Growing Wild Farm is fourteen acres of unsuspecting magic in the Pacific Northwest’s lush Willamette Valley. Not up in it’s rolling hills and hosted by it’s ubiquitous Douglas Fir, but sitting on the valley floor, next to a road full of conventional farming and small town Oregon rural dwellers, hosted instead by the keepers of valley memory here, a multitude of Oregon White Oaks (Quercus garryana). Our family moved onto this land in 2006 with all the ideas of regenerative agriculture, permaculture, small local food systems, hopes for saving the world, swirling through our minds and fueling our hearts. We operated a small organic annual vegetable operation with a CSA and farmer’s markets bumping for 8 years on less than 2 acres of this space, all the while, in many ways, we let the rest of the space naturalize around us, both from being so busy with our four kids and this farm business, and from a deep belief that not everything needs to be managed by humans in a living, breathing, natural system.
Over the years, natural hedges arose. Some, straight noxious but delicious Himalayan blackberries, others a denizen of other protective, guardian plants, the native Hawthorne’s and all the wild rose. The pastures became a delightful mix of grasses and wildflowers. Over the years, as the plants themselves kept calling their presence to my attention, I started to really sense, with deep gratitude, how well cared for we were from this place, not just in food that we had planted, or even herbs and the first start of my own medicinal garden, but by the wild plants who chose to be here on their own. A native elder sprouted up and grows right outside my bedroom door. A thick and healthy and giving stand of nettles appears every spring along the edge of our seasonal wetland. Wild roses and baby Hawthornes and Hypericum and Self-heal and more plantain than anyone could every need, chickweed and cleavers–even before I let myself begin using any of these things medicinally, before I started slowly studying the art of herbalism and following the intuitive call I was hearing, I was steeped in this feeling of being so supported all around. I walked each season for so many cycles of the wheel with these plants and let myself over time become what we might all secretly long to be, an animal in an ecosystem. Not apart, but a part of.
And this sums up how I craft and practice slow, small batch herbalism here right now. After many years of being unable to dive into book study of this craft because I needed to first listen to what just the plants I was around had to teach me, I bit by bit began going deeper, then just as slowly started making things for my own family, and now, make a teeny bit of mostly simple, mostly tonic, energetically charged products, all in co-creation with this space and the plants from it. It is medicine. But for the whole being intended towards wholeness. My hope is to increase vitality through both the physical actions of the plants and their menstruum (the vinegar, the oil, the alcohol they are steeped in, fresh, 6 weeks usually), and through the energetic work they can and do offer as well as that which my own practice brings through my hands to the work.
We all deserve the most wellness we can get, given where we are and what we have suffered, what our ancestors have suffered. Our bodies are not infallible or meant for perfection. But from my own experience, I know that good, simple whole food is a good step towards feeling better in a body. Regular use of safe, simple herbs is like a next step, another easy and powerful layer of infusing our cells with the strength and flow of life the plants bring to us from the earth, our gracious home. These two things, the food we eat, and intentionally including herbal allies in our lives, our in our own power to use, they are acts towards our own well being that empower us. We can be our own healers first and foremost, and this is a piece of wisdom from all time and traditions that we are often missing in our culture these days. It’s not a matter anymore of us thinking we can save the world, the evolution of all beings and the earth herself is ongoing. But together we can just take our small bit of what is here and within us and around us and weave it into some kind of balm and benefit for others.
That’s why and what and where, and who.
Also, my name is Sheila.