Friday, 31 December 2010

Moon Halo

In the very early hours of 24th December (1 am to be precise), I took my dog into the garden to see if he needed to go to the loo before bed (he's got very bad arthritis and needs to be carried out).

There was snow on the ground which made the night appear less dark than usual. As I looked up, there was a fantastic halo around the moon. I know it's just light refracting through water droplets in the air, but it looked totally breathtaking.

I could have stood there and stared for hours, but -5 degrees Celsius made me go inside after a few minutes!


Sunday, 5 December 2010

We must start living from the heart

Keisha Crowther, also known by her tribal name of "Little Grandmother' delivers an emotional and powerful talk about the state of the Earth and what should start doing about it.

When Keisha was 30, she was asked to become the one called 'Little Grandmother' a Shaman, a wisdom keeper/teacher - one of 11 other people chosen by the Continental Council of Indigenous Elders.



Click above to watch in HD on YouTube. It's incredibly moving.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Nice stuff

Here's a collection of some rather nice sayings, mainly collected from the assorted twitterings of Ali Brown http://twitter.com/AB_Counselling


"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart..." - Carl Jung

"Say NO to the demands of the world. Say YES to the longings of your own heart" - Jonathan Lockwood Hui

‎"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it" - from A Course In Miracles

Monday, 8 November 2010

Quotations

Take care how you place your moccasins upon the Earth,
for the faces of future generations are looking up
from the Earth waiting their turn for life.

Wilma Mankiller, former Principal Chief of the Cherokee



Friday, 22 October 2010

Remedies for insomnia

As I was browsing through Deb's blog at Herbal Haven yesterday and came across a post with an interesting YouTube video - it's part of an episode from a series broadcast in 2009 on Channel 4 called 'Kitchen Pharmacy', presented by Annelie Whitfield . The clip below is all about treatments for Insomnia.



Definitely worth 10 minutes of your time!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Stephen Buhner - profound herbalist

An interesting interview with profound herbalist Stephen Buhner. He believes that plants are much more intelligent than we give them credit for and are able to 'help' each other or animals that need their properties. I loved it on the second video at around 1:05 when he says, "Indigenous people would often say... the day before you go to collect the plants, tell the plant what you need it to do".

Plant power!

Part 1 of 4


Part 2 of 4


Part 3 of 4


Part 4 of 4

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Rollright Stones

Yesterday, by chance, I found myself a few miles from the Rollright Stones on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border. Not only that, but I had my camera with me too!

I've heard about the Rollright Stones before, but never got round to visiting, despite the fact that a family member lives only 10 or so miles away, so with a little time to kill, a visit was definitely in order.

There are actually 3 monuments on the site, the main stone circle - The Kings Men (a late Neolithic stone circle dating 2500-2000 bce, The King Stone (a monolith of middle bronze-age origin) and The Whispering Knights (a 5000 year old burial chamber).

The weather was lovely as I approached the main stone circle. Initially I stood near what looked like the entrance and tried to open myself to any feelings or sensations. It felt wrong to just 'walk in', so I slowly started to walk around the outside of the ring, examining the stones as I went.











I got a strong sense of being grounded, of being part of the earth and I thought about all the people who built the stone circle - who were they, why did they do it and then I thought about all the people who had been here over the ages.

As I continued to walk around the outside of the circle, I was aware that people had placed flowers on some of the stones. There were ribbons tied in the branches of trees. Signs that even today, people are finding significance from this most ancient manmade structure.

Walking between the monument sites I became very aware of the hedgerows - the red Haw berries of the Hawthorn are very prolific at the moment, as were the brilliant red Rosehips and the wonderfully dark Sloes of the Blackthorn. I spent a little time picking some Rosehips and Sloes for a weekend project.

The brilliant red of the Rosehips

Sloes - ripe for the picking
What a wonderful way to spend and hour!

Monday, 16 August 2010

The Orange Moon

Yesterday evening, there was a gorgeous low, orange moon. I wanted to photograph it, but it was very low over the houses in front of ours and I just couldn't get my camera into a suitable position. However, I found this picture, which sort of reminds me...




~Magickal Graphics~

A real life 'Avatar'

The price of progress... how some people are struggling to save their sacred hills against open cast bauxite mining in India.


Monday, 9 August 2010

Down in the garden

Some of the happenings in my (small) garden - all photographed with my cameraphone.

Salad box - mixed salad leaves

Bees enjoying Yarrow

Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan'

Potatoe harvest from a bucket

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Tongue Tied

Why is it that sometimes, I find it easier to type or write what I feel rather than say it?

Maybe it's because I can read, re-read and scrutinise every word and perhaps finally, delete it all! Like many, I'm too often guilty of saying things without realising what it is I'm actually saying.

This lovely little poem by Ali Brown somes it all up nicely;


TONGUE TIED

Words seem to fall out
Through my fingers.

My pen does the talking.

But life would be so much
Easier

If the words came straight out
Of my mouth
Instead.

Check out Ali's blog - AB Counselling.

One of life's pleasures

One of my favourite things is to take a walk in the woods. There is little to equal the beauty, tranquility and pleasure you get from walking through the dappled shade of woodland on a warm sunny day.

Clowes Wood, Earlswood. 8/8/10

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Building with Cob & Straw Bale

Natural or green building is one of my special interests. The YouTube video below is from a BBC program that covers a cob and straw bale building course.

I love the comment near the end, when one of the participants was talking about being in a cob 'round house' that the instructor had previously built - she said it was like "Sitting in a big hug" - classic!


Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Nature deficit disorder and the inner child

I spend far too much time on the internet. It has pretty much replaced watching the TV (which actually, I never did much of) to the extent that if you took my TV away, it would probably take me a week to notice! I know I need to curb some of my online time, but occasionally I come across something wonderful which makes it worthwhile.

Not sure how I found this, I think it was via a Twitter 'tweet' from someone I follow. It's a wonderful audio interview and gorgeous slideshow with writer and bushcraft enthusiast Karen Wilde. She talks in such a compelling way about about the essentials of bushcraft, nature deficit disorder, sustainability, and listening to our inner child when it tells us to play outdoors more.

Image from www.wildscape.co.uk

I think it's worth 30 minutes of your time. Point and click to http://www.wildscape.co.uk/essenceofwild/wildelycreative

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

More on nettles

I love nettles! I guess some of the attraction is that most people hate them because all they can think of them is that they sting and they're a pesky weed.

Image from Wikipedia


But they can do so much more. They are a sign that the ground is fertile, they can add fertility back to the soil, you can compost them, you can make a fabric from them (not tried that yet), you can eat them, you can drink nettle tea, you can make a nettle tonic and so on.

I've blogged about nettles here, but I also came across this blog post today which has some nice pictures and information that might get you interested in nettles too!

http://naturalpathways.wordpress.com/

Friday, 16 July 2010

Gentian Flower Remedy

Are you dispondant? Give up too easily?  Maybe Gentian flower remedy will help!  Nice little video...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Agrimony flower essence

Last Saturday I spent a fantastic day Springfield Sanctuary where I made, amongst other things, Agrimony Flower Essence (Flower Remedy). I'll write up more about that shortly, but this evening I came across this short YouTube video about Agrimony and it's qualities which I thought I'd share.



Monday, 12 July 2010

Dandelion Flower Oil

Back in May, I was at a friends place just outside Warwick and noticed the profusion of Dandelions. Being a good year for Dandelions, they were clearly calling out for me to do something with them, so after a bit of research, I decided to make some 'double-infused' Dandelion flower oil.

As with a lot of internet-based research, you can often end up with more questions than answers! Looking up Dandelion flower oil, there were the people who made it using the 'cold' sun-infused method and those who said heat or warm-infused was better! I asked my herbal mentor, Sarah Head for advice and she said try both - well that was the decisive answer I wanted!

There was more than one site that suggested that unless the flowers were dry, there was a strong chance of the oil going rancid before the flowers had infused properly if you used the sun method, so I took the cautious approach and just did the regular 'warm' double-infused method that I have previously used. The other advantage of this method is that it's all done and dusted in a few hours and can be used immediately - no waiting for weeks if you're the impatient type!

Preparing the flower heads.

Heating the flowers in oil.

Oops - nice colour though!

In a nutshell, the method is as follows:
  • Take your harvest (in this case, Dandelion flower heads) and divide it into two equal piles.
  • Put one pile into a bain-marie or double-boiler (I used a glass bowl inside a pan of boiling water) and pour on enough oil (I used Olive oil in this instance) to cover the plant material.
  • Heat for 2 hours, keeping an eye on the water level in the bain-marie or base pan, to ensure it doesn't boil dry (the reason for the bain-marie is to ensure the oil does not get too hot and burn which would ruin the infusion).
  • Pour the oil/plant material through a sieve and discard the plant material.
  • Put the remaining plant material back into the bain-marie and pour the single-infused oil over it, topping up if necessary with fresh oil.
  • Heat again for 2 hours.
  • Again, pour the contents through a sieve and discard the plant material (onto your compost pile?).
  • You can then bottle the oil, but be aware that there is likely to be some water/moisture at the bottom of the oil which will reduce the lifespan of the oil if not decanted.
  • Once cool, label your container and enjoy your oil!
What's it good for?

Dandelion flowers are said to contain a mild pain reliever, so the oil has been used as a folk remedy for painful, swollen joints, as a healthy breast massage oil (it is said to be excellent at softening breast tissue), and as an all-around gentle and soothing massage oil. Being male, it's use as a breast massage oil is of limited use to me, but my wife knows it's there if needed, but I do sometimes get a little bit of joint pain. It's also an excellent general massage oil and is said to increase your self-worth - something I could do with. 

Greenwoman's blog commented, "Dandelion oil is also a lovely pain reliever, helpful in soothing arthritic joints, back tension, sinus headaches, stiff necks, and weepy swollen skin sores. I personally can attest to the way it soothes sore muscles, especially in the neck, as I just used it last night after a day of carrying around heavy potted plants. It doesn’t have a numbing effect–rather, it helps the body relax a bit, easing that tightness that can be so painful."

I've used it on my skin were I have some eczema and it's been helpful, although in fairness, other herbal treatments have been more effective for me, but using it does help tremendously with relaxation. It's a very luxurious oil to use - sort of 'heavy' aroma (that's not a bad thing), rich in colour and readily absorbed into the skin.

Links & Further Reading:

Greenwoman's Blog.
Herbal oils for breast massage - naturalbloom.com
Gardeners path - fun with dandelions
Ener-Cycle - dandelion infused oil and salve

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Drying herbs with Susan Weed

Here's a nice YouTube video filmed by one of the participants at a Susan Weed herb workshop. Specifically, she talks about harvesting, drying and storing herbs. I didn't realise that complete plants, when dry and stored in brown paper bags, would keep so long!
The interesting stuff starts around 1:35.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

The many colours of hawthorn

Hawthorn is one of my favourite plants. Usually during May (and hence it's alternative name of the 'May Tree'), the blossom just screams out at me and you realise just how profuse the hawthorn is!

Hawthorn blossom in May (cameraphone)

The beautiful white blossom sometimes has a tinge of pink around the edges of the flower petals, but I was surprised by the depth of colour to this one that I found on one of my dog walks...




At first I wondered if it really was hawthorn, but the leaves are a giveaway. The colour is such a deep pinky/red - I wish I had discovered it earlier so I could do something herby with the flowers, but they had just started to go past their best, however, there's always next year!

Does anyone else have more information on the pink/red flowered hawthorn? Although the leaves are very classical hawthorn, the flowers do seem to have quite a different structure from the regular one.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

It's been ages, but here goes...

I know it's been ages since I've updated things on here and that's bad of me. But, I have been very busy with other things in my life - work & family commitments etc. There's a lot going on in my head about my future 'direction' and finding the courage inside to be my true self - all of which lead me into some depression and deep questioning - not the nicest place to be! Anyway, I will be updating the blog with some of my herbal activities that span back the last few months.

Sunset over my local fields (cameraphone)

I think that May and June must be top contenders for my favourite months of the year. May brings such dramatic changes to the natural landscape as trees, bushes, plants and flowers literally burst into life with such vibrant shades of green. Then come the flowers, which make identification so much easier!

2 years ago, I was doing my daily dog-walking around the local park when I suddenly noticed the beautiful white flower blossom of the hawthorn - from nowhere, it suddenly seemed to be everywhere - as if I'd been wearing dark glasses for all these years and then suddenly I took them off. This is what started me on my current path towards learning more about herbs and plants.

This year, dandelion and elderflower have been visually 'shouting' at me. Other people have said that this year was a good one for dandelion, so I did some harvesting which I'll report on later. Elder seems to be everywhere, revealing itself in June as the flowers burst into life like champagne bubbles - ironic as I am currently trying to make Elderflower Champagne (tried it a couple of weeks ago and failed miserably, so I'm trying once more).

I've loved being able to take my dog on walks and have the time to look around and see what nature is all around - things suddenly become apparent when you take the time to look. My frustration as always hase been being (largely) unable to identify as much as I'd like - I'm getting better and finding new ways and techniques to help myself, but it is frustrating when you want to know everything all at once

Blackthorn in bloom (cameraphone)

Monday, 15 February 2010

January Task Update

Here goes with the January task update...

Hawthorn and elder tree mapping

The task was to... "Map all the hawthorn and elder trees within a mile of where you live. This means going out and locating them and drawing a map showing where they all are. Notice where they are growing in relation to roads etc and see which ones would be suitable for you to harvest from them. Try to do a bark rubbing from several trees of each genre and see how similar/diverse they are. Label and date the bark rubbings. Take photos and notice the shape of the trees."

-- Scanned image will go here shortly --







Friday, 12 February 2010

Are we disconnected?

A theme or phrase has been pounding me a lot lately - 'disconnected'. I hear people say it, both friends and those on video from the internet.

It resonates deeply with me.

Are we disconnected from life, from humanity, from nature, from reality?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Imbolc

Today is Imbolc - happy Imbolc blessings to everyone! This Sunday, I'm off to Derbyshire to attend an Imbolc ceremony 'Celebrating the Wheel of the Year', run by Glennie Kindred, Rosemary Greenwood, Marion McCartney and Annie Keeling, which I'm really looking forward to.

I attended a Samhain celebration last November at the same place and it was an incredibly moving and spiritual experience!

Imbolc is a celtic/pagan celebration that is held around the end of January/beginning of February (in the northern hemisphere). Following on from Samhain (which is about death - metaphorically speaking - with the energies of life etc being withdrawn into the earth), Imbolc is a celebration of the life-force, of love, of a new cycle of growth, and of new beginnings.

Winter is passing (slowly) and we can begin to move forward into springtime energy. This is a time for planting visions and ideas!

My friend Sarah Head has written a couple of Imbolc stories which are published on one of her blogs at Mercian Muse - please check out 'Singer to the gods' and 'The Wheel of the Year'.

Imbolc drawing by Glennie Kindred:

Friday, 22 January 2010

January Task



The January task for my 'Springfield Sanctuary Herbal Apprenticeship' has been set....

Task
  1. Map all the hawthorn and elder trees within a mile of where you live. This means going out and locating them and drawing a map showing where they all are. Notice where they are growing in relation to roads etc and see which ones would be suitable for you to harvest from them. Try to do a bark rubbing from several trees of each genre and see how similar/diverse they are. Label and date the bark rubbings. Take photos and notice the shape of the trees.
  2. Make an elder bark oil/salve. This means you need to collect some elder twigs. Choose a tree in a unpolluted spot. Cut some twigs and when you get them home, strip off the bark. Divide the bark shavings into two piles and make a double infused oil.
Research
  1. Elder bark is good for bruises. Try to find the answers to the following questions.
    1. What other herbs could you use for bruises?
    2. What might you apply to a bruise using these other herbs that you would not (preferably) use with elder and why?
  2. What is the body doing when a bruise is formed? Look at the structure of the skin and the underlying blood supply and map the formation and healing process of a bruise.
Due to the weather and various other (unavoidable) commitments, I am already a little behind with this task, but... things are in progress and I shall be putting up my task results shortly!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Herbal Bitters

I’ve been interested in herbs and herbalism for many years, but beyond buying the odd book, I’d not really taken it any further. That was until about 18 months ago, when a herbal workshop day was advertised on a mailing list I subscribe to. So with very little to loose, and potentially loads to gain, I ventured down to ‘Springfields Sanctuary’ near Stow-on-the-Wold one balmy Saturday in June and met Sarah Head.

From Springfields Sanctuary

Since then, I’ve attended quite a few of Sarah’s workshops, both at Springfields Sanctuary and at her home near Solihull. I’ve learnt a lot about making tinctures and balms and vinegars, but regrettably I’ve not given myself the time to use them or really think about the context of what I’ve learnt.

This year, I’m taking part in Sarah’s Herbal Apprenticeship, which will force me to use more joined-up thinking and thoroughly explore my chosen herbs in more detail.

So when I was asked to write something about herbal bitters for a ‘Blog Party’, my first reaction was to politely refuse because I lacked experience with them. Then I thought about it a bit more and wondered if I should use the opportunity to learn more about them and record what I found in this blog entry, so here goes…

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