It doesn’t matter what we call ourselves – medicine women, wise women, herb women or herbalists, we all work and live close to nature. Some of us live in beautiful, bountiful and lush green areas while others live in harsh environements with barely a drop of water to waste.Wherever we live we adjust to our environment and work with the plants and materials the nature spirits give to us.
Working with these spirits helps us to blend with and become one with our natural surroundings. We become a part of our private natural world and it becomes a part of us. To work with nature all we need to do is listen to its whispers, look for the signs we are shown, and feel what the wild creatures, trees, plants and insects feel. Every environment has its own nature spirits all we need to do is become aware of them and what they teach and tell us.
My environment is harsh with very cold winters and hot, dry summers. This year we’ve had an unusually dry and hot spring and it’s been very hard on my herbs and other plants yet when I had to relocate the gardens because they were in the area where our house is going to be built they handled the process very well.
It’s only been a few days or so since I transplanted yarrow and now it’s flowering while the Echinacea, valerian and soapwort have new leaves. Plants as large as a passionfruit vine on a trellis have all transplanted well with only a day or so of wilting.
In some places our soil is rich and friable while in other areas it’s rocky with some clay. It never ceases to amaze me how wild plants grow with good health and vigour in the poorer soil. We have almost six acres and I frequently explore it in search of plants that may prove to be medicinal or even ‘bush tucker’.
On one such excursion I was delighted to find stinging nettle growing wild, paper daisies, and native jasmine. Near the house site and scattered throughout the paddocks, purple and white wild verbena grow in great splendour. They are so pretty that we mow around them. In January we had a bush fire come through our property and while it was quite devestating the native trees, shrubs, and vines began to regenerate quite soon and the native grasses grew back lush and green as did the stinging nettle.
Just today the machinery came in to excavate the house site and while we’ve designed the house to fit the site so no trees are destroyed there was one wattle tree that was right in the middle. Our solution was to move it so my husband and the excavator operator carefully dug it out leaving a large root ball around it and carried it down in the bucket to its new location where a large hole was dug. I’ve watered it in well and so far it seems fine. This tree grew at the edge of the old vegetable and herb garden providing shade and shelter when needed for the smaller plants. I listened to it and understood that it still felt it had a purpose and of course I didn’t want to see it ripped apart by a machine. Thankfully, I have a very understanding husband and the excavator operator has been here before so he knows my love of trees and has previously gone out of his way to avoid hurting them. Some men in the area don’t understand why I would want to save a wattle tree, “They’re just rubbish trees,” they say, but I know differently. They do have a short life but they provide shade, pretty yellow flowers, protection to other plants and they are a legume so they condition the soil by adding nitrogen.
When we transplanted the passionfruit the dirt fell away from its roots leaving them bare. I listened to it and knew what it needed. We placed the bare roots in to the new hole and I covered them with water then as my husband tossed dirt in to the hole I watered it so it would easily go down around the roots. I’ve never planted anything that way before; I usually dig a hole, fill it with water, place the plant in and fill it with dirt then give the plant a good watering. I wouldn’t recommend planting every plant the way I did the passionfruit but it has worked for it.
We can also learn from wildlife and insects too. There are many meat ants here; they have quite a few nests and while they can be a nuisance they can also be beneficial. Any left over meat scraps that can’t be put in the compost are left out for these ants that consume every bit of them. This is much better for the environment than sending the meat to the local tip. While cleaning up some rubbish I found a piece of timber that was being eaten by white ants and within seconds of pulling it away from the old garden edging the meat ants converged on it. Curiosity made me look closer and to my amazement the ants were carrying the white ants back to their nests. We have major problems with white ants destroying houses in Australia and here we have meat ants that eat them but they don’t usually get much of a chance to help us out as so many people posion their nests.
Being in tune with nature not only helps our planet but helps us as well. By working with nature spirits, listening to them and observing the signs they show us we bring harmony into our lives and a greater understanding of the world around us.