Autumn is upon us

I have so looked forward to the season change. I woke yesterday thinking “this is it!” Mabon, the second harvest festival has arrived. And of course this means Autumn has arrived–the Autumnal Equinox. I went outside and reveled in the thought that the seeds that to me represent this second harvest are so needed if we are to celebrate the Spring Equinox six months from now. I felt the urgency of harvesting all that is left in both vegetable and herb gardens. Walking about the last two days plucking weeds (Self Heal florets, the last Red Clover blossoms and Plantain leaves. Realizing that I need to begin digging roots.

I spent a good part of yesterday gathering the tools needed to bottle up, label and photograph my special Mabon box for the Etsy store (that has long been neglected). I kept thinking that I really need to sit down and write a blog post and yet when I thought about the idea of that I couldn’t think exactly what I would say. So I gathered a basketful of Spicy Elderberry Tonic, some of the last of the cucumbers and peppers, the new duck eggs and my tomatillo sauce in a  basket and went to visit the neighbors. They who had so sweetly thought of us and left a book in our mail box that they thought we might like.

Again I felt I wanted to get back to writing, but nothing would come. So I did the research I needed to do for a client that had asked me to put together some herbal treats for his well being.

And here I am…no script…nothing more than putting my fingers to the keys and happily what I am feeling about the season shift comes through. I was beginning to feel stretched by this extremely long and hot summer. It scares me that this may be the new normal. But we are human; we adapt. I look forward to spending more time inside, to writing more, to sharing the formulas, potions and lessons I learned this summer.

There will be more special boxes of seasonal treats (8 seasons the way I count). There will be a podcast beginning quite soon. I have started studies in Shamanism, Spagyrics and I have been learning from new people about Herbalism for quite a while now. Excited to write again. Just needed the shift.

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This Mad Mad World

IMG_2709Sometimes I think I go a little bit mad. And of course I then worry that I’ve scared people away with my mad or wild ramblings. But really, in this crazy world we live in, if you don’t go mad sometimes are you really living an authentic life?

There is a lot going on in the world right now that is sad, harrowing, upsetting, maddening and completely out of control. We have to pay attention. Don’t put your head in the sand. I’m not saying you can save every situation with a $10 donation, but choose one and make a pledge to care enough to learn about it. Chose your way to get information and listen, pay attention! And yes, you will go a little mad sometimes. That’s okay! Think about all the people in the world that are living like that every damn day! Decide where to put your energy, but keep open to what is happening in other places too.

You may feel that if you do pay attention it will be too much to handle. You’ll get bummed out, depressed, unable to function in your first world life. That is where we have to bring in balance. We are lucky if we aren’t affected by everyday violence in this country (or another) whether it be created by man or nature or nature because of the actions of man. How will you create a balance? For me it is being out side with my hands in the dirt, smelling a fragrant flower and listening to what it has to tell me, spending time with the people that I love and those who truly inspire me. Sometimes I still go completely mad, but that’s how we grow and evolve and how we know we are truly alive!

I’m not asking you to spend money or make a statement or attend a rally…unless you are called to do these things. But I am calling on you to be a witness to what is going on in the world, to live mindfully, to act when you feel called to do it. When you have the information you will be surprised by how it will affect you. I realized while in the shower this morning that I can no longer support large scale almond growers. I wouldn’t have made that decision yesterday. Today I finally heard the last news story I could take about the selfishness surrounding the water situation where this crop is concerned (and it wasn’t even in California). For now it’s ruined my love of almonds–until I find a small farmer that is treating this crop the way you have to during a drought. I don’t think I can personally affect what is happening in Baltimore, but I am paying attention to the situation and I’m ready to have a conversation with the nay sayers (amazing that there are two sides in that conflict). I am devastated by the ruination of our rain forests and for quite a while I didn’t think I could have an effect, but by paying attention and learning more I personally choose not to use any palm oils in my herbal products, my cooking and I make sure my purchasing of ready made foods reflects that decision. For Nepal, I choose Oxfam to donate money. It isn’t just that you donate–check out the charities, find one that puts money and skills with the people not the directors.

What about you? Where do you take a stand? What is your balance? I don’t expect you to answer these questions here, but I hope you will reflect on this topic and look at your life in comparison to so many people that have less than you do. How can you make a difference in the world?

The photo at the beginning of this post is Hawthorn. A tree that brings calm from the flowers, leaves and berries. I make a tincture, tea and elixir with these and have a few young trees coming this spring for our hedgerow. Another part of the balance is self care through healing physically and mentally, movement (however that appears in your activities), eating good food. All of this, every bit, goes back to living an intentional life. My brain gets airy and I get distracted, but I do live intentionally. Do you?

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Wild Foods

This last Saturday I took a class over the river at Wild Craft Studio School. I should say I took another class in the studio, as I could honestly be there every Saturday for the wonderfully curated class schedule.

This particular class was taught by Herbalist and wild foods educator Elise Krohn. I took a Tree Medicine class from her in the fall that blew my mind. If you ever have a chance to learn from her take a class. She approaches each subject in a unique way. The Spring Wild Foods class began with a trail walk near a stream bed. I took this with the understanding that I wasn’t going to learn about new plants, just new ways to use them. Well that idea was dispelled in the first 5 minutes with the flowers of the Big Leaf Maple.IMG_2687 I’ve really never paid much attention to them other than the golden beauty of the trees in the spring against the evergreen background. It didn’t occur to me that they were fragrant or that they were edible. Just like Elder or Hawthorn you can pick the flowers, batter them and fry them as fritters. And later that day we did. We had an afternoon tea of nettle liquor with our flower fritters and dandelion flower biscuits topped with nettle pesto. IMG_2690 Look how bright green that is! Mine tends to be much darker color. The group that worked on this added other wild greens we gathered on our walk. I was so happy that I was going to learn new information I was like the eager young school child always with her hand in the air. After a while I felt like I should probably have kept quiet, but I was just too excited all day.

I love learning! I love adding new knowledge to a subject (like nettles). The walk was beautiful–even on a rainy day. I saw old plant friends and met several new ones. Found that a fiddle head I’d eaten in the past should probably be passed up in the future. Back in the studio we made the pesto, pickled dandelion buds (to which I’ve added chive buds at home) and a nettle, sesame salt. Mainly I just plain had a blissed out day with like minded people that enjoy getting dirty outside with the plants.

I was very inspired by our discoveries and of course see a different kind of future class on this little spot of Mt Hood. I love the idea of mixing cultivated and wild foods. Of investigating the healing properties of food. Of bringing out the best flavors with minimal additional ingredients. And of course have this all be as pleasing to the eyes as well as to our taste buds. My little spot is not ready for prime time yet. But it will be eventually. I have a list of classes that will be back yard based. For me taking classes inspires me more and more. Some for teaching, some for my own writings (definitely not for prime time yet), all for learning  and keeping the brain juices flowing.

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100 Days of Making

Today begins the #100DaysProject. Each participant creates (builds on) a project over a 100 day period. You chose your own project, medium and level of challenge. It is daily posted over at Instagram with your own # that dedicates a series of 100 photos to your individual project. I am documenting #100daysoffood. I’ll be posting photos of food I’ve made, been inspired by, am eating while traveling. All food that speaks to me in some way. Here I will be doing some writing (prose or recipes) about what I feel about said food. Not all the writing will end up here, but this is a great way for me to jumpstart some getting recipes on paper. I love this kind of creative accountability. I need it on occasion. Here is a link to the original post about this project. And here is a link to Cynthia Morris from whom I found this project. Cynthia will be creating a painting each day for the next 100 days! It’s not too late to join in the fun–Today is Day 1! What would your #100dayproject be? It can be absolutely anything.

This is perfect timing as we began lunch service at Gino’s Restaurant today. I am always food focused whether from the very beginning of that food still growing in the garden or placing a lovely plate of something in front of my guests. I love what we were serving today and I love that it might be totally different by Wednesday. Following along on Instagram will bring you lots of photos of tasty Gino’s food.

However, as the 100 days progress there will be change of scenery as we will be traveling abroad for 5 weeks. I am excited to be inspired by new food experiences and traditional spring dishes that I haven’t had in quite a few years.

And I am feeling better. Not 100%, but at least 90%. I have been drinking a lot of medicinal teas and finally slowed myself down and just plain slept. I hope to be back to yoga by week’s end. The best way not to get sick is to live the healthy life. Movement, drinking lots of good water, eating foods and herbs that are full of health, positive thoughts can’t hurt either;)

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Case Study: Me

We should all be our own case studies, right? Meaning you should know your body so well that you can tell when you are getting sick and you should know what to do. This week I was laid pretty darn low. In fact this is day 7 and I’m still not 100%.

What I’ve always loved about alternative health (be it Western Herbalism, TCM or Ayurveda) is that each looks at the whole system. So for me, knowing that I get Asthma on occasion, I shouldn’t be cleaning a chicken coop without a face mask. However, in the spring I always get a bit inpatient so yes I did. And then inhaled some nasty thing which has given me a week of bronchial infection. I did not run to the dr. I immediately turned to my Apothecary shelves. Before I began making these medicines I had shelves of others’ products so I would have done the same. I chose tinctures and teas that would give my body’s immune system a boost so it could do its healing job and calm my nervous system. Things like Oregon Grape root, Golden Seal, Alder, Nettle and Mullein, Lemon Balm and Passion Flower to help me relax and sleep. I was surprised not to feel better in a day or two. What I did was treat myself with herbs, but think Allopathically (meaning I prescribed myself medicine, but didn’t follow through on other aspects of promoting good health). I didn’t slow down, I didn’t get enough rest, I kept working since I wasn’t contagious, I didn’t stop drinking coffee (or a bit of wine for that matter). Now that I have a sinus infection while the chest clears up I am realizing that my spring antsyness (that I get every year at this time) is really bad this year. I want to keep moving, I want to get into the forest (cause it’s going to be gone next week?), I want to clean up the house (well, I had no problem letting that go). I just had to stop a couple days ago (mainly my body would not function anymore)and rest and drink lots of water and drink a nourishing broth with seaweed and nettles and Gomasio IMG_2645. Yesterday I thought I’d learned my lesson, but I jumped right back into things and today I feel rundown and have to be active. But I can be smart about it. Eating healthy (non-dairy) foods, take my tea with me, slow the heck down!

Sometimes even when we know ourselves–being our own case study–it doesn’t mean we listen to ourselves. I am much more affected by spring in Oregon than I ever am by the winter blues (or grays). I want it one way or another. Happily for me this will resolve itself as the week ends, the moon begins to wane and I begin to slowly welcome the uncertain weather that is an Oregon spring.

Enough of a whiney post–next week I’ve got a big announcement! It has to do with this tasty asparagus lasagna we had for lunch a few days ago (yep, I had no business enjoying all that béchamel-but I sure did). IMG_2642

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Back in the day I had a podcast

I went over to Ravelry today to leave a little note to my followers of the At the Kitchen Table podcast group. I thought I’d copy it here as well in case you are wondering why there is this huge change in format. However, if you know me you realize that it is a shift in the main topic of life, but I’ve always played with the plants in some type of healing ways. Here is what that little note said–

“I bet you might be curious about whatever happened to Deb:)
I’m still around. Taking care of my father overwhelmed me and something had to give…the podcast. Unfortunately in the time of taking care of him I began to develop some arthitis in my finger joints as well. Time for a career change:) designing and pattern development just isn’t fun when it hurts.
I’ve gone back to my roots–gardening, playing with herbs and food and herbal medicines and food as medicine. I’ve started a small Etsy shop– Chicken Coop Botanical and I’m having fun playing with all the things. A lot of the offerings are seasonal so there will be some dyed yarn and fabrics during the later summer months.
The podcast…will return! I am still knitting and spinning (just not quite as obsessively) and doing a little bit of sewing as well. I’ve decided to wait until June for the podcast return (or beginning) as I’m traveling the entire month of May and into the beginning of June. I will put a note here when it begins again, but I won’t be using this platform for posting. I will be doing all my updates and chatting through my blog. I am changing the name to Missives from the Chicken Coop, but the format and chit chat on the podcast will be very similar to what listeners (pre-dyeworks) remember–me on my little bit of Mt Hood talking about all that is happening around me. The animals will still be chattering away, the gardens still growing, me still cooking and always some sort of crafting…but me trying to live life at a slower pace.”

On another note–I have a Giveaway happening this weekend through social media! Scroll down to “Healing Salves Giveaway” on my Facebook feed. You’ll find the same on my Twitter feed and Instagram. Follow along for a chance to win. There will be three winners chosen Monday morning. I’m @debaccuardi all over the place for a follow along.

Posted in Chicken Coop Botanicals, Podcast Episode | 1 Comment

A Spotlight of five Ingredients

I’ve created a page for Chicken Coop Botanicals over on Facebook. This week I spotlighted one ingredient I use each day for the last five days. I wanted to put them all here for reference and for my non-facebook followers. I’ll do this again in a couple of weeks. I’m going to be adding some more products in the store this week and next weekend there will be a special sample available with orders. This weekend and week I highly recommend picking a few of the items. There will not be anymore Tree Medicine chest rub until fall once this batch is finished. We are out of the Rose Face soap for about 3 more weeks as well. I am so happy with the support for my little store on the web! Come on down to Etsy and check it out.

Day 1: This week I want to share a bit about the ingredients I use in my products. I don’t want to limit this to herbs as there is a lot to learn about oils, butters, seaweeds and such. For the next 5 days I’ll share just a bit about an ingredient each day. Today I am listing my St John’s Wort ointment. So let’s begin with this plant. We have a large meadow on our family’s property with many natural grasses and wild flowers. Over the last few years St. John’s Wort has naturalized arriving in a wild flower mix. I began playing with it last summer as a dye plant. The fresh flowering tops gave a unique yellow that I loved. I grew st John’s Wort in my garden 20 years ago as a nervine tea. But as I did more research I found it is also used topically by herbalists in treatment of nerve damage and muscle pain, skin inflammation, skin wounds, and burns. The cooling ointment I made is also helpful with bruising as it includes Cottonwood bud oil (I’ll write about this on Wednesday). I make a tincture of the St John’s Wort as well as infusing olive oil with the herb. I add the Cottonwood bud oil as well and do not add quite as much beeswax to this as I would with a salve. This ointment is thin and very emollient. I have used it effectively with people suffering muscle and joint pain, very hard bruises and swelling from falls. It gets the blood flowing and helps nerve pain associated with edemas as well as bruising. I have just a few of these 1 ounce jars listed in the store as I won’t have herb to work with again until summer. I’ll definitely be making more late summer. This current batch has a shelf life of at least 2 years.
There is much more to add about this plant, but I think I’ll wait until it’s blooming here next summer to add more.

Day 2: I love seaweed! I eat it whenever possible. Seaweed is packed with an unusually high concentration of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.. So putting seaweed into skin products also adds nutrition to the skin. Some high end companies have been onto the moisture infusing qualities of seaweed for quite sometime. In the past I’ve always gone the route that food is medicine and have noticed visibly smoother skin when I am eating seaweed (with miso soup or sushi) on a consistent basis. I’m certainly not giving up my sushi, but I love smoothing this new mask I’ve created on my face. I ordered some powdered Bladderwrack seaweed powder with the idea that I’d add some water and be perfectly happy. But somewhere along the way I discovered Kelp ferment. Through adding kelp to a Kefir water mixture all the bio-availability is pulled out into a gel created by the mixture. I love a good science experiment so I have a jar going on my counter right now. But in the meantime I purchased some online and am mixing it with seaweed powder and Rose water to create a mask that is soothing and softening.
Think what your skin would look like with seaweed both eaten and spread all around. Yum!

Day 3: Today in the ingredient spotlight, we are going to talk about Cottonwood bud resin. Right now, before the buds unfurl, they hold a sticky resin that is full of medicine. I began to research this tree as I’d heard it would be good for joint pain like arthritis. All the years of cooking, knitting and gardening have finally taken their toll on my finger joints. I find that all my joints tend to be quite stiff, but over use of my hands has become painful. As I began to research the anti-inflammatory medicine I found that it is good for sore muscles in general and heals the skin healing process. I was thrilled as these trees grow in many areas of Portland. Especially along the river pathway below my restaurant. As with any wild crafting I certainly would never pick a tree clean or even pick more than 1/4 of the buds off any single plant (the ethics of wild crafting are an entire subject of their own). The wonderful thing about the time of year you collect these buds is that winter storms bring down branches and those are what I gather from. I heat extract the resin from buds that are covered in Olive oil over several days. After squeezing every last bit of oil from the buds I now add this to salves, delicate skin oil and it’s a great addition to my St John’s Wort ointment.

Day 4: The ingredient highlight for day 4 is Red Clover blossoms. That might get a huh out of a lot of people. There is lots of medicine in those red topped blossoms in your yard and garden. First I will say do not ever eat a plant that has been sprayed. If you are walking down the street and want to grab a few think first about where these plants are growing and how. Once you know they are a happy plant for your body munch away! The product you’ll find them in for Chicken Coop Botanicals is the “Cool Flash” tincture. I’m fully in menopause and this tincture helps my overworked liver quite a bit. Although I have a male friend that finds it helpful for his middle of the night wakefulness because of night sweats.
Red Clover is one of the best sources of isoflavones which acts like estrogen. The isoflavones also help in breast health, lower cholesterol (another tincture I use it in, but not in store yet) and they are now looking at helpfulness with bone density. Then there all the nutrients in the little guys–calcium, chromium, magnesium (which we never get enough of), niacin, potassium, Vitamin C. I’ve used red clover as a cover crop in my garden for 20 years to add all this nutrition. I never thought of just putting it directly in me until I began to research ways to experience menopause from a natural point of view. Even just adding the blossoms to a cup of tea is helpful. I love having the tincture as I keep it in my purse cause you never know when those hot flashes are gonna hit.

Day 5: The final ingredient I want to talk about this week is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is wonderful for eating and as a carrier oil for herbs to use in salves(it has one of the longest shelf lives of carrier oils). I don’t use it on my own face, but it is incredible for adding moisture to dry skin and hair (I have formulas I’m working on now). Other benefits you get from those olives are the antioxidants-vitamins A and E, a wonderful protection of the skin that promotes elasticity. Have you been following the scandal this week about companies that are selling Extra Virgin Olive oil and when tested that is not what is in the containers!?! This goes right to the issue of knowing where your food comes from. I buy Extra Virgin (the least processed and so good for you) Olive oil through my restaurant. I know the importer and have been to Italy to meet with a few of the producers. You can definitely find these same benefits from California or other countries’ olive oils. This is a source I already use for cooking so I choose to also use it for my herb crafting as well. Important to me is that if an item is not certified organic I do know the source and that they are using natural methods of producing the oil. I feel this way about all the foods I eat and herbs I use. The word organic is important, but it has widened in its definition over the years. It is much more important that I know the person or company from which I get my products.
I also use EVOO daily in my salad dressing. I love to steep fresh herbs in and allow them to steep for several weeks. You are getting a tasty oil this way and double the “medicine” (food is medicine after all). Right now Chives are coming up so that will be my next infusion. I am still using the Rosemary oil I made at the end of fall, but it’s time for a change. What types of oils have you made or think you’d like to create?

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