Cedar Ring Mama

Taking My Cues From Mother Earth


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Courage For the Task- Mimulus

The flower essences, herbal decoctions or infusions prepared from the flowering parts of a plant and used to facilitate emotional wellness (and impact mental outlook), were pioneered by Dr. Edward Bach to be pro-active responses to the body’s quest for balance (health).  Dr. Bach believed that the roots of disease can begin within the mental/emotional realm and, over time, when a pattern of disharmony develops and becomes pathological, it can amplify and begin to manifest in the realm of the physical body.  This pattern of disharmony, he postulated, originates when a person’s inner and outer worlds- the “I’ one experiences, versus the persona one creates for family, friends, and the outer world- fall out of sync.  I understand this to mean that when I am not true to myself- when my actions contradict what I actually believe, aspire to, and love- a disconnect occurs and I start to lose internal harmony and energy. Eventually this carries over into my physical well being. Bach’s study of flowers was aimed at being able to prevent disease in the body, or- in flower terms- “nip it in the bud”. In comtemplating Dr. Bach’s work, and how others have carried it on, I am fascinated and compelled to learn more.

Mimulus

A friend recently recommended the flower essence mimulus to me, and I have to share what a powerful little punch this flower essence packs!  A superficial study of mimulus yields, likewise, superficial results- it is, according to the “sound byte” summary on Bach’s Flower Essence chart, “Fear of worldly things, illness, pain, accidents, poverty, of dark, of being alone, of misfortune. The fears of everyday life. These people quietly and secretly bear their dread; they do not freely speak of it to others.”

In trying to define this plant’s powers in terms of treating a stereotypical ‘mimulus’ personality, though, I think many who would benefit from mimulus are thrown off the trail of discovery of this little gem.  I am persuaded that many of us, at certain junctures of our lives, can also benefit greatly from mimulus.  The first fascinating fact about mimulus is that, from what I can tell in researching Dr. Bach and flower essences, it was one of the first flowers Dr. Edward Bach studied.  It was the flower that aided his undertaking, his “bridge to destiny”.  Dr. Bach was coming from a traditional medical establishment, and was an expert on vaccination.  He began to have misgivings and see flaws in the medical establishment he was a member of, and left his respected position to accept a post at a Homeopathic Hospital. It is not hard to imagine him being worried and full of misgivings over such a dramatic turning of the table.  How would he be received in trying to create a new health discipline based on “energetic” flower water?! And yet, he began and his ideas became a worldwide phenomenon. He lived a dedicated, fulfilled life and was truly passionate about his work, feeling he had indeed hit upon his destiny and made the most of it. I hope I will be able to say that at the end of my sojourn on this earth!

There are many varieties of the mimulus, or “monkeyflower”, genus, and mimulus guttatus- the type of mimulus Bach worked with- addresses fears associated with the solar plexus- “gut-level” fears that pertain to everyday life (not emergency or crisis-inspired fears). If you are familiar with the law of signatures- one of the ancient methods herbalists used to consider plants and their purpose or therapeutic value based on physical characteristics (such as habitat, color, shape, etc.)- mimulus guttatus is a bright, lively, yellow.  Yellow relates it to the solar plexus chakra- an action chakra, the “seat of the will”; and to the idea of a sunny, cheerful outlook in contrast to the cloudy fears it dismisses. It is like bringing a handful of sunbeams within. If your fears have darkened your inner light and caused you to lose touch with your true self, the light of mimulus may help you find and retrieve what has been temporarily lost. The very word mimulus comes from the latin root word for “mime”.  Mimes wear a painted mask and cannot give audible voice to their story, instead they must convey it with great dramatization. Mimulus invites you to take off the mask and give voice to your drama.  Dr. Bach was very specific that mimulus helps with fears that one holds in and does not wish to, or feel ready to talk about.  But being able to identify and articulate our fears is often what helps us process and deal with them.

Mimulus also prefers to grow near water, especially clean, well-oxygenated moving water.  Its’ flower heads nod vigorously in the wind. This suggests it has a proclivity for forward movement, and I believe, positive acceptance of circumstances.

When my dear friend recommended mimulus to me, she spoke of destiny and “a shift”.  She had been warned, when she first accepted a recommendation for mimulus, that it was powerful stuff. I definitely felt a shift in my life very shortly after taking it, and it did give me courage for the tasks that seemed fearful in my life. I also felt like it set me in forward movement, whereas I had been stuck in a “spiritual park n’ ride”. A path unfolded before me.  I actually dreamt a very specific dream about a bridge, and being prepared to cross it. Dr. Bach once said “We have much to do, but we must not be afraid of the task.” I think this sums up mimulus aptly. If known fears, anxieties, and dread are keeping you stuck, preventing you from reaching your potential, weighing you down- perhaps mimulus can help you shift forward and give you courage for your task.

Courage does not mean our fears disappear.  It means we are able to recognize our fear in a more objective way so that we can act as we will to, in spite of the fear.  If we give our power to fear, it will take mastery of us.  When we hold our power, when we embody our will, we can look past fear and remember it is just one emotional perspective with which to view our circumstances. Sometimes, our fears serve as valid signals that guide us away from danger or from taking “wrong turns” in life. Sometimes, because of past negative or traumatic experiences, ignorance, or a plethora of other invalid associations and ideas, fear manifests in less productive ways. It is part of our soul’s developmental process to deal with such fears and act with courage. Our task is to decide whether our fears are hindering or protecting us, and deal with them in accordance.

Mimulus, as mentioned earlier, has any different varieties and comes in a rainbow of colors.  Work has been done to understand how these different varieties manifest as plant healers, and several have been identified that address fears related to their specific color chakra.  For instance, scarlet monkeyflower is associated with fears related to sense of personal power (first chakra), and the orange sticky monkeyflower is related to fears associated with intimacy/sexuality (second chakra)- more about that here. I look forward to trying those as well!

 


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Dyeing Silk With Goldenrod (Michaelmas Capes!)

I can remember being annoyed with goldenrod when I first moved to the country.  It really dominates the September landscape, makes it hard to hike through our meadows, has a bad rap for causing allergies (the true culprit is ragweed),and did not seem to have much practical use.  Seven years later, I truly appreciate it- and not just because it dyes silk and wool a lovely, natural yellow- but for its essence and what it represents.  While goldenrod does have medicinal uses, it is also “The Bee Gold Rush”- offering our friends, the bees, a magnificent feast just when they need it most- before a long, cold winter.  While I am busy canning tomatoes and freezing corn, the bees are stocking up their larder with goldenrod nectar.

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If you spend some time with plants- meditating on them, sitting amongst them- I think it is possible to get a feeling for their work and purpose.  Goldenrod is a very giving, humble, and yet glorious plant. It is as though it has soaked up an entire summer of sun and then reflects it back to the world, standing tall and yet head modestly, slightly bowed- gathering all along the roadsides to greet passers by and create a celebratory gold-lined path on many of our country roads. It is also anti-inflammatory and diuretic, having a number of uses as a healing herb.

In Julia Grave’s incredible book The Language of Plants: A Guide to the Doctrine of Signatures, she talks about the difference between “a single, showy flower” and “a group of flowers giving an impression as if they were one flower.” The latter “often have to do with our comportment in groups, or the unification of all our sub-parts, of self”.  In North American goldenrod, single flowers are grouped into little flowers which are then additionally grouped into a rod.  This is a “double grouping process”

“It is the flower essence for children who seek attention from the group by acting in a negative way. It will enable them to act in harmony with the group without needing negative attention… In whichever variation, grouped flowers play on the theme of the individual versus the larger human context.”

Julia also talks about the significance of the order in which a flower blooms.

“Most flowers along spikes bloom from the bottom up… they open their lowest flowers first… it is remarkable that Goldenrod blooms from above down… The whole gesture is one of preparing to go in after the outward gesture of summer... Blooming with a gesture of a warm glowing candle that burns downward, Goldenrod speaks of bringing in the energy.”

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When I see goldenrod now, I see a living, vibrant metaphor of my place in the cycle of the seasons; I remember to check in with myself and often find the busyness of autumn is truly burning my candle low, and I feel the stirrings of anticipation for the slower pace of winter.

To dye with it, you want only the blossoms, as leaves and stems will contribute a greenish tone to your dye pot. You can use the blossoms fresh or dried.  It is time consuming to strip the blossoms from the stems, so find a pleasant spot or some pleasant company and settle in!

Prior to dyeing your silk, you may wish to mordant it. This ensures the color stays vibrant and your dye job does not fade or rinse out. Some people use vinegar as a mordant, but I find alum to be more effective and the safest of the mordants.  Common consensus is to use 1/4 the weight of the item to be dyed worth of alum, and in my dye pot I generally do a few yards of silk with 1 tablespoon of alum and 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar.  Handle the alum carefully (do not inhale or eat!). It is also well-advised to have a reserved dye pot and not use your pot for cooking edibles if you use mordants in it. Enamelware pots (like those typically used for canning) make great dye pots.

To mordant your silk, add the alum and cream of tartar and enough water to completely cover your silk, with extra for evaporation, and let dissolve.  Then heat the water to a gentle simmer (do not boil- may ruin the sheen of the silk!) and allow the silk to soak for an hour.  Now, remove from heat and let soak overnight. When cooled, ring out but do not rinse. You can allow it to sit in a cool place for a few days and this will “set” the silk all the more.

The day before you dye, you’ll want to put your blossoms in the dye pot with enough water to cover the blossoms and silk you intend to use (do not add silk yet though), and extra to account for evaporation. Bring blossoms and water to a boil for 20 minutes; remove from heat and allow to soak overnight. You may wish to add tumeric or marigold if you would like a more vibrant yellow; I usually add a few petals of this flower (not sure of the name) that shoots up each year in our garden to herald September.

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Strain the flowers and add your silk to the pot (and perhaps some natural wool felt or natural roving if you wish!). Heat, but do not boil (this damages the sheen of the silk), stir well to distribute dye evenly and be sure silk is not folded up as this will effect dye distribution. After an hour, remove from heat and allow to cool.

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Rinse and dry- all done!

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Don’t forget to dry some goldenrod for later.  It will cheer you up and remind you of Indian summer during the dark winter.

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If you are dyeing a large piece of silk as I did for our nature table, this is a great tutorial on hand-hemming silk. If you are dying a pre-hemmed 35″ square silk and wish to turn it into a cape, you can simply tie two corners to fasten the cape or get fancy and fold one edge down about an inch or so, sew in place, and thread a finger-knitted yellow chain through the “sleeve” for a tie.


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Nature Swap!

Wow, life has been busy!

Cedar Ring Circle has been growing so much, and our community of mothers broadens every day.  I can hardly keep up!  I have some wonderful painting boards, paint jar holders, and Waldorf picture frames in the works that I can’t wait to share with you, and Michaelmas kits as well!  In the meantime, I am drying goldenrod to include in the Michaelmas kits for dyeing golden capes…

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…coming up with a fully stocked kit and tutorial for needle-felting your own Michaelmas dragon…

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I put “Wing A” and “Wing B” up for vote on the Cedar Ring Circle facebook page.  Wispy, ethereal “Wing A” won the popular vote… what do you think? I am going to make a final one now that I’ve practiced a bit on this guy.  I’m thinking dark green and light green, or orange and red- what color combination would you pick?

DSC_8770And I’m gathering goodies for a nature swap…

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That’s right, Waldorf mamas from around the US and Canada are scouring their backyards and wooded areas for native bits of autumn nature table glory, sending them to our central organizer, and waiting with bated breath for their nuts, seeds, and weeds to arrive!  Head on over to the exciting new group Eileen from Little Acorn Learning started on Facebook- Waldorf Tag Sale– to learn more or participate. While you’re there, check out all the fun new and used treasures being traded, bought and sold.

Off to go hunt some more teasel and crabapples to add to the swap!


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Giveaway Winner and Call of the Woods…

I am so excited about the giveaway winner…  not only because she is a dear friend, who has mentored me in many ways with her compassionate spirit and faith-filled heart- but because I know she will make the most of everything in the giveaway.  She is a budget-conscious mama who often shares her thrifty, do-it-yourself Waldorf tips and tricks with all of us at Choco Eyes. I spent 90 minutes tallying up the points in an excel spreadsheet, and out of 1437 entrypoints, random.org picked pointholder 171- Becca. She commented, “Shared on my MamaWestWind facebook page. Lovely items!” Congratulations, Becca, and I THANK ALL OF YOU from the bottom of my heart.  The giveaway generated 50 new blog likes, 275 facebook likes, and over 3000 blog hits- I will definitely be offering more giveaway throughout the year in order to share with all of you, and spread the word about Cedar Ring Circle.

The woods has been calling to me lately.  With baby in tow, it often feels like a lot of work to get the kids ready for a hike in the woods, and I have been feeling “stuck in the house” mentally.  The other day, I met up with a friend who is feeling the exact same way.  We buddied up to hike her woods with our children, and it was sooo refreshing.  I am planning to begin our homeschool days with at least an hour in the woods, mostly freeplay with a bit of science, practice of times tables, and our morning circle.  I think getting out of the house will truly help me mentally “be ready” for school, because we will be more motivated to be dressed and ready to go out the door as well as be removed from all the “should do’s” of looming housework and homemaking tasks.  But most of all, I feel led to do this for spiritual renewal.  There is just nothing like time in the woods for helping me get my priorities straight and our whole family into a better place.   And there is no better place than the woods for children to be children… boys to be boys.

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A quiet moment.

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I am enthralled with mushrooms…

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DSC_0060Finally found the famous red-with-white-spots toadstool… and realized the “white spots” are really places where the outer layer of red skin has been nibbled or peeled away!

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Next month I will be offering field guides to co-op members- mushrooms, birds, trees, you name it- thanks to a new supplier.  Can’t wait! Anyone know the names of these mushrooms?


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Garden Reverie

We haven’t done much in the garden this year. I realized I was expecting too much of myself, and growing a baby was quite enough for right now! And yet, I am drawn to the garden.  I love seeing what decides to come up on its own.  This year, there are dozens of huge, bushy comfrey plants; a gigantic carpet of thyme; a strawberry patch that’s been yielding a quart a day; some potatoes that never sprouted last year, and thought they’d give it a try this year; a few green beans, since I couldn’t help but plant those- they’re my favorite!; a couple transplanted greenhouse tomatoes; a tiny corn patch the kids planted (they like to plant large seeds, small ones just seem to slip right out of their fingers); and oh-my-gosh the old plum tree has pulled out all the stops and bears dozens of tiny plums!  The spiral of greens I planted hasn’t wanted to come up.  I am a bit suspicious that the bunnies have nibbled away the young sprouts, since that bed is closest to a spot where they nest on the other side of the sagging, rather nominal garden fence.

 

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Comfrey

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Chive

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Queen Anne’s Lace

In the early morning, I join the snails, rejoicing in the dawn-lit dew.  The flowers offer a meditative query… am I open to all the universe is offering, beaming straight down to me?  Those magical, mystical spiritual lessons and treasures which must be dancing in the sunbeams and tumbling down on the wings of the wind?

Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Dr. Wayne Dyer talks about the first nine months of our existence.  We simply allow our destiny to unfold, trusting implicitly in the grand design occurring with our complicity.  It doesn’t need to be any different, he contemplates, once we leave the womb- and yet so often we seem to tell our Creator, or Source- “Thanks- I’ll take over from here.”  I often struggled with the idea of being predestined vs. having a free will.  And then I realized… there is a beautiful plan in place… a plan called Harmony… and free will is the choice to be a part of it, or to walk away and choose Chaos.  I choose Harmony. Harmony doesn’t mean the winds don’t shake me and the afternoon sun doesn’t beat down in all its strength… but Harmony trusts that it is all good, and nothing is wasted.

I want to be like the flowers, open and inviting, offering the sweetest nectars of love, compassion, understanding, and hope to all who visit… collecting the waters of life, whether they be wrung from the storm clouds or manifested through condensation as I find balance in the highs and lows of life… to offer the thirsty a drink.

Consider the flowers… they toil not. How can I bring that existence of restful calm to my tasks?


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Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Susie, whom Random.org picked as the giveaway winner for the Trout Lily Fairy & Needle-Felting Book!

Last night we walked to the pond and caught tadpoles to observe.  I hear they eat boiled lettuce leaves chopped finely, any other suggestions?  They are so small, it is hard to find bugs little enough for them.

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Growing

A new little heartbeat has joined the rhythm of our household, and things are certainly flowing differently around here!  I’ve traded the tap, tap, tap of the keyboard for the creak, creak, creak of my rocking chair, circle times songs for lullabies, and evenings of staying up late to work on business and crafting, for cuddling this tiny bundle of sweetness.   Enveloped in new mama rapture, I only caught a glimpse of spring’s arrival, and now that is has warmed up and the baby is six weeks old, I’m venturing outside more often.  The woods are bursting with life- and my favorite spring ephemerals surprise me in every nook and cranny.

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When we first walk in, there is tons of false green hellebore (veratrum nigrum), which I identified with the help of the Plant Identification group on Facebook (click here to join).  I have been wondering for a few years what it was.  The leaves are so bright green and cheery, but it is a toxic plant- I read that Native Americans used the root as an endurance test to determine new chiefs.  The would-be leaders all ingested some, and whoever was the last to start vomiting was elected ruler!

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All over the woodland floor, an army of single trout lily leaves poke up, their mottled colors looking like camouflage banners.  It can take up to five years for the trout lily (Erythronium americanum) to produce a flower, if it decides to at all, and meanwhile its tiny bulb (or corm) stores up energy for that grand task.  When it is ready, it sends up a set of leaves in lieu of the single one, and the dainty upside down yellow-bronze petals emerge.  I’ve heard talk of placing a rock below the trout lily bulb, as they seem to blossom better in shallow, rocky soils where they are less able to propagate via a network of underground offshoots from the corm (which is small, but edible), or tuber like ball at the end of the root.  Trout lilies like to hedge their bets against uncertain spring weather by spreading via this underground network of shoots, rather than depending on blossoming and pollination- which is why you often find huge colonies of the single leaves where the soil is rich and deep.  Where it is shallow and rocky, they have no choice but to reproduce via pollination and you are more likely to find the lovely yellow flowers.

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Next along the path, I find blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) everywhere I turn- our woods are just full of it! It begins as the “purple dragon plant”, as I named it before I learned what it was-

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and grows taller, spreads out, and the leaves unfurl from purply, feathered, and closed, to green, mature plants- tho the stems remain dark compared to surrounding green stems of other plants.  The transformation reminds me of the birthing process, as the uterus contracts from tightly wrapped around the newborn babe, to expand and swell.  Blue cohosh was called “Papoose Root” by Native Americans who used it widely for women’s issues- a uterine tonic.  I plan to harvest some this year- but first, I’d like to just spend some time with it and be more in tune with the essence of this Woman’s Herb that has ushered so much life into this world, including my second born, a plant to which I am very grateful.   While black cohosh stimulates contractions, blue cohosh is an anti-spasmodic, helping to “tone down” the intensity, to bring relief and release during the moon cycle and labor.

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Eventually it will fruit into small blue berries, which are not safe to eat raw, but have been roasted as a coffee substitute.  The plants are perennial, and just as we as women mature and become more and more confident in our mothering with each babe we bring into the world, the blue cohosh roots grow and every year as the plant dies back, the roots “cap”, so you can tell how old a cohosh plant is when you harvest it by counting the caps. See some pictures of the roots caps, along with a beautiful perspective of the plant, here.

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Dainty spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) peek out along the trail, another perennial that overwinters via a corm stored underground- that has been dubbed “fairy spuds”.  Native Americans believed eating the raw roots would prevent conception- permanently- but ate them,  cooked liked potatoes- as food. I prefer to let them grow and blossom than harvest them for teeny tiny snacks!  Don’t worry fairies, we won’t steal your spuds.

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A wise old maple with an inviting limb to look out from, or sit and read a book.

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Early spring walks always reveal the trees that didn’t make it through the winter.  Some we leave to compost back into the soil and provide habitat for lichens, moss, fungi, and critters.  Others we will use for firewood.

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Cut leaved toothwort, which I blogged about last year, here.

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And here is Chipmunk Gully, a place where fallen logs crisscross the steep creek banks and playful chipmunks run circles around the kids as they play, peeking up to be spotted, then ducking back into their hidy holes.

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The wild leeks, or ramps, are looking incredible this year.  My husband digs a bunch up to munch along the trail and to add to our dinner.  They are spicy, sweet, and pungent… my favorite spring edible, and there are thousands here in the woods now. Here is a recipe.

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There are lots of mayapples- and I loved this one just beside a crevice under a log.  See the nuts hidden away under there?  I’m sure the fairies and wee creatures are enjoying their new porch umbrella’s shade!

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And everywhere, the trees, bushes and shrubs are budding.  I am sure the woods will smell enchanted next week when things begin to blossom! Of course, plants aren’t the only thing growing around here…

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What’s growing in your neck of the woods?