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Developing and tending to our little urban garden has been kind of our homeowner obsession since the day we moved into our 1929 brick four square almost exactly four years ago. We've made barely any structural or major updates to the interior of our house (although we continue to dream of a kitchen big enough that we can both actually cook in it at the same time...), but our backyard garden has been in constant shapeshifting mode since day one. We made space for a large organic garden and two large raised beds immediately after moving in, and this year is the first year we really went all in and landscaped/hardscaped the the bejesus out of it. Greg and I both have undergraduate degrees in landscape design and horticulture (respectively), so we totally know what to do and how to do it...we just had to make a plan that reflected what we both wanted, while allowing each of us some creative flexibility in terms of our tastes. He likes the symmetrical, straight line well tended shade garden. I like the wild and weedy english country garden vibe. 

C'est la vie.  

Above all, we like working together and making new things, especially in the garden. We love gardening. We love eating lots of veggies. We like sharing lots of veggies. We like having a big crazy garden that we can escape to at the end of the day - it's our garden therapy. Gromit also likes chasing rabbits, trying to catch the neighboring honey bees (unsuccessfully) and jamming her face in the open morning squash blossoms. Even in a city, we make time and space for creating a living habitat that nourishes us (and our fur creatures) - body and soul. 

Rainbow chard, grown from seed (our favorite green!!). We purchased almost all of our seeds this year from High Mowing Organic Seeds

Newly planed red cedar raised beds that Greg salvaged from a job and planed in the backyard. They're absolutely beautiful, and red cedar lasts forever. This cozy bed houses our climbing cucumber plants, some squashes & zucchini's. 

     

Let's just give compost a minute to shine while we're here. Our garden would be nothing without good compost, and we devote an unapologetically large amount of time to making sure we've got good stuff going in all the time. We compost almost everything after meals and meal prep (except meats) and even bring home extra compost from the juice bar at Ellwood Thompsons. We dumpster dived a large barrel a year ago, cleaned it out, painted it black and turned it into a rotating composter that just eats compost. It's SO HAPPY. We add to it daily and give it a good spin. Egg shells, greens, fruits, leftovers in the fridge, flowers that are past their prime....we compost almost everything. This years compost will be going in the garden for next year, and so on and so on. I'm a firm believer that how we tend our garden soil is reflective in how we tend to our gut microbiome (and you can read my previous post about that here). 

We tried our hand at laying stone for a walkway from the shade garden into the veggie garden and it turned out pretty freakin' awesome. (Props goes to Greg for most of that task.) We surrounded it with yellow creeping jenny and... purple succulently plants that we can't for the life of us remember their name ...

First rhubarb harvest - pickled and saved for this delicious post!

Spaghetti Squash...April to June

     

Dill & Snap Peas!

Yellow Squash and Rainbow Chard in Late May

     

Beets for days....Beet greens are one of our favorites too! Sautéed up in lots of garlic, olive oil, and extra fresh dill. 

Cucumber hide and seek :)

#myotherhouseisagreenhouse Look at those tomatoes! ALSO - you can't see it but Greg installed an underground irrigation system (!!). There are 5 zones, covering the entire large tomato/beet/blueberry/basil bed (below) and the 2 raised beds for the chard, squashes, cucumbers, zucchini's, and green onions. He was on a roll, and installed an irrigation system for all the potted plants we have on the front porch too (that man literally can't sit still). This may sound like an extravagance (and...it kinda is), but in our case it's a total necessity. We're in Richmond, VA. The mosquitoes have been SO BAD the last 2 years we basically had to abandon our garden mid season because we couldn't stay outside long enough to water it. Never again. 

Gromit has a new food obsession: snap peas. A+ for dog treats. 

Along this side of the garden (deemed "Lindsay's side") will eventually grow up to be the wildflower and herb garden. We have a neighboring bee colony so I wanted to plant loads of pollinator plants to keep the bees extra happy. I packed it with yarrow, sunflowers, echinacea, Russian sage, joe pye weed, bee balm, ornamental sage, Black Eyed Susan's, St. Johns Wort, a new little fig tree and our rhubarb patch. 

And it begins....

Happy Summer Solstice, ya'll. I'll be continually adding organic gardening posts throughout year - if you have questions or things you'd like to learn more about, leave them below and I'll be sure to touch on them in future posts!

"Nature is our home, and in nature we are at home. This strange, multicolored and astonishing world that we explore - where space is granular, time does not exist, and things are nowhere - is not something that estranges us from our true selves, for this is only what our natural curiosity reveals to us about the place of our dwelling. About the stuff of which we ourselves are made. We are made of the same stardust of which all things are made, and when we are immersed in suffering, or when we are experiencing intense joy, we are being nothing other than what we can't help but be: a part of our world...." -- Carlo Rovelli

I've been tearing through some books and podcasts recently. It may be the wooing of my front porch swing or the hours and hours spent on long road trips that allow for more time to read for pleasure and zone into a podcast series more intensely. In any case - it's most welcome. For the past several months, almost ALL of the books and podcasts absorbed into my brain have been recommendations from friends and colleagues that did not disappoint. I've been really drawn to science meets intuitive wisdom lately and reading anything I can get my hands on to this extent. 

Books  ------

Braiding Sweetgrass - a gift from my Aunt this past holiday, and a lovely reminder of our connection to our ancestry, our traditions, our connection with the earths seasonal gifts, and our ability (and responsibility) to share life's pleasures and nature's bounty.

The Hidden Life of Trees - to quench my desire to get to know my towering, leafy friends on a more personal level. 

Harvest - if you have a garden, you must read this book! Not only is it strikingly beautiful (those photos!), but the recipes it provides for dozens of garden and backyard treasures are so fun! I want to make every single thing in this book - especially the pickled rhubarb and the herbed salts. 

Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians - I'm planning a private retreat in June to the Virginia mountains of Appalachia to do a weekend herb walk and medicine making workshop with some of my friends and colleagues (you can read about last year's dry run here). Appalachia is SO FULL of traditional folk medicine with a rich history of herbal use, although so little of this knowledge is in written form. It's a verbal tradition, passed from generation to generation. But for some preliminary reading (and to brush up a bit myself), I'm re-reading this tried and true classic, filled with dozens of Appalachian herbs, their use and medicine making tips. 

7 Brief Lessons on Physics - a sweet find from listening to the On Being podcast with guest Carlo Rovelli. His interview is one of my favorites in that podcast series, and his little pocket sized book is a much needed reminder of the wonders and complexities all around us (and the basics of physics I've forgotten over the years...)

Podcasts ------

On Being - with every free moment I'm listening to Krista Tippet's interviews in this beautiful podcast. Her guests have really opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and perspectives I've never considered on everything from poetry to physics to music to religion. Definitely worth a listen. 

Invisibilia - all about the invisible forces that control human behavior and it's mind blowing

Stuff You Should Know - what to know more about __________? They've got it on this podcast. Applicable to all the gardeners right now : How Composing Works

Revisionist History - this was a frequent go-to on a recent road trip I took to New Orleans, and if you're a history junkie like me, it's an interesting perspective on the little bits of history we may not think twice about - but dives deep into the long forgotten details of those seemingly insignificant historical characters and their bigger impact on the world today. 

What are some of the books and podcasts that you've been loving lately? I'm on the hunt for upcoming summer reads and podcasts for upcoming road trips and travels! Share yours below...

Photo by Renee Byrd

There are a lot of exceptionally fun things about being an herbalist (too many to count, really), and my personal favorite is creating, blending and sharing herbal formulas for my clients and friends and family. I remember first learning how to construct herbal formulas in school - I felt like I was in potions class. It seemed so overwhelming at first...the blending process can be ridiculously easy but also amazingly complex. We would be given a case study, have a few minutes to brainstorm our ideas and then each one of us would write down our formulas on the board and talk through it, getting critiques on our herb choices and learning from everyone else's perspective. We must have done that hundreds of times - no two formula ever being the same twice. That's the beauty and complexity of herbal formulating - everyone gets something different depending on their unique health story and symptom picture. If you're just starting out, having a guide to herbal formulating can be extra helpful so you have a starting point of things to consider when blending up a tea, tincture or powder formula. Here is my process of herbal formulating and things I take into consideration, step-by-step:


What is my primary herbal action?

This is your main focus for the formula. Sometimes it can be hard to pick just one - especially if lots of symptoms are presenting at once. Do your best to determine the underlying cause of the symptoms (which may or may not be obvious). What is your primary goal for the formula? Pain relief? Digestive support? Immune stimulation or modulation? Stress or anxiety? Here's a list of herbal actions and their corresponding herbs:

Adaptogen (increases endurance and resistance to stress)

Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Licorice, Milky Oat Tops, Nettle

Analgesics (Pain relieving)

Skullcap, ashwagandha

Antispasmodics (prevents and relieves spasms)

Chamomile, Peppermint, Skullcap, Yarrow, Wild Yam

Anti-inflammatory

Ashwagandha, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Holy Basil, Nettle, Turmeric, Yarrow

Anti-microbial

Chamomile, Elderberries, Yarrow, Ginger, Goldenseal

Bitters

Chamomile, Gentian, Dandelion leaf

Carminative (soothes digestion, relieves gas & bloating)

Fennel, Cardamom, Chamomile

Demulcent (to soothe inflamed tissues)

Marshmallow, Slippery Elm bark

Expectorant (increases the elimination of excess mucus)

Mullein, Wild Cherry, Thyme

Hepatic (liver protecting)

Burdock, Dandelion root, Turmeric, Reishi

Immune Stimulant (to acutely increase immune activity)

Echinacea root, Elderberries

Immune Modulator (to balance and support the immune system)

Astragalus, Reishi, Elderberries, Turmeric 

Lymphatic

Calendula

Nutritive

Alfalfa, Nettle, Slippery Elm, Milky Oat, Reishi

Sedative/anxiolytic (calms the body and nervous system)

Chamomile, Ashwagandha, Skullcap, Passionflower, Valerian, Kava kava, Lemon balm

Stimulant (increases circulation and breaks through obstructions)

Ginger, Turmeric, Rosemary

(You can learn more about stocking/creating your own herbal apothecary in my previous post!)

What is my secondary herbal action?

This is your chance to add in additional herbs for secondary support that are often at a lower dose and included to immediately support other symptoms that are presenting. For example, if the primary action is adaptogen/adrenal support for stress, and you also have stomach pains and cramps after eating, this is a good opportunity to add in some antispasmodic herbs to support digestion. I generally only pick no more than 2 secondary herbal actions per formula to keep it as straightforward and targeted as possible

What is my synergist / third action (if applicable)?

If absolutely necessary, you may add in a third herbal action or third area of focus in one formula but at this point it might be getting a little convoluted. Luckily (as you might notice in the herbal actions list above), some herbs serve multiple purposes and can address multiple issues at once. These are the ideal third herbal actions because they're already playing a role for additional area of focus. For example, Holy Basil is both an adaptogen and an anti-inflammatory (which may be 2 herbal actions that you need - so this might be a good fit). Synergists are also great to include in a formula (usually the lowest amount) to tie formulas together that have a bunch of herbs that may not necessarily naturally jive well together. Licorice is usually my favorite choice as a synergist. 

Generally speaking - I try to keep all of my herbal formulas to 6 herbs or less. If I start adding more, the primary focus on the formula gets lost and sometimes potency is diminished. This is just my approach and not every herbalist will formulate this way. I just like to really fine tune my herbal choices and take a more minimalist approach. It's not uncommon for me to break it up and make 2 seperate formulas if I need to include more herbal actions to keep the potency and therapeutic value more concentrated.  

   

What are the herbal energetics and do they match the symptom picture?

This is a more complex and advanced topic to explore in later posts, but important to consider for a good formula. Herbs carry their own energetics (and vibrations, if you're into that) that can have a strong influence on people outside of their predictable herbal actions, and understanding herbal energetics can help you narrow down your herb choices. Herbal energetics include things like damp, dry, cool, moist, hot, pungent, astringent and acrid (to name a few) and we use these energetic plant qualities to balance out someone's constitution or presenting symptom. Michael Moore & Kiva Rose have a great info on herbal energetics if you want to learn more.

In what form am I dispensing (tea, tincture, glycerite, powder)? 

You may be limited to what herbs you can use depending on what forms are available to you or what you have on hand. Also, cost is a factor here too, with powders and teas being significantly more affordable than alcohol based tinctures. Dosage also changes depending on what form you're taking. If using tinctures for kiddos, consider glycerite forms instead of alcohol bases. If you don't have access to herbs locally, you can source them from Zack Woods Herb Farm, Mountain Rose Herbs, Starwest Botanicals, Gaia Herbs, Herb Pharm, Oregon's Wild Harvest, Banyan Botanicals & Urban Moonshine

Appropriate dosing and frequency (age appropriate considerations)?

Keep in mind the age, body composition and lifestyle of whomever you're formulating for. Children require lower dosages, thinner (more vata) folks usually respond to small doses, while pitta and kapha folks can tolerate higher dosing. Again, Michael Moore has a great reference for tincture dosing. Also, how often can someone feasibly make a tea during their day? If something really needs to be taken 3 times per day and you want to make a tea, make sure you can actually make it three times per day, otherwise powder and tinctures are much more convenient to take. 

Are there any contraindications / potential for interactions?

Not sure about which herbs interact with which drugs or should / should not be taken along with certain things? Look it up or talk with a qualified herbalist. Generally speaking - herbs are pretty safe, but some do interact with other drugs or shouldn't be taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding or pre/post surgery etc. Henriette's Herbal is a great reference for looking into herbal contraindications. 

How long will the formula last and appropriate storage:

If you're taking a formula for several weeks (maybe even months?), then take care with how you're storing your herbs. Herbs will always last longer when stored properly. I love using Infinity Glass Jars to store my herbs because they're airtight to seal in aromatics and freshness, and made with ultraviolet glass. This deep violet (almost black!) glass is thicker and more durable than your standard glass containers and blocks out UV light, and all of the jar lid systems are completely airtight. Their small glass bottles are perfect for herbal tinctures snd glycerites and come it several sizes (5ml-100ml) and are great for traveling or throwing in your bag for day to day use. The Apothecary Jar (my favorite) is so beautiful and stores dried tea formulas like a dream for up to 6 months. These are ideal storage containers for herbs (or spice mixes, coffee, herbal salves, oils.....everything!) and a great way to extend the shelf life of more perishable formulas, especially teas and powders. 

Remember to label your formulas with all herbs used, the date of formulation and expiration date (if applicable). I like giving my formulas names, like "Dreaming Blend" or "Femme Power Potion". You know - have fun with it!

This post is made in partnership with Infinity Jars. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

HELLO, I’M LINDSAY.
Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.

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