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Re-Green & Reconnect to Revitalize

herbs in the garden
“You can fix all the World’s problems in a garden.” ~Geoff Lawton

Really cold. Ice and snow. No close parking…. But the plant people of the Northampton/Amherst Herbal Meetup Group came out last night to watch a favorite film, Numen: The Nature of Plants.

I’ve seen this documentary which focuses on the healing power of plants and the natural world several times, but its herbal stories and stunning plant images still move and inspire me.

This morning, I stumbled across two other inspiring documentaries on YouTube: Permaculture – Greening the Desert and The Great Laws of Nature: Indigenous Organic Agriculture.

Permaculture – Greening the Desert is the story of the re-greening of desertified, salted land in Jordan, 2 km from the Dead Sea. Impossible to grow anything in searing heat with almost no rainfall, right? Watch this film to see how it can be done!

The Great Laws of Nature profiles a group of First Nations People in Saskatchewan, Canada who are reclaiming their Indigenous organic and natural agricultural heritage and getting back on the road to self-reliance. A good lesson for us all!

Real-life stories of people working together to change their lives. The message? Re-Green the planet and Reconnect to Nature to Revitalize yourself and your community, body and soul.

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Hurry Up and Wait!

cardinal in the snow

Gardening catalogs began arriving before the holidays this Winter, and I jumped right on them! Didn’t want any of my first choices to be sold out when I ordered!

(I’m swooning over the “Early Blood Turnip” beets, “Hakurei” turnips, “Listada de Gandia” eggplants, and “Jenny Lind” muskmelons that I’m trying for the first time, and hoping to grow more calendula, chamomile, lavender, and holy basil than ever before)

I’ve been rushing to devour all the organic gardening books I could get my hands on to prepare for our “farm expansion” in the Spring, taking notes and stockpiling supplies like mad.

Now it’s January 11. All my seeds have arrived. Planting plans have been sketched out on paper to make sure I’m keeping good crop rotation, and starts scheduled on the calendar.

Nothing left to do now but wait for gardening season to begin again!

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Keep your Roots in the Ground

tree with roots illustration

I’m not kidding when I say I’m eco-neurotic. I worry about everything I do and use, and how my actions impact everything I’m connected to. Perhaps this comes from gardening. When you garden, you learn to pay attention to all the connections of the plants: the soil and worms, the insects, birds and other animals, the wind, sun, and water.

(And you don’t have to be a climate scientist to understand that everyone and everything on this planet is connected and is in trouble. Pollution is out of control and humans are racing to cover any remaining bit of green with plastic and concrete!)

Many popular herbs are becoming endangered, and we all have to do our part to protect them. So I’m always glad to learn of a more conservative way to use the herbs I love.

Though the book may say to use the root, it’s very often true that you can use the aerial parts of the plant instead (like with echinacea and marshmallow). And why kill a plant unnecessarily?

On the December 8th episode of the radio show “The Herbal Highway”, I learned a new one: Goldenseal! Yes! You don’t need the root- the leaf works just as well.

Listen to this episode online as herbalist Karyn Sanders talks about her favorite herbs for Winter Immunity (you can also download the .mp3).

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Living Large at the Micro-Farm

new garden

One of the expansions I hinted at last week is ready for unveiling: Ta-da! Here’s my new garden-to-be!

I am thrilled about the space- 3/4 acre- though it takes a little over 20 minutes for me to get there. The saving grace is that I drive a greasecar which runs on waste vegetable oil from restaurants, so I don’t have to worry about the price of gas (and emissions-wise, greasecars are considered “carbon neutral” because the carbon dioxide absorbed by the plants grown to generate the vegetable oil exceeds the carbon dioxide released when the oil is burned).

Though originally very hesitant to garden off-site, I have come to embrace the idea. I worked my butt off this year trying to grow as much herbs and veggies as I could, and was sorely disappointed to learn my limitations the hard way. Space being the biggest limit (my house sits on 1/5th acre), sunshine the next.

This new spot is wide open old farmland. It’s so exciting to imagine what it will look like next year! I’ll have lots more herbs for my bodycare, moving me closer to my goal of self-sustainability, plus tons and tons of veggies!

Well, I will if all goes well. Wish me luck and good weather!

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Is it Garden or Micro-Farm?

Rescued this old post from my original (now completely lost) blog. I was glad to find it, so thought I’d repost it even though the timing is off- it was written in the Springtime 🙂

Here’s my husband Hawkeye just before he heads to the Co-op with a fresh harvest of Welsh Onions. This is our second “cash crop” this year, the first being pussy willow stems sold to a local florist earlier this spring.

Seems that it’s taken me awhile to realize what everyone else already knew: My herban garden has become a micro-farm.

Hawkeye always kept a vegetable garden and did canning. But for me, the garden was a hobby until I became interested in herbs. Then it became a passion. I started digging up ever-larger patches of lawn to make room for my ever-expanding collection of herbs.

I got hooked on herbal oils and salve-making, then started making all kinds of bodycare and perfumes. My stuff was so much better than anything I had experienced before (if I do say so myself)! The textures rich and luxurious; the aromas fuller, more complex and satisfying somehow.

Friends encouraged me to try selling my handcrafts at local craft fairs and farmer’s markets, and my business, Paradise City Herbal, was born.

So I’ve been growing herbs to use in my products for several years now. But it wasn’t until Richard, a micro-farmer I met on Twitter, remarked that I’m underestimating our efforts by calling it a garden, that I suddenly saw my backyard for the farm it is.

We’re growing so much food this year, and more herbs than ever before. We’ll have lots to eat, share, and preserve. Guess I’ll have to get me some Wellies and make it official!

Originally 05.15.2010
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Seeds of Hope

bean seeds

This is a difficult story of rape survivors in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The current statistic is every hour in the day 48 women are raped. So in addition to the horrible death toll of war, thousands of woman and children are left injured, abandoned, despised by their families and society, and with no hope for a future.

But one woman named Masika, herself a rape survivor, is helping other women recover and rebuild their lives by learning to grow their own food. Bean and corn seeds, farmed communally with other women, are not only feeding their hunger but acting as balm for deep psychological wounds.

I cried throughout the 25 minutes of this show. The suffering is overwhelming. The message, though, sings in my heart. Seeds and working the land are our way back to hope, back to life.

Not to discount the superhuman efforts Masika makes in caring for everyone, acting as counselor and mother. It is a heavy burden on her. She persists, she says, because there is no one else to do it.

But the seeds are the tool she’s using to achieve this miracle of saving and protecting life. Having come to gardening myself as a means to reconnect with the natural world and live a healthier, more meaningful life, it’s a message I already understood intellectually. After seeing Masika’s story though, I feel this deep truth has penetrated my inner-most core and lodged in my soul.

Watch the show here

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