When our sons were young, I made their baby food. This effort is commonplace now, but in the eighties, the convenience of jars was more appreciated. I understood the value of fresh foods. It was never a bother to prepare green beans or sweet potatoes and then serve fresh or freeze portions in ice cube trays for another meal. It came natural, like every Italian mama before me, to feed my children well!
Next in importance to eating well was being outdoors. Steve and I were drawn together by a mutual love of nature and being outdoors.
He grew up hunting and fishing, and while I was more of the skiing at the lake house type, we found many early days together outdoors floating a creek in inner tubes or walking a trail in the woods. Steve also had a green thumb. When the boys were young, he established a raised bed beside our first rancher home. This first garden not only produced food to eat, it provided a wealth of teaching opportunities. For me, as a trained teacher, I took advantage of every one of these aspects of our family life as teachable moments. It was easy to talk about worms and composting, trees and oxygen, animal homes and insect behavior. Learning in nature is fun while fostering resilience and imagination and curiosity. Growing up,our sons created their own entertainment whittling sticks, catching bugs, and having crabapple wars. When not outside, evenings and quiet times during the day were filled with reading books. Our library was filled with the natural world and contained shelf after shelf of books on the solar system or ocean life or dinosaurs while works of fiction provided essential lessons on getting along or dealing with a bad mood.
Fast forward 25 years and I can see how all these threads have brought us to where we are today. The boys are all grown and life has taken them each in a direction that seems just right for him.
Our youngest son, Joseph, graduated from Auburn in 2014. While studying Agricultural Communications, he had the opportunity to work on a crop sciences study on turmeric. Many varieties of turmeric were cultivated and studied for the amount of the active medicinal constituent, curcumin, each held. Lucky for us Joseph brought home a handful of several varieties of the rhizomes for us to have fun with in our garden. It was also at this time we met Tia, the horticulturist at Auburn with whom Joseph worked. In the course of my life, I‘ve learned to appreciate the grace in knowing when people have landed in my life at pivotal times. Tia is one of those people; not only for my sake, but for Joseph’s. She has a vast knowledge of plants and a beautiful appreciation for their purposes in our lives. Joseph worked alongside Tia on the Turmeric project through two seasons. He also helped her tend the Auburn Medicinal Plant Garden as well as assist Tia in her own landscaping business. But I knew what Tia was giving Joseph was so much more than an education in plants. She was filled with life lessons and wisdom and there is no better place to share this kind of knowledge that when working alongside someone in a garden. (this is a really sweet reference back to the images of childhood learning in nature/about nature) She really enjoyed having Joseph as a work partner and reached out several times to graciously share with us her appreciation of Joseph. This was the beginning of our interest in studying for ourselves the benefits of not only turmeric, but also many other medicinal plants. While Joseph’s time at Auburn ended, his friendship, and ours, with Tia continues. (this would be a great place for a photo with Tia if you have one with all of you or at least with Joseph…?)
In November of 2014, I was reading an interesting article on medicinal plants in a magazine. I decided to look up the herbal school that had been mentioned in the article. I learned The Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine is located in Asheville, NC, a city I had grown to love when attending various yoga teacher trainings there in previous years. I missed being in the classroom as a teacher and a student, so I reached out to Corey Pine Shane, the herbalist and teacher of the program, to learn more. It was an easy decision to apply to the program and I was delighted to be accepted into the 7 month weekend course beginning in March of 2015.
For the past 3 months, I have been absorbed in my medicinal plant studies traveling to Asheville one weekend each month and returning home excited to share everything I am learning with Steve. I am making tinctures and teas and salves gathered from the plants we see on the farm everyday…dandelion, plantain, bee balm…We are enjoying a newfound interest and appreciation in the hunt for the hidden plants in the forest around us.
Steve has also been reflecting on a change. Growing a large garden and providing fresh food for our CSA and market customers is such a labor of love. We find such pleasure at the end of a long, hot and sweaty day walking through the gardens deciding what will go in each week’s CSA bucket. We check on the flowers and herbs and know which ones will makeup the bucket’s bouquet. We share our long list of challenges with bugs and weeds and not enough help….and at the same time share our enjoyment in greeting our market customers and pleasure in home delivering a CSA bountyto a doorstep.
Change is always hard, and Steve and I are no longer enjoying days of youthful bodies and long term visions for the future. We recognize our challenges and yet we still want to stay engaged in what we see as a vibrant food culture. While we know our market customers and our CSA members will be disappointed, we know the time has come for change.
My interest in medicinal plants and Steve’s green thumb seem to go together like a hand in a glove. I see the cultivation of medicinal plants as another layer in our food consumption. Every plant has unique qualities contained within its system, and so many of the plants we certainly used to look at with disdain, we are now appreciating for one quality or another such as the prolific dandelion. (hyperlink to previous blog post) Recently, I have been experimenting with making tea blends using flowers and plants from the garden. Holy basil, passion flower, lavender and a touch of stevia make a relaxing combination, while hibiscus flowers and lemon balm are zingy and refreshing.
(Photos of plants, drying, mixes….)
As this love combining growing plants and nurturing our bodies is evolving, so is another idea. It’s a long held vision for me that is beginning to take shape. It involves an architect, Joe, and a “fabulous’ space planner Happy. This idea allows us to bring the healing of this beautiful land to others…feeding people in another realm… Next up…the building of the Yoga House.