Sanctuary Stewards: Sonja Hunt & Leslie Alexander
The idea for Restoration Herbs was conceived on a windy beach in Scotland, UK in May 2004 and was born in Franklin, PA in June 2005. After several months of searching we finally found this property tucked away in a corner with an acre of woods falling down to a creek behind the house and 5 acres of pasture in front. This we are slowly turning into formal and informal herb gardens, vegetable plots and will soon begin planting an orchard and a wild flower meadow.
Our land is already home to many ‘to-watch’ and more common herbs such as: alfalfa, cleavers, red clover, chicory, monarda, burdock, jewelweed, hawkweed, St Johnswort, butterfly weed, mahonia, white sage, Joe pye weed, pokeweed and Echinacea angustifolia. The woods with their stands of black cherry, white pine, hemlock, dogwood, ‘muscle trees’, shag bark hickory and linden are perfect for the re-introduction of once prolific species such as American ginseng, black cohosh and goldenseal. Indeed, in the 1800’s Pennsylvania hillsides hosted copious stands of ginseng but its export business was only too successful and almost rid the area of these indigenous species.
Restoration Herbs has three goals. The first is to help local people discover the gentle support of healing herbs. Our second purpose is educational. We currently run workshops on herbal teas and health and speak to gardening clubs. We are planning a series of workshops for adults and children on topics ranging from the benefits of herbs in the diet to sustainable gardening methods, and from the importance of preserving native species to propagation and garden design. We’ve already had a modest educational success by persuading a local farmer to reduce his use of herbicides. (He was especially impressed when Leslie, an herbalist, used one of his “weeds”, Plantago major, to help heal an ulcer on his thigh!) Third, we have a small range of herbal teas, dips and vinegars, dried and fresh herbs in season that we sell as part of a local growers’ network at the Market House in Meadville.
Becoming a Botanical Sanctuary under the aegis of UpS will enable us to protect our land, not for ourselves and our visitors but for all the life forms it supports; plants, animals, birds and microorganisms – and for future generations of residents, human or otherwise!
Our journey has just begun. We travel hopefully knowing that our dream is shared by so many.