Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Autumn Plants Speak...

Today I was sitting in the comfort of my partners room in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne after a nourishing weekend with Creative Collectives, as both facilitator and participant.

The rain started to pour heavy, and the icy fingers of winters coming started to dig into my flesh. I was concentrating on my Permaculture Design work I have been unable to do from the tiny house at the Simple Way Project, when someone emailed a video to me about Katrina Blair.

Something has been stirring in me for nearly a decade now, and is starting to grow stronger. As I approach my Saturn return, my biological clock starts to tick. Although it is now for a child... it is for land. For my own land. I do not mean this from an ownership perspective, I guess I mean it from a security perspective. I want to know I can wake up on that same piece of land for years and years to come, that I can plant nut trees and watch small children eat from them one day, that I can plant my medicinal garden and learn from the plants themselves, rather buying dried herbs in bulk....
With each year this yearning grows fiercer within me, and the breeze carries a whisper thats says... 'patience'.

Upon watching that video, sitting in a room in the city on my computer, I have to tell you I almost cried looking at Katrina's farm and hand-built house. I decided I was over sitting at a desk and if I were to feel better I needed to go to the teachers themselves; the plants.
So I braved the cold, putting on boots, wrapping a shawl around me and fetching my basket and trowel.
The wind pricked my cheeks as I trudged along the cement and gravel, the only signs of the rains purpose peeked out from cracks in the pavement, their green leaves reaching for the shielded sun, their roots using the rain to absorb plant nutrients made available by microorganisms.

I went to the community garden around the corner, the signs saying "Please take a look, not a veg". I thought I would assist them with a spot of 'weeding'. The garden was pretty tidy, and I could tell that no one was particularly tending to the weeds for harvest.
I only used trowel to loosen the soil and gravel around the roots, then I used my hands to sensually grasp the root, slippery with clay. This is my favourite part of harvesting the below ground parts in Autumn and Winter... getting messy and being patient to not break the root. This is one of the few things I do have patience for.



Returning home the kitchen was a storm, as it only took me 2 hours to convince myself my day was productive enough.

I had Malabar Spinach seeds, Hawthorn berries (or, Haws in fact), Dandelion leaves and roots, Purslane, Mallow leaves and Chestnuts (I had these in my car from another foraging trip).

First were the Spinach seeds- this variety of spinach is my favourite; a climbing annual with fleshy mucilaginous leaves and beautiful purple seed pods.
To save the seeds I squashed them in my fingers (nothing like getting messy to connect you to the Earth!), placed them in a jar with some water and let the flesh rise to the top and the heavier seeds fall to the bottom. I will then drain the pulp and dry the seeds.
The seed pods make an amazing purple dye, and wanting to take advantage of this I wiped the bench up with the only white thing I could find, a (clean) pair of underwear! Now I have some tie-dyed malabar spinach underwear!










Next I flowed, somehow ferociously, around the kitchen, grinding up Hawthorn berries to make a syrup that will aid anxiety and tonify the heart and arteries. An amazing fact about Hawthorn is that its flowers contain a compound called triethyamine, which is found in semen and vaginal secretions, and is also responsible for the smell of decaying flesh. When the flowers are in bloom they give off a more floral and pheromone-like aroma, where as when they start to wilt and die their smell changes to that of rotting meat. This may seem a little disgusting to some, but for me it really ties the seasons together, and shows how connected Hawthorn is to the process of birth and decay. Its flowers are in bloom during Beltaine (Oct 31st for the Southern Hemisphere), the pagan festival of fertility, love, sex and union, and the Haws show their plump red bodies in Autumn, starting to fade to a deeper blood red by the date of Samhain (May 1st for the Southern Hemisphere), which is the pagan festival of death, decay and introspection. Both these dates are said to be when the veils between worlds are at their thinnest, and were linked with faery magick.
You can see that Hawthorns story is in fact a little deeper than its actions and properties.





 Inspired by the video with Katrina Blair, I decided to make a Dandlion root Chai. Now, although I am currently part of a project which is exploring simple living, I took it upon myself to indulge in the use of a blender whilst in Melbourne. I cut the aerial parts (above ground parts) off the Dandelion and set them aside to make pesto, and washed and peeled the roots.
I placed the roots in a blender with cloves, cardamon, honey, hemp seeds, cinnamon and water. After blending I strained using a piece of muslin cloth, keeping the milk as a refreshing cool drink (not wanting to heat the hemp seeds and render some of the proteins useless) and then used the pulp to make a decoction (simmering the pulp in water, which draws out the constituents of the Dandelion root and makes a less creamy and more 'tea like' chai, rather than a milk).









Next was moving on to make a weed pesto; filled with Dandelion leaves, Mallow leaves, Purslane, Wild Rocket, Almonds, Olive Oil (fresh from David Arnold's Permaculture Farm), Cayenne, Lemon and Peppercorns.
This was also blended (When in Rome...?)





During this kitchen witch whirlwind I roasted the Chestnuts and made some toasted Paleo muesli for my partner, as well as my dinner for the night (Tasmanian Seaweed, Wild Weed Pesto, Tempeh and Greens). 
So, now I can go back to my designs, feeling as though I have connected with the Earth for the day and spent time with the plants which nourish and inspire me.

Its not the same as planting a nut tree on my home land, but it definitely helps.




Friday, 3 April 2015

Sacred Ecology Course


 Something very special has been in the making for a while now; the Sacred Ecology Course.
A collaboration between myself and the epic Claire Dunn, author of My Year Without Matches. This course is a fusion of Primitive Living and Permaculture Skills and Awareness, to help people reconnect with Nature and learn how to exist as part of an Ecology.


A seasonal exploration of the elements; Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Spirit, each season we will be spending a weekend immersed in Nature, learning, observing, using ritual and developing skills to deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

This course is based on Starhawks book The Earth Path, which each participant will receive a copy of as a kind of textbook. Participants also receive their own small handbound journal, to record their journey through the elements.

I have been visioning this for a long time, ever since I was 15 and read Starhawks book, and I am so happy to be making it a reality, and joining forces with a women like Claire to provide a course like no other.

I look forward to the journey with you- may we start the process I call remembering.
 



The first seasons focus will be on the Element of Fire, where we will be learning skills such as Primitive Fire making, Fire Vegetation, Winter Medicine, Rocket Stoves and Spoon Carving around the Fire, as well as many nature observation exercises and Ritual that will connect us with our internal Passion and Fire.





For Bookings click HERE.