How to Respectfully Wildcraft (and the enchantment of medicinal plants)

 

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It is wild crafting time.  We have a very short growing season here and a year’s worth of herbs to gather in a short time, sustainably, and respectfully.

I love wild crafting.  I am in my element when outdoors.  Even now, I am on my balcony surrounded by plants.  I am outside every moment I can and being around plants is even better.  I gather wherever I go, friends’ houses, great aunt’s house, sides of barely trodden roads.  (Never in polluted areas and never on private property without permission.)

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There is a special way to properly wild craft.  When I was younger I foolishly thought that you could just gather what was in the yard and put them in alcohol and make a medicine.  There is so much more to that including the plants choosing to help you, full moon cycles, various transports, and intuition.  Wild crafting requires patience, quiet, and listening.

One must approach the plant humbly.  Ask permission of the plant spirits.  If a twig or leaf or root or flower will not come off easily it is saying no.  You can also see parts of the plants moving.  That is where they are agreeing to be taken.  It is really quite enchanting and I am afraid that we have been lost in our modern world and have forgotten these things.  We do not take roots if we do not need to.  The Oregon Grape Root, dalonigei, has a large underground network of roots and will be alright if one harvests the roots.  Echinacea, sochani, is not so easy or prolific and the leaves and flowers contain as much of the medicine within them as the root.  Always leave tobacco to thank the plant spirits.

Only take a third.  A third each for nature, for regrowth, and for your medicine.  It should look as if the area has been undisturbed.  No one should notice that you have wild crafted there.  Having gratitude for the plants and the availability of the medicines is important and humbly taking only what you need is to be remembered.

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There are few true medicine keepers today and it is imperative for the average herbalist (and large herb companies) to understand the importance of maintaining a respectful and ceremonial way of gathering in order to get the plants’ help in making medicines as well as keeping the energy of the medicine.

These things really cannot be adequately explained in print but it should be noted so that we can take care of our natural medicines (including dandelions!) and Mother Earth, Etsia Eloheno.

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Today I was blessed to gather sumac, spruce, cedar, mullein, calendula, Echinacea, and Oregon grape root from Aunt Donna’s.  Yesterday I gathered maple and dandelion from Rodney and Pat’s.  Tomorrow I gather roses, yucca, purslane, and lady sage.  I do love this time of year.

Flying Off the Bucket List

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I have always been fascinated by little planes.  I haven’t ever necessarily wanted to learn to fly but I have wanted to ride in a small plane.  We would watch them fly over and land or take off at the Falcon airport as we drove by and would wave.  Turns out my friend, Pat, has an airplane at the Falcon airport and invited Doug and I to ride along.

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His son, Jeff, came along with his girlfriend, Paige.  She has always wanted to ride in a small plane as well and we were both giddy with excitement.

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Pat was in the Airforce and in the National Guard for many years.  He recently retired as a pilot for United Airlines.  But he still has that need for airspace and his plane is a beauty.  It is a Russian Yak.  The way it is painted I felt like I was in World War II standing outside one of the brave soldier’s planes.  Or like Snoopy.  It also looks like the plane Snoopy flew.

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Doug flew in a small plane with a friend of his some years ago so he was sweet enough to let me have the front seat (never mind my elbowing him out of the way).

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We waved farewell to Jeff and Paige (who were flying after us) and taxied to the runway.

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We flew peacefully over the plains, the mountains clear against the cloudless vast sky of autumn blue.  Little farms slept quaintly below and cows grazed obliviously.  We flew over our little town and waved frantically.

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Pat asked if we were ready to do a barrel roll.  We held our breath and morphed through a slight time warp of speed, just like in the movies, as we flipped over with the ground visible through the clear roof and swiftly flipped back right-side up.  Our heads a bit fuzzy but our smiles wide.

We had a smooth landing and a great memory to hold.

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We cheered on Jeff and Paige as they taxied by.

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You’ll find herbalists in the darndest places wild crafting, I tell you.

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Harvesting From the Marsh (or one’s back yard)

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It was the first really warm day yesterday.  Beautiful.  The birds sang and the sun shone truly bright and comforting as I found my way through the foot high brush in the marsh.  Water snaked its way through patches as the large, old willow tree, in all its knowledge of history past hundred years or so, drank steadily and protected the greenery beneath.  Plantain has sprung up.  Used to heal wounds and also as food, it is a welcome sight.  Dandelions grow tall and bush-like, tantalizing me with its toothed leaves and delicious flavors highlighted by the sunny yellow flowers.  Dock rose up in long slender arms and invited me to have some.  It is a powerful blood cleanser, anti-cancer, and healing to the liver, but one wouldn’t know by its mild bite and delicious addition to meals.  Lamb’s Quarters showed shyly between wild grasses.

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Wild strawberry leaves sit between plantain leaves and take me to memories past.  A walk in the woods with my best friend some twenty-four years ago but really a day ago it seems.  We walked and dreamed.  Seventeen years old and filled with hope and certainty that our friendship would stand the tests of time.  We walked without shirts on, unbidden and wild and innocence, in dappled sunlight we walked in carefree youth and joy.  We agreed to meet ten years from the date with our families and walk this way again.  August 11, 2001 came and went as did 2011 and I only wish her great joy and blessings on her path in her own woods.  Strawberries will make a luxurious addition to our salads.

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We walked further, accidentally frightened frogs, and came across the pond.  Looking up into another ancient willow sat four birds.  Large owls sat in statue.  The husband, wife, and two infants, large and downy, flew one by one.  A gift for this fine day of free food and soulful walking.  How great is nature to provide vast amounts of food for us.  Free for the taking, ten times more nutritious than cultivated greens.  Cleansing, and filling, and healing.

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Try wild greens on mixed salad.  Or top pizza before baking.  Roast with potatoes and garlic.  Sauté with bacon and mushrooms.  Make into a smoothie.  Indulge.  Wild greens are actually milder than spinach.  There are many ways to prepare it.  In gratitude is the best way.

Dock has tasty greens.  Harvest the root in fall to make detoxifying extracts.

Dock has tasty greens. Harvest the root in fall to make detoxifying extracts.

Lamb's quarters are found in many back yards proving that weeds can be delicious!

Lamb’s quarters are found in many back yards proving that weeds can be delicious!

Dandelion flowers can be made into jelly or fritters and the greens sautéed, roasted, or eaten fresh.  The roots can be used to make immunity boosting extracts.

Dandelion flowers can be made into jelly or fritters and the greens sautéed, roasted, or eaten fresh. The roots can be used to make immunity boosting extracts.

Cut herbs like plantain with a sharp knife and only take up to one third of what you find.  Be grateful.  It makes the food more nutritious and healing.

Cut herbs like plantain with a sharp knife and only take up to one third of what you find. Be grateful. It makes the food more nutritious and healing.

Owl in tree.

Owl in tree.

Watching owls take flight.

Watching owls take flight.

Rainstorm moving in.

Rainstorm moving in.

Finding Oneself Among Cottonwoods and Willows (the walk of self discovery)

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I found myself among the cottonwoods and willows.  I was probably there all along.  I looked up into the high tree tipped with buds, the sun filtering through thick branches.  I quietly filled my jar with buds and twigs.  A bit of bark.

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The breeze brought news of rain as I gathered and listened.  My true essence blooming and enveloped me as I wild crafted the materials to make my pain medicine.

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My fingers agilely gathered the herbs, a bit of pine, willow bark, cottonwood.  For so long, eight tablespoons of this, two tablespoons of that, a waterproof label.  The medicines amazing and developed to help masses of people.  But my headaches still seemed unanswered.  This time, among the cottonwoods, I heard the recipe.  Simple really.

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Finding oneself and recalling the gifts and genetic dispositions and self that is true within our inner most being often eludes in the face of the world.  To find that knowing, that instinct and profound quiet, the peace of it all, the true self calls.

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But there I was all along among the willows.  My intuition full, my hands deftly fingering the right additives for my concoction.

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Instead of alcohol I added my own homemade red wine vinegar.

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I added the last of our honey harvest, licking the sweetness off of my fingers after squeezing it through.

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I added oil to the salve ingredients.

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The sun will infiltrate their cell structure and bring out its real essence.  It knows what it is meant to be.  And there I am too.  Among the cat tails and meadowlarks.

What’s Next? (welcoming the new year)

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The sun is shining brightly on this lovely New Year’s morn as a feeling of hope and aspiration overcomes us.  We release the last year, accept its many lessons, rejoice that we are here this morning to breathe and revel in unstoppable dreams and goals.

What is in store for Farmgirl School this year?  My lists are brimming.

This year we will completely immerse ourselves in permaculture (Doug and I are already busy reading books and listening to lectures on the subject…such a foreign concept to us as we have been gardening the same way for so long but are excited to completely change for the better our way of farming.) and create an oasis here on our new  homestead with fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, perennials, annuals, container gardening, cold frames, green house?…lots of big ideas.  Join us as we grow mushrooms this year and more herbs too.  Let’s learn to hunt wild foods and eat weeds.

Let me show you how to make medicines with wild herbs and many ways to administer them.  There is lots of wacky information out there on herbal medicine, let me just teach you how easy and effective it is.  We’ll make our homesteading and herbalist school a great success and meet lots of folks from all over on the way.

Let’s get some more farm animals maybe, and learn many more skills.  I will teach you how to make hard cheeses.  Let’s eat our way around the world and learn more ethnic cooking.  Who knows what else we will learn in our journey this year!

I love the idea of the proverbial clean slate ahead of me.  Unwritten days and new attitudes, memories, and experiences at hand.  As always, thank you for following us on this journey.  Last year we found the homestead that we dreamed of and learned many valuable lessons that will be pivotal to our experiences this year.  I love receiving your letters.  Should you like to correspond please drop me a line via snail mail.  Mrs. Katie Sanders, 7080 Calhan Rd So, #2, Calhan, CO, 80808 or if you are in Elizabeth on Mondays, come by Grumpy’s coffee shop and sit a spell with me.  I love seeing who is reading my writings and learning from each other.

So, here we come 2015, we embrace you with open arms.  Who’s with me?