Elk (Wapiti) Medicine Dreams

Screen Shot 2020-02-01 at 11.15.02 AMOn the eve of my birth, I dreamt of an Elk running down the hill to the North of my home. I leapt out of bed to catch sight of this massive creature. It ran to the East around my yard, down to the South.

Snow had fallen overnight, creeping all the way up to the doors. I beckoned my partner to follow me outside where the Elk awaited. We slipped on our boots, pajamas in style, and found that the Elk was a female. No antlers. She ran to the North, but behind her was the male, towering above us with antlers that held so many stories deep inside its bones. 

Fearless, I crept below it’s fur covered hooves like a child crawling toward it’s Grandfather’s lap. The power of the Elk was palpable, emanating deep wisdom standing in stillness. It ran away as quickly as it arrived through the West, then back up to the hill in the North, leaving only soft snow crystals in its place. 

When I woke up I felt graced by a spirit that I had never met, but I knew had been watching over me for a long time. I read about the Elk or as the Shawnee Indians call them, Wapiti. 

The Wapiti medicine represents gentle strength and the courage to rise to the occasion as you begin new projects. Given it was my birthday, I felt this dream was a beautiful blessing from the Animal Kingdom. 

Later that day, in wake time, I hiked up the hill to the North with my two goats, and was greeted by an owl. We followed our ancestor for a while until it sat on a branch nearby. We stared into each others eyes for what felt like hours feeling the permeability of dream time and wake time. Thank you, Animal Guides, for watching over me, always. Thank you, Mama, for my birth. Aho Miigwech.

 

To learn more about Animal Spirit Guides,  Animal Speak by Ted Andrews is fabulous.

Elk Medicine

Elk medicine teaches us that by pacing ourselves we increase our stamina. Elk people may not complete a project first, but when it is done they have not burned themselves out. Elk are able to look at the long journey and to “hit their stride” to maintain energy and perseverance.

Animal spirit Elk reminds us of the importance of community, most especially fellowship with our same gender. Herds of elk are normally female or male and only unite during mating season. We are reminded by Elk that there is always support if we need it.

Elk also tells us to be aware of subtle changes around us and to be ready for a quick response.

Elk medicine stands for stamina, strength, nobility, pride, and survival.”

 http://native-american-totems.com/animal-totem-medicines/elk/

 

Photo above by RAYMOND SCHUSTER

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Message from the Birds at Dawn

1DE13EC4-338A-4B41-9ED8-CF878C812A31

It’s actually quite simple.

To serve. To heal. To serve. To heal. To serve. To heal. 

 

The human is complex,

yet the reason we’ve taken form in these bodies wed to the earth by gravity 

is less complicated than it appears. 

 

Love

 

Love is the common thread that binds each of us to the other. 

The heart, so tender, vulnerable, yet strong and full of courage, is a gift from Spirit. 

 

Stop looking outside yourself

 

Everything you need is inside that beautiful body of yours, 

the place you call home

for as long as Spirit allows

 

So, what will you do? 

Who will you be?

 

Set your mind free of worries and doubt

Trust that you are here for a specific reason, 

even if only to meet compassion in times of fear.

 

Offer the fear a bowl of sweet nectar 

made of the pure essence inside each of your bones.

Let the fear feast

until it is satiated and there is no more to distract you.

 

Truth comes from that quiet, humble place within

No force can interrupt that flow from your jewel of a heart

Love deeply inside and out

It’s actually quite simple.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Honor your Birth

Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 7.20.19 AM

With the clocks turning back an hour, I feel the shift toward the dark days of winter coming. We are exactly between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, known as Samhain in Celtic tradition. The veil into the otherworlds becomes thinnest here. The leaves fall off the trees, and we can see things that were less revealed in the summer. I appreciate the call of this season to go within and expend less energy outward. 

Halloween symbols a time of communicating gratitude for the ancestors. I laid out photos, recipes, books, candles and music for mine. I spent the evening remembering those who have passed on with warmth in my heart. I watched old movies of my childhood so I could see my Grandfather playing the saxophone. When we remember them, we are feeding their spirits, wherever they are now. 

 When I lit a fire in the wood stove, I dedicated it to my Grandparents and their parents for giving me my parents, who gave me life. All the little details seen and unseen which give us life are amazing. Our births are such a gift. As my mentor, Darryl says, “It’s all about honoring our birth.” I am only beginning to understand this simple, yet deep statement. 

Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 7.20.04 AMThe breath is a gift, giving us life in each moment without having to think about it too much. The Lungs are connected to Autumn, as is the Large Intestine. Like the trees releasing leaves, we are also invited to let go of what’s ready to be eliminated. Therefore, from a place of emptiness, there is enough space to breathe in new ideas, new dreams, new hopes. The spaciousness created through consciously letting go of old beliefs that do not serve us makes room for truth. 

What is your true heart’s calling? 

What is made visible when the old stories you’ve been carrying are released? 

How will you honor your birth?  

IMG_4761

The story I am releasing is….

  • I have to work hard to earn my keep (so outdated, so not helpful)
  • There is too much to do, no time to rest (so exhausting and who wants to be tired all the time?)
  • I’ll relax once I finish _____ (laundry, dishes, emails) Where’s the joy in that?

Whoever’s voice this is, whether a cultural expectation, a family member’s, or the inner work-horse, it’s just not nice. It does not leave any space for creative flow and joy. It may have served at some point to get good grades, finish a school project, or get a new job, but I am ready to let it go so I can step more fully into my truth, which is that I am completely worthy of deep rest, nourishment, and joy, RIGHT NOW. Not in a week, not in a month, not in five minutes. Now. 

What if  my life passes by and suddenly I look back from my deathbed and realize I’ve not been living in the present moment? All we have is right now. And, that is enough. I am enough. You are enough. We are all enough. There is nothing to prove anymore. Give it up! Go outside and dance with the moon if that is what you really want. 

You have the power, and that power is choice

The only one who can set you free is you. 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Interview by ode boutique

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!

ode 2019 / 2020

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. 

ode 2019 / 2020Is 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. 

ode 2019 / 2020Talk 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. 

ode 2019 / 2020Why 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. 

ode 2019 / 2020What’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

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Foraging with Goats

49EB6D2A-A4A9-4532-9FB6-A837C1F1DE2F

I have not written in far too long. I almost put it off another week, but as I lay napping in my bed a few minutes ago, a big spider ran across my brow. I woke up and felt its legs running over my skin and saw it jump off under the bed. Spider medicine is about sharing your story through the written word. Weave your words into the web of life to find meaning. So, here I am, Grandma Spider. Thanks for sending me the message loud and clear.

Summer feels like it’s rushing by and one of my daily chores is milking the two lady goats. At first, I saw milking as a chore, but now I understand it is as much for them as it is for me. We need each other, not only for me to feed them and for me to receive their milk, but for companionship and connection. It is not just a transaction, it is a relationship.

The goats are showing me how grounding routine can feel in this fast paced world. After morning milking, I take them for a walk. Today, we walked up the hill and discovered ripe blackberries growing wild along the path. As I gathered the delicious bounty, placing each berry into my, thankfully, blue t-shirt, I listened to the sounds of the goats chomping on leaves.

IMG_4723

The satisfaction of harvesting food from the earth for nourishment is like no other. To be in direct relationship with nature brings me home. I felt like one of the goats, part of the herd, foraging in the brambles for tasty treats. When we walk together, they move slower wanting to stop and munch. I always feel like I need to get somewhere, hike the mountain, rush back home to tackle the long list of “to do’s.” I was completely immersed in this precious moment on the hill, time was non-existent. How I yearn for these moments, so quiet, connected, and calm.

Also, blackberries have thorns. Therefore, I couldn’t reach in and pull off handfuls. I had to gently pick each one and carefully navigate the prickers. Yet, another message from nature to slow way down and be patient.

The goats are teaching me to pause and notice the abundance right under my nose. Everywhere they look they see food. If I can get out of my own head, then I notice it, too. We are surrounded by food and medicine in these forests and fields of Western Mass. Abundance surrounds us, and we are so very blessed.

IMG_4713

Thyme and Olive Oil Chèvre inspired by Susan at Rawson Brook Farm, Monterey, MA

Goats are also super sensitive, so when I feel stressed, they feel it, too. Lately, I’ve been feeling like there’s never enough time so I rush around doing a million things at once. “Rushing is violence,” I hear from the lyrics of Rising Appalachia. When I breathe deep and sing to the goats, they relax and let down their milk. When I am cranky and yelling at them for kicking the milk bucket over, they tense up. We’re all one, I guess. They are such great teachers.

Off to hang the feta cheese and make blackberry frozen yogurt!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Blog’s 10th Anniversary + Goats!

IMG_4093

This blog was inspired ten years ago, when I embarked on a journey to learn about homesteading, farming, and raising goats for cheese and milk. I took an internship at a small goat dairy farm in Monterey, MA with Susan Sellew. I left college life behind, and moved into a log cabin surrounded by tall white pines and blueberries. My new teachers were the plants, animals, and Susan.

Rawson Brook Farm became home for over two years. Each day I gardened, milked goats, made cheese, and raised chickens for meat and eggs. I upheld the philosophy that if I were to eat meat and dairy, I had to know how to raise it myself. Our idealistic young minds are too often taught to ignore our dreams and get real jobs. Instead, I chose to deepen my connection to food and all that sustains me.

IMG_4163

I fell in love with the rhythms of homesteading. How each plant and animal nourished my body, in exchange for consistent attention to patterns of life and death, and a good bit of hard work. I don’t even really feel it’s work when the animals and plants are offering us so much. It’s a collaboration. The goats taught me how to be present, live in the moment, and have a little fun.

Ten years later, I invited goats back into my life on my own homestead. Susan offered me two pregnant does in April that kidded in May. Carmen and Stella each had two boys. They are all healthy and get along for the most part, though who can blame the mamas when their boys drive them a little nuts with all their head butting and humping each other. It feels like I have a daycare program when we go for walks, all the little kids running around each other, jumping, bleating, snorting, humping, and chewing on fresh leaves.

It brings me so much joy watching how much goats love uninhibited play. It’s not like they are asking themselves, “Am I being too wild right now? Should I tone it down?” No! They are full on learning how their little bodies work on this earth. Within seconds of being born they are walking, nursing and wagging their tiny tails. At one week they’re already sprinting up and down the driveway bouncing off each other’s backs. It’s a great way to start the day.

I am grateful to Susan Sellew for inviting me into her world of goats. Now, we get to text funny goat videos and medical information back and forth. Whenever anything out of the ordinary happens, I tell her and she always replies with a calm response that makes me remember that I am doing the best I can and the rest is up to mystery.

14136A57-C0B7-40FA-80BD-964B7543BB74

What does this close connection with the natural world teach me? I continue learning over and over how wise and intelligent bodies are with the complete knowing of how to heal. We have to trust in the time spirits. I always wanted to raise goats of my own, but I had to learn other things before rooting into the homestead. We never really know how long or why certain things happen. There is great freedom in patience, perseverance, non-attachment, remaining open to things not going the way we think, and living in the moment.  

We’ve come full circle on the blog post with this being the 10th year anniversary of Farming for Justice. Thanks for reading and enjoy the beautiful fresh green spring!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Great Remembering

65F72431-A9F9-4F59-B3A0-09D658F5D4F9

This post was inspired by a dream I had last night in which I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl. I held her and she was precious, innocent, pure. The love I felt was so pure I could not imagine feeling any other way about her. When I woke from the dream, I realized this baby girl was probably me, since we’re usually working out something about ourselves in dreams no matter who the people appear to be. What if I felt this pure love toward myself, I wonder? What would the world look like if each of us loved ourselves and one another the way we love innocent newborns fresh from the womb?

Enough of this scarcity mentality that reinforces those beliefs that “you are not enough,” “only if you do this then you can get that,” you would have it all if you were better at….”

This structure of sabotaging beliefs are false and come from a society rooted in male domination and capitalism. There is actually no end goal to be reached when everything will be just dandy and all your dreams come true based on your performance. I don’t know what happens after death, but I do know that heaven can exist right here right now on Earth. Everything is a choice.

What if we already do have it all? 

What if there is nothing to prove? 

What if everything in your life is a gift that deserves to be recognized?

Last night I posted two photos of myself on social media. I very rarely post photos of myself because:

1) I don’t want to be that woman (judgement of you, therefore judgment of self)

2) I’m not photogenic (old line of shame I use when I don’t want my pic taken)

3) Fear of really being seen because I may not be what you want to see

4) Only super pretty girls do that and I’m only kind of pretty (if you get me at the right angle)

5) I’m not an attention seeker. I’m above all that and I don’t seek your approval to feel good about myself (bullsh*t – I have insecurities, clearly)

The photos are out there because I wanted to show more of myself to you. I want to learn to love all parts of me. I am thinking about the yin and yang inside of me and want to let go of my insecurities around being seen.

Yin and Yang are the parts that complete the whole. Yin can be interpreted as receptive, watery, wondering, being, that inner place we go to when we daydream. It’s often referred to as the feminine, but our society has placed so many negative associations with being feminine if you are a male that I am careful with this word. We all have both yin and yang qualities.

Yang can be interpreted as active, fire, doing, outward energy we put toward getting stuff done. It has been referred to as masculine energy, but again, careful, because of what society has deemed wrong with being too masculine as a woman or not masculine enough as a man. We’ve got some healing to do here as a culture that is founded on the patriarchy.

Yin and yang are not binaries or opposites as the English language attempts to relay, they are part of the whole and we need both. We cannot know darkness without light, calm without chaos, movement without inactivity, silence without noise.

IMG_1177

How can I fully accept my non-conforming habits and desires with all the messages whirling around women to be sweet, kind, nurturing, smart but not too smart, funny but not offensive, and athletic but only to be slim for men to like my body? I realized how much I judge various parts of me as too feminine or too masculine. Even as a CIS gender heterosexual white woman, I struggle to remember I am whole and enough.

After a walk to clear my head yesterday, I sat down next to my cousin who said to me without even knowing where my thoughts had been (because women are usually pretty damn psychic), “Hannah, I can never really describe you to my friends. You’re just you. The moment I think I know everything about you, I learn something I never would have imagined.”

As a young girl I loved physical activity, sports, pushing myself to the limits and doing “boy things.” Whatever that means. I also loved snuggling with my mama, playing dress up and painting my nails. At some point I had to decide which way to go for society to accept me as woman. Instead of conforming, I listened to my heart and chose to ignore those voices as best I could and do whatever it takes to BE ME. 

It ain’t easy! I get off course, lost, forget, and end up in places I’d rather not be. This year for me is about Homecoming. I bought a house as a single woman with a vision for gardens, healing, community, peace, rest, and belonging. I am learning what is truly means to come home to myself. Who is Hannah, really? I can never fully know, that’s the beauty of the Great Mystery, but I am always open to discovering more and more. And, right now, I know, I am enough. I am completely whole, pure, and lovable the way a baby is when she is born.

I strongly urge us to be who we are, without caring constantly about what others may think. No one really is watching, and if they are, who cares? I fully embrace the “masculine” and “feminine” qualities which I refer to as Yin and Yang. There just ain’t one without the other. Each one makes a whole. Have love and compassion for all parts of you. Be true to you. Get sh*t done then take a bubble bath. You deserve to know the REAL YOU. We all do. Show us. Show us your darkness and light.

IMG_3614

What we are looking for is already inside. It’s all right here waiting to be acknowledged. Wholeness is achieved when we love all parts of ourselves. Don’t identify too much with any of the parts of you that you uncover because we’re always changing. Be open to the transformations.

IMG_1585

Who would you be if you didn’t care so much about what others think? 

Who would you be if you didn’t put yourself into a box and tie a rope to the wall so you’d never leave it? 

Who are you, no part left out? 

Who are you when you believe you can fully embrace all of you?

You already have it all. You were born with it. Life is about remembering all we have forgotten since birth. Take off the masks and dance in the moonlight until dawn if that is who you are! Cheers to releasing binaries and calling in being, belonging, and wholeness.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

PS: Join me on the Journey to Wholeness! I’m offering a series of workshops at my home this spring and fall. Learn more & apply online at sweetbirchherbals.com

Rooted & Rising (1) copy

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized