Teas & Tinctures

April 29, 2009

Lemon balm tea

Lemon balm tea

I’m three weeks into my internship at the medicinal herb farm. We meet twice each week, one day for eight hours of farm labor (see earlier post on barn-mucking) and one afternoon for four hours of clinical learning, where we’re taught the basics of how to make medicines from the plants we grow.

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Bill digs valerian root for today's tincture

Bill has spent years studying herbs and running his own herbal medical practice. His passion for his work is serious, but I think it’s cool that he still maintains a lightheartedness and sense of humor while he talks about it. His teaching style is, by his own admission, rather un-linear.  (Circuitous?) After taking a quick walk around the grounds to see what’s happened with all the plants each week, we sprawl on blankets in the grass while Bill passes around teas and tinctures of a few different herbs. We roll the earthy diffusions and decoctions around our tongues, trying to get a physical sense of what the herbs are doing to our bodies before Bill can tell us. Then Bill takes the lid off his brain and years worth of information and experience and knowledge come flying from his mouth. Scrambling to capture the essence of his words and distill them into reliable reference material in my silly little spiral notebook feels a bit like trying to catch flying seeds on the breeze, but I have faith it will all amount to something eventually.

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Spring!

April 29, 2009

Tulips = spring!

Tulips = spring!

I am so, so so SO happy it’s not winter anymore. This month has felt very long and very tumultuous in many ways, but I’ve come to understand that nothing soothes emotional turmoil like the sudden arrival of 80 degree heat and the simultaneous explosion of fresh green foliage. Seriously, these trees didn’t have any leaves on them last week. And possibly the day before yesterday:

so green!

so green!

Watching everything around me burst back into life, it feels like I might not be able to help but do the same.

Handpicked love from Auntie D's garden

Handpicked love from Auntie D's garden

manure

There’s roughly five months worth of feces in that photo. One cow, one sheep and two goats crapped inside one barn all winter, and today I took my turn mucking out the stall. I loved every pungent minute of it. I loved the way my rain boots squished in the mud/poop. I loved the sweet smell of the manure. I loved the way two hours went by and I didn’t even notice.

I found shit-shoveling—pitchforking, really—to be alot like clearing jungle brush with a machete. It takes a while to figure out how to be really effective at it and find the groove. Also, the hay that’s layered into the shit tangles itself into one giant mass, just like the vines of the jungle. In order to clear really satisfactory patches, I discovered it helps to work in circles, disconnecting the poop-hay or vine thickets from themselves and pushing them aside, or in this case, depositing them in a wheelbarrow and dumping it on the compost pile.

There’s something about the rhythm of the work: once your body figures out how to do the job, the mind is freed and imagination (or chatter) is also possible. Taking stock in the area cleared is infinitely rewarding. Just remember to wash the blood (or poop) off your hands when you’re finished.

cloudyhills

I’d just quit my most-loathed waitressing job and begun an internship on a medicinal herb farm when my parents decided to express their extreme disappointment over my lack of career. My mother called on Monday, near-tears, to declare she “doesn’t know where she went wrong.”

“Eventually you’re going to have to sell out!” she cried. “Your twenties are ending and you’re not even getting started!”

Thinking I’d find reinforcement on the paternal side, as soon as I shook her off I called my dad to get his read on the situation. In cold tones, he let me know that he feels “anger, pity and fear,” when he thinks about me and my current life situation. Awesome. Nothing boosts the ego like having your parents inform you they think you’re a fucked-up waste of space.

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Sprouted Seeds

April 19, 2009

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I planted these little tomato babies and chile peppers at the beginning of March.  Watching them emerge from the dirt as little embryonic green slivers was captivating. They are still in their infancy but starting to express their potential. The photo doesn’t fully represent the subtle spendor of their purple stems, or the little hairs sprouting from those stems, or the seed shell still stuck to the leaf of one of the peppers. Still, sometimes I crouch down beside them and marvel at how much life can be contained inside one almost-invisible speck of a seed.