On Change, Snow, + Being Unready for Spring

Not even two weeks ago I walked with a bucket of fermenting apples in each hand down the dirt road with my friend to feed the pigs. The snow came down in fat soft constellations, the sounds of our boots muffled in the snowpack, the spooning hills curling around each other in contented receding sighs, dotted with tiny lit windows and plumes of blue woodsmoke.

The pigs, to my comfort, are shaggy and brindled beasts who watched our approach with inquisitive gazes and did not wait for their food to freeze but politely snarffled through the snow where the glut of apples had lodged themselves in the drifts. The swine were at least belly-deep in the snow, which on me stopped at my knees.
We fed the chickens as the snow persisted, and my friend, a rose-cheeked example of many generations of Vermont hardiness, explained to me that the more snow we get, the less likely we are to experience the likes of last year’s drought. Of course. Which engendered in me a further tenderness toward the damp crystals encrusting our hoods and weighing in our escaped wisps of hair.
So at home I contentedly re-stuffed the woodstove and hung the wet woolens and made as spicy a curry as I could palate and we plotted an outdoor skating adventure for the following frozen frozen day.

As you might be able to tell: I was finally learning hygge, that intuitive coping with winter which eventually reveals itself as learning to not simply take refuge in but cherish the small snow caves we carve out and curl up in. No small feat for a femme raised in the deep South.
Alas, or perhaps not, this morning I left the house with only one wool sweater, a scarf, and hat. Okay, sure, I had pants on too. But the point is: The air felt kind on my face. Gloves were not a necessity. My toes didn’t go numb from the porch to the car. Now I sit in the studio with the sun shining through the tall windows. The river outside beyond the brace of tall bare maples is still frozen and covered with snow, but the sap lines are running, the pumps buzzing and coaxing the sweetness into the downhill tanks, the roads are wet and muddy and already the human faces look sparkly in ways that I don’t feel ready for yet.
Change, I’m noticing, even when the transition is from a less comfortable situation to a more hopeful one, can be a struggle. Once we’ve gotten used to a sour-faced boss, the cranky teenage offspring, the lonely confines of our daily routines, the brisk about-face of an apology from an unexpected source, a vulnerable moment that explains all of a day in high school, or the friend stopping by the office when we our faces have become one with the computer screen can feel strangely unwelcome. The small dragon inside me that finally succumbed to the lull of hibernation is maybe not ready to peel back layers, expose tender skin, dip a toe in the possibility that warmth is a distinct probability.
At least, I’m not starting seeds in the greenhouse yet.

But I am calling out my own reluctance toward hope, towards joy, both of which have been severely challenged in this political moment. I am taking my Daily Resilience Tonic, bathing in rose petals and chamomile flowers, keeping the Boundaries Potion in my pocket, and writing all the feelings down so I can have a little extra space as I go about my day. I am learning to be mindful when the stubborn little bull inside me wants to keep everything exactly how it is.

Oh yes, and I’m keeping Octavia Butler in one hand and a bit of garnet in the other. You too?

Winter Truffles + Staying Warm


Happy New Year, folks! In Vermont we are in Deep Winter, which often means snow up to my bellybutton when I emerge from the woodstove cocoon of our old farmhouse.

The good folks at the Herbal Academy asked me to contribute a piece on circulatory herbs for winter and how best to get them in your belly: Warming Winter Rituals: Herbal Truffles for Good Circulation. Check out the teaser below and click on the link for details, materia medica, and recipes!

While the most immediately obvious health perks of herbal truffles are their delicious and stimulating effects, all of the herbs included also have additional notable health benefits. Many of these herbs are antimicrobial, helping to ward off winter-time contagions, and nearly all of them are digestive aids, helping to prepare the gut for breaking down food, stimulate bile for the digestion of fats, soothe bloating and gas, absorb nutrients, and relax the digestive tract. The extra daily dose of antioxidants can’t hurt either, helping to address inflammation and its downstream effects. Herbal truffles are a simple, delicious, and accessible opportunity to tailor your daily ritual to your and your loved-ones particular health needs.

All Hands on Harvest!

Ripe + Tart Autumn Olive Berries (Eleagnus spp)
Freshly upturned Venus of Willendorf
Blueberries (can’t stop/won’t stop)
These sunflowers are definitely over 6 feet tall
Stinging Nettle Going to Seed
Jimson Weed (Datura)
Catnip Harvest
Cleaning Milk Thistle Seeds
Birthday Dinner under the Walnut Tree
Autumn Olive Make Everything Glow

The Growing & Foraging Season Begins

Hi friends~  Tiny Pony Apothecary will be documenting the plants in the gardens and wilds that we cultivate and harvest for medicine-making and pleasure. We’d love to have you follow our journey this season. . .

Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) are a subtle body medicine as a flower essence for offering fresh perspective to the jaded mind, soothing comfort in crowded situations, and support for the journeys of grieving and loss. (Windham Co, Vermont)
Bluets (Houstonia caerulea) are a subtle body medicine as a flower essence for offering fresh perspective to the jaded mind, soothing comfort in crowded situations, and support for the journeys of grieving and loss. (Windham Co, Vermont)
Milk Thistle sprouting in the green house! (Dummerston, Vermont)
Milk Thistle sprouting in the green house! (Dummerston, Vermont)
Pineapple Weed/Wild Chamomile (Putney, Vermont)
Pineapple Weed/Wild Chamomile (Putney, Vermont)
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are physiological medicine for the liver as well as subtle body medicine for those of us who could stand a little less doing and a little more being, less planning and more waiting for the unfolding. (Windham Co., Vermont)
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are physiological medicine for the liver as well as subtle body medicine for those of us who could stand a little less doing and a little more being, less planning and more waiting for the unfolding. (Windham Co., Vermont)

Sour for Spring

As some of you have read before on this blog, I am a freelance writer and Associate Academy Educator at the Herbal Academy, an online herbal education project that holds SO MUCH awesome information and hosts amazing resources. In addition to plant monographs and articles for the Herbarium, I also contribute to the blog. Check out my newest exploration of herbs, the human palate, and coming out of winter — Sour Flavor: How Taste Can Rinse Out Winter.



Today the equinox came, sandwiched between two watery eclipses spanning Pisces and Aries, bracing us inside this liminal space, a transition to spring and return of growing, a day awash in both strong bright light and cold brisk winds. Watching through the windows at breakfast, standing in the greenhouse sprinkling soft rains on my flats of tiny green starts, I could feel a dragon stirring in the ground beneath my boots.

Follow the link to read the full article!

botanical babe: Blue Cohosh



Everything’s Unfurling // Blue Cohosh

This flower essence is for everyone but especially supportive for teens, peri-menopausal folks, and those of us who make queer magic. Blue cohosh flower essence supports us in sifting through the hesitancy or anxiety we might feel around sex and sexuality, particularly during times of transition, change, and growth, and encourages openness and acceptance of the sacred ways in which we are each made to contribute to the creative and sensual energies of the planet in this body and lifetime.


#foresttherapy #sexpositiveherbalism #caulophyllumthalictroides #rampseasonyall #queermagic #vitalism #feministmedicine #floweressence #subtlebody

botanical babe: Witch Hazel



drawing upwards // Hamamelis spp.


When the first spring witch hazel flowers waves their soft fringes at you know maybe it’s going to be okay.

The physiological medicine of witch hazel’s astringency serves to draw lax or sagging tissues together, firming and supporting the structures of the body. In the subtle energetic body, the flower essence also acts in this drawing capacity. Whether pulling the soul upward from the darkness of winter or from a stuck or stagnant location where decision-making feels impossible, the flower essence of witch hazel encourages movement supported by grounded self-knowing and the cultivation of internal light which reaches for the external world. In this way, the flowers of Chinese witch hazel are applied to the subtle body for the purposes of composting, transforming, and releasing trauma and trauma-related stress from the cellular levels of the body.



#herbsfortrauma #plantsgotyourback #queercare #resilience #plantmedicine #subtlebody #witchery

botanical babe: Rosa rugosa

rose dust // tending hearts since before our time

This Mercury retrograde of revisiting + rethinking has been a heart-wringer for all us resilient creatures.

Rose medicine brings warm comfort as we choose to return to our bodies each morning, as we stumble through navigating our own boundaries and one another’s. I’m learning to choose snow magic over fear of slipping on ice, an ongoing process for this lil Southerner, and I’m appreciating the tender rose thorns reminding me to stay open rather than succumbing to resentment from the heartache.

Bust & Mend Grief & Heartbreak Formula is going back up on the website asap, y’all, holler at us or visit the online apothecary for yours.

#rosarugosa #plantmedicine #queermagic #stayopen #goodboundaries #allies #witchery #takecare


I have grand dreams of a farm-to-clinic practice where the majority of the medicine made and distributed at the clinic is grown or ethically wildcrafted — right here. Every year my gardens feel like a tiny step toward that. It’s high season for medicine making, which includes pruning, picking, drying, tincturing, garbling, bagging, pressing. . . repeat. Doesn’t seem to me that there are many more pleasant ways to pass the time than keeping company with the bees and fragrant things. Check out some of what’s blooming now.

Verbena hastata (Blue Vervain)
Achillea millefolium (Pink Yarrow)
Sambucus canadense (Elder flower)
Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)
Calendula officinalis
Echinacea purpurea

Of Brain Stems and Witches: Ghost Pipe

UPDATE:  Hello friends!  Many folks in the herbal community are becoming increasingly concerned about ethical wildcrafting and human carelessness when wild harvesting plants for medicine. Ghost Pipe in particular is a vulnerable creature and Sean Donahue has written eloquently about how we humans can do damage both accidentally and on purpose. Please check out his post in addition to what I’ve offered here. It’s good to know this plant, and its good to refrain from its medicine if feel we don’t have its full blessing. If its possible for your body and life structures, venturing out and sitting at the feet of the wild-growing medicines will not only help you learn what the plant teaches, but help us understand the anti-materialist practices and potential of energetic and subtle-body medicine.

+ + +

There is a lot of lore and and witchy writing out there about this succulent and eerie little creature, and I am no more immune to its draw than the next plant nerd. This summer I’ve been quite aware of the small clusters of these nodding flowers as they observe my human doings en route to the swimming spot or napping in the hemlock groves.

If you’ve never sat with Ghost Pipe, allow me to describe how it grows with two or twelve companions in stands no more than ten inches high, clustered through damp acidic coniferous groves and often in companionship with Ganoderma (Reishi) and Mitchella (Partridge Berry). The waxy paleness of the plant earned it the common name Corpse Plant in New England, for the little fist that some think reaches from a grave, bruising a swift black when brushed against. Alice Morse Earle wrote in the early 19th centurey that Ghost Pipe is “the weirdest flower that grows, so palpably ghastly that we feel almost a cheerful satisfaction in the perfection of its performance and our own responsive thrill.” We give so many names to what we don’t understand, both poetic and explanatory: Ice Plant, Wax Plant, Convulsion Weed, Fit Plant, Death Plant.

ghostpipe7For further proof of the queer witchiness of this plant, I present you Emily Dickenson. It appears she retained a personal relationship with the Ghost Flower from childhood, and when her neighbor gifted her with a watercolor of the plant, Dickenson’s thank you letter contained tones of metaphysical shock: “That without suspecting it you should send me the preferred flower of life, seems almost supernatural… I still cherish the clutch with which I bore it from the ground when a wondering child, and unearthly booty, and maturity only enhances the mystery, never decreases it.”

Oh my.  Are you not convinced? Come meet this herb.



ghostpipe2The latin binomial Monotropa uniflora indicates that a single flower grows terminally on an upright stalk in one direction, with the flower drooping its head over until it begins making seed. Monotropa uniflora is one of two species in its entire genus, its cousin being Monotropa hypopithys, or Pinesap, a similarly strange but far more colorful inhabitant of the. Formerly understood as a saprophyte which did not require chlorophyll for photosynthesis but rather took nutrients from decaying matter in the soil, Monotropa uniflora is now thought of as an epiparasite or mycoheterophyte known to survive in complex relationship with mycorrhizal fungi in the soil, which in turn interact with the neighboring photosynthesizing plants in a biome, usually the roots of a living tree such as beech, hemlock, or cedar. While the Ghost Pipe is thought to be primarily parasitic, the fungi in the soil form beneficial symbiotic relationships with the trees and shrubs, assistance in producing necessary sugars for the tree.

Dr. Ryan Drum explains this all so well:

Indian pipe, ghost plant, is a remarkable botanical curiosity as well as a powerful nervine. 
It is a mysterious, underground except when flowering, perennial common boreal non-photosynthetic 
flowering epiparasite. It parasitizes parasitic tree fungi, and is not dependent on one particular
 fungus, forming associations with at least a dozen different fungi, many of which produce edible 
mushrooms. It grows in complete shade on stable forest floors, usually where green plants do not. 
It seems completely dependent on its host fungi for organic nutrients. Its underground mass attracts 
fungal mycelial growth, from the fungi parasitizing live trees, both conifers and deciduous trees, 
providing myriad small knobbly papillar surfaces where nutrients pass from the fungal tissue to Monotropa. 
At least 14 species of trees can be used. I do not know if an individual Monotropa plant utilizes 
more than one fungal species or more than one tree species. I assume that the fungi derive some benefit from their associations with Monotropa, probably derivative secondary metabolites.

In his lovely writing on this epiparasite, Sean Donahue offers energetic observations of the plant based on its growth patterns, noting that while trees pass information and energy in a linear, centralized-library sort of stream between roots and branches, the network of mycelium and roots that Monotropa is tapped into allows for multi-directional, diffused, decentralized exchange. This interdependent physiology mirrors human neural networks, while the tender white tissues of each Ghost Pipe plant strangely resemble the structure of the mammalian brainstem. What can be seen here is the way that Monotropa interacts with the human nervous system, able to interpret, reorder and modulate large or chaotic amounts of information and stimuli.

Also, a note on herbivory: nothing seems to consider this plant a food staple.



ghostpipe11Monotropa uniflora emerges unobtrusively from the ground, quiet and still as a Greek chorus with some unanticipated piece of information on the tip of its tongue. The flowers erect and tender spines appear to hold each other up in their alignment, encouraging the clumps to hold its structure despite each plant’s delicacy and causing the herbalist to train the eyes to detect the upright patterning in the chaos of the leaf litter.

In a most general way, this profound nervine offers an quieting or cooling to an heated nervous states; older physio-medicalist texts and European documentation of First Nations traditional broadly describe the use of the herb for pain and neurological disruptions, such as seizures, convulsions, insomnia, extreme mental states, and regular muscular spasming. Felter and Lloyd, in the 1898 King’s American Dispensatory specify periodic fevers, childhood (febrile) seizures, elipectic seizures, opthamological inflammation, bladder inflammation. Most useful to me, however, have been the specific conditions or states for which the use of this plant are indicated.

I find it important to remember that Monotropa is able to help mediate both internal and external environments, whether the sensory imput comes from inside or outside us, whether it is physical or emotional. In my mind, Monotropa is the acute trauma relief precursor to Milky Oats’ tonic trauma support, creating the initial space that Milky Oats is later able to fill in a long-term nourishing way. Ghost Pipe seems to offer an aligning, re-regulating, reordering, and soothing of a chaotic mind or unmanageable pain.

ghostpipe10David Winston writes that Ghost Pipe is “not your normal analgesic.” Many people report the experience of taking this herb while experiencing strong physical pain and, while the pain does not go away, the individual is less attached to the pain, able to tolerate it, often feeling that they are standing beside it and watching it happen. Winston says this is called “antinociceptive,” meaning that the herb “reduces sensitivity to painful stimuli” and “raises the threshold for pain.” The same is true for emotional or psychologically painful situations, in which the person suffering is able experience relief from the intensity and to examine the experience with a little bit of spaciousness, a degree of separation. Sometimes, an individual experiences chronic or regular nervous dysregulation, either through painful autoimmune situations or extreme psychiatric states.


+ Intense pain that interferes with ability to sleep 
+ Painful conditions in which the individual needs to remain awake, grounded, present 
+ Physical or emotional pain that is overwhelming 
+ Pain that is paralyzing due to overload of sensory information, psycho-emotional shock 
+ Anxiety or panic attack due to emotional or sensory overload 
+ Headaches caused by traumatic brain injury 
+ Acute psychiatric states, PTSD


+ Monotropa and Crataegus berry: vascular pressure from rebound trauma, brusing (Drum) 
+ Monotropa and Sea Blush Roots (Plectritis congesta, a marine valerian): acute psychiatric conditions (Drum) 
+ Monotropa and Canabis: unmanagable chronic pain (Donahue) 
+ Monotropa, Staychys betonica, Clematis: headaches from traumatic brain injury (Donahue) 
+ Monotropa and Anemone: anxiety, panic attack (Donahue) 
+ Monotropa, Stachys betonica, Acorus Calamus, Ocimum sanctum: PTSD, triggering experience, disassociation, feeling stuck in memory of trauma (Donahue)



Dr. Drum notes that, while the plant’s flowering time depends on moisture, temperature, and fungal growth in the soils, the peak flowering time in much of North America appears to be July. Harvest gently to avoid bruising, wash debris away gently, tincture immediately. Flowers and roots could be used separately; using aerial parts only is advocated by Sean Donahue as most sustainable. The tincturing process results in a dark purple-black extract and a rich flavor. One friend of mine seems to think it tastes like vanilla and cinnamon. I have experimented on myself and friends according to both Donahue’s and Drum’s recommendations for dosing, which advise starting with 3 drops and increasing dose to 30 drops upon observation of reaction. For acute states, it is possible to administer or take up to 1 ml at 5 minute intervals. Dr. Drum notes that 15 ml of more can induce a deep sleep with strange, vivid, and sometimes erotic dreaming.

Be forewarned.




Donahue, Sean. Ghost Pipe: A Little Known Herb. American Herbalists Guild. http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/sites/default/files/donahue_sean_-_ghost_pipe-_a_little_known_nervine.pdf

Zdenka Babikova, Lucy Gilbert, Toby J. A. Bruce, Michael Birkett, J

ohn C. Caulfield, Christine Woodcock, John A. Pickett, David Johnson. “Underground signals carried through common mycelial networks warn neighbouring plants of aphid attack.” Ecology Letters. (2013)

16: 835–843. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/

Harvey Wickes Felter and John Uri Lloyd. King’s American Dispensatory. 1898. Retrieved from http://www.henriettesherbal.com/eclectic/kings/monotropa.html

David Winston. Ghost Pipe. Facebook post. February 24, 2012.

Drum, Ryan, PhD. “Three Herbs: Yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Indian Pipe.” Retrieved from http://www.ryandrum.com/threeherbs.htm