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Friday, August 24, 2007

Sunburned, Sore & Ready for a Change

I've just spent the last couple days trying to dig our big black truck out of the river. This involved hauling huge heavy rocks, jacking up the truck about a thousand times (you think I'm exaggerating, hah!), digging through mountains of mud and rigging up some strange winch like contraption with the jack, two chains and a Cottonwood tree (don't try this at home, kids!) So now I'm sunburned (first one of the season), so sore I can barely lift my left arm or stand up and getting ready for the group arriving this evening for this weekends workshop with Robin Rose Bennett.

So, if you're one of the many people waiting for an email from me, do not despair! I am getting there, and emails are my priority today.

And in my spare time, I've created a new home for The Medicine Woman's Roots, same content with a new vessel. Blogger is simple and easy, but I really wanted more flexibility so I switched to self-hosted Wordpress. Sorry to disturb the RSS feed subscriptions and so on, but I think you'll all appreciate the prettiness and clarity of the new blog! You can find the new blog at: http://bearmedicineherbals.com/blog

Also, I've started a more personal, gritty and broader ranging blog that has to do with the Medicine Woman Tradition, my stories, poetry and musings. If you're interested, email me and I'll supply you with the URL.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Story in Pictures: Home

The River I love

Cabin view from the river.

The Den and Treehouse

Me banging on things.

Rhiannon & her Papa

Loba making ymminess

Rhiannon and her treehouse

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Surviving Southwestern Summer Burnout

I don't know about you, but here in the NM, everyone's red, irritated and dried out by the end of the Summer. We're chronically thirsty, many people are perpetually pink, and I can barely get my interns from the northwoods to come out from under the nice cool rocks for anything!

One answer is to lay in the river all day, and it's certainly tempting to hide under a canopy of cottonwood and bulrushes until August burns itself out. More practically, I've learned a few practices in the last few years that can dramatically prevent and treat these chronic hot & dry conditions.

  • Stay hydrated. No really, drink a LOT.
  • Don't get overheated in the first place, do your hard work in the mornings and evenining. There's a reason we've got siestas in this part of the world. If you do venture out midday, put a wide-brimmed hat on, and a light weight, light colored loose long sleeved shirt on to protect you skin. And get in the river when you're done with whatever you're doing.
  • Don't just drink water, drink mucilages. Make a mallow infusion or decoction and dilute it 1:1 with fresh water and drink as your beverage of choice all day. Nettles or Oatstraw is a nice addition to keep you mineralized/energized, but don't leave out the mucilage! Drink this every day during the Summer and it's sure to help prevent the dry everything disease.
  • Keep your skin well moisturized, especially if you're in and out of the water alot. For really dry skin I like Comfrey and Plantain infused in Sesame oil. For sensitive skin like my own I prefer Rose, Sage and Mugwort infused in Coconut or Olive oil. Anoint yourself religiously (yes, I know I'm being funny ;) and don't let the dryness start, cuz once your skin starts to crack it's much harder to treat.
  • Take your fish oil. EFAs are super important for skin integrity among many other things, so do your overheated flesh a favor and don't forget the fish.
  • If you do get burned take care of it right away, don't just let sunburn build on sunburn. My favorite acute sunburn remedy is Rose petals infused in vinegar, dilute 1:4 in water and apply with a cotton cloth to the affected area until the skin loses a good percentage of it's excess heat. After the acute phase, applying fomentations of Plantain, Mallow and Comfrey can be most helpful. And later, once the heat is completely gone and only the residual burn symptoms remain, a good all purpose salve with lavender can help restore the integrity of the skin and heal without scarring.
  • A strong tea made with Rose petals and Elder flowers is incredibly healing for sore, burning eyes. You can also just lay moistened herbal teabags over your eyes and rest that way.
  • Don't eat too many cold foods and drinks, no matter how hot you feel. Those ice cold beverages that seem so appealing can weaken your kidneys and make your more vulnerable to exhaustion, illness and general immune deficiency. Eat cooling foods instead like cucumbers, a cool borage soup, stir fry with lots of veggies, berries, wild fish, lots of summer squash and other foods that are seasonally available. And eat lightly, overheating will cause you to feel overheated, heavy and uncomfortable.
  • Carry a little spray bottle and portable fan around with you. Whenever you're unbearably hot just spray yourself down and then run the fan for a few minutes, it works wonders when you can't get to a river.
  • Go barefoot and wear loose clothing. All that unnecessary fabric and matter holds the heat in.
  • Lay in the plants in the shade whenever you get a chance, it'll do wonders for your burned out, irritated self.
  • Find a river and stay close to it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Duck Stew With Turnips & Apples

One of our favorite meals is this amazing Duck Stew, it's a lovely late Summer/Early Autumn dinner when the day starts to get cool. Loba originally created this recipe, and we've more recently fine tuned it together.

I like to roast or shallow-fry the turnips and apples separately and add them at the last, so the sweetness they get from the dry heat comes through and they don’t end up overcooked. Fresh turnip or mustard greens are so good with this, but don’t despair if they’re not available, it’ll be excellent either way.

Plan to have leftovers the next day, as it’s even better after it’s been reheated. And try a bite cold too.
You can substitute or experiment with using turkey or goose, but you would need to at least double all the ingredients listed below. (Serves 2-4)

1 duck (wild or domestic)

1 tablespoon butter (even better if it's a nice herbed buttter, like Rosemary or Sage)

6 cups water
1 large onion

1/2 head of garlic

1/2 cup of flour (optional)
2 good-sized turnips
2 good-sized apples, peeled and pared

1-2 carrots

1 large bunch of turnip or mustard greens
1 teaspoon salt
Large pinch of freshly ground coriander
1 handful of chopped cilantro
1 small handful of fresh, finely chopped rosemary

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Set a pot of water to boil over medium-high heat, then brown the duck on all sides in the butter on a hot skillet. Place the browned duck in the simmering water. Pour a bit of the hot water from the pot into the skillet and scrape the pan with a spatula, getting all the flavorful juices and brown bits from the pan. Pour them into the pot. Lower the heat and set the pot to simmer for an hour or more. At this point I can’t help but taste it, so rich, and so clearly duck!

When the meat is quite tender, take it out of the stock to cool, strip the meat from the bones and drop it back into the pot. Next add the onion, coriander, rosemary and garlic, and let simmer another 1/2 hour or until the onion is soft. While the onion is cooking, chop the turnips and apples into chunks. Sauté them in a bit of butter on the stovetop skillet, until just tender.

The smart thing to do is to put the turnips in first, as they take twice as long…. otherwise your apples will melt into nothing by the time the turnips are done (yes, it has happened to me! ).
Once the onions are tender, mix the flour in a bit of cold water and pour the paste into the pot, whisking with the other hand. Next, chop up the greens and the carrots. I like to slice the carrots neatly on the diagonal. Set both aside.

The moment the turnips and apples are ready, put them into the stewpot. You may want to save a handful of the apple slices in order to make a circular fan in the center of each bowl, which is fun if you have the inclination! Set some bowls for serving in the oven to warm, and sauté the last of the garlic that was set aside. Watch it carefully, so that it gets just golden. Then quickly get the warm bowls from the oven, ladle in the stew, and decorate with the turnip greens, carrots, cilantro and lightly toasted garlic.

I like to put the carrots around the edge of the bowl, the greens inside the ring of carrots, and the golden garlic piled in the center. Yes, it is as good to eat as it looks. Maybe even better! Enjoy, and don’t forget to thank the duck….

Note: • If you use a domestic bird, allow for time for the stock to chill so you can skim some of the fat off. Wild ducks are so lean that it’s unnecessary with them. A domestic duck will also give you a larger stew, so you might want to add more vegetables than above in order to balance out the extra meat.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Talking With Plants: The Prequel

Here we begin the Talking With Plants series of posts, but before we dig in I recommend reading Jason Godesky's excellent blogpost called "Plants Are People, Too". It's an in-depth exploration of the ways plants communicate and feel, and their inherent personhood. He quotes Stephen Buhner as well as lots of recent and not so recent research. It's well worth reading for a good overall look at the subject of plant communication (and a re-thinking of ethical vegetarianism at that!)

Just click on the pretty banner below to go to
the Anthropik Network to read Jason's piece.

River Talk, Harvesting and New Ideas!

The river is lower this week, thanks (or not) to the declining number of storms coming through the Canyon. She's still sandy and far from clear, and you're likely to sink at least to your knees should you try to get from bank to bank. It does make for lovely swimming though, as the current pulls you down through the Willows and Alder on either side, and the sand softly strokes your skin.

Late Summer smells something like heaven here: wet and green and laden with storm turned soil. Since the river is so sandy, and the banks are so muddy, we've been going to town on the trail up the mountain. It's only a little over a mile to the parking area up there where we leave vehicle, but some of it's steep switchbacks on loose gravel which makes for a challenging walk if you're carrying much of anything. I'm easily distracted from the weight this time of year though, by the beautiful plants adorning the forest floor. The trail winds upwards through old Ponderosa Pine forest where Yellow Flax, Pale Hyssop, Pague, Oregon Grape Root, Blisswort, Yarrow, Brickelbrush and Epazote abound. We've also been harvesting lovely golden Bolete mushrooms from under the wet pine needles to sautée with onions and serve over Elk and Summer Squash Stirfry.

It's prime Nettle seed (well, they seem more like fruit, but here the technical term is nut) season so I've been harvesting every chance I get, I try to wait until they're perfectly ripe and drooping heavily against the stems. I've also discovered a local variation of Stachys with huge red flowers and a delectable fruity mint scent.

Although I'm also writing several magazine columns, working on student curriculum, updating the website, planning this Fall's restoration efforts, creating an online student forum and catching up on emails I'm aiming to post a bit more frequently here, hopefully at least three times a week not counting the weeks I have events (just two more this year) or workshops to teach. Did I mention I'm writing several books? Yes, I'm busy, but I still seem to manage to spend lots of time working with students and clients with herbs and even out rolling around in the wild green yonder.

Expect some interesting new series type posts here as well, including one on women in the wilderness, one on preparing and preserving primal foods, one on talking to plants, and one on the ceremonial uses of plants.

There appears to be a storm rolling in, so I think I'll just go take myself a hot juniper wood-fired bath in the claw-footed tub, there's nothing like a Rose petal scented bath out in the pouring New Mexico rain.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New Look & Labels

Welcome to the new Wild River look of the Medicine Woman's Roots blog! Not only is it prettier and more personalized, but I've also organized the labels that accompany each post in order to make everything easier to find. I've also signed up for Feedburner so that you easily subscribe to my blog in case you don't want to constantly be checking the site. There's a link in the right bar just below the Medicine Woman picture to subscribe through a reader or by email.

There are only five different labels for now:

Medicine Woman Materia Medica
- Self explanatory, individual or combined profiles of herbs and how to work with them.

Therapeutics and Nutrition
- Having to do with treating a specific problem, or talking about an approach to treating people through herbs or nutrition.

Tales of the Sweet Medicine
- River Tales! These will be long or short stories about the Sweet Medicine River, the Canyon and two-leggeds that are here.

Green Tidbits
- Short Canyon updates and little herbal bits.

From the Hearth
- Posts that included recipes for yummy foods or helpful medicines.

Some posts will have multiple labels of course, but you can go to the labels list (Ways of Learning) to the right and if you just want to read the stories, you can click on Tales of the Sweet Medicine and pick from those posts.

I may add new categories in the future, but I think this is a nice start.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Few of my Favorite Calming & Uplifting Herbs

Not an exhaustive list of course, but a small number of the plants I'm most likely to use in any given situation. Don't forget to try Magnesium and other trace minerals for any seemingly random emotional problems.

These kind of plants often act very differently according to the individual, and so it's important to proceed somewhat slowly and for the person to try to be self-aware and open when working with the plants, so as to get the most out of the experience.

And while plants can profoundly affect our process and our ability to be with our emotions, it's up to us to work through our issues, and to have a fierce love for our own spirits so that we can mindfully and gladly journey through the pain and bliss, joy and terror, great loss and immense gifting that is our lives.

Evening Primrose - Great for food based anxiety in those recovering from eating disorders as well as depression arising from digestive problems (David Winston). I also use Evening Primrose hormonally related anxiety and depression, it's a very uplifting and calming plant without turning your mind to mush. I also use it in general anxiety and depression accompanied by nervousness and stress. Perhaps one of the most overlooked emotional modulators out there.

Monkeyflower - Depression with fear, especially of pain and repressed sexuality. Great for those who've forgotten how to play like little kids, like SJW, I believe it has the ability to help adjust solar energies in the individual.

Blisswort (Skullcap) - Probably the nervine I use the most for myself. It has a special affinity for the nerves and so is especially good for those who feel like anything that touches their skin is electrocuting them or that they're going to lose their mind from the noise when the stereo is barely turned on. Great for those recovering from meth and addictions to other uppers. Skullcap is a tonic and can slowly but surely rebuild fried nerves.

Peach - Calming, cooling moistening. An ideal calming agent for those dried out Pitta people who are so hot bothered they can't even eat. Nice for stressed out, nauseous, insomniac mothers to be. Small doses are best, just a few drops really.

Rose - For anyone and everyone who needs to calm down and smell the flowers a bit more. Especially appropriate for those who have depression from a lack of self-love and anxiety from sexual or romantic betrayal/violence. Great for balancing fierceness and vulnerability, where those aspects are out of whack. Very useful in cases of hot, lingering forms of rotating depression/fatigue and severe anxiety with total lack of libido or fear of sex. For those who are burning themselves out from lack of love and compassion. Heart opening and centering for the whole body. Can you tell I use this plant a lot, it is, in fact, the flower that gave me back my heart.

Nettle - An adaptogen for the adrenals (Henriette Kress). Great for hypothyroid, chronic fatigue and brain fog. I haven't tried it in depression per se, but have now used in on myself and a couple other cases where there's overwhelming tiredness (and therefor, often a feeling of bodily depression) from adrenal burnout.

Sage - More than a nervine, this is a tonic for rebuilding the nervous system where there has been deep and longlasting trauma. It helps to restore the integrity of the feeling senses. Specifically useful where there's shaking and tremors, anxiety with overwhelming fear, and profound burnout.

Western Mugwort - For those who have lost their trust in the natural order of things, who lack a sense of deep security. It can give a calm, "mothered" feeling to those who need it most. It's an intense plant and can give some people nightmares. A sacred plant of many cultures, it's best to ease into a relationship with Mugwort, and to be very conscious when working with it. Not everyone experiences the nervine/spiritual effects, some people just get the digestive and liver protective elements.

Monarda - A somewhat euphoric relaxant, stimulating to the circulation. Opens the heart to more fully experience the beauty of life (Matt Wood). Combines well with Rosemary and/or Sage.

Sweet Clover - A nice gentle relaxer with an affinity for moving stuck energy and patterns.

Lavender - One of my students calls Lavender tincture "a hug in a bottle", this is so true! Lovely anxiety, insomnia and the depression that comes from constant worry.

Rosemary - Great for stagnant, cold depression in people whose digestion is slow and tense, subject to headaches and brain fog and a tendency towards low blood pressure and chronic fatigue.

Motherwort - A really nice relaxant nervine for the fried and frazzled with a tendency to palpitations and other heart stress. Good for those who's anxiety wears them down into depression.

Wild Peony Root - Antispasmodic, calmative and an all over lovely plant, especially for those with an overactive reproductive system (short cycles) and useful for ovarian cyst pain too.

Elder Flower - An emotional restorative after immense grief, and a gentle nervine for those who need a bit more of Faery in their vision of life.

California/Mexican Poppy - A great general nervine for nearly anything, and it blends well with most other nervine type herbs too. I specifically like it for depression and anxiety from pain. Great combined with Blisswort and Sage for deep nerve trauma. The Poppy is about taking a break from whatever is torturing you. Herbalist Mimi Kamp has a story about being really really stressed out, taking Cali. Poppy and totally forgetting what she was stressed out about. And when she did remember, she didn't care anymore. That is the nature of the Poppies. This particular subspecies isn't addictive and while it is comforting doesn't give the big oblivion some of its cousins do.

Corydalis/Golden Smoke - For hysteria, grief and fear so big that you can't step away and even see what's going on. You can only feel the terror and pain of it. This plant helps us calm down and pull away enough to see the bigger picture. It has its uses in severe chronic pain, but I usually prefer it in acute emotional issues. Very similar to Bleeding Heart (a close relative), Corydalis should be used with care and in fairly small doses (no more than a tsp of tincture at a time) and I use only a few drops at most normally.

Violet - Well, I haven't tried the tincture for depression or anxiety, but just living near this plant is enough to make me joyful!

The Medicine Woman is glad you came...

All writings & posts (c)2007 Kiva Rose
All artwork & photographs (c) 2007 Jesse Wolf Hardin