Thursday, June 28, 2012


With the profusion of flowers this early summer as well as the sunny, warm days we have been having, I was inspired to try tincturing. For several days I reviewed Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech. That book is the definitive text on getting the numbers and formula correct. Seeing the equations for testing alcohol content and yield brought me back to Ms. Key's chem. class in High School. What a disaster I was. I was so bad at math, I couldn't even blow anything up in the lab. Thankfully, I found my math skills - especially as they apply to practical applications - like making folk medicine. 

Red clover is in bloom everywhere here on this former Dairy Farm. It has many spiky red/pink petals shooting off of a central stem. It's wonderful in salads - when young - and it's great in tinctures. According to Making Plant Medicine, it helps with lowering cholesterol, and removes metabolic waste products from the body. It's helpful too for fixing nitrogen in the soil. So inspired, I set to gathering the clover flowers. 

Gathering is a magical process - especially from what grows in profusion in the landscape (non-endangered species, and situated well away from roads, septic systems, dumps etc...). It is powerful to me that I can make folk medicine my own way. These plants are from here, where I live, and I harvest them with mindfulness. I believe that such intention and love is an important constituent element in the healing process. So after gathering, I roughly chopped the flowers and then ground them in a Cuisinart with Everclear.  After all was combined, I put the mixture into a labeled jar, and topped it off with more Everclear to make sure that the medium was completely covered. I shook it up and after 6 weeks of infusing, I'll strain out the solids, and then have a good base tincture for creating formulas. (Note, this is a BASIC methodology not intended as a primer - consult manuals like Making Plant Medicine and others by certified herbalists for proper directions.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Holyoke Medical Center Planting

I recently completed a planting plan and set of renderings for Stephen A. Roberts, a local landscape architect . The proposed site is next to Holyoke Medical Center's main entrance.

The planting is composed of a large component of medicinal plants. While these plants may not be used for medicine themselves, (I would not recommend most commercially grown plants for consumption that have not intentionally been cultivated for medicinal use) their presence in the garden so close to the hospital may inspire people to explore herbal medicine as a base line for health and healing. Among the plants included in this proposal are: red root -  for cleaning the lymphatic system, echinacea and baptisia - for stimulating the immune system response, anise hyssop - for lowering fevers, and catmint - helpful for calming headaches. These plants are beautiful and hardy and in combination with each other create compelling textures and forms that out of the "bloom season" are interesting to explore and look at.

I have always loved plants, and learning about their healing properties adds a richer dimension to that fascination I have. Where before I saw them as engaging pieces in a landscape, I am beginning to see how they support landscapes and us through their part in ecosystem dynamics across scales, from our guts to watersheds. 



plan view with plant selection

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Walking. Ambling. Strolling. Sauntering. Moseying. Loping. Those are among the more appealing ways to walk for me. I was a critic the other day at the Conway School’s final presentations. All of the presentations had something to do with “circulation or walkability.” In design school, walkability was a hallmark of a “sustainable” city or development. What is walking anyway these days? All of us walk. Some with ear buds, some while texting, some while eating, some arm and arm. What about surfaces? There are cobblestones, bricks, planks, rubberized tracks, those freaky moving sidewalk things at airports, I am not sure that the overarching concept of walkability takes these into account though. Perhaps planners, designers and policy makers are to the point where they think that any walking would be success – getting people out of their cars, away from the computer (yes, I realize the irony of my writing and posting this on the computer….) and into the world. 

I love walking. Some of my favorite books are about walking, The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin and Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit give beautiful histories and descriptions of walking and how people have moved across this earth. Keeping those examples in mind along with the power and immediacy of direct experience, I have been experimenting with path making here since we arrived 5 years ago. The following are some of my path attempts…..

“Man's real home is not a house, but the Road, and life itself is a journey to be walked on foot.”
Bruce Chatwin, What Am I Doing Here?  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Herb Weekend

There's something powerful to me about these herb weekends. Perhaps it's that nearly every time I go on one of these weekends, and I am immersed in the systems of the human body and how plants can help to stimulate the efficiency and heal those systems, I understand more profoundly about the relationship people have with plants and landscape. Intuitively, it's a no brainer for me - because I am a plant nerd. My children are named for trees. But, to have some quantifiable proof of the healing powers of plants from sources like Roger Ulrich at Texas A& M, Sloan Kettring's index of herbal plants, and the anecdotal evidence from our instructors through their years as clinicians, strengthens my case for integrating medicinal plants into the landscape for aesthetics and for personal/ecological restoration....One of the things that stands out to me from this weekend, is not anything that anyone said, but the beauty of the plants that were growing on the farm. The forms of these plants are beautiful. Spending time looking at each one, and making connections to how they are used, and how I have used them made the experience of seeing them incredibly meaningful to me. In these times where so little is within our "control" and when so much is fast paced, slowing down to get to know plants on the levels of healing, beauty and ecological context feels almost decadent to me. But that's the power of taking that time. Taking time - instead of letting someone else take it for you - is a process that once begun re-establishes your connections to your self, to your family and to your world. That's healing.

clary sage
blue flag iris
wild yam