Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving, Day of Mourning, Ferguson, Black Friday, and supporting ourselves through these times

I've been thinking ahead to next week and the events taking place.  This time of harvest, feasts, and grief.  Here in Vermont, US the leaves have turned their fiery autumn colors and fallen.  Now it's the snow's turn to fall.  Halloween, Samhain, and Dia de los Muertos have passed and though we may have taken down our personal and community altars, we may be holding our ancestors and other loved ones who have passed a little closer to us than at other times of the year. 

Like in years past, next Thursday many families will be gathering from near and far to feast together on local/traditional foods.  Many will be observing this day as the National Day of Mourningorganized by the United American Indians of New England, there at the event in Plymouth, MA, and attending the potluck after, or in spirit from wherever we may be.  The next day, only one day after giving thanks for all that we have and/or for mourning the generations of racism and genocide that have poisoned this land,  hordes will push and shove and grab (but hopefully this year not trample to death and added to the lives lost from the mayhem of previous Black Friday) to buy stuff.  Stuff probably made in sweatshops and sold at stores owned by corporations that refuse to pay their workers a living wage, while making gazillions of dollars and not paying a cent in taxes.  Others will be gathering in front of said stores celebrating Buy Nothing Day, in support of said workers and protesting said corporations  and the vicious cycle of capitalism (devaluing workers, buying elections, destroying the environment, etc).

This year, Ferguson and communities all over the US also await the verdict to see if the police will finally be held accountable, or if yet another white officer walks free after murdering a person of color.  Events are planned all over the country.   In Mexico, our compaNer@s continue the search for their loved ones in Guerrero.  Elsewhere, and all over the world, people are organizing for justice too.  

There's so much to celebrate and so much to grieve.  And it's so important to come together in these times to support and feed one another.  Figuratively and literally.

However we pass this coming week, may it at least in part be a time to remember the foundation of the US - genocide, racism, stolen land, slavery, exploited labor - and to recommit ourselves to working for justice, in solidarity across lines of color, gender, nationality, ability, age, class, etc.  And for those of us born into privilege, may we reflect on how these dynamics still play out and how we contribute to them.  (This time of year is one of retrospection about my ancestry, being a descendant of two who came over on the Mayflower and enslaved the indigenous peoples upon arrival, setting up a precedence for violent racism, land theft, and (Northern!) slavery that white people still benefit from today.  Being at the Day of Mourning at the site of their arrival felt like it was part of healing some ancestral wounds.)  May we take the lead from the communities most impacted by injustice, and recommit ourselves to unlearning the racism, white supremacy, and other forms of oppression that seek to divide us.  May we speak up both during mainstream Thanksgiving white-washing of history and in our daily lives in general when indigenous people are ignored, made silent, made fun of, disrespected, depicted in degrading/cartoonish/dehumanizing ways, and invaded - both literally on their land, like at Black Mesa, and also their sacred cultural practices ~ plant medicine traditions, healing practices, and sacred ceremonial objects.

As we wait, feast, grieve, protest, and organize, may we call on the plants and the ancestors to support us in these times.  Here are some ways that we can practice self-care and collective-care, in solitude or in community.  For clarity: these are not shoulds!  These are suggestions intended to be supportive.  These are notes to myself too, for when I forget.

Take time to make tea with nourishing and relaxing herbs like Milky Oat Tops, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Tulsi (Holy Basil), Skullcap, and a pinch of Rose petals and Lavender flowers.  Many of these herbs not only calm the body, they also help heal the heart, support digestion, and lift our spirits.   You can get boxed tea, but if possible make your own tea blend where you can see the leaves and flowers and roots.  This is part of the medicine.  Add some honey if you need some sweetness.

Prepare an herbal bath or foot bath ~ sometimes a messy herbal/floral bath is just what we're needing, where every part of our beautiful bodies is bathed with bits of flower petals, leaves, and evergreen needles.  Directions here for an herbal bath in a tub or shower.  Also, a foot bath draws stress and zingy energy that can keep us from sleeping well, and sends it away with the bathwater.  Giving myself a mini-foot massage with cream as I begin and end my day always makes me feel both relaxed and grounded.

Eat nourishing foods as a form of medicine what makes your body feel good, both when you're eating and afterwards.  For me it's chicken and rice noodles and sweet potatoes and greens and baked apples.  My body just says yes! when I eat these.  What does your body say yes too?  What has your body been craving lately?  Also, taking bitters supports our livers which work so dang hard, and help us to digest and absorb the nutrients from all that good, nourishing food.

Massage our bodies with oils to ground and relax us  with olive, grapeseed, coconut, sunflower, sesame oils.  See what kind feels good on your skin.  And there's no need to go buy some expensive body oil.  If you have these unrefined oils in your home for cooking, use 'em on your skin!  Remember, our skin is our largest organ and it's best not to put on our skin anything we wouldn't put in our bodies.  You can add a few drops of essential oils, or infuse your oils with herbs if you like, but just plain oil can feel sooo good too!  My favorite is a blend of coconut and sesame (untoasted, and infused with chamomile flowers!) oils.

Burn candles, herbs, and incense or spray floral waters to shift the energy of our physical space

Participate/Don't  If joining up with others for a Day of Mourning or anti-racism/police violence event will feed your spirit, do it!  If you're feeling a bit (or a lot) burnt out and need some rest and relaxation, do it!  We can't be everywhere all the time and events aren't just about having a body count.  If we're going to be drained from attending, maybe our time would be better passed doing some of the nurturing things on this list.  Or hunting or finger painting or whatever you feel like.  It's about being in it for the long haul, not pushing ourselves to physically be at every event.  That said, it can be really encouraging and inspiring to share space with others who are passionate about social justice, and just feel all the range of emotions we're feeling, with collective witness to the pain of injustice.  You make the call and just know that you made a conscious, self-care-y decision. 

Fill out your In Case of (emotional) Emergency Form a self-care/community-care form to fill out when you’re feeling grounded, supported, calm, inspired, etc. To read when you’re not.  You can find it here.

Unplug while I'm a big fan of the people's media and keeping informed, it's also easy to get overstimulated and overwhelmed in a way that depletes, rather than feeds and inspires, us.  Check in with yourself, are you present in your body and choosing what you let into your space or are you going on auto-pilot and getting bombarded with information and images?  Take some time to unplug.  Turn off the phone, computer, radio, whatever gadget is demanding your attention.  And do some of the practices listed above, if they sound good to you.

sweet, vanilla-like Chamomile tea

Dandelioness Herbals also creates remedies to offer physical and emotional support within a culture of self-care and collective-care.  While you can enjoy these remedies at home, they are also convenient for bringing with you to rallies, gatherings, potlucks, when traveling, and wherever else you may go, when you may not be able to make tea, prepare a footbath, and do other self-care practices .  Relaxation in a Bottle,  Calm the Rage, Heart Elixir,  Relaxing Bitters,  Stay Ready,  Mercury's In Retrograde, Again?!, Yarrow Flower Essence for clear and strong boundaries, and others.  I'm happy to make a custom blend that is especially for you, where you're at, and what you're dealing with and focusing on.

May we transform next week and this season into an opportunity for healing and growth and renewed solidarity.

Photos by Dana L Woodruff/Dandelioness Herbals, from the top:  a wee bowl of Chamomile; Chamomile and Lavender harvest; basket of Lemon Balm; Milky Oat harvest;  Evergreen-Rose foot bath for the People's Spa; Make-it-as-we-go-along personalized Relaxation in a Bottle tincture and flower-infused oils for self-massage before bed/bathing from the Community Self-Care: Nourishing our Nervous Systems for the Long Haul workshop series; bee coming in for a Tulsi/Holy Basil landing; gathering Rose pollen; Yarrow for strong boundaries; and Chamomile tea.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Autumn Herbal Abundance for Community Health Projects!

As the seasons shift from summer to autumn, many feel our lives change in big and small ways.  Many of us get much more specific about temperatures (but it is going to dip down below 30° tonight or will it just be a light frost?!) and live amidst a harvest explosion - medicinal herbs hanging from drying racks and makeshift lines across the living room; filling all the Mason jars in the house with tinctures and elixirs and infused oils and vinegars and tomatoes and...; navigating around pots of basil and other frost-sensitive plants and baskets of herbs and vegetables and apples brought in from the cold.

There are many ways to preserve the harvest - canning and pickling and drying and fermenting and freezing.  We cannot possibly gather all the fruit and vegetables and herbs that grow both wild and in gardens this time of year.  We have to decide.  We have to let some things freeze, some things rot.  We have to let go.  And choose what we focus on.  Growing up in New England, I think it's in my bones to always be thinking about preserving food and medicine for the months when all is buried beneath ice and snow, or at least the cold.  It brings a great sense of security when the cupboards and fridge is full of food and when the apothecary is full of medicine.  And while this survival mode may be deep-rooted, so is the drive to share the harvest.  

This summer has been liberating - leaving flowers unharvested for the pollinators to enjoy.  Focusing on the remedies I love to make and share.  Making the medicines I love most for my loved ones, my business, and myself.  I also love to collaborate and make spontaneous medicine with others - creating blends that otherwise would not exist because of the people who come together and the ideas and medicinal plants and ingredients shared.  This makes 
strong medicine.  And an important part of making medicine as a community is to share the medicine with the community.  Making herbal remedies for community health projects helps support vital work that many grassroots organizations are doing both near and far.  I love to send remedies not only for those being served, but also the grassroots community organizers, herbalists, nurses, street medics, etc, that are giving care, to help sustain not only their work, but their physical and emotional health and the health of the collective.

Lately I've been focusing on making remedies to send to No More Deaths/No Más Muertes, a humanitarian aid organization providing food, water, and first aid care to those crossing the desert from Mexico into Arizona.  I made a soothing massage balm to promote restful sleep and protection from nightmares following traumatic events (ie detention, deportation).  I went to a local high school to make herbal lip balm with a student as part of their independent studies.  In the Community Self-Care: Nourishing our Nervous Systems for the Long Haul series we all made relaxing muscle rub to bring home, and a bunch more to send to NMD.  And next week, Sandra Lory of Mandala Botanicals and I are co-facilitating a No More Deaths Herbal Medicine-Making Session & Mapping our Ancestry Activity.  We’ll explore (im)migration, both past and present - including our own ancestries, through an engaging mapping activity. Then together we'll create an herbal salve/lip balm together for everyone to take home, as well as to send to No More Deaths/No Más Muertes.  For more info please see (Im)migration and Lip Balms for Social Justice?!  

With all these medicine-making sessions, the bundle of remedies to send to the desert is growing!  If you're interested in supporting herbal medicine-making for No More Deaths, but can't make it to the event, or you'd like to donare supplies (containers, infused oils, beeswax, essential oils, and others, or money to parchase them) please be in touch:  

Here are some images of lip balms, salves, tinctures, and teas sent to No More Deaths/No Más Muertes in the past.

Labels in English (same remedies with two labels)
Labels in Spanish (same remedies with two labels)

Next weekend, as we send off the remedies to send to the border, there will be a fabulous
Feel Good, Look Good Spaahh! : Remedios Fundraiser! 
Sat Oct 4th 11am-5pm (doors close at 4pm)  
Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism 252 Main St, Montpelier, Vermont  
Treat yourself in solidarity!   Support grassroot herbal remedies for the migrant farm worker community in VT. Come enjoy Massage, Footbaths, Tarot reading, Herbal Teas, Flower Essences, Cupping, Facials, and Haircuts!   Remedios VT is a solidarity-not-charity project getting seedlings and herbal remedies to members of the migrant farm worker community in VT. (Want to support Remedios, but can't join us for the event? You can contact/send a Paypal donation to: Thanks! Gracias! )  

Also, the Stone Cabin Collective is organizing their biannual free clinic for the community members at Black Mesa, resisting colonization, racismo, and forced relocation by the US government and Peabody Coal Co. (more info about the resistance here)  If you have the following dried herbs to donate, please contact: Danny at  Guidelines for donations (how to harvest/dry/package, etc) are listed here

Top needs (all as dried herbs):  *=chopped or powdered

American Ginseng, Ashwagandha*, Astragalus, Bilberry/blueberry lf and berry, Black Cohosh/Black haw/Crampbark/Wild yam, Calendula, Chamomile, Dandelion rt., Echinacea, Elecampane, Eleuthero*, Ginger chopped, Ginkgo, Gotu Kola, Hawthorn (berries, leaf and flower), Lemon balm, Licorice, Linden, Marshmallow root*, Meadowsweet, Milk thistle, Nettle, Oat tops, Oatstraw, Osha, Passionflower, Pedicularis, Reishi poder, Roses, Schizandra, Shatavari*, Skullcap, Turmeric, Violet

Additional Requests

Blue vervain, California poppy, Cardammom pods and powder, Catnip, Chaparral, Codonopsis, Comfrey rt, Corn silk, Corydalis, Damiana, Devil's Claw, Devil's Club, Eyebright, Fenugreek, Ginger poder, Hawthorn poder, Orange peel, Pleurisy root, Prickly ash, Red llover, Rehmannia, Rosemary, Self-heal, St. Johnswort, Stachys, White peony, Willow bark

Happy harvesting and medicine making!  And feel free to leave comments below about collaborations for herbal support of community health projects and grassroots community organizations!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Late Summer Dandelioness Herbals Community Health Update

Happy Late Summer!  I love this time of year, with all the abundant harvests of food and medicine.  Sorting through what we want to and can accomplish, and letting go of the rest.  Trusting that what we haven't harvested ourselves will be gathered by others in the community who we can trade with or buy from.  It feels like an exhale, especially once the first hard frosts arrives - what's done is done.

While the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer, we may feel anxiety about moving  into the colder months.  With back to school time, autumn approaching, the leaves changing, moving into the time of honoring our ancestors, there's a lot of transition all around us.   And there are events in our communities and beyond to both celebrate and mourn.  The people of Palestine, communities of color in the US, and many other communities are under attack.  And all over the world people are organizing within their communities and beyond to work for justice.

Just today, allies across Vermont gathered names and went to local and state law enforcement to build on the work of those standing up in Ferguson, Missouri and the ongoing work of Migrant Justice and other grassroots organizations calling for police accountability and an end to racial profiling.

Movements for Justice and herbal remedies and education are completely interconnected and can deeply nourish each other.  This past week herbalists in C.VT sent herbal remedies to those participating in the Black Life Matters Ride.  As we harvest from garden plots, fields, and forests, may we share the abundance with community health projects/clinics and organizations near and far doing the day to day work to bring about true change in a sustainable way. 

 Donation from Central Vermont herbalists for the Black Life Matters Ride to Ferguson, MO. Black Lives Matter!

What's New & Save-The-Dates

-Community Self-Care: Nourishing our Nervous Systems for the Long Haul 

three-week work/play  Thurs evenings Sept 11th, 18th, 25th 5:30-8pm at the Fire Dept in Plainfield, VT. More info below. 

-Plainfield Farmers Market every Friday 4-7pm until Oct in the village.  More info here. Dandelioness Herbals vends most weeks, bringing herbal elixirs, salves, and some special treats not available on the online shop, such as aphrodisiacs, Kitties for Equality! catnip and valerian double trouble cat toys, and crocheted Roses.  Custom orders can be brought to market for pickup.

-Spa Fundraiser for Remedios   Sat Oct 4th 11-5pm, doors close at 4pm, Montpelier more info below

Dandelioness Herbals Blog

Check out my (Mis)Adventures in Container Gardening: Creative Growing & Herbal Disasters!

And it's that time of year again!  My friend from Wake Robin Botanicals and I just brewed up an amazing, spontaneous, nourishing syrup with roots & mushrooms & flowers & leaves.  Wanna make your own syrup for immune support, to build your iron, to get the tonic herbs
 you want to take daily?  Check out Elderberry (and other) Syrup Recipes

Dandelioness Herbals Facebook Page

With the gorgeous growing season in full-swing, I love to photograph medicinal plants - trees, herbs, flowers.  You can check out photos in these two new albums, which you don't have to be part of Facebooklandia to view!
In the Garden - I've been really noticing the admiring the pollinators this season...
Plant Besties - I love the plants that grow and thrive together as buddies!
Plant Walks! - Photos from plants walks out and about, in the woods and in town.

Dandelioness Herbals Online Etsy Shop
-Elderberry Ginger, whole Echinacea, & Tulsi Elixir Immune Health Trio  Three Dandelioness Herbals tinctures/elixirs perfect for back to school time, the change of seasons, and anytime you need some immune health support. Stock up for the colder months or share with friends and loved ones when they're feeling under the weather! 

-Stay Ready! nourishing elixir for thoughtful clarity helps us keep on top of our game, supports us through deadlines and actions, and helps us integrate information and experiences.  Great gift for students, community organizers, writers, and those who move between worlds and communities, cross-pollinating and building bridges in the spirit of solidarity.  Also available in the Green Tech: Herbal Support Kit for Students, Activists/Organizers, & Writers kit 

-Relaxation in a Bottle Choose Your Own Custom Tincture /Elixir to Relieve Stress.

New Class!

Community Self-Care: Nourishing our Nervous Systems for the Long Haul
Three Thursdays, Sept 11th, 18th, & 25th, 2014 5:30-8pm.  Plainfield Fire Department, Plainfield, VT

Feeling frazzled? Wound up? Burnt out?  Come replenish and rejuvenate in this 3-week work/playshop. We will nourish our nervous systems with simple (and free/affordable) self-care practices and make calming remedies collectively to bring home and share with our loved ones and communities. Each class will focus on three common abundant herbs that grow here, either in the wild or in the garden.

This is a hands-on class with lots of show and tell (& taste and tell!) and learning directly from the plants. And each other. We will focus on practical ways that we can integrate relaxing herbs both internally and externally into our everyday lives. While created with caregivers, gardeners, and community organizers in mind, all experience levels and backgrounds are welcome.

Space is limited. Please pre-register by contacting or 802-454-0102.  Accessibility: There are 3 steps in front of the building and 4 steps inside.

The 3-week series is $45-90 sliding scale ($15-30 per class, according to what you are able to pay). If you’re interested in participating, but the cost is out of reach, please be in touch. Please be in touch with any questions.  Facebook event page here.  

Feel Good, Look Good Spaahh! : Remedios Fundraiser!

Sat Oct 4th 11am-5pm (doors close at 4pm)
Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism, 252 Main St, Montpelier, Vermont 05602

Treat yourself in solidarity! 

Support grassroot herbal remedies for the migrant farm worker community in VT. Come to the Feel Good, Look Good Spaahhh with Massage, Footbaths, Tarot reading, Herbal Teas, Flower Essences, Cupping, Facials, and Haircuts!

Remedios VT is a solidarity-not-charity project getting seedlings and herbal remedies to members of the migrant farm worker community in VT.
(Want to support Remedios, but can't join us for the event? You can contact/send a Paypal donation to: Thanks! Gracias! )

Facebook event page here.

More updates about this event and others will be added to the Dandelioness Herbals blog's Workshop and Events Calender and Facebook page.

If you would like to receive Dandelioness Herbal community health updates via email, please sign up on the blog's home page or email

Photos from the top: 
1. Late summer harvest!  With Red Raspberry leaf, Goldenrod, Yarrow, Blueberries, and St. Johnswort.   2. St. Johnswort oil for No More Deaths/No Más Muertes turns into Yarrow, Chamomile, Goldenrod, St. J oil for sore muscles, bruises, and minor wounds. 3. + 4.  Donation from Central VT herbalists for the Black Life Matters Ride to Ferguson, MO.  5. Crocheted Roses  6. Kitties for Equality! catnip and valerian double trouble cat toys    7.  Elderberry Ginger, whole Echinacea, & Tulsi Elixir Immune Health Trio  8. Plant Besties: Calendula & Heartsease Pansy/Johnny-Jump-Up  9. Abundant harvest. Red Raspberry, Lavender, Lavender Bee Balm, Sage, Yarrow, Goldenrod, and Chamomile.   10. Check out those pollen-icious saddlebags! 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

(Mis)Adventures in Container Gardening: Creative Growing & Herbal Disasters

My most recent trip to Ireland really inspired me to explore container gardens.  In previous years I'd been blessed with access to home gardens and/or a community garden plot, being able to plant directly in the ground.  However I had to move during the growing season that year and was sad about my community garden plot being far enough away that I often did not get there for many days at a time.   Also, not having that daily checking-in on the plants I was cultivating felt ungrounding, especially during housing transition.

It's said that the best fertilizer is the farmer's footsteps.  And weather you start plants from seeds or they come to you bigger, being able to witness their day to day growth is really special and a true education that can't be taught in a classroom or through books.  (Not to mention how much easier tending/weeding is when it can be done little by little, rather than during marathon gardening sessions that can feel overwhelming!)  Witnessing my friends' creativity while visiting them in Ireland inspired me to begin a container garden on my balcony upon my return, so that whenever I finally found my next home*space, I could bring my beloved plants with me.

I've documented some of the creative ideas, thriving plants, and botanical disasters for our viewing pleasures.  I will probably continue adding tips, lessons, and photos to this post, so feel free to check in on it again later and/or share comments below. 

Disclaimer:  I am not a "master" gardener.  (I wince at the historically loaded term "master" and would never claim to be an authority in that way, especially in terms plants, as I expect to spend my whole lifetime getting to know them better.)  I am a plant-lover that has a tendency to wing it and am a perpetual optimist, encouraging others that it's not to late to transplant seedlings well into the summer, etc.  I believe in working with what you've got, DIY/DIT (do-it-yourself/do-it-together)-style and on the cheap.  I plant with care and say "good luck to you" to the seed(ling)s I sow, give them good compost, water, and sometimes brews of chamomile or seaweed, but rarely do I coddle them at all.    Check out some books in your local library/bookshop or online resources if you're interested in creating raised beds that are accessible for folks with physical limitations, vertical herb gardens, and more!

In Ireland:

Left: Sunflowers growing from a basket-container in an outdoor space converted into a pantry/growing space.  Note the gorgeous design of the glass in the door!  Love those.
Right: A set of drawers converted into a garden for Calendula and other plants.  Covered with plastic mesh to keep out lil critters.  Both photos from Kinvarra, Co.Galway.

Above: Container gardens at a hotel in Limerick, designed by my friend Val.  Check out her food blog Val's Kitchen.

Val's amazing container garden- Transforming a wee space into a home for lots of food.

More Val's garden: using vertical space to grow lots of plants.  Love this paddle with notches that she got at the farmer's market - holding 4 pots of strawberry plants.

Above: Val's window gardens.

Above:  Vibrant azul/azure pots of greens, flowers, scallions, and more by the sea in Cork.

And back across the pond to the States:

Above:  So when I returned, I gathered some pots and started growing on the porch!  Looking for pots?  Check with local landscapers, the recycle center/dump, put a note up at work or around your neighborhood, let your friends know, etc.  A lot of people are happy to pass containers on!  Also, sometimes you can find them up for grabs on the side of the road or at yard sales, or you can create holes in the bottom of yogurt containers and such.  No need to go and spend lots of money buying new containers.  While in general I prefer natural materials, I prefer plastic containers over clay pots for plants, as they hold water better and require less watering.

Have you seen those mini-greenhouse?!  I was given one.  And then...

...this happen.  I went to the hardware store for a few minutes and when I returned, the seedlings I'd just planted were like this.  If your intuition doubts the plastic joints holding it all together, listen to it!

Then that same day, I found a big, low, sturdy table for free on the side of the road.  Planting the seedlings, Take 2!  Actually, when the mini-greenhouse collapsed all but two of the containers miraculously stayed in tact, so I apologized to the seeds for their rough start and moved them to their safer location.

Above: Trellising the peas.  Wait, what's growing in the peas?!  Oh, dang it!  Lesson learned: if you put your containers under the bird feeder, things such as this can happen.  Especially if the primary visitors are grackles that only seem to want the black sunflower seed and send all other seeds down into said containers.  Overall, germination for the seeds I planted was great.  Germination for the seeds that the grackles planted was outstanding!

Above:  Whether planting in containers, or a garden in the ground, I like putting the plants that you're going to be harvesting closer to you/the kitchen and making them easier to get to.  ie. In a garden, there are certain crops that are generally harvested once or just a few times throughout the season (Corn, Garlic, Pole Beans, Winter Squash), while there are others that are harvested much more often (Chamomile, Cilantro, Greens).  Also, I've found that even if there is a whole row of Basil in the garden not so far away, having a pot of Basil right close on my porch or walkway means I'll harvest it more often and enjoy my summer more.

Above:  I thought that perhaps the popsicle-stick fortress I constructed for the Catnip plant would protect it from the neighborhood kitties.  I was wrong.  However, a friend successfully grew Catnip in their garden by surrounding it with prickly Milk Thistle plants, keeping both of her two cats out.  When I planted two Catnip plants in a home garden, I successfully communicated to the neighbor cat that one was for him.  The other was for me.  I pointed and explained over and over one day.  After that day, I would find "his" Catnip covered in his golden and white hairs and well-loved (read: crushed, and perpetually bouncing back).  Mine was left to grow and for me to harvest.  Thanks, kitty.

Above:  I usually prefer growing edible/medicinal plants because they are so versatile and beautiful, but near to houses that may have lead paint, I prefer to grow flowers.  Just for pretty.  Or spiritual protection.  Or to use in foot baths.  Or for the butterflies and bees to enjoy.  I think it's also good medicine for workaholic, efficiency-oriented people to welcome some just-for-the-beauty-of-it-in-the-present-moment into our lives.

Light:  Note the leeeeeeeaning-over Sunflower.  The plants in my front yard receive very little sun.  I have wanted Marigolds, Zinnias, and other sun-loving plants nearby, so I've planted them there.  Some of them, the Sunflowers in particular, have not thrived in those conditions.   Over the years, seeds and transplants have found their way into the soil and now the beds hold Alchemilla (Lady's Mantle), Yarrow, and Feverfew, all plants that can handle some shade.  While we can build the soil and make other changes to accommodate the plants we want in a certain place, I think there's a powerful lesson in strategy/energy in learning to work with the conditions that exist (soil, light, rainfall, etc) and find the plants that you love that will thrive there.  I could have a whole row of leaning-over-almost-touching-the-ground Sunflowers, or I can have a thriving patch of Yarrow, blessing my home*space with its protective energy.  I could plant Zinnias and Cleomes, which usually become leggy for lack of sun, or I could appreciate the lush, early-spring Alchemilla (Lady's Mantle) leaves unfurling and the silvery, transformative dew drops that gather in them.

Space: What do you have for growing space - a Walkway?  Fire escape?  Yard?  Fence?  Notice what you have around you (or would like to create), and investigate what could grow there.  Morning glories could cover your side of the fence and reseeds itself year after year.  Tulsi/Sacred Basil and other types of Basils do well in containers and provide incredibly flavorful food and medicine through the growing season.  The plant I have grown since I was a teen, even if I had only a tiny patch of ground or a few containers is Calendula.  Calendula blossoms are food, medicine, and beautyfull.  (The seeds are sometimes available in my online shop here.)  You don't need to have a million plants or tons of space or have to buy all kinds of composts and minerals, focus on what you love and what you've got and nourish that!

Above:  I love that in my village there are guerrilla gardening faeries that tuck plants along common ground.

In the kitchen:  Even without any outdoor planting space, we can still have vital plants right close to us, in our homes.  I like (re-)sprouting food to have fresh food in winter or just to be thrifty, any time of year.  When I chop up scallions (aka green onions), instead of composting the octopus-y roots, I either put them in water or in a pot of soil.  They don't grow back as strong, but if you're just looking for some chive-y flavor, here you go:

I was given one of these shapely glass containers to "force" bulbs in late winter/early spring.  I suppose this term is used because it's kinda pushy to "force" plants long before any bulbs have pushed up through the thawing earth outside.  I prefer to use the word "encourage."  Even (or especially) if it's a bit early, it is quite amazing to witness the growth of the green sprout, watch the development of the roots, and then experience the total luxury of fragrant blossoms long before outdoor plants bloom.  (I was so busy swooning over the paperwhite blossoms that I forgot to photograph them!)

(last updated April 2017)