Category Archives: herbal recipes

of cleavers and crows


I have had the odd sense, ever since I moved to Asheville, of seeds I planted and forgot years hence coming to mysterious bloom.  Over twenty years ago, I moved to Asheville with a frame pack and a guitar. I crashed on the floor of a friend’s dorm room and walked the streets until I found lodging in a sweet, small apartment in a house on Chestnut Street. I took long runs every morning, following Chestnut Street until it dead-ended in a stately old cemetery.

All these years later, I was told that finding lodging in Asheville was a difficult proposition. I should be prepared to live outside of town and to wait months for the right thing to show up.

The first house we looked at was on Chestnut Street, right by the old cemetery where I used to run. It was a sweet little wood-floored home with a fireplace and a yard, in the heart of the historic district, walking distance to town. The rent was astonishingly affordable, considering the location, and perhaps for that reason the open house was bombarded with applicants. Afterward we walked to a nearby restaurant and talked excitedly about how amazing it would be to live here, and how unlikely we were to get the chance. All those applicants!

I sat and watched the phantom of that seventeen-year-old girl run by, and I knew we would get the house.

We got the house. I live on Chestnut Street again, all these years later, this time with my family.



Two years ago I sat out in the sun eating, in Boone, and talked with a new friend from my Expressive Arts cohort about our dreams and hopes for the field. We were both fascinated by the intersection between art and place, and I told her of my connection to Ireland and my deep desire to return there. She told me of friends in Ireland who had just started a fledgling expressive arts institute, and we began to dream of traveling to Ireland someday to visit them and collaborate on these ideas of art and landscape. We laughed, and made art about it, and moved on with our lives.

This Monday my friend and I flew together to Ireland to attend the Expressive Arts Spring Symposium, and spent a week making art about sacred landscape in a conference hosted by the friends she’d told me of on that day two years ago.

Honestly, it frightens me sometimes, the way life brings its harvest in. I feel unworthy of it, and worried about the price I will have to pay for all of this beauty. I feel very conscious of each move I make, each word I speak, knowing how irrefutably the seeds grow and show their fruit in my life.

On the day we flew to Ireland, two very momentous things happened. I had my first job interview for a counseling position and I learned that Touchstone Farm, the place I landed right after I left Asheville twenty years ago–the place that set me on the path of herbalism and yoga and searching for the sacred–was being put up for sale. It felt like the closing of a circle. I had returned to Asheville, had reached the beginning of my life as an Expressive Arts therapist, and the door to the past had closed.


Touchstone was very much on my mind and heart as I woke the next morning and walked out into the Irish countryside. Horses stomped and blew steam into the air, and a hooded crow lifted off from the fence in front of me in a heart-stopping line straight upward to the sun. It seemed to hang there for a minute, far above my head, and I wondered how the world felt to the crow, spread beneath it like that.

The hedgerow in front of me was overgrown with nettles and cleavers. Back when I was an apprentice at Touchstone, Shaker gave me a guide to edible plants from the community library and pointed out a few to get me started. Cleavers was one of the first I tried. It clings to you—the leaves are slightly sticky, and the seeds velcro themselves to your socks. This is a good way to remember its properties–it’s a spring-cleaning plant; it adheres to and cleans away the winter ick. I tried it plain and found its taste clean and springlike, full of chlorophyll. I liked the way it felt in my body, how it cleaned me out. But I hated the texture. Another apprentice suggested I put it in a blender and make a smoothie. That was worse. Finally, I read a recipe for cleavers coffee that consisted of dry-roasting the seeds and grinding and preparing them like coffee beans. I had a handy supply of cleaver seeds right there on my socks, so I tried this and found the resulting beverage delightful, slightly cocoa-flavored and smoky. Seeing the cleavers here on the tumbled stones of a farm wall in Ireland was like being surprised by an old friend.


cleaver bouquet

I wouldn’t have known what cleavers was the first time I came to Ireland, because I had not yet been to Touchstone, had not yet learned to see the world through the eyes of a botanist. I was fifteen the first time I came to Ireland, and sixteen when I returned the summer after that, learning quickly enough what nettles were as I pulled them out to make a garden.


nettles rampant!

That summer I was living in Miltown Malbay, working as housekeeper/companion for Josephine Phillips. If Shaker taught me about plants and the sacred, Jo taught me about poetry. It was alive to her. She sat in her windowseat watching the storms roll in and softly recited poems to herself. Her eyes were slowly losing their battle to macular degeneration, so she committed as many poems to her formidable memory as she could.

I was full of energy and wanderlust, wanting always to bike off to Ennistymon or wander by the sea, but Jo was very firm that I should take some time each day to sit still and memorize poems. On rainy days we listened to poets read their work aloud on the BBC and Jo would sit there, dreamy, lost in the words. I learned to love words, watching Jo.

The crow flew away, and I picked a little bouquet of the nettles and cleavers, thinking of Jo and Touchstone and the way these long-ago seeds have borne fruit. Here I am, in Ireland, writing poetry, I whispered to Jo. Your lessons took!

Nettle juice heals its own sting, I thought, recalling all the teachers who have guided my steps through the world of plant medicine. I rolled the nettle leaves between my fingers until their stinging hairs were crushed and I could take them like little Ireland-acclimation pills.


Jo is gone now. I felt her so strongly this week in the wind that blew through the trees by the river Nore and the poetry that came flowing onto the page. Touchstone is gone too, in a way. But they are alive. They are all alive in me. 

I made nettles-and-cleaver tea when I got back to the hotel and sat sipping it in the sun, sending out a prayer for the seeds others have planted in my life and the for the ones I am planting. This world is sacred, and so is this life. I sometimes cannot believe the beauty of the stories I have been honored to carry.


Carrying On 

(for Jo and Touchstone)


I am knee-deep in nettles and peat.

I am one beat of breath to the crow above me.

I am caught in the arms of ancestors long fallen.

Who remains in me? Whose story am I walking?


                                                        ~ Kilkenny, 3/30/16




April 5, 2016 · 6:32 pm

Celebrating the Solstice



Yesterday evening we held a lovely, warm gathering in the studio to celebrate the return of the light. There is a part of me that longs every year to travel north and celebrate the solstice in the company of the sacred circle dance community there, where each year they dress all in white and and dance by candlelight for the longest night. It dawned on me this year that I could dance these beautiful dances within my own community.

There is a subtle magic that happens with circle dance, when your feet follow simple steps that have been danced for generations upon generations, a sort of window of sacred time that opens and bestows a deeper meaning upon every movement. I watched the candlelit faces of dear old friends and new acquaintances as they moved in the circle, remembering other faces that have danced this dance, feeling so much love and fulness as we moved, again, in the steps that honor our changing rhythms and the way we mirror and learn from the rhythms of the Earth.

We opened the evening with a mini-herbal workshop, where we learned how to make massage bars with infused oils. There is something warm and wonderful about creating gifts this time of year, when sources of light and warmth are low and a small handmade surprise from a friend can be the candle that keeps us going for the day. I love to give massage bars as presents, because it is a gift that inspires further warmth, love, and touch in the using of it. Here is the recipe we used:

3 oz. unrefined shea butter

3 oz. cocoa butter

5 oz. beeswax (up to 6 oz. if you prefer a more solid bar; I like mine to melt bewitchingly in my hand)

6 oz. herb-infused oil (more on this in a bit)

1-2 tablespoons essential oil, depending on your preference

~This is a very forgiving. adaptable recipe and can be easily altered to make greater or lesser quantities. Just keep the beeswax and oil roughly equal to each other and use half that amount of cocoa and shea butters. For example, to make only 4 or so massage bars, you would use 1.5 oz of the butters, 3 oz. of beeswax and oil, and just half a tablespoon of essential oil. ~

imageThe first step is to infuse the oils. I prefer to use sweet almond oil, as I like the way it absorbs into the skin, but you can use jojoba, grapeseed, apricot kernel, even olive.

For a sun extraction, pack a mason jar about 3/4 full with your chosen herb (I used calendula for its skin-healing properties; other good choices would include rose petal, witch hazel flower, comfrey, and lavender) and fill with the oil of your choice. Make sure no botanicals are peeking up over the top of the oil; these can rot and introduce bacteria to your infusion. Nobody wants a bacteria massage (at least, nobody I’ve met).

Let your jar sit in the sun for several weeks, checking occasionally to be sure the flowers are submerged. When the oil has taken on a bit of the color of your chosen botanical (usually 4-6 weeks) you can strain it and it’s ready to use!  Be sure to label right away. If you’re anything like me, you think you’ll remember what’s in that jar, but you won’t.

The other method we discussed last night was a warm extraction.  I tend to use this method when a) I’m infusing bark, twigs, or roots and b) I’m in a bit of a hurry. Roots tend to be concentrated sources of herbal compounds, so they aren’t as easily destroyed by heat, but it’s important to make sure you don’t overheat them all the same.

I prefer to use sun extraction with more delicate plant parts like leaves and flowers because they are easily overheated and their medicine compromised. You could do a warm extraction on pine bark, twigs of black birch (this makes a beautifully sassafrass-scented massage oil that goes deep into the tissues) and even garlic.

We used kava-kava root tonight, which has lovely muscle-relaxing properties when applied externally, making it an excellent choice for a massage bar. To do a warm extraction, you need either a crockpot or an oven-safe crock. Place your herbs in the crockpot and cover them with oil. I usually cover strong roots like kava kava with double the amount of oil.  Set your crockpot on ‘warm’ for two hours (or place in an oven at 100 for two hours) and then turn off.  Let sit all day, then repeat the process the next morning.  Do this for seven days and your oil is ready to strain.

imageNow you have your infused oils, you are ready to make the massage bars. First, melt the shea butter, cocoa butter, and beeswax in a double boiler (you can improvise one by resting your pan upon a mason jar lid in a larger pot of simmering water). Let them melt slowly; it does take a while.

When they have melted, remove pan from the heat and slowly add the infused oil. It may congeal a bit; continue to whisk and allow the residual heat to re-melt your mixture (you want to avoid heating your infused oils, as it can destroy the medicine).  Then add your essential oils.

We used a tablespoon of lavender with the kava kava for a deeply relaxing, skin-soothing bar and combined the calendula-infused oil with a teaspoon of rosemary essential oil and a half teaspoon of peppermint essential oil.  I love peppermint for its diaphoretic, opening properties, but you have to be careful with it as some people react to having it on their skin, so don’t use as much as you would use a safer oil like lavender.

Pour while still warm into your molds—I use silicon baking molds; you could also use muffin tins lined with waxed paper. You can pretty much assume that any implements you use with beeswax and butters are never ever going to get all the way clean again, so maybe have some dedicated pots and pans for your herbal creations!

Let your bars solidify and pop them out of their molds…you are ready to go!




I wish all of you a deep dreaming in the darkness and a candle in the longest night. May there always be a source of light available to you, and may the darkness encourage deep rest and strong vision for the year to come.



December 19, 2015 · 2:38 pm

walk on feet of gold

2015-10-14 10.31.04I’ve been playing giddily in my new studio in Asheville, amazed at what it does to a life to have a space dedicated to creativity.   The lined-up jars of herbs and clays and petals and powders set my mind spinning down roads of possibilities and the scent is overpoweringly delicious.

Yesterday, dreaming about an upcoming workshop I’ll be hosting to inaugurate this space, I let the threads of life’s whisperings to me meet in this recipe for a fizzing foot soak.  That sounds a little grandiloquent, so let me explain.

This summer was a welter of weddings, dear friends diving with great celebration into the future; this fall has been a deep and sobering reminder of mortality, with the loss of loved ones to cancer and addiction and accident. I remember one moment from this summer, standing at the head of a lovely contra dance promenade to celebrate Anna Lena’s wedding. Her bridal bouquet, which was hand-gathered and heavy with fresh basil, was being passed from person to person in the dance. As I stood there, playing the role of ‘bride’ in the dance, the spicy-sweet aroma of crushed basil woke my memory of so many summers past, growing basil amid the rows of flowers at Touchstone Farm, blending basil from my california garden into a delicious potluck pesto, steeping holy basil in a tea for a hurting friend. This basil that I held now felt like a friend too. Yet this sprig of basil was grown in a garden far from those of my memory.  My idea of basil was overspreading, incorporating this sprig and every other I had held and grown and tasted.  This one branch of basil that I held was a symbol, both an individual and an archetype.

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It was not a great leap from there, standing as I was in the role of “bride” at a wedding, to understand myself in the same way.  I have attended weddings in the role of flower girl, in the role of attendant, in the role of bride.  We move through the roles of these ceremonies in an ancient dance, sometimes the maiden, sometimes the mother, sometimes the crone. Our lives wax and wane, and we dance the circle and fall, but we are more than just our one small life in the dance.  As we dance it, we incarnate every archetype and hold all the power of that role, all those who came before, in our small selves. I felt that, standing there with the bouquet, that just as this small sprig of basil evoked every experience I’ve ever had with basil, each time I engage in love, or heartbreak, or art-making, or poetry, or friendship, I am participating in an ongoing dance that is far bigger than I am. I get to dance the idea of love, of art, of poetry, of friendship. And in that moment, I am more than myself. I represent the vastness of that idea, breathe in all that has come before.

So, you’re wondering, how the hell is she going to bring this back to footsoaks? So glad you asked.  When I moved here to the mountains of North Carolina, a deep sense of home settled in my bones. I have never been in love with geography the way I love the contours of these mountains. My feet lead me through twisting rhododendron paths and amidst towering oaks and maples, and my heart almost hurts with the joy of it. I explained this feeling to someone I’d just met at an herbal gathering, and she told me that the substrate here is mica, a mineral whose message is “you’re okay.”

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You’re okay. Isn’t that the essential message of self-care? I like to pick up flakes of mica from the soil and crush it in my fingers to a fine silver powder, then dust it into my hair and onto my face, so that I glitter in the sun.  I like the silver my feet pick up when I hike barefoot here.  I put powdered mica in all of my bath bombs now, so that when I step from the bath I am covered in a silver sheen, glittering and steeped in I’M OKAY.

I put lots of mica in these little footsoaks I made, thinking of that contact between foot and ground, the archetype there. Bare foot to bare earth, all of the feet that have walked these trails before me.  It’s powerful. We can have feet of clay and of gold, both. We’re all of it. It’s okay.

And I put turmeric in, thinking of a friend of mine from India with radiant skin.  I asked her about it one day and she said she made traditional turmeric masques for her face once a week. That weekend I mixed turmeric powder with an egg yolk and some calendula tea, placed it all over my face, and waited twenty minutes.  When I washed it off, I was every bit as radiant as she said I would be.  Because my face was yellow.  Deep, bright, permanent yellow. It didn’t wash off for a week.

I am too white, it turns out, for turmeric masks. But I never forgot the power turmeric has on the skin, the way it nourishes and draws life and color to it. A pinch of turmeric in a foot bath draws the blood to the surface, enlivening and awakening our heroically perseverant feet.

I added sea salt, for the power of the ocean and the exultation available in racing the surf, the deep delight of feet in warm sand. I added rosemary, for its woodsy scent and evocation of memory, and its way of stopping nasty little infections in their tracks. And lavender, because OF COURSE.

After I pressed the little golden, shimmering foot soaks into their molds, I went to rinse out the bowl in the utility sink.  It fizzed up golden and aromatic.  I balanced on the edge of the sink and submerged my feet in that scented water.  I breathed in, aware that in this moment, so many of my dreams have come true.  I am working as a counselor with women, doing what I can to ease the heavy burdens of their lives. I am deep in love and deeply loved. I have an art studio on the river! I carry everything that has come before, all of the other roles I have played in the dance, and the dance goes on.  In this golden moment, I am one with all of it.

Golden, sparkling feet touching earth, for this moment, and all moments.


1 cup baking soda

1/2 cup citric acid

1/4 cup sea salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons crushed mica

2 tablespoons sweet almond oil (infused with calendula, if you have it!)

1 tablespoon cocoa butter

1 tablespoon rosemary essential oil

1 teaspoon lavender essential oil

Rosewater, for spritzing

Mix the dry ingredients carefully together, preferably with your hands, because then they will glitter the rest of the day! Add the cocoa butter and knead as though you are making pie crust, rubbing through your fingers until it pebbles evenly. Add the remaining oils and mix completely. Spritz very sparsely with rosewater just until the mixture holds together into a ball when squeezed. Work the rosewater in very quickly so the mixture doesn’t lose its fizz.  Press into molds (silicon baking molds work well, or old plastic easter eggs) quickly before the mixture sets.  Let dry overnight.

Drop one into a warm tub of water and submerge feet. Dream. Walk on feet of gold.

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October 23, 2015 · 3:22 pm

dandelion drift

2014-05-01 10.44.23I am drinking locust-blossom elixir.  I’ve been drinking it all morning, and contrary to the assertions of the marvelous Doug Elliott (from whom I learned to make the stuff) it is QUITE intoxicating.

Though, to be fair, the giddiness started the moment I walked the boys to school through groves of blooming locust trees this morning, and was fairly advanced before I ever took a sip of the blossom-infused water.  I had not expected the locusts to be in bloom yet—I spent last week in Boone, where the trees are only in the precontemplative phase of leafing out (sorry, counseling joke)—so I used my travel mug to carry home handfuls of the blossoms. Carrying a coffee mug filled with frothy flowers is like holding the poetic precursor to a latte.  I got a lot of smiles. (Smiles were a theme—the smilacina racemosa has come out, lining the path through the forest, and the boys were nibbling new sprouts of smilax on their way to school.)

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It was too beautiful to go straight home. I stopped at my friend’s house first, to talk with her about an expressive arts workshop she is putting on this weekend, and then it seemed to me Randall Jarrell would appreciate the scent of locust flowers, so I visited him too.

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And eventually, as I always do, I ended up in the meadow.  I love this meadow.  Last week, I even found myself sitting in its tall grasses near midnight with a lit candelabra (I was walking home from joy circle, so naturally I had a candelabra), looking at stars. Life is good in a meadow at midnight with a candelabra.

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This time of year, the meadow is brimful of dandelions, and I had just signed up to bring four dozen cookies to my son’s end-of-kindergarten picnic, so I improvised a pouch and started collecting petals for dandelion cookies.  My hands are already stained turmeric-yellow from gathering gallons of dandelion blooms in Boone yesterday; those will become infused oil and medicinal tincture, but today’s dandelions are for pure delight.


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This whole morning was for pure delight.  The scent of locust in bloom, slow time to gather dandelions, watching my children chase geese and pick up tulip poplar flowers and discover lily-of-the-valley for the first time. Conversations with friends and dead poets, fields of nodding flowers, sipping blossom elixir, the scent of baking cookies.  My inspiring friend Briana just wrote a beautiful blog about drifting for pleasure, and that is what this morning was, a long slow drift of delight. (Even the cookies drifted over the edges of their pan a little bit!)

What a wonderful gift, time simply to absorb any pleasure, any inclination for delight, that might be blossoming at the edges of consciousness.

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2014-05-01 11.23.07(Another incredibly creative and inspiring friend, Laura, taught me to document these moments–her feedback is always along the lines of “hmm, great story, WHERE ARE THE PICTURES?” Thank you Laura. This blog’s for you, baby.)

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Dandelion Drift Cookies2014-05-01 12.47.09

2 egg whites

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 c. raw sugar

1 c. shredded coconut

1 c. dandelion petals, calyx removed

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and vanilla until they froth.  Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time and continue beating until the whites are stiff, but not dry.  Fold in the coconut and dandelion (you can use all dandelion instead, but it takes a looooooong time to gather 2 cups of petals, and then what are you going to make oil and wine and tincture and vinegar with??) and drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 300 for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

(Note on gathering: make sure the area you are gathering in has not been sprayed and is not near a roadside or a frequent pitstop for pets.  Leave a few open flowers for the bees. After you’ve gathered the dandelions, let them sit in a basket outside for a while so the critters can jump ship.)

Now go visit Doug to learn how to make locust blossom elixir, and Briana to giggle with unfolding joy, and Laura for complete creative inspiration!


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May 1, 2014 · 6:44 pm

handmade solstice

solstice treeWinter solstice is probably my favorite celebration.  There is something about gathering in the dark, cold, stark night to light candles and celebrate the returning of the light…something intuitive and ancient about bringing people together for music and laughter and dancing and body heat and feasting when the days grow short and the trees are bare against the stars.

Liberated from coursework for nearly a month, desperate to procrastinate (I declared to myself that I would finally obtain my driver’s permit this December, and I DON’T WANT TO), I have taken great delight in making new blended body butters, developing exquisitely scented solid perfumes, and returning to tablet weaving and knitting. Working with my hands instead of my brain, creating gifts that will help my beloved friends and family feel nourished and loved, planning a solstice party and circle dance, baking homemade bread again…ahhhhh.  Long mornings of soapmaking and kundalini yoga, hours of painting, mug after mug of st. john’s wort and damiana tea, George Winston playing piano, letters to friends. Such a beautiful time.

I wanted to share my favorite solstice recipes with you, so that even though we are centering in our own stillness at the dark of the year, we are still learning from each other.


these are wonderful eye pillows for savasana (if you do yoga) or to tuck beneath your pillow when you sleep, or even travel pillows to carry with you and alleviate the stale plastic aroma of commercial travel.

Cut 2 rectangles of material (I like lavender velvet) about 12″ by 6″ , turn so that the wrong sides face out, and hem along three sides. Turn right-side out and stuff with 2 cups of dried lavender, 1/2 cup of dried mugwort, and 1/2 cup of either dried passionflower or dried catnip.  Sometimes I’ll use a combination of elderflower and rose instead of the lavender.  Pin together the open side and sew shut.


I learned long ago that of the senses, scent holds the most power for me. One good whiff of peat smoke can transport me into instant rapture, and the plastic scent of big-box stores plunges me into a depressive tailspin.

As a teenager, I practiced harnessing this power by experimenting with essential oils.  I would choose one oil to be my “happy” scent, and for weeks, whenever I felt particularly joyous, I would dab the oil on my wrists and under my nose.  Soon I had only to smell the oil to feel instant joy.  I could use the oil for months to inspire happiness, but eventually its powers would wane and it would be time to choose a new “happy” scent.

I like to study my friends for a few months–what scents seem to bring them alive? I’ll walk them through my soap-making workshop and notice which soaps they breathe in most deeply.  And then I design a perfume for them.  It’s easy to do—all you need are almond oil, beeswax, and essential oils—and a great way to get to know your friends even better.  Maybe I should design some for my enemies too so I can smell them coming…

2 tbsp. sweet almond oil
2 tbsp. grated beeswax
20-30 drops of your favorite essential oils

(some blends I love are petitgrain and patchouli, benzoin and amyris, vetiver and cedarwood, or bergamot and grapefruit)

Melt the beeswax and almond oil together in a pyrex bowl nested over boiling water. When melted, remove from heat and drop in your scent blend, stirring as you go.  (Keep in mind that the scent will mellow as the perfume hardens; get to the scent strength that smells perfect and then add 10 more drops!)  Pour quickly into empty lip balm tins or chapstick tubes–or an empty locket?–and let harden.

To use, simply rub some balm onto your finger and apply to pulse points and temples.  These are wonderfully subtle, perfuming your personal space without invading the air around.


I do like the dark times of the year, I like the journey inward, but sometimes it can hurt. Sometimes I forget about the return of the light and let the darkness sweep me away.  This tea is for those times.  Hawthorn and rose strengthen and nourish the heart, St. John’s Wort reminds of the light, mullein clears the lungs (and energetically dissolves grief) and holy basil lifts the spirits.

1 c. dried holy basil (tulsi)  (if you can’t find this, you can substitute lemon balm)

1 c. dried rose petals

1/2 c. hawthorn berries

1/2 c. st. john’s wort flowers and leaves

1/4 c. mullein

Blend together and store in an airtight jar or tin.  To prepare, measure out 2 tbsp. of herbs per mug of tea.  Cover with freshly boiled water and let steep 5 min. before straining.  Sweeten with honey if desired.


This fizzing bath bomb perfumes the bathwater and leaves your skin slightly sparkling with golden mica. Take this bath by candlelight and I DARE you to stay sulky!

1 c. baking soda

1/2 c. citric acid

1 tsp. mica

3 tbsp. sweet almond or grapeseed oil

1 tsp- 1 tbsp. essential oil (I use lavender or rose, generally)

2 tbsp. crumbled cocoa butter

dried herbs or flowers, if you wish (though these can make a bit of a mess in the tub after.)


Stir the dry ingredients together until well-mixed, then add the oils and cocoa butter.  Mix until it stays together when you squeeze it. Sprinkle a tiny bit of rosewater ( less than a tsp.) over the mixture, stirring constantly to keep from fizzing.

Working quickly, press the mixture into molds (empty easter eggs, silicon candy molds, flexible ice cube trays work well; I’ve even heard you can use a melon baller!) and let set a few minutes before popping out.  Air the bath bombs for 24 hours.  Then draw a hot bath, light candles, and drop one in.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Much love to you at the dark of the year! And happy Summer Solstice, Australians!


December 12, 2013 · 7:53 pm

my dear friend joe

My apologies to my newsletter family—I promised a good sweat and I did not deliver!  Let me tell you about my dear friend Joe Pye.

There is a strong oral history about Joe; some say he was a Mohegan healer, some say he was a freed slave.  In any case his power of healing was such that even now, hundreds of years past his time, this amazing plant still bears his name here in the Appalachians—far south of where he wrought his cures during typhus outbreaks in New England. Continue reading


September 10, 2013 · 4:08 pm

salon of the senses

298382_10150340284802527_2727975_n Last night was pure magic.  These two friends of mine, Briana and Laura, they each hold a certain power.  When we get together, the world changes in a tangible way.  When I am with Briana, men turn up out of nowhere and shower us with flowers.  I end up feeding strangers truffles with my fingers.  When I am with Laura, heads turn and people deferentially ask  if they may photograph us.

Yes, both Laura and Briana are phenomenally beautiful, but this is Santa Monica, California.  Every third person is blonde, buxom, blue-eyed, and bikini-clad.  It’s not external beauty that draws this magic in.  It’s Laura’s radiance, Briana’s creative passion for life, that diffuse out into the world like cartoon fingers and beckon everything in so that life, ideas, intention, pleasure all magnify and swirl around them in clouds of color and joy.

We all got together on Skype a few months ago and set an intention to create a pleasure workshop combining all of our talents–Briana’s jawdropping gift for milking the pleasure out of every moment, Laura’s boundless and inspiring artistic abilities, and my love of plant medicine–into one evening of sensuous celebration.  Last night that intention bore fruit. Continue reading


July 26, 2013 · 7:32 am

hydrosol & facial recipes

20130722_185400As promised, here are a few of the recipes we created last night at the hydrosol workshop.

A hydrosol is a steam-distilled essence of a plant.  If you do not have a still, you can create your own hydrosols by piling fragrant, fresh plants (rosemary, lavender, fennel, elderflower, rose petal, calendula…) into a stainless steel or enamel pot with a domed lid.   Continue reading


July 24, 2013 · 3:03 am

rose hip soda

English: Some rose hips in close-up

In college, I built myself a thatch hut and lived in the woods on a bed of leaves and cattail down.  I foraged for food in baskets I wove of kudzu and honeysuckle vines.  And under that bed of leaves, right on top of the hand-hooked rag rug made of my old t-shirts, was my secret stash of Diet Coke.

I have finally, many years later, completely weaned myself off of corn-syrup or chemical-cocktail sweetened sodas.  But I am still a sucker for a fancy fizzy drink!  There is something that sings to me about a sun-drenched porch on a sweltering day, listening to the soft fizz and clank of ice cubes in a cold glass.

So I have learned to make my own sodas.

Here is my current favorite recipe:

Rose Hip Soda

2 tbsp. dried rose hips or 1/2 cup fresh

1/2 cup agave nectar or honey

1/2 cup kefir grains or 1 cup kefir whey or yogurt whey

1/2 organic lime

filtered water

~Place the rose hips, sweetener, and kefir grains or whey into a two-quart jar. Squeeze the lime juice in, then cut up the peel and throw it in too.  Add enough filtered water to fill the jar.

~Screw the lid onto the jar and leave it in a warm place for 2 days.

~Strain the soda into two glass bottles (empty mineral-water bottles or swing-top bottles are great).  Add enough water to fill to the very top. Screw the lids on tightly, label, and return to a warm place for another 2-3 days. Transfer to the fridge.

~Open them carefully and over a sink—they get REALLY fizzy.

~Pour over ice, add a slice of lemon, and sit on your sun-drenched porch!

I make this recipe with lavender too, which is DELICIOUS, substituting dried lavender flowers for the rose hips and lavender-infused raw sugar for the honey.


If you are unfamiliar with kefir grains, they are a lovely little squishy organism that you use to make your own kefir (or, as it happens, soda.)  If you do not have kefir grains, check to see if there is a chapter of the Weston A. Price foundation near you; often these gatherings are replete with kefir and kombucha and other fun k-things.  Or you can use whey from homemade yogurt (or store-bought if it has live cultures and isn’t sweetened).  The whey is simply the watery part.  To obtain kefir whey, let your kefir sit out a day longer than you would normally to make it, and it will separate into curds and whey.  Strain out the grains, pour off the whey, and use the curds to make kefir cheese!

This recipe is adapted from Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice, which is highly recommended for anyone who likes a little bit of storytelling and cultural history with their recipes.

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May 23, 2013 · 4:15 pm

famine and feast


fallen cherry petals on the herb spiral

Oh, the abandoned abundance of nature.  Autumn does not scatter leaves artfully here and there, but strews them in an eight-inch-deep blanket all the way to horizon.  Spring is not a few petals drifting on the wind, it’s a snowstorm of color that lasts for weeks.  Until it’s gone.  And then, sometimes, there is nothing at all.  For days, weeks, months on end.  For all that we cleave to the storied ‘balance’ of nature, there is nothing moderate or balanced in the least about natural systems.

Right now there are violets clustered everywhere, their drooping heads hidden beneath their rapidly greening heart-shaped leaves. I gather them by the fistful, walking by the stream, and when I turn to go home I see that I have made not the slightest dent in the wash of purple. Next week, they will all be gone.

Last year a friend had a particularly productive winter squash patch and we feasted on squash all winter.  Now our compost pile is overrun with squash seedlings, deep green and veined and beautiful, but doomed.  They are competing for sun, water, space, and most will not survive.  Beside the compost pile is a small mountain of grass clippings; I stalk the neighborhood with my wheelbarrow and cart them away.  There is always more than I can carry this time of year.  But a few months ago—nothing.


I’ve been letting this sink in today.  Could it be that there is nothing wrong with me?  Could it be that is is natural to have periods of deep, flowering, intense productivity followed by a fallow season?  Could it be that there is no such thing as life balance?   Continue reading


April 26, 2013 · 1:44 am