Time and time again as I reflect and observe nature on the farm, I am awed and excited by the way it interacts with us. The blessing of being in one place for more than 20 years gives me a real observational perspective on the way plants move thru the landscape over time. I also have come to believe that Nature has some opinions about things, and wants to partner with us and nourish us, if we can be quiet enough to observe and listen.
For me personally, It all started with stinging nettle. When we first moved here, there was no stinging nettle on this property. As it slowly moved in I observed it moving thru the landscape. I did not appreciate the stinging nettle encroachment, from that early perspective. At the time I was a young nursing mother. I was also suffering from debilitating hay fever. I was wondering if I would have to move from this beautiful place. I would almost come to tears in June as I observed the tall grass pasture seed heads, full of pollen, waving at me with the wind from all sides of the property, as I sneezed and dripped, quite miserably. The night time was worse, as the dripping would call me from my much needed new mother’s slumber. It was a sad downward spiral, and our whole family suffered with me.
Then I heard a talk radio program with Susun Weed, the herbalist, and the way she talked about plants made me pay attention. She made them sound mischievous, and alive. It piqued my curiosity. She spoke about Nettle infusion, a super strong dose of liquid nettle (please note: nettle infusion is made from dried nettle, not fresh). I had tried Nettle capsules before, and I found that they didn’t work, but now I think the concentration I tried was not strong enough. I tried the Nettle infusion and it was MAGIC! The first year I tried it, it was like I was super human! It gave me extra energy at night to get things done, like canning garden produce, cleaning, laundry…. I was SUPER WOMAN, and it was truly amazing! At first, I was consuming a gallon a day of the stuff! Wowza! That was a lot. Happily, I realized, I would not have to move from this country paradise. I also think that nursing children depletes a young mother, and this just helped to “bring me back” nutritionally.
So then I realized…. nettle had been slowly encroaching into my landscape and quietly saying “I’m here for you” This has happened numerous times on the farm, and it has encompassed many plants including edible wild mushrooms. The interest in wild mushrooms began with conversations of farm residents wanting to learn more about mushrooms, and then, interestingly enough, mushrooms began popping up all over the place. To me this only speaks to the level that nature desires to interact with us.
I have not again experienced that super burst of nettle energy that I had that first year, but I have also not needed to drink that much nettle to tame my hay fever. Also, each year, I need less, so it might be a cumulative thing. I haven’t nursed any babies for quite a number of years, which could also be a factor. Nettle is full of calcium and iron and trace minerals. It also makes my hair and nails grow like gangbusters!
Not every medicinal needs to be edible. I think some medicinals are scent based and some are visual, and some are edible. Many in fact, can be all three! The scent of Herb Robert drives me wild!
The most recent discovery I have made is purple dead nettle, a ground cover that is considered a weed, and it has been growing quite profusely in the winter here over the last several years. It turns out our cow Buttercup LOVES it, and I just found a pesto recipe I will try, but not until next season, because it is fading now as other spring plants take hold.
The seasons on the farm also give me grounding, and if a season is early or late for weather factors, I always still feel like I know where I am, just by observing the plant cycles on the farm, after all these years.
Intentional farming is fun, and un-intentional farming can even be more interesting! Thru this experience, I have learned to cherish “volunteers” in the garden, and I feel they can be the most hearty of plants. I weed more slowly, and find I like to observe more frequently. If you notice a plant encroaching on your landscape, my advice is research it…It just may be trying to tell you something!
What a gift Nature is, quietly nudging us to the edible, nutritious and medicinal plants all around us. No cultivation required!