Monday, February 25, 2013

Inspiration through Community & Decluttering

“We also need space for our ideas, and thoughts—a cluttered room usually leads to a cluttered mind. Say you’re sitting [on your couch]…and a truly profound thought captures your imagination…You’re deep in thought…when your gaze falls on [example of clutter]…your mind immediately takes a detour and your train of thought is lost…”

~ Francine Jay

            The above excerpt, from a newly favorite book “The Joy of Less”, perfectly describes how and why I had been creatively-stuck for months, late this last year, which I never fully understood until my lack of writing and organization, and being involved in community activities. Why you may ask?? Well, truthfully because my room was a bit cluttered; and my room is in fact my office, bedroom, herbal writing and business storage area, so you can imagine, it is hard to keep the craziness to a minimum. If there was a mess, I would let it be  believing in vain, that if I saw it I would deal with it sooner—I couldn’t be more wrong/or so I thought. After being so sick of my lack of accomplishing/concentration, and being stressed out by the subtle messes…I said enough is enough, and as part of my New Year’s resolution I decided to fix it. So once January rolled around, I slowly started going through each part of my small room, and decluttering, recycling, donating, storing and waiting on items.

            This decluttering really helped me be successful in all parts of my life again, writing, in community, work and even fun stuff! Why is doing this so important you may ask, besides the lack of finishing things….well, this fall I am planning on moving out (of my parents’ home), to be ‘out on my own’. Staying motivated enough to save money, make the major move for me, is quite hard, and to keep successfully moving along I have found being involved in my own personal, usually free/inexpensive things, have helped me see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, and show to myself, and parents, I can do it!

            So some anecdotes/explanation of this, which are well said by some simple-living quotes.

 “the secret to happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing

 the capacity to enjoy less”~  Don Millman

            This quote I find particularly compelling because it plainly states, you’ll find happiness in less, so why try to fill the void you may have with things, and wasting time, and instead fill it with more purposeful, meaningful relationships, activities, pursuits, and whatever else you can! I know I have worked on this, which has helped me feel like I need to ‘fill something’, a lot less. Recently, I have become very involved in our local herbal guild the, NCHG, or North Country Herbalist Guild ( Also I have been attending the Minnesota Textile Centers ‘Basket Weaver’s Guild’; both of these are a day or two a month.

            Through my prioritizing my community involvement in a few things I am very passionate about, I thought I would share a quote with you that I read a while ago, which was quite moving. Someone stated that studies have been done where people being prepped for heart surgery were asked two questions, are you involved in community groups/activities, and do you have more than two close friends you spend time with often? (this is how I remember the story going). Those who answered no to both questions, were substantially less successful in surviving the surgery.

            To take this idea further, here are several excerpts from my all time favorite simplicity book “Less is More”, by Wanda Urbanska & Cecile Andrews. Cecile so eloquently states that, “ultimately simplicity is about knowing who you are, being clear about your values, understanding what brings true well-being”, so if you spend money, do it on something that will help, not hinder, these values and goals of yours. For example, if I want to go to an amazing herbal conference say next year, I will save a certain amount monthly (currently am), and accrue PTO from my job so it’s a double-plus! So if people are connected, these “relationships with others are at the heart of happiness…they’re happier, healthier and live longer” (Cecile Andrews), and evidence has been found that “companionship…contributes more to well-being than does income”, states the Yale political science professor, and author, Robert E. Lane. These two really hit home for me, I know I’d rather be happier VERSUS super financially well-off, but having few meaningful relationships!

            Lastly, if you really have a rough day, like I can working at a grocery store, so not buying anything, especially food, let alone very healthy food is hard! So when I am having a battle in my head of “to buy or not to buy”, I remember this hilarious but perfectly true/stated quote:

We think we have to have too much and worry about how we’re going to get it and getting it, and going into debt for it. Rather than doing without…I’m sure it would lead to a simpler life if we didn’t have to worry about the things we didn’t have”

~ Rosalynn Carter (Less is More book)
            As a final note: my blog shall be moving in a slightly different direction, in a broadening of sorts. Now all who are reading this I hope you have heard of the “father of Medicine”—Hippocrates. My reasoning as to why he has inspired, and assisted me in my ‘simplicity’ endeavor, is because of his most famous/quoted-saying “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”. Which explains why I will be including not just herbal medicine, recipes, adventures and conference information, but (as you have noticed) topics such as: food and ferment making, traditional food and in-season dishes; simplicity and inspiration; natural beauty; eco-friendly cleaning; crafts; resources; environmental; preserving and canning…to name most of them.
      And lastly as my best friend’s tumbler recently posted, a very perfect idea for me…


NOTE: soon to come is a blog literally on de-cluttering, and organizing! Can’t wait to show the before and after progress in pictures.


-“Less is More” book, by: Cecile Andrews, & Wanda Urbanska



Monday, February 18, 2013

Kim Chi: Korea’s spicy Sauerkraut


            Lacto-fermentation is not lonely a means of conserving food but also a procedure for ennobling them, as proved by their taste and aroma”
~ Annelies Schoneck
(Nourishing Traditions, pg 92)
 Have you ever found yourself eating more heavy foods, and that this seems to slow down your digestion? If so, Kim Chi, among many other ferments, are excellent in helping keep you “more on track”. Recently, I was inspired by two things. Firstly, the idea of blogging on what comes easily; and secondly, by Hippocrate’s saying “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”. Now, Kim Chi is a wonderful, tasty Cabbage ferment, so don’t let the fear of some spice keep you from making this! Kim Chi is a very simple recipe, where all you really need is Cabbage, sea salt, carrots, ginger and red pepper flakes.

            First though—some history of ferments! If you take a look at what is eaten in ethnic-cuisine, one thing is clear…

that rarely meals are eaten without at least one fermented food…in France, if you took away bread, cheese, ham, sausage, wine, and beer,  all produced through fermentation, our meals would be much impoverished. In colder countries, sauerkraut [and] cucumbers [are their staple]…In Japan, it’s not a meal without miso, soy sauce and pickles…in India, they drink soured milk daily…practically at every meal…in Indonesia they eat tempeh, [and lastly] in Korea kim chi” (Nourishing Traditions, 94).
             Lacto-fermentation was ancient peoples’ only way of preserving food—cabbage was a world favorite! It was fermented in China 6,000 years ago, and in ancient Rome, where it was loved for it’s easy digestibility. As Pliny made record of in 50 B.C., their 2 ways of lacto-fermentation were: shredding cabbage and sealing it tightly in jars; and  secondly, mixing many vegetables, wild herbs, and covering them with a salt-water solution. This was called the mixture, or “compositor. (Anelies Schoneck Des Crudites Toute L’ Annee).

            For lacto-fermentation to occur you need salt, whey, pure ingredients, and lack of oxygen. Lacto-fermentation is a process which breaks down sugar and starch in food, converts it to lactic-acid, to preserve it long-term, increase vitamin levels (vitamin C), and enhances digestibility! The lactobacilli that proliferates in fermented fruits and vegetables, makes it easier to digest, and promotes the growth of “healthy flora throughout the intestine” (Nourishing Traditions, 89). Next, salt inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria, and while sitting at room temperature builds up lactic-acid to preserve your ferment for many months. Next, whey, though not required for a ferment, it is an inoculant and already contains lactic-acid, thus shortening the fermentation time, and almost making salt unnecessary. Whey also, like salt inhibits putrefying bacterial growth. The last two keys to a good-ferment are high quality ingredients, such as organic, seasonal/locally grown produce, as well as pure water and sea salt; how do you expect to get a good final-fermented product if you put bad ingredients into it?? …Lastly, due to the fact that fermentation is an anaerobic process, if your jar isn’t sealed tight, it could become spoiled.

            Though, as history would make it, normally-fermented items, such as sauerkraut, kim chi and dill pickles, through industrialization, have gone from very healthy, digestion-improving and nutrient-rich, to being devoid of lactic-acid, healthy-bacteria and nutrients, due to pasteurization! On top of this, vinegar has replaced salt with the vegetables’ own juices, which over time isn’t very good for people, due to it’s acidity. ….It’s no wonder why there are so many major diseases, viruses, and stomach-related ailments from diarrhea, constipation, and the ‘stomach flu’, now a days.

            Now before I just give you the recipe I use, I would like to include a story of where I first tried REAL Kim Chi. It was at Quiet Creek herbal farm (in Brookville, PA—I did a WWOOFING internship there), and the family who owned this farm had a Mediterranean diet, and loved fermented foods, including Kim Chi (the recipe they obtained from Korean friend). The owners stated that they felt 10 years younger, feeling a lot more vigorous!

So here is a recipe that is a mixture of the Quiet Creek Farm’s version, and the Nourishing Traditions’ recipe.

Kim Chi Recipe: adapted from Nourishing Traditions


-1  2-3 Lb Napa cabbage, shredded

-1 bunch green onions, chopped

-2-3 carrots, grated

-1-2 radishes, grated (optional)  OR ¼-1/2 cp daikon radish, grated

-2-3 tsp ginger root, freshly grated

-3-5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

-1/4 – ½ tsp dried Red pepper flakes

-1 Tbsp Pink Himalayan sea salt

-4 Tbsp whey (if not available—another 1 Tbsp salt)


1) Place above vegetables, spices, salt and whey in a large bowl. Pound with a meat-mallet to release the juices until juices are above the mixture.

2)  Place everything into a large wide-mouth mason jar. Again press down with a meat-mallet, your hands—or whatever works best, until the vegetables juices are above the cabbage mixture. When this is complete, make sure there is over 1 inch of headspace between the vegetables and your jars’ lid.

3) Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days, than transfer to cold storage (refrigerator, or root cellar). ENJOY!

**NOTE: room temperature is best at 72, if it is hotter, shorten the ‘ferment time’, and if colder, lengthen it**

-Sally Fallon’s book “Nourishing Traditions: the cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats”
-Sandor Ellix Katz’s book  “Wild Fermentation” , or website
-Weston A. Price Foundation
-Quiet Creek Herbal farm
-Blog written by a ‘chapter leader’ of the Weston A. Price Foundation (in Florida)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Red Osier Dogwood as medicine and tincture:

Red Osier Dogwood as medicine and tincture:

            It’s that time of year again, the time to harvest bark from woody shrubs and trees, for tincturing! This past year, I was involved in a local herbal program, called “3 Seasons of Herbal Medicine”, taught by Lise Wolff. Lise is a very experienced herbalist, teacher, and one of several herbalists in Minnesota that are registered with the AHG, American Herbalists Guild. From this course, I learned much about medicinal plants and their uses, as well as how to harvest and make medicine.
            One of the few barks we harvested in this course, was Red Osier Dogwood, which must be collected when it is very cold, or as Lise mentioned before the first thunderstorm of the year. Red Osier Dogwood, also known as Red Twig, Kanikanik or Kinikenick (spelling varies), whose botanical name is Cornus sericea and C. serivea spp. sericea.  With Native Americans being the primary people that used this herb, here are some major uses of Red Osier, specifically Cornus sericea spp. sericea. This plant was used to treat eye, lung and pregnancy related ailments, and pain. The Cree used it for sore eyes, the fruit to treat snow-blindness and pith for cataracts. The Iroquois used the inner bark for hemorrhages, pain, headaches, chest congestion, sore throats, coughs and fevers. When smoked with tobacco it was used to treat lung sickness; and cleansed the blood and improved circulation when mixed with Chokecherry or Alder bark. Red Osier was used to prevent frequent pregnancies, by the Okanagan-Colville tribe, and an inner-bark poultice, when applied to a woman’s back and belly, was used to help “heal a woman’s insides”, after childbirth (Moerman). When mixed with warm ash was a painkiller; and the decoction of the inner bark treated rashes, sores, diarrhea and poison ivy. Lastly, was smoked in ceremonies by the Apache, and the Blackfoot tribe put the ‘berry spittle’ on arrows and musket balls to make the wounded that were shot by it infected.

Materials for Bark Tincture Making
            Back to my course learnings, Lise also informed us that Native Americans used this bark for treating headaches, but besides in their culture, this herb represents reflection, observation, and is a ‘third eye’ remedy, which symbolizes intuition. As such, this herb is a very good remedy in treating paranoia, irrational fears, P.T.S.D. and hyper vigilance. Through seeing her own patients, Lise found that Red Osier Dogwood helped young children that felt like they were constantly being watched, or were going to be kidnapped; so this herb is also for social phobias. It is believed in Chinese Medicine that what causes this paranoia is a lack of ‘shen’ in a person. TCM also uses Red Osier to treat excessive menstruation blood, kidney weakness, and replenishes and cleanses the kidneys and blood. Lastly, Lise informed us that it is also a lung ailment, which can be symbolized by where the berry stems in the fall, based on the Doctrine of Signatures (believing plants represent what they treat—walnuts for brain health).
            During our class on the day we harvested and learned about this plant, we took a small nibble of the fresh bark and overall this is what we felt: mellow, but very alert an clear headed, like taking a glass of wine without the fuzzy-feeling; also a numb, warm feeling at the base of my skull at in my 3rd eye region.

Directions for Bark Tincture Making:

Lise taught us to use the outer bark for tincture-making, and to have 1 part fresh bark, to 4-5 parts alcohol (vodka or brandy-80 to 100 proof preferred).

So what you need for tincture making (see above picture)
-small jar with lid
-paring knife
-cutters for cutting small twigs from the shrub
-labels and markers or pencils
-80 or 100 proof vodka (or brandy)   

What you will do is gently cut off the outer bark, and take those pieces and put them in your small jar. Once you have cut off all the bark on the small twigs, you will put them in your jar and for every 'part' of bark (amount) you will add 4-5 times as much vodka.

Red Osier bark tincture (Cornus sericea)
after only a few hours
WARNING: ALWAYS consult a physician before considering to take herbs. Do not ingest or apply topically, anything from outside before consulting a experienced botanist, forester and or herbalist. Herbs are not to be taken in place of/instead of drugs, if you have any health issues and are interested in taking herbs please consult your doctor.

-American Herbalists Guild website
-For information regarding other species of Dogwood, see “Indian Herbalogy of North America” by Alma R. Hutchens

Works Cited

Cornus Sericea. N.d. Photograph. Http:// Web. 2 Feb. 2013. <>.

Cornus Sericea. N.d. Photograph. Wikipedia. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Web. 3 Feb. 2013. <>.

Moerman, Daniel E., and Daniel E. Moerman. Native American Medicinal Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary. Portland, Or.: Timber, 2009. 155-58. Print.