Angel Wings and Herb Tea

Life after loss; healing through creativity, writing and art


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Working things out

Yes I keep fiddling around, trying to get things right on this blog, I’m not quite there yet, so be prepared for more changes! It’s not my strong point, the techie side, but I’m trying!
When I started this blog I had a very clear vision of what this space was about.  There were three elements which were held here;

The Woodland folk…
For four years I lived with my family in the middle of a wood in Devon. The first three in a mobile home, the last in our self build cabin. This blog was about living in small spaces with minimal possessions and no electricity, it was about hand washing by candlelight and writing in notebooks by the fire, and stepping out into beautiful woodland by night to the ghostly owl shadows gliding down the valley.

Wild medicine
I also wrote about the oils, tinctures and balms I made for my family from wild harvested herbs, and the hedgerow food and medicine around our land. Connection and healing through plants and trees.

Lily
Finally, this blog has been space for my daughter Lily, who died four years ago; time and space for me to think about her, share how life is, and was, and could be without my daughter, and what she means for our family.

Some things have changed. And so the blog will change .
We now live in the wing of a mansion, as part of a community of people who sing, and garden together; share space, food and land.

We have an indoor bathroom, access to a washing machine and mains electricity, which to begin with felt odd and wrong after our deep connection with a simpler life on the land. When our cabin burnt down, we had to live somewhere, and after much searching and deliberation, this felt right. And it is. Somehow it is.
We are no longer the family in the woods, we no longer straddle two centuries, bathing in a tin bath, then dashing off to school in a car, but for me in particular, the departure from this way of life has been hard. Not just the loss of the beautiful cabin that we, (well Hugh) worked so hard to build, but it felt like a failure that we were creeping back to mainstream society with our tail between our legs. I missed the closeness to nature and cooking dinner on the campfire, stepping out of the door into wildness…..
‘When’s the rebuild?’ so many people asked in the early days after the fire, and truely neither Hugh or I really ever wanted to.

To return to the blackened scene of such devastation, to a piece of land which, if the truth be known, we had never chosen because it was the most beautiful woodland.

And then I was pregnant. We were exhausted, and our kids needed stability and safety, normality. We have lost so much, our home, our possessions, the chicks, the cat, the rats (Holly and Sophie since you ask) the goats (Goats?.Why yes…Lauren, Lauretta, Abby and Dolly…..they’re’s a whole blog post just waiting to happen, can’t believe they’ve escaped being featured!)

but we have also gained so much. Wisdom for a start, to have learnt from big mistakes and misguided ways of approaching projects. We have received so much love and unfailing support from friends an strangers, and  a realisation that community is more important than independance. I have learnt that  receiving is as beautiful (and a lot harder) than giving, and the web of connecion and interdependance between us is the magic and the fabric of our  lives and makes us human. (Yes its basic stuff, but I’m a slow learner, these big jolts in my life accelerate my schooling in the bits I’m falling behind in) We’ve also gained a new baby, little Finch.

And so things are different. We’ve been forced to reevaluate our lives, one day I was drawing up business plans for our smallholding, herb products; projecting milk yields and planning my first batch of goats milk soap (with investment of specialised oils, and equipment all at the ready), costing out yurts for our planned retreat centre for bereaved families and disadvantaged kids……the next….its all gone.

And so we move on, and change, and there are other things in our lives, and other paths which, who knows may wind in the same direction one day.

I still gather herbs and bottle nature’s medicines for the winter chills, Lily is still my daughter and a luminous presence in our family, I’m still homeschooling Tansy and Leo and writing and creating, but now things are moving.

Life is bigger than I have let myself believe. I’m exploring what this means. Bringing together the things that make me sing and smile and weaving them together to make a blanket of healing. Healing for me, healing for many. The colour and weave is yet unknown although patterns and hues swirl around me, notebooks are filling with lists, threads of projects, ideas….consolidating, envisioning.

I’m just working my way through Leonie Dawson’s  Incredible yearbook and planner 2013 , yes in July, should have done it in January, and it’s just what I need. Check it out….well at least in readiness for 2014, but July is better than not at all eh? Newborn baby and all!

Little Finch is already a healer in our lives in so many ways, he’s brought so much love with him……….and that newborn ageless wisdom, and a soft, silky head to nuzzle.

So this blog will change. Reflecting life’s twists and unexpected turns. I hope you’ll come too, it’s amazing to have you along.
I remember hitting ‘publish’ the very first time I wrote on here and it felt so strange….who on earth would want to read it anyway? But you have, and people have, and sharing is uplifting and healing and really joyful and fun…..Thankyou…..


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squirrel and lime leaf sandwiches

No really. Veggies read no further…

It was a fresh road kill that Tansy wandered in with a couple of days ago cradled in her arms (with her dad…she’s not quite old enough for solo foraging expeditions!) and it was the day after Hugh flourished a beautiful duck at me when he came in at ten at night.
We mourned the loss of two lives, the soft grey fur, the beautiful iridescent feathers and webbed feet, and blessed them and gave thanks for the fact that they would not be wasted.

We eat meat about once a week usually, and only organic and that feels right. Local, wild, killed anyway meat seems even righter. I regret not taking any pictures but we were so caught up in the moment that it didn’t even cross my mind.

A cold east wind blew up the valley so we plucked and gutted the duck inside in a flurry of feathers. Tansy and Leo chose beautiful feathers to keep and helped to pluck the downy breast feathers. They saw the scarlet, spongy lungs and the burgundy liver and heart, they saw the blood wash away, and the transformation between a soft feathered bird and an oven ready piece of meat.
I was glad they could see that.
They know in their bones what meat is. They know how to prepare it. They know it can be a creature that flies and runs and feels pain and has babies, and looks very cute when it sits in the trees outside and nibbles a nut held between its paws or dabbles upside down in the pond.

They are connected to the meat and there is something very special about that.

.

We roasted the duck for Sunday lunch and later I made a risotto with the bones and the pickings of a foraging expedition around the wood.
Ground ivy, Herb Robert, Primrose, Dandelion, Lime leaves, Hawthorn, Ransoms, Bitter cress, Sorrel, Nettle, Water mint, Beech leaves, Violet leaves, Yellow archangel. It was a vibrant meal, I could feel the wild energy zinging around my taste buds.

These plant have strong tastes. Tastes that make a lettuce leaf seem like a soggy rich tea biscuit. They have grown in the rich nutritious soil of the woodland,  small and concentrated parcels of wild vitality and vibrations. Their potency and energy are palpable..a little goes a long way. That meal, it felt as if we were ingesting a little bit of the wild wood into our bodies and souls, the duck, the herbs…a special meal.

Hugh pan fried the squirrel the next night and actually, I lied, there wasn’t really enough left for sandwiches the next day but it made a good title and we did consider it (It was humous and Lime leaf really..try Lime leaves if you’re not used to wild foods, they’re mild tasting pleasant introduction to the world of foraging! Lovely in sandwiches or salads.) Leo was going to bed at the time of the pan frying and was quite upset at missing out, so we kept him a leg and he ate it after his porridge the next morning. I have never eaten squirrel and it was delicious, like a rich, dark, woody chicken.

Leo and Hugh skinned the squirrel  and are curing the hide, Leo wants it as a carpet for his Sylvanian sheep I think.

Now we are more settled, I have the energy and time to stop buying herbal tea bags and make my own tea. How crazy to buy boxed, bagged cut herbs when I can come back with  a basketful yards from my door!
I realised that last weekend.

Tansy had a high temperature and was glassy eyed on the sofa all day while I ransacked my herbal jars for fever brews. Lemon water tick, Echinacea, tick….hmm and old jar of last years Meadowsweet still humming with honey scented energy… Peppermint and rosemary in the garden, and Ground ivy in the wood. This was a new discovery for me. I knew the little plant well, quietly pretty with its small purple flowers yet so easily overlooked or mistaken for Self heal or Bugle, and I knew that it was sold in bundles on the streets of London in bygone days as a remedy for ‘clearing the blood’  Well it makes delicious tea too!
I bundled it into Tansy’s fever brew.. (the only time she raised a smile all day!) and had a sip. Mmm! Nibbling the leaf and wincing slightly at its strength gave me no indication of its potential as a beverage herb. I had been missing green tea, but that slightly astringent bitter taste is readily available all over the wood.
It’s Ground Ivy every morning now!

Even if there isn’t squirrel for breakfast!