Old Ways Herbal, Juliette Abigail Carr

Vermont Herb School, Apothecary, Clinic, & Family Herbal Wisdom


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Free Medicinal Plant Walk

Celebrate Earth Day with a calm amble to meet the medicinal weeds of spring in Brattleboro.  We will discuss how to find them, medicinal uses, preparations, and safety concerns.  Children are welcome.

Plant Walk

Join Old Ways Herbal School of Plant Medicine for a Free Spring Plant Walk!

Saturday May 12, 4-4:30 PM, Brattleboro location TBA

Although this event is free, RSVP is required.  Sign up below:


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Garden Tip of the Month: Growing Milky Oats!

Oat is a short-season, cool weather crop.  Once the weather gets hot it does its baby-making thing and goes to seed, which means you missed the milky stage.  Oat is direct-seeded as soon as the ground can be worked, which in my climate is April but for many people is March.  I often plant oats the day I plant peas or soon after; the minimum soil temperature for germination is 45 degrees F, and in the mid 50’s you start to get poor germination and you’re likely to run out of time to get your oats to the milky stage before hot weather hits.

Where to Plant Oats

Cover Crop Oats make a great spring cover crop, so consider planting them in a spot that went weedy last year, or in an area new to cultivation.  Oat is in the grass family (Poaceae) and it does reasonably well against all the nasty invasive grasses I’m always fighting to get out of the gardens.  I think of it as an in-and-out crop, like peas or radishes, in that it’s there and gone before my heavy hitter crops like corn and tomatoes are even a twinkle in the season’s eye.

Microclimate Oats are kind of tall so you can use them to create interesting microclimates for early season crops.  I plant short-season Brassicas north of the oats, because it’s sunny when the weather is cool, and by the time the oats are tall enough to cast shade over the Brassicas, the weather is warm enough that without a little shade I’d be fretting about the broccoli bolting before it sets nice florets.  Avoid this for the long-season Brassicas like cabbage and brussels sprouts because the oats will be cut down long before those crops are ready.

Soil

Moist soil for germination!

Succession Planting Oat is a great tool for succession planting, as it lays down a beautiful nitrogen-rich weed-free layer of mulch for your hot season crops.  I always plant my hottest hotties in the oat patch in June–last year it was watermelon, and let me tell you it was BEAUTIFUL not having to weed the watermelon.

How to Plant Oats

I recommend tilling the ground in the fall for a few reasons: 1. you can get your seed in the ground literally as early as possible in the spring, mud be damned; and 2. it buys your crop a head start against last year’s weed seeds, especially grass.

If you didn’t till in the fall, know that you will most likely have to make a decision in March or April to either prep the bed by hand or wait until the ground dries out enough for the tiller–but then you’re gambling on the soil temperature for germination, which is often well into the high 50’s by the time the soil dries out, around here anyway.  To prep the bed by hand, turn the soil with a shovel, weeding as you go; when the soil is as turned as it’s going to get, follow instructions below.

1. Before planting oats, use a scuffle hoe or stirrup hoe to make the soil as level and fine as you can get it, even if the soil was recently tilled.  The more level and fine your soil is, the better your oats will germinate.  If you don’t have the right hoe you can use a hard rake, but then please get yourself a good hoe with your tax refund.

2. Sow your seeds (sow your cultivated oats, I suppose!) by scattering them thickly across the surface of the soil using both hands or a seed spreader.  The birds are going to eat some of your seeds, so really, spread them thick.

3.  Use a hard rake or your hands to spread the oats as evenly as possible.

4. If you’re sowing a large area, walk across it gently to ensure good contact between the oats and the soil.  If it’s a small area, you can pat them down with your hands.  You don’t have to bury the oats, they’ll germinate just fine on the surface as long as they are pressed into the soil.

Consider a scarecrow, bells, or old CD’s on strings to keep the birds out of the oats, although there’s a certain amount of seed that the seed-eaters will take as their due for their brethren who eat pest bugs, mice, rabbits, etc. and protect our gardens.  Once I scared a fawn out of my oats, where her mother had hidden her for the day.  That was neat, even with the crushed plants.

Interested in making medicine with your Milky Oats?  Read the full article!

Join us this summer for the Medicinal Gardener Course: a season-long garden adventure, monthly Sundays starting in May on our organic farm & forest gardens!

For more on making safe, delicious herbal remedies at home, come to the Home Medicine Maker Course, monthly Saturdays starting in May in our Botanical Sanctuary forest classroom!

The Home Herbalist Course offers a deeper investigation of using herbal medicine to its utmost potential.  One Sunday a month starting in May in our Botanical Sanctuary forest classroom!

 

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New: “Quick Question” Consultations

Announcing “Quick Question” Mini Consultations!

“Quick Question” consultations are available for people with simple, straightforward questions that can be answered within 15 minutes.  They are available for both first time clients and existing clients.  If more time is needed, the client may choose to continue into a full consultation, as they prefer.

Clinical consultations can help guide you to self-empowerment on your healing path.  My practice specializes in supporting the health of women and children from conception onward.  I am honored to see clients of all genders when their wellness goals fit into my areas of expertise.  Please click here for information about my practice to consider whether my perspective would be helpful as you maximize your health.


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Clinic Hours Expanded

Great News:

Starting April 15, I am expanding my clinical hours to include two clinical days every week!

 

That’s double the availability to schedule health consultations!  Hopefully, this will get rid of the wait time for an appointment.

 

Clinical consultations can help guide you to self-empowerment on your healing path.  My practice specializes in supporting the health of women and children from conception onward.  I am honored to see clients of all genders when their wellness goals fit into my areas of expertise.  Please read more here to consider whether my perspective would be helpful as you maximize your health.

 

Mimosa

My mimosa tree blooming in the living room!


Medicinal Gardener Course

Medicinal Gardener Course

Come get your hands dirty in this season-long garden adventure. This course digs deep into principles and techniques of organic gardening. Hone your skills to coax medicinal plants into being, while protecting veggies from insects and increasing yields.

More Info

 

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April Workshops Scheduled

Free Medicinal Plant Walk

Celebrate Earth Day with a calm amble to meet the medicinal weeds of spring in Brattleboro.  We will discuss how to find them, medicinal uses, and safety concerns.  Children are welcome. Sunday, April 22, 4-4:30 PM, Brattleboro location TBA

Although this event is free, RSVP is required.

Medicinal Herbs in the Vegetable Garden Intensive

Just in time to plan your gardens!  This all-day intensive provides an in-depth discussion of growing medicinal plants in the home garden.  We will focus particularly on using medicinals as companion plants in the vegetable garden, as well as creating microclimates for optimal cultural conditions and on spring and fall maintenance of perennials.  Other relevant topics will also be covered. Sign up period for this class closes March 30.

April 7, 11 AM-3 PM, $80

Sign up, worktrade, and everything else under the School of Plant Medicine menu!

 

Plant Walk

Medicinal Herb Gardening Intensive at Old Ways Herbal


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Solubility in Medicine Making

Solubility: The Basics

Something is soluble if it dissolves in a particular liquid: picture stirring sugar into hot tea (soluble) versus cold water (not). Plant compounds that we use for medicine have to dissolve in the water/alcohol/honey/oil/etc. for medicine to be a thing.

Many plant constituents are polar, meaning they have a positive side and a negative side.  The different sides are attracted to their opposites, so they can be pulled apart (dissolved) in a liquid that is also polar.  The cliche chemistry rule is “opposites attract, like dissolves like.”  Polarity is a continuum of different strengths: water is extremely polar; alcohol has both polar and nonpolar bonds (so call it “medium”), oil and wax are nonpolar.  There is a lot more to this, but this is enough fluency for medicine-making. (Please don’t write me hate mail full of ionic and covalent bonds!  If you do I will dip it in alcohol and it will dissolve!)

All plants contain both water-soluble and alcohol-soluble constituents. The question is how the medicinal compounds that you want extract best. The plants have a preference for the ideal balance to get the most well rounded medicine; make water-preferential or alcohol-preferential medicine based on what results you want (i.e. burdock tincture versus burdock vinegar).

Most plant medicine is best with a balance of both: dandelion, nettles, holy basil. Some really extract best in one or the other: slippery elm, marshmallow, echinacea. Remember that vinegar extracts water-soluble compounds (and in the case of minerals, is better than water at it) and oil extracts alcohol-soluble compounds.

How to Tell

Intuition, observation, and practice!

Where it’s growing, how it’s growing, when it flourishes: intuition from experience.  Does is grow on the banks of a river?  On a wind-swept prairie?  Does it bloom only when it’s very hot and sunny?

What worked last time? How does that season compare to this one? Is there a drought, or a late snow storm, or did the river jump its banks last fall and deposit fertile silt in your garden?

Taste, smell, & feel

Mucilage, berberine, tannin, resin: plants often directly tell you how to make medicine with them.  Gooey demulcent mucilage is water-soluble, but sharp tingling berberine is alcohol-soluble.

Precipitate

The goop at the bottom of a tincture is the plant matter that didn’t dissolve in the tincture.  Think about the goop at the bottom of a burdock or elecampane tincture–that’s the stuff that can’t dissolve in alcohol.  Actually, it’s mostly fiber, which does for plants what bones and fat do for people (structure & food storage).  Burdock and elecampane are both examples of herbs that tincture best at lower alcohol concentrations so their water-soluble compounds can play too.  If there’s way more precipitate than there should be, it often means your tincture had too much or too little alcohol in it.  That said, most high alcohol tinctures, especially of roots, will have precipitate, since plant matter always contains water-soluble constituents (see up, second paragraph).

Look it up in a good herbal reference

I recommend the works of Michael Moore and Lisa Ganora

Energetics of Solubility

These are generalizations meant to give you a place to start, not definitive truths for all plants.  I’m developing a graphic for this but it’s not ready for the internet yet!

Plants that have very water-soluble medicine are often extremes on the wet-dry continuum:

Marshmallow                                                        Willow

Slippery elm                                                      Witch Hazel

Plants that do well with high alcohol tinctures are usually more in the middle of wet-dry, but on an extreme of hot or cold:

Echinacea                                                    California Poppy

Cayenne                                                                Skullcap

Remember, most plants make good medicine in both water- and alcohol-based preparations, but the individual effects still follow these basic guidelines.

For example:

Burdock tea: water-soluble medicine, benefits are dramatic on the wet-dry continuum with kidney & lymphatic actions
Burdock tincture: alcohol-soluble medicine, benefits are dramatic on the hot-cold continuum with liver & digestive actions

 

But wait!  How do I apply this extremely interesting nerdiness to medicine-making?

Now that you understand the background, here is a full, in-depth exploration of tincture-making that includes applied solubility!