Monday, 24 August 2015

GUEST BLOGGER - Steve Andrews with Herbs from the Countryside

I am very pleased to be able to share a guest blogger with you today, a very talented chap and author of Herbs of the Northen Shaman - Steve Andrews.

His website is http://www.thebardofely.com/

Herbs from the countryside by Steve Andrews

Do you like to use herbs in your cooking, for medicinal reasons, or maybe for other purposes? Do you have your own herb garden, or do you have to buy the herbs you like to use? There is another way of getting many of these amazing plants, and for free!

Foraging is often thought of as a way of gathering wild foods on a ramble through the countryside, and so it is, but besides edible plants, fruit and fungi, there are many medicinal and culinary herbs that we can look out for too.

Fennel 
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a very popular herb that can often be found growing by the sea, on waste ground and along riverbanks. It has tall stems topped with umbels of yellow flowers and its leaves are delicate, feathery and have a strong aroma of anise. In fact the whole plant smells like anise-seed if lightly bruised. 

Fennel seeds make a great herbal tea and are good as a treatment for indigestion and chopped fennel leaves are used in sauces for oily fish, or maybe as a salad ingredient. The seeds are a spicy ingredient for curries and many other dishes.


Vervain (Verbena officinalis)

Vervain (Verbena officinalis) is a very delicate and weedy-looking plant with tiny mauve-violet flowers that easily go unnoticed but it is a very useful medicinal herb with tranquilising properties and as a treatment for fevers. Vervain grows on waste ground and along paths.

Also known as “enchanter’s plant,” “simpler’s joy” and “holy herb,” vervain has associations with supernatural forces and has often been used for magical purposes and in divination. Included in my book Herbs of the Northern Shaman, it is a herb held sacred by the druids, and is said to be an ingredient in the “Cauldron of Cerridwen” magical drink. Because of its relaxing properties, including the ability to enhance dreaming, vervain has been used to help inspire writers and poets.


St John’s Wort

Well-known as a natural alternative to Prozac, the St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a common medicinal herb that is used for its antidepressant properties.  St John’s wort grows in fields and grassy places and on waste ground.

St John’s wort is traditionally gathered on St John’s Day (24 June), and it is said that hanging up bunches of the herb will help ward off evil. I don’t know about the truth of that superstition but Its golden yellow starry flowers are certainly a joy to behold.

Marjoram

Marjoram (Origanum vulgare) is another common herb. It is found growing in clumps in grassy places and on banks, especially where the soil is chalky. Often called “oregano,” the leaves of this herb make a great addition to many savoury dishes and in soups and stews.

Marjoram has pinkish-purple flowers and is in bloom from July to October.






Lime Blossom

No need for a country ramble to forage for lime blossoms because the lime tree (Tilia europaea) is commonly planted in parks and ornamental gardens, as well as being used to line many a town and city street. Make sure you gather lime flowers from out of the way of the traffic fumes though.

Lime blossoms perfume the air in June and July and are a real attraction for bees. Lime flower honey is especially delicious. The flowers are traditionally used to make a very refreshing and relaxing herbal tea. Lime blossom tea is very popular in France where it is known as “tilleul,” and it is also a beverage enjoyed in Spain, Portugal and other European countries.

Young leaves of the lime tree make a great sandwich filling or just eaten as they are.

The above selection is just a small number of the really useful herbs you can find growing wild. My advice is to get a good book on foraging and get out there and see what you can find. Gathering wild foods and herbs is an excellent way to connect with Mother Nature!




Thursday, 20 August 2015

Pagan Dreaming


Nimue Brown does it again...this time with her latest book Pagan Dreaming.  At last a sensible book about dreams - most definitely NOT a list of silly dream interpretations that make no sense whatsoever.

The official blurb:

Mixing the pragmatic and the spiritual, Pagan Dreaming goes far beyond the standard dream dictionary to offer instead a range of ways for making dreaming a meaningful part of your spiritual life. Exploring symbolism, the physical implications of dreaming, dreaming as learning and problem solving it then places the spiritual dimension of dreams in a context that will help readers go beyond x=y interpretations towards something that will enrich and re-wild their lives. The book includes an array of techniques for working consciously with dreams and developing a Pagan spiritual practice around dreaming.

Lots of good solid information about dreams and how they connect with your daily lives but also how to work with them and include them in your magic too, this is in my opinion the only book you will ever need to read to understand dreaming as a whole. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Loose incense revealed...

Lots of people have asked me recently "how do you make loose incense?"...so this is my first foray into video recordings/vlogs/you tubes whatever you want to call them...

Here is my first recording showing how I make loose incense and no you can't see my face because it was recorded on a whim and I had wet hair and no makeup!

Hopefully some of you will find it useful.



I will be recording more videos and uploading them to the You Tube channel and my website...

Sunday, 9 August 2015

A food epithany...

When I was sixteen (I will be 47 this year) I was hit with a disease that not any scared the bejeezubs out of me but involved a long and painful process of tests, procedures and hospitals stays to diagnose and then years of stupid, horrible steroid medications that never really worked and actually had more nasty side affects than they did good...

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and Proctitis and it was quite literally a pain in the ass for many, many years as the medication never really got it under control.  Just as I was about to go in to see the consultant to discuss an operation to remove part of my colon I happened upon holistic therapies beginning with reflexology.  Six weeks into my reflexology treatment and I was weaned off most of the medications and feeling better than I ever had and the relief of telling the consultant what he could do with his operation was bliss...  Two years of reflexology and the odd EFT (emotional freedom technique) and a bit of Kinesiology thrown in for good measure and I was not only off the meds completely I was in remission...the hospital consultant could not believe it.

That was probably about fifteen years ago and since then I have had the odd niggly flare up when I have eaten badly for a while and had a heap load of stress on top but never enough to have to go back on the steriods.

Until a few months ago...when I had a horrendous UC attack - the worst one for many years.  I was thrown into a bit of a panic I must admit as the thought of going back on meds was not a pretty one.

So I had to do some tracing back...UC has never really be proven to be linked to eating any one particular food and I think that in these days when everyone and their dog seems to have a food allergy it has been side tracked as a 'fashion trend' to be allergic to usually wheat and dairy.  However there is a big difference between allergy and intolerance and I think the lines get very blurred on this. If you are allergic to a food stuff it has to be confirmed with a test done at the hospital and the affects of the allergic reaction will be serious.  Intolerance however is another matter, being intolerant to a food product brings on the bloating and stomach pains that a lot of IBS suffers experience for instance.

I was pretty sure I wasn't allergic to any foods but I did and still do believe there is a link between certain food intolerances and UC attacks.   So I wanted to prove my point and sought out a food intolerance test - it was incredibly interesting and showed that I am intolerant to wheat, dairy, potatoes, aubergine, prawns, black pepper and certain oils.  Intolerance doesn't mean I can't eat a certain food it just means I shouldn't overload on them.  I also firmly believe that processed foods are a key here too, I can eat my own homemade bread with no issues but suffer from eating supermarket bread that is full of chemical agents (to help it rise, stay fresh for longer etc etc).

I believe the recent UC attack was brought on by several months, probably even a year of eating very badly - lots of cake, sweets, crisps, takeaways etc etc add onto that a particularly stressful personal situation and BAM...UC attack from Hades.

My solution was to go on a very restrictive food regime, I cut out a huge amount of foods from my diet - definitely no processed foods, no wheat, no dairy, no fried food and actually I found that I had to cut out a lot of meat as well as I was reacting badly to that too...but what on earth was I going to eat?   I stumbled upon the Deliciously Ella cookbook - essentially a vegan diet and I was hooked. Thankfully there is no tofu within its pages which I was thankful of (can't stand the stuff) but what it does contain is sensible healthy recipes using delicious wholefoods - I am now a total quinoa, polenta, chia seed convert.   I also then found Peace & Parsnips as well which is another fabulous vegan cook book, one which prompted me to declare beetroot burgers the best thing ever.

I have added in a small amount of meat to my diet on occasion and I have had some feta and halloumi as well - I am not calling myself vegan, I am calling my self a healthy eater because if I fancy something on occasion whether it is a piece of chicken or a slice of cake I will have it.

A couple of years ago I was also diagnosed with Polyarthralgia which is a side affect of UC and affects the joints, this got gradually worse over the last year too.  But since being on the new food regime even that has improved.  I feel a huge amount better in myself, have more energy and it has also affected my moods too (for the better) another side affect has been the unintentional loss of 3/4 stone in weight...

It really has highlighted to me how much we need to watch what we eat - I don't mean faddy cabbage soup diets or even calorie counting (can't be bothered with that) but more about cutting out the processed stuff.  I have always loved food and cooking and this has opened up a whole new world to me.  I have even made and thoroughly enjoyed raw cakes (who would have thought it?)  the raw chocolate (cacoa) and avocado dessert I had the other week was divine!

I have actually found that I don't crave chips, crisps or even cake (shock, horror) now choosing rather to have something fresh such as a bowl of fruit with soya yogurt and my own homemade granola (seriously I can't stop eating the stuff).

I haven't stopped making cakes though...just in case you were worried...I just make them for other people to enjoy...


Friday, 7 August 2015

Pedestrianisation of this witch...

In the next couple of days my beloved car will be taken off to the scrapyard in the sky...*sniff sniff*

We purchased the car about ten years ago and since then it has been absolutely brilliant apart from being lovely to drive it has room for seven people and has carried a full drum kit, a double bed, bunk beds, a sofa and a guinea pig hutch...it has taken us on family holidays, days out, trips to France and it probably knows the way to Bath on its own and it knows Hampshire, Devon and Dorset like the back of its hand...or steering wheel. Basically it has a heap load of memories attached to it.

But...it is an old car (it wasn't new when we purchased it) and it has done an awful lot of miles.  In the last couple of years each time it went for the MOT we said "if it doesn't cost more than £300 we will pay it" and it has just scraped in each time under £300 but then during the course of the year we have had to spend out extra bits; tyres, exhaust, wipers and the usual wear and tear but also a new door lock and complete failure of the air con and with the warning to get through the next MOT a huge amount of welding would be required.

Last week the wipers failed, not just a replacement of the blades (that would be cheap and easy!) but some techno/motor failure with quotes from £700 down to £350 the time came to make that decision...the one we have been putting off...but at some point with old jalopies you have to draw the line and make the call, let's not throw any more money at a car that is only worth a couple of hundred quid...

Although we will still keep the memories attached to it, it is still sad to see it go and with it also a bit of my independence and freedom.  It is our second car and a bit of a luxury rather than a necessity as I work from home.  Some adjustments will have to be made to our weekly schedule and I have already ordered my funky shopping trolley so I can walk home with the groceries, although being the UK I may need to invest in a rain coat as well...

I have debated about a bicycle but a few years back I had a motorbike and the memories of zipping around a city centre on a motorbike and the scary revelations that I remember are putting me off the push bike for the moment...but never say never...

I realised yesterday that the walking will be good for me and also although I have lived in the same spot for twenty years I have never properly explored my local area so perhaps that is my next challenge, back pack and walking boots at the ready...woods are a twenty minute walk in one direction, the ocean twenty minutes the other way and a couple of very interesting graveyards and who knows what else to discover?

My husband said to me yesterday "this is the end of an era but also the beginning of a whole new journey for us" so I will take this pedestrian challenge and meet it with interest...and hopefully not too many blisters...or rain showers...