Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas 2013, for me, is...

An ice storm in Michigan.

 No electricity, in a candlelit cabin in the woods.

Lots of vegetables cooked over the fire in the woodstove, long walks, and winter craft projects.

...and warm fuzzies from the holidays this year, to keep me warm through the rest of the winter.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

walnut harvest

A bunch of us piled into a van, last week, for a 6-hour road trip down to southern Wisconsin, to gather black walnuts from trees that line the roadsides. We camped out in a friend's yard, and gathered walnuts all day, every day, for a week. It was an adventure that was filled with friendly farmers and small town folk. The most memorable parts of it were when a group of teenagers TP'd the trees around our tents in the middle of the night, and when we were on our way home, our trailer broke down from being old and overloaded with nuts.

I found this nut while gathering, and noticed its heart-shape.

some of our nut harvest
the end result!

It was really warm during the day, with cold nights, and when we arrived back at Teaching Drum, I settled into chilly rain, and after a week passed, we got our first snow of the white season-which was today! It felt strange to experience snow already. We had a big feast for some guests who were departing. There were multiple dishes contributed by different people. There was a greens salad, fire roasted deer ribs, baked cisco fish that we caught last year, mixed veggies, and I made a wild rice pilaf with cranberries and nuts. We sat in a circle on the floor and held hands, the elder sharing blessings, and then one by one, we passed our bowls. I watched the snowflakes fall onto the ground. The weather and the food felt reminiscent of Thanksgiving.
I thought about my family in Missouri, and then I thought about what I'm grateful for.

 I'm grateful for/happy about:
-An NVC (Non-Violent Communication) course I'm taking in town. I'm really enjoying it, and learning a lot.
-The delicious and healthy food that is healing my body.
-The healing circle; living with people who are all dedicated to emotional healing work.
-Living in the woods, right up against the national forest, and getting to see deer almost every day, and hear the birds, and view the stars so clearly.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Lake Superior

The Great Gitche Gume. The largest of the great lakes.  31,700 square miles of blue. Shiny pebbles along the shore, the calming sound of the waves, and wild grapes!

September comes to a close. October brings colder weather, red leaves, people coming and going out my life, children growing and changing before my eyes, and myself changing and growing in more subtle ways.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wild Plant Harvests on the Lake

A friend and I did some some exploring yesterday on Hiles Mill Lake. We were looking for a section of mountain maple trees located above a floating bog. We wanted to go out there to gather seeds for edibility tests. We paddled for about 1 1/2 miles, and then waded into the bog. What's neat about the floating bog is that it's bouncy. It reminded me of being on a moon bounce when I was a kid. What's a little scary/exciting is that it is difficult to see how far you will sink in until you step down. I fell into a deep spot a couple times when I wasn't being completely aware of where I was stepping. Once we made it through the bog, we climbed up a path of fallen trees into the mountain maple forest. It was a really beautiful day, and we collected a couple bags of seeds.

This whole area is surrounded by lakes. Almost every time we go out to gather wild edible plants, we explore a different lake. I'm enjoying the opportunities to get in a canoe. I'm getting better at canoeing, and I'm getting stronger. I really like being out in the sunlight, and on the water, with a view of all the colors of the fall trees.

The cranberries are also ripe right now, growing wild alongside the edges of the lakes. A few days ago we canoed onto a different lake, and explored a couple different islands that had cranberries growing along the shore. We took the kids with us, and they really brightened up the day, running around the islands, and making conversation while we gathered. We spent the whole day on the lake, stopping to crack nuts as a snack, and drink water. 

Our biggest wild food staple has been the wild rice. We were on the lake for a couple weeks this year, and, we gathered 600 pounds.

some of the rice we gathered, unhusked, drying on a tarp
 The Ojibwe are the native tribe of this area, and they call the wild rice manoomin. There's a long history of manoonmin being gathered by the Ojibwe, and lots of interesting stories.
"Traditionally, its harvest promoted social interaction in late summer each year. In August our people moved to their manoomin camps for harvest. Once manoomin ripened most energy was focused on harvesting. Manoomin was our main food source.
Manoomin is an aquatic grain, or a cereal. A truly healthy natural food, uncooked wild rice contains more than 12 percent protein and is richer in protein than white rice and most other grains.

Real Wild Rice vs. Paddy Wild Rice
Many consumers confuse paddy-grown wild rice with the true wild rice, hand-harvested from northern lakes and rivers. Frequently, the wild rice offered for sale in local grocery stores or at roadside markets is paddy-grown rice – a different product than the true wild rice taken from naturally growing stands of manoomin. Paddy grown rice has larger, darker (almost black) kernels, takes longer to cook and lacks the distinguishing nutty flavor and fragrance found in native wild rice. Paddy rice is farmed in large rice paddies and mechanically harvested. Commercially grown, paddy wild rice comes mostly from large paddy fields in Minnesota and California."

The above is from

Next week, we will start gathering black walnuts!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ricing Moon and the Healing Circle

Alex and I spent the whole day today canoeing and gathering wild rice from the lake. I've been ricing for about two weeks now, and it looks like today was probably the last day. The stalks are browning, and the rice falls light. The wind was coming in heavily from the north, blowing white caps on the water that chopped at the canoe. We used all our strength to paddle against it, and once we got to the shore, the wind lay low, blocked by a stand of trees. I looked around and noticed the color of the trees. Yellows and browns spotted the coast, and a few specks of red maple leaves showed their fall colors. I felt chilled. I wished I had brought an extra sweater. Fall is here already! It's beautiful...

Photos from last weeks wild rice harvest:

The long Wisconsin winter

Fall gives a reminder of the incoming white season. The snow will start falling in October, and continue until April. Sometimes it snows in May or June. In the middle of winter, the temperature will drop down to -20 at night. I’m afraid of feeling cold. I want to make peace with the cold, but I’m not sure how.
Maybe this winter will be an experiment, to see how well I can acclimate to change and discomfort.

winter camp at Teaching Drum. photo credit:

The moon lit the way to my bed tonight. When I started my walk, I noticed that the light was shining on the woods much more brightly than the night before. I looked up to see that the moon was waxing, and a few stars took shape within my eyesight. I had stumbled through the darkness the past few nights before.

Each night, I slowly make my way on a path compressed down by many people. I feel the ground under my feet, and try to recall the direction and amount of steps to my bed. The subtle shadows of the trees against the night sky guide my way, too. About halfway to my destination, a tree leans against another, and when I am almost there, a precarious branch sticks straight up out of the ground. I’ve tripped over it, in the dark, many times. Every night since I’ve been here, the same animal sings next to same tree. I think it is a toad or a frog. The name doesn’t matter. I’d like to see it during the daytime, but I only hear it in the evening when I make this walk.

I feel comforted and calm within the quiet subtleties of the woods. If I am feeling anxious, I'll take a walk or run in the woods, and then return to the circle with a clearer head.

After the walks, my mind doesn’t spin off into fearful thoughts. I'm not worried about the future, or questioning my self worth. I am worthy just because I am alive, and I am working on accepting that change is a part of being alive.

I've been listening to the song "Far, Far," by Yael Naim a lot these days. It feels appropriate for how I've been feeling lately.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer's End at Teaching Drum

It's the end of August, and the weather up here is warm during the day, with cool nights, and few mosquitoes. There's a lot going on right now.

The blackberries and bunchberries are ripe. I've never had bunchberries before until now. They are small red berries that grow in a cluster, on the floor on the woods. They taste mildly sweet, and have a creamy texture. They're fun to just grab when I'm going for a walk.

I am holding a small handful of blackberries. I'm standing still, and the mosquitoes aren't biting! I'm enjoying the weather. There's so much to look at, and I've been taking a lot of photos, as you can probably tell from this blog post.

The wildflowers are blooming, too. When I moved in, I was welcomed into my room with a bouquet of wildflowers.

Some are starting to wilt, now.

I've been working on deer and bear hides, and cooking a lot. I really like the meals here. We stick to a paleo diet. A basic meal at Teaching Drum consists of deer or fish, vegetables/greens, and wild rice. For breakfast we have fruit and nuts. We eat eggs for some meals, that we buy from the neighbor down the road. We cook in bear fat. Yesterday we rendered bear fat, and what's leftover is crispy chunks of fried fat that pretty much everyone loves eating.

I'm at Nadmadewing, in this photo, salting one of the hundreds of deer hides that get donated to the school from hunters, roadkill, or taxidermists. Some are sent out to the students of the wilderness immersion programs for hide tanning.

Ricing Moon begins soon. This is when we gather wild rice, in canoes, out on the river. I started carving my ricing sticks yesterday, and I am almost done. I've never riced before, so I am excited to learn how to do it, and then I can give more detail about the process.

Almost everyone who lives here is really into running in the woods. A few weeks ago, I was training for a 10k. I was running on pavement or gravel. I could not have imagined how fun it is to run in the woods. Before, running was a practice for blowing off some steam, putting on my headphones, getting that endorphin high, escaping from daily stress. With woods running, it's about awareness, and fun. We practice "wolf running." One person leads, and the other people follow behind, mimicking the leader's steps. I went with someone today, and I felt like a kid on an adventure. We were balancing on logs, jumping and ducking branches, and sometimes crawling on the forest floor under tree branches and between ferns.

One aspect that I really appreciate about Teaching Drum is the healing circle. Anyone can call a healing circle to get support from the rest of the community. A circle was recently called because one person asked another person to stop flagging them. "Flagging" is a term used when someone points out that another person is victimizing themself, externalizing, or enabling someone else. We talked about why someone wouldn't want to be flagged. The intention behind a flag, etc. Interesting stuff.
I learned that I have lots of victimization patterns. I've been aware of it for years, but I never called it that. I struggle to empower myself, and let go of thoughts that I'm not good, or don't have anything to contribute.

There's a lot to learn here!

One more picture, and then I'll go.

Friday, August 30, 2013

This is anicha

I finished my first vipassana course a few days ago. A vipassana course consists of ten days of silent meditation, for approximately 10 1/2 hours each day. I had the intention of doing emotional healing and developing a stable meditation practice to help me cope with chronic, and sometimes paralyzing anxiety that I've experienced ever since I was 13. I imagined the course would be difficult, but I could not have imagined how incredibly emotionally painful it would be, and the realizations I could only have by fully experiencing the pain.

I shared a piece of land, a meditation hall, a dining hall, and a dormitory with about 40 other people. At the beginning of the course, we turned in our electronic devices and reading and writing material. We agreed to not in engage in physical exercise, and we agreed to practice noble silence, except to ask questions to the teachers. Noble silence means to abstain from communicating with others through speaking, eye contact, or touch. These guidelines were set in place to make it easiest for us to clear our minds.

On the first day of the course, I rose at 4am and walked to the meditation hall to begin my sitting practice, as according to the daily schedule, and directed by the teachers.
By the afternoon, I was in the midst of a battle in my mind to stay awake, and I was failing. I was forcing my eyes to stay open, even though we were instructed to sit with them closed. My whole body ached intensely. A heat and throbbing pulsated in my head. My neck and back ached, but the most pain was in my legs. My stomach began to turn, and I felt the urge to throw up. I wanted to run out of the room screaming and crying. When I was almost to my breaking point, a gentle bell rang for a five minute break. I pulled my body up and out of the room, crying, my mind wrapped up in fearful thoughts of my possible inability to complete the course, and guilty feelings for wanting to give up so quickly.

I approached the assistant teacher, asking for guidance, and when she was available I entered her room. She sat on a mat on an elevated piece of the floor, and I sat on a mat below her. Her room was cold, and lit with an orange light. She smiled down at me.

"How are you doing, Wren?"
"I am struggling a lot. I can't stay awake in the meditation hall, and when I am awake, my whole body aches intensely. The pain in almost intolerable."
"If you have this much physical pain, you must have experienced a lot of emotional pain in the past. There's a lot in your subconscious, and it is coming out, like pus."
"But, the pain, I can't handle it..." I start crying again.
Then she said, "Why did you come here?"
"To.. learn to relax."
"Then you have to do the work to get there. You have the tools. Don't give up. Give this technique a fair trial, complete the full course, and then decide afterward if you want to keep practicing vipassana."

I thanked her, and then left. Something clicked in my mind. I understood that the only way I could heal all my emotional pain of anxiety, anger, and sadness, was to observe it completely, in my body, and in my mind. I thought of the phrase, "The only way out if through." I felt a lot of empathy for anyone who had ever run away from something good for them because they were afraid of facing the work that would have to be done to get there.

I returned to the meditation hall after a tea break. I feared my lack of ability to focus, and handling of the physical pain. I pulled up my strength, and sat, my back and neck straight, my eyes closed, my mind focusing on the air entering and exiting my nostrils. I did not fall asleep. I did the work because I knew then how important it was.

Lessons in Meditation Become Lessons in Life

Over the next few days, I learned some important lessons. The first one was about equanimity. In meditation, it’s a tool used to observe bodily sensations, and not make the pain "my pain." I was told that equanimity means not wishing for unpleasant sensations to cease, and not wishing for pleasant sensations to continue.

I also learned about Anicha. Anicha is Hindi for impermanence. I think of the phrase, “This too shall pass.” While we sit, we learn to practice scanning our whole body for subtle sensations, such as itching or tickling. I observed many intense urges to scratch an itch rise and then fall away.

On the 6th day, almost all my bodily pain was gone, and I started experiencing pleasant, subtle, vibrating sensations sweeping all through my body. I felt like my body was dissolving into everything around me-an experience I’ve never had.

By experiencing all of these different sensations in my body, I could learn to use the tool of Anicha when emotions come up. When I am experiencing anxiety, my breathing is very rapid, and I feel like I cannot get enough air. I’m overtaken by a handful of negative, self defeating thoughts. I remind myself, “This is anicha.” It will pass, and it does.

I learned that I have spent most of my life living in the past, or worrying about the future, not experiencing reality as it is, and wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else.

The head teacher of the course was a man from India, named SN Goenke. Goenke said that it is easy to logically understand the concepts of impermanence and equanimity, but they cannot be applied in day to day life unless they are experienced through the body, because the body and mind are linked.

We're not Alone in the Darkness of our Misery

On the last day of the course, Goenke recited the meditation, “May I be happy. May all beings be happy. May I pardon anyone who has ever hurt me. May I be pardoned for ever hurting anyone.” Many people cried; releasing hurt feelings, forgiving, and extending love and compassion.
I felt so much compassion for those 40 other people surrounding me, who I never spoke with until the tenth day. I felt sadness to say goodbye to these people with whom I had shared this healing experience with, and after talking with others in the course, I found out that everyone else was struggling too. How often I think I am alone, but I’ve come to realize that we all have the same needs and the same struggles.
It was when I reached Chicago, to catch a bus, that I realized that I would be surrounded by the same kind of people.

We’re all just walking through life as though in a darkened room, grasping for something to hold onto, or looking for light, so we can come out of our darkness.

For me, my house is often filled with darkness, but now that I have some tools, I think I will open the window and let some light in.

When my bus arrived in Wisconsin, I went to the green bay and put my feet in Lake Michigan for the first time. The weather was cool and windy. I found myself wondering about the future-the next months I would spend at Teaching Drum, but then I drew myself back into just appreciating being at the green bay.

The future is always unknown. This is anicha. This is the change and flow of life.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I had intended to keep updating my blog throughout my travels, but my inspiration to write started being expressed through written letters to friends back at Twin Oaks.
I deleted my facebook yesterday, and now I think I will put more energy toward writing, and more of the connections I am looking for.

When I left the Possibility Alliance months ago, I continued my sitting meditation practice, even though I didn't have others to share it with, and I was longing for that. I guess I would call it spiritual community. Unfortunately, that need doesn't feel fulfilled for me in religious churches, though I can get something out of it when I attend.

My practice slowly waned when I was at Teaching Drum. There was no one to sit with. When I'm alone in my practice, I have trouble focusing, even when I know that regular meditation and spiritual practice in my life benefit my mental health hugely.

I started running again-it became my practice. It takes patience and steadfastness as meditation does. When I am running and practicing sitting meditation regularly, I am doing really well. But, I struggle to keep these two things in my life regularly.

My unhealed emotional stuff was revealed to me in a way it never has been when I was at Teaching Drum. Teaching Drum is a small community that hosts a wilderness immersion program every year. I spent about a month there in June.

I was surrounded by people who had lived in the woods for at least a year. The learning curve was huge, and I couldn't meet the expectations others had of me. I'm a gardener. I have skills in lots of other areas, but I am no way a master in anything. I would say I am most skilled working with plants.

I didn't know how to start a fire without matches, or hunt and butcher a deer, or even poop in the woods. I didn't know I was going to be almost constantly surrounded by mosquitoes, and the only way to keep them off was to rub a thick layer of deer fat on my skin. I didn't know that people enjoyed cooking with the deer fat, and that it would be so difficult to swallow down a meal of fish and ramps stew when my throat was coated with the waxy fat. I felt intimidated and overwhelmed, but then I saw that it was okay for me to talk about how I was feeling, and communication and healing was an important aspect of life at Teaching Drum. With the way people were coming and going so much when I was there, it was hard to see that, at first.

The difficulties I faced there were opening me up to painful growing experiences. I needed more structure, and I needed to motivate myself to learn things I'm passionate about. It reminded me that I have to bring into my life what I want, and if I don't know how to do it, I have to figure it out. I also learned that I still have a lot to learn about communicating with other people. No one's going to make me break all my unhealthy patterns. No one's going save me, or heal me. It's up to me. This reality is empowering, and also, really scary!

I remember my first day gathering wild leeks (ramps) with a camp. The day just sort of flowed. The were no watches. The sun rose higher in the sky, and we set off to gather ramps after breakfast. We spent all day gathering and packing ramps into bags, and I noticed I kept wondering what time it was, but after a while I just let the thought pass, because it was useless. Once we arrived back at camp, I was incredibly hungry, and we cooked fish on skewers over the fire. Afterward, someone encouraged me to boil water for drinking. Everyone else there had gotten accustomed to the bacteria in the wild water.

The sun started to set, and I felt calm just listening to the different animal sounds around me, and letting night fall. I looked toward the spot where I would be sleeping. My bed lay on soft branches of balsam fir, a deer pelt, and my sleeping bag to crawl into. I wanted to memorize the distance between the fire and my bed, because I knew when night fell, I would have to remember it with my feet. No flashlights here.

Something felt incredibly right about all that, even the scary aspects of it.

Quite a bit has happened since I left Teaching Drum. I spent a week back at Twin Oaks. Mostly events have occured that continue to remind me of all the healing I have to do, and that have shown me where I'm stuck, and the harmful patterns I repeat again and again.

Years ago, I thought I would be further along than this. I haven't met the expectations I continue to set for myself. It has only taught me not be be so harsh on myself, and not expect myself to be somewhere I'm not.

I'm taking a bus to Chicago tomorrow. I will be attending a ten day silent meditation course north of the city. I hope I gain more ability to look at myself and be okay with it. After the ten days is over, I'll return to Teaching Drum. I will arrive in time for the wild rice harvest.

p.s. more photos I have taken at Teaching Drum can be viewed here:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Coming Back to Life

I just spent two weeks at The Possibility Alliance and four days at a Restorative Circle seminar at the Peace and Permaculture Center in La Plata, Missouri.

Last week I started reading a book by Joanna Macy called Coming Back to Life. The book, and my experience the past weeks has impacted me a lot. The book discusses modern industrial society as full of people 'asleep' from the pain of the world. Years ago, when I first started looking at where everything I consumed came from, I felt shocked and overwhelmed, and powerless. We live in a culture where most people are subconsciously aware of ecological devastation, factory farming, slave labor, murder, etc, but if we come to full awareness of the fact that pretty much everything we use and practice in modern society contributes to all this pain, would bring us into great despair. At some point in my life I let myself feel this, and I cried and cried, and now I don't let myself feel it too much anymore.

Reading the book has reminded me of how it has fit into my life. I know I'm not where I want to be yet, and I don't know if I will ever get there, and I try to be patient and accepting of that. I noticed I am getting closer though. I can sense this because within the past few years I have challenged myself more in facing pain. My time at the Possibility Alliance this year was very different in a way than it ever has been since I first started visiting there five years ago.

The Possibility Alliance is an electricity free, petroleum free, substance free, quaker-ish community. They live a lifestyle that encourages humans to live to their highest potential.

The entrance to one of the gardens at The Possibility Alliance 

They practice daily sitting sitting mediation, yoga, meetings, and bells of mindfulness. Once a week is their emotional well being meeting. They strive to be completely sustainable. In my past visits I strongly resisted the deep sadness I felt when I was without comfort foods, internet, movies, and recorded music; when I was alone. I had been taught that intense emotions meant that something is wrong, and I felt confused about why I hurt so much in this place that was so in line with my heart. Now I know that the hurt came from being addicted to distracting and suppressing my sadness and anger so much all those years. The sadness always spills out intensely there, because it's not suppressed. This time I let it spill out, and I let it be okay. I learned that life isn't about hiding, filtering, and distracting myself from pain. Life is full of pain and sorrow, and love and joy, and that is when you know you're really alive.

Kahlil Gibran wrote, in the book the The Prophet: "But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure, then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out on love's threshing floor, into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears."

When I die I want to know that when I was alive I laughed all my laughter and weeped all of my tears, and that I didn't suppress myself because I was afraid of others not accepting me.

Another commonly stated quote, by Howard Thurman, at the Possibility Alliance that has been running through my mind lately is "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

I started looking toward what brings me to life, and so I move closer to my "heart-path." In a week, I am going to Teaching Drum Outdoor School, in northern Wisconsin. Every winter, I fear the cold. I struggle with the cold. I'm curious and afraid to be in this unknown, primitive community, where the winters are bitter cold. The next steps on my journey are slightly unknown and open. I'm planning to move intuitively toward what calls me to living a full life. I'm trusting that where I end up is where I need to be to learn and grow more.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

and I travel on

I took a PAL (personal affairs leave) from Twin Oaks about ten days ago.

I felt very content at Twin Oaks after being there almost two years, but I also felt a desire to explore some more communities, and gain some more primitive living skills.

Twin Oaks is a community of about 100 people. Sometimes I think of it as more of a village than a community. I've yearned to be in a close knit family, or a group of people who work together and support each other to grow and learn. It seems like I would need a smaller community for that. I also want to be in a community that focuses on emotional healing. There are so many people at Twin Oaks, going in all different directions. There isn't as much community as I want there. There isn't a main goal or purpose of the place. I think this is true just because it's so big. I think it could be possible for me to create that there, but I am not sure. That is part of what led me to take some time off to find out what I really want.

There are some people in Virginia who I really miss already..

My first stop is at East Wind Community. I lived at East Wind for six months before I moved to Twin Oaks.

We arrived at East Wind after driving for 16 hours. We came upon a large bonfire of people singing and playing guitar. I felt so happy to see my old friends again. People were visiting from communities throughout the country; from Emma Goldman in Seattle, from Sandhill in Northern Missouri, Acorn in Virginia, and now us from Twin Oaks in Virginia. It was a community gathering. We sang along as people passed the guitar playing Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and Neutral Milk Hotel until late into the night.

The temperature dipped down to 30 degrees.  I rolled out my sleeping bag in the dairy barn below two blankets; my head covered with a hat. I could see my breath in the night. It was cold, and I didn't sleep long. I woke up at Sunrise to the chickens crowing and cows mooing in the pasture. I felt exhausted, but wired, full of excited energy for this new, but also old place.

the lower garden and dairy barn at East Wind. August 2012
 I have spent a lot of the time here gardening. I feel so much more confident in the garden now, and I have enjoyed being in this garden learning different techniques. I have also helped milk goats, cook meals, and I took a few hikes through the woods.( East Wind sits on 1200 acres, including a lake and a cave.) I have learned some new Wildflowers, and have had long talks crying and laughing while weeding chamomile.

Some of the perks of East Wind to me include: No flushing toilets, new learning opportunities, beautiful land, a relaxed work atmosphere, and many other things. I've done all my peeing outside, and pooping in composting toilets. I really appreciate that East Wind doesn't have flushing toilets. It was strange to pee into water when I went into town yesterday.

There are a good number of people here who hunt deer, turkey, and squirrels. Some use bow and arrows and some use rifles. It is on the list of skills I want to gain while on this journey. I am leaving here in two days, but I hope to return before I go back to Twin Oaks, and possibly do some hunting.

I notice that I garden faster than quite a few people here, and I realized it's something I picked up working at Twin Oaks. There is a fast paced work ethic at Twin Oaks, even in the garden. I think it's because there is often this feeling like we are behind, or we will be behind if we don't work faster. Twin Oaks's businesses (tofu, hammocks, seeds, seed racks, indexing) don't make as much money as East Wind's businesses (mainly nut butter, but also sandals). Twin Oakers work hard so we can grow the food we need or buy the things we need. I suppose everyone's definition of need is different. This also isn't to say that East Winders don't work hard. Although, the labor quota is lower at East Wind, they make more money, and I have noticed people working at a slower pace than Twin Oaks.

me working in the Twin Oaks Seeds Garden-July 2011

I rode here with a group of Twin Oakers doing labor exchange. The group left this morning, and I felt sad, like I was experiencing another separation from Twin Oaks, my home. East Wind is a home, also. It's nice to have a lot of homes. It's strange to feel like a wanderer or traveler after being settled almost two years.

My next step is visiting my mom for a week, and then I will head out to the Possibility Alliance in northern Missouri. It is off the grid-so no electricity for internet to update the blog until I leave there.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I'm on the Twin Oaks Health Team, and I recently started working with the herb garden manager to learn more about natural medicine for common ailments, so this information is more publicly accessible within the community. She sat down with me and gave me a list of all the tinctures she makes, and told me lots of interesting stuff I have always wanted to learn about. She's incredibly knowledgeable. I felt like I wanted to pick her brain for hours.

Here's the list of the current herbal tinctures made by the Herb Garden manager:

uva ursi
donq qui
chaste berry
st johns wort

swedish bitters (rhubarb root)
women’s mixture: donq qui, (motherwort), chaste berry, (st johns wort)
sleep mixture: lavender, st johns wort, valerian, hops

There's a cold and cough going around right now, so I asked her for some suggestions on ways to treat it. She told me of honey and lemon, salt water gargle, elderberry, ad a horehound syrup she used to make.
I was most excited when she told me about chickweed and white pine needles. I knew chickweed was a wild edible, but I didn't know of its medicinal properties. Apparently it is very soothing and works great for healing coughs. I also remember learning about white pine being very high in Vitamin C in the past, but I never actually used it. 
Since I have been feeling pretty sick, I felt a lot of initiative to take care of myself. I slept nine hours today, and then I took a nap by the fire in the afternoon, but in the time in between I walked down to the garden and pulled up some chickweed that was tangled up around the leeks and partially covered in snow. Then I snipped some pine needles off a tree. 

I made myself a chickweed salad and pine needle tea. 

Here's to healing a more natural and simple way.