I collected a bouquet from the garden in the mountains, a place we have worked on collectively for a while now.
This place is a collaborative project and the work is on going. Here is one day, a family work day, with the help of my sister & dad collecting rocks, my mom using power tools, and myself enjoying the scent of these medicinal flowers.
In this tarot deck, Yarrow, which represents the Ace of Air also stands for affirming limits & boundaries.
Only recently I began thinking of this place as a forest. Previously it seemed to be just a forgotten corner of the farm where we are caretakers.
Now as I walk the trails we maintain I see that so many other animals benefit from them too. Our cats, of course, love to run around on the trials but so do wild (& rare) wild deer that I have only been able to catch glimpses of, guinea pigs, snakes and birds too.
Today I went out foraging for plants for my garden project – aloe vera and an ornamental purple plant called wandering dude.
Sitting on the ground and digging around I see that this “forgotten” corner of the land is full of life.
Between the invasive plants and fruit trees planted by generations past has become a natural nursery for wild herbs and native saplings – a forest of diversity for the future.
The autumn equinox has passed and was celebrated during many days along with my partner’s birthday on the 25th. In the garden the summer fruits like cucumber and tomato are in their last weeks while the leafy greens are being seeded for fall and winter to come.
Basil, lemon balm, and marigolds are all going strong and keeping the garden landscape beautiful during this transitional time. All around the garden in the surrounding hedge rows the trees are turning yellow and loosing their leaves. The sun has changed course and every day is at more of an angle which makes for interesting lighting and photography opportunities.
Reading List ::
As the morning sun is slowly making his way over the mountains, I am spending these chilly first hours each day with a cup of tea, often a cat (or two, or three) nearby, and a book as I continue on in my studies. I wanted to share my herbalist reading list with you all::
– Planetary Herbalism by Michael Tierra — my fav. herbal reference book ever! I go to this book again & again to check out remedies for symptoms as well as research new herbs. There are no pictures in this book, so it isnt for identifying. But what I do love about it is that this book ties western herbalism in with Traditional Chinese herbalism as well as Ayurveda. I found it via thrift books.
– del Cuerpos a las Raíces by Pabla Perez & others — this book is a bit eclectic and was originally published as a zine years ago. It contains stories, interviews, and herbal profiles about medicinal plants common all over & local to Chile. In some ways it is an ethnographical study of herbalism in rural Chile, in other ways it is quite a radical perspective of rural ladies using their herbs and their powers to heal themselves.
– Botànica Oculta : Las Plantas Mágicas — my honey gifted me this book for the New Year and it is quite fascinating. Both magical and medicinal properties are listed for each herb as well as a bit of theory about plant alchemy which is a subject I am just starting to dive into. This book is available in English & many other languages too!!
5 weeks in my hometown went by so quickly! I feel there is so much left to do. But, maybe this is normal for all gardeners and those who work on projects that will take years, or decades to be completed.
And the work days on Rabbit Ridge::
This year my family bought a few acres of land in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. Back in summer I visited the land for the first time and this trip we focused on a few key projects in what will someday be a food forest and cabin.
Like so many projects I write about on this blog, this project is a work in progress and will possibly never be completely finished. I wonder if it is even possible for a food forest to be completed as the objective is to create a living and evolving ecosystem. This is all to say that this post is … to be continued!
I have been blessed to have had the chance to be a part of two food forests in the past few years. One of them, the forest garden I will focus on for this blog post, is a collaborative garden in my parent’s backyard. Over the years my mom and I have planted a small medicinal garden and orchard in this suburban setting. It is our familial food forest and a constant project with no clear end.
I call it a food forest or a front yard – backyard garden but we certainly don’t grow all of the food we need in this space, no way! We started gardening in this suburban yard three years ago, we’ve planted fruit trees, herbs, and tended to the trees already going here and have lots of plans for future additions.
The previous owners composted, planted roses and installed a creative rainwater encashment system that diverts all the rainwater from the roof directly into the soil instead of the sewer as most homes in the area were designed to do. All of these remains and two greywater systems have also been added to the water-wise landscaping. More than anything we have planted and seeded perennials, both native and adapted plants to green the landscape, provide shade for humans, shelter for animals and medicinal that we use in many ways.
The success of this garden, as with any garden, depends on working with the landscape, adapting to the conditions of hte climate & making small, thoughtful changes. Not all gardener’s work in this fashion, others may prefer to destroy everything, plow, flatten, and begin with a fresh (though desolate) slate. But that wouldn’t be forest gardening.
Forests grow in layers, by building upon what is already there. Forest grow out of the compost of fallen logs and leaves. The soil at a forest’s floor is plowed by insects, birds and mammals who bury seeds for later. Humans are seed burying creatures too and can be an integral membr of the forest (or garden) too, if we choose to be. Learning how to be a part of a garden, instead of master of the garde, is a life ong learning experience.
For both my Mom and I the lessons of tending to this garden have been unique. My mom has learned to live with the sometimes untidy look of a well mulched garden and the transition from a purely ornamental to a functional, medicinal space. Many decorative plants remain and that has been my personal challenge, to learn to appreciate ornamental plants that have no culinary or medicinal use. With time I’ve come to appreciate that decoration and beauty are medicine for the eyes and soul. I’ve learned that any garden design must include beautiful flowers and foliage in amongst the medicinal and edibles.
Of course there are many edible, medicinal flowers like nasturtium, lavender, roses, calendula and much more. And even non-edible flowers like hydrangeas have a climate enhancing effect when planted in a garden. Most flowers are useful in flower arrangements. Bouquets make a thoughtful gift and the production of organic cut flowers has been a positive side-gig for many gardeners over the centuries.