Kiva Hardin

Dec 162017

Celebrating The Arrival of Kiva & Wolf’s Beloved Wildling – Ælfyn 

An incredibly happy mama and papa giddily announce the birth of Aelfyn Wolfson Thorn Hardin… looking a mite like his papa when Wolf was little.

A Diary of Thoughts & Feelings by Jesse Wolf Hardin


It is with overflowing hearts that we present to the world our new baby Ælfyn Wolfson Thorn Hardin, born just over 24 hours prior to this posting.  This family of oddkins are generally more comfortable secreted away, exploring magic and intimacies in the chiaroscuro shadows at the far edge of the forest… but over the course of a decade we have been increasingly blessed with a caring tribe of fellow misfit allies, health bringers, and culture shifters. Neither our social discomforts. nor the remoteness of our wilderness home, block sight of how many of you are now a part of our lives, integral to the mission of having a radically helpful effect of the world. We have come to know you in your specialness, and you have come to know us better than even some of our blood relatives. Exhaustion and seclusion might have meant postponing the news, if not for the fact that hundreds of you have been writing and messaging to ask about Kiva and the wee wilder.

One thing that stands out for me, is how hard it is to write anything, or even to think clearly, while crying… and tears have been noticeably forthcoming since the onset of labor and still today.  This can scientifically be explained by the levels of oxytocin at this special time, in not only a mother’s bloodstream but also that of family members close enough to be susceptible.  Just as hormonal releases play a part in falling in love, in the release of milk, and the softening of connective tissues that make birth possible and survivable, so too does oxytocin affect feelings, bodily functions, and behavior.  It can result in a lessening of perceived pain, help a mother forget and thus get over the trauma of a painful delivery.  And perhaps  most importantly, it tends to greatly boost feelings of love, happiness, and contentment, making normal daily work tasks difficult to fulfill at the usual pace, but helping to increase parent/child bonding.  If you think about the natural world, it only makes sense that creatures be motivated to protect their young at their most vulnerable stage.  Instead of possibly rejecting our loud, messy, and needy offspring, we are so high on our bodies’ purposed chemicals that we may find their every noise endearing, and their every need a great honor to fulfill.

Describing this process as a chemical one, however, in some ways robs it of its miraculousness and glamour, evolution replayed in the tiny fetus’ transformation from a fish-like shape into a creature with legs and tail, and then on to the features we know of as distinctly human.  Enchantment, destiny, and choice.  The excitement that comes with a planned or at least well received conception.  The long months of waiting, at the Gaian altar of a fruitfully swelling belly.  The seeming impossibility of a seven pound or more critter exiting through a the limited opening of its sacred cave home.  The glistening, blood flecked beauty that is a critter freshly exited. And the unstoppable gushing of affection for our children, the relentless and not always timely tears we spill. like water sprinkled ceremoniously on our babies‘ heads.  Excuse me for any failures to communicate well, as I forgive myself for putting the wrong birth date on our boy’s announcement poster twice before finally getting it right.  Born January the fifteenth (pauses for tears), of the both amazing and ignominious year of 2018 (sniff, deep breath, nose wipe…).

The awesome mother Kiva Rose, immediately after her hard but brave and successful delivering of son Aelfyn.

A woman certainly need not need to bear children to be beautiful powerful beings, any more than to have a purpose or reason to exist. And it is understandable that not everyone is of the nature or in a situation that has them feeling warm and fuzzy over paeans to motherhood or endless posted baby pics. And there is a traumatized or prudish segment of greater society that finds things like the pregnant body or the nursing mama an obscene intrustion. But how crazy that seems, not to at least find something aesthetically sublime about the interflowing forms of bear with cub, elk and fawn, the embracing mother and child,  un madre y hijo. 

Our journey into labor and on to the delivery of this child, is actually a long one. In one sense, it arose to prominence only this morning at 1 A.M., with the switch from early mild contractions to the more severe form that marks the first active stage. In another sense, it started when we consciously and deliberately made the exciting if not entirely reasonable decision to conceive, almost exactly a year before this dramatic moment when a unique wildling child of us misfit otherkins makes his way into the light.  And in the broader sense, ours is but an ancient and endless coming into being, one segment of a long chain of conceptions and becomings, from the first splitting of cells and the proliferating of microorganisms, the first live births by our tiny, fur-coated ancestors, and then our hominid predecessors delivering their emergent offspring onto leafen beds before quickly resuming the gathering of foods and other daily survival tasks.

Dec 10, 2016, 11 P.M.: Against all practical reason and common sense, my wife and partner Kiva and I accepted the fact that we were feeling strongly and mutually drawn to creating a child together, and that this was the moment to go for it. It had been seventeen years since she had birthed our dear daughter Inga (formerly known as Rhiannon), and thirty-seven years of age felt like as late a point in life that Kiva would want to go for health and other reasons. We picked the best possible due dates, at the end of Autumn after we have confirmed and scheduled teachers for our annual Good Medicine Confluence gathering, but before the massive amount of event and publishing tasks that demand our time from January through October. In early December, we reasoned, we would only have an issue of Plant Healer Magazine, two issues of the free Herbaria Monthly ezine, a Guide to Herb Suppliers, blog posts, the creation of teacher and class descriptions for the website, and our own hoped-to-find-time-for creative writing projects to keep up with… unlike a truly busy time of the year.  We are so set on the kid idea, that we commit to building a baby nursery and bedroom to to our primitive one room cabin, scraping up the money for materials as we are able, and furnishing it with antique dressers and four poster bed that I trade my own treasured collection of valuables for.

Mar 21, 2017, 12 P.M.: Amazed that Kiva was still not pregnant after so many nights without protection, we switch to non-chemical, ph neutral lubricant.  Conception is apparently immediate, though we would remain less than a hundred percent certain for several weeks more.  We decide on a home birth, due to Kiva’s Asperger sensitivity, the security and ambiance of our special home on the river, and our concern over hospitals which we discovered result in a higher rate of distress and death than even unassisted births. We had balance the fact that we would be seven river crossings and a hundred twisty road miles from the nearest E.R., if a rare but dangerous problem were to manifest during the last stages of labor, with the knowledge that women have been mostly successful delivering without modern M.D. involvement since our kind first climbed down from the trees of Africa… and the instinct and apparent sense, though not certain, that we will have made the best choice.

April, 2017: Kiva begins feeling the effects of the pregnancy on her body, the most problematic being exhaustion and brain fog. It will be long after the size of her belly begins to advertise her pregnancy, that we determine she was getting anemic, quickly and very successfully treated with a bioavailable iron supplement.

June, 2017: We get firm confirmation that we will have a resident midwife here to monitor and help with the delivery if anything were to go awry, it seemed like such a long shot so we are greatly relieved.  We nonetheless make a special trip to a city to download home birth and midwife instruction videos, and order online the diapers, pads, heart rate meter, and myriad other supplies we imagine needed, just in case.  Our previously horrendous experiences with “modern medicine” has us ordering excellent pregnancy herbs from our Confluence teacher Ginger Webb at Texas Medicinals, and the sonogram we get at the rural Mormon anti-abortion clinic this month will prove to be the only prenatal care we avail ourselves of throughout the entire pregnancy. The screen shows us a tiny unfettered mammal, a “wee beastie”… except, as the sono tech said with mouth agape, they are not supposed to be already doing rapid frontal kicks at only age ten weeks!

November, 2017: It sinks in to our midwife just how difficult it could be staying in a wilderness cabin here, with a new child of her own that she says did not anticipate would require so much of her time.  She cancels, and we begin frantically looking for a replacement.  With such an active child inside her, Kiva wants to prepared for a possible early arrival by the end of November.  With so little advance notice, no other midwife we contact has a free enough schedule to assist us, and our commitment to a natural home birth feels just that much more serious and potentially consequential. We have to weigh in the worries of all the people who care about us and are sensibly concerned about us doing this alone so far from civilization. Even more so, the warnings of midwives we contacted who stressed how chancy a home birth is without a professional midwife there to oversee, or the one who pointed out we would “hate ourselves forever” if something bad happened to Kiva or the baby.  Kiva blew me away with how she dealt with it all, including the scary stories and pictures in the many midwife and emergency birth reference books we read for hours every day now, and most concerning of all, the sobering tale of another friend who had planned on a home birth but then had to rush to a hospital when there were dangerous complications.  Kiva has had a lifetime of over focusing on possible negative outcomes, often being influenced or ruled by her fears… and measured against this, her informed determination and demonstrated courage was nothing less than phenomenal. She did what can be so hard for most of us to do: heeding her own personal needs regarding this baby and the circumstances of his birth, identifying and listening to her feelings to the degree she is able – making a decision that was not fearless, but all the braver in the face of what were this time some very well founded fears.

Dec. 14, 2017, 12:30 A.M.: We are one day past the so-called due-date, an educated guess based on the time of conception as determined by sonogram measurements, and the most recent predictions of his birth date on social media are for an arrival now, on the occasion of St. Lucia’s Day. Kiva has indeed had minor, fairly regular uterine pain since the night before, more regular than what are often called Braxton-Hicks contractions,  but no with the force and length attributed to full labor. I say bizarre things, such as saying you might need a salted caramel chocolate truffle to instigate full on labor.

While amazingly cheerful through all the months and discomforts of carrying, she is ready to set him loose now and look for the first time in his face. Everything we know says we should not be in a rush for his appearance, and case research shows that much damage is done in hospitals through anxious c-sections, forcing things with shots of Pitocin to induce labor, and stripping membranes to break the water when it is not yet and may not at any point be necessary.  But patience, to the degree we ever really had any, is getting even scarcer. I call his name several times a day, in a low register I hope really carry through the womb to his awakening ears. Come to Papa.  We love you, come, come…

Dec. 15, 2017, 1:00 P.M.: Kiva enters what is the hard active phase of labor, as her pain increases to another, expected level, each contraction more extreme than the last.  I wake up just often enough to keep the woodstove stoked with rounds.  As strange and nontypical as the parents are, this pregnancy has been bizarrely textbook, every step of the way, including sequence and timing, all being hopeful and reassuring signs. She will keep hurting progressively worse for the next sixteen hours, though we could not have predicted that yet.  And least expected, was the amount of sharp pain in the small of her back, in spite of Aelfyn positioned in the ideal way.

Dec. 15, 2017, 7:00 A.M.: I wake up to Kiva on her knees on the floor, a cloth spread beneath her, trying to not interrupt my sleep.  In the early morning light before the sun rays penetrate our river canyon, Kiva seems to be the light that slowly fills the room.  Between the worsening contractions, she is relatively painless, entertainingly lucid and funny, and she insists on still making breakfast for us.  Daughter Inga awakens, and joins me in putting an end to such talk, immediately launching into a long hard day of tending us parents while we tended the unfolding birthing.  I build the fire up hotter than usual, spread a plastic sheet, and then try to make a few notes on our solar powered iMac for this accounting I knew I would write.

We have two friends and fellow Confluence teachers ready to message or chat for advice or other help as needed, the incredible plant healer N.D. Kenneth Proefrock, and the grounded, inspiring, and reassuring Four-Corners midwife Juanita Nelson.

Dec. 15, 2017, 12:00 P.M.: I cease reading about how to loosen the cord in case one is wrapped around the baby’s neck, and begin the many hours process of pushing my thumbs as hard as possible into pressure points in Kiva’s lower back to fend off some the awful pain showing up there. She alternates between bending over the bed on her knees, and laying across a large inflatable “medicine ball,” our kitten Frigga sitting as close as she can to Kiva like a midwife in her own right.  It is no longer possible for Kiva to restrain from making noise at this point, that’s for sure.  Nor should she, as each primal roar helps cause her body to tighten and thus provide the loving force to propel the passage of our child.

While we can admire the strength and resilience of the mothers of other species, it seems that the hollering and moaning of women in labor are not due to weakness or fragility, but rather, are in part evidence of a more challenging level of physical pain.  This acute pain in the lower pelvis in particular, is believed to be caused by the larger heads, packed with the larger brains that make the defining characteristics of humankind such as greater self awareness, increased capacity for language, and some ability to anticipate and plan for the future. It is also likely why human babies are born when still too undeveloped to stand, run, and thus escape predators and other dangers. To be born as developed as most other mammals, a hominid baby would have to be carried in the womb for at least twenty months, and when born would have a head the size of a toddler’s. To the degree that we are any smarter or better equipped than our fellow lifeforms, it is at the cost of having infants needing constant protection and care for the first many months of their lives… and purchased by the volunteered sufferings of the human mother. As screwed up as it is to guilt trip our children about our sacrifices for them, and our need for them to be grateful, here is something for which we each might truly come around on our own to giving the most profound thanks for.  The mothers of dishonest bankers as well as the mothers of society changers and caring healers, all gave hugely, that giving was many times difficult or painful throughout the years of raising their kids, and seldom is that pain any greater than what they go through to affect the continuation of life.

Dec. 15, 2017, 2:00 P.M.: Should we have gone to the hospital after all, is there something going on besides the primal stabbing that females have endured forever?  I am getting no intuitive hits as to a problem, but I find Kiva’s increasing pain nearly unendurable.  The way Ulysses strapped himself to a mast to withstand the siren calls within a great ocean storm, I bind myself to Kiva by pressing ever harder the spots on either side of her spine and just above her pelvis, harder and harder as her stormy wailing shakes the walls of our just completed nursery. Inga wipes me down with a cooling wet cloth, as I keep up the sacral pressure for one hour, then two hours, and then four.

I am so proud of this woman I know of as my “Wifeling,” cracking jokes about my thumbs providing a “digital epidural” between screaming “I can’t take it anymore!  I can’t do it!” as she pushes down with all her might.  “Yes you can!,” Inga would tell her, as wisely as any grandmotherly birth worker, as lovingly forceful as the situation required.  Of course she can do it.  She has to, and that boy is not going to just stay in there.  We made a decision that was in every way a commitment from which there was no going back.  The baby must come, naturally, now, because there is no longer any other option but to go forward, to make this work, to fulfill this birth. More screams, a plea to the fates, and then…

Dec. 15, 2017, 4:30 P.M.: It is at the height of one seemingly unbearable contraction that her excruciating pushing pays off, propelling Aelfyn out in a rush. He even looks like an elf!  He is blue, but curls up like a muscular fist, yells a single time, and than quiets and coos almost immediately when I take him up into my arms and await the placenta that can’t remain. A warm hand on his head and back, and we can see his skin transition to a warm healthy tan-pink starting at the head and quickly extending the color all the way down to his feet. The placenta exits in less than fifteen minutes, with a final push, is checked for wholeness.  Once the umbilical cord has drained all its blood into our wildling with the wriggling fingers, I tie a alcohol dipped piece of yarn about two and half inches from his belly button and then make the untethering cut. He is fine, we can tell ourselves with confidence now.  The gifts you all picked out from Kiva’s Baby Registry get immediate use, from antique cradle to the baby slings and buntings, and faerytale quilt.

Rather than having to worry about supporting his head, his neck muscles are strong enough at birth to hold his head upright by himself, and his entire being seems filled with both strength and will.

Aelfyn Wofson Hardin, one day old.

His is the vital force. And hopefully, a healing force, that can and will be a defender and proponent of diversity, of spectrums of all kinds, of healing and health, satisfaction and savoring, liberty and justice.  A nontypical celebrant of spirited existence. A keep and realizer of visions. A lover and tender of the earth in all its natural forms, in the face of all the seeks to abuse or destroy it. A lover of ideas, shapes, possibilities. A lover of loving people and what will be the friends and maybe the offspring that he impacts and inspires. And at the root, a product of his parents love for all these things, and for him.  Aelfyn Wolfson Thorn.  Protector of the elves, as his first name means in its Norse and Anglo-Saxon versions.

Son minn, as our nature worshipping Nordic ancestors might say. Our hopefully reality bending son. Clearly the ruddy haired child of his faðir, child of his móðir., set to fashion for himself the story that will mark who he is and fill his coming life.

Giving kisses, Giving thanks… to Aelfyn, and to all our friends.


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Nov 262017


The Power, Concerns, Joys, & Gifts of an Indie Home Birth

by Jesse Wolf Hardin –

The humble Plant Healer cabin, showing a new bedroom and baby nursery added to this end

As I write this, dear Kiva is entering her 38th week of pregnancy.  In the last few week, our boy Ælfyn has “dropped” head first into the pelvis in preparation for his entrance into the world.  He remains wildly active, alternately tickling Kiva’s ribs with his toes and painfully pushing downwards for his morning exercise.  Whereas a week ago he seemed to be doing complete somersaults on a regular basis, now it feels like he swings his lower body back and forth while keeping his head pointed in the direction of beckoning air and light, an impish norms-busting Viking break-dancer it seems!

Kiva in the Plant Healer office cabin, 38 weeks and counting!

Over the course of the last month, we have scraped together the money for a number of needed baby items from diapers to toys, and most importantly, ordered a cheap doppler to monitor little Ælfyn’s heart rate during the latter portion of the labor, plastic sheets, and everything else we figure we might want for the birth.  Ginger Webb from Texas Medicinals rushed us some of her powerful herbal preparations including for the treatment of rare but dangerous postpartum hemorrhaging.  The support and love we have gotten from the Plant Healer tribe is heart warming and a delight, especially important in our situation and at this time.

Paying for a midwife clearly did not work out well, with one woman who promised to attend ending up getting cold feet and changing her mind after the reality of her own life and the remoteness of our home sunk in.  Others we contacted were either unable to get away, intimidated by our primitive accommodations, or already booked up with births as was our very caring Good Medicine Confluence teacher Juanita Nelson.  Juanita’s practical advice and encouragement were reassuring, after getting many letters of concern and reading the scary parts of the many midwifing and birthing books that we purchased and read.  We are committed to a home delivery, and what will almost certainly be an “unassisted” or “Indie” birth, after concluding there are no “red flag” signs or medical history that would indicate possible problems, studying research around the effects of stress on a woman’s labor, taking into account Kiva’s Asperger hyper-sensitivity and anxiousness around strangers, and having learned that there is a statistically greater chance of serious trouble having one’s baby in a hospital instead of at home or in a supportive alternative birthing center.

As informed and prepared as we are, and as strong as my personal intuition can sometimes be, we fully realize that there there is no guarantee of a healthy birth any more than we can ever be completely secure in the real world at any point in our lives.  We are, however, doing what we think will provide the best desired outcome, and in this case, the most natural thing.  Women have been bearing children, often alone and without support, for the millions of years that our species has been in the making, with the vast majority of these events being successful regardless of sometimes difficult conditions.  Herbalists make use of medicinal plants to assist or boost the body’s natural healing response, in preference over pharmaceutical intervention and suppression.  We generally do not got to an MD or hospital except in acute situations or to test and treat the most dire chronic illnesses.  It makes sense that take the same approach to what is one of the most basic and natural of human activities, the miraculous creation of and propelling of new beings from our own sentient, mortal bodies.  Birth intervention can be a lifesaver in rare cases, but most often it is doing damage to mother and child to chemically trigger labor before the baby is ready, remove a baby through cesarian surgery out of impatience or excessive caution instead of absolute need, to pull on the umbilical cord to hurry delivery or to remove the placenta after.  If there is an unexpected medical emergency, we will climb into our river-crossing Jeep and proceed to an emergency room two hours away, in hopes of remedy.  But otherwise, baby Ælfyn will make his debut in this hand wrought cabin where we feel most secure and most at home, two miles from pavement, one hundred miles from the benefits and drawbacks of a city… because, as our friend, naturopathic doctor and Confluence teacher Kenneth Proefrock puts it, “The act of giving birth is not itself a medical procedure.”

Kenneth and family surprised us by driving seven hours to visit us, bringing with them a huge padded box that his wife Darla called our “birthday present” – a gift making Ælfyn’s upcoming day of birth.  They arrived in the nearby village at 2am, caught few zs, and then risked their 4×4 truck to motor the rest of the way to this New Mexico botanical sanctuary.  Out leapt a passel of adolescent boys that Kenneth called their “hooligans,” but who were some of the sweetest, curious and respectful young fellows we have ever hosted here.  They ran around exploring the river and mountains with our seventeen year old Inga (formerly known as Rhiannon), while we got to know the complex and thoughtful Darla.

Kenneth & Darla Proefrock at Anima Sanctuary, with the antique cradle they brought for Aelfyn.

The maple rocking cradle they brought us was amazingly made in a small shop in West Virginia in the 1800s, just prior to the American Civil War.  It features turned spindles and carved finials that remarkably match the set of antique bedroom furniture that I traded for as wedding presents for Kiva, and it looked so good in the flickering light of the woodstove that we were kept up imagining our willful wildling nested in it on the Sheepskin we were given by Holly, making soft breathing sounds as we gently rock it with a bared toe.  As with everything that you folks have picked out and purchased off the baby registry or discovered yourselves, we will long be telling Ælfyn where his precious things came from, the stories of the people who have shown so much love.

Thanksgiving marks a regretful acceleration of the colonization of North America, the subjugation of  its indigenous peoples and destruction of its soils, forests and waters.  But is also serves as reminder of all the blessings and advantages we have as diverse peoples of this place, the importance of savoring our meaningful lives and learning and caring, the preciousness of healthful families and friendships, and the value of our healing work… aware human existence punctuated by struggle and loss, sustained by tireless hope, rewarded with purpose and opportunities for bliss.


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For more about the pregnancy and registry, and an article on Plant Healer’s Anima Sanctuary, click here to download the free November issue of Herbaria Monthly.

For advance discount tickets to Kenneth Proefrock’s amazing classes, and the other 133 intensives and workshops, click on the:

Good Medicine Confluence Website

Oct 172017

Portrait of herbalist, author, and teacher, Michael Moore, by Jesse Wolf Hardin

I’ve been fascinated by plants since infancy (ask my poor mother), and have studied herbalism since childhood, but I didn’t really begin to explore clinical work in an in-depth way until I moved to New Mexico over 13 years ago. It wasn’t long after I arrived in the Canyon, completely enamored of the unfamiliar and diverse flora of the Gila, that Wolf gave me his copy of Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. Wolf and Michael were friends from way back, and Michael was and is one of the most influential herbalists of not only the Southwest, but all of the English speaking world. It’s certainly not an overstatement to say that book changed my life.

I now own multiple copies of all of Michael’s hard copy books, all of his digital books, have scoured the internet for all his writings, and taken both of his courses through the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine. I can quote you Michael Moorisms (of which there are many, most of them hilarious) backwards and forwards. His continuous emphasis on common sense, clinical experience, bioregionalism, sustainability, constitutional patterns, and deep respect for the origins of his knowledge have profoundly influenced the way I practice and perceive herbalism. I’m only sorry that we weren’t able to get the conference going while he was still alive and well enough to teach there.

From the very first Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference nearly a decade ago, the gathering has been a tribute to Michael’s work and legacy. Through all of its transformations and changes into its current form as The Good Medicine Confluence, we have continued to honor the foundations on which he built his school and writings. This past June in Durango, Michael’s partner, Donna Chesner, was in attendance at the conference and let me know that she was making enrollment in his courses absolutely free!

There’s no catch, and I don’t get anything for spreading the word except the satisfaction of seeing Michael’s wealth of wisdom passed on to a new generation of emerging herbalists, in a more accessible package than ever before. You can enroll right here:

The Constitutional and Therapeutics course and the Materia Medica course represent the last class taught by Michael  Moore at the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, in the spring of  2006.  Each course may be viewed immediately by direct streaming or downloaded to create your own DVD.  Note that while the courses are free, enrollment is required.

And here are descriptions of the courses offered:

Herbal Therapeutics and Constitutional Evaluation

Each organ system of the body is dealt with in physiologic terms, therapeutic and treatment methods, and constitutional aspects. The specific tonic herbs for each organ system or stress type are presented and explored in depth. The Constitutional Workbook and school manuals, patient record forms, work sheets and intake forms are supplied, as well as specific reference material referred to in the lectures . There are 140 hours of lectures and 12 Lessons.

Materia Medica

Michael’s lectures cover the botanical nature of the plants, their habitat, distribution, constituents, what they should look and taste like in commerce, how to grow or gather them, parts used, preferred form of preparation and dosages, therapeutic uses and their stature as remedies. Lectures may be 90 minutes for the Echinaceas, 15 minutes for the Verbenas, 5 minutes for Condurango Root. Video is interspersed with film clips, photographs, distribution maps, etc. (the same way Michael lectured). The number of DVDs is 58 and adjunct CDs is 5. The video lessons  add up to 115 hours, the audio portions covering  secondary plants total about 100 hours. There are 10 lesson sections. Each lesson has a plant guide that outlines preparations, formulas they are commonly used within, and formula preparation methods.

This is really an incredible opportunity for anyone wishing to study herbalism, and even moreso for those of us living and practicing in the American Southwest! I hope that some of you will be able to benefit from the great generosity of Donna and SWSBM and help to preserve and pass on the ingenious insights, profound love of the plants, and practical skills that makes up Michael’s legacy.

Oct 022017

Please share the above 72dpi call for new proposals, or share a link to this post. The half of the class slots that we award to returning teachers are completely few, leaving only a handful of slots remaining for folks we have not worked with before. Do write us for an application and to discuss possible topics:

To read more about this unique annual event, or to take advantage of the $100 advance discount on tickets, click on:

Sep 282017

Last week Wolf, Rhiannon, and I headed over to Arizona to have a 3d/4d ultrasound done. Ælfyn has been kicking up a storm in there, and often responds to voices and music, most especially Wolf’s laughter and certain kinds of drumming, so we’ve been extra eager to see him. I was at exactly 28 weeks when we had it done, and it was nice to see that he had chubby cheeks, was over 2.5 lbs, with a healthy heart, and growing just as expected.


While the ultrasound was blurrier than we would have liked, it was certainly clear enough to watch him wave his hands around, grin, and even look like he was laughing. Now, I’m well aware that “professionals” will say that new babies only smile because of gas etc., and that it’s not a sign of emotional happiness, but Ælfyn certainly looked like an excited baby to me, wiggling and waving with that big grin.

It was a big relief for me to see him so healthy and vital, as this pregnancy hasn’t been an easy one, dealing with both gallbladder issues and anemia on top of my ongoing health issues such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, various auto-immune problems, and the like. Now that I’m recovering from the worst of my anemia, I actually have enough energy to be excited about this final trimester!

I’ll be posting more soon on how I’ve treated some of my health issues during pregnancy. I would have liked to have written about it more regularly before now, but the truth is, that I’ve barely had enough energy to get through each day for the last many months, and had absolutely nothing left over for writing anything coherent. These days though, I’m starting to feel much better, as evidenced by the fact that my autistic brain is back to hyperfocusing on research, languages, and ancestral ethnobotany!

Linguistic Note: By the way, Ælfyn’s name is not so frightening as it may first seem to write/type/say. The letter Æ, which is called ash/æsc/ ᚫ in Old English, can be made by pressing alt/option + ” on most computers, but it’s also just fine to write Aelfyn. Given the era of Anglo-Saxon Old English/Ænglisc we’re drawing from, his name is pronounced ALE-fin. Some people will argue for a different æ pronunciation closer to the a in happy or apple, but I can refer you to my favorite Anglo-Saxon scholars and linguists if you’re interested in that discussion. 


Sep 272017

Announcing our Latest Book for Herbalists:


Herbal Information & Inspiration Gleaned From The Year’s Plant Healer Magazines

–Authored by 30 Leading Herbalist Practitioners & Vsionaries–

445 pages – Softbound b&w –  $45 – Order now from the Bookstore page at:

“Plant Healer is the only publication I’ve seen in my long career that captures the wild diversity of herbalism in North America.”  –Paul Bergner

“Plant Healer is the most attractive journal I have ever had the pleasure to view.”  –David Winston

The Plant Healer Compendium is a sampling of Plant Healer Magazine’s 2017 articles, 445 info-packed b&w pages by 30 authors, selected from the year’s over 1200 color digital pages tailored to the herbalist student and experienced practitioner.  They represent over 20 columns and departments, covering everything from history and plant lore to materia medica, medicine making, and clinical skills.

Previously, each Fall we would print the entire four issues in a giant 2 volume set, and sold them only to existing magazine subscriber members.  But lately, the issues have grown so large and printing costs so high, that it is no longer affordable.  Instead, every year now we will be releasing a special Compendium book featuring an exciting sampling of full-length Plant Healer articles.  And these Compendiums will be sold to the general public as well as to our regular subscribers, providing a taste of what our readers so enjoy, in a softcover volume that you can hold in  your hands.

Our treasured Plant Healer authors are among the deepest thinking teachers, healers, conservationists, growers, and artists, and visionaries of our time.  Sections on herbal traditions contribute to our evolving story, radical herbalism and diversity address issues vital to the survival of folk herbalism, and topics like constitutions, actions, cultivation, and botany, keep the project rooted in practical tools and usable techniques.  Here is an opportunity to be entertained and enriched, while learning more about healing not only our bodies and spirits, but our culture and the land.

The Plant Healer Compendium is a sampling of Plant Healer Magazine’s 2017 articles, 445 info-packed b&w pages by 30 authors, selected from the year’s over 1200 color digital pages tailored to the herbalist student and experienced practitioner.  They represent over 20 columns and departments, covering everything from history and plant lore to materia medica, medicine making, and clinical skills.

Previously, each Fall we would print the entire four issues in a giant 2 volume set, and sold them only to existing magazine subscriber members.  But lately, the issues have grown so large and printing costs so high, that it is no longer affordable.  Instead, every year now we will be releasing a special Compendium book featuring an exciting sampling of full-length Plant Healer articles.  And these Compendiums will be sold to the general public as well as to our regular subscribers, providing a taste of what our readers so enjoy, in a softcover volume that you can hold in  your hands.

A full table of contents follows below this announcement poster that we hope you will share:


Jesse Wolf Hardin: HerbKin: Roles, Labels,, & What We Really Do

Mathew Wood: The History, Growth, & Resurgence of Herbalism

Paul Bergner: Questioning Our Teachers

Jesse Wolf Hardin: The Portal

Guido Masé: Stories of The Silvani: Plant Spirits of The Dolomites

Dara Saville: Saxifrage & Orchid

Marija Helt: Plant & Fungi Friends in The San Juan Mountains

Peter McCoy; The Hunt For Medicinal Mushrooms

Sarah Baldwin: Legal Plants For Enhancing Consciousness

Sarah Anne Lawless; Solanaceae: A Monograph of Nightshade Medicine

Angela Justis: Made by a Child’s Hands: Herbal Gift Giving

Shana Lipner Grover:            Brassicaceae

Phyllis Light: Herbs For Men’s Health

Julie James: Herbs For Abortion & Miscarriage Care

Wendy Hounsel: Cervical Dysplasia & Abnormal Pap Smears

Jim McDonald: Anti-Microbials

Thomas Easley: The Gut – Part II: Addressing The Stress Response

Susun S Weed: Harvesting Sustainably: Parts I-III

Wendy “Butter” Petty: Adapting Recipes For Wild Foods

Ryn Midura: Caffeine Herbs & Alternatives      

Sean Donahue:             Relaxing Tension: Letting Vitality Flow

Shana Lipner Grover:            The Lamiaceae Family

Virginia Adi: Olfaction For The Herbalist

Angela Justis: Children’s Sleepy-Time Self Care

Katherine MacKinnon: Seed to Seed Cultivation

Matthew Wood:  Treating Kidney Problems:

Shana Lipner Grover: Cactaceae: Gifts of The Desert

Marija Helt: Amanita Muscaria: The Flying Mushroom

Ilana Goldowitz Jimenez: Autumn Crocus, Colchicine & The FDA

Sean Donahue: Hawthorn: The Blessing of a Tree’s Curse

Nick Walker: Liberating Ourselves From The Pathology Paradigm

Phyllis Light: The Pursuit of Happiness & Well-Being

Dave Meesters: Absinthe & Other Botanical Spirits

Natasha Clarke: Locavore Herbalism

Paul Bergner: Going Deeper to Get The Gift

Jim McDonald: Putting Ideas Into Practice

Valerie Camacho  The Radical Possibilities of Kitchen Medicine

w/Carolina Valder:

Jesse Wolf Hardin: An Herbalist’s Code of Honor

Guido Masé: Connecting The Ecologies: The Healing Relationship

Kiva Rose Hardin: Mythopoeia: Flora, Story, & Culture


As this Compendium so well demonstrates, our treasured Plant Healer authors are among the deepest thinking teachers, healers, conservationists, growers, and artists, and visionaries of our time.  Sections on herbal traditions contribute to our evolving story, radical herbalism and diversity address issues vital to the survival of folk herbalism, and topics like constitutions, actions, cultivation, and botany, keep the project rooted in practical tools and usable techniques.  Here is an opportunity to be entertained and enriched, while learning more about healing not only our bodies and spirits, but our culture and the land.

(Please RePost and Share this Link – Thank you!)

Sep 252017

Autumn has surely arrived here in our Canyon, the Snakeweed blooming all golden-glinted and honey-scented across the mesa, while the Epazote slowly but surely turns from lime green to shades of crimson and scarlet as the nights grow cooler. While I would like to devote all my attention to the final harvest, from acorns to elderberries, there is much work to be done to ready for the oncoming Winter and the birth of Ælfyn. Wolf, Rhiannon, and I spent 12 hours this past weekend struggling to update our dying solar battery setup for the kitchen cabin. Hours that needed to be devoted to the Good Medicine Confluence, Plant Healer Magazine, medicine making, and baby preparations, but had to be diverted in order to keep our tiny household going.

Likewise, the coming weekend will be given to installing a small wood stove into our bedroom so that Ælfyn will be toasty warm when born into our coldest season come December. Being nearly 30 weeks pregnant doesn’t lend itself well to hauling cast iron stoves around, but it has been beyond difficult to obtain any local help when we live so far from the village in such a remote area. Nevertheless, I’m in full nesting mode, and I WILL have everything suitably arranged by the time of the birth!

In spite of all this busy-ness, I was able to spend part of last evening gathering the aromatic inflorescences of one of my favorite herbs, Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), from our weedy little garden. A common ornamental here in New Mexico, this native plant of the steppes of Central Asia is easily grown even with our short growing season, semi-arid woodland ecology, and dramatic temperature shifts. It also happens to be one of Wolf’s favorite flowers, so while we grow very few domestic cultivars, this is one given priority.

Additionally, it’s a very useful medicinal herb, sharing much in common with the true Salvias of the American Southwest, but being much hardier and easier to grow in a variety of environments than most of our low elevation aromatic Sages. The flowers are a sweet, resinous combination of Sage and Lavender, lending themselves to all manner of edible and medicinal combinations. While the leaves are both bitter and aromatic (and make a fantastic base for many warming bitter formulae), the flowers lack almost any bitterness and I love to grind them with salt or sugar as an abundant flavoring source. Russian Sage and various Firs (Abies and Pseudotsuga spp.) combine exceptionally well in many dishes, but Rosemary, Juniper berries, and Epazote are other well-suited elements to keep in mind.

However, this particular batch of flowers is intended for a seasonal muscle warming salve, and so will be infused into oil with Alder leaves, Snakeweed (aromatic Gutierrezia spp.) flowers, Goldenrod flowering tops, and Piñon resin. This sweet smelling salve is a wonderful treatment for the cold, achy joints and muscles that often plague folks through the Winter.

Given our short growing season, especially this year with a very late hard frost, it’s amazing that I’m able to harvest much of anything besides our tenacious wild plants, but it looks like there will be just enough time to gather up the Borage flowers that are beginning to bloom in the garden. The Comfrey hasn’t had enough time to flower this year, but the leaves will work just fine anyhow. The Lovage, though it struggled mightily through our dry Spring, is flourishing once again, and I might even be able to harvest a few seeds from it before the growing season is fully over.

There’s nothing like the bittersweet beauty of Autumn to remind me of my lifelong love of heartbreaking ballads. From my deep Appalachian roots to the once wild moors of Scotland, where so many of my ancestors hailed from, I can feel the dirt, darkness, and dissonance of my origins… and being the tree hollow loving creature that I am, I can only see that as a good thing. In the drone and shimmer of the banjo, I feel at home, and feel the pull of both my African and European forbearers. And so I share with you a favorite traditional ballad, Yarrow, as interpreted by Red Tail Ring, with Laurel Premo’s beautiful clawhammer style banjo playing.



Sep 192017


Healing Roles, Chosen Labels, & What We Do

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

The following piece is for you to share freely, excerpted from the latest issue of Plant Healer Magazine. Subscriptions are available at:


“There is a problem for me with the label “herbalist.” To some extent, the historical emergence of the drug industry, the trend that defined a doctor as someone who uses drugs and/or surgery, at the same time promoted a definition of an herbalist which had never occurred before. Doctor uses drugs, herbalist uses herbs. If you look at the history of medicine, whether folk, ethnobotany, classical, traditional, etc. we don’t usually find an “herbalist.” We find a healer, or a midwife, or a village elder, or a community of mothers, or a physician, who help people.
And sometimes they might use herbs, and sometimes not.”
–Paul Bergner (21st Century Herbalists)

When Rosemary Gladstar introduced me at our first Plant Healer gathering in 2010, it was as one of the “important herbalists” of our times. I had expected her to say “ecologist,” “environmentalist,” “restorationist,“ “activist,” or “artist” instead.

The word “herbalist” functions as a title, one we are empowered to apply to ourselves at any point that it feels appropriate, without official permission, certificates or licenses. But that said, I could not and can not feel entirely comfortable with the term as applied to me, not that I am unworthy but that I am perhaps something different. Herbalist in the original sense of someone who produces “Herbals,” plant medicine books for practicing or hopeful natural healers. But I cannot claim to know more than the rudiments of an herbal practice, and I have seldom given health advice or said that I can be sure which herb truly works best for a certain person with a particular condition. My work has been to raise consciousness of the plants, increase critical thinking and novel applications, help expand what it means to heal or to be healthy and whole.

But if not an herbalist, just what the hell am I?

A Plant Student first, I would say, beholding to them for unending revelations about myself as well as themselves, about their needs as well as their individual gifts and actions. A Plant Apprentice to rebel Dandelion and persistent Hops. An Herbal Acolyte. Forever enlisted and enrolled, always advancing but never graduating, never finished learning and heeding, never completing the class assignment to respond and apply.

As much as I have learned about herbal history and culture, I remain more Herbal Servant then Savant, serving the plants first and those who need their medicines second. I am perhaps an imperfect interpreter and spokesperson for the wordless plants, most definitely I am their committed advocate, and at my best I might hope to prove one of their hominid champions.

With my Slavic ancestry as well as “medicine name,” I can related to though not bring myself to use the term “Volkhava,” the plant-wise wolfen cunner.

Given that sometimes, when no one is looking, I follow the sniffing of a plant with a bit of a glad twirl and jig, kicking my up my bare heels in childish delight that is evidence I am a Plant Dancer.

A Plant Friend, clumsily trying to do with them and for them what a friend might do, trying to encourage and support them. A plant feeler, who feels for the plants and their needs, and who thanks to the influence and demonstrations of plants now uses his heart and senses to feel this awesome complex world all the more.

And I am, surely, a Plant Healer, defined as one who promotes not only the use of plant medicines but the healing and protection of plant communities and vital habitat, of societies and psyches. I am one who employs their botanical mythos and evocations of their infinite beauty to help awaken our distracted and in many ways destructive human kind. Nature, plants, and herbs in particular serve as doorways to realizations, understandings, and connections well beyond the often narrowly defined mission of the “professional herbalist.” They can inform and stir a native spirituality gestating within us, alert us to patterns of what can be known and to what always remains mysterious and unknowable. They can impress on us the value of diversity, and inspire us to take action in diversity’s defense. Their place within this world relationships becomes an example for me in how I am a part – my effects, and what and how I am effected.

My politics are affected by botanical consciousness and creature libertarianism, my philosophy by herbal infused realizations. I have had prejudices destroyed by plants like Wild Yam that solved my gall bladder pain in spite “traditional wisdom” that considers this impossible; by intimate observation of transgender bushes, changing their identity according to inner needs as well as larger natural designs; by the powerful efficacy of “weedy” edge dwelling street-kid herbs treated as lower class by some exotics-promoting upper eschaton herbalists.

For these reasons, the term “herbalist” seems not only too imprecise but too limited, and too limiting. More accurate might be archaic roles and labels like the Hedgewitch, an intermediary between the amazements of inspirited Nature and the consciousness of paradigm people. If we have accumulated enough knowledge, and enough humility, we might try on the term “Hedgemaster,” implying a teacher as well as wisdom-keeper. Not that hardly anyone knows of the many faceted significance of hedges in the historic British Isles, and not that one can put “Wytch” on their business card without problematic misunderstandings, or “Master” without having the claim of humility questioned.

I like “Wortcunner,” an early Anglo-Saxon word, with “wort” meaning “herb” or “root,” and “cunner” meaning “knower.” Wortcunners were Plant Healers with a role beyond the healing of bodily illness, someone called upon to see and explain deeper patterns, settle disagreements, treat the symptoms and causes of social dis-ease, make important decisions, or predict and prepare the tribe for the future. Unfortunately, besides being totally unfamiliar to most people, “Wortcunner” has also been mischaracterized by some New Age writers as a “possessor of occult powers,” distracting from its valuable archaic meaning.

Still, if my/our healing mission does indeed include addressing the enchantments as well as measured properties of plants, the unhealthiness of some of our thinking and some people’s lifestyles, the ills of our society and government, environs and ecology,then we must surely one day coalesce around a new term that reflects this expansiveness and depth of our potent calling and accepted assignment, this commitment to related responsibilities.

“I still like the term ‘herbalist’, my main problem is that it has been so over-simplified, and become so generic.”
–Kiva Rose Hardin

“Herbalist” fails us somewhat, if only the officially qualified and the vetted deserve the moniker, if it doesn’t also apply to kitchen “simples” makers and unaffiliated outliers, well meaning grandmothers with limited materia medica as well as the most knowledgeable and experience of Plant Healers. “Herbalist” fails us if it does not bring to the minds of those who hear it a vision of Plant Healers in full-on love with the herbs, intoxicated with the wonder of them, at times delirious with botanical visions and plant tastes and scents. It may no longer fit us as well, if “herbalist” starts making people think only of the sellers of refined herbal products or lab-coated clinicians with a long series of letters after their names… instead of also imagining the volunteer street practitioner giving out shotgun-cures to the unwashed homeless folk inhabiting the far edges of our accepted propriety, the traditional village healer grinding helpful roots in an ancient rock bowl, the full of attitude teenagers foraging in vacant lots. The word falls short, if people apply it only to the easing of their ailments, and not also the healthful nurturance of family’s needs and dreams, the repair of truths, the influencing of our friends, healing treatments conducted on a society far from nature and wholeness, suggesting new medicines for a “civilization” gone amok, resisting its injustices, exposing unhealthy assumptions and lies, encouraging freedoms, protecting and restoring the living land through which arises all healing. It doesn’t quite say enough, unless it also sings – sings of the magic and mystery, the challenge and delight, the shape and color of each plant, the work of every plant-hearted person – by whatever name – to not only celebrate but contribute to the relentlessly unfolding beauty.

Then again, “herbalist” sounds a lot more fun than “Herbologist,” which we’ve heard a few people call themselves, and a lot less pretentious sounding than the European term for licensed and scientifically informed practitioners: “Phytotherapists.”

Or maybe how we call ourselves doesn’t need to spell out our job description. Maybe it would be enough to infer our relatedness, knowing as we do all the complexities and ramifications of familial roles and ties. For this purpose, we are all “Herbkind,” and I – we – are “Herbkin”: kin to the plants, children of the herbs, guardians and disseminators of the seeds of possibility, wedded to a common cause, pledged to doing allied work in all its forms, kindred to the root and bone.

(Please RePost, & Share a Link to this Article… thank you!)

Sep 062017


There’s no doubt I’m a hermit (or rather, very socially limited as an autistic person), but there’s also no doubt that caring for this much wild land and this remote homestead requires collaboration…. especially in an era of increasingly rapid ecological change. But I frequently hear from people whose dream is to live in the wilderness if they could just figure out how, this is an answer with simple, accessible logistics. Please check it out, and pass it on to anyone you think might be interested. “Couple” in no way implies heterosexual, cis, etc.,   – Kiva


Aug 282017

The 250 pages-long Fall issue of Plant Healer Magazine quarterly will release the first Monday of September. If you are not already subscribed, you can be sure of receiving a copy by subscribing now at:


Ingredients of particular importance to herbalists, are not really herbs at all, but fungi. From adaptogenic, hepato-protective, cancer protective Reishi mushrooms, to perception and life changing entheogens like Psilocybin, they are truly an amazing pharmacopia!

Marija Helt is one of our most promising Good Medicine Confluence teachers in recent years, and is the author of our newest Plant Healer Magazine quarterly column, entitled:

“Fungi & Friends”

Now along with periodic mushroom articles by Peter McCoy and others, you will also find in Plant Healer’s pages an extensive essay on the topic each week with Marija. She will be exploring the history, mythology, components, and cultural/spiritual aspects of those mushrooms she has the most years of personal experience with, along with some of the special medicinal plants that share ecological and psychological habitats.

Marija’s first column will be about journeys and experiments with a most fabled red dotted fungal spirit:

“Amanita Muscaria: The Flying Mushroom”


Other Fall Plant Healer articles to look forward to include:

Jesse Wolf Hardin: Healthy & Unhealthy Recognition in Herbalism

Paul Bergner: Placebo & The Interpretation of Clinical Experience – a very important piece to help herbalists understand this phenomenom

Guido Masé: Bringing Macro-Microcosm Awareness Into The Healing Relationship – healing the ecotones where self and earth overlap

Valerie Camacho with Carolina Valder: The Radical Possibilities of Kitchen Medicine 

Peter Babulka: A Historical Overview of Hungarian Traditional Medicine

Shana Lipner Grover: The Botany of Lamiaceae – Distinguishing characteristics of Rosemary, Sage, and more

Dara Saville: Rivers, Restoration, & Hope for Medicinal Plants – Part II: Emerging Plant Communities

Nick Walker: Autism & Liberating Ourselves From The Pathology Paradigm

Sean Donahue: Herbalism & Deep Ecology

Craig Burrows: The Fluorescent Magic of Common Herbs & Other Plants

Jim McDonald: An Energetic Approach to Urinary Tract Infections

Susun Weed: Drying Herbs: Part I

Angela Justis: Having Fun With Infusion Recipes For Kids

Kenneth Proefrock: the visionary herbalist interviewed

Kiva Rose Hardin: Mythopoeia: Flora, Story & Culture


Subscribe at:

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Aug 192017

These pancakes will be more like crepesf or wraps to many American’s minds, lacking any leavening as they do. They are eggy, chewy, pleasantly flavorful, and certainly one of my favorite ways to cook Lambsquarters! They’re traditionally made with Spinach, but good Spinach is difficult to find in my rural/wilderness area, and Chenopodium is abundant indeed. Besides, I actually far prefer the flavor and texture of Lambsquarters in this dish, and t o be honest, in most dishes….

It’s important to use young, tender leaves, preferably before flowering/seeding commences, and equally vital not to use any tough stems. All parts should be easy to chop and no fibrous bits should be included. This really isn’t a difficult task if you harvest your Lambsquarters at the proper stage of growth! Even if your wild population has bolted, it’s fairly easy to keep young ones going far into the Summer in the garden by trimming any potential flowering stems back.

Lambsquarter Pancakes (a variation on Pinaattiohukaiset)

(Adapted from The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson, and conversations with Finnish friends)
Serves 2


•2.5 oz young Lambsquarter leaves and tender small stems
•1 jumbo egg
1/2 tsp virgin sunflower oil (or butter)
•1/4 C buttermilk
•3/4 C water
•1/4 tsp salt
•Pepper to taste
•1/2 C + 2 tb flour
•Nutmeg to taste
•Butter for frying

1. Steam or boil the Lambsquarters for a few minutes until tender.

2. Drain water, then rinse at least twice with cold water.

3. Squeeze the water out, then chop finely

4. Beat egg in a mixing bowl.

5. Add Lambsquarters, oil, milk, water

6. Stir flour, salt, and spices together.

7. Add dry ingredients to wet.

8. Stir well.

9. Melt butter on a warm (preferably cast iron) skillet, at about medium heat.

10. Fry pancakes until golden.

11. Flip, fry until both sides are golden.

12. Repeat until batter is gone.

13. Serve warm, preferably with Lingonberry jam, or a tart homestyle Cranberry sauce.

Note: it’s probably much more traditional to use all milk for the liquid, but I love the buttermilk flavor and lighter texture.

Variation: You can stuff these with a Lambsquarter-Cream Cheese type dip and roll them up for a rich and very tasty treat!

Aug 182017

The quote on the poster above is taken from the visionary essay by Guido Masé, titled “Connecting The Ecologies: Bringing Macro-Microcosm Awareness Into The Healing Relationship,” a powerful vision of the healing ecotones where self, culture, and nature overlap and interact. We are pleased to publish this extensive and inspiring piece, at a time when nature and the environment are often dissed by progressives and conservatives alike as “elitist.” It is truly time to pay attention to both healthy and unhealthy patterns, grounding ourselves in purpose and planet, co-creating a world we can be proud as well as amazed to live in. You will be able to read it in its entirety in the upcoming Fall issue of the quarterly Plant Healer Magazine. You can subscribe in advance, at:

Guido will also be teaching again at our 2018 Good Medicine Confluence, offering classes that stretch the boundaries of what it means to be humans and healers in this age of transition, advance discount tickets and full details are available at:

(Freely Share this Poster, & & Share This Link)

Aug 162017

This is a simple recipe, and can be made quickly with few ingredients. My favorite dishes are usually some sort of simple country style food, preferably with ingredients right out of the garden or some weedy delights harvested from the dooryard or otherwise nearby. I often term these favorite dishes as Woodland Foods, probably heavily influenced by reading the Redwall series and other fairy tale and fantasy style stories since early childhood.

I’m not sure why Rumex obtusifolius has become commonly known as Bitter Dock, since the leaves are more tender and palatable than Yellow Dock, R. crispus, in every comparison I’ve ever tried, and not the least bit bitter. In fact, I find R. obtusifolius superior as a food plant in almost all ways. Not least because of the mildly tart flavor and crisp tenderness of the texture. Thus, I very much prefer another common name for this feral green: Butter Dock.

I consider this species a mild, and much more locally abundant, substitute for Sheep Sorrel (the closely related Rumex acetosella), and use it in place of Sorrel in many recipes. This particular soup is a good example of that, being quite similar to many traditional European recipes for Sorrel Soups. Butter Dock can also be added to any number of soups, being mild, lemony, and altogether pleasant, especially when you gather the young, well-watered leaves. You can certainly substitute any Sorrel or R. crispus in this recipe if that’s what you have on hand!

Serves 2


•4 oz ground lamb
•1 large Shallot, diced
•Thyme, Sage (I used Black Sage, Salvia mellifera, but Garden Sage works nicely too), Dillweed, Epazote or other preferred/available spices.
•4 C water or broth
•2 medium potatoes, diced
•2 tsp salt
•1 tb Potato starch
•2 tb cold water
•2 tb cream (or half and half)
•Pepper to taste
•Handful of wild onion greens (and flowers, if you have them), chopped (optional)
•1 tb prepared or creamy Horseradish (optional)
•1 packed C young Dock leaves, chopped roughly into ribbons


  1. Brown the ground lamb and Shallot in a soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat
  2. Add Thyme, Sage, Dill, Epazote
  3. Pour in water or broth, then add Potatoes
  4. Boil for 15 minutes or until Potatoes are tender
  5. Stir Potato starch into cold water with fork until lumps are gone, then add cream
  6. Reduce heat to low, then pour in Potato starch & cream mixture
  7. Barely bring to boil while stirring, then lower heat back to a simmer or below
  8. Add Salt, Pepper, and prepared Horseradish to taste
  9. Sprinkle handful (or as desired) chopped Wild Onion greens/flowers over the top of the soup
  10. Add dock leaves.
  11. After a minute or two, Dock leaves will turn from bright green to olive, turn off heat.
  12. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and/or crumbles of a favorite cheese.

I’d also recommend serving alongside a well buttered baguette or thick slice of homemade Sesame-encrusted French bread

Aug 092017

Today marks the release of the August issue of Plant Healer’s free supplemental magazine, Herbaria! It includes an excerpt of an interview with beloved herbalist and elder, Phyllis Hogan, an article on launching on herbal apothecary by colorado herbalist, Sarah Josey, and a lengthy piece on Violet by me. The Violet monograph was originally only meant to be a brief overview of a common and much loved medicinal plant, but somehow grew into something much larger and became Three Faces Under A Hood: The Many Aspects of Violet. You can read it right here: August 2018 Herbaria