Kristin Kelly of Ode Boutique, Northampton interviewed me for a class they graciously invited me to teach about Herbal Bouquet and Smudge Stick Making. Beautiful photos by Joanna Chattman.
Contact me if you ever want me to offer a class near you!
You are a certified life coach, so an expert in the field of helping people live their best lives. Do you have some advice for us?
I generally don’t give people advice, I mostly listen and ask questions that invite you to find your own inner truth. My favorite questions are: What are absolutely non-negotiable parts of your life that nourish your heart? What things can be let go of that prevent you from living your dreams? How can you make more space and time for those heart-feeding moments so that you feel deeply nourished and alive?
What’s your spirit herb?
Tulsi! I always plant more than I’ll ever use and surround my gardens with her sweet smelling nectar. Tulsi Holy Basil is delicious in all forms: tea, tincture, glycerine, honey, essential oil. I call her the Queen of Herbs. She calls forth abundance, love, and protection. People in India are said to adorn their doorsteps with the plants to attract bountiful harvests and health among their families. It calms the nervous system, aids digestion, is a nourishing adaptogen, strengthens the immune system and grounds frenetic energy. I drink the tea year round and sell it at the farmers markets so we can all share in her beauty.
Is there a story behind the name “Sweet Birch”?
When I was launching the business in 2014, I asked the spirits of the land where I was living at the time to tell me what I ought to call it. I sat on a little hill overlooking the river and closed by eyes for a while. When I opened them I noticed that all the saplings surrounding me were Sweet Birch – Betula lenta. “Sweet Birch!” I said out loud. Then, I heard a rustling in the woods below and watched a black bear walk across the path I had taken. Well, that was plenty of confirmation for me! The business was to be called Sweet Birch Herbals and I would be walking the path of bear medicine, or the healer who uses herbs for her wellness protocols.
Who or what has been your best teacher?
My best teacher has been the plants, of course, and those who pass down their wisdom in verbal / written form such as Chris Marano of Clearpath Herbals, Jade Alicandro Mace of Milk and Honey Herbs, and Margi Flint of Earthsong Herbals. But, if the books and people don’t carry the information in the moment, I always refer to the plants themselves. We talk daily and they direct me in how to facilitate healing in the highest realm for my clients. They want to help us so much and are always waiting to be called on for healing. Giving back to them by offering tobacco, or a strand of my own hair is how I thank them for showing up.
Talk to us about your goats!
Before my passion for herbs came along, I worked on a small dairy goat farm in the Berkshires. That’s where I fell in love with homesteading, herbalism, making cheese and raising food from the Earth. 10 years after working at the farm, I finally acquired two pregnant goats from the woman who taught me everything I know. They give me over a gallon of milk a day which I turn into fresh chèvre, feta, and yogurt. They help keep the weeds down and give fertility back to the soil. Each morning after milking we walk up the hill to pick blackberries. Stella has discovered that the berries are just as yummy as the leaves! And, Carmen likes her head scratched daily by me. They show me what it means to be a tribe, or a herd. When I walk, they follow. When they need more hay or fresh water, they let me know.
Your blog, Farmingforjustice.com, is so inspiring and honest. What are you working on for your next post?
Thank you. It’s 10 years in the making, first post was at the goat farm in 2009. The blog keeps me rooted in written word, which grounds me into expressing what matters most when times feels chaotic and unknown. My next post is never know until I get inspired to write, so I’m not sure what will move me next. I feel most inspired right now by the beauty of the harvest! Peaches, berries, herbs, flowers, milk, honey, all the many facets of life that keep on giving to us year after year. I harvested 100 lbs of peaches from one tree yesterday. I almost cried thinking how this one tree had so much energy and sweetness inside its roots to grow that many delicious peaches.
Why does one burn a smudge stick?
Burning smudge stick is a reminder that I am rooted in the Earth and have the capacity to clear away anything that does not serve my highest self in each moment. I try to smudge myself each day and especially after any challenging experiences that stress me out. It’s always a good idea to smudge your home and bedroom when people move in or out because we want to keep our energetic fields clear and open to allow in what serves our hearts. As an empath and healer, gunk gets stuck to me and I have to be careful to keep my energy clear so I can help others and not get stuck in messes that are not mine to clear up.
You seem to notice the world around you sending you signs. What is a recent message from the universe?
In this moment of writing this, the message I hear is TRUST. Trust your inner guidance and the spirits of the plants, animals, ancestors and any other guides. We are all surrounded by allies in the spirit world. These allies want us to call on them, honor them, thank them, and listen to them. Get to know your guides. Plants and animals are powerful allies waiting in the ethers for us to open up to them.
What guides you?
My animal guides are the Owl and Snake. They are a funny pair. Owl carries the snake by its talons to get places via air, and the snake grounds the owl into deeply transformative places on the Earth. They work together and keep me highly entertained. Right now, they are saying, “Come outside and play with us, it’s so beautiful out here!” I am grateful for the opportunity to answer these wonderful questions, and they are right, I have to get off the computer and enjoy the clear sunny day.
My other guide is Grandma Moon. She is wise, stern, and playful. She directs me toward the feminine energies that are being forgotten. Listening to her reminds me of the power of the Divine Feminine inside each of us and how we need it to sustain our communities during the changing times on the planet. We live in a very hyper-masculine culture that encourages excess yang. Grandma Moon calls forth balance between the yin and yang. I thank her for that.
What’s in your tea and who are you drinking it with?
I just made a cup of Restoration Tea from Full Kettle Farm in Sunderland – nettles, mint, goji berries, milky oats, red clover, raspberry leaf. It’s a nourishing infusion that can be sipped every day to restore the kidneys, build up the nervous system after stress, and replenish after physical or mental exertion.
Cold season is coming up. What should we stock up on?
Immune Boost Tincture with Astragalus, Reishi, Ginger, Echinacea, Turmeric, and Licorice Elderberry Syrup Fighter Cider Murder of Colds Tea from Full Kettle Farm Elderberry Bliss Tincture with Hawthorne, Rose, Cinnamon, Ginger, Tulsi and Honey
I have these every week at the Tuesday Market downtown Northampton and online.