Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blog Party Harvesting

Well this year was busy, moving into a new house a little late to really get things going in the garden. I did grow some culinary herbs like basil, rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, fennel, chives.
I have catnip which has come in especially handy for Ella and her teething. I also planted lemon balm, nice tea for me!
Tons of squash & tomatoes. In fact I have so much squash I can't give it away fast enough! I absolutely love garden fresh tomatoes so I will probably eat most of them fresh, I do plan on preserving some too for yummy soups and sauces.
I have one little cayenne plant that hasn't produced, I think I planted it to close to the squash, not knowing that the one plant would be about 5 ft in diameter!
My Husbands brother is a fishing guide in Alaska, he is shipping over 70 lbs of fish. I am looking forward to making a tomato base fish stew with fennel, onions, garlic for the base, nice aromatic white wine with fish stock, some pepper flakes, bay leaves, fennel seed, fresh fennel tops to garnish yummy!
Oh and I have lettuce and nasturtium leaves and flowers, these have made excellent salads. Oh and to spite what Henriette said on one of her rants on her blog not that long ago I couldn't resist taking some of my left over alcohol and making a very small batch of nasturtium leaves and flowers tincture, I am sure that it will taste just as you described ,"really stinky cabbage" but oh well LOL! By the way Henriette if you knew what it tasted like you must have tried it at one point yourself Hee Hee.
For the culinary herbs I like to make herbal ice cubs to add to cooking throughout fall and winter. I also like herb butters.
Just strained out a catnip tincture yesterday.
The garden came with dandelion, since the soil was good I got some really good root. Oh and there was a yellow dock in the corner.
I had big plans for the garden but only got half of it planted, the other half is taken over by morning glory from the neighbors yard, boy she grows fast!

Monday, August 27, 2007

All About Lichen

Above Picture Ella inspecting Lichen
Lichen means "leprous" in Greek, the plant was named by Dioscorides he thought it resembled the skin of people with leprosy. I personally like the name "old man's beard"
The structure and origin of these plants was a mystery to botanists for years. In 16th century Europe they thought the lichens were secretions of soil, rocks and trees. In the 19thg century some experts thought lichens were composed of air and or water, others thought they found an example of spontaneous generation.
Now it has been found that lichen are a combination of an alga and a fungus. In this mutually beneficial partnership the alga, since it is green, can utilize sunlight and carbon dioxide to make food; the fungus holds water and provides structure.
The spoors of algae and fungi are in the air all the time, when they land together in a place they like a lichen is formed. They tend to grow in places where the algae and the fungi could not survive alone.
Lichens are very adaptable to becoming dormant during dry periods and at low temperatures, they can remain this way for years, reviving when the conditions improve. They grow very slowly and if left alone can reach an incredible 2000 years old!
They like to grow on tree trunks. They are not parasites, they do not penetrate the bark of the tree. Often Lichen grows on the North side of a tree, this was an advantage to travelers, especially traveling in the woods at night.
Food Uses
Lichen can provide a good emergency food source but some are poisonous. Some loose toxic qualities when cooked, but do not eat wolf Moss letharia volpina, also called wolf lichen (check it out in this book Poisonous plants and mushrooms of North America scroll down for picture this is usually found in the red woods east of the cascades. Usnea is a common northwest herbal remedy, it has a characteristic white band in the middle when pulled apart. Usnea is pictured above with Ella inspecting it. Usnea can be applied directly to an open wound in emergency situations, it will serve as an antimicrobial compress to stop bleeding and prevent infection. Put this knowledge in your memory bank when you are in the woods, you never know when it may come in handy! Usnea extract has been shown to be effective against a wide spectrum of bacterial and fungal infections. Many lichens are edible. A classic case where lichen was used as a survival food was the story of Martin Hartwell, a Canadian pilot, & his Eskimo companion, they crashed in the Arctic and survived 23 days on a lichen diet supplemented with dextrose from an emergency kit.
Rock tripe was eaten by trappers in Canada in times of scarcity, while in Japan this type of lichen was considered a gourmet food.
Nutritive value of lichens varies from species to species according to the amount of starch present. Lichen is a good source of vitamin C & would prevent scurvy among Eskimos, who rarely ate plants. They would receive their vitamin C by eating the undigested stomach contents of caribou.
Many people from the Ancient Egyptians to the Swedes would make flour for bread from Lichen. To make the flour, the lichen would first be boiled in a alkali solution to neutralize the bitter acids that can be irritating to the intestines. If you are in a survival situation you can put ashes from the camp fire in your water when boiling to get these results. Then the boiled lichen is washed, dried, and pounded into flour. People would mix the lichen flour with wheat flour so their biscuits would keep much longer.
The mana of the Bible may have been lichen (lecanora esculenta) this is still eaten by some desert tribes.
Locally here in the Pacific Northwest, Columbia River Native Americans ate the lichen which grows on fir and pine trees. Sometimes it was boiled. Another method was to wet it, allow it to ferment, and finally baking it.
In India one of the lichens is made into curry powder.
A process of making sugar from lichen was used in Russia in WW2 when beet sugar was scarce.
Lung lichen was used to make beer as a substitute for hops in Siberian monasteries. In the 19th century in Sweden and Russia, there was a brandy making industry that went bankrupt when the lichen supply ran out.
Since some Tribes of the new world & old world were dependent on Reindeer and caribou, and these animals survive the winters by eating lichen, I guess you could say human cultures themselves were dependent on lichen.
Medicinal Uses & Other Uses
coming be continued
Resource Profiles of Northwest Plants P Robinson

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Many Paths To Healing

I remember back 5 years ago when I was in massage school. Very intense study of anatomy, physiology, and pathology. Sometime toward the end a new class emerged, massage 4. This was a required class and we were the first to have to attend. It was prep for the National Certification Exam. As I sit down and TJ our instructor passed out the curriculum, we opened it up and several students raised their hands in outrage. What the hell is this! This doesn't make any sense at all. Meridians, Chakras, Ayurveda, what does that have to do with massage. Why in the hell are they requiring us to learn this stuff. You see everyone in the class was a Western medical major, not Eastern technique, so they did not understand the usefulness of the instruction. The hands on state exam was coming up and we were burdened with having to remember every action, orgin, insertion, pathology and contraindications, all with a proctor monitoring your every move. Nice time to through in this! This was not anything at all like our previous classes. The fear and outrage was understandable considering this is a whole new way of learning and moving from one mindset to another can be quite the shocker. You really have to think outside the box to wrap your mind around it.
Class would go something like this. Every day we would start the class with Makko Ho stretches, special exercises for each meridian. We would all be on tables and TJ would have us find a Qi point " no that is not quite right, you have to feel the energy" Feel the energy? This was not like finding the tibial tuberosity, the bone is right there, how do you feel the energy? Blockage of Qi flow, elements, meridians, a new understanding of organs. I loved the class from the start. For me it was a welcome vacation from the memorizing and logical approach to the western style (although I loved that as well). You really had to forget everything you thought you knew. I see now where the National board was going with requiring this study. There are many pathways to healing. There are unseen forces, there are ways of listening, feeling, observing that differ from just regurgitating memorized information when you hear a symptom or problem of a client. We spent 4 months touching on Chinese, Ayurveda, and cranial sacral therapy. Not enough time I know to really master any of these techniques. It does however give the practitioner a few tools they can use, open the mind to new observations, feel and observe energy flow, think of healing in a new way. I do recognize energy, and amazingly have observed as a client released an emotional problem to have the physical one disappear at the same moment. Blockage of Qi flow does not seem so strange to me now. Learning all the points and meridians was useful, I use acupressure any where any time, unlike a full session where the client disrobes. I can also apply what I learned to herbal medicine, for example there are certain points that are particularly valuable in stimulating and strengthening the immune system, great to incorporate into a overall wellness routine. The 5 elements interact with each other the same way they do in nature, and the elements have associated organs, seasons, tastes, feeling, & body regions. A clients symptoms could show an imbalance in an element which governs other organ systems. In Ayurveda, people have unique constitutions that may assist in assessing a client, these constitutions are also associated with wind, fire, water, the 6 tastes. Of course this is just a brief description.
With Western herbal medicine there is not an exact system, or perhaps there are many styles within the one Western style. I like this because I feel comfortable with incorporating other styles and using many tools. There is always more to learn. The more you know the more you realize you don't know. We can always explore and continue to learn. Opening up to the energy of plants and people is a start. Realizing that there is not always an easy answer. Really stopping to observe. Holding true to our intuition, imagination, and knowledge. Working with the plants to try to better understand their language as well as the language of our bodies, turning to our spirituality at times, and using our logical left brain when necessary.
oh and one more lesson I learned from massage that I also apply to herbal medicine. We do not strive to be perfect, and we are not all flawed. When a massage client comes in you try to achieve the right balance for that individual, every body is different, we are not robots all with the same posture, metabolism, body type, what is normal for Dave may not be normal for Jane. This is also true of herbal medicine. This is why I detest the cleansing programs that are selling for 100's of dollars, oh but every one is dirty, everyone needs it, before they can continue with any other herbal therapy, this is the answer to all your health problems. BS Let's focus on nourishing our bodies, living passionately (which may mean sugar or a drink every once in a while God forbid), and taking care of ourselves emotionally & spiritually.

A fun Ayurveda Taste Exercise
First smell the test object. Place a small amount in your mouth. Really focus, allow the taste to penetrate you. Focus on this taste for at least 5 minutes.

Sweet you may use sugar, very revealing!
Bitter Gentain, Dandelion, Endive etc
Sour Lemon, vit C etc
Salty Salt, Kelp etc
Pungent Ginger, Garlic, Elecampane etc
Astringent Black Tea, Blackberry Leaf, Oak Bark etc

What kind of visions does the taste stimulate?
What kind of sound do you associate with it?
What feeling or body sensation does it evoke?
How would you imagine it moving?
How would it manifest in your personal relationships?
What kind of work would fit this taste?
How do you imagine this flavor in your community?
How would this taste manifest in the spirit?
Are you attracted or repulsed to the taste?
Do you feel you need more or less of the taste?

Energetics the effect taste has on the body
Heating: pungent sour salty
Cooling: bitter astringent sweet
Tastes and Organs
excess sweet disturbs the spleen
excess pungent disturbs the lungs
excess bitter disturbs the heart
excess salty disturbs the kidneys
excess sour disturbs the liver
excess astringent disturbs the colon

resource: Pathways to healing Don Ollisin

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sitting With Pineapple Weed

Pineapple Weed matricaria matricarioides

Kiva Rose is doing a write series talking with plants
This got me to thinking back. About my childhood, plants, nature, and it's role in my life. I often ran away to sit with plants. My childhood was very unstable and dysfunctional at times, with sprinkles of good times and memories. My parents divorced when I was only 2. My Mother and I were alone for about 3 more years until she met my Step Dad, I didn't have any brothers and sisters living with me until I was 15. I was not always the way I am now. I was very quiet & shy as a child. The reason I was quiet was I didn't want to say or do anything wrong. You see I thought if I was a good girl things may change for me, my Dad might come back, things would be better. I did not feel safe to talk with other adults. My Step Dad was a very odd type, I guess they have a name for it now, A personality with a side order of IED or intermittent explosive disorder I think is what it is called. He would be ecstatic and happy, people liked him, the kind of guy you like to have at parties one minute and the next he would be swinging and you had better get out of the way. OK maybe he was BI Polar as well. You just didn't feel safe. You walked on egg shells because you never knew what you were going to get. Is it the High funny guy or the Monster today. One day he would laugh at something you did wrong, and the next he was exploding over nothing. I was outside as much as possible. I would go to my Dad's every other weekend. He had an abusive girlfriend (basically the girl version of my step dad) who couldn't stand me.
I remember just getting out on my Dad's property, he had 5 acres of horse land with a few horses and a cow named curly. My Dad's girlfriend would say "what is it exactly that you do out there all day hum?" I didn't care. Sitting with the plants and talking with curly was my only escape. I would find a little hide away where I could sit and no one would bother me. Among the various "weeds" there was this lovely little plant I now know the name is pineapple weed. It smells lovely, a similar to chamomile, but it has it's own unique smell, once you have smelled it you will never forget it, soothing, understanding, calming. I would sit with it, feeling its soft, feather like leaves and taking in the gift of it's aroma. Spending my time studying every aspect of pineapple weed, I was not going back to the house. Hum, the leaves were slightly bitter, the flowers are little yellow, round, and smell lovely, I like to keep them in my pocket....
Well Pineapple weed seemed to show up when I need her. Always making me forget anything that was going on with her euphoric smell and bright yellow cylindrical shape flowers catching my eye.
It seemed whenever we got in the car with my mom and step dad there was a fight, getting out during one of these episodes I just started walking, what do you know there is my old friend pineapple weed. Tuning out the commotion I just sat with her for a while, everything was going to be OK.
Later as an herbalist I found that you could make a calming tea from pineapple weed and it's action was similar to chamomile, I already knew this of course because I spend days sitting with her.
Well when I hit adolescence the fear turned to rage. No one was holding me down. I was like a wild stallion that could not be broken. I spoke my mind, perhaps making up for all the time I kept my mouth shut. I rebelled. I drank and was gone with friends. There were little lapses in there where I would leave the camp site where the party was and go sit with the plants, yah everyone thought I was weird. After I got that out of my system, I returned to my calling and here I am the herbalist. I still sometimes want to run away, travel, take in all the learning and sites I can, I guess this is the girl in me craving the unstable but hopefully in a healthy way. I would not take back any of my experiences, if it were not for them I would not be the person I am today. OK that sounds cliche but it's true.
Picture source

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nasturtium Basil Fresh tomato salad

Yummy lunch! Perfect for the overcast and kinda cool day.
I started out by roasting some garlic in the oven. Roast until brown w/ a little olive oil and sea salt and pepper, just cut the hard end off and roast it in it's skin, when done squeeze the soft roasted garlic yum!
Then I made the salad.
Fresh garden lettuce
Fresh basil
Fresh tomatoes sliced & roasted in some olive oil sea salt and pepper in a stainless pan on stove.
Greek olives
Goat cheese
Red Onion
Nasturtium Flowers and leaves
Great Balsamic vinegar and olive oil (from what was left in pan from tomatoes)
Assemble the salad with the greens, When tomatoes are done add them with the cheese and olives. The warm contrast with the cool greens is delish!
It would not have been complete without a glass of wine a Cab/ shiraz mix that is to die for (a gift from a good friend)
Oh and the roasted garlic? Add that to some great bread, I like Dave's Killer multi grain.


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Hard rock and Milky Oats

Ok I have been away from the writing for a while. Yesterday I went to the store alone and had the radio on full blast, singing at the top of my lungs at the Hy way 26 intersection (my voice carries), 92.3 had 80's rock on. Thoughts flash back to cruising seaside loop with my boyfriend who's long hair took longer to feather than mine did LOL. I made sure I purposely went to the store that was 20 minutes away so I could sing all the way.

I have to say I feel much better.

Or could it be the milky oats that Jim Mcdonald sent for our trade?
This along with some relaxation (much needed) has really helped my post baby craziness. I noticed a difference immediately. Ella is going on 9 months old now. Since her birth I have been having some postpartum symptoms. Problems with thinking clearly (Ok a least I have something to blame that on). Moodiness (where in the hell did I put that other shoe!) tiredness (what a surprise the last time I slept in was sometime in 2006) lack of libido (what the?).

Milky oats tincture aventa sativa fresh unripe seed extract, have proved to be an excellent nervine for me. I have also experienced a new type of energy, I have been having some *exceptional* dreams, how can I put this without sounding unprofessional, Oh wait too late for that refer to first paragraph-, anyway lets just say my libido has also improved dramatically as well.

Heartsong farm has a good explantion of milky oats.
They also have some available for purchase. If you would like to make the tincture, jim mcdonald informed me that this is one of the few herbs he does use a blender for.