News and blog
Announcing this years new hot off the press Herb of the Year Elder book. This new 200 page book has just been released. Edited and compiled by International Herb Association secretary Karen O'Brien this book is full of information both scienctific and folkloric regarding Elder ( Sambucus spp.).You can get your copy though us at Healing Spirits or though the International Herb Association.
The International Herb Association picks the herb that is to be designated each year as the Herb of the Year and than puts out request for articles for that year herb. If you would like to get past years Herb of the Year book you can go to the IHA website and order them.
The Elder book is available though Healing Spirits for a cost of $15.00 plus $3.00 shipping and handling. Please place your order now so that you can start reading this exciting book and trying some of the teas, syrups and herbal remedies that elder can provide you.
Green Blessings Andrea and Matthias (President of IHA)
As a farmer’s daughter, I’ve had a lot of experiences with farming, so that was not what I was looking for at Healing Spirits herb farm this summer. I wanted to learn about medicinal herbs, not only to treat myself, but because I dream of becoming a homebirth midwife someday. Herbalism, is, and should be, an integral part of homebirth midwifery, so I knew I needed to learn something about it.
Now working part time at Healing Spirits just one summer, I feel like I just brushed the surface of herbalism. Matt and Andrea, the owners and proprietors of Healing Spirits have been herbalists for over thirty years, and although they are very wise people, very skilled at their craft, I’m sure they’d be the first to tell you they don’t know everything about herbs. Plant knowledge is unlimited, not just because there are so many plants on earth, but because of all the levels you can get to know a plant on. You can learn just about the anatomy of a plant for example, or just the chemical constituents that make the plant work as a food or medicine (or often, as both,) or you can use a plant in spiritual ways (a plant that comes to mind is rue, which is a potent flowering plant used in South America to drive away evil.) You can learn the habits of a plant, whether it likes to grow near specific other plants, in the woods, in the fields, in the shade or sun, in wet or dry ground, what type of soil that plant likes and so on. You could probably spend a lifetime just learning one plant and not know it completely.
Matt and Andrea taught me that we build relationships with plants. Just like the slow going building of relationships with people, plants take a long time to get to know. I go to Matt to learn the chemical constituents of plants that cause them to work as medicine, and the scientific names of plants, for example. I go to Andrea to learn the spiritual ways a certain plant works, and what her intuition tells her about that plant. Both provide me with good knowledge; they just both have very specific areas of expertise.
An experience at Healing Spirits is a magical experience, to say the least. Both Andrea and Matt encouraged me to communicate with the plants; to speak to them, to pray whilst among them, to tell them my fears, dreams and desires. Interestingly, these experiences taught me the most about the plants. Something about lemon balm for example, always makes me open up and let all my emotions out; it feels good to cry or laugh while harvesting lemon balm knowing that lemon balm is nonjudgmental and gentle.
Right now, I’m in nursing school, working my way slowly towards midwife. I use plants daily to keep my immune system strong while doing clinical rotations in the hospital environment. I especially love the plant elder for its powerful ability to keep the immune system strong. I use elderberry syrup just about every day to ward off colds and the flu and other illnesses. I do this instead of getting a flu shot, which is sure to get you sick, whereas you have better odds of not getting sick if you work on strengthening your immune system.
Learning about plants connects you to yourself and the beautiful Earth you where you live in a very intimate and special way. I’m so glad I got to work at Healing Spirits this summer and I hope I can continue to learn from Matt and Andrea as I grow up into a midwife.
I'm off the farm now, back home in Massachusetts and heading up to school in Maine this weekend. I've got to finish my degree in Human Ecology. Some time during the last week in New York I was talking about entering back into reality and Matt says "you've gotta leave the nest." Well, that's sure what it feels like leaving the farm because there couldn't have been a better place to spend my summer learning how Matt and Andrea created this beautiful life for themselves. Now its my turn to try and create my own. One thing is for sure-- these ten weeks have taught me that I do, in fact, want to work with the plants in the future, growing and making medicine and LISTENING. I hadn't been sure when I first arrived at Healing Spirits. I'm usually not sure about much of anything. So in short, Healing Spirits has left it's mark, inspired me in the best way possible. I could never give enough thanks to Matt and Andrea for so generously sharing all that they know with me this summer.
In the last half of my internship, I went to two herbal conferences and one herbal hoedown. The Reisens were hosting The International Herb Conference in Corning which went swimmingly in my opinion. Rosemary Gladstar was the keynote speaker and there were a number of other creative plant people sharing their experience in the business. The Women's Herbal Conference kicked off the end of my summer and the beginning of my own journey forward. I spoke with a number of women with whom I'd like to work with in the future, in a number of different places around the world and I made a few new friends who are on a path similar to mine. If I had had the time, I could have written this much every night about each individual day on the farm, but if you've ever worked on a farm, you know that that kind of time generally doesn't exist. Instead I've written a little poem to sum up my experience...
(August 17th 2012)
On this soil I've stretched my legs
Paced myself with the pulse of the present
Lent my thought to the earth
Listening for her whisper back
Hearing only my own voice
And realizing there is no difference.
She speaks through me.
Breathes through me.
It's been a little over two weeks since I began my apprenticeship at Healing Spirits. I no longer feel out of place, have conquered the kitchen, and have been assigned the noble duty of making icecream most days. Although I'm glad I've picked up the skill of icecream making, I came here to learn about herbalism. I just finished my third year at College of the Atlantic and wanted to try out the profession. I hope to learn what it really means to be an herbalist and not just what he or she would do during a workday, but what the lifestyle is like at its core. I wanted to know what kind of people have it in them to farm, process herbs, prepare products, and give copious amounts of advice. I figured that after spending ten weeks with an herbalist(or two,) I would have a better idea of whether or not I am capable of that kind of lifestyle. After emailing quite a few potential teachers, the Reisens responded. I was extremely pleased to hear that they would humor my request and curiosity.
While my own abilities are still up for debate, the Reisens make herbalism look easy... and fun. Somehow, on top of all of their responsibilities they manage to maintain social lives. In the first two days I was delighted with the amount of laughter in the house and even more delighted with the amount of visitors. So far I've had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Mary, an osteopathic doctor who is also certified in zero-balancing. Last weekend there was the metaphysicist, Ken Harsh, who specializes in the healing power of stones. The previous week I met Michael Ford, a natural products chemist and herbalist. With each guests comes new and enlightening conversation and I look forward to more of that in a few weeks when Matt and Andrea host the International Herb Conference!
My role is to help out on the farm wherever I can and to learn as much as possible from the plants. So far we've harvested linden, elderflowers, lavender, roses, comfrey, plantain, calendula, dandelion, St. John's wort, horsetail, coltsfoot, mullen, Chinese mint, lemon balm, wild lettuce, and probably a few others that I can't remember at the moment. I've been planting as well-- skullcap, sacred basil, tomatoes, anise hyssop, and more calendula. Prior to my stay here I had not been acquainted with the majority of these plants but introductions have been going smoothly! Andrea has even shown me how to make flower essences.
Every day here I wake up grateful. The word "beautiful" hardly encompasses the abundance of life on the farm; birds flit in and out of the fields, singing and teasing the dogs. Rabbits hide in the rhye by the creek wich grows quieter as the heat takes its toll. Then of course, there are the plants and people in constant exchange of care, healing, and gratitude... a relationship I am only beginning to fully understand. I am lucky to be learning from the Reisens who have been generous enough to share their lives and knowledge with me. Both Andrea and Matt are incredible teachers and although I had almost no idea what this apprenticeship would be like, it only took a short while to realize how fortunate I was to have found Healing Spirits.
International Herb Association
2013 Herb of The Year -Elderberry
Join us at this years annual conference to be held July 13-14-15-16, 2012 at the Radisson Hotel in Corning, New York. If you haven't attended an IHA conference made this your first and if you have been at previous ones you know what a great opportunity to meet new and interesting people and learn something new and exciting about the herbal plant world. This years keynote speaker will beRosemary Gladstar, well known herbalist and author, founder of United Plant Savers, organizer of the International Herb Symposium and the Women;s Herbal Conference. Rosemary will also be receiving the Otto Richter Award.
There are a whole host of other well known herbalist from across the United States that will be offering their input regarding what is currently happening in the plant world. Presenting will be Conrad Richter of Richter's Herbs of Canada, Susan Belsinger and Pat Crocker both authors and well known culinary experts. Daniel Gagnon medicinal herbalist and CEO of New Mexico's HerbsEtc plus many other presenters providing a diverse view of how herbs interface with our daily lives.For more information you can go to www. iherb.org.
Spring is in the air, so of course another greenhouse. The two just seem to go together around here. This one is half connected to the barn, is 12 x 48, kind of small for the way Matthias seems to like his greenhouses. This is going to be our one for playing with different ideas and lots of flowers.
Seems one of our grandaughters really likes flowers, wants all different colors and kinds and says she is going to sell them this summer to poeple that loves flowers like she does.
Amazing you can think and plan and wonder about putting up a greenhouse, and you might or might not do it, then a little one says, gee Gramps I would like this. And it is done!!! Always good to listen to the little people, they know what is important and don't try and second guess themselves.
This one got just a little more complicated than planned at first, it was going to be metal, but needed to be tied into the roof rafters, so it is now wood, and the side of the barn it is up against, wasn't in as good as shape as it first looked. So a new wall is also going in, its looking beautiful. Tomorrow or Wednesday the plastic is going on, depends on the wind, or lack there of in this case.
Solar has come to the farm!!! We have a 10K sytem, hope to be all hooked up and fully functional in less than 10 days. We have been planning this for what seems like forever. But the last 2 years in earnest, working on the logistics to make this a realitly. We are planning on this sytem to meet all of our electric needs, now we will see how much we really use and where we can conserve. Needless to say our excitment is running high. :-)
Matthias is also putting up another smaller greenhouse connecting to the barn, this will be for us to play with. Growing flowers that are good for the soul to look at, and our one granddaughter Olivia, (8) loves flowers, and wants to sell some this year. Granny and Gramps are going to be playing with her in this smaller house. Can't think of a nicer way to spend the next 6 to 8 weeks.
By Matthias Reisen
Is there an ode
To this old soul
None that is around
None that I have found
So let us begin, lets make a sound
So lets begin, right from the ground
No seed is needed
Just plant a crown
And it will be around, around
It will grow
Regardless of the snow
It will grow
Regardless of your frown
What will it do to heal your soul
That is up to you, that is yet to all be told
It is say it will clear your head
Others say it will make you see red
If you want to stay trimmer and slimmer
Just put it on your back
And you will soon react
Don’t take a whiff
Just a sniff
It will make your eyes water
An open them as big as a quarter
Open your nose
Oh yea, as big as a hose
Curl your toes
And Lord only knows
What this plant holds
But as we ponder
Let us put it in a place of honor
For it has stories to tell
If only we could dwell
Within its secret well.
Written at the International Herb Associations
Annual meeting at Collinsville, Il. July 2010