Sunday, June 20, 2010

July blog party: Adventures in herbalism

This month's blog party is on 'Adventures in Herbalism" and is hosted by Darcy Blue @ Gaia's Gifts.
What a great topic. We love our plants. We are constantly scanning the fields and roadsides for identifiable plants. It's like we are looking for old friends, even if we have never met. When we do meet. . . watch out! From walking into grass taller than your waist just to see if you can even reach the berries of an elder, to harvesting burdock seed for the first time and enduring the thin white hairs that embed themselves into your skin, or to inadvertently inhaling cayenne during the grinding for oil... the insides of your nose burning intensely for more than a few unbearable minutes- we will go to great lengths to talk to, to see, or to harvest and process them. We love our friends though, and a it's a relationship that endures.

It has been said more than once that plants have something to teach us. They have ways of making ( or helping ) us to listen. The first year I discovered elder in our area ( I had thought they grew only on the west coast ), I began to see the flowers everywhere. I worked across the street from a couple of beautiful bushes. I had noticed them along the mountain roads of W.Va., and later discovered a friend had one on his property. In my newly discovered excitement of a wonderful food plant, high in bioflavonoids that protect us during the winter months from the infamous flu and cold bugs, I went searching. . . with the intent to harvest. The elders along side the road just wouldn't do, it's the ones I could spot off in the distance of a field that looked safe and harvest-able. I politely drove up to one house and asked if it was ok if I could harvest some berries from the tree in their field. At first, they didn't know what tree I was talking about. When I pointed toward the field at the tree, I got a prompt 'no'. It is probably unsafe and they don't want to be held liable. I offered to sign a waiver... THAT was funny. They looked at me like I was crazy. I thanked them anyway, understanding and leaving them alone. As I was on my way out the winding road, I noticed a large elder in the distance. I turned around and headed back. Thinking I could pull off to the side of the road and walk the distance to see and hopefully harvest, I pulled off. Big mistake. There was no roadside. Only tall weeds to fool me into thinking the road had a shoulder.

It was a hot June day with my two toddlers in the car that was now teetering on it's axle. Getting out of the car was a trick, but we managed it easily enough. The grass was knee deep on the no-road-side. I felt horrible. I looked at the elder in the distance and realized this wasn't a relationship I could take with a grain of salt. She had something to tell me. She has powerful ways to be heard. The Elda-mor, a powerful feminine goddess, is said to live in this tree. There are many myths and magic lore surrounding it. A great goddess to petition in sickness, especially in children, but watch out if you plan on burning or cutting it's wood. Hauntings and even death are said to ensue.

So here I am, on the side of a residential road with my two toddlers, hot and sleepy (and maybe a bit worried or scared, too). The only place to rest or wait was under a great pine in a bed of poison ivy. Can you hear my sigh from there? I still can. Thank goodness for family, always there when you need them, whether they are working or not. While we waited for my brother-in-law to come to our rescue, I looked in the distance at the elder. I no longer cared about harvest, I wanted words with the tree. I just wanted to get close enough to see, touch, and listen. Without a car for the girls to sit in, though, and no chance of my walking a hundred yards away while they waited by the roadside (in poison ivy!) I couldn't just go tramping off. I lug each one onto my hips (they are barefooted, go figure) and I started off into the grass. A couple steps in and the grass was up to my waist (there's that sigh again, hear it?). I was a bit chicken to go the distance, so I took my place back on the poison ivy.

Help arrived and the chains were of no use, I needed a tow truck. A chunk of money and my more-than grumpy children later, the ordeal was over and the lesson learned. I had ten times the respect for elder than I had had that morning. The whole thing was sort of laughable. At home I made a buttermilk and vinegar bath for the girls, hoping to wash away any poison residues that may irritate them later. I believe I was successful for the most part: they got poison ivy and they got it bad, but it was just bad, though, and not really bad. I had fun concocting a lotion to aid in it's demise, and I was successful. A little less than a week later, it was all just a memory.

Later that June, I went to a friend's farm. Lo and behold- he has a beautiful elder laden with not ripe berries. He doesn't even use them, I could come back and get some!
I said my thanks to her that day. Later I came back for her berries. In the fall I was gifted again. A woman who works on said friend's farm had many elders on her property. She dug up six babies for me. I did quite the happy dance! I felt like the Elda-mor was approving of me now.
A whole year later and two of the six baby trees are laden with berries and a few flowers still. The other four are quite happy and growing with the season. The elder is truly an ally now.

Adventures in herbalism. I can't wait to hear the stories from the other folks this blog party. We all have them. It's part of the art, most of the fun, and definitely part of the journey in wisdom gained.

1 comment:

  1. wow hon! what a story! just now seeing this as not had time with the grands out of school to be on blogger! makes me wish we lived near each other! we could forage together and take turns minding the wee ones! lol really happy for you that you have your own elders now:) happy to have found your business page on facebook today also:) big herbal and honey hugs to you always