The Big Plastic Bag of Herbs

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.


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 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.




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