All-powerful against “Wykked Sperytis”

Now that Spring has sprung up here in northeasten California, I find my emotional state to be as varied as the winds that blow across the emerging pear blossoms. Mind you, we have just survived Winter…an elongated, protracted season that invokes its own specialty of emotional torture. I am growing weary of navigating my emotional state based on what the weather is throwing around outside my front door.

I found myself today feeling agitated and anxious. Be it the astrological position of the full moon, or the cold, dark, dreary day….I was fighting a losing battle. So I bundled up and took off on a walk to see what I could find of emerging herbs that might prove useful for my flagging Spirit. Lo and behold I spotted the tender early leaves of catnip! Very little in this World proves as satisfying as a hot cup of fresh herb tea to soothe ones soul. Fresh sprigs of catnip simply immersed in a cuppa hot boiling water both delights the eye and warms the heart. Miss Bardswell in “The Herb Garden” wrote of catmint: “Before the use of tea from China, English peasantry were in the habit of brewing Catmint Tea, which they said was quite as pleasant and a good deal more wholesome”. Catmint is known for its benefits as a springtime tonic, among other graces, yet it did little to soften the edges of my agitated state.

Looking through my herb garden, nothing was showing above ground yet. I returned to the house and began to look through my dried stores from last year. Lemon balm…good choice, but so little of it left. As I pushed the jar to one side, my eyes fell upon my remedy…Motherwort Tincture! Ahhh, the Champion of herbs for a woman’s heart! Personally, I grow it in my garden. It is native to England, but certainly not here. I have to watch it carefully because it reproduces in a most prolific manner and will rudely usurp its neighbors.

In the older herbal texts, Motherwort is described as being used for everything female including an antispasmodic, tonic, and nervine, It stimulates blood flow and induces perspiration as well. It is especially valuable in “female weakness and disorders, allaying nervous irritability and inducing quiet and passivity of the entire nervous system”. Whoa, strong plant juju here…. Yet, it has proven its worth as an overall heart tonic and also in “spinal disease”. Hmmm, think it can regrow collapsed disks or remove spinal stenosis? Need to check that out….

Anyway, Culpepper wrote that “there is no better herb to drive melancholy vapours from the heart, to strengthen it, and make the mind cheerful, blithe and merry”. In another herbal it is listed as THE most powerful herb to use against “wykked sperytis”. By and far the best way to take it is in a tincture. So, 20 drops in a half glass of wine should do the trick. But I choose to keep my “wykked sperytis” wits about me……IMG_20170715_164223

Stories from an Herb-wife – Dandelion Flower Tea Cake

Dandelion Flower Tea Cake
Makes 2 cakes
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 – 2 cups dandelion petals
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup honey
2 eggs
2 2/3 cups milk
½ cup of jam Of choice

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and petals in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients together, add to dry ingredients. Pour into 2 greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Harvesting dandelion petals is a bit tricky. I recommend the following:
Pick flowers on a bright, COOL day, less bugs;
Pick large flowers only because they shrink and wilt quickly;
Split flower heads in half;
Pinch below white area with thumbnail;
Push petals up and pull free gently.

It took about 20 minutes to collect 1.5 cups of petals..

When baking with flower petals, make sure to separate them gently, and coat with flour. I do this by dusting petals with flour BEFORE placing in the bowl…..kind of like coating grated coconut with flour. Use a fork to mix petals into the flour to keep them more evenly distributed….. Mmm mmm, mmm good!inCollage_20180427_202804407

Stories of an Herb-wife – Honeysuckle Syrup

 

With spring and summer seasons beginning to Rise, I become a totally different beast. I spend hours out of doors sniffing the air, eyes on the ground, rapidly identifying most of the plants that come within view. I admit it, I am a junky…..and have to feed my habit of wildcrafting culinary and medicinal herbs. Botany was my soft spot in academia, and has become a skill I simply adore. I spend hours upon hours simply looking for and harvesting delectable and healing plants.

Honeysuckle flowers are the sweet heralds to the coming of summer. I love their aromatic, sugary scent that fills the air. Last summer I made multiple batches of Honeysuckle Syrup and cough drops and thought you might like the recipe.

Honeysuckle flowers have a variety of medicinal qualities including anti-inflammatory relief for headaches, they reduce fever, are excellent for bronchial spasms and coughs, and protects against viral and bacterial infection. In addition to its medicinal uses, the syrup is mild, and can be used simply as a sweetener in your cup of tea or drizzled over pancakes.

Pick the blossoms in the early morning, preferably before the heat of the day begins. Lay the blossoms out and remove the green sepal end at the base of the flower. Rinse the blossoms gently and place in a small pan. Create an herbal decoction by pouring 2 cups of boiling water over 1 cup of packed honeysuckle blossoms. Let this steep for a minimum of one hour. When cool, place the pot over a low flame and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low for about 30 minutes to reduce the liquid volume to 1 cup. Watch carefully. When completed, strain the decoction and compost the flowers.

To 1 cup of decoction, add 1 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of lemon juice. Bring to a low boil and cook until it begins to thicken. Pour immediately into hot sterilized jars, put on scalded canning lids and hand tighten. Place jars apart by a couple of inches to cool. Sealed syrup last up to a year when stored in a cool, dry place.

I make cough drops by boiling the decoction and sugar to a hard candy stage. I prepare a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with confectioners sugar. I spread the sugar evenly in the pan and make small depressions using the bottom of a small glass vial. I then pour the candied decoction into the depressions with a small Pyrex measuring cup. Let cool and wrap each drop in wax paper. Store drops in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
Enjoy!

The Warming of the Waters

IMG_20180307_080056The edge of winter is beginning to soften ever so slightly here on the Modoc Plateau. There remains another 10 weeks of unpredictable cool weather up here, but I am able to observe the warming of waters. The ice is transforming into its aqueous phase. Small rivulets of water have appeared on the soil surface.

Spring is being introduced by the coming of Light, more sunlight. Wow. The wonder of sunlight. It is the catalyst which drives the alchemy of the emergence of green life of this season. Deep changes in the soil. The quickening of new life, new tissues being formed. A release from the dark, frozen state to one of release, change, renewal and growth. The soil lets go of its slumber and inertia driven by cold. It is a time of tremendous, miraculous alchemy.

The alchemy of Spring simply happens with our Mother. There is nothing humans need to do to drive this intricate process. It is organic, taking on its own form and juices as it unfolds. I realize that becoming fully human is also an organic process, a pathway laid out and constructed by Gaia Herself. My illusion lies in my monkey brain, the part of me that thinks…. the part of my brain that incessantly chatters and chitters and thinks that it is somehow in control. My monkey brain also tells me whether I am worthy, beautiful, whole or loved. Or the opposite: I am unworthy, ugly, fractured and unloved. The monkey brain is only about 2% of my brainpan. Only 2%. Yet I give it voice and authority as if it is all of me.

The secret to connection, love, trust, and hope live in the soil of my subconscious, the other 98% of my brain function. There lies the moist soil of wholeness and is hardwired to Our Mother. My monkey brain tirelessly throws up pictures on the wall of my third eye, mostly negative, like a movie projector gone rogue. To allow myself to experience and be tranformed by the seasonal pulse of Spring, I have to stop the incessant noise and “fake news” of my monkey brain. I say, “go for the plug” and unplug this projector as often as you can remember to do so. And let Mother transform you effortlessly into a new emergence as a tender new shoot. Namaste..

From silence and deep soil comes
release, change. New growth
sprouts unbidden, unencumbered.

Let go. Cast off your sleep
As your Mother awakens you
like a child in slumber,
and quickens new tissue, new life
into your Being.
Warmth rises freely, organic.

Great change is coming…


It is a sobering fact that our atmospheric chemical composition has been altered by industrial pollutants. This alteration has resulted in creating atmospheric instability that is highly unpredictable and destructive. I belong to a conservation group called TreeSisters. This organization, along with Rainforest Alliance, the Arbor Day Foundation, National Forest Foundation, Eden Reforestation Project, Trees for the Future, the Greenbelt Project, American Forests, Plant-for-the-Planet, Greening Australia and others are planting trees – millions of them on a yearly basis. Simply planting trees. A global climatic emergency is in the making, one we will see and experience unfold in most of our lifetimes. As an ecologist, I have no doubt cropped-selfie_millerlakeabout this. Over population coupled with voracious consumption of natural resources has already determined this path. Although planting trees will not stop this change from occurring, it is a mitigating effort to minimize the amplitude of this climatic shift on all living systems.

Our Mother is self regulating. She has layers of intricate processes that go into effect to balance and harmonize Her body. As a species, we are part of Her body and our activities have had a significant effect on other species who are our equals and brothers and sisters in this miraculous place. This is all about Gaia Herself. She will retain what is important for her own Life and evolution. We have been blessed to be part of that process, and are highly successful in progenating our numbers across the globe. Our appetite as a species is HUGE. We have consumed everything in our path, so to speak, and will continue to do so today, tomorrow and in the future. Most of humanity is “not awake” yet. Not conscious of how we continue to feed and gorge ourselves as a single species on Mother’s bounty. Like a child who goes into the pantry and stuffs themselves on the carefully prepared foodstuffs, I personally believe that She will simply “take away our plate” in a manner which says “You have eaten enough, it’s not good for you or your brothers and sisters”.

My word to you is this…. PLANT TREES. Put your money where your mouth is.

Inner Heat

As I described in earlier writing, as a girl I had an imaginative alter ego who I simply named Barbara Cowboy. Her existence in my imagination and play took place decades before the theory and language of current day Feminism and Spiritually were formed. And Her story continues….
She had the gift of making fire. I have never seen anything like it. I would gather whatever I could find, often hastily constructed into a loose mound. It did not matter what the fuel was made of, stones piled in mud topped with a handful of green leaves, dry sticks and grass, wet twigs, frozen pine cones, algae strands collected from a slow running creek. Barbara Cowboy carried a source of heat deep, deep inside Herself. Like a coal stored deep in the ashes of the world, kept bright, smoldering.

I noticed that She never seemed to get cold, even when the temperatures dropped, and sleet blew in horizontal streaks across a landscape. She did not own a coat, or heavy skin to drape over her back. Her only cover was a serape-like blanket in colors of ochre, with striations of green, blue and white interwoven in colorful rows. I would often watch her unfurl it from a pouch in her saddle bags, throw it around her shoulders like a market shawl and throw me a quick grin and a wink as She wandered ahead leading her horse. In the most inclement weather, her hands were warm, downright toasty. Raindrops and snowflakes would dissipate on her skin, and rise like clouds of vapor to the heavens. Internal heat, always present, always warming. Never too hot or too cool. She made fire-tending look as easy as taking a breath.

In some spiritual teachings, the hands are identified as having the gift to begin and end all sorts of manifestation in this world. With our left hand, we receive what the universe offers us, and with our right hand we release or send these gifts to others and the world. I often witnessed Barbara Cowboy extend her right hand to make fire. She did not seek to receive anything from the world to make fire. She used what was inside herself, her internal flame, and would merely reach out to gift it to whatever fuel lay before her hand. Be it dung, waste wrappings, improbable fuel choices….it didn’t matter. A heat would be released and ignition … the bright flames of transformation would rise. Without effort, simply and freely given. Simply by using INTENT to give to herself the warmth she needed.

Build your campfire and throw onto it your personal garbage, limited self perceptions, feelings of not being seen or heard. Throw your sense of unworthiness on top of it all and reach out your right hand. Release your heat, buried beneath the ashes of your world. It’s there, believe you me. Release your fire as a gift to the universe and watch the flames of your own transformation reach to the sky above. Then turn around and walk your path with your left hand held high. Let out a whoop!

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Self Reflections

I was born into this world 64 years ago today. It has been a long journey around the Medicine Wheel, and I now find myself in the North at this period of my life. Crone, now Wise Woman … a title I now wrap myself in like a skin laid upon my shoulders. This time of the Wheel is one of wisdom, introspection and freedom. My walk with Mother Earth has been with me since I was small. She was part of my environment, but more in my imagination and within my play dreams. I had an alter ego whom I named Barbara Cowboy. I was born in the 1950’s when choices for women were limited. One could grow up to be a housewife, secretary, waitress or an airline stewardess. Women did not have the language or words for Feminism or Enlightenment.

I had an alter ego which I named Barbara Cowboy. She was no little girl but a full grown woman and feral. She could wield a knife with precision, wore pants with leather chaps, could ride a horse bareback without reins and knew the names of the plants and critters in her world. She jingled as she walked, with silver conchos and bracelets on her wrists and her hair was braided in a thick tail down the middle of her back. She lived outdoors in all kinds of weather and whooped when the storms moved through. She walked through my dreams at night, and went before me in my play time. I wanted to be HER when I grew up. I have always considered Her my guide, an avatar, so to speak and She was/has been with me as I grew into my adulthood as a woman.

1519973667143I’ve made lots of poor choices in my living, but when it came to building a career direction I chose to follow Her guiding compass. I attended college late, as a single parent with two young daughters in tow. I voraciously gobbled up classes in botany, biology, ornithology, mammalogy, ichthyology, dendrology, forest ecology, soils, hydrology and anything else that piqued my understanding of the natural world we live in. I completed degrees in Wildlife Biology, Forestry, and graduate studies in Wetland Ecology. I have worked as a botanist, restoration ecologist, big game biologist, wetland specialist, plant biogeochemist and physiologist. I know the names of critters, plants, soils, herbs and understand a bit of how this miraculous world wags with its large nutrient, water and atmospheric cycles. My breath is Mother’s Breath. My Heart will forever be with Her…… And, I can wield a knife with great precision……