We are like a couple of strong draft horses and sometimes one of us decides to go a different way than the other one, but ultimately we can't, because we are yoked. After a little tugging and pulling we get rolling together and make a good team.
So began a letter Nancy wrote to a friend when writing our herbalist book. She describes the tumult of a husband and wife collaboration quite well. Lord knows she had a particularly ornery stallion to deal with at times. Yet somehow we arrived at our heart’s destination . . .
A young couple walks down the gravel drive leading to overgrown fields and a dilapidated farmhouse. A babbling brook sings of abundance. Deer watch from a hillside covered in wild apple trees. Nearby mountains frame a blue sky view.
We've been here ever since that time more than thirty years ago. Nancy from Kansas, Michael from Pennsylvania. The farm, like one’s life, constantly evolves. We helped launch the local farmer’s market and sold vegetables in the beginning, even starting one of the first CSA’s in the state. We partnered with another couple to lease a water-powered cider mill down the road through the 90s. Michael planted ever more apple trees as Nancy learned the ways of the village herbalist. Gracie was born and our family became complete.
All along we have felt compelled to not only live an agrarian life but to share this peaceful place and to teach what we consider essential earth skills to others. Co-creating with nature to build healthy soil. Honoring tree friends. Growing, cooking and preserving nutrient dense food. Using healing herbs for health and vitality. All are lifelong themes that we love doing, teaching, consulting, and writing about. Blessings abound.
This tale of Michael's comes from the early 80s when hitchhiking about South Island in New Zealand, having just completed the winter harvest season at Tucker Orchards outside of Motueka. Picking apples, of course!
One day found me taking a municipal bus out of Christchurch, to the end of the line, heading to Arthur's Pass towards the glorious Southern Alps. The Maori driver, a man nearing retirement age, turned to me -- no one else was left on the bus at this point -- and said, 'I had this dream. The broad steps of a temple led up to a pair of doors upon which were written the words Love and Respect. Like a complete code for living our lives, right? I opened the door and saw people, all happy people, wearing white togas. One figure stood out from the rest. All the others basked in this presence of love. Then I noticed that everyone, when they ate, partook of a leafy plant, a plant greener than green. This seemed to nourish the people completely.'
Then the bus driver focused his eyes deep into mine: 'Perhaps that's why you are here, to find this plant that is greener than green.'
Heady stuff for a youth headed for the hills to be sure. Discovering a plant that offers such spiritual and physical nourishment seems more a community task. Many years later, I've come to an understanding how this man's dream meshes with my own quixotic path. The underlying spirit of the plant world awaits us on a much deeper level. We're intuiting a right direction as we open our hearts to the full circle of Creation. Our work with the healing plants themselves is what's greener than green.
Women have traditionally had the responsibility of cooking, tending the herb gardens, drying the herbs, making medicines and brewing the brews. We have been the midwives and tenders of the sick in our homes and extended families and some are called to serve in these roles in the wider communities. Today not all of us necessarily have gardens and few of us are helping our neighbors birth their babies at home, but we are usually still the primary caregivers in our families. We love giving and nurturing yet we also need to recharge that inner spark on occasion.
We do this by taking time to be with kindred spirits. Getting away to connect with other women is powerful and fun. My grandma had her weekly quilting bee, my mom her bridge club and bible study group. The activities were different but the women involved all supported each other.
Several women's groups and gatherings have been integral in my own life. The Garlic Queens, a group of herbalists connected through Sage Mountain, gather annually to eat, dance, share stories, pray, and LAUGH! Oh my, we laugh so hard we cry! My 'hoop sisters' are another group of women from many walks of life who come together once a month to share time and ceremony closer to home. Each and every Women's Herb Conference lifts me up for weeks on end.
We love our families and partners, but we need our girlfriend time. Learning, sharing, laughing, crying and singing . . . we become mirrors for the other. We find inspiration in each other's courage and strength, beauty and vulnerability, wisdom and wit.
I am grateful to have been called to create a sacred space for women to come together to refill their vessels here at our farm.