🙂

Baby or not, I’ve started trying to get a little more exercise. I’ve been getting up early to go out and hoop a little before Kaia wakes up. It’s been really nice hooping in the cool morning air. It puts me in a great mood for the rest of the day. I’ve also signed up for a workshop in July that I am really excited about. I hope it will get me into some sort of hooping routine! I continue to (slowly) get better, but I want more!! Here is a hooper doing some of the moves that we will be learning at the workshop.
Viriditas is going great! We are finally picking up! This week was booked. We have people from South Carolina, Eastern NC, and even a tourist from CT. coming in for the Maya Abdominal Massage. And Herb consultations have picked up too. Hopefully this is the start of something. Then maybe we can start paying off some business loans. Our Summer Newsletter is out if you want to see it.

Happy Solstice!


I also get furious about mandatory vaccinations.  I think we need to invest more money into education of the public and less into things like a mandatory HPV (herpes) vaccination for teen and preteen girls.  Especially when the results of the vaccination are like this:

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And we want this why????!!!

It’s hard enough trying to fight the current stereotypes of todays world when trying to help my clients feel positive about their femininity and their monthly cycles… now we have this.  Tell me why I would want to stop myself from ever bleeding again, forcing my body to constantly think I am pregnant, and pretending that I don’t cycle with the moon?  And with research results like this, it sounds just peachy!

“Women who use Lybrel would not have a scheduled menstrual period, but will most likely have unplanned, breakthrough, unscheduled bleeding or spotting,” Shames said. The bleeding can last four to five days and may persist for a year…”

Mark your calendars

Would everyone please mark you calendars to email me next year to make sure I get my butt into the woods the first week in May.  The woods are bustin’ out!!


Kaia and I went to the annual WNC Herb Festival  today and shopped for 4 hours!  I gave her 25 one-dollar bill in a little purse so that she could buy the herbs she wanted in her garden and keep track of her money.  She did a great job, and so many of the vendors thought that she was so cute with her little purse, that they cave her stuff for free.  For her garden she got: Sweet Annie, Lavender, Wood Betony, Dill, Fennel, a roma tomato, a bottle gourd, and sweet grass.  For my garden, I got:  Stevia, Wood Betony, Two Tomatoes, basil, Feverfew, Rue, Marigolds, Blue Vervain, Motherwort, … I think that is it…  Oh, I also got a hops vine… but that will go in near the house once it is done.
Sunday I leave for a week of studying with Rosita Arvigo so I can learn (professional) Maya Abdominal Massage.  It won’t be in belize, unfortunately.  It’s in NH, but that will give me a chance to see relatives that I haven’t seen in many years!