Oh, For What It's Worth/ I draw My Breath, From An Ancient Earth

Sometimes people ask me, why I make plant medicine the way I do: small batches, once-in-a-bluemoon-remedies (literally 🔵), handcrafted, small, local, seasonal? "Do you have this particular remedy?" People ask."I love this particular essence, will you make more of it?"  "Will you have this salve in the spring?" And the answer is sometimes a plain old "No." 

It's a delicate balance, considering whether I should be making more of the popular items, making sure I spend at least some of my time in a way that financially supports my family, and doing what feels right to my heart. 

All my life, I've pursued things out of interest, because they were meaningful, or fascinating, or outrageous to me. It's certainly not been about "what I'm going to be when I grow up", and frankly, the one time I did pursue something from that place, I ended up disliking what I'd once loved. Because of this, I've also always thought of the things I've learned and know as something anyone could know, if they wanted. I've never placed a lot of value, beyond the personal, on my knowledge.

Last year, a friend and mentor of mine, gave a me kind of a talking-to, about hiding my own gifts and talents, and acquiescing to the critical voices, while always encouraging other people  to pursue their knacks. She pointed out that a lifetime of study of something, however informal, does actually stand for something not anyone can acquire. She's literally the person who set me on this leg of my meandering journey as a plant-person, and I'm forever grateful for that. 

That same friend, in that same conversation, told me "If you feel called to do something, you have to do it. You have no choice.", something I've held as a small mantra to myself ever since then. 

I make herbal, vibrational, botanical, wild medicine, because it's part of my own heritage, my personal practice, my knack.

Of course it's an absolute privilege to get to make a portion of my dollars from it, but at the same time, that's not all there is to it, not to any herbalist. This is a fine line. In a dollar economy, it's easy to start thinking that we need to get compensated for all of our time in currency, and certainly, that is important to our continued existence and survival. At the same time, the point, the real point is standing in your power, trying to line up your work with your values. And this is an on-going process. 

One of the ways I try to achieve this, is creating these medicines from my own intuition, of what people around me need, what I personally need, and most importantly, what plants pursue me. It's the most esoteric part of my very-down-to-earth-practice, but it also happens to be one that has served me the best and that I'm trying to listen to the most these days, when everything is crazy, and unpredictable, and somehow completely clear at the same time. 

When I walk around in the woods, or even in my garden, certain things, sometimes utterly surprisingly, will speak to me. Like you know, for instance trees and stones. No but seriously, trees and tree medicine have been huge for me this year. I might go in for a particular herb, and come out with a tree remedy. 

That's part of why very few of my medicines will ever be anything but seasonal. There will be one-offs, things I'll make every three years, essences of events that will never happen again.  

I ground my practice in following the seasons, the plants, in creating medicines that make sense to me, regardless of whether or not they might be crowd-pleasers. Some will be straight-forward remedies, while others might be mystical magic potions. All will have my trademark goofy, longwinded names. All will be made with the highest quality ingredients, from plants I love, have a relationship with, and nurture. They are part of how I communicate with the world, make sense of it. They are how I try to nurture people. 

A part of this practice, as you can see by clicking on the "Herb Magic"-tag below, is me creating a recipe each time I release a batch of remedies, because to me that's what herbalism is all about: sharing the magic and joy of plants. 

Often, these recipes will be simple kitchen preparations, the oldest form of folk-medine, and secretly my favorite. Eating your medicine is every day magic, whereas taking it in other, stronger, more extractive mediums, is more of a emergency use, or an attempt to shift things, for me. This time, quite unknowingly of how much heart-ache there would be in the world when I post this, I chose a tea that will help us chase away the blues as little. It reflects one of the kits I have in the shop, and captures a lot of the high summer's energy in it. 

Happiness Moves In A Circular Motion -an infusion to reduce anxiety, to invoke happiness, to take space to feel joy, and to calm down and reflect-

Please note about this herbal preparation:

1) If you don't have all the ingredients you can make this preparation with any of the stuff. I will list alternative/bonus ingredients at the end of this post. 

2) If you take any sort of pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medication, or anti-depressants, please make sure those medications are compatible with any herbal preparation you plan to take. Plants are powerful, let's respect their powers*

3) All ingredients can be dried, but since it's summertime in many places right now, they can also be fresh! 

For a quart-jar of infusion use loosely packed herbs, less plant matter if they're dried 🌿

- Good handful of Borage leaves and flowers

-1/4-1/2 cup of Saint John's/ Joan's Wort flowers and leaves

-1/2 cup of Milky Oats

-1/4  cup of Chamomile blossoms

-1/2 cup of Lemon Balm

Chop ingredients up. Bring water to a boil, then let it cool a little bit, for 10-15 minutes. 

Steep up to 8 hours (overnight), but 4-6 is plenty too. You can re-heat without bringing to a boil, and store in a refrigerator for couple of days. You can also strain out the herbs while storing, but I never do, because I'm lazy. 

Additional happiness-inducing, heart-opening, anxiety-soothing herbs could be: Lavender, Rose petals & hips, Hops (thought they're less delicious), California Poppy. 

Enjoy with local, organic honey (maybe rose or lavender- infused?!!). 

I hope you find some sweet relief in this heart-warming drink. That said, it's pretty good iced as well. Oh and if you want to visit the shop, it's right up there on the top bar. 

All photos by the generous Demetria Provatas 

Ps. As you know, I typically donate some of my profits to a cause that matters to me, but this time, I'm gonna ask you to trust me with it for a while before I announce it. Thanks guys. 

*pharmaceuticals are often also absolutely necessary for people having very human reactions to a very inhumane world. Please do make sure to consult a medical professional about your emotional health. There are great ones out there. 

The World Is Your Rollercoaster

I'm not a fan of oysters, frankly. And moreover, swallowing a small, helpless, slimy creature alive, does not exactly sound to me like the perfect metaphor for the beauty, magic, and wonder of your one wild and precious life. 

A photo by my friend Kristiina. Visiting the lands my grandmother's people came from. But that's another story about co-incidence, conservationist friends, and small island life in Finland <3 

A photo by my friend Kristiina. Visiting the lands my grandmother's people came from. But that's another story about co-incidence, conservationist friends, and small island life in Finland <3 

That said, I have been feeling like the world is my something, or other, lately. Almost everything I ever dreamed of having happen to me, of getting to be a part of, I'm suddenly a part of. Sounds dramatic, but it's true. All the doors are flying wide open. And as it often is with dreams coming true, there's a lot of hard work, logistics, money worries, late nights, and pushing shoulders against wheels involved. 

As you can tell, I've not had a lot of time on my hands for itinerant-writing activities. My journals languish in their pouches, my folders are full to the brim with topics. At the same time, lately I've also felt like I have to have something to say whenever I come here. That I have to be deep, or offer information, or entertain. That can be pretty stifling for a writer. 

I've been writing this blog for over eight years now. It's always been a love pursuit, something I've done for fun, for me. Not for money, or the fickle food of internet-fame, or for any other reason besides that it seemed like a natural, easy way to express myself. It's made me a better writer, a better photographer, a more educated person, and it certainly has made me a bucket-load of friends for life!

But as it turns out, this blogs is also a big part of the work I've been unknowingly doing for a long time now, the stuff that's all suddenly coalescing into this wild new dream landscape I find myself in. All these years I've been trying to make space for dreams, and learning, and creating, aimlessly, without goals. And somehow, without even knowing it, that and not pursuit, or demands, has laid the foundation for my lifework.

 So, dear reader, old friend,  that's what I want to continue to do here. It would be easy for me to turn this space into something that served to promote my "brand", my writing, my teaching, my herbal practice alone. Somewhere, where every piece I wrote would be easily shareable and quotable, and every picture interest-worthy. I'm not going to say it's not been tempting, to follow what the popular trends seem to be, but frankly, being a hodgepodge mishmash as served me fell so far. 

I don't know if you're still out there, friend, but I'm here. And I plan to have a heck of a time!

Love,

Milla  

 

What CAN you do with Dandelions?

...asked someone on my instagram feed. The answer is...WHAT CAN'T YOU DO WITH DANDELIONS?!?!?

Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is still considered a weed by many. Well, not by us Hedgewitches, herbal medicine makers, plant people. It is one of those wonderful plants where most every part of it is useful (the stem's a mite bitter), and most everyone knows what it looks like, and where to find it.

This makes it a plant not just beloved to herbalists, but a great beginner's one as well.

The easiest way to interact with herbs, is to include them in your diet in the form teas, vinegars, and actual meal ingredients. This is the oldest way of herbalism, treating food as medicine, and Dandelion is a perfect plant friend to have that relationship with.

Here's a few ways I like to use dandelion in my food:

Greens- for salads, additions to green pestos and smoothies, use like spinach as cooked greens. They're rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins K,C, and B6, calcium, iron, potassium and I can't even remember what else...

Root-add it to your herbal vinegar.Great for digestion, liver support, immune support, also rich in antioxidants. My friend Chen (@life.learning.chen on insta, one of the most epic wildcrafted food peeps you'll meet!) reminded me that if you're industrious, you can dry, or roast the root and make your own coffee substitute powder from it too!You can also slice it fine and pickle it, but it's bit tough in my experience. (And obviously it can be tinctured, but this is a cooking post. ;)

Flowers-make dandelion wine? Or if that's too much work, add them to your sima for a little golden herbal kick. You can also make like I do and batter them in an egg, cornmeal and spices, and fry 'em up in some oil, oh my! They're a lovely addition to quiches, potato cakes, stuffed zucchini, pizza, anything and everything where you'd use any other kind of veggies, or leafy greens. Some folks love to add them to cookies, muffins and other baked goods (though do note that adding sugar to your food as medicine kind of negates the medicine part;). 

There you have it. Those are some of the things you can do with dandelions. It is an abundant, resilient, joyous plant. I recommend you form a relationship with it.

With a plant like dandelion, the ones with the long taproots, for breaking up distressed soils, the ones that crop up everywhere, one should be extra mindful of where the plant is sourced from. Always make sure to gather your foods and medicines from places where you know no contaminants could have entered the plant. Avoid roadsides, pesticide-treated lawns, and other compromised areas. Always rinse your plant matter thoroughly before using. 

What are the other plants in this picture, you may ask? Well, they're Cleavers, Miner's Lettuce, Lawn Daisies, Fir Tips, and Bracken Fern fiddleheads. What do I plan to do with them? You may also ask. The Cleavers and some of the Miner's Lettuce are for medicine, the rest and the Lawn Daisies for a stir fry, and the Fiddleheads, for an asparagus like side dish, with butter. But before you rush off to pick your own fiddleheads, be advised of two things: they're considered carcinogenic, and if you pick them, the plant may not grow again for this season (I try to pick the sideshows.). For both reasons, we eat them very sparingly. 

Which brings me to something I've been wanting to mention for a while, about plants, caution, and mindfulness: 

If you're planning to eat wild foods please make sure you know how to identify them correctly in your area. Get a field guide (specific to your area/ bio-region), and always double- and-triple-check your sources. DO NOT EVER go by what someone, most anyone says online (less the information is a part of a course, and even then I encourage you to always consult multiple sources in plant id), or especially on a picture on instagram, or a blog. For one thing, the person who posted it may or may not be knowledgeable about plants, you never really know, and different plants can look different in different bio-regions.

Wildcrafting and herbalism are definitely #trending these days, and while it's wonderful to get empowered about bio-regional knowledge, one's own health, and food as medicine, it's important to note that plant knowledge is a life-long pursuit. It doesn't come instantly. I encourage anyone and everyone to pursue it, but please, do it with the respect that the powers of the plants require. This is a topic for a whole other post, but this one written by the lovely Sophia Rose of La Abeja Herbs is absolutely essential reading to all wildcrafters, novice and seasoned. Her work is thoughtful, magical, and a great resource, so poke around and check out her offerings too <3 

That's all for now, folks! Happy Spring! 

You Will Not Take My Heart Alive

In the past two weeks, I have locked myself out of more-or-less every email, social media, work, and personal online account I own. Not entirely on purpose, obviously. Rather, these things happened, and sometimes I would leave them locked, keys lost, important passwords gone, for days. Somewhere in transit I let my iPod die, and noticed I had not brought a charger, and could not turn it back on. Finally, I took this as a sign, and stopped trying to rescue the thing, said goodbye to texting, instagram, even listening to music while walking.

Already, before I even left, I'd set my email on vacation mode, in hindsight in rather passive-aggressive terms.  I'm not entirely proud of that, but I'm also not entirely ashamed of it either. 

For a while now, I've been meaning to write about my conflicted relationship with social media, and its ever-increasing bias towards images, witticisms, personal brands, flame-wars, memes, sharing, and reacting rather than considering.  Is it worth participating in at all? What is the value of this near-instantaneous connection to all the world, all the time? Am I participating in something, or simply creating content? 

The answers to those questions will have to wait for another time, or maybe forever, but here's what I've "learned" from all this so far:

When you're traveling your eyes are wide open. You notice small, ordinary things in a way you normally wouldn't. These things strike you as funny, absurd, tragic, they are imbued with meaning beyond meaning, suddenly, they are potent with symbolism. Events, objects, buildings that might strike you as ugly, boring, or even depressing as a part of your daily grind gain special powers in the eyes of a traveler. They can become beautiful, magical almost.

And there is almost no better medium for small observations than social media. What I've missed the most at times, is having an excuse to make small videos, or take pictures of something that uniquely sums up something about my experience here. Instead, I have written them down in notebooks, stored them in the imperfect banks of my memory. It is comforting, I suppose, to know that this urge, to store, to frame, to capture, in me is at least in part, artistic.

And yet.

I'm reminded again, that I like keeping secrets, that things hidden are sometimes more valuable to me than the things that everyone knows. 

So here we are friends, you and I, somewhere in the middle of the wilds of Finland. Outside the window snow-dusted birches pass by. Lone pines stand on hills in the middle of vast clear-cuts. Boys in army uniforms, too young to shave, heading home on Easter leave ride the train, finding seats where they can. Three magpies sit atop three scraggly spruces like Shakespeare's witches. The most #cabindreams cabins of all time, peek red and inviting through the trees, pushing smoke up from their chimneys to the gray skies. The train pulls slowly into a station. No one is waiting for it. No one gets up to leave.

Thank you for traveling with us today. We hope to see you again soon.

(Ps. The original title of this post was "All The Fucks I Ever Gave About Social Media". I think I'm going to save that for one of my less poetic days.)