Apprentice Blog: First Herb Harvests

In my apprenticeship at Bluebird Hill this summer, one of the things I have been most looking forward to learning about is the harvesting and processing of herbs. There is something so magical about making our own medicine. With the new garden beds being built there is a lot of room here to grow these herbs. Some have already begun to bloom and I have been able to help harvest and dry them. Every day there is something else ready for us and it has been really beautiful to see them gathered up to dry. We will usually wait until early afternoon to harvest, once the sun has had time to dry the morning dew away.

Here are some of my favorites so far…

A beautiful yellow bowl of Arnica, Arnica montana, generally used topically to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds. We harvest the blooms almost daily, and every day there are as many as there were the day before!

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, we have growing all over the garden pathways and elsewhere on the property. The most common use of Yarrow is to apply topically to wounds to reduce bleeding, but also has traditionally been used internally to reduce inflammation, especially in digestion, and for soothing anxiety.

Calendula, Calendula officinalis, one of the brightest, most beautiful flowers at the homestead. We have calendula growing in several different garden beds and it is just starting to really get going! Calendula is generally used topically as a healing salve, for minor burns, cuts, bruises and infections.

Here is just the beginning of our medicine set up! On the back of the table are tinctures and liniments. On the screen drying we have arnica, chamomile, and plantain leaf. Hanging from the rafters we have mullein leaf and lemon balm. Much more to come!



Off-Grid Living: Home for the Winter?

Here on the home front, a small miracle is unfolding.

Through the help of many hearts and hands, the walls of our house are almost completely insulated!

The silver spaceship look on the front is thanks to Craigslist and some reclaimed insulation from an old elementary school.

And the pink on the back wall…well, a friend gave me a Home Depot gift card and through the magic of math, it turned out to be the exact amount needed to cover the rest…down to the last sheet!

We still have a lot to do (put up Tyvek, insulate the floor, acquire firewood), but it is looking like it’s maybe, just maybe, possible for the girls and I to stay in the house this winter!



At the Homestead: Fire and Friends Warming the Hearth

We had lots of amazing help today from our friends with the homeschool co-op! We gathered several loads of firewood from those big oaks we felled a few months ago. Our hearth is warm this evening! Many thanks!


And we hosted our first dinner with friends since moving out of the bus!  Our sand floor makes for dusty fun, but wow, it’s amazing to have a table large enough again to share a meal.

Fire and friends and food…a soul nourishing evening in the midst of this busy season!


At the Homestead: First Fire in the Hearth

It’s been a big day around here! We still don’t know if we will be able to stay in the house all winter, but we are a giant leap closer today.

Jonathan spent several hours building the chimney and prepping the wood burning stove for its first fire!

And our devoted apprentice, Margie, was out in the cold with me stapling up a wind and rain barrier to help seal up the house and get it ready for some insulation.

So at 8pm tonight, our 8 year old Maggie lit the fire for the first time and we have a warm hearth! We are so thankful. And truly lucky to even be here living this life.

And so…hauling firewood begins!

A Supply Run to Standing Rock

The girls and I had the great privilege of delivering some much needed winter supplies this weekend to the thousands of people in North Dakota protecting the water from the proposed oil pipeline.

Much of our time there this weekend felt too sacred to document with photos…Sharing food and gratitude around the fire, helping at the camp kitchens with dishes, meeting many new friends from all over the planet who are doing this brave and necessary work.


It was deeply moving to see so many indigenous people from not only Turtle Island but all over the world now, come together in this way. The beautiful flags line the entrance to camp and the energy is hard to describe in words. Over 260 Nations are represented (with more arriving every day), the largest of any such gathering since Wounded Knee in 1973.

I will say that the supplies we brought…lumber, firewood, a wood burning stove, and much more…were met with full gratitude, and sometimes even baffled amazement at the support pouring in from many directions.

My girls had many questions. “Why are all the United States flags upside down?” “Why doesn’t the government just tell the oil company they can’t do that?” “Why are some people so greedy? Don’t they see that they are hurting people?” I did my best to answer but there were some hard questions.

Contrary to some news floating around on FB, construction has not stopped as Obama “requested” within the 20 mile area on either side of the Missouri River and the sacred sites. There is a commitment to peaceful but direct action every day at the sites. And there are several lawsuits pending against Dakota Access for their avoidance of following legal protocol with permits and construction, so any donations to the legal fund and the camp are hugely appreciated.

If you feel called to go, do it. Your presence and support would be most welcome. Go with a humble heart, show up in service and with an ear ready to listen.

This is not just about water. This is about choosing care for the planet and the people over greed and power.

This is history in the making, and most news sources aren’t even mentioning it.

When we stopped at the gas station before driving home, the headline on the local paper was something about the construction deadline being delayed because the native folks are causing trouble. And the extra cost that would be for the company. Wow.

So please continue sharing and spreading the word.

It’s long overdue that the Earth and the indigenous people of this planet are treated with the respect they deserve.

What kind of world do we want our children and grandchildren to inherit?

Nests revealed

With the leaves all fallen now, all sorts of abandoned nests are being revealed on the land. Any guesses what type of birds made these four?? I have a few ideas, but don’t know for sure. Here are some hints…

TOP LEFT: Found in a small tree in a marshy area, 2 feet off the ground.
TOP RIGHT: Found right outside the bus, in a stand of wild plum trees, 4 feet off the ground.
BOTTOM LEFT: Found in a large red cedar tree, right outside the chicken coop, 5 feet off the ground.
BOTTOM RIGHT: Found in a wild plum tree up on the ridge, 4 feet off the ground.