Sanctuary Stewards: Ceara and Faye Foley
As a child I spent all of my “free” time in Nature developing relationships with plants rather than people. I truly feel that these plants had aided my evolution more than any other beings. So, naturally when I decided to officially devote my life to becoming an herbalist, I wanted to study with them rather than study them with someone else. I am deeply blessed to have found Soulflower Botanical Sanctuary to fulfill this purpose and to call it my home.
Soulflower Botanical Sanctuary is located in rural Madison County, NC, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the world’s oldest mountains and possibly North America’s most botanically diverse area. A respite for plants and animals (including humans), Soulflower consists of 31.31 acres with organic gardens, a beautiful stream, rock outcroppings, a cave and a hand dug, spring fed pond. The rich hardwood cove which includes eastern hemlock trees, red maple, black birch, black gum, white pine, and tulip poplar, has various solar aspects and land forms creating a variety of microclimates that support over 65 plant families and 150 genera.
At Soulflower we strive to do more good than harm and live in a sustainable fashion. My daughter and I live in a Tulip Poplar log cabin, exquisitely crafted with hand-hewn timber harvested from the property, protected and cradled between the two ridges of the “holler”. The cabin is off the grid, run on solar electricity, heated by woodstove, with gravity fed spring water and a gray water system. The large vegetable and medicinal herb garden, kitchen garden right outside the kitchen window, and butterfly/bee garden have been chemical free for over 20 years. The garden soil is precious, having been augmented with sheep, goat, and horse manure for equally as long. Three hives of honeybees grace the garden and grounds while providing many precious lessons to students and visitors.
Many classes are offered at Soulflower Botanical Sanctuary through the NC School of Holistic Herbalism. Students visit Soulflower weekly and Earth Sprouts frolic there for three weeks out of the summer. This is my daughter Faye’s favorite time when she has a group other children present to accompany her in making sun teas spore prints, plant pressings, growing seedlings, and discovering nature’s delights. Various other weekday and weekend workshops held there are open to public not enrolled at NCSHH. People who visit Soulflower are touched by its sacred quality and the sincere effort to steward the land in a sustainable way. This sacred quality has been enhanced and empowered by 5 years of continuous full moon ceremonies.
Several people have spotted faeries, especially the children, so we have dedicated time and classes to building faerie eco-villages. This October we celebrated the first annual HerbDay with edible and medicinal plant walks, talks on plant rescues, flower essences, propagation by root division, martial arts, and even hula hooping! We were proud to be able to raise some money for UpS in the extremely fun process. Since then we have implemented a bed of ginseng, added a beautiful stone wall to the kitchen garden and begun working to improve and expand the trails to provide more access to the rich diversity of plants present at Soulflower.
My dearest goal is to bring inner city youth from some of the cities I have worked in and others to Soulflower Botanical Sanctuary. I wish to share with them the vast ways in which plants have healed me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Soulflower is aptly named to encourage people to mirror our plant friends and allow our spirits to blossom proudly in unity with nature. We are ever thankful to have United Plant Savers to support us and endeavor to give some of that support back to them and their vital mission.