The Goat Lady who Complained about my Feet

barefoot

There they are in all their bareness…the horror!

As I wandered far into the thickets this morning looking for medicinal plants, fungi, and whatever else called out to me, I looked down for a second and noticed that I wore my “good” pair of flip flops into the woods again.  Oops.

I have never cared whether or not I had on the right foot gear. I go out into the woods many times a week and sometimes I have on mud boots..sometimes I have a cheap pair of flip flops that barely cover the soles of my feet as I trek through thorns, water, mud, and all kinds of wild obstacles.

I have even hiked to the top of a steep bluff while wearing flip flops.

There is something I hate about having my feet covered.  Socks and tennis shoes feel like they are suffocating the life out of my feet.  I do not own a pair of tennis shoes.  As soon as I get home, I take off my flip flops and walk barefoot everywhere.  My feet need to BREATHE!  I have always been this way.

So when I looked down at my flip flop-clad feet this morning in the middle of the forest I had a flashback:

I was 21 years old (I am 34 now, so this was quite a few years ago).  I was working as a journalist for a small newspaper and was close to obtaining my BS in Journalism.  I was asked to interview a lady for a special feature we were doing about the county fair.  She bred and judged goats at the fair.  I went to her place and talked to her a while about goats and other livestock she had.  I walked outside with her to her goat pen and took a few pictures of her goats playing.  Then, about an hour after leaving my desk, I was on my way back to the office with tons of notes and a few pictures on my camera.  I didn’t think much of that experience…until she called the office a few days later to complain about my feet.

She called my editor.    She told him that I was not dressed for a farm interview because I was wearing FLIP FLOPS while walking around her yard with her.  For shame.  I had no idea I was offending her so much as we were talking…here I thought I was a good at reading people (Oh how young and naive I was).

At the time I laughed about it and had completely forgotten the whole thing until this morning when I looked down at my dirty feet in the middle of a thicket and realized that some things never change!  I was basically born with an aversion to socks and shoes that cover most of my feet and that is okay.  I like to be barefoot and feel the earth under my feet…not sweaty socks trapped in the hot jail of tennis shoes or boots.  I look back at the goat lady who complained and laugh even harder because if she could see me now her head would likely explode.  BOOM.  Mind blown.

On a related subject, have you heard about grounding/earthing?  It is the practice of walking barefoot on the earth’s surface.  Reconnecting your feet to the surface of the earth and the many electrons that are present can actually have positive effects on your health!  Studies show improvement in sleep, stress levels, pain, and a reduction in the amount of electric fields induced on the body as a result of grounding.  Maybe I will head out into the thicket completely barefoot next time!

Today, I work for myself as an herbalist and herbal educator.  Like the goat lady, I too have a farm.  I feed the chickens, mow the lawn, and go wildcrafting and foraging in nearly bare feet and will likely continue to do this for the rest of my life.   I am my own boss.  If someone doesn’t like my exposed feet, that’s not my problem.  By all means, they can call and complain, but I cannot promise I will contain my laughter.

Oh, and I have never injured my feet as a result of not wearing the proper foot gear…(knocking on wood so hard right now).

 

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/

http://www.esdjournal.com/articles/cober/ground.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15650465

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20064020

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Big Plastic Bag of Herbs

smokehouse
Above: My sister and I in 1992 sitting in the window of an old smokehouse on our property.  Below that is a picture of my sons standing by the same house a few months ago.

I am the descendant of some of the first people to settle in the county in which I live.  I mentioned in my very first blog post that my great (x5) grandfather was a famous settler here and how he befriended the Osage Indians and how they learned so much from each other.  I am also the direct descendant of other great men and women who lived in this area.  They were farmers, fighters, and people who lived off this great land.  One woman was a Native American named Snowbird who lived here in the 1830s.  There are many colorful stories about how she met my great (x5) grandfather and about their pioneering adventures together.   I am fortunate enough to live on property that has been in my family for many years.  The other property down the road from where I live has been in my family even longer.  Sometimes when I am exploring it, I try to imagine my great grandfathers farming it.  (long story, but my paternal great grandfather sold it to my maternal great grandfather after WWII)  I imagine them using the nearby spring to get water, preserve food, etc.  I imagine them using a horse-drawn plow to plant.  I know that some of my ancestors used the plants growing on these properties to treat a variety of issues because my grandma has told me about it.

Herbalism is in my blood.  I am fortunate enough to be able to live on and nearby properties that my ancestors made their home so many years ago in a time before electricity, paved roads, and indoor plumbing.  I believe that it is my calling in life to learn their ways – to bring back some of their knowledge about this land and the plants within it.  Over the past decade I have made it my goal to learn all about the native medicinal and edible plants growing where I live.  I have learned so much more than I ever thought possible.

baggg

About that bag…

One of the unintended side effects of researching and using what I wildcraft on the 180 wild acres I have access to is that I find myself being put off by those big plastic bags of bulk herbs.  Nothing against the people who buy these; I understand that not everyone has access to property to wildcraft or grow their own plant medicine.  However, I feel no connection to this bag of herbs.  I feel nothing.  There is a powerful connection to the plants that one has when they find them in the wild or grow them.  It’s like you can hear them speak to you.  This may sound strange to some, but there have been times when I just got this feeling that I needed to explore a certain area of my farm, and when I do, I find the amazing medicinal plant that I had been looking for.  It is hard to explain, but I simply feel cheated when I look at the big plastic bag.  I feel like something has been lost.  I feel like I am looking at something alien and unfamiliar, though it may be a plant I have seen in the wild thousands of times.

I didn’t harvest the plants from the big plastic bag, someone else did.  I didn’t watch them growing with vivacity, bright and colorful in the morning sun.  I only see the faded remnants of the plants a stranger harvested.  They are from a reputable company, but strangely, this doesn’t console me.  I guess I have trust issues.  

There is no greater feeling for me than going out into the wild with my family and exploring together.  I want to pass on to my sons the ancestral knowledge I have attained -after all – it’s is in their blood too.  I want them to have a connection with the land in which we live.  It will all be theirs someday.  I tell them stories of their ancestors and the things they did.  I show them old houses barely standing on our property.  I tell them about their grandfathers who farmed the land and drew water from the spring.  I tell them about how their ancestors made history by befriending the natives and showing them love and respect.  So many stories.  So much history.  It belongs to us and nothing can take that away…

Not even a big plastic bag.

 

 

 

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/articles/wilsoncave.html

 

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/archives/121001.html

 

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/archives/100705.html

 

 

 

What is Herbalism?

farm 1

To me, herbalism is a deep, spiritual connection between us and nature.  It is a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual connection between me and the plant I am using.  It is listening to the voice of the plants calling out to you.  It is being able to identify plants growing all around us and seeing them for more than meets the eye.  It is using these plants to make medicine that heals us in every aspect.  It is realizing that the world around us is full of love and gives us what we need to survive and thrive.

I can go out in the woods and look around me, my eyes being opened in a way that they were not before…they see things they once overlooked.   Suddenly, the world around me becomes a great, mysterious forest and the plants can speak.  They grab my attention somehow.   I take pictures; I identify and research each one that calls to me.  I find out new things about the plants growing all around me and how I can use them to help myself and those around me.  I take care to respect each plant. I harvest everything ethically.  After all, this is my family property. It has been in my family for generations.  I want my grandchildren to enjoy the bounty of this property someday.

To hear the voice of the plants, to identify and research them, to use them to make medicine, this is herbalism.  To understand that all plants are not always safe just because they are natural-to respect the power of each plant – is herbalism.  To help those in need with our gift is herbalism.  Herbalism is not just a hobby or a fun pastime; it is a way of life that encompasses every aspect of my being.  From my childhood and until this very day, even in my dreams, I am wandering on some green ethereal plane, finding things undiscovered and magical.

creepy plant.jpg

Influenza: Tips and Common Mistakes when attempting to Avoid or Kick its Butt :)

Everyone is freaking out.  According to the media, the flu is rampant and the only option isinfluenza blog Tamiflu – and don’t forget to get your (pretty much ineffective) flu shot!

I sold out of my elderberry glycerite 24 hours after posting it for sale.  Here I was thinking I made so much and that I will have plenty left over…boy was I wrong.  However, I am glad that so many are aware that there are other options when dealing with viruses!

I follow a lot of herbal education pages and communities.  There are always people asking where they can get elderberry.  It is flying off the shelves.  It seems to be sold out on Amazon…that’s how you know that more people than ever are aware of the antiviral properties of elderberry!

With all that being said, any herbalist will tell you that elderberry is NOT the only science-backed antiviral herb.  There are other herbs, homeopathic remedies, and mushrooms that help boost the immune system and can be very beneficial during cold and flu season!

I put together a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to preventing and treating the flu with herbal and homeopathic remedies:

Prevention Do’s:

Daily prayer – I like Psalm 91 : )

Take a daily Vitamin C supplement from a reputable company if you choose.

If you start a Vitamin C regimen this winter, consider taking Vitamin D3 with it to help your body absorb it better.

Eat as healthy as possible.  Fresh greens, etc.

Exercise to keep your body healthy.

Stay hydrated.

Wash your hands with soap and teach your children to wash their hands and stop putting their hands in their mouth and nose (I am admittedly still working on this with my kids!)

Cayenne pepper is a good preventative because it acts as a stimulant that brings heat to the body, thus getting rid of coldness.  It can also be taken at the onset of flu symptoms to shorten a cold or the flu.

Prevention Don’ts:

Taking elderberry daily because you are scared to catch influenza is a bad idea.  Our bodies are cool in that they adjust to certain things and get used to them.  In the case of daily elderberry, you are risking making your body immune to its antiviral effects, thus rendering it INEFFECTIVE when you REALLY need it.  I also read a study about elderberry’s effect on cytokine activity and why it may not be a good idea to take it all the time because it may induce a cytokine storm.  (Take at onset of symptoms only!) The only other time I am halfway okay with taking elderberry when you are not sick is when you know for a fact that you have been exposed to someone when they had influenza.

I also advise against giving children Echinacea.  Echinacea is a great way to boost the immune system in adults, but many herbalists that err on the side of caution will tell you that it can trigger allergies in children under 12.  To each their own though!

Already have Influenza? Here are some homeopathic and herbal strategies to combat it:

Astragalus: this root is a well-documented immunostimulant.  I have noticed several companies that market this for kids and adults alike.

Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic remedy for the flu that is said to be safe for all ages. It works best when taken at the onset of symptoms.

Elderberry: I prefer a glycerite, tincture, or concentrate over syrup because they are a bit stronger.  My kids like the taste of a glycerite or syrup better, but to each their own.  Depending on what you are using, I recommend 5 ml for kids 2-3 times a day and 10-15 ml for adults at the onset of flu symptoms.

Echinacea: Great for immune boosting in adults.  I prefer to make my own extracts with what I grow.  Please be wary of brands if you go out and buy it.  There is a lot of adulteration in the herbal supplement business.

Elder Flower: Everybody is freaking out about elderberry, but did you know that elder flower has the same properties?  I recommend this in a tea with lemon and raw honey.  Delicious!

Garlic:  But be careful, this can cause stomach upset if you take too much!

Ginger: It is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Oh…and it’s anti-nausea effects make it even better for combating influenza!

Onion: This is great for treating a nasty cough.  Sage and Thyme are also good for this.

Raw honey: as beekeepers, we know that raw honey is much more than a tasty treat!  It is antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiseptic!

Fire Cider: Want to mix many of the things listed above into a concoction that treats colds and influenza?  That is basically what fire cider is.  There are many variations, but I like to chop up turmeric, ginger, cayenne peppers, jalapeno peppers, garlic, onions, horseradish, sage, thyme, and rosemary and put them in a jar.  I squeeze the juice of one or two lemons, as well as some raw honey, in there too.  Then I pour in organic apple cider vinegar and let it sit (shake daily) for 4 weeks or so.  Strain and viola!  You have fire cider.  If you don’t have cayenne peppers, you can use cayenne powder. This stuff will be strong, so drink with caution.  I take a shot to open up my sinuses.  It helps a lot!

Essential Oils: My favorite is Wild Bergamot.  It is by far the strongest antiviral essential oil I have used.  It may be hard to find. I have to distill this myself.  Other essential oils that may help are frankincense, oregano (Not kid safe and please God don’t use this neat or ingest it!!!), eucalyptus (not kid safe), tea tree(not pet safe so if you have indoor pets, do not diffuse), lemon (photosensitive), peppermint (not kid safe), lavender, cinnamon leaf, clove bud, grapefruit (photosensitive), Sandalwood, Basil, Ginger, rosemary (not kid safe), and pine.  I recommend putting in a diffuser and enjoying the benefits.

*Please note that “oregano essential oil” and “oil of oregano” are not the same thing and the latter is much safer.

Mushrooms: Look for double extractions of Turkey Tail, Reishi, and Chaga.  These all have proven benefits!

I’m sure there are many other remedies, but these are what came to mind.  Be well!

 

 

References:

http://the-health-gazette.com/496/natural-antivirals/

http://www.mnwelldir.org/docs/misc/cold_flu.htm

https://theherbalacademy.com/8-herbal-home-remedies-for-colds-and-flu/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing Our Children to Nature

108

I was doing laundry the other day and while I was taking clothes out of the dryer, I noticed that several white pieces of clothing were stained with reddish dots.  It didn’t take me long to discover that the stains were from rose hips.  Turns out, my youngest thought he would be a sweetheart and collect me some rose hips.  He put a nice handful in his pocket and then forgot about them.

I am still finding old rose hips in the dryer.  I just keep picking them out and putting them on top of the dryer in a big, growing pile.  When I look at that pile of freshly washed-and-dried rose hips, I can’t help but smile.  I can’t help but smile when I find a pile of violets or henbit on the living room rug after hearing the door slam 100 times and wondering what they are up to.  I can’t help but smile when I overhear my oldest refer to plants as “medicine.”   That’s all they know when it comes to medicine.  Sure, we have had to (rarely) take the odd antibiotic – it can’t always be avoided.  But when it comes to treating viruses and most issues, I usually try to treat them with what I have; I treat it with what nature gave us.

We just got back from a walk in our woods today.  It became a teaching experience.  We were looking for mushrooms and found some on a dead log.  I explained to them that a lot of mushrooms like dead trees and you can usually find a lot of neat mushrooms on them.  We found some puffballs and I had them squish them.  They observed the smoke-like substance coming out of them when pressure was applied.  I explained that like plants going to seed, mushrooms produce spores and that these mushrooms were releasing spores.  They thought that was pretty neat.

I always wanted my children to love and appreciate nature.  I thought maybe I could buy them books or find interesting shows about nature for them to watch to help kindle their curiosity.  While those things can help, they obviously weren’t the key. Of course, almost without realizing it, I was able to instill a love of nature in them by simply being their mom.  I helped by taking them with me to harvest skullcap, having them collect bee balm flower heads with me, and having them taste, feel, and smell nature for themselves along the way.

So yeah…I smile when I see rose hip stains on our clothes, piles of violets on the rug, and other mysterious flowers laid out on the shelf.    This is evidence that they are curious, they are exploring nature, and they have learned a thing or two about what a gift all this really is.

Raising kids that love and appreciate the outdoors didn’t take a lot of research, lectures, worksheets, or technology (former teacher here, sorry), it took me just doing what I love most: growing medicinal plants and exploring our property to find native plants, herbs, and mushrooms to make medicine with.

Life is full of lessons.  The simplest lesson I’ve learned in a while is this: that kids don’t necessarily learn from what we SAY all the time, they learn from what we DO!

 

 

Getting Back what was Lost

farm 2

Generations ago, my ancestors experienced a very different world than the one I currently live in.  One of my ancestors, John Wilson, was among one of the first settlers in this area. When he first came here, it was a wild, untamed place, full of strange plants and strange animals.  He was famous for befriending the Native Americans who inhabited this beautiful land and his bond with them resulted in a friendship that grew into a kind of legend.  They would bring him maize, pumpkins, beans, and apples to help his family survive.  It is also said that they caught wild pigs for him. Needless to say, if it wasn’t for the help of these wise and wonderful natives, I might not be here.  Having countless generations of knowledge of the land and the abundant medicines and food that grew wild within it, the Native Americans had to have showed my great, great, great, great grandfather so much.

I can’t help but wonder what was lost though.

Through the generations, things were passed down.  Intimate knowledge of the land, the plants, the animals…I faintly recall being told of my great grandfather Claude Wilson’s love of herbs and plant medicine.  Doubtless his store of information was passed down from John Wilson, being only a few generations apart.  And then there is my grandma Doris (Wilson) Cross.  She has always used holistic remedies.  I’m pretty sure she has a goldenseal root in her medicine cabinet right now.  : )

Then there’s me. My generation.  Born in 1984, I am considered a “millennial.” I was born during a technology revolution.  So much has changed, even since I was in high school.  At some point, I went from not owning a cell phone in 2001, to being glued to a smartphone.  It’s funny though, as we get older and hopefully wiser, we sometimes begin to muse and dwell on what came before us.  At least for me, that was the case. I became interested in where I came from – my past.  My heritage.

Maybe it was because a few years ago, we had the opportunity to buy the farm my grandfather owned.  It was a small farm house on around 80 acres.  I grew up right down the road from it, so I had an emotional connection to it and wanted to live there.  As luck would have it, everything worked out and we have been living here for going on four years.  During this four year span, I have had the opportunity to get to know the land I live on in a more intimate way.  I had always been interested in holistic medicine, especially essential oils and herbs.  I would walk around the property and find a plant and figure out what it was.  The more I found, the more I learned that Missouri has an abundance of native medicinal plants!

And so my obsession grew.  That generational instinct deep within me had not died…and when it was fully awakened, I was able to find my life’s passion.  Those essential oils I had so loved (and I still think they are great), didn’t seem as neat to me as the fact that I can walk out my front door and find just as effective medicine.  Be self-sufficient in a way.  Take care of my family just by foraging and responsibly wildcrafting on my own property.  This is a feeling that brings deep, instinctual satisfaction and contentment.

I was lucky enough to get back what had been lost through the generations in my own family.  I took the time to look back through the ages and try to understand.  I have taken the time to get back the intimate relationship with the land in which I live.  I know which parts of my farm to go to find specific medicinal plants.  I know that there’s a rocky ridge where I can find pennyroyal, there’s a hillside where I can find skullcap, a mossy ridge where lion’s mane mushrooms and ghost pipe grow, and there’s an awakened love of nature in my heart where I can find peace.

Get back what you lost…

 

http://www.millercountymuseum.org/articles/wilsoncave.html