The realtors couldn’t believe their eyes. I wasn’t interested in how many baths the house had, or how recently the kitchen had been remodeled (though I did give the views a glance) during my search for land in 1977-78. Instead, I was checking out the plants. When realtors took me places, I looked outside first, then inside; I wanted to walk in the woods and the fields, not see how many closets there were. What was growing there was more important to me than what had been built there. I wanted a woodlot, preferably with a sugar bush. I wanted water, running, if possible, on the land. And, most of all, I wanted to find a place already rich in medicinal herbs. I envisioned a sanctuary for plants and a safe place for women who needed to be wild, to discover and love all parts of themselves. I imagined I could cherish that place and protect it into the future beyond myself. I dreamed of safe space for growing plants and people. I wished to create a place where the plants could nourish people on many levels: physical, psychic, emotional, artistic, sensate, intellectual, historical, indigenous, storied, and connected—something wild, yet within reach of New York City. My journal of plants at the for-sale farms I visited lists plenty of useful invaders from Europe: burdock, chicory, dandelion, evening primrose, goldenrod, jewelweed, mullein, nettle, plantain, poke, Queen Anne’s lace, red clover, wild chives, yellow dock, and so much more. But it was the indigenous medicinals that I was really looking for. It took over a year before I found the place I have called home for the past 33 years. When I first saw it, there was three feet of snow covering everything. But the legal proceedings necessary to transfer the property to me dragged on for over a year, so I had three seasons to find and catalog the plants I would be giving sanctuary to, including wood anemone, celandine, pipsissewa, goldthread, pink lady’s slipper, trailing arbutus, boneset, queen-of-the-meadow, wintergreen, gentian, witch hazel, round-leaved hepatica, St. Joan’s wort, cardinal flower, lobelia, moneywort, partridge berry, forget-me-not, dwarf ginseng, mayapple, elder, bloodroot, skullcap, slippery elm, false hellebore, and lots of violas. The land I bought was formerly a quarry. That’s why I call it Laughing Rock Farm. It took dandelion fifteen years to get a toehold here! The quarriers left behind dozens of pits, now filled with water. My herd of dairy goats scatters fertilizer freely, encouraging many new plants, and I harness red worms to help me turn their bedding into rich compost, allowing me to build raised beds and add some cultivated herbs, such as comfrey, mug/cronewort, wormwood, black cohosh, blue cohosh, Solomon’s seal, Oswego tea, shiso, hops, marsh marigold, ginkgo trees (thanks to Stephan), schisandra, a chaste tree (from Jim Duke’s garden), goldenseal, and wild yam (thanks to United Plant Savers). My gardens raise weeds: stinging nettle, purslane, lamb’s quarter, amaranth, garlic mustard, winter cress, wild chives, motherwort, cleavers, black nightshade, ragweed, catnip, lemon balm, thistles, ground ivy, self-heal and so many more. I can harvest wild salad greens year-round, except when the snow is deep. My students and I create wonderful medicines from them, too. Laughing Rock Farm (55 acres, most of it wooded) is part of three conservancy organizations. In the late 1980s, I became a historical site in the Roundout-Esopus Land Conservancy. My deed is modified so no one can ever subdivide the land, create any roads, nor build any further structures here. In the 1990s, I registered Laughing Rock Farm as a National Wildlife Conservancy property. Now, in the 2010s, this sacred and special land is a United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary as well. I am so honored. I am so glad to be more deeply involved with an organization that is helping me remind us all that herbal medicine is people’s medicine. Laughing Rock Farm, in its guise as the Wise Woman Center, has been a teaching center for over thirty years. Most weekends find people on the land learning to identify, harvest, prepare, and use the wealth of weeds and medicinal plants that I protect here. I feel great contentment. I have fulfilled the dream I had in the 70s. I do offer safe space to women and plants, and I have done so for 33 of my 66 years. With the blessings of the Goddess, I hope to be allowed to continue for another 33 years. I am so privileged to steward this beautiful piece of the Hudson River Valley, in the foothills of the Catskills, a magical space where the plants heal minds and hearts. Green blessings.
Marysville, OH Sanctuary Steward: Dawn Combs
Over the past two years while I was birthing my children it seemed that our work with the land had stalled. This spring I found that that assumption was very wrong. I have meant to sit and write about our sanctuary a thousand times, and it seemsthat only now is it really the right time to do so.
Just before my first child came into our lives, we had been encouraged to take the business focus in a different direction. When I began working with the land many years ago, I had a vision one day while seeking guidance and, I guess, collusion from the spirits that reside here. What I got was a resounding “YES!”, and I began working toward a center that supported women’s balancing and couples’ fertility work through the plants. At that time we decided to name our farm “Mockingbird Meadows” after the mockingbirds that came every year to nest and raise little ones. They seemed to be giving us their blessing that first year by nesting above our very first bee hives. When it came time for my son Aidan to be born, we were changing our focus to the…
Laurel, MD Sanctuary Steward: Kathleen Bennet When arriving at Tai Sophia Institute for the first time, you may wonder about the juxtaposition of a school of holistic healing in a business park. But walk through the doors – and especially the lush garden – and you notice right away that something different is happening there.
Often considered a place of “great energy,” Tai Sophia is a haven for the holistic healing education, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, health and wellness coaching, and transformative leadership programs.
The two jewels of Tai Sophia are the quarter-acre medicinal herb garden and the wild lands of the neighboring Patuxent woodlands and river area.
Its campus is situated among thousands of acres of preserved natural woodlands that surround the middle Patuxent River and lead to the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area. Tai Sophia is proud that their students have the unique opportunity to learn and practice in the midst of Maryland’s natural beauty.
Students and faculty at Tai Sophia have been involved in planting native medicinal plants (American ginseng, black cohosh, goldenseal and Virginia snakeroot) in the adjacent forest, and an array of common botanical remedies in the Institute’s herb garden.
On hot summer days, Tai Sophia…
Natural Bridge, NY Sanctuary Steward: Diane Seufert Tait After years of checking real estate pages wherever I went, looking for that perfect piece of land and cabin, it was hard to believe the hunt was over when I purchased Eden Hyll in 2007. It comprises a solar-powered cabin and almost five acres of Precambrian shield overlooking an eight acre pond.
My intent was to enjoy a getaway, a haven, a relaxing oasis far from the Toronto area where I live. The land had another agenda.
I had bought my special place in early April, so I had no idea what I would find when the season’s growth began. In that first June as I walked through my woods of white pine, Eastern hemlock, cedar, young oak, maple, cherry, yellow birch, elder and beech, I became aware of some wonderful plant residents. Spread before me as a feast to my eyes were partridge berry, goldthread, clintonia, wild sarsaparilla, pink lady’s slipper and other smaller orchids, three kinds of St. John’s wort and blue flag iris, to name a few. The pond itself has a healthy population of frogs and fish, a wealth of wildlife, including a family of minks along my shoreline…
Blairsville, GA Sanctuary Steward: Karin Rutishauser Our land, consisting of both open and wooded acres, is nestled in the beautiful North Georgia Mountains just a few miles from North Carolina. Here, we started the Herb Crib in 2000, built a small retail shop and cleared land for an organic herb garden. Over the years the business has grown and so has my interest in native medicinal plants and the land. As I learned more about the plants, I discovered that we already had many growing right in front of us. This spring I found fifty-nine Lady's Slipper Orchids behind my little shop! I was so excited about the discovery that I called all my friends! Walking the land and finding bloodroot, wild yam, pipsissewa, Jack-in-the-pulpit, hepatica, and trillium growing wild gave me the idea to apply for Botanical Sanctuary status with UpS.
I started with a 1/4-mile medicinal plant trail along my creek that has witch hazel and sassafras and some of the above- mentioned plants already growing. The trail ends in a gentle curve shaded by big oak trees. In the sanctuary, I planted the first beds with goldenseal, American ginseng, black and blue cohosh and mayapple. The fall "give-away…
Williamsville, Vermont Sanctuary Stewards: The Manitou Project staff
“The Manitou Project celebrates the sacred interdependence of humans and nature. Through experiential education and mindful land conservation, Manitou integrates spiritual and practical ecological awareness. Manitou seeks to awaken its members to new ways of being in relationship with the land, its inhabitants, each other, and the wider community.”
The Manitou Project is a nonprofit organization that was formed in 1993 by Pamela Mayer to steward and celebrate 235 of mostly forested acres of land she owned in Williamsville, Vermont. We are very happy to be new members of the Botanical Sanctuary Network.
We have an extensive trail system, maintained by volunteer members. Along the trails are many sites such as “Grandmother White Pine”, “Grandmother Black Birch”, a large labyrinth, a winding stream, a fen, and several high-energy areas dowsed out by Pamela. At the entry area, several small gardens have been started. One has examples of local woodland wildflowers and medicinals. Another is an “observation” garden that is fenced off but will not be touched, so that the changes over time can be observed without interference. Another is a seed bed, so that visitors can bring seeds down from the trails…
Laytonville, CA Sanctuary Stewards: Tonya Whitedeer & ThreeCrows Cargill We have named our land Medicine Creek, for not only are there wonderful healing plants of the Green Nations everywhere but there is also a sacred feeling of calm and serenity throughout the ten acres. We know that we were shown the way to this wonderful haven to nurture it back to how it once was when our ancestors lived upon this small section of our Mother Earth. There are legends to tell about the ones that walked upon this land ~ the Legend of the Red Tree Spirit that comes from a fallen Redwood Giant that is slowly going back into the Earth is one. This venture is a lifetime dream. Medicine trails have been laid out by listening to the voices of the plants speaking to us, giving direction and guiding this simple two-legged to where each medicine should know a new home. At this time there is wild ginger, spikenard, black cohosh, goldenseal, angelica, and a wild rose garden. Growing in other areas are plants of sacred white sage, tobacco, sweet grass, comfrey and many others.
We are in the process of acquiring a nonprofit status in the name…
Oskaloosa, KS Sanctuary Stewards: Steve and Nancy Moring Vajra Herb Farm was purchased in 1996 with the intent of establishing a medicinal herb farm, research facility and retreat center. The farm consists of 45 acres of woodland, prairie savanna, stream, valley and upland areas. The firs two years were devoted to prairie reclamation by brush clearing, spring burning and reseeding with prairie grasses and forbes.
1999 saw the completion of the first year as a member of the UpS Botanical Sanctuary Network. Many projects were initiated including the continued clearing and prairie plantings, the establishment of herb gardens and woodland plots for at risk medicinal species. Research activities included soil surveys, experimentation with sustainable cultivation techniques and data collection for a wild botanical survey of the farm. Test cultivation plots were implemented for Echinaces angustifolia, St. Johnswort, Ginkgo, Goldenseal, American Ginseng, Black Cohosh and Mullein. Our new and on-going research includes cultivation of Echinacea angustifolia and E. atrorubens on amended eastern Kansa soils with minimum till and companion planting. In conjunction with this we have established a collaboration with Dr. Rudolf Bauer at the University of Deusseldorf in Germany for monitoring active constituents. Plans are in the works for spring workshops…
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