Motherwort and Other Characters

This past week has been one of splendiferous adventures in plant identification.  My best friend recently introduced me to the New England Wildflower Society’s plant ID website, and it has been so much fun tracking down all manner of flowering plants.  Blooming this week in the Assabet River bioregion, we have Common Cinquefoil, White Campion, Motherwort, Sweetfern, and Horsenettle.

 Motherwort set me off on this journey of discovery.  You see, there was this strange little seedling in my garden plot this spring, but it looked so purposeful, that I talked with my row partner and we decided to leave it and see what happened. Now, she (the mystery plant, not my row partner!) is about two feet tall and happily feeding the bees. Motherwort is also a friend to humans, especially women, with many useful medicinal properties. We’ve decided to transplant her to the community herb garden, marking her with a sign as medicinal.

Common cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex) was another little mystery flower that had been bugging me this year.  Some sources claim cinquefoil as a fairly common medieval spell component, I’m guessing because the five finger leaves are reminiscent of hands. It’s astringent, antiseptic, soothing for the skin, and the powdered roots can be used to stop bleeding.

Every year I forget the name of White Campion (Silene latefolia) and have to look up. Maybe this year it will finally stick.  While it doesn’t have any medicinal uses, being high in saponins (much like quinoa), simmering the root will create a sort of soap. And, it’s just plain pretty to happen upon in the meadow.

Sweetfern is one of the first plants I got to know when I moved to my current home. It is very much associated with poor soils and stands of pine, both of which happened to be abundant on our property. Sweetfern can make a very nice tea and be useful in a variety of ailments, especially as an astringent. I’ll likely be harvesting it this year to experiment with as an insect-repellent incense.

Horsenettle is a member of the nightshade family–Solanum carolinensis to be specific. It’s often classified as a noxious weed, and I’ve had trouble finding any constructive use for it (if someone in the audience knows of one, leave a comment!). It’s the only member of the Solanums that has thorns, which makes its removal particularly tricky.

Lastly, I helped my father identify this little fellow as Sheep Sorrel, a member of the vast dock and sorrel genus. It’s been driving him crazy in the garden, as it sends its roots right underneath other plants and makes it extremely difficult to remove. He noted with some dismay that it doesn’t even have the decency to wilt after it’s been picked!  On the bright side, it is edible, and lens a lemony flavor to salads and soups.

I’ll be harvesting the Motherwort and Sweetfern, along with Mugwort, Agrimony, and Feverfew over the coming days.  I’m finally feeling like I have enough a) reading knowledge and b) glass jars to try making tinctures.  Agrimony is one of the things that keeps me from turning into an absolute badger in March/April when Seasonal Affective Disorder seems to hit me hardest.  I’ve made tea from the dried leaves in the past, and have taken a commercial tincture, but I’m looking forward to trying some of my own brew.

Oh, and the first blackberries are also ready to pick.  Just one more reason to love the Solstice season!

The Holy Earth and the Harvester

Untitled I’ve written before about my perceptions of how the Powers (as they are called in Waincraft) shift for me in this bioregion with the turning of the seasons. This is the time of year I feel the influence of the Holy Earth most strongly. The hay is being brought in yet again from the fields, the woodland berries are ripe, and garden is turning into a rainbow of vegetables.

I don’t think it’s an accident that this is also the time when the Red Lady gives way to the Witcher. The fertilizing aspects of the agricultural cycle are through. The come-hither brilliance of wildflowers fades as seed begins to set. The time has come to reap what we’ve tended over the past six months. The Witcher acts in her role as Harvester, beginning the long process of deciding what will be kept for food and what seeds will be saved. The Harvester chooses the best and the strongest to continue their lines.  Soon the time will come to till the dried husks and stems and leaves back into the soil, covering all with a blanket of manure and compost to ready it for the spring planting.

The interplay of the Holy Earth and her Harvester sister has been particularly poignant for me this year. Much of what I had built up in my life is falling away. But lying beneath the debris is a wealth of qualities that I had forgotten I possessed. I will be laying the compost thickly this year, and the fruit will be all the sweeter for it.

Practicing Together #14

Blackberry season is here!

Seed thought taken from Leaning into Mystery’s “Practicing Together” weekly series.

I noticed that the blackberry stands along the wood line of the conservation land have their first crop ready for picking. There were a huge number of flowers this spring, and that promise has been fulfilled beyond expectations. There should be another batch ready in a week or so. I love it when the berries are so ripe that you just have to shake the cane and the fruit falls into the basket!

This week, I invite in determination. The job search has begun in earnest and I need to keep focused through any and all emotions that may be passing through.

Ways this could happen: Keeping my body healthy, keeping hydrated, exercising, and eating good food (like the aforementioned blackberries!).

What went well: The boys left for vacation with only a minor hitch. I finished up some sewing projects, as well as making good progress on the peacock shawl. The rain has been kind and I haven’t had to water the garden in a few days now.  And we’re getting about 8 eggs a week from the chickens!

Updates: That life plan I mentioned? It feels really far away right now. I’m trying not to put off living, of having the expectation that everything will be ok once I “fill in the blank.” I guess I’m suffering from good ol’ American “I want it now!” syndrome. Patience, grasshopper. Patience. 🙂

Practicing Together #12

Brewer Brook Overflows

Seed thought taken from Leaning into Mystery’s “Practicing Together” weekly series.

I noticed a Cheri Huber quote that is going to be very relevant to my life over the next few months: what you practice is what you have.

This week, I invite in compassion—for myself, for my family, for my community.

Ways this could happen: I’m going to start by being kind and gentle with myself, and let things flow from there.

What went well: It’s been a while since I posted more than pictures. Several things have gone very well, including a couple of sigil commissions, some pro bono sorcery work, and figuring out what I want to do next in my career. Small stuff, really. 😉

Updates: I’m having trouble finding joy, though I am finding strength and determination. Maybe this isn’t the right season for joy right now, but I’ll keep the door open in case it wants to visit.

Back from the Ocean

When I went to your town on the wide open shore,
Oh I must confess, I was drawn, I was drawn to the ocean,
I thought it spoke to me, it said, “Look at us,
We’re not churches, not schools, not skating ponds, swimming pools,
And we have lost people, haven’t we though?”
Oh, that’s what the ocean can know of a body,
And that’s when I came back to town, this town is a song about you.
You don’t know how lucky you are, you don’t know how much I adore you,
You are a welcoming back from the ocean.

I went back to the ocean today,
With my books and my papers, I went to the rocks by the ocean,
The weather changed quickly, oh the ocean said,
“What are you trying to find, i don’t care, I’m not kind,
I have bludgeoned your sailors, I’ve spat out their keepsakes.”
Oh it’s ashes to ashes, but always the ocean,
But the ocean can’t come to this town, this town is a song about you.
You don’t know how lucky you are, you don’t know how much I adore you,
You are a welcoming back from the ocean.

And the ones that can know you so well are the ones that can swallow you whole.
I have a good and I have an evil, I thought the ocean, the ocean thought nothing,
You are the welcoming back from the ocean.

—”The Ocean” by Dar Williams


York beach ME

York beach ME

York beach ME

Catching Up

As happens every Spring, the outdoors start calling and I spend less and less time in front of the keyboard. But, I have been dragging my picture-taking device with me into the woods and into the garden, so I’ll share my adventures from the last few weeks visually instead.


The biggest tree in the forest. Yeah, I’m a size queen. 🙂


250 year-old white oak in our conservation land.

Memorial Day wildlife & weeds

Close-up of amphibian invasion forces. The Spawn head this little guy under our deck and said, “Wanna turn frog OFF!”

May apples

May Apples



Garlic mustard harvest

Garlic mustard, stripped and waiting for the blender.


First garden harvest: radishes!

Spring greens

New tree identified: Hawthorn!

PBP plants


PBP plants


PBP plants

Wild geranium

Memorial Day wildlife & weeds

Half a fairy ring.

Memorial Day wildlife & weeds

Lightning struck oak

Memorial Day wildlife & weeds

Fungus amongus!

Memorial Day wildlife & weeds

Raspberry blooms. These guys are going to be very tasty in a few weeks.