"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posts tagged ‘thriving’

Knowledge is Power

Doing some cleaning while watching this. I keep finding myself stopping to sit down and really listen. What’s really impacting me is that the stories in this film begin around the time I was born. The stories from yesterday are the roots of the challenges of today. The branches of today are the leaves of tomorrow.

It’s been 50 plus years since my time in this story began and yet somehow the stories of today are still the same. We’re they also the same 50 years prior to me? Will they be the same for my children and grandchildren in 50 years?

I recognize some of the faces in these stories as part of my childhood watching them unfold on the evening news. The narrative that went with them then made me believe that I needed to fear these people. “Here’s what’s going on with these armed and violent thugs in other parts the country,. We are telling you about it because we want to scare you. But don’t worry! We have it all under control. Our government agencies are on full alert and are monitoring the situation. We won’t let them get you.” Seeing the same stories narrated by the voices behind them is quite a liberating experience!

What I’m grateful for is this age of information and the ability to connect to the world in my own way via the Internet. My life and my understanding is no longer controlled by what is chosen by others to be broadcast to me via the black box in the living room. Now, I get to choose my own programming. Now, I get the chance to find the real stories behind the narrative of what “they” want me to believe.

I think the power that the ability to choose awakens within me is the very reason why the powers-that-be want to limit what I can do and what I can know. We, the people, are empowered with knowledge and are connected across the world in seconds. In that connection we learn that we are not alone. Knowledge is power.

How will we use that power? What will we DO with it? Will we speak up or will we stand down? Will we put aside our differences and come together with one voice? Can we put aside our differences and unite peacefully to make a positive difference? I think we can and I think our indigenous brothers and sisters are showing us the way.

Dandelion Wine – Elixir for Life

imageThere was a time in my life where I bought into the idea that dandelions have no place in the yard. I think part of it was psychological in that I would watch TV commercials or see magazine ads showing what appeared to be perfect, happy, fulfilled people lounging and playing in perfect and blissfully weed-free yards, suggesting to me that the key to my own happiness was to accept nothing less than a perfectly lush and green weed-free yard.

So, that’s what I did. In pursuit of green perfection and the perfect happy family, I purchased and applied weed killers to eradicate dandelions and other broadleaf weeds from my lawn. I celebrated my success as the chemicals did what they were designed to do and the dandelions disappeared.

Several autumns ago my father-in-law offered me some of the dandelion wine he had made in the spring of that year. I was a bit hesitant to try it but when the liquid hit my tongue I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did it taste good but it just felt good to drink it.

He explained that it took a large volume of dandelion flowers to make just one gallon of wine and that it had been a challenge to find them. My mind flashed with images of how many dandelions had perished under my diligent applications of weed killers. I wished I could rewind time and take it all back. That was when I stopped using weed killers and started welcoming the dandelion to grow in my lawn.

Since that time I’ve learned that the dandelion carries powerful and healthy medicine in all of its parts – from flower to root. It’s high in vitamins and minerals and is said to assist with issues of the liver, kidneys and gallbladder. Perhaps that’s why it felt so good to drink a wine made from the flowers.

Dandelion Wine Recipe from the book Healing Wise by Susun Weed with notes on variations and adjustments I made. One of the most important things in wine making is cleanliness. Make sure your tools and vessels are clean and sterilized. This will help prevent spoilage and nasty “science experiment” types of surprises.

2 gal/8 liter crock
3-5 quarts/ 5 liters blossoms
5 quarts/ 5 liters water
3 pounds/1.5 kg sugar
1 organic orange
1 organic lemon
1 pkg/ 8 grams live yeast
wholewheat bread toast

1) Find a field of dandelions in bloom on a glorious shining day. Follow the honeybees to the finest flowers. Pick them with a sweeping motion of your parted fingers, like a comb. Leave the green sepals on, but get rid of all stalks.

Basket of dandelion flowers

3.5 quarts of dandelions picked from my front yard in about 20 minutes

Note: The sepals will impart a bitterness to the wine. My preference is the leave the sepals on as the bitters are part of the medicine of dandelion. When the wine is finished it doesn’t really taste bitter at all to me. For a sweeter wine you can choose to remove the sepals and just use the petals but you’ll need to gather more flowers to make 3 to 5 quarts of just petals. In the example photo below two quarts of dandelion flowers with sepals removed became less than one quart of petals only.


2 quarts of dandelion flowers with sepals removed became less than one quart of petals only

2) Back home, put blossoms immediately into a large ceramic, glass, or plastic vessel. Boil water; pour over flowers. Cover your crock with cheesecloth. Stir daily for three days.

Dandelion flowers covered with boiling water

add 5 quarts of boiling water

Note: I don’t like putting hot liquids in plastic whether they are deemed food-safe or not simply due to the chemicals from the plastic that can leach out and into the wine. I used the ceramic crock from my crock pot however, it only held 4 quarts of water. I added the extra quart in the next step.

3) On the fourth day, strain blossoms from liquid.


Strained into a large stock pot.

Note: I strained directly into a stainless steel stock pot, added the extra quart of water and the sugar. The blossoms can go directly into the compost pile.

5) Cook liquid with sugar and rind of citrus (omit rind if not organic) for 30-60 minutes.


After coming to a boil. I simmered for 60 minutes with the lid on to keep the essence of the dandelions in the mix.

Note: I didn’t have organic citrus so I omitted adding the rind and squeezed out the juice of the orange and lemon to add later.

6) Return to crock. Add citrus juice. When liquid has cooled to blood temperature, soften yeast, spread on toast, and float toast in crock.


Dissolve yeast in a small amount of the liquid and add yeast nutrient.

Note: Since my ceramic crock would not hold the entire batch I removed the pot from the heat, stirred in the citrus juices and set it aside to cool before pouring into a food grade plastic bucket. I scooped a bit out into a measuring cup and added 1/5 packet of wine making yeast (one packet is enough yeast for 5 gallons) and 1 tsp of yeast nutrient. In Susun’s recipe I think the wheat toast acts as the yeast nutrient. The wine yeast and the yeast nutrient can be purchased online or at your brew and wine making store.

7) Cover and let work two days.


working, working, working …

Note: This is where the most violent fermentation takes place. After a few hours the yeast will begin to transform the sugar into alcohol. You want to cover the bucket but not seal it completely as the gasses created by the fermentation process will need to be able to be released.

8) Strain. Return liquid to crock for one more day to settle. Filter into very clean bottles and cork lightly.


Secondary fermentation in a gallon jug fitted with an airlock.

Note: I strained the liquid through a fine mesh screen directly into a clean stock pot to remove as much non-liquid as possible and then using a funnel added the liquid into a 1 gallon glass jug fitted with an airlock. If you don’t have an airlock you can fit a balloon over the top of the jug. The purpose of this step is to keep the wine from becoming contaminated and to allow the gasses created by fermentation to escape. If the bottle were sealed at this point, it would explode.

Here’s a short video I made showing what happens during secondary fermentation. Over time the bubbling will slow down and the wine will begin to clear and become ready for bottling.

9) Don’t drink until winter solstice.

Note: This wine needs a good six months to age and is even better if you can stop yourself from drinking it and waiting two years or more.

Resources: http://www.ashtreepublishing.com/Book_Healing_Wise_Recipe_Dandywine.htm

Stewardship and The Five I’s

Fern GulleyMost of our land is designated as a Stewardship Forest which means that any actions we take to conserve and manage are done in a way that improves the quality and productivity of our woodlands for future generations.

Curious about what being in stewardship to a forest means, I began researching forestry and farming and discovered there is a name for what we have in mind to do – agroforestry.

Forest farming is an agroforestry practice characterized by the four “I’s”- Intentional, Integrated, Intensive and Interactive management of an existing forested ecosystem wherein forest health is of paramount concern.

What I found most interesting and what sparked a huge aha moment for me was the characterization using the four “I’s” – Intentional, Integrated, Intensive and Interactive. These were the same principles I was already using within the practices of my own personal growth. For my personal practice however, there is a fifth I – Inspiration.

These four characterizations alone each have their own essence of power, however when combined with inspiration it all began to click together. To me this felt like an affirmation of being on the right path. I began to see how honoring my inner voice, or the voice of my spirit, sparks a feeling of inspiration which in turn sparks creativity which then moves me to begin to take action.

I discovered that taking action is only effective and done with ease when the intention of the actions are aligned with the essence of my calling. As I begin to move forward the process of integration begins.

Personally, this is the space where new beliefs principles and practices are blended, or integrated into my current ones. It is where I recognize the aspects of me that are, or have been, on automatic pilot and assess whether those things serve me to be the best me that I can be. I then choose my own programming from that point forward, integrating it into my daily practice, a process which requires both embracing and letting go.

Look to the LightIn the forest it is the space where the intention or vision for the forest requires human interaction. Some actions, such as the selective cutting of trees to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor bringing sleeping seeds to life are both intensive and interactive. This interaction is part of assisting it to be while some actions are passive and without human interaction, allowing it to be.

And so for me, the four I’s were transformed into the five I’s – Inspired, Intentional, Integrated, Intensive and Interactive.  These principles or characterizations became SEEDS that when applied not just in stewardship to a forest yet in all aspects of my life, are supporting and assisting with moving from a state of surviving into a life thriving … in harmony and oneness with mother earth – HOME.

Moving Toward a Dream

My husband Jeff and I have shared the dream of owning a farm almost since the day we met, nearly 31 years ago. When we would talk about our future farm and what it would be like, we described it pretty much like most people would describe a farm. Big house, barns, fences, storage silos, endless fields where large tractors are used to plant, cultivate and harvest vast expanses of corn and hay. So it’s a bit curious that the land we purchased looks nothing like that.

Autumn Pond

Autumn Pond – October 2006

Our “farm” is not a traditional farm at all and is really not at all like the dream as we had envisioned it, however it’s so, so much more. It is wooded wetlands – swamp – consisting of approximately 100 acres of forest, 4 cleared acres and a 4 acre pond. There were no buildings, no fences and no vast fields waiting to be planted but it really didn’t seem to matter. It spoke to us just as it was. We were enchanted by it. No, it didn’t fit the picture we had painted of our dream but we felt called to live, to be and to explore … right here.

Sweet Gum Leaf

Sweet Gum Leaf – October 2006

The two and a half year process of purchasing the land was a challenge that also brought many unexpected gifts. We discovered that the rules, regulations and criteria we had to meet to build a home here were, at their core, about protecting the resource value of the land. We were exposed to new terms in relation to describing and defining our land. Some examples are; transition area, habitat, nesting area, endangered, threatened, ordinary resource value vs. exceptional resource value, upland, wetland, and riparian.

Graceful Grass

Graceful Grass – October 2006

What all that means is that our land is defined as a portion of a larger area of wetland or swampland which acts as a filter for the water running through it. It’s a transition area; a buffer between the higher land elevations and the point where land ends and water begins. It is home to  native plant species such as various grasses, rushes and sedges, milkweed, several species of aster, fern, orchid, mints, mosses, and various trees and shrubs. This combination of greenery provides habitat for wildlife including bear, deer, fox, coyote, beaver, raccoon, rabbits, squirrels, eagles, hawks, owls, vultures, hummingbirds, turtles, frogs and snakes, serves as a stopping point for migratory birds and as a pollen and nectar source for important insect pollinators such as native bees, butterflies and honey bees.

What it all means for us is that by having a dream and moving toward it we’ve landed at a place that we hadn’t anticipated. It isn’t “less than” or “better than”, it’s just different and unique. We were open to hearing and following the call. We allowed ourselves to be enchanted by the beauty of the land itself vs being locked into a dream that could only be manifested as the vision of a farm we had described for three decades. Our dream is not necessarily manifesting as we had imagined but it is already revealing itself to be so much bigger than we had ever anticipated.

Autumn Meadow

Autumn Meadow – October 2006

In the process of moving toward the dream we’ve pretty much turned our ideas and beliefs about farming upside down. We have discovered aspects of agriculture that we weren’t aware existed before this journey. As an added bonus, integrating new beliefs about agriculture has also somehow curiously revealed things of ourselves that we had forgotten or had been out of touch with for a very long time. Aspects of ourselves that when explored or revealed become like a sort of nourishment to the manifesting of the dream. Assisting it to unfold and blossom before us, petal by petal.

St. John's Wort in Abundance

St. John’s Wort in Abundance – October 2006

We’ve been given the opportunity to turn our beliefs about ourselves upside down a bit as well. What began as a desire to survive by growing things and living off the land has been transformed into a calling to live in stewardship to the land. In this we are watching and participating, moving forward and sitting still. In some cases we are assisting it to be and in others we are letting it be. In the “doing” or “not doing” we are moving from living a life of simply surviving into a life of absolutely thriving.

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