Honoring the Death of the Land

I haven’t written much here of late. I am taking three different classes that I have doing a lot of writing for and each has the attention of my pen right now. However, I have been drawn to create a few themed self-care boxes/kits for my little Etsy shop along the lines of the Eight large and small celebrations of the Pagan calendar and they also are drawing my written attention. The current one for sale (shop closes tonight after midnight) has dealt with Mugwort. A traditional dream herb used to celebrate Samhain/Haloween/Dia de las Muertos. I wanted to share a bit of what I included in the newsletter and more thoughts on this blustery Samhain.

Historically, Mugwort was considered the ‘universal herb for protection and prophecy’ throughout the ancient world. Dedicated to Artemis and Diana, Mugwort was used for pain and healing, psychic powers and lucid dreaming. I find this so interesting as these are also goddesses associated with the moon and Mugwort is a moon plant. When you look to each culture you often find that they correspond and have synchronicity. In ancient China and Japan, Mugwort was hung in open doorways to exorcise the spirits of disease. The ancient Europeans did the same to ward off evil spirits. Listening to an Italian American herbalist speak this last August, she visits her ancestral village each year and finds that these traditions still live on-they have just incorporated them into the catholic tradition.

This was a great ally to the Roman soldiers who placed Mugwort inside their sandals for endurance on long marches. One Roman general recorded that his men marched 10 miles further, as well as faster, when on Mugwort; it is known as the “traveler’s herb”. To me those parts of the essential oil that create dreaminess also relax and sooth the nervous system, as well as being a stimulant. I included a Mugwort infused oil in the box which I think I should start using as a foot rub when I know I’ll be working long hours in my kitchen. IMG_4569

Magically, Mugwort tea was drank before divination rituals and also burnt as a ‘transporting’ incense. I personally like to use a Flower Essence as I am wanting to connect with the plant herself.  Native Americans also burned Mugwort as a ‘smudge’ to purify the spiritual and physical environment. This may seem that I am throwing out information that is all over the place. I want to convey how this (as well as so many other useful plants) have been used over the centuries is many different ways. Ways we often forget in this modern society.

One of the classes I’m taking is a Shamanic Apprenticeship with Darcey Blue. Mugwort is the plant I’ve chosen for long term study as a plant ally. I now see Mugwort when I journey  to the crossroads as the crone wearing a beautiful cloak dyed with the deep green of the plant with overlaying cloth serrated leaves. Oh yes, she is also a dye plant💖 💖 And someday I am going to have to figure out how to create that cloak. I talked just a little bit about the healing aspects of this member of the Artemisia family. I encourage you to sit with the plant or a product made from the plant and see what she has to teach you.

With this information in mind I went on creating products that celebrate the beauty and long usage of this “Cronewort”, a name I learned from Susan Weed many years ago for those helpful qualities this Artemisia offers women in the Menopausal years. Samhain is  the time of year when we honor the coming death of the land on the wheel of the year. Not that life after Menopause is that time in a woman’s life. Far from it! However, the Crone (as archetype) is our escort through this thinning of the veil when we can visit our ancestors for a short time, then move onto a time of quietude through the winter months before the Maiden again springs forth. On this day I can truly feel this dying. As I said it is rainy and blustery outside. We were lucky (it feels like that now that I know the rain has returned) to enjoy a long dry October where we could appreciate the beauty of the leaves turning color. Now the winds have returned and quickly the summer plants are melting into the ground, the beautiful yellow, orange and red leaves are drifting (or flying) by the windows and I can just feel at a visceral level that the season is changing–death is coming to the land. And I’m ready. I felt stretched thin by the long, dry summer (as I said in the last post). This seems right. It is not a scary time of year, It’s the natural creaking of the wheel as it turns yet again on its natural path to the next season. So on this dark eve I’ll be celebrating with friends for a while, but coming home to sit quietly with some Mugwort based incense, mug of tea and a drop on essence on my tongue as I remember and dream of my grandmothers and those that came before me. This is a time for quiet and memories and thoughts of gratitude for what this last season has taught us before we look to the next. A moment suspended…

At the beginning of this missive I mentioned that the shop will close again as the clock ticks past midnight. Actually I’ll be sound asleep so it will probably be tomorrow morning. We have been staying in town off and on quite a bit this fall and head back in again. I’ve already made the beginnings of the next box-The sweet scents of Solstice. They will be steeping away until the shop reopens the second week of December. I won’t be in town that long, but I have lots of makings for specific people right now as well. I hope to be talking to you all before we get that far along, but you can find me daily on IG.  IMG_3740 Just a few things that are working here in the Chicken Coop-Rose petals and Cranberries soaked in red wine are a basis for a Solstice incense. I’ve had an Antioxidant berry elyxir steeping for a couple of months. There will be Rose soap, a lovely bit of light and a beautiful lotion to take you through the holiday season.

Posted in Chicken Coop Botanicals, Herbal, In the garden, Life in the house, On an important note | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in cooking, Herbal, out and about, Projects from other Creatives | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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