earth-daughter know however far you may roam
you can draw strength from the Mother
I am your shelter, your home
and when you are weary and long for sorrow's release remember...
hold me close, rest in my arms
I am your refuge, your peace
Well for anyone who's still reading, I know i've been dearly remiss in keeping up with this.
2005 was a crazy year in my world, and I'm hoping that now that january has passed, this year will find me returning to my herb nerding in full force.
I've found a better place to host this blog....and this is the link.
I hope you'll come visit me there, less of a problem with spammers, and easier to add pretty plant pictures too... go see what i've got there so far. Lots of pretty ones from the summer.
thanks again! and many green blessings!
Here's an article reporting a study that Sambucol, a standarized and very popular elderberry extract formula commonly available in natural food markets, is effective in fighting the dreaded "bird flu". Nice to know we have something in our arsenal should the bird flu scare acutally take shape. But don't forget that elderberries, and sambucol, or your own elderberry preparation will be effective against other cold and flu viruses that you may be exposed to. I rely heavily on elderberry syrup and garlic to fend of flu and cold all winter long.
This week, something tried to get me down and out with the sickies, but in my well stocked herbal arsenal, i had...you guessed it...GARLIC.
Remember that ginger garlic syrup I made many moons ago. I buried it in the ground and then retrieved it 17 days later. It mellowed out a bit in flavor, but I took swigs of this stuff daily, along with downing a quart of fire cider in a week, AND munching on raw garlic cloves a couple of times a day. Garlic gave the sickies the boot. I had a sore throat on monday, and some congestion on wednesday, but i never really came down with the miserable cold that was threatening.
Garlic is a godsend!
I know raw garlic can be tough to take, it can upset sensative tummies, and of course, you smell like italian food all day and night. But it will keep other sick people at bay, and if you are fighting something off, chances are your loved ones who are nearby are either sick, or fighting something off themselves, and should be joining you in eating garlic. It's a garlic fest in my world!
To get the raw garlic down, i always make sure i've eaten something so i dont have an empty stomach.
my favorite ways to eat it. Crushed up on buttered toast, in a spoonful of honey, blended with lemon and orange juice and a splash of olive oil, or crushed fresh into my latest meal. Making soup? Once you pour into your bowl, crush a fresh clove right into it. Eat up!
But I'm a die hard, and have been known to just chew a clove straight up. Watch out garlic breath!
I also used a few other herbs to help fight off what was ailing me, including my trusty friends yarrow and elder - both help fever ( i had a 99 fever. slight, but an indicator i was definately fighting off a bug) and are helpful for congestion/catarrh, and disinfecting. Elder berry syrup also made its way into my arsenal this week, and it is truly a delight to take. Even your little kids will like taking that medicine.
I feel really happy that my garlic efforts staved off a full blown battle with the sickies, but i also made sure to get plently of extra rest, lots of hot chicken soup and extra fluids ( water and tea).
Next time you feel something coming on, whip out the garlic and the elder...take it as often as you remember, once an hour is best, but if your like me, it is hard to remember every hour. I just carried my jar of garlic syrup and fire cider with me in the car, and sipped it when i remembered ( probably every couple of hours...at least! Be diligent about it, and it will help!!
So this week I've been hard at work...baking breads and autumny foods ( apples, cranberry bread, beets) and making various winter wellness concoctions and brews.
I made a reishi mushroom extract, which is a rather complicated two step extraction process that requires a lot of math...but is basically making a tincture of reishi mushrooms (chopped please) in alcohol, then straining out the mushrooms and cooking them in water for several hours to extract the water soluable polysachharides that are so useful to the immune system. Then the two extracts are mixed in proportions of 30% alcohol and 70% water extract.
I also finally made rosemary gladstars famous garlic ginger syrup...holy cow, is this potent stuff!!
Basically you juice fresh garlic cloves and fresh ginger root, and mix with a bit of honey to sweeten it up, and add a pinch of cayenne. You then bury this concoction in the earth for 17 days to let it cure and mellow. I have yet to bury this, but i sipped it a bit tonight...watch out garlic breath!!
my oh my!
but, garlic, sure to keep the bugs at bay with this...even if i just keep people at arms distance from the smell!!
So, on my weekend jaunt through the dry canyon arroyos, i noticed that the hackberry trees were FULL Of fruit. I know, hackberry doesnt sound like it is all that tasty, but it is!
A bit like an apricot, but unique to itself. Small round orange fruits with a large seed, that are especially big and juicy this year due to all the rain we had in the late summer.
Hackberry, celtis pallida, is an extremely common shrub/tree in the sonoran desert, frequenting the areas around washes. Hackberries are a good food source for the birds, but in good years, can be for us too!
So i brought home a couple of cups of berries from my walk and thought about what to make. Not enough for a pie, and i'm not really a JAM person...but...
i like to make apple butter every year, and thought, why not hackberry butter?? I added one apple for texture and consistency, but damn is it good spread on warm toast!
so i used
2 cups ripe hackberry
1 apple chopped
1/2 c brn sugar
some water ( to cover the fruit in the pan)
basically i boiled the fruit inthe water till soft. Blended it up, strained out the seeds, returned the butter to the pan with the sugar and cooked it down till thick.
Reminds me a bit of pumpkin butter, but i know the true secret! Hackberries!!
Today, I decided it was time to make a fresh batch of chaparral oil, otherwise known as creosote, to desert dwellers. I know a lot of herbalists who use dried chaparral for their preparations, but i have found that fresh is ultimately better. It retains that desert rain smell and is full of live goodness.
I collected fresh chapparal leaves this morning, early, and carried them home in a paper bag. Then into the blender with olive oil the leaves went. WHRRRRRRRRRZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
I like break up the leaves a bit in the oil, and then set it in the sun for about a week to steep. All the oils and resins in the chaparral are in the oil, and then i can use it for my famous chaparral salve, or any other number of things.
So, as I am wont to do, rather often, the kitchen becomes my experiemental lab...for all sorts of concoctions, edible, medicinal, creative and otherwise.
Last night I was cooking a huge pot of posole after going grocery shopping. Had to empty the fridge, and found the half block of tofu i had left from the other nights dinner.
So i set about putting that tofu to work. As an appetizer for dinner!
I cooked up that tofu block with 1/4 onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 handfuls of dried nettles, 1 chipotle chile, salt, pepper and some lime juice, and some cumin and coriander. I cooked until the nettles and onions were soft, then into the blender it went...and out came a green spicy dip that was delicious on corn chips, spread over warm tortillas with our posole, and even good on today's sandwich packed for a day hike.
Oh the things you can do with nettles!!!
Fall is almost here in the desert. Daytime temperatures in September are still in the 90's. Still downright hot. Though the humidity is gone, and the mornings and evenings are downright COOL! It's down in the 60s at night! I wore a tank top on an early morning hike today and was actually a bit chilly in the predawn air!
So, I spent some time in Sonora Mexico this past weekend, and found myself in wet, riparian area with lots of shady trees and many many vines. I was SURE that I would find Passionflower growing in amongst the trees. Passionflower in Arizona is at the absolute northern extreme of it's range, and down a bit further south, where the tropical influence is stronger, passionflower is bound to be more abundant. It took me all day to find this one, and it had little tiny unripe fruits, drooping below the vine stem. Ahhh.... I took a picture, and then popped a fruit into my mouth. Not as tasty as one would imagine passionfruits tasting, but this was unripe. Almost immediately after chewing up and swallowing the fruit, I felt the passiflora calm settle over me. It was a after a long day of hiking, and we still had 45 minutes of trekking through the hot open desert back to the cars, and the swimming hole. Passiflora took me down a notch, and made me feel that all was well. LIfe is just a bowl of passionfruits! MIHI!
A friend mentioned he had tried passionflower as a smoke herb, and that it worked VERY nicely for him, not harsh or bitter either. So, if you happen to be someone who smokes their herbs ( of whatever variety) give a passionflower smoke a try. I myself prefer teas or tinctures. Fresh passionflower is sooo nice. Dried works ok too, but nothing like a fresh passionflower fruit off the vine to make you feel nice and sweet.
After a trying week, i decided to leave town and head for the hills for some R&R...and of course, some cavorting in the montane forest with some cooler weather loving plants. Spent the weekend on Mt Graham in the Pinaleno Mtns, which happen to be some of the wettest mountains in the southeast portion of arizona. This means that things like mushrooms and stinging nettles grow in abundance.
In fact, this is the ONLY place i've found in my travels where nettles grow in arizona. * though they are bound to be in other places with water. i just haven't found them yet!*
I think the species of nettles i found is called slender nettles, urtica urens, but i didn't have any sort of book with me...i'm just going on intuition on this one. The leaves are a bit narrower than in u. dioica, but they get pretty tall in this area. There were a few patches that were taller than me! There was a lot of lush, green new growth...probably thanks to the rain that was falling, and a fellow harvester who had been there a few weeks before. I noticed some of the stalks were cut, and the nettles had branched out a bushed up. The older uncut ones were all in flower already.
There is some debate about weather to use nettles after they flower, as the minerals, silicates in particular, become harder on the kidneys as the plants age. I like to harvest mine before flowering, but i know others that like to get them particularly when IN flower.
But, as always, there are hazards of the job as an herbalist....ran into some wet weather....and had to take some breaks under the pine trees to stay relatively dry. MY paper harvesting bag was getting a bit soggy and fragile as well. The nettles were all damp from the rain too. And of course, nettles have their own hazards. They STING! I've gotten pretty adept at harvesting nettles barehanded without getting covered in nettle sting, but she always likes to give you a reminder to PAY ATTENTION! Just when I turn, or lost focus, a gentle, or not so gentle sting reminded me to pay attention to nettles, and to give her my thanks for her gift of medicine and food.
Fresh nettles went into dinner that night, along with garbonzo beans and bulgar, and nettles came home to dry for nourishing, mineral rich, liver loving infusions. I dont know many people who couldn't benefit from nettles nourishing properties, everyone from nursing moms to growing kids and sageing elders. Nettles can be a bit "drying" for some people, it is diuretic, and for some...it can cause headaches. It hasn't happened lately, but I used to get raging headaches when i drank nettles infusions. I've never really pieced together what was going on. THough someone suggested perhaps it was vasodialating the veins in my head... maybe it was nettles picked after flowering? I figured that nettles and I just weren't meant to be allies, at that time. But she's been real gentle on my head as of late, and I LOVE her green, rich flavor as a wild green in soups, sauteed with butter and garlic. The infusion can be pretty INTENSE, and some people don't care for that flavor, so often I mix it with something like peppermint or lemongrass, to lighten up the flavor.
Nettles are fairly easy to grow as well, if you've got a wet spot, out of the way of running kids and mowers. I've even managed to grow some in a 5 gallon pot here in the desert in a patch of shade. She drinks a lot of water, and right now, the grasshoppers have found her to their liking.
Nettles is really nice, safe herb that can be used in so many ways for so many people. Definatley worth getting to know her better...despite the stings, or maybe for the reminder she offers to pay attention....be present.......
SHe reminds me to be present in life...dont let my mind wander too far from reality , and the here and now. the past is gone, and the future is yet to come. All we have is the current moment. LIve it and experience it to the fullest without being distracted....
thanks sister spinster nettles!
Sometimes life is challenging. Some days you get up on the wrong side of the bed, and it only gets worse.
I'm having one of those days today. I feel like i've hit the wall, the end of my rope....
But after I got done crying, it was to the teapot I went. Herbs can help...they certainly don't make the problems go away, but can ease the sobbing hiccups and ache....
First step was to cry it out.... just let it out...something i have a hard time doing. but we do need to release our pent up feelings, frustrations, sadness, despair, even greif...
Then I went for some Motherwort Tincture. A nice calming cardiac tonic, eases the heartache, and the stress reaction in the heart...you know...the pitter patter, squinching, cant breathe, panicy...near hysterics can't get control feeling? Yeah, motherwort is great for that. I might also use passionflower and/or rescue remedy in these cases, but i saw the motherwort first. A dear friend sent me a little bottle not too long ago...and it was conviently located within reach of the kleenex....it helped calm me down enough to get off my soggy pillow and get to the kitchen to make some tea.
I made a pot of what i've called Woman's Spirit Tea, which i made especially for those moody, emotional, difficult times that women sometimes experience, weather during the moontime, or just in lifes ups and downs. It's full of woman loving, spirit lifting herbs, roses, lavender, lemon balm, raspberry leaves.....it settles and gently uplifts. In fact, i think i need another cup. A friend once tried it and told me it helped her to quell impending panic attacks. I added some sage leaves, for strength and wise woman energy.
Next step...chocolate! Yes, chocolate IS an herb! You know this is true, it has amazing mood altering effects, and it's soothing and sweetens life when your feeling bitter. Just a little goes a long way...a few bites..hey, make it Rocky Road Ice cream even....for those bumps along the way.
Lemon balm is really nice too, i find it to be one of the most uplifting nervines there is, next to lavender, but something about that sunny, lemony fresh scent and flavor of Melissa is just right when you're down in the dumps.
Hawthorne is good for heartaches as well...and a nutritious tonic for the heart and circulatory system, full of anti oxidants and bioflavanoids.
I have to admit, i did go out and buy myself some new green candles to light in my room...green for earth, green for growth and green is just so...pleasing.
I went up to my favorite spot to look at plants and to hang out in nature this afternoon, Molino Basin. Much to my suprise, and delight, found that there was water running in the wash! There was even enough water at one point it was spilling over a rock in a small waterfall. I dunked my head in it...ahhh...
I also found quicksand! Places where the water had been running, and still was, under the semi solid looking sand. I sank in up to my ankles but got out without too much trouble. Summer in the desert...
I think the monsoons are mostly over, and september weilds it's dry septer. I'll be eager for october to arrive, with its slightly cooler temperatures.
It reminds me to look for the unexpected blessings and pleasures in life. Sometimes even in the dryest of places, there is water. In the warmest of hot days, there is a refreshing pool of water...sometimes easy to get bogged down, but if you look around you, there are many small blessings abounding...the grapes ripe on the vine, the soft beauty of sunrise each morning, the pleasure of a good meal, or simple laughter with a friend.
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal… along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.
It is an experience of the shared heart, that flourishes alongside honesty, love and commitment.
From If the Buddha Dated
I was awoken from my slumber this morning, at 4 am, to window rattling thunder, lighting strikes every few seconds, and a torrential downpour.
Last night gave no hint of the storm brewing...but lo and behold...brew it did. The large amount of water that fell in such a short time caused the Santa Cruz river to flood. I twas the 4th highest streamflow recorded since 1915...and was around 12 ft deep!
That's pretty remarkable. If you've spent any time in Tucson you know that most of the year, on an average day, the river is completely DRY. But not today.
I had thought perhaps the monsoons were drawing to a close, but, there was at least one more doozy in store for us. The rains tend to wind up at the end of august, leaving us hot and dry for the month of september. October things cool off, and we've often experienced the tail end of hurricaines that move through the gulf of california.
I love thunderstorms! I love it when rain drenches the desert.
Most people think Im a bit nuts when I tell them I'm up before the sun often. In the summer in the desert, before sunrise is the best time to get outside, to garden, to exerzise, to hike, to birdwatch...
so i do my best to get up and be a part of the world so early in the morning. It is a gift....
I"f there is anything truly magical and holy, it is dawn. The hush of night transformed into a glowing pink chorus of bird song. Seeing the dark blue bowl shimmer and transform before my eyes, purple and pink, orange, blue and shimmering gold.
The sun, so giving, so warm, filling this world with his life giving light.
Brings tears to my eyes and awe to my heart.
Filled with emotion, filled with gratefulness.
Devine spirit is present here,everywhere, everday.
How can we deign not to notice the blessings given us everyday in the sunrise.
Transforming the chill of winter into warm springtime, transforming dark into light
Giving LIFE to this earth, and all her creatures.
Any other transformation so dramatic would be called a miracle, a wonder…
And truly the transformation from night into day is a miracle, a wonder, and a gift we can receive each and everyday if we just take the time, if we notice!
How can I not give thanks when I shiver in the predawn chill, and watch as the sun begins to kiss the mountaintops, and then FEEL the warmth bathe my face and body as the sun makes his appearance. The covers of night shed as the earth greets the sun, like a lover, delighting in each other’s splendor.
The goddess of the night flushes with the coming of the sun
And she begins to flee, tendrils of hair trailing behind her
As the golden orb gifts his golden aura, as he kisses her
a morning haiku inspired by sunrise in the desert, illuminating the towering saguaro with coyote laughing in the distance.
a new day is born."