Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Medicinal Gardening Workshop

March 5th - 6th 2016

It seems bizarre to me to learn about plants through only the medium of books, the internet and bottles of liquid extracts. During my time studying Natropathy at university when I was 18, I found that what I thought would be a wild and luscious journey through the thick wisdom of my ancestors, was reduced to a strict, white walled, stale and academic grind. Don't get me wrong, I love learning, I love delving into the intricacies of biochemistry, and learning the complexity of anatomy, but what worried me was that Holistic medicine was not being taught holistically... there was no connectivity.
I was essentially expressing my skills in pharmacology, I was giving medicine in the form of potent constituents, straight from a bottle.... no idea of the essence.

I wanted to touch the plants! Taste them! Smell them! Feel them! I wanted to see a beautiful garden and witness plant to potion! It alluded me that, just like our food, as a society we had no idea what our medicinal plants looked like.
My interest in the natural world kept growing like the plants themselves, and I took a new wild journey down an old stone path... I came to meet Permaculture. Through this modern movement of ancient thought, strategy and wisdom, I was able to focus my mind on the growing and my hands on the sowing.

My love of Herbalism stayed alive, although at times it would sink deeper into my veins, not because I didn't care, but because I didn't have the blood to donate to everything at once...

Through Permaculture I realised what I wanted to offer the world: Education.
I set to work studying, learning, experiencing... and now I facilitate learning.
I now create the workshops I wish existed in Australia.
I think of the wild, magickal, lush and whimsical atmosphere I wanted to open the doors to when I started my Herbal studies.... and I try and create it.

Welcome to my Garden.




On the sweltering weekend of March 5th 2016, I woke up at Agari Permaculture Farm, ready to take a group of wide-eyed individuals on a Grassroots herbal adventure!

The first day consisted of getting our hands in the dirt and creating a Medicinal garden for Agari Farm, and the second day was spent making delicious hand-made medicines!
In between we explored Botany, Taxonomy, Herbal constituents and properties, as well as some Permaculture design themes.


Our days were broken up by late-afternoon swimming at the nearest water hole, as it was 38 and 39 degrees Celsius that weekend. Luckily, we stayed hydrated with coconut water, swam and rested in the heat of the day, enjoyed refreshing lavender and chamomile face mist and kept ourselves running on pure enthusiasm!


The first question I asked myself when designing this workshop was "How do I enable people to design a Medicinal Herb garden from scratch, with no gardening or herbal experience?"
You see, I didn't want it to be MY garden- I didn't want to hand people something I had designed, give them some pots and say "there you go, plant it... there!.. no, no, not there... a little... yep, there! you got it! Thanks!"
People learn through doing, thinking for themselves and being involved. I wanted it to be our garden. Our collective garden that we had all thought up, dreamed up and created together.
So, I made cute little colourful Herb cards, each card dedicated to a particular plant, with the information; name, family, cultivation, origin, identification, description, root structure, height, width, constituents, properties and contraindications.
Participants were divided into groups, and each group got 5 Herb cards. Using the information on these cards, the group had to design these plants into the bed, considering the height, width, cultivation, root system and native habitat in their planning.

The bed had been pre-prepared with manure ands straw, and we layer out stepping stones in a beautiful radial pattern. The plants had been purchased from mud brick cottage herb farm, and after we reviewed each groups planting design, modifying where appropriate, we started to dig in before the extreme heat of the day set in.

Rosemary, Sage, Licorice, Elecampagne, Evening Primrose, Santolina, Calamus, Lavender, Thyme, Rue, Sea Holly and Mullien, to name a few...



After wading in the water that day, we sat by the bank, basking in the mottled sunlight peering through the foliage of the eucalyptus trees overhead, and had a sweet little botany lesson by the river.


The weekend was catered by Agari Farms Dani-Wolf, who creates delicious nutrient dense foods, with a focus on using food as medicine.


Participants camped under the stars, waking to the sounds of the chickens and cows, the crows and cockatoos, the wind and the deep hum of the Earth...


The Sunday had us making our plant potions, and after a lesson of constituents and properties, there was an exercise in making medicines for common ailments.
The afternoon was spent medicine making, everyone huddled in the Earthy cob community building, mortar and pestles grinding, measuring and pouring, chopping, weighing, making labels and chatting wholesomely.



The medicines that participants made to take home with them were:
Autumn Chest Salve: Beeswax, infused oil, Thyme, Eucalyptus and Sage.
Restorative Elixir: Hawthorn, Oatstraw, Rosehips, Red Clover, Skullcap, Ashwaganda and Maple syrup.
Digestive Bitters: Lavender, White Sage, Orange Peel, Calamus, Cardamom, Clove, Cinnamon and Gentain.


I am grateful for my journey.... it lead me to all these people! These people that share a common thread, a desire to really know plants, to listen to them, understand them, know them like you would a friend. These people that support my work, support me on my adventure of sharing, creating atmospheres and spaces of deep nourishment, enjoyment and comfort.


And the journey continues...
The Garden grows.