Thursday, July 7, 2011

Happenings on the farm

 One of our honey bee workers collecting the delicious sweet and sticky pollen of Blue Hyssop.
Blue Hyssop is an intensely aromatic herb and used for making great tea but also for curing colds and coughs. It is an expectorant and clears excess congestion and mucus related to wet coughs. 

Wild Bergamont harvest with a hint of Bee Balm. The bees and butterflies love this plant and it grows in the wild. We love it so much we had to grow it at the farm. It  tastes and smells like oregano, and helps with digestive problems. A poultice of it helps draw infection from things like bee stings too. 

 Hanging Milky Oats to dry. Oats are considered a nutritive herb help replenish the body. They are loaded with calcium. It is a nervine tonic which means it helps with stress and anxiety. This is the same plant your oatmeal comes from...just harvested at a different stage of maturity. 

Just like the sun, Calendula opens up everyday. This flower does wonders for skin ailments including eczema, sunburns, rashes, you name it. Internally great for stomach problems and makes a mouthwash for helping canker sores. The flowers are edible and we make a colorful gazpacho with it.
 Angela, one of our solid and amazing interns harvesting chamomile among the densely planted area of Blue Vervain, Tulsi and Sage
 Casey and Eli are pumped like usual!

Casey harvesting Yarrow in flower
Externally coined "natures stitches" since it stops bleeding and promotes clotting, internally reduces fevers, helps ease menstrual cramps in women and reduce bleeding. 
 Mullein in flower. We collect the flowers for an ear oil we make to cure ear infections. Mixed with some infused garlic, it does the trick! The leaves are used for lung infections, asthma and other respiratory related issues. 

Having a social party picking mullein flowers

Sightings in the Pine Barrens

Pitcher Plant overlooking the lake, a habitat for so many amazing plants and wildlife... 
Pitcher plant is a carnivorous plant and like most of their family, live in swamps or bogs where there isn’t a lot of nitrogen in the soil. They get their nitrogen from the insects and other live bugs that they eat. They have learned how to do this in order to live because a plant usually cannot survive without enough nitrogen.

 A mama whip-poor-whil nesting on her eggs at night. These birds are incredibly camoflauge and Casey found this one by its eyes and bird call in the middle of the night. They normally sleep during the day and forage at night for insects and nest on the ground among dead leaves.

                           Sundew, another carnivorous plant of the wetlands. See the fly that      
                            just got caught in its sticky tentacles? It gets its name from its sticky  
                                             dew like droplets that look like morning dew.

                              Yellow Swallowtail enjoying the pollen of newly opened Mountain Laurel blossoms
A new plant called turkey's beard we discovered along the roadside in this special dwelling tucked in the pines. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

foraging in spring

Natures treasures found beneath a dying elm tree. 
It's always sad to be losing these amazing trees to the Dutch Elm Disease but out of death comes life....

Ramps (wild leeks), Poke shoots, Nettles, and Morels as our ingredients for an amazing wild lasagna!

Casey pulling the bark off a recently fallen tulip popular that is still fresh enough to work the bark off and turn it into a beautiful crafted basket.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We Be Buzz'n

We've been talking a bees for awhile now and at the end of the fall we started piecing together the equipment needed. A few months later, we have 3 established hives and they all seem to be happily moving in and out finding a great source of dandelion, now buttercups and soon black locust flowers. We have been taking a monthly course in beekeeping from Dave Papke on the other side of the river who is an experienced beekeeper with lots of wisdom to share. We're discovering a huge network of people keeping bees and we're learning how to be helpful in the cycle of honey bees pollination. With more and more pesticides and mite infestations in our environment, the bees struggle to be able to survive so we hope by tending to them and keeping them happy to be "working toward a sustainable future one flower at a time"
If you look closely, you will see these worker bees loaded with pollen on their back legs like saddlebags carrying pollen colors of yellow, orange and white. These insects are mesmerising to watch in their daily routine and even have a dance called the waggle dance to notify others in the colony where the best nectar and honey sources are. All of there senses and direction are driven by the sun. 
A look inside one of our hive frames. The queen has been laying her eggs and tiny larva are forming and the worker bees are collecting their honey and storing it for the new bees to come. 

check out our new rap we wrote after our first beekeeping workshop...

"We Bee Buzzn"
by dream like a bear
(casey and eli's band)

We bee buzz'n
busting back bonkers over bees
bee dealn, free wheelin
bee buzz'n
we're gona get a nuc,
buzz'n with bees not no nuclear here
we got a super deluxe
deeps and shallows, 
screens to keep the mites out
but we'll tell you bout that more another day
so spring is clear,
the nectars near, the brude is breeding
we bee buzz'n,
you may jiv'n but we be hiv'n
you maybe beat box'n
but we be bbbbbbbbbee buzzzzzzz'n

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Coltsfoot in flower

Tussilago farfara

I've never seen the flower until this spring when Casey took me to this spot. It's so sweet to see its brilliant yellow rising from the brown leafy carpet of fall and winter. I've been familiar with coltsfoot leaf for sometime now and its such a pleasure to see its flower this time. Coltsfoot flower and leaves are used for healing chest ailments like coughs and bronchitis, hence its folk name "coughwort." It has also been traditionally used to help asthma. On this particular day I felt like I was coming down with a cold and so we gathered some of the flowers with the intention to make a nice tea when we got back home. Casey added rosehips and some elder flowers along with the coltsfoot and I swear the tea cured my sore throat chills and coming cold!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Speedwell Veronica officinalis

Common names are Veronica, Bird's Eye, Ground-well and Common Speedwell

There is nothing “typical” about a green lawn when speedwell is around. These colorful (varying
shades of blue) vibrant thumbtack sized wildflowers are all over North America by at least a half dozen
common species. With three large petals and one smaller petal pointed down they gather in yards and
gardens. They are members of the figwort family that include mulleins, toadflaxes, snapdragons, and

It was once used to treat skin diseases, hemorrhages, wounds, coughs, and as a diuretic and
expectorant. The leaves were used in England as a substitute for tea. The Cherokee took this plant
with sweetener to get rid of coughs. They also used the warm juice to soothe earaches and a decoction
of the roots were said to help with childbirth. Speedwell has a great medicinal value for nervousness
caused by mental over exertion. One cup drunk before going to bed, through its soothing effect, is highly

Speedwell is one of the reasons we tell our friends to just let their lawn grow (you should too). Create
habitat for natures pollinators! Do away with the chemical carpet that we call lawn. If you mow, poison,
or “weed” your lawn you are not taking care of it. The land wants you to embrace the bio diversity that
it puts forth. Taking care would be to let it renew, regrow and of course rewild.

Oh and eat some by the way…the blue flowers make a great addition placed on top of icing on cupcakes
and the leaves, flowers, and stalks can be added to salads.

Spring Time, a Time for Tonics

Spring time is a great time for detoxing our body after winter hibernation when we can get sluggish. Tonics are a perfect way to "nurture and enliven" our system in the words of herbalist David Hoffman. They help wake the body from our winter rest and get important things like our bile moving to cleanse our liver which can hold many of our toxins. It only makes sense that the earliest herbs we see in  spring are the ones that we should be injesting too. Dandelion, chickweed, violet, nettles, and more. Spring tonics with herbs high in nutrients and minerals and that stimulate and discharge our blood are good for our digestive system, lymphatic system, and urinary system. This batch of spring tonic we made consists of stinging nettles, chickweed, spice bush, sassafras root, dandelion, turkey tail and molasses as a preservative. We spent a sunny but cool spring day building up a fire at Susquehannock State Park, collecting water from the spring, harvesting herbs and making a decoction of the tonic.

Chickweed Stellaria media 
Such a common and often overlooked plant that gets written off as "just a weed." "Little star" is a reference to the many sweet star like flowers that line its stems. It's an amazing all-purpose healing plant used internally and externally. It is considered a cooling herb and found in every continent and found even under the snow. Its a great source of food and contains saponins which have soap like action that works to emulsify and permeate membranes in our cells to absorb beneficial nutrients and minerals, making it great for the lymphatic system and glandular system. It neutralizes toxins, weakens bacteria cell walls to fight off sickness in the body, dissolves warts and growths and cysts. Susan Weed writes extensively about this plant and includes that it is great in helping with thyroid irregularities and weight problems.
Spice Bush
Lindera benzoin 
Spice bush budding about to unfurl its oval lobed leaves.
Spicebush is a common shrub of swamps and woodlands throughout North America. Spicebush is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring and is named for the aromatic, spicy scent that arises from its leaves, flowers, bark and fruit.
Spicebush includes the brewing of teas from the crushed, dried leaves and the grinding of the dried berries for a seasoning spice. The teas are said to have a range of medicinal properties that include relief of fatigue, pain, arthritis, fever, cold symptoms, intestinal disorders and even breathing difficulties. Oils from the berries can be applied topically to treat bruises and rheumatic pain and as a general fist-aid ointment for cuts. 

Stinging Nettles Urtica Dioica
I like to call nettles "natures pharmacy" because it is so beneficial to our bodies being pack with vitamins, minerals, protein and nutrition for the body. They are great to strengthen the kidneys, help heal damaged tissue areas, support the body and  balance the adrenal system, immune, digestive, circulatory, endocrine and nervous system! It is incredibly beneficial for women in their menstrual/moon cycles. Great externally for promoting healthy strong hair and skin, making it great for eczema. Don't let the little sting deter you, just wear your gloves or not!

Dandelion Taraxacum Officinale
Everyone knows this herb and often writes it off as another weed. It is a powerfully medicinal plant, so learn a new appreciation for this one and its healing actions! Dandelion is bitter. Bitter herbs like Dandelion help to nourish the liver by stimulating flow and discharge of bile that help flush out the body. Dandelion is also a natural diuretic. It helps relive water and toxins without depleting the body like many over the counter prescriptions do because it contains tons of potassium. Like the other herbs mentioned already, it helps digestive weakness and strength the blood. Gather the leaves and flowers to eat in salads or stir fries, and the root is great for teas and tonics. 

Turkey Tail
Trametes versicolor
Part of the polypore mushroom family, Turkey Tail is a highly medicinal and easily found in the woods growing on decaying logs with its colorful stripes and turkey fan tail. Its main effects are to strengthen the immune system. It helps to enhance the most important cells in our body, T helper cells. These are the ones that tell the rest of our cells what to do and when to stop. Many autoimmune diseases and cancers attack these important cells especially during chemotherapy and radiation because they inadvertently kills T helper cells so go Turkey Tail! 

Sassafras   Sassafras albidum 
We love this under story tree for its sweet aroma, its mitten leaves and for the amazing teas it makes from the root. The root is typically harvested in the spring to made into a tonic for cleansing the blood. It is considered one of the best alterative herbs. Alteratives are "herbs that gradually restore proper functioning of the body, increasing health and vitality. Some support natural waste elimination via the kidneys, liver, lungs, or skin. Others stimulate digestion" -David Hoffman, Medical Herbalism.  Sassafras also has value as a stimulant, pain reliever, astringent and treatment for rheumatism. Skin eruptions may be bathed in an infusion from the leaves. 

I want to honor the Native Americans of our region, the Susquehannock and the Conestoga who practiced their healing traditions and shared things like using Sassafras for its medicine. I think about what the woods used to look like before the indigenous were pushed out and killed by the white settlers. I think about people living closely to the earth, foraging food from the forest that provided, living off and from the land, utilizing everything and being connected and a part of the earth that so many are estranged from today. On a daily basis, I witness the logging of our forests, the over killing of animals for fun, the spraying chemicals on our soil, the dumping trash into our water ways, the mass production of animals and food for consumption and none of it makes any sense. So wherever we are and how ever small we are, every time we harvest our plants, we make sure to replant one in return, and we find ways to protect all life from any more prolonged abuse in whatever ways we can. 

All mixed together slowly boiling over our fire at Susquehannock on an early spring afternoon. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Harbinger of Spring and a Wildflower of Mid Winter

Skunk cabbage – Symplocarpus Foetidus

As the winter weather starts to wane, and the rays of the spring sun appear the magic of transformation
and growth is happening all around our rich moist woodlands. Tight green spikes appear through
snow and ice, creating melted shapes throughout the forest floor. In a few short weeks these Skunk
Cabbage buds will turn into beautiful solitary reddish green orbs. Often undiscovered the red spathe
sits silent especially when concealed among tangled grasses, with or without snow and ice. As mother
natures’ pollinators crawl through the opening in the spathe they use this natural sauna to stay warm
from the breezy chills of the early often unpredictable spring weather. Creating its own heat and often
maintaining a constant temperature of up to 72 degrees the inside of this plant cave holds a life-saving
supply of golden pollen for beetles, flys, and bees. This skunky odor attracts insects to the spherical
ball of tiny flowers hidden within. Actually the smell often resembles rotten meat and two of its scent-
producing substances are the same chemicals found in decaying animals. In fact the reddish color of the
spathe imitates that of meat and carrion to get the attention of flies and beetles.

A few creatures use the spathe for shelter. Spiders, slugs, frogs, and even warblers have been known to
hang out and even nest inside them during the summer months.

So much talk of the spathe and flowers but the skunk cabbage is usually in all its glory when the bright
green almost chartreuse leaves unfurl and overlap each other carpeting the moist soil. The leaves hinder
other plant growth by blocking out life sustaining sunlight that the skunk cabbage needs to live. These
natural umbrellas keep living beings cool and out of sight from potential predators.

This winter wildflower has been used medicinally for years. The leaves were used in poultices for burns,
root hairs treated toothaches, the scent of crushed leaves helped to alleviate headaches, the pulverized
root was used externally to make hair grow, a charcoal mixed with bear grease was said to cause “power
dreams” and crushed leaves as a poultice were used for the healing of sore knees. Grizzly and black
bears foraged for the roots after hibernation to strengthen and cleanse their stomach.

Once found throughout our region. The skunk cabbage is found less frequent due to encroachment on
the habitat it survives in. Often bogs and swamps get drained for highways, housing, and commercial
developments because of the common thought that these areas are considered “waste” areas
condemned because of no civilized value.

**** When out foraging and you need to make a quick sturdy container use skunk cabbage leaves.
Great for berry collecting and even used as a container for collecting water.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Equinox and Seeds of Intention

Blessed Thistle Seeds

Over the winter we have been planning and anticipating the day we would be sowing our seeds in our dear farmer friend's greenhouse at Riverview Organics. Casey and I spent many winter retreats paging through heirloom seed catalogs and making decisions for the things we are most excited to grow and offer through our CSM and the coop. It feels like so long ago that the snow surrounded us, insulating sound into quiet stillness. Even though it has been in the 30s this week, green has been poking itself through the browns of wet spring, chickweed is thicker than ever, the nettles beginning to spread its leaves, spring garlic forming its tufts in early pastures and woods, and the woodcocks are performing their spiral mating ritual which we love to watch. These are just a few signs of early spring and so much more is coming...

For our seeds this season, we chose many native plants that we feel a responsibility to grow on our land since we want to share them with others than ourselves which we typically forage. Every seed has its own needs, conditions and characteristics which makes this a wild array of diversity in our seed collection. With my love for art, I've always regarded nature as my favorite artist, opening each packet of seeds is like going to a show and appreciating unique textures, shapes, color, and energy. We have over 60 varieties of herbs, 50 of produce and 40 of flowers, making that 150 total varieties! Each seed we plant feels like our baby and we can't wait to see all of them grow healthy and strong and form new relationships to each one.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Winter: A time to be outdoors...

We are animals

Who says winter is a time for seclusion, slumber, and consumption?

The foxes are on the side of the fields hugging the brush as they hurriedly scamper about looking for an unsuspecting meadow vole or some other source of energy. The snow geese happily honk in unison as they search for any sign of unfrozen water. The wind is painting with a paintbrush of tiny dried goldenrod flowers creating long arcing shapes in the white fluffy crystals. Reflecting on the growing season we share a warming dried tea blend of lavender, chamomile, and chaga. A biting numbing cold blows across the meadow. Coyote tracks crisscross through the frozen ponds and disappear into the cattail marsh. This is the coldest season of the year. A time for identifying the unique dried shapes of winter wildflowers, a time when wood frogs freeze solid, a time for hibernation, a time for trees to sleep, a time for harnessing our inner strength to destroy the confines of our domestication. We are animals. We are humans. We have unnatural laws, rules, sexual numbness, monetary struggles, addiction, hate, substance abuse, words that hurt, looks that kill. We have the luxury of consumption, this is one of our “luxuries” that keep us blind to the natural ways of the world. We are animals. We can harness our inner desires and create a world our grandchildren will be proud of. Our reclaimed wildness will comfort the earth and her beings. This is healing, for ourselves, others, and the planet. We are animals.

Seedbox: Ludwigia Alternifolia
I have been wanting to share this cool plant with eli since last winter. A perennial that shakes with the wind spilling its golden seeds out the one hole on the top of its box (hence its name). The little woody boxes looks like something that was crafted by gnomes.   Grows 1-3 feet in wet meadows. In the primrose family and in the summer sports yellow petaled flowers. You will not have a hard time identifying this unique plant.

The last fruit on this long forgotten pear tree... We have been enjoying the fruit and juice of these feral pears for the past few years. Its funny how we often get soooo many stares from passerby as we gorge ourselves on this sweet fruit...

Eli with some dried Mountain Mint: Pycnanthemum Spp.... We found this growing under wild bee bergamont and surrounded by joe pye weed. When crushed the small gray flower heads smell strongly of mint. 

More Mountain mint... we crushed this and rubbed it on our clothes...

Teasel:Dipsacus Sylvestris
A biennial that can grow over 7ft tall. With a very large egg shaped spiky flower head it looms above other dried plants and remains strong during harsh winds.The flower essence has been used to treat Lyme disease. Teasel root helps you with joint and tendon issues, muscle pain and inflammation. We look forward to making a teasel tincture this summer. 

Yarrow:Achillea Millefolium
AKA Natures Stitches... We decided to forgo the flower head and focus on these wondrous dried lacy leaves that are clinging onto the stalk. We pulled one out of the ground to admire and found some small green leaves that were hiding under the snow. We ate every last green leaf at the base of the stalk that we could find, reminiscing its bitterness.

Mullein: Verbascum Thapsus
This spike that forms in its second year holds hundreds of seeds. Mullein a useful plant for healing burns, swelling, and ear problems can grow over 6 feet. The whole plant has a woolly like texture over the stalk and leaves. Hummingbirds have been known to use this "wool" to line their nests and native americans stuffed their moccasins with the felt textured leaves. Notice these majestic stalks along roadways, abandoned lots, and meadows...

Pitcher Plant, one of the few native carnivorous plants in Pennsylvania. 

 A photo taken after a full day of winter explorations

Friday, February 25, 2011

Looking for Interns!

We are looking for the right people to join us in achieving our goals here at Lancaster Farmacy. Get in touch with us if you have an urge to get your hands dirty, be a part of the growing and harvesting, breathing and eating amazing medicine and food and more. Thanks eli and casey!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Processing hickory nut milk

We had a large group of participants attend this workshop that we offered as part of our Fall Series. Casey talked about foraging for nuts and the many trips to the woods he would go to collect (making sure he was picking the right kind of Shagbark nuts not Pignut Hickory since they are very bitter). Since we like to put the "work" into our workshops we had everyone help us break up the basket of nuts we had. We naturally fell into a circle formation and everyone assumed a working role in pounding out the meat of each nut to later be boiled. It is a great collective project and the processing flies by when there are good people to share stories with. After bringing the nut meat to a boil over the hot fire coals, we enjoyed this creamy thick sweet nut flavored drink on this gorgeous fall day at Lancaster Farmacy! It is our favorite fall beverage since it is a delicious rich hot drink. We sweeten it with maple syrup. Hickory nuts contain great fiber, magnesium and thiamine. They a good source for carbohydrates, natural oils, unsaturated fats (the good kind) and protein.