Standoff with a Young Buck

Today I had the brilliant idea to take a “superquick” hike in the woods in the twenty minutes between hours of computer work and picking up my lovely daughter at her fantastic daycare.  This would have basically been a brisk walk to get from my backyard, through the woods, the meadow, up the steep hill, through the rest of the woods, and back down the street.  This is very ambitious for me!  I’m the one you see stopping every five feet on the trail to check out a plant, a mushroom, knot in a tree, funny squirrel, take a picture, check out the birds in the binoculars, lay down to feel the moss, observe the…..you get the idea.

So I was taking my quick jaunt, feeling like I was unfairly ignoring my woodland friends and probably missing some cool skull or plant that had just popped up.  There I was stomping through the woods, hoping I would make it back in time.  Usually I would try to walk softly so as not to scare the wildlife.   All the sudden, I entered into Bird Spirit Holler (which I forgot I had actually previously named Deer Spirit Holler, and here’s why), and right there about 50 feet in front of me, completely oblivious (I know this is totally a run-on sentence, hopefully my English teacher mother will forgive me), was  a young buck deer.  It had it’s new antlers, velvet and all.

I crouched down and observed him for awhile, in disbelief that he hadn’t heard me stumble into the meadow.  I started taking pictures.  I guess he finally heard the camera or caught me out of the corner of his eye, because he turned and looked right at me, then stared.  I like to try to telepathically communicate with the deer, telling them I’m their friend, I won’t hurt them, and if they happened to want to come give me a little nuzzle, that’d be fine with me.  I like to try to imitate their body language, like a young, deer-loving Jane Goodall : )  However, usually their body language is that of fear and protection, a threat really.  He stamped his hoof at me and waited to see my response.  When I didn’t respond, he continued the same action.  I tried to make myself appear small and unthreatening, like I was eating an elder sapling.  He wasn’t buying it, though.  He snorted a “I’ll charge right over you if I have to” snort.  Luckily he didn’t.  After a few more pictures, he ran off.  I could hear him snorting to his friends in the woods and some others snorting to theirs on the opposite ridge.  Wow, animal communication!

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Yes, he was looking right at me!

I hiked the rest of the trail, with as little distraction as I could muster, munching some foraged chickweed and ground ivy, and came out at the end of my street.  I noticed that the multiflora rose was blooming.  Multiflora rose is another one that’s referred to as ‘invasive’.  If I remember correctly, it was widely given to famers to help stop erosion and  spread like wildfire.  Now it’s being eradicated by the anti-invasive crews.  The fantastic thing about roses is that any roses have edible rosehips (assuming they haven’t been sprayed).  Rosehips have huge amounts of Vitamin C and some Vitamin E (in the seeds) and ripen after the roses have dropped off, in the fall, fortuitously right around cold and ick season.  They’re good to eat as is or make into preserves or syrup.  Yum!  So I made a mental note to remember where they were for the fall.

Multiflora Rose

Multiflora Rose

Then I ran into a similar looking plant, also with white flowers and thorns, but not roses.  Compare the petal shape and leaf patterns.

Can you guess???

Can you guess???

Alright, give up? …….

Blackberries!  Yup, made a mental note of that one for a couple months down the road!

I also noticed the chicory leaves, their likeness to dandelion leaves, and the old stalks which would be replaced with new stalks with beautiful blue flowers soon enough.

chicory leaf

chicory leaf

Then there was the red clover.  It is so nourishing, has so many minerals, and is tasty, too.  The flowers sometimes taste like honey.  The flower and leaves are edible and nice in salad or tea.  Plus, they’re pretty!

red clover

red clover

Okay, so after that standoff inthe woods (obviously I couldn’t just keep moving), I was running behind schedule.  Luckily the daycare provider is my friend and a strong advocate for forest meditation.

And I felt the funk of sitting in front of a computer just melt away, like it was never there to begin with.  Go figure.

Watch out for young bucks along the way!

Abby Artemisia

Herbalist & Healing Arts Practitioner

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The Honeysuckle Harvest

Went harvesting honeysuckle (lonicera maacki) yesterday in Buttercup Valley Preserve (that’s what it’s really called).   After reading about all the wonderful health benefits of consuming the flowers and a friend’s addition of them to his yerba mate, I figured I’d better get out there and wildcraft some while I still could.  And it’s a good thing I did, because many of the flowers had already died.  However, there was still a bounty to be had.  I felt the zen of the task, the repetitive motion of picking over and over again, the meditation of it.  I gained a new appreciation for gatherers of old and new.  It helped me realize one more time how important it is to wildcraft our own herbs.  I hiked for a couple of hours and probably harvested about a third of that time.  However, when I laid the flowers out in a basket to dry, the haul seemed so small.  I probably came home with a couple of hundred flowers, but they are so small and the picking so labor intensive.  Once again, I wondered how herb companies can sell pounds of herbs for $10-$20 each.  How is that possible with all the work it takes to grow them, harvest them, dry them, and then the shipping costs????  It seems there’s a disconnect somewhere.  So, here’s my plea: if you can, harvest your own herbs or get them from someone you know.  At the very least, get them from somewhere that is using sustainable growing processes, paying their workers a fair wage, and not using fossil fuels to ship them from somewhere across the world (which are then often not very fresh and can even be irradiated).  I wouldn’t want any of that on my consciousness!  Plus, all I could think yesterday was, “What could be better than hanging out in the woods in the sun on a glorious Sunday afternoon?  It would be even better to have a group of friends here.  It’s true, many hands do make light work!”  So, anyone want to have a Wildcrafting Party?

I took this one.  Really aren't they beautiful?!

I took this one. Really aren't they beautiful?!

I can’t believe people go out and destroy these plants, pulling them just to get them out of the way and leaving them to die.  At least use the wood for fire or heat and the flowers for medicine.  The flowers have been used by Herbalists and others as an expectorant, diuretic, and detoxifier; it can be helpful therapy for asthma, coughs, fevers, infections, skin irritations and more.  Honeysuckle is even being studied for its possible use in therapy for HIV!  Plus, it tastes great!  Just try it!

As I was walking the several blocks to the preserve, I got some attention from some neighbors for the Hori Hori on my belt.  The hori hori is my new favorite Herbalist’s tool!  (Here’s where I got mine if you want to check it out.) It’s basically a trowel that’s not quite  as wide, with a serrated blade on one side and a straight blade on the other.  Sometime they’re called digging or gardening knives because you can use them for digging, transplanting, cutting, etc.  I use it to dig roots, scrape bark or root bark, cut stems, and more.  I almost wondered if I should have left the knife with the 5″ blade at home for all of the attention it drew; I soon remembered why I’d brought it.

A sea of Wild Ginger (asarum canadense)

A sea of Wild Ginger (asarum canadense)

wild ginger leaves

wild ginger leaves

the beautiful wild ginger flower (it's that tiny thing with the red center)

the beautiful wild ginger flower (it's that tiny thing with the red center)

I really was amazed at the sheer quantity of the Wild Ginger in the preserve!  It tastes like store bought ginger, though they are unrelated.  However, wild ginger has a stronger taste.  The one I ate was so pungent, I was surprised!  Soon after that, I ran into my midwife hiking the same trail (Cincinnati is a small town sometimes).  It was nice to show someone else the joys of wild ginger and talk about the state of women’s health.  She gave me a lot of hope and an idea for a nonprofit teaching women about alternative therapies and nutrition.  Hmm…..

Beech Bridge

Beech Bridge

I had forgotten how much I love Buttercup Valley!  Lots of old growth, including plenty of huge Beech trees, and cool wooden bridges.

The Elven Trail

The Elven Trail

I love this cute little trail with the little wooden steps.  I like to imagine a long time ago elves took old fruit crates, turned them upside town, and labored over burying them in the soil.

At some point in the future I’ll write about Plant Spirit Therapy and how the Forest is my therapy.  I definitely felt both of these strongly yesterday!  Oftentimes when I feel in a funk, it will quickly be relieved by a quick jaunt in the woods.  Well, . . . maybe not quick.  Usually my ‘quick’ trips end up being about an hour.  But it’s all worth it for a little free, yet priceless soul therapy!

One of the best parts of the day didn’t come until I was almost out of the woods.  I looked over at a tree with beautiful green shining, odd-shaped leaves.  And all the sudden, I saw tiny pinkish berries.  I was overtaken with joy.  And how amazing that something so small as tiny, unripe berries could bring such a smile to my face and spirit!  MULBERRIES!!! They got me thinking about the abundance of summer and the all the other luscious wild berries to pick.  I can’t wait!

Baby Mulberries!

Baby Mulberries!

Until the next adventure….

Happy Trails!!!

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I Dig Mullein!

Yesterday, I went hunting the wild Mullein (verbascum thapsus).  I was disappointed, though, as I found only two plants in the woods behind my house (here in the wilds of Cincinnati, Ohio).   Being a good Herbalist, I know that one of the most important rules of wildcrating (or harvesting wild plants for later therapeutic or food uses) is to only take 20% or less of that type of plant in the area.   So, I tried to patient.

I called a friend who had just bought a beautiful piece of property.   Part of the hillside had obviously been dug up at one point in time.  Mullein is a stubborn plant; it grows in some of the toughest terrain, usually rocky and disturbed.  Luckily my friend obliged my wily wild woman notions.  Here’s a picture of the mullein-laden hillside:

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The mullein plant at the bottom of the picture was probably the most perfect one I have ever seen.  It was so beautiful!  I almost couldn’t bear to harvest it, but it was in perfect shape.  I also figured that because it was so large, I could harvest less.  I talked to the plant first, told it that I wanted to work with it for health and wellness, and gave gratitude for its life and energy.  I feel like it’s so important to be this conscious of what the plant is giving up for me.

Mullein is such an amazing plant, with its fuzzy leaves like wool or lamb’s ears (the animal’s or the plant).  In the spiritual work I’ve done talking to the plant, I have learned that it can help to comfort us, like a warm, soft blanket.  It also has a gorgeous rosette in its center.  Here’s the one I harvested:

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Then, I ventured into the woods for some exploring.  The first thing I noticed was an old truck that had been abandoned there a long time ago.  It is so amazing how Mother Nature takes over if left to her own devices.  There was some carpet in the bed of the truck.  It was covered in moss, jewelweed, and virginia creeper.

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Speaking of Mother Nature’s power, she really does seem to know best.  At least that’s my belief.  (Okay, little rant coming, sorry.)  I know there’s this current trend of groups of people getting together and pulling mass quantities of ‘weeds’ to keep them from crowding out native plants.  However, what I have noticed is, not only are those ‘weeds’ (which are often edible and medicinal) left to rot, other ‘weeds’ pop up in their place.  This seems to be the case with honeysuckle and garlic mustard around here.  They’re both great plants and have been replaced with snakeroot.  The only information I can find about snakeroot is that it is poisonous and killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother after she drank milk from a cow who had eaten snakeroot.  Here’s what Snakeroot looks like:

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Unfortunately, it looks a lot like Stinging Nettle.  Don’t be fooled, though, stinging nettle has prickly hairs covering the stem that cause that sting, and Snakeroot doesn’t.

The woods are so breathtaking up there!  It is very lush, green, and moist.  I felt like I was back in the Pacific Northwest.

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I love discovering new places.  I felt like an explorer.  It was this surge of feelings, about being in unfamiliar, uncharted territory.  There’s the excitement of the newness, the surprises waiting at every next step.  Then there’s the nervous excitement of not knowing where I am going and hoping I can find my way back.  I did have a slightly dramatic moment where I worried I wasn’t going back the right way.  I had a traumatic memory of getting lost in the woods overnight several years ago.  (Luckily, I know more about plants, now!)  There was a moment where I asked the spirits for help.  While scary, it was somewhat relieving, to put my trust in something bigger than myself.

There was something so comforting for me in seeing the jewelweed reappear and the deer tracks.  I guess in many ways, that deciduous forest is and always will be home.  The plants and woodland spirits are my friends and guardians.  I feel safer there than many other places.

So I trusted, and soon was led back on the right path.  I found another treasure when I got back, an old mullein stalk with the seed pods still attached (it’s laying on top of a thistle plant):

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After I picked it up, I noticed deer tracks under where it had been laying.  I felt completely at one with everything, knowing the deer had been right where I was standing, probably nibbling on the same plants.

I shook the seed pods to distribute mullein seeds over the hillside, to replace what I had taken.  I took the stalk home to decorate my front porch and spread some more seeds.  There was another set of seed pods and I took those to give them a home on my altar in the healing room to add to the plant spirit energy.

When I came home, I rinsed some of the mud off the plant, and chopped the roots and some of the leaves, all the while feeling so much gratitude for all the plant world gives so freely.  Then, I put them in a jar and covered them with alcohol.  I hung the rest of the leaves to dry for later use in my herbal practice.  Now I just have to wait patiently.

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It’s amazing how much gratitude I feel every time I go to and return from the woods.  I know my heart is there and those trips are my spiritual practice.

Green Blessings Until the Next Adventure!

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Today’s Adventure

Today’s hike was especially fruitful!  Abundance abounded!

I have so much gratitude that my backyard backs up to 15 acres of woods, yes in Cincinnati, Ohio!  It is always amazing to discover the name of a plant I’ve been watching.  There is a large, beautiful meadow at the end of a trail I take from my backyard.  I like to give everything fun names, makes it more of an adventure!  So I walked through the Enchanted Fairy Forest to Bird Spirit Holler (feeling my Appalachian roots : ) ).  It received its name from the frequent sightings of hawks, vultures, and many others flying overhead.  There is a small stream that runs through, creating a slight wetland feel to the meadow.  I’d been wondering what this tall leek-like plant was.  I realized, if I’m right, it’s actually cattails (typha spp.)!  I’ll have to wait until they flower and see if the spikes develop to be sure, though.

Then, I strayed ever so slightly from my usual path and made such a fantastic find!  I was overjoyed, the plant whose genus is my last name: mugwort (artemisia vulgaris).   Wow!  I love this plant, how it effects dreams, it’s slight bitter taste, the whiteness of the leaf’s underside.  That white sheen has lent to its planting in “Moon Gardens”.  Unfortunately, when I took out my camera, I realized I forgot the memory card, so this will have to do until next time:

Mugwort

Mugwort

I followed a deer trail up the hill.  I was awestruck by a grove of baby pawpaw (asimina triloba) trees.  I marvelled at all these babies with no parents in sight.  It was made even more amazing by the may apple (podophyllum peltatum) village that laid like a carpet under the pawpaws!  I will definitely have to get a picture of this next time.  It is so amazing that the only part of this plant that is not poisonous is the fruit.   And their life cycle gives me so much reverence for this plant!  Here’s what may apples look like, if you don’t already know.

mayapple large

Right next to the grove, there is a luxurious moss-covered mound.  I relaxed atop it for awhile enjoying the view of the deciduous canopy.  Eventually I retrieved my binoculars to check out the woodpecker making its way around a dead tree.  There were so many wonder-inspiring moments on that hike!  But I guess wonder is within and where you choose to find it.

While out, I wildcrafted wood sorrel, clover, cleavers, an abundance of chickweed, plantain, dandelion, dead nettles, ground ivy, chicory and others for herbal vinegar.  I also found the first red clover flowers of the season!  They are so tasty, like honey.

So, yes, quite the journey!

And to make the day even better, I got my ridiculously huge (even though I restrained myself) seed order from Horizon Herbs!  Can’t wait to plant the perennial herb garden!

Joy joy joy & Green Blessings to you all!

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Welcome to the Herbal Forum!

I am so glad you’re here!  In this blog you can look forward to a lot of educational information about herbs, plants, health, and healing.   Make sure to check back often, as there will constantly be new and exciting information and pictures here for your learning pleasure!  I will also include interesting links to other herbalists, educational resources, and even more, beyond your wildest (plant) dreams!

So keep reading and we’ll start off down the trail together!

Green Blessings,

Abby Artemisia

Herbalist and Healing Practitioner

www.goddessgardenhealing.com

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