It was our 3-day wild food’s discovery expedition, late September, held in a wilderness sanctuary called, Wild Magnolia. This year’s drought, a tree-killing drought, the worst in Arkansas history, caused me to cancel all the late summer workshops. Who wants to tromp around frizzled skeletons! Besides, I was in transition – like so many others. (Partly why you haven’t heard from me).
Then the rains came (and went), enough to give the plants a second life…indeed, many flowered again and we saw bloom on early summer bloomers. So, we’d gather for one more outing before winter. This time, at my new home in the wilderness around the Buffalo River National Forest. A thanks-giving celebration.
Learning about wild foods means learning a thing or two about botany and the intricacies of plant identification. So Friday would focus on botany and how to use plant keys. But first things first – direct communication with the plants themselves. As Westerners, we need the blessing of science in order to believe a thing possible, so the science supporting inter-species communication was laid out before their first exercise – find a flowering plant, set your intention to learn from it and silently perceive what happens. Notice any feelings, including physical sensations. What does the plant have to say about itself? And how it may help you? Then (later, with the group) come back with the keys to find its name.
So it began, each found a plant eager to tell its story. Some were stories of fearlessness, one opened a portal to its energy field and embraced a skeptic. The class worked together with their keys, discussing why it might be one plant instead of another until they came to agreement enough for my confirmation.
The day closed with a dinner of wild mustard greens, immature grass seed heads, wild ginger, sesame stir-fry on rice and a tempura of plantain stalks and perilla leaf. One member had joined us on the grounds that I’d tell my story of living alone in the wilderness so, sharing a bottle of wine around the campfire , I took them back.
The woods shimmered in the pleasure of having been recognized on its own terms…heart to heart. George Washington Carver said, “Anything will reveal its secrets if you love it enough.” And we did. So we shouldn’t have been surprised when a wolf appeared in camp the next morning to wake us up. He stood at the edge and let forth with 5 sonorous notes, more of a song than a “howl” …each note hung like a bell in the sky. Wild food for the soul.
First of all, thanks to all of you who’ve patiently waited for me to re-launch the medicinal/edible plant workshops. Our successful program came to an abrupt halt when I left the Hurricane Creek Wilderness Preserve and its taken so very long to find another suitable arrangement & location. We needed a comfortable place for people to stay overnight, easy access, and use of well conserved wilderness lands. Thanks to Circle Yoga Shala and Arco Iris (owners of Wild Magnolia), we’ve got what it takes to provide the best learning opportunity for mastering the use of our important botanicals.
Most of this year’s workshops will follow this format :
- Focus Plant: Students will study a single plant in its natural environment. They will be able to identify it in the wild, understand its therapeutic uses and (if it applies) it’s other uses (food, cordage, fire starter, etc.). Students will learn about the plant’s energetics and how its used in different schools of herbal medicine as well as modern pharmacological applications. Sensory and journal exercises deepen the relationship & memory (so bring drawing materials). Want to bring this plant into your garden? Methods of propagation and growing are also covered. Through the year, we will revisit plants to see what they’re doing and how their appearance changes. Each plant is scheduled for study during it’s peak season for harvesting, or, when it’s most easily identified.
- Therapeutics: What does it mean to say a plant is a diaphoretic or a nervine, etc.? When does one want to use a warming diaphoretic, or a cooling diaphoretic? When various conditions arise, how is one to know which category of herb to use; how to select the most appropriate herbs from that category; how to use them, how to prepare them? What are the safety issues? Students will gain a practical understanding of therapeutics in relation to the focus plant.
- Preparation Methods: During weekend workshops, students will learn one of the methods of preparation. Many plants give up their active principles better to one or two specific methods of preparation. We’ll learn about decoctions, for example, along with the focus plant that is best used that way.
Location: Circle Yoga Shala
Focus Plant: Sassafras
Therapeutic category: Warming Diaphoretic
Preparation method: Decoction
One of our more important spring trees, I’m not sure if its even legal to live in the Ozarks without knowing everything about it! On Saturday the workshop begins at 9:00am and lasts until 7:00pm. Students may stay overnight in our guest quarters or camp out (see below). On Sunday, we begin again at 9:00 am and finish at 6:00pm.
Accommodations: We’re fortunate to have the beautiful facilities of Circle Yoga Shala available to us. Students may choose the “economy” route and camp out in our camp ground for $10 overnight. This includes restroom and shower facilities. Bring your own camping gear.
Or, they can sign up for a room in the guest accommodations. A private room is $35. We also have a 4-bed dormitory available for $25. We can provide beds for a maximum of 10 people so sign up early. There’s no requirement to stay overnight for local residents.
Workshops held at Circle Yoga Shala: Students are free to either sign up for organic, gourmet vegetarian meals prepared by our Ayurvedic chef, Matthew Krepps, or bring their own meals.
Please let us know if you want us to provide meals 5 days in advance. This gives Matt time to sprout grains, make his ferments and other days-long-advance preparations. But late-comers won’t be turned away from the table!
Depending on what’s available, wild foods collected during our walks are part of the meal for everyone.
Availability: Class size is limited to 15. Sign-up closes 5 days before the workshop.
Payment & Schedule:
A full-day workshop usually runs ten hours including breaks. Two-day workshops are structured to allow students the option of taking only one day when they can’t attend both days. Schedules and details of a workshop are posted here and at www.circleyogashala.com 6 weeks in advance. Because the costs of a workshop may vary (lodging & meals are fixed at the above rate and are extra), and because we don’t want fees to discourage anyone who wants to learn about plants from attending, simply contact us about any workshop you want to sign up for.
Phone number: 870-861-5175
I’m adding a page to this blog to give you the year’s schedule, it should be up in a day or two. Our sessions at Wild Magnolia and those with Kent Bonar will be listed.