Reflections from a WWOOFer

sunny farm day
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Madeleine Zimmermann / Allegheny  College Env. Science + Studio Art / Class of 2018

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,or the birds in the sky,
and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.” [Job 12:7-8]

“Madeleine, have you ever heard of WWOOFing? Makenzie and I want to go to the Southwest over winter break and WWOOF.”

It was early September and I was sitting around a table with some friends at our student-run coffee shop. I was plunging my tea leaves in and out of my hot water. I had never heard of WWOOFing and I didn’t have nearly enough money to travel to the southwest over break but later that night I went back to my house and pulled up the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms site for the United States.

Three months later and I was packing up a suitcase with a ten days’ worth of clothes. Within those three months I had overcome a stripping case of pneumonia, the death of two of my friends, and the long list of struggles that came with my dad losing his job after 20 years. I was in much need of spiritual rejuvenation.

Driving to Chardon, Ohio was more than a cosmic coincidence. My grandmother lived in a town over and for the first time since her passing in 2011, I drove by the exit to Chesterland. Continuing on to Light Footsteps Farm, I passed the same Marc’s in Chardon she loved to go to every weekend that we visited. It was at that moment that I realized that this was a homecoming for my soul.

After over a week of Michael and Christine sharing their home with me I’ve been given some time to reflect on my experience. In that time I have cleared paths and planted trees. I have butted heads with societal ideologies (metaphorically) and hungry goats (literally). I have witnessed the healing power of the earth in the jars on Christine’s shelves and sun that warms new life. In that time Michael and Christine have shared their honest opinions and advice on everything broad to specific: from general medicine to geriatric health care, childbirth, and vaccinations. They have shown me what it means to be a pioneering family wrestling to spread knowledge and heal the earth while still being genuine. Christine has taught me how to find empowerment in my womanhood, how to establish internal affirmation even when societal norms plant doubts and fears, and how to fearlessly be a caretaker. Michael has taught me how to question reality while still being confident in who I am and my place within the environmental community, and how to be an expert learner above all else.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once defined a weed as “a plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” Spending time with a family who is building their lifestyle around permaculture, I’ve been able to find virtue in every living thing, and even do the same for the “weeds” in my life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mui Mui and Lucky brush noses


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scooby watches the snow fall from inside the warmth of the barn

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the morning sun glowing from behind the treeline


Christine explains how herbal tastes can convey their actions.

Christine explains how herbal tastes can convey their actions.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the snow didn’t last long / Margaret (another WWOOFer) and Cora’s salutation to the sun


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Vincent poses for the camera


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Vincent and Lena wait to go on a walk


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Margaret and Lena


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the chickens scratch through the new straw


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scooby proves she is civilized enough to get food for herself


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

new product photos


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

radish sprouts in a tabletop aquaponics system


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

goodbye new friends, until next time

 

 Learn more about WWOOF.

 

 

 

Gifts from the Heart of Nature & Herb Society Open House

IMG_3339

What a beautiful sunny day we’re having here!  Overall, it has been such a pleasantly mild Autumn that it is hard to believe that the holidays are ahead.  I’m still harvesting some greens and even a few frost-escaping tomatoes from the garden, but somehow Thanksgiving is right around the corner!

15748430319_1332b56ab4_zI’ve attended a few holiday-themed craft shows already, but wanted to make a little announcement for those of you in the area that you can find a few of my favorite products at this year’s Gifts from the Heart of Nature at Holden Arboretum (non-locals, stay tuned, I have something for you, too!).  Thirty of the region’s artists that create nature-inspired works are featured in the lobby of Holden all season.  There are some truly amazing, handcrafted, one-of-a-kind finds there from ceramics to jewelry to fine art (and of course my botanicals!).  The display is open every day from 9 – 5 and until 8:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays (check the link above for details on days that they are closed for the holidays).

There will also be a meet-the-artists Ladies Night from 5 – 9 on December 2.

IMG_3339Please come have a look at the Gifts from the Heart of Nature show now through January 3rd.  While you’re there, make sure to take a lovely walk through Holden’s gardens.  They are beautiful all year long!

Another upcoming event where you can find me and learn more about a national herb organization is the Herb Society of America’s open house this Sunday, November 22 from 1:00 – 4:00.

Come do some holiday shopping and learn about the benefits of membership with the Herb Society.  The Herb Society headquarters is located at 9019 Kirtland-Chardon Road in Kirtland, Ohio 44094.

For those of you who are not local, I don’t mean to leave you out!  You can use the code BLOG10 to get 10% off all orders in my Etsy shop throughout the holiday season (expires December 31, 2015).

Many thanks for your support of our fledgling farm and small business.  The love and attention we have been receiving is so affirming and appreciated!

Autumn Wellness

AutumnWellnessBox

Wandering around the yard it’s really starting to look like Autumn. Our big old oak has splotches of orange leaves, the sunflowers are falling over, and animals are scurrying about getting ready for winter.

IMG_1821IMG_0012Autumn is a beloved season by many — there are pumpkin flavored treats, spooky holidays, and the beautiful colors of late blooming wildflowers along with the splendor of changing trees. It is a time to treasure. However, the changing weather can also lead to increased susceptibility to colds, and some blue moods as the days get shorter and cold weather starts creeping in.

IMG_1538IMG_1544This season’s herbal wellness box is designed to help support your enjoyment of autumn’s beauty while also facilitating the inevitable transition to darker and colder days.

A spiced sugar scrub will delight your senses and leave you reveling in the joy of autumn while a hand cleansing gel with traditional anti-germ oils will help buffer you from seasonal illness.

sugar scrubhandgelWe continue the celebration of autumn’s harvest with an apple cider infused soap, inspired by our prolific apple tree. There’s also a relaxing tea designed with my love of cozy fall nights in mind. It’s relaxing, but won’t totally put you to sleep either so it’s great for a mid-day break, too.

applesYou’ll also learn about the importance of Bitters for digestive health as well as the role of adaptogenic herbs like holy basil in managing stress that can occur during seasonal transitions. Each of my wellness boxes comes with an informational letter teaching you about each of the products and how to use them appropriately.

bitter

The Autumn Share of my Seasonal Wellness boxes is available for you to enjoy for purchase through my Etsy shop. I’m also happy to arrange for pick-up of local orders!

AutumnWellnessBoxI think you’ll enjoy celebrating the transition to this wonderful time of year with an Autumn Wellness Box. We thank you for your support, too!!

{We also have a class coming up this Thursday (10/8/15) on the farm. We’ll go for a plant walk around the yard and then discuss some recipes that you can make to support your transition to Autumn. Find out more here.}

Summer Wellness

IMG_2301

The days are long and full.

It seems I am filling every moment with work around the farm, food preparation, and in fun family outings. Recently we went camping at the Pollination Festival in Kentucky while stopping for a day in Columbus where we visited the Botanical Garden.

IMG_2226

IMG_2246

We also have been very busy around the farm, and I hope to do an update on our farm happenings soon (goats, gardens, solar panels, oh my!)!  However, I have trouble finding time to sit down on the computer and blog very much when there’s so much to do outdoors this time of year.

IMG_2199

One of the things that I’ve been creating is this summer’s share of my Community Supported Herbalism project.  I am really happy with the way the Summer Wellness Box turned out and I think it’s a great reminder that we must still take time to slow down and care for ourselves even during this busy summer season.

I’ve been having a hard time with that myself this summer, but this box is helping me remember how important it is to prioritize finding little ways to pamper myself each day.

And so that’s what this box is about…taking time to breathe with the pace of the natural world and delight in the gifts that nature offers us in abundance.  When you open this box, I’d like you to imagine wandering around my garden with me, enjoying the scents, colors, and beauty that we find while carefully harvesting plant allies to help support our health and beauty.

To that effect, there are a number of botanically-based gifts to help you slow down and care for yourself this summer.

IMG_2301

You’ll find an herb-infused salve to find relief from pesky bug bites and other summer skin irritations, a fresh skin serum with rich botanical oils to nourish your sun-kissed skin, and a honey + myrrh face soap to gently scrub away impurities while boosting your skin with anti-oxidants.

IMG_2278

IMG_2293

IMG_2269

You’ll also find a cooling cucumber rose spritzer that is best to keep in the fridge.  When you’re feeling overwhelmed with summer’s heat, take it out and spritz all over for a refreshing treat.

There’s also a delicious, herbal (caffeine free) tea blend that is full of vitamins and minerals.  It’s an awesome alternative to over-indulging on sodas or alcohol in the summer.  We’ve been drinking it iced almost daily, and have even made it into kid-approved ice pops.

IMG_2361

IMG_2358

Finally, I have included some freshly harvested red clover.  You’ll learn more about using red clover when you get your box, but it’s an excellent source of easily-digestible nutrients as well as a traditional remedy for purifying the blood and supporting the female system, especially if one is looking to improve their fertility or ease the transition through menopause.

IMG_2288

You can learn more about the Summer Wellness Box and order yours by clicking here.  As a blog reader, you can even get 15% off using code BLOGFRIEND through August 15, 2015.  I hope you enjoy!

You can also learn where to find me in person this summer and get one that way.

IMG_2306

Thanks for supporting our small farm and dreams by purchasing a summer wellness box.

Next Hands-On Learning Day & Updates

hands on learning

Next Hands-On Learning Day: Saturday, May 23.

Come anytime after 11 AM.  Potluck at 5:30.  Bonfire to follow!! Free camping if desired! Bring drums, musical instruments, questions, enthusiasm, and your free-spirit!!

Now for what we’ve been up to and what you may find to help with….

With this being our first official spring on the homestead, we’ve been working long hours trying to get Phase 1 of our plans in place.

This year, we hope to have our educational medicine wheel garden up and fully functional, add 2500 sq. ft. of keyhole market garden space, and start our first area of food forest.

Progress with the medicine wheel garden...

Progress with the medicine wheel garden…

Making progress on the keyhole gardens...

Making progress on the keyhole gardens…

We’ve also added chickens and bees to the farm.  A few new barnyard creatures should be arriving this week.

IMG_1496

IMG_1643Ideally, we’ll also be putting in a greenhouse or hoophouse this season.

Why, you ask?

Because we are absolutely committed to being the change we wish to see in this world, and we are more eager and ready than ever to share why we love permaculture, homegrown food, herbs, and simple living with our community. We’ve been studying these ideas for well over 10 years and it’s time for us to share!!

Here’s the thing. This is a LOT for us to handle on our own.  We really need your help and we’d love to share some of our knowledge with you! And of course, we’d love for you to share some of your knowledge with us!!

Are you interested in permaculture? Sustainable living? Homegrown foods?

Bees? Chickens?

Do you wonder why a keyhole garden is preferable to long square gardens with rows?

Have you ever heard of a food forest?  Do you wonder why perennial crops are gaining more attention?

How have we done all this without tilling? Why have we tried to avoid that?

Do you know why this plant is one of the most valuable medicines in Ohio?

IMG_1765Have you ever wanted to grow your own medicine and are you curious about why I would have designed a medicine wheel garden?

Do you want to meet some awesome, like-minded people?

Please come visit us!! We’d love to have you this weekend for this next hands-on help day, but we are TOTALLY OPEN TO YOU COMING WHENEVER YOU’D LIKE!!

You can even stay for a week at a time if you need a country getaway!  We are open to anything!

Also, let us know if there are specific things you’d like to learn about that would help us entice you to our home!  We are open to any and all suggestions.

See you this Saturday, May 23!!

Herbal Baby Powder

herbal baby powder

Recently I made a fresh batch of herbal baby powder as part of a friend’s baby shower gift.

IMG_1360Other than saving money and the fun that comes with homemade projects, why might you want to make your own baby powder?

Unfortunately, many conventional powders contain talc which can be very irritating to our mucous membranes, especially if inhaled.

Here’s what Dr. Weil has to say about talc in baby powder:

Talc is a mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate. The danger is that babies can easily inhale tiny particles of it that are light enough to be carried in the air. When inhaled, talc can dry an infant’s mucous membranes, adversely affect the baby’s breathing, and cause serious lung damage. Studies have shown that talc can lead to shortness of breath and wheezing in babies and can also lead to obstruction of the airways. Some babies have developed pneumonia and some have died as a result of respiratory failure from inhaling the powder. — Dr. Weil, found here.

Luckily, it’s easy to make homemade baby powder with ingredients that are more baby friendly.  This recipe contains arrowroot powder and kaolin clay.  Arrowroot powder is a lightweight powder made from the root of the arrowroot plant and helps to absorb moisture.  Kaolin clay is one of the mildest clays and wonderful for people with sensitive skin.  It is naturally absorbent and helps to stimulate circulation to this skin while gently cleansing.  It does not draw oil from the skin so will not rob the skin of its own healing properties.

Chamomile and calendula powders are also included because they are gentle herbs that have traditionally been used to help soothe sensitive or irritated skin. Continue reading

A Visit to Quiet Creek Herb Farm

IMG_6621

A couple weekends ago we made a trek across Pennsylvania to attend the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Herbal Conference. It was inspiring to be in the company of so many like-minded women and I was especially grateful to finally meet one of my favorite herbal mentors, Rosemary Gladstar.  I’ve been an online student of hers for some time, but hearing her speak in person really reaffirmed how wonderful it is to call her one of my teachers.

She has an amazing way of synthesizing the big picture on the interrelatedness of herbs, health, happiness, and our connection with nature into an easily accessible and moving message.  I hope I can be like her when I grow up!

On our way home, we planned to spend several days in the Western part of Pennsylvania visiting old growth trees in Cook Forest.  Serendipitously, as we traveled along the road to our lodge we passed a sign for “Quiet Creek Herb Farm”. Continue reading

Lately

IMG_6353

I think we’re finally getting close to having a rhythm again.  We are settling in to this as our home.

As everything around us blossoms and comes into fullness, so do we.

IMG_1256 Continue reading

Homemade Herbal Bug Spray with Yarrow

IMG_0732

Recently, we realized the power of this bug spray as we sat on a lawn and watched bugs approach our arms, hover, and turn away leaving our skin untouched. Amazing!

Not only is it effective, but it is made with just a few high quality ingredients that are non-toxic and safe for our families! Continue reading

Homestead Update – We live here!

IMG_6212

We’ve been swirling around in the whirlwind that is moving. I am so grateful that we are finally living in our new home.  It’s been a long road here — we put our first offer in on this house early last September.

I guess moving is never easy.  Everything takes longer than anticipated and random inconveniences happen regularly.

Luckily, I have an accommodating family that let us camp there for quite awhile.  I’m too tired to write much else, but I thought I’d share some photos for a bit of a homestead update.  I hope to be back to writing more regularly soon.  Continue reading