My Favorite Herbal Resources for Beginners


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Hello Antlerstockers!  I decided to be fancy and post my book and resource recommendations here rather than trying to generate a handout for you all.  This way we can share ideas and add to this as we think of things.  Thanks for coming by!

Edited to add:  The salve we made today is Rosemary Gladstar’s St. John’s Wort-Comfrey-Calendula Salve.  Don’t forget to label your tin!!

This is a collection of some of the books and websites that I have used in my explorations with basic and simple herbalism.  The most important thing is to learn for yourself and just start somewhere.  I’m not a doctor nor any kind of healthcare practitioner and therefore can’t give any medical advice.  But these are resources I used while I was teaching myself.


Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family by Rosemary Gladstar

Hands On Healing Remedies: 150 Recipes for Herbal Balms, Salves, Oils, Liniments, and Other Topical Therapies by Stephanie L. Tourles–Healing-Remedies-Liniments-Therapies-ebook/dp/B008NEZOQU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413588800&sr=8-1&keywords=hands+on+healing+remedies

Organic Body Care Recipes: 175 Homemade Herbal Formulas for Glowing Skin and a Vibrant Self by Stephanie Tourles

Homegrown Herbs: A Complete Guide to Growing, Using, and Enjoying More than 100 Herbs by Tammi Hartung with a Foreword by Rosemary Gladstar

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual by James Green


Places to Buy Supplies:

For high-quality herbs, anything you could think of:  Mountain Rose Herbs,

For basic herbs, and especially for pre-mixed herbs; a really great place to start out if you don’t want to buy bags of different ingredients:  The Bulk Herb Store.  I find this site more approachable and less overwhelming.  They also have bundles and kits for beginners.

For tins, bottles, jars, and containers for all your concoctions: Specialty Bottle  Mountain Rose and Bulk Herb Store both carry some containers, but you pay a lot more because it’s not their main thing.  For more choices and better prices, I go to Specialty Bottle.

For soap-making: Bramble Berry Soap Making Supplies.  They even sell lye via mail-order, although you have to sign a release and send it to them before they’ll actually send it to you.

The world according to Zelda

These are the signs of the end times, the signs of imminent destruction. All these signs are equally indicative of disaster. One must react to each of these as though the world is ending. It is important to react by shaking uncontrollably, panting and drooling, and by hiding someplace that only your head , not your entire body, will fit. Your refuge should include some breakable items in order to be acceptable.

1. Very loud fireworks
2. Quiet fireworks, in the distance
3. Thunderstorms
4. Smoke alarms
5. The smell of smoke
6. The sound of wind
7. A train going by
8. Rain
Last, but not least,
9. The dishwasher at the new house. If the dishes are being washed, the end is nigh.

Run for your lives. Hide behind the toilet. Knock over a bookcase. We are all doomed.


Theological muttering

I have, for my entire life, been simultaneously drawn to and repelled by Christianity. I even went to seminary without finding any kind of resolution to my state of jittery theological confusion. But now, somehow, I have found my way to a community in which, firstly, it doesn’t matter at all what my theological stance is, but more importantly, I am finding new ways of negotiating my questions.

What do I believe? Don’t worry, just sing with us!
What do I declare? It doesn’t matter, join us in communion.

I have found a church that allows me to breathe my faith, sing my faith, embody my faith, without at all understanding my faith.

Keep showing up.
Make music together.
Pray together.
Believe in the redeeming goodness of that which unites all things.
Keep showing up.

And keep singing.

Something we did really right


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Two weeks after Weez and I started our relationship (well, the capital R Relationship phase of our acquaintance, to be exact), we drew up a covenant for ourselves.  (We got the idea because at that time, both of us were in training for leadership in the Unitarian Universalist church, and in that context, covenant is a concept important for creating right relationships in community.)  In any case, after we wrote this, we read it to each other every week for several years, then lost sight of it after we got married, the way these things sometimes go.  Last night we ended up going back to our covenant.  Boy, did we do something right the day we wrote this up.

We read this again last night, and at the end, asked each other if we needed to make any changes, based on the last eleven and a half years of our relationship.  So many changes have happened to us in those intervening years.  But there really isn’t anything that needs changing, we decided.  We got it right the first time.  We, along with whatever power acted through us, got it really right.

Our Covenant

August 11, 2002

  • I agree to treat you respectfully
  • I agree to honor and be careful towards past hurts
  • I agree to stay present to whatever is happening
  • I agree to tend to my own work
  • I agree not to run away when things get tough
  • I agree to smile often
  • I agree to talk when we need to talk
  • I agree to touch you with love
  • I agree to be faithful
  • I agree to be honest when I am afraid or hurt or angry, even though it is scary
  • I agree to respect your boundaries
  • I agree to honor the Seven Principles with you
  • I agree to disagree respectfully
  • I agree to be grateful for what we share
  • I agree to enjoy you and to have fun with you
  • I agree to support your need to be separate
  • I agree to love you and to tell you and show you that I love you
  • I agree to respect your need to share with others and I will not share lightly with others
  • I agree to revisit this covenant… and to change it as we need to.


For the tightrope walkers

Some people live their lives on a tightrope.  Some keep their hand on the railing of the sidewalk.  The ones on the tightrope risk a fall to the death with every step, but they also get the promise of greatness.  The possibility of astonishing feats of bravery, of brazenness.  Those on the ground, inching along the safe path, they may have some advantage in terms of reliability or safety.  But there is zero chance of greatness in them.  They may go far.  They may reach their goals.  But they will never thrill a crowd of onlookers.  They will never defy fate, they will never accomplish the impossible.

Here’s the thing.  Both paths can be courageous.  Each soul has its own boundaries of fear, of bravery, of accomplishment.  But one is the stuff of legend and inspiration, the other the stuff of the mundane.  The world needs both.

There are many who will chastise the tightrope walker.  She isn’t safe! She isn’t logical!  But she is thrilling to watch.  She is an inspiration to the crawlers.  Her life is a gift to the world.  Her courage and her strength are a beacon of light.

If I were a writer, I would proclaim this to the hills.  If I were a tightrope walker, everyone would hear my words.  I am a sidewalk being.  I may go far, but you have to be paying close attention to notice.  I don’t get heckled, and I won’t thrill the masses.  But I wouldn’t have the heart to do most of what I do if it were not for the tightrope walkers who inspire me.

You are a gift to the world.  So am I.  Blessed be.

2012, 2013

I’m not a resolutions kind of person.  Okay, let me rephrase that.  I’m the kind of person who continually creates resolutions.  Once a year is too momentous, too meaningful.  It gets in the way of following through.  But I did spend today looking back and looking forward.

2012 was a year of so many new things.  I made some new friends, particularly Jenna, who has managed to open so many doors for me.  I started new hobbies (see previous sentence.)  This year I took up archery, home brewing, hand sewing clothing for historical reenactment, chicken husbandry (what a weird term that is…), and more.  I started a blog.  Again.  I renewed my commitment to making music.  Weez started doing travel assignments, which gave me more alone time than I’ve had in a while.  It gave me the opportunity to realize my competence (and incompetence) at running the household by myself.

2012 was also a year of bad habits, bad health, and facing my faults.  When left to my own devices, I can make very bad choices about what kinds of food and drink I consume.  I reached a personal highest weight ever, and kept on gaining until I saw a number I could no longer tolerate.  I allowed myself to start avoiding friends and social situations.

But I also realized the consequences of these behaviors, and I found ways to make changes.  (I’m being somewhat oblique here on purpose.  Sharing one’s faults is not easy.)  I took control of my eating and drinking with a well-known program for losing weight.  I started a program of relentless self-monitoring: tracking all my activity and everything I eat, regardless of whether I was making good decisions or bad ones.  I adopted the philosophy that I would allow myself to observe what I ate or what I did without judging, and thereby learn to know myself.  A kind of mindfulness meditation.  With graphs.

Some aspects of my life continue to stagnate.  My craft room is still obscenely cluttered.  My professional life is still less fulfilling than I would like.  My long-distance friendships are still neglected.

Around the year 2000, I did a lot of self learning and putting my house in order.  I started doing yoga, I began some spiritual practices, I gave myself permission to be myself.  I left a career that was making me unhappy, I recovered from a relationship that didn’t work out, and I made decisions about how I wanted my life to be.  I think it’s time to do it again.

I would like 2013 to be a year of putting my house in order, literally and metaphorically.  I have already lost the weight that I gained in 2012, but am not where I should be for my own best health.  I would like to work on better habits.  I love following programs set by other people, but find it really difficult to admit openly.  Is it because I’m a snob?  What works for so many couldn’t possibly work for me?  Yeah, probably.  But it does work.  With the help of (oh, why is this so embarrassing and so difficult?) Weight Watchers, FlyLady, Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project, and a local nutritionist who has a 7 Days to Radiance cleanse program I’m going to be following, I’m putting some incremental changes into place.  I’m going to use techniques that I know work for me, even if I fear others might find them hokey.  Who cares, right?  Well, I do, but I’m working on it.

It’s time to own my life, to design it the way I want it to be.  Ten or twelve years ago I decided that I could have trash cans on both sides of the bed, because that worked for me.  A silly thing, a small thing, but it was an accomplishment in terms of letting go of some made up judgment from outside that didn’t actually exist.  What will be my trash can challenge of 2013?

May we all have the courage to make the changes that are necessary for our happiness and health.  Blessed be.

Heat makes me mean


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I usually try to stay positive here, but lately that has resulted in a lack of writing.  Not that things are bad, just that I’m cranky about the heat and totally over my wife working at the opposite end of the state.

Anyway, today, one of the hottest days of the summer so far, I received one solitary piece of mail.  It was my friendly neighborhood electric company’s “Energy Savings Report.”*  Let me quote some of the delightful phrases contained therein:

You used more electricity and did not reach the target. … This is a summary of your energy use (actual) and what you could have saved (target) if you had followed our recommendations.

We estimated that you would have saved up to $38.  Unfortunately, you used $5 more compared to your use over the same time a year ago.

Let me state, first off, that the average American household uses 958 kilowatt-hours per month.  Our usage, during the months of February, March, and April combined was 999 kWh last year and 1041 kWh during the same three months this year.  That’s right, we use just over 1/3 of the average American household.  We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.  Plus, we increased our energy usage compared to last year by a gluttonous 4.2%.

I understand if you must turn away in horror, ashamed to even read a blog written by someone with obviously so little regard for the environment.

Let’s get down to details.  What exactly were these magical recommendations that we so thoughtlessly refused to heed?

1. Raise your A/C thermostat three degrees this summer.

First of all, no one with a brain would describe the months of February, March, and April in Western Massachusetts as “summer.”  Our average last frost date is May 15th.  Our last fire in the wood stove this season was on June 4th.  So the A/C thermostat was not an issue for the time period in question.  Plus? WE DON’T HAVE AN AIR CONDITIONER.  That’s right.  We do without.  To save energy.**

2. Clean your window air conditioner’s filter.

See objections to #1.**

3.  Replace traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs).

Leaving aside all the controversy about whether household use of CFLs actually saves energy or makes them last longer, leaving aside the serious concerns about disposal and toxins, there’s another problem here.  We replaced our light bulbs several years ago.  And once you do that, you can no longer save money by doing it again.  It’s a one time gain.

So, coming home on this extremely hot day (for this area, anyway), knowing that the only way to cool down will be to drive around in my air-conditioned truck or go sit in the basement, we get to receive a snotty (but glossy and attractively designed!) letter in the mail scolding us for irresponsible squandering of electricity.  Rather than a thank you note for being one of the thrifty households who clearly already is doing their part for energy conservation.  This tipped my cranky mood straight in to full-on bitchy.

Here’s a suggestion, WMECO.  Save the energy you used to create and send out this offensive letter.  I’m going to keep this civil (more or less, anyway — Hi Mom!) and not suggest where you can put this particular Energy Savings Report.  Use your imagination.**

I feel much better now.

* Yes, I know I’m overreacting.  Just go with it.

**Name calling has been removed as a public service.


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