Workday Weeds is an ongoing project to introduce our common, everyday medicinal "weed" herbs. Hang out with these hard-working herbs and get to know your ground-level medicine better!
Dandelion is such a dear, dear friend.
I know, sacrilege, right??
Really, though, this is an amazing plant. The root makes a fantastic liver tonic. The leaves, a kidney tonic. Notice, those two things go together- build up the strength of the liver and kidneys and you'll purify your blood, which will remove junk from circulating to every cell in your body and bring all sorts of goodies to them, since of course you'll also be digesting and assimilating better!
Folk knowledge says you can use the sap from the flower stems to kill warts, and to make henna-like tattoos. The flowers make a mean wine, and I've read they fritter up nicely too- I have yet to try that but will update when I do. Henriette Kress says the flowers bring joy, which is a lovely gift, and that flower syrup tastes nutty and of vanilla. She also says some other pretty great things about this hardy survivor (as do her commentors!):
The second thing is that where the roots meet the rosette of leaves, the plant produces a dark purple color indicative of oxalic acid. When harvesting, I always remove that bit to prevent unnecessary buildup.
I am amazed at the tenacity this plant shows. Have you seen where she grows?? Out of solid walls, in stones, places where there's barely any soil. And with that cheerful bright yellow smile, at the same time! This tells me something about the strength of her medicine. She gives deep, foundational support to those livers and kidneys, digging way down to anchor their strength and draw up their energy and light.
All in all, though, I love my dandelions and carefully weed around them in my garden. Try it!
Interestingly enough, the start and end of my working stay-at-home vacation were very similar- cold, wet, and cold. But the in-between days were lovely! I still have several hours to go in my final day, and I still have plans for those hours- one being to transplant my tomato seedlings, thanks to a 10 Tomato Transplant Tips article from the Hudson Valley Seed Library that convinced me this weather is not just made for tea and movies, but for reducing transplant shock, also! Where did I put those red plaid rain boots?
Lots did get done these last several days, but not as much as I hoped and planned. A big lesson to come out of this is that This Girl Needs Discipline! Most of what I fell behind on were writing/planning/typing tasks, and I specifically had a hard time finding that old grindstone for my nose. But, now that I see that SO VERY clearly, there's hope.
I did update my website a little, and added new parts like detailed instructions about using my No Shampoo hair cleaner and my Smooth face scrub and mask. I also posted, thereby announcing, a Project Detox:Summer Scrub program! Come detox with me and be vibrant this summer.
So, in all, the Staycation experiment was a success and I look forward to doing it again. One of the biggest tasks I took on was decanting probably18-20 alcohol and vinegar tinctures and infused oils that I've had sitting around for, oh, a while. All right, some of them for several YEARS. But what a shelf life! It really took having several days off to organize and tidy my workshop and to enjoy it like that, before I suddenly got motivated to muck it all up again. So now I have a regular apothecary for my own use, and a shelf full of empty jars waiting for new potions and concoctions.
Recently, I overheard two people talking about the milk a local Ag College sells from their student-raised cows. The gist of the exchange was the speaker expressing disappointment in the false advertising the College puts out, because you can go visit the cows and see that they're not just eating grass. There's all sorts of weeds and other things growing in those fields. The listener tsked and that was it- they were gone and I was left almost as dumbfounded as Lewis Black.
Now, I realize that not everyone knows everything. That's the beauty of the internets, and a major reason my herbal teachers encouraged me to write in the first place- we all have something to say, and it will be new to someone! I recently read an article called, in fact, "Actually, Everyone *Doesn't* Know That," a primer on why so many people hate that Monsanto thing. While I have mixed feelings about the actual writing, the heart of the piece was great, and was very welcoming to people looking for answers.
So here's why that conversation dumbfounded me, for anyone who may not see a problem with it: "grass-fed" means "as compared to penned-up and stuffed with corn and other grains", not "the groomed stuff of gated suburban lawns." Cows are grazers, and really "chew their cud"- they re-chew plant parts that are hard to digest, and their 4-part stomach eventually breaks it all down.
In comparison, no matter how much chewing we did, we'd never get as much nutrition as cows do from what they eat. And what they eat influences how their milk tastes, as well as what's actually in the milk- vitamins like A and D, conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs), or growth hormones, trans fats, or other toxins . Common cattle feed has much, much higher exposures to pesticides, contains antibiotics and other chemicals, and often even contains slaughterhouse wastes and euthanized pets (sources below.) In addition, imagine what you'd be like if you ate nothing but carbs all day, every day- these are not healthy animals.
Grass-fed cows, by their very nature, are raised on pasture. A certain amount of land is needed per cow, and this leads in part to the higher cost of their milk. Now, exactly how cows are treated depends on the farmer. Some refuse any and all antibiotics, some will use them for sick animals but not sell their milk during a quarantine period. Some supplement with corn or hay. And of course, in temperate climates like the Northeast, there simply is no grass growing in the dead of winter, so feed must be procured.
The topic of raw vs pasteurized or even ultrapasteurized milk (which some people consider a 'processed food' like common junk food) is a whole 'nother topic. Suffice to say, the smaller the outfit you can buy your milk from, the better off you'll usually be. Really, that's a good credo for all your food shopping. You are what you eat, after all.
Lipinski, Lori. "Milk: It Does A Body Good?", Weston A. Price Foundation, July 7 2003. http://www.westonaprice.org/making-it-practical/milk-it-does-a-body-good
Severson, Kim. "An Organic Cash Cow", New York Times, November 9 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/09/dining/09milk.html
This is who greeted me this morning, outside the window next to my bed! Isn't she lovely?
I thought I had a trip planned for the Memorial Day weekend, and it turns out I don't, so I am going to enjoy a working stay-cation. I have about 5 days off, and those days are now devoted to pretending Paula's Herbals is my livelihood. If being an herbalist will ever support me at all, I need to know that I can do the work it requires. I need to develop products, develop workshops and talks, and find places to ply my knowledge, and write write write.
Consider this an unofficial 'launch' of the Paula's Herbals business. I've been dabbling, and ramping up, but now it's time to make plans and goals and timelines and really get moving.
Today, I mediated and tidied up my workshop. I spent a couple wonderful hours with my boyfriend having lunch, before he goes off to shoot a film 24/7 for the next week. Now I am surrounded by notebooks, folders, and all sorts of things I've been neglecting. I have a list, I have ideas, and I have motivation. I just took a bath with Lemon Verbena sugar, and that was the right choice- it gave me so much good energy! I have a candle lit, it's a cold and windy day which is perfect for concentrating, and I have tea at my side.
I'll check back in tomorrow!
I've been trying to remember to notice what my garden sounds like.
My garden is new, outside against the building where my business rents space. I told my landlady I was going to put a few plants in, and, well, I tilled it all up and went a little crazy! So I imagine I would hear the sounds of traffic on the road, the noise of the small carwash across the street, occasional doors or voices belonging to others in the building, maybe a car as it pulls into our parking lot or my voice saying Hi to someone walking past.
But in this past week, I haven't yet remembered to listen. I don't think this is an example of a favorite lesson I learned from one of my teachers: "Forgetfulness is a form of Resistance!" I think it's because I'm so noisy!
When I'm in the garden, I'm constantly talking to myself and the plants, and I honestly couldn't tell you if it's out loud our not. I'm planting, or weeding, or planning. I'm checking out all the plants, since they're ALL new, and asking them what they need or how are they doing, congratulating them on not getting run over by errant parkers yet, imagining them grown up and filled in and beautiful, checking to see if seeds have sprouted or if that's just more grass popping up. There's a constant dialogue going on between Me, Myself, and the Garden. What needs water? Did the tomatoes get too much? What am I going to do with that bare space? How much more can I fit in? Did I make a mistake planting that there? There's so much grass! When I go back inside, the first thing I notice is the quiet- not only in my ears, but in my mind.
My garden is an active, creative space for me. It's not restful, contemplative, or meditative. There's nowhere to sit down, to just watch, or to just listen. Realizing this, I now want to put in a wind or water feature, something small to hold people's attention instead of just walking past and glancing down at some plants in the dirt. Maybe then I'll stand still long enough to hear what the Garden has to say to Me.
I've created profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+! And I've begun sharing one of my favorite internet things of the moment- New York Times haikus! They wrote an algorithm to search articles for haikus, and post them on Tumblr. Some are silly, some are beautiful, some I'm reposting. I was also inspired by the words of several of my teachers, so look for their wisdom to appear this week too.
I am at a friend's house, watching their dogs while they vacation. Just as I was getting going this morning, I heard the first drops of a spring shower begin outside, so I opened the guest bedroom window wide and propped my elbows up on the windowsill.
Right outside the window is an unknown tree, at least 30 feet high with red tipped leaves. Behind it is an even taller evergreen, with bright green tips, and nestled between them is a white flowering Dogwood with pink and red Azaleas underneath. Down to the right I see the tops of the Rhodos, more evergreens, a red Japanese Maple, and what looks like a forest of foliage. From this vantage I feel like I'm in a treehouse, high above the canopy.
When I first opened my computer to record this peace (like the pun?!) the light patter of rain had slowed, and the leaves were shaking off their dampness. Now a spring cloudburst has opened up in earnest, with the farthest trees shrouded in mist and the road noise accompanied by the hiss of water on tires. The air through the window feels cool and like water itself as it pours over my skin. A breeze will help move rain to the roots of these trees, and I am so pleased my new garden is getting watered much more gently than my hose can.
Thunder! Far away and echo-y, I thought it was a truck at first, but now we have fat, fast rain pouring straight down. Not quite "get-me-a-bar-of-soap" fast, but another crack of thunder almost brings the rain to that pace. Now the near trees look misty in the rain.. Oops, there are tiny water drops on my laptop screen.
I imagine that many of the drivers swishing by on the other side of those trees see only wet, annoyance, or maybe a touch of relief that the pollen is washing off their cars. True, wet roads can be slippery, as can wet flowers that have fallen to the pavement, and people need to take more care in the rain. But what a shame that more people can't spend ten or twenty minutes with the magic of this spring shower, and feel the plants drink up this rain like the finest champagne, waiting to stretch closer to the sun with their new life, and listen to the thunder and the birds and how sound changes as the rain changes, and watch the air itself change too. This really is magic.
Hmmm. I’ve tried to contemplate this challenge prompt in many ways, and I just keep seeing an image in my mind, of basement shelves.
When I was a child, we had a neighbor named Johnson. Les, I suppose short for Lester, was his first name, but he was Johnson to us. Johnson had been a WWII gunner, and had the damaged hearing to prove it. I don’t have very many memories of him, unfortunately. One thing I remember was his greeting- when he’d come to visit, he’d announce, “Salutations, and all such rot!” Another thing I remember was him showing me the one and only mistake he’d made when helping my parents re-do my bedroom- one crooked nail behind the door, that I knew was just between us.
At some point, he helped my mom make shelves in our basement. That basement was by no means ‘finished’, but it didn’t have dirt floors either. At the bottom of the stairs was the laundry and a big sink, the furnace, a toilet under the stairs and some shelves at the back with paint and things, and a HUGE butcher block in the center. (That’s a tale for another time.) Through a doorway to the right, however, was storage. We had two freezers, a chest and an upright, and 3 walls of deep, deep shelves.
They held everything. All manner of kitchen equipment like the huge roasting pans, everything you could need that wasn’t regular enough to be upstairs. “It’s on the shelves” was a familiar direction for lots of things we were looking for.
These shelves also held canned goods (and canning equipment.) I remember the collapsible, chain-link basket that held the jars while they were in the boiling water. And I remember the canned string beans, and peaches. I also remember the mess and scent of canning tomatoes, but curiously not the tomato jars themselves.
When I think of what inspires me to garden, to grow food and medicine, to spend time and energy on things that really are quite easily picked up on my way home each night, I just keep seeing these shelves. I see the lifestyle that demanded storing things like pressure canners and big grey dish tubs and who knows what else (I just had a memory flash of a spiral cut French fry maker!). I see the planning and preparation and foresight and decisions that went into the ‘simplicity’ of putting up your own food, of living 20 minutes from a grocery store, of having a driveway that needed an actual tractor (an old International that only my dad could use) to plow it. I see the relationship my parents had with an old guy who lived in a cabin and walked through our woods in the dark of night to get home, who treated my sister and I like granddaughters and would talk late into the night telling stories about a time long past (I think my mom still has the cassette tapes from recording those stories.) I think about my mom learning to garden and can from her mother, and my dad butchering deer on that basement with tubs of meat on EVERY available surface- no laundry that day! One of the only recipes I have in my dad’s handwriting is his brine he’d use before smoking some of that deer in the smokehouse he built himself.
It’s something I took for granted as a child, because that’s how it was. But that life provides a satisfaction that not everyone will feel from that kind of work, and it’s a satisfaction that I am chasing. Eventually I will land in a home that is permanent and can hold the symbols of this life. I love the idea of living in a tiny house, but only if it’s got a full basement, and maybe a second floor over the garage. Where else could I put deep shelves?
Saturday May 4 was Herb Day! How did you celebrate?
I dragged My Man with me to Barefoot Gardens in Doylestown PA to see what the American Herbalists Guild Eastern Chapter were offering. We got there just as my teacher Maia Toll was heading out. She gave a talk earlier in the day (here she is in an AHG Facebook picture) and I was very happy that she and My Man finally got to meet. One of my classmates was also there at the same time, and it was nice to see her outside of class too. AND she had a fabulous "I Love Herbs" sticker on her shirt!
As we walked up to the collection of tents and tables, herbalist Cindy Koser was just beginning a talk on Herbal First Aid that we joined. She reviewed some basic herbs, and went into more advanced ones that included some I don't know well or at all. One was Spilanthes, or Toothache Herb. Well, My Man was the first to volunteer to taste that, he had bit his lip pretty good the night before and it still was painful. Most of us took a small leaf and laughed as our lips and tongue went numb. There were about 8 of us listening to Cindy, and I think we all had something to share or good questions to ask. It was a great
We met the owners of Barefoot Gardens, Eric and Linda, and Eric invited us to peek in a cute shed they just use for storage- it's 16x16 with a loft over the porch, and it's just fun. My Man and Eric were joking (I think) that Eric and Linda should move in there and rent out their real house. Linda was selling plants, and between them and the used book sale happening I was all a-twitter. New herbs I got for my studio garden:
Spilanthes (of course!)
The Yarrow was a freebie, Linda had sold out of the new starts but had a few from last year on the Intensive Care shelf, pretty dry and unhappy-looking, as unplanted plants tend to be. We'll see if they pull through, and if they do I look forward to making something fun and sharing with them.
Oh, and I scored an "I Love Herbs" sticker AND one that says "Make Tea Not War"!
I want to share my sources on what to eat. Food is complicated- it's medicine, nutrition, comfort, energy, social, and time consuming. First, READ THIS. Don't go crazy.
In terms of recipes, let me guide you to some of my favorite sources. First of all, I discovered only in the last 2 years or so the delight of READING a cookbook! I picked up one by the founder of Earthbound Organic Farm, "Food to Live By" and read it cover to cover. I enjoyed it so much I now pick it up on purpose just to see what inspiration I can pull.
Also, these are a few of my favorite food blogs:
#1 hands down: http://www.remedialeating.com/
I follow these and others in a reader online, and when I have an ingredient or need inspiration I just do a search in the reader and see what hits where!
Also, Pinterest. Oh dear. Here is my Recipes board: http://pinterest.com/pilatespaula/recipes/
Even if you don't have an account you can still see all the yummyness. Again, I do searches and see what hits. I do like food... and visual aids.
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
And, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them I'll earn a few cents. Thank you for supporting my work.
This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.