Plant Spirit Communication, Part I: Your Native Langauge

The Druid's Garden

When I was  new to my first job, a colleague had given two of us both who had been recently hired an elephant ear plant seedling for our offices. Our offices were next to each other, both with the same window. Each plant was planted in an identical pot and in identical soil. My elephant ear plant grew quite large and beautiful, while my colleague’s plant kept sending up small shoots and dying back. Finally, she said to me, “Why is your plant doing so much better than mine?” And I responded as a druid, totally without thinking, “I just talk to the plant and it tells me what it needs.” She rolled her eyes at me, let out an exasperated sigh, and walked away. She was never a very pleasant person, but she was particularly nasty to me for some time after that. Perhaps she thought I was mocking…

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A Druid’s Guide to Connecting With Nature, Part III: Nature Engagement

The Druid's Garden

Leading you in deeper! Leading you in deeper!

I’ve heard a lot of conversation in the nature spirituality community, including the druid community, about not touching nature, leaving it alone, to simply “be”.  I remember one influential druid speaking at an event and saying, “The best thing you can do in nature is pick up the garbage and get out.”  From a certain standpoint, this perspective makes a lot of sense. It is the same perspective held by many conservationists trying to preserve pristine lands or lands that have been replanted and are healing; the best thing that can be done is figure out how to keep people from mucking them up, pick up garbage, and leave them undisturbed. Because people have a tendency to come in, move things about, pick things, disrupt ecosystems, and generally cause havoc.  Or worse, much, much worse. Further, in a world where most humans can’t identify even five…

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Friends of Forest Farming

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

As armies of amateur wildcrafters pluck Appalachian ginseng, goldenseal, and other medicinal herbs to near extinction, a coalition of universities, nonprofits, and “forest farmers” are working on a solution that will not only help preserve these wild herbs but also prevent supplement adulteration.

The Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition includes Virginia Tech, Penn State, and North Carolina State University; the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, and other government organizations; nonprofits like United Plant Savers and the Blue Ridge Woodland Growers; and Appalachian landowners and farmers. Together, these entities are developing a model called “forest farming” for cultivating traditionally wildcrafted herbs, including black cohosh {Actaea racemosa}, goldenseal {Hydrastis canadensis}, bloodroot {Sanguinaria canadensis}, ginseng {Panaxquinquefolius}, blue cohosh {Caulophyllum thalictroides}, stoneroot {Collinsoniacanadensis}, wild yam {Dioscorea villosa}, and wild indigo {Baptisia tinctoria}.

During…

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A Druid’s Guide to Connecting with Nature, Part II: Nature Wisdom

The Druid's Garden

One of my favorite mushrooms- the Chicken of the Woods One of my favorite mushrooms- the Chicken of the Woods

As any mushroom hunter knows, mushrooms are tricksy little buggers.  What one looks like in one setting may not necessarily be what one looks like in another, depending on soil conditions, moisture, sun, size of the mushroom, insect damage, and/or regional variation. Mushroom species can vary a lot, even from one small region to another, and that variation can spell trouble for someone who hasn’t yet gained the wisdom to understand such variation.  Mushroom books offer perhaps 1-2 photos of mushrooms, and a good book will also offer a mushroom hunter the “keys” (features that distinguish one mushroom from another, like attached gills, color, etc).  However, only lived and true experience can help you not make a dangerous mistake when it comes to the mycelium kingdom.  The difference here, I think, epitomizes two key things: the different aspects of nature…

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Pantry Profile: Basil {Ocimum basilicum}

By Crooked Bear Creek Organics

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Bright green, tall, and aromatic, basil is a beauty. An ancient plant with a long history and strange folklore, its sweet, peppery flavor has been used for centuries in cuisine and medicine.

Basil is native to Africa and Southeast Asia and was eventually cultivated in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Roman scholar Pliny the Elder described basil’s {now well-known} benefits as a carminative and digestive, explaining its effectiveness in relieving flatulence, colic, and nausea. It also has a long history of use for coughs associated with colds, and the leaves were routinely used topically as an insect repellent and poultice to relieve bug bites and stings.

Much myth and legend surrounded this plant we now consider a simple culinary herb. The ancient Egyptians believed basil would entice the god Osiris to open the gates of the afterlife. In his book the English Physician Enlarged, 17th-century botanist Nicholas Culpeper…

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6 Bug Repellent Patio Plants

Six Bug Repellent Patio Plants …

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

We love to spend our summer days outside with family and friends, but pesky bugs are quick to drive a party indoors. For a chemical-free way to keep insects at bay this season, we asked the experts from our green goods team to recommend their favorite bug repellent plants. Planted near the doorway or transformed into essential oils, these six natural options deter mosquitoes, flies, and more uninvited guests in the summer garden.

1. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis): Like many members of the mint family, this herb provides protection against summertime mosquitoes. To make a quick, all-natural bug repellent, crush a handful of lemon balm leaves and rub onto any exposed skin. If you’ve already suffered a bug bite, its soothing oils can limit itching as well. This easy-to-grow herb also has a number of additional applications, from infused teas and vinegar to green salads.

2. Ageratum ‘Artist…

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Tips For Growing and Preserving Herbs In The Low Desert

By Crooked Bear Organics

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Soil Preparation:

In low desert areas, growers are not blessed with the rich, organic soil we’d prefer to have. Most gardens will need some organic material, soil sulfur, ammonium phosphate, and gypsum. Every year, as a matter of fact, you may need to add organic matter and gypsum. Pay close attention to your garden soil. If you get a soil test, you’ll know what the pH and fertility are and can make any necessary adjustments. If the test indicates your soil needs it, add fertilizer during pre-plant soil preparation, when it is easier to amend the soil; you’ll also find the results more effective. Spade the soil deeply, to a depth of 18 inches, to loosen compact soils. Enrich the soil with plenty of compost and well-rotted manure. It greatly helps gardeners to spade as much as 6 inches of organic material into the top 12 inches of the planting…

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Southwest Gardening: Sacred Mesquite ~Recipes

By Crooked Bear Organics

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Mesquite grows well in desert areas from the southwestern United States to the Andean regions of South America. Traditionally, native peoples of the Southwest depended on mesquite. It provided food, fuel, shelter, weapons, medicine, and cosmetics. As times changed, and as refined sugar and wheat flour became staples, the role of mesquite was diminished.

mesquite flour

Mesquite meal was once made by hand-grinding the plant’s seeds and pods on stones. Now modern milling techniques speed up the process, grinding the entire mesquite pod at once, including the protein-rich seed. This produces a meal that is highly nutritious as well as very flavorful. The meal ground from the pod contains 11 to 17 percent protein. High lysine content makes it the perfect addition to other grains that are low in this amino acid.

mesquiteflourfinal400

http://www.mesquiteflour.com/

Although desert dwellers used mesquite pods as a source of food for centuries, when you order and use this product…

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Southwest Herb Gardening: What To Plant In June, and Watering In June

By Crooked Bear Organics

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

We recommend most plants be planted in the fall or spring. However, if you must plant during the summer months watering may need to be more frequent and you must be diligent about observing your newly planted plants for signs of water stress. Follow the guidelines in the Watering section.

Many cacti and warm-season succulents can still be planted in the summer. When transplanting cacti and succulents, mark either the south or west side and plant facing the orientation you marked to avoid the burning of tender tissues. Most nurseries will mark the side of the container to help you determine proper planting orientation. However, if the original orientation is not known, newly planted cacti and succulents need to be covered with shade cloth if the plant surface appears to yellow or pale suddenly. Use a shade cloth rated between 30-60% as anything higher will block most of the sunlight and…

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Southwest Herb Gardening: June In The Low Desert

By Crooked Bear Organics

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

June in the low desert is generally the driest and hottest month. Desert gardeners often must begin their garden activities in the early morning or at sunset to avoid the intense sunlight. Plants must endure the intense heat throughout the day. Many native and desert-adapted plants have numerous adaptations that enable them to live successfully in the desert, such as succulence, drought-deciduousness, and small leaves, to name a few examples. Even with these numerous adaptations, desert plants sometimes need a little help to keep them healthy and thriving in your garden. Native and desert-adapted plants that were newly planted and those that are not established in the landscape need to be watered until they become established in the landscape and can then survive with natural rainfall. Even established plantings will need an occasional supplemental watering during long periods of drought to keep them healthy and stress-free.

Summer is the prime…

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