Herbal Apprenticeship ’11

I’ve signed up to a ‘Springfield Sanctuary Apprenticeship‘; a yearlong project run by ‘Kitchen Herbwife‘ Sarah Head which offers ‘the opportunity to learn more about growing, harvesting and working with herbs to improve personal and family health and wellbeing.’ These pages will document my experiences and the things I learn over the twelve-month period.


At the start we were asked to provide a list of twenty herbs to study and get to know over the year. Here were my ’20-and-then-some’:

sage, rosemary, yarrow, horsetail, elder, hawthorn, lesser celendine, meadowsweet, nettle, deadnettles, selfheal*, comfrey, burdock, great mullein (aaron’s rod)*, ground elder, wild carrot** (if it grows; cow parsley if not), sweet violet, ground ivy, vetch (common), hemp agrimony*

and then maybe mugwort, tansy**, feverfew**, oxeye daisy, st john’s wort and one of the chamomiles

* = plants I’ve seen where I go in Italy during the summer, but may choose to plant here
** = plants I’d have to grow from seed(lings)
All others I have access to within reasonable walking distance

Sarah then asked for my ‘best hopes’ for my apprenticeship. Here’s what I came up with:

I’d like to branch out and deepen my knowledge of locally growing medicinal plants and to help spread this knowledge to help the people close to me lessen their dependency on industrially-produced cosmetics & medicines and build up the confidence in their ability to do these things for themselves, incidentally preparing them for the time when the former will increasingly cease to be available.

More specifically I hope to get over a learned ‘I’m all right, Jack’, taking-for-granted attitude to my own health by learning to listen & pay attention to my own body and its various needs, and I look forward to ‘familiaris[ing myself] with a variety of body processes’ as a means to this end.

I would like to broaden and deepen my empathy with the plants growing wild and not-so-wild in my locality, and see where this takes me along ‘stewardship’ lines – awareness of which plant communities to encourage/protect, how to deal with ‘invasives’, how to help land/soils recover from the various assaults of building ‘development’, agriculture, industry, pollution etc.

I also want to learn more basic gardening techniques, and would be interested in planting & caretaking a herb bed of my own. Basically I want to be a wildlife guru with green things, insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, fungi springing up wherever I step, but I understand that might take more than a year 😉

7 Responses to “Herbal Apprenticeship ’11”

  1. Sarah Head Says:

    I think you’re doing brilliantly! Can you try making a straight cleaver tea (infuse for ten minutes) rather than a long infusion? It should taste pleasantly of peas and be refreshing, rather than something you have to gulp down without tasting. When the nettle tonic is ready, remember to share some of it with H. (just incase she needs some too!)

  2. ondisturbedground Says:

    Thanks Sarah, that makes me feel better!

    I’ll try the cleavers tea as you suggest and promise not to be too stingy with the iron tonic – H is getting used to me force-feeding her weird & wonderful things 😉

    Oh, and I’m going to try to get down to the Sanctuary for the March 12th workshop, if I can.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Early Spring Salad & Nettle Soup « Frequently Found Growing On Disturbed Ground Says:

    […] Nettle in the above mix (heat disables the stings). As it happens I ran out of them making the promised […]

  4. annie Says:

    Have you encountered the work of Frank Cook?

  5. Ian M Says:

    Just the videos up on Eat Weeds as yet. Been meaning to track down his dissertation for a while now… Seemed like a pretty cool guy – I was saddened to hear of his death.


  6. alderandash Says:

    Very interesting blog..I’m much better at growing stuff on my little permaculture plot, than knowing what to do with it when I’ve grown it.! Lots of idea here, I shall enjoy having a read…Best wishes.

  7. Ian M Says:

    Thanks AAA. Yes, I get the problem of weird things hanging around in the back of the cupboard until they go off too 🙂 Hope you like it here. I

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