My Herbs Blog
As a homeschool mom, I find every opportunity to teach my children how to incorporate nature into their lives. It is not so much about incorporating, actually, but integrating. We see nature as life and life as nature. It is not uncommon for us to spend a few hours outside a day, even in the winter time. Spring and summer is my favorite time as an herbalist, because that is when the landscape is in bloom, plants are thriving, and botanicals can be identified.
A great activity to do with your children during the warmer months of the year, is to identify plants, draw them, and look up their uses. Trees are especially enjoyable, because the bark can be used to make a rubbing in an art journal, and I have found that children adore this activity. The tools you will need to perform this exercise, are as follows: an art journal with blank pages, a pack of tracing paper, masking tape, scissors, a piece of charcoal, pens and pencils, colored pencils and a thorough nature identification book.
I suggest that before you begin you make a plan for the area in which this lesson will take place. You may have the perfect yard with a variety of trees, or you may need to consider going to a friend’s house, a relative’s, or a park. This activity is easier, if as the adult, you already know some of the tree species. If not, you can enjoy this activity more fully with the children, or enlist the help of someone who has lived in your locality for a long time. I have found that the older generation has extensive knowledge, when it comes to identifying plant species.
If you have a willow tree that can be identified, I advise you start there. This tree is easy to identify correctly, and you can even read the story The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, with your children before beginning. The White Willow tree is a short, sturdy tree that grows 30-60 feet. Willows have leaves 3-6 inches long, resembling green fingers. The willow bark is smooth and red-brown to green-brown in color. 1 When you approach a tree, ask your children if they know what the tree is before commencing. You may be surprised what your children already know. After pinpointing your tree, have your child open a page in their art journal. Write the name of the tree, with the scientific name; White Willow is Salix alba. Then have the children draw a little sketch of the tree. Encourage them to do their very best, and not to worry about being perfect. It is important that they try this activity.
After a 15 minute drawing break, help each student hold a piece of the tracing paper up to the tree bark. If you hold the paper for them, they can use their hands to grapple with the charcoal. The charcoal needs to be held horizontally with the flat edge and gently rubbed over the paper to form the impression of the bark. You may need a few attempts to get a good rubbing. Then cut out the best rubbing and tape the piece of paper to a clean page in your child’s art journal. Again label the page with the name Willow a.k.a. Salix alba.
The last part of this lesson is to talk about the medicinal benefits about the tree, parts used, and history of its usages. Some of this information should be written on a fresh page, right after the artwork of each tree. Leave a blank page in the journal to divide the space between identified species. Willow bark has been used for over a thousand years to relieve pain. Salicin is an active component in White Willow bark, and is the forerunner for the drug aspirin. Apart from the constituents in salicin working to relieve pain, it also reduces inflammation. 2 The Cherokee, Blackfoot, Iroquois and other Native American tribes used closely related species for headache relief, fever and chills, and for muscle and joint pains.3
Researching the historical compilations of each tree identified, will result in some interesting folklore, that your children are bound to remember. The “weeping” willow as it is commonly named, may partially have received that nickname from the branches that arch over, bending to the ground. In traditional folklore, the willow is associated with death, heartbreak, sorrow, and lost love. In the Bible, it is said that the children of Israel, when taken into captivity by Babylon, mourned under the willow tree. In medieval times, sprigs of willow were worn as signs of grief and mourning. 3
I hope that through this article I was able to give the reader an outline of an activity that can be repeated numerous times with many plants, trees and herbs. I also encourage you to add your own twists and spins to my very basic lesson. Any children participating in this activity may also have creative ideas to add this study. You could even go so far as to acquire the dried bark, or herb and have your pupils smell, or taste the said plant, when applicable. In my own herbal apothecary I keep dried willow bark powder, and have used it for fevers and to relieve pain from childbirth. Try to demonstrate as many connections from the earth to the home and uses in life that will bridge the nature gap, that you as an adult may understand more clearly. Have fun!
1 Fun with Nature, Burns, 1999, p.243
2 The Herbal Drugstore, White & Foster 2000, p.243
3 Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine, Foster & Johnson p.366-367
I am an herbalist, and there are many ways to find refreshment, wellness and even wholeness with plants, besides drinking them in herbal infusions, or applying on the skin as oils and ointments. The plant world is abundant and full of life and energy and provide enormous benefits as a way to balance and refresh your home. I have always felt that I could not put plants in my home because A. I do not have deep window sills.
Growing up, we had an old stone home with very deep window sills and for some reason I have it programmed in my mind that you can’t have plants without deep sills. The other reason I have stopped myself from decorating and balancing my home with plants is that I do not have a lot of good direct sunlight. This can easily be remedied by using plants that thrive even in the shade.
As a healer, I often challenge mindsets and thought patterns that people hold on to and are not serving them in a beneficial way. I do not always see my own negative thought patterns, but a recent vacation gave me the opportunity to really challenge my way of seeing and viewing the world. We recently spent some time in Maine, and stayed at an old farmhouse owned by a Master Gardner. Her occupational experience was more than evident in every little detail of the house. I had a chance to talk with her, as we both possess a love of plants. I had the knowledge and know-how in regards to the use of plants as medicine, but she “used” plants in a healing way by planting and placing and enhancing the home environment.
In Feng Shui- which is defined as “the study of how to arrange your environment to enhance the quality of your life,” in Terah Collins book The Western Guide to Feng Shui: Room by Room. Plants serve to provide happiness, and even health to your home environment. They can deliver more oxygen to the air, soften sharp angles and transform the entire feel of a room by its presence. There are some things you want to keep in mind when selecting plants for your home. I will give you five steps for plant selection and placement that can get you started on a whole new home and a whole new you.
The first thing you want to do is choose a room to start with. I like to begin by going through my house room by room and making necessary changes to freshen and liven up a room. Remove any objects that are no longer serving you, and you may want to read the book I have listed above, or another book on Feng Shui to help with design, but it is not a requirement before plant placement. The next thing you will need to consider is the light source for the room you are energizing. Take a day or two to notice how the sun comes through the window and the length of time, and angle of the light. Make some notes so that when you go shopping for plants you can choose plants that have light requirements that will suit your light source.
The third step is of course plant selection. Choose plants that are soft and make you feel peaceful. I would stay away from prickly plants, unless you have a designed cactus garden, but in that instance, I recommend placing other soften plants in coordination with the prickly and spiky. You may also want to consider fragrance and if you have great light sources, definitely look to purchase plants that bloom.
After plant selection, comes container selection. You will definitely want to buy some containers to place your plants into. Usually plants are set in black plastic sleeves at the greenhouse, but to really bring cheer and life and to follow the Feng Shui suggestions, the container your plants live in are equally important. Ceramic bowls, crocks or pots are perfect. If you do not have the funds for pottery, there are some beautifully colored plastic containers that can be used as well. Keep your eyes open, because you never know when you are out and about, when you will see something that would be perfect for your plants. You can always change the crocks too, if the plants outgrow them.
Lastly, do not forget that your plants can be cut flowers. In the blooming months I regularly cut plants, and flowers, even herbs from my garden and display on my kitchen counter, window sill, and even in the bathroom. Flowers are not just reserved for kitchen areas, you can place them in bedrooms as well. For instance, 2 pink roses are meant to enhance Love and Marriage in the bedroom area, and purple irises are supposed to help enhance career goals. Just remember that fresh flowers can deplete the energy of a room once they are past their prime and begin wilting. I try to remove old bouquets to the compost bin once they begin wilting. Or I may just remove a few blooms that look weak and keep the lively ones a few extra days.
You do not need to be a gardener, an herbalist, or an expert to begin experimenting with plants. I also want to stress that you do not need to have a green thumb either. I use to say that I didn’t have a green thumb, and that was another one of my limiting beliefs that kept me from working with live plants. They just take some practice, experience, and time to learn how to care for. It can be discouraging when a plant dies. It is a living thing. If you are really nervous about that outcome, ask someone at a greenhouse for very hearty plants so you can get comfortable with their various temperaments. Herbs are great beginner plants, because they thrive wonderfully and are hard to damage. Whatever your level of skill, I encourage you to add more green to your home. You will find immediate revitalization and clarity in the simple act of bringing life to the interior living space.
Can I get really honest with all of you? I hope so. This is me, in my studio. I am a pretty basic kind of person. I like simple, and no fuss. My absolute favorite thing to do besides reading (I am an avid reader) is to make art. Do you want to know what my real goal or dream is? It is to make and sell my art......for a living. It sounds CRAZY when I say it or write it, because it has been conditioned into my brain that it is impossible to do so.
That is why I have put so much time into my art classes. I love teaching people art, but my passion is to make it myself. Teaching my own kids all day, leaves me feeling in need of a little recharging. I find that by creative activities.
Right now I am obsessed with making collages. I am not sure why. It seems to fit well with my lifestyle currently, and I do not have time for deep concentration to create a large painting from start to finish. I can however work a little at a time on a collage, and it is the piecing together of the artwork that I find exciting, because I do not know how it will end.
I have decided to halt on my Homeschool program for the fall. It was a very difficult decision, but a number of doors opened in my life, and it felt like God was leading me through them. One door is a joint venture with my husband, which is my heart and really exciting. It just felt like the homeschool program was more "my idea," than "God inspired," if you know what I mean.
So now- I am getting back to who I am as a person, and the SELF-CARE I often tell people to consider for themselves. I am trying to make art daily, exercise daily, watch an uplifting program daily, and I am feeling great and creative again!
What am I offering? I am offering HANDMADE, Original artwork for a donation amount of $5, $10, or $15. If you want a collage, watercolor, or other artwork, please email me and we can talk about what you'd like. I am taking orders. (Shipping will be your responsibility). If interested send me message on my contact page.
I am a certified herbalist. I love herbs. I fell in love with their healing powers when I was 20 years old. I wanted a more natural well to tend to my body in times of illness. I also love their fragrance, energy and flavor. As an artist, I often use plants in my artwork, either as the subject matter, in collage, or even dried and applied to my canvas or wood. I spend a great deal of time outside absorbing the healing energy of the sun, and earth. A few years ago I began doing plein air painting classes at Lavender farms. Lavender farms are wonderful, but I'd like to see sage farms, and basil farms, or lemon balm farms, but I guess no herb is as spectacular in a row as lavender.
This summer I will be going to Mad Lavender Farm in New Jersey to do a Mixed Media canvas art class. This farm is wonderful! They do a lot of Yoga classes, with goats. This is a very interesting combination which people seem to get a thrill out of. The owners also have a wonderful shop with delicious lavender products. There is an Indian Ti-Pi, and beautiful gardens. I would be happy to see you there!
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Hi! Join Pennsylvania artist Jenel Schaffer at Mad Lavender Farm for an art workshop. We will be making a Mixed Media painting using paint, paper, and dried plants- including lavender flowers!
We will be using 9 x 12 canvases, and each work of art will be unique and taken home. The artist will guide all participants through a step by step process with easy directions to make something beautiful. Experience is not required!
All materials for the class are provided in the cost. All questions for the class can be made to Jenel Schaffer at 717-673-7644 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost per ticket $38 per person
Jenel Schaffer Videos on YouTube