Sunday, December 14, 2008

Maes Howe web cam for Winter Solstice

Each year, I look daily at a web cam that is broadcast live from Maes Howe as we approach Winter Solstice. Maes Howe is a neolithic site, designed to allow light to enter at the moment of the Solstice. It's located in the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland. Not so well known as some other sites, but just as spectacular & thrilling. Here's the link:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Your Wild and Precious Life

Several people I know have a tag line on their email signatures from the last line of this wonderful poem by Mary Oliver. Every time I see it, I am filled with a sense of possibility. And since the recent election here in the US, Possibility fills the air! It's all about living true lives, isn't it?

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down into the grass...
how to be idle and blessed,
how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me,
what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
- Mary Oliver
"The Summer Day"

Friday, November 21, 2008

Early Snow in Lancaster

In seed time learn,
in harvest teach,
in winter enjoy.
William Blake

We woke early this morning to snow! Mid-November is very early for snow here - we're only thirth-some miles north of Maryland. You can see that the Japanese Maple tree is still holding onto her leaves, giving us a lovely frosted orange look. Goodness, What does the Winter have in store for us? The Farmer's Almanac says we can expect lots of the white stuff. Good. It keeps the soil hydrated, adds nitrogen & provides an insulating blanket.

Speaking of Winter, we just scheduled a Solstice Sing-Along for Friday, December 19 at Radiance, my shop in downtown Lancaster. Come sing with us at 5:30 or 7:30, as we honor the dark time of year and celebrate the coming rebirth of the sun.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Eye of the Aeon

Here is a beautiful song/poem for Mabon, which is at the time of the Autumnal Equinox. I learned it from a group of people in Glastenbury, England many years ago. I don’t know who the author is. It is in the tradition of old bardic poetry, like Merlin used, where the sounds and patterns have magical energy in addition to the words. So, say it, repeat it, wonder about it.

The Eye of the Aeon

I am the Mabon
I am the child
I am Yr,
The Golden Bough.
I am the Dart
That the Yew lets fly,
Three pure Rays
The Pillars of Life.
I am the Wren
The King of Birds
I am Bard
And Teller of Lies
I am the Song
Within the Heart.
I am the Light
That will never die.
I am Stars
Within the Void.
I am the Eye of the Aeon.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Making Soft Cheese - Troubleshooting

Yesterday afternoon my friend Susan Hess led another class in my kitchen, teaching a group of 13 to make soft cheese at home. Susan has been making cheese for about 10 years, and I have been fortunate enough to enjoy many rounds of delicous cheeses from her kitchen, so last Spring, when I decided that I had to learn to make it myself, I invited her to come teach the class. That class filled to capacity & we had a fabulous time.

Anyway, because making cheese involves a fair amount of waiting time (2 periods of 12 hours!), Susan starts a batch of cheese the day before teaching a class, so that participants can see the various stages of the process. Somehow, the batch she started for this particular class didn't work properly. Disaster? Of course not! She decided to use it as an opportunity to teach us a bit about troubleshooting during the cheesemaking process. Good thinking, Sue!

So, what happened to the batch of cheese? It started out well. Sue raised the temperature of the raw cow's milk to 160 degrees F to flash pasteurize, then set the pan of milk into the sink in cool water to bring the temperature down to 86 degrees, the magic number for adding the cheese culture. Multi-tasking distractions prevailed, the night air was significantly cooler than it has been for months, and the temperature went well below 86. Oops. Well, soft cheesemaking is a fairly forgiving process, so she added the culture and went to bed. In the morning, it was clear that the whey had not separated from the curd.
She brought it with her to the class anyway. We decided, with Sue's guidance, to reheat the milk to 86 degrees again, add another packet of culture, and let the milk sit in my kitchen overnight, and hope that it would separate.

At 6:30 this morning, I checked the progress. There were definite curds, and definite whey, but no firm cake of curd had formed in the middle of the pot. Disappointing, but still not a disaster, I hope. I poured the liquid into a square of butter cloth (which was lining a colander & balanced over a very large glass bowl. Can you see the floating curds?

Next, I tied up the buttercloth & hung it from a knob on my kitchen cabinet. Now it has to strain for 12 hours. Hopefully, the whey will separate clearly enough from the curds so that I can make finished cheese this evening. I'll post again later!

I'm back. At 2:30 this afternoon I bottled the whey that had drained off so far. Two and a half quarts. Things seem to be going smoothly. I'm going to let the bag hang & drain until this evening & then take it down. Hopefully, the cheese left in the bag will be dry enough & solid enough to work with!

Well, it's 9am the next morning. Late last night I took down the bag of cheese, plopped it into a large bowl, added some exquisite pink salt flakes, and started to mix it up. After 16 hours of draining whey (3 full quarts in all), it was still too moist to form into rounds. Darn. Still, not a disaster though. I had chopped fresh herbs (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme. Remember me to one who lives there ...) to roll the formed shapes in, so I just stirred the herbs into the wet cheese, which is quite delicious and the consistency of ricotta. I'll cook with it, and serve it as a cheese dip. Delicious, but different from what I was hoping for.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Small Brown Seed

Many years ago, I was at a Reclaiming camp in West Virginia with 100 other people, one of whom was a lovely young woman named Magnolia. As part of one of the evening rituals, Magnolia was inspired to write a song which I have been singing in my garden ever since. I lost touch with Magnolia, but I still teach the song quite often, and last week I taught it to Eli, my garden apprentice. Eli (always prepared) filmed me singing it, so here it is. And, Magnolia, if you see this, I thank you! PS. The words are: Small, brown seed. Dark, damp earth. Hungry for the light of fire, Driven by a deep desire. Summon the will. Crack the shell. Grow, grow.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Let's Make Fresh Cheese!

A few years ago I (Sarah) had the opportunity to taste several of Susan Hess' fresh homemade cheeses & fell in love with them. A couple of years ago at a PASA conference, I learned more about making cheese & purchased Ricki Carroll's book on making cheese, but somehow I still didn't actually make any cheese myself. Then last year, I read Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I'm sure many of you have read, too. If not, you might want to put it on your list. Anyway, last Spring I had Susan Hess come to teach a cheesemaking workshop, because I HAD to learn how. The workshop filled to capacity, so we knew we had to schedule another one. Here it is.

In this class, Susan Hess will teach us to make fresh soft cheese with cow or goat milk and culture. We will go through the simple processes of making a fresh cheese like Chevre' or Fromage Blanc. Unlike cheese that needs to be aged and carefully tended for months, fresh cheeses are ready to eat with a day and can be easily incorporated into any kitchen routine using basic kitchen equipment.

This class will be held in the home kitchen of Herbs from the Labyrinth, 1053 Wheatland Avenue in Lancaster. You will have a chance to explore the labyrinth garden during the wine & cheese-tasting at the end of the class.

Saturday, September 27 2008 from 1-4pm.

$ 50.00 fee includes a copy of Ricki Carroll's book, Home Cheese Making.

Resource materials will be provided. Packets of culture and prepared cheeses will be available for purchase from the instructor.

To register call Radiance, 290-1517, or stop by the shop at 9 W Grant St, in downtown Lancaster, right across the cobblestones from Central Market.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Queen Anne's Lace and Conscious Contraception

Last weekend, I was at the Women's Herbal Conference, which is held every August just outside Peterborough, NH. It's a wonderful gathering of nearly 500 women, girls and children & is held every August. There are always lots of wonderful workshops & activities. One of the workshops I attended was entitled "Wild Carrot: A Plant for Natural Conscious Contraception (and perhaps conception)" led by herbalists, Robin Rose Bennett and Mischa Schuler. Robin has been studying, working with & using Wild Carrot, also known as Queen Anne's Lace, for more than two decades. One of the traditional uses for this herb (Daucus carota) is as a natural family planning aid. For hundreds of years, women in the Appalacian Mountains have chewed the seeds to prevent pregnancy. In fact, the earliest known recording of this use for Queen Anne's Lace is nearly 2500 years ago - Hippocrates wrote about it!

Anyway, Robin and Mischa have managed to secure a bit of funding for some research into how, and how well, this herb works for birth control. They're looking for volunteer participants, as well as volunteer tincture-makers. If you're interested in perhaps participating in the research, you can find more information on either of their web sites. Robin's is and Mischa's is

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Two messages from Starhawk at the Republican National Convention

Starhawk is a friend of mine, and one of my spiritual teachers. She sent the first essay out yesterday. The second, late last night/early this morning. You can find links to these blog posts and others on her web site, I'm sure she'll be adding more daily.

First Post from the RNC “On the Bad Side of Town”
Aug. 29, 2008

By Starhawk

If they wrote country songs about organizing mobilizations, they might sing something like this:

“It’s just one more earnest meeting…
How do we turn this country ‘round?
In one more dusty warehouse,
On the bad side of town…”

I’m here at the preparations for the protests against the RNC, the Republican National Convention, in the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It’s a familiar scene: half a dozen of us early arrivals and locals huddled around a giant map of the downtown area. Twenty seven years ago, when I took my first nonviolence training in preparation for my first nonviolent direct action at Diablo Canyon in central California. The thing that most impressed me was the maps.

“They had maps!” I told everyone when I got home. “We never had maps in the ‘sixties! We just showed up—the cops chased us, sometimes we chased the cops, and that was that!”

The RNC Welcoming Committee has the best maps—larger than life, and laminated—and the least dusty warehouse I’ve seen in a while. Actually, it’s not a warehouse but an old theater, with a fully-equipped commercial kitchen, and such dust as there might have been has been cleaned before I got here, for which I’m devoutly grateful. I’ve cleaned up more than my share of pigeon dung from abandoned warehouses in preparation for one mobilization or another, and instead of coming weeks early to this one, I stayed home with an urgent mission to evict the mice from my desk drawers and clear the wood rat’s nests out of my battery box after a summer away from home.

I am here at the RNC for reasons both strategic and personal. “Why didn’t you go to the DNC?” some of my friends asked. The two conventions were timed so close together that even I, with my tendency to be obsessive and driven, felt I couldn’t really plan and train and organize for the RNC and do both. Moreover, it was clear to me that the only real drama at the DNC was going to be inside, with Obama. While the Democrats sorely need to be taken to task for many failings—funding the war while railing against it, voting for immunity for wiretapping for AT & T while proclaiming their allegiance to our civil liberties, failing to impeach Bush when they had the chance, just to name a few—if I had to make a choice it seemed to me that the sins of the Republicans were far greater, and the chance of having an impact slightly higher.

And I’m not immune to Obama’s appeal, and the historic significance of his nomination. When I was born, Obama and I could not have had a sandwich together at a lunch counter in the South, nor sat next to each other on a bus ride. His parents could not have married in many states. I was just a couple of years too young to be part of the civil rights movement—I remember watching it on TV at thirteen in L.A., begging my mother to let me go to the South. But the courage and sacrifices I saw, the struggles and successes of that movement profoundly shaped my own life and changed our country forever.

That today, Obama can run for President is something progressives should be celebrating. It’s a tribute, not to the Democrats, but to decades of grass-roots organizing and agitating that we can trace back to the days of abolitionists and slave rebellions and the underground railway. It’s the powerful people’s movements that pressured Democrats and Republicans into ending segregation, and the ongoing work of decades of challenges to more subtle forms of racism that have opened this door.

And we need to own and celebrate our victories. It’s always easy to focus on the lacks, the betrayals, the faults and failures. Our successes will never be perfect—and as progressives, we tend to be perectionists, always demanding more of ooursleves, and the world. This is something I noticed about myself after I downloaded a Solitaire widget to my computer—how easily I can be addicted to frustration. Alcohol, I can take or leave. Drugs were fun in my youth but fortunately none of them stuck, and I was blithely convinced I just did not have an addictive personality until I realized how strongly frustration can hook me. Give me a lost cause, a hopeless endeavor, an impossible task—as Gimli says at some point in Lord of the Rings: “Almost certain death, small chance of success--What are we waiting for?”

My mother used to tell me how she’d watched me, as a baby, trying to cross a threshold, tripping and falling, getting up, and trying again, over and over. So I guess the predilection is inborn.

Frustration addiction—where is the twelve step program for that and how do you go cold turkey? I don’t know, but it explains a lot about me and I suspect that progressives as a whole are subject to it. Yet if we don’t acknowledge and honor our victories, we lose heart and burn out.

And I want to celebrate this one, not protest against it. Obama will certainly not be our savior nor fulfill all our hopes. But let’s just take one moment and recognize that he is an extraordinary human being, and to honor all those who marched and spoke out, who took risks and went to jail, who suffered beatings and who died, to clear a path before him.

But back to the RNC. Draconian police forces, world class security with infinite resources, FBI, Secret Service, Homeland Security all on full alert; small band of intrepid protesters—What are we waiting for?

I’m here really just to bring home to the Republicans the truth that wrecking the country might have some negative consequences. The Democrats have failed to hold them accountable. Most of the country is wrapped in a sullen, smoldering anger that does not yet lead to action. But some of us are here, plotting and planning our marches and counter conventions and direct actions. And while it may prove to be a major slip in my ongoing struggle with F.A., I’m glad to be here with a crew of old and new friends, those buddies I’m bonded with in the way you only get to be when you’ve stood shoulder to shoulder as some cop shoots you in the face with pepper spray.

And, on a personal note, I was drawn to the Twin Cities because this is where I was born—in St. Joseph’s Hospital, a few blocks away from where the Republicans will meet. Although we left here when I was nine months old, my father’s family is from here, and they have roots in the radical community here that go back to the communist movements of the ‘Thirties. My father himself died when I was five—like Obama my life was also marked by a fathers’ absence. But my Uncle Hi and Aunt Ruthie carried on the tradition. They beamed approval at all my political endeavors. My Aunt Ruthie loved to sing the satiric political ditties of the ‘forties and ‘fifties, filling me in on the now almost forgotten events they memorialized. They were friends with people like the great author and activist Meridel Le Seuer. When my Uncle Don-Don was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, we went to visit him, closed the doors, and regaled him with a rousing chorus of the Internationale.

Aside from their politics, they lived otherwise utterly conventional and blameless lives, dull, really. They had a small tract house in St. Paul, and worked at the V.A., my aunt as a secretary, my uncle as a recreation therapist. Aunt Ruthie said she liked the V.A. because it was the closest thing we had to socialized medicine. My father and his brothers, like virtually all the men of their generation, were veterans of World War Two. My Uncle Hi always said that he joined the navy because it was a clean life, but he never knew who cleaned it until he got in. As he slipped into the fog of Alzheimer’s, he said it over and over again. He was fond of recounting how many situps he had done, and how many miles he had jogged.

So I’m here, maybe, because they would have wanted me to be here. They’re gone, now, and I miss them. Were they alive, they’d undoubtedly be hosting the entire Pagan Cluster camped out in their back yard, my Aunt Ruthie whipping up little treats of Ritz cracker and peanut butter sandwiches dipped in chocolate.

And I’m here because I have good friends here, and because this city has a tradition of nonviolent direct action organizing that goes back decades. When we were blockading Livermore Labs in the ‘eighties, protesting nuclear weapons, they were organizing in the same way against Honeywell. There’s a spectrum of events being planned, from legal marches to nonviolent direct action, and a wide range of people planning.

Okay, more later.

Copyright (2008) by Starhawk. All rights reserved.
This copyright protects Starhawk's right to future publication of her work. Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate this essay (forward it, reprint it, translate it, post it, or reproduce it) for nonprofit uses. Please do not change any part of it without permission. Please keep this notice with it.

* * * * * * * * *

RNC Post #2 “Raid on the Convergence Center”
Aug. 30, 2008

By Starhawk
It’s Friday night. Our Pagan Cluster is sitting on the bluff of the Mississippi having our first real meeting, when Lisa gets a call. The cops are raiding the Convergence Center, where we’re organizing meetings and trainings for the protests against the Republican National Convention. It’s not a role play, the caller says. It’s real.

Instantly, we jump up and hurry back the six or eight blocks to the old theater we are using for meetings, trainings and social gatherings. I‘ve spent the last two days doing magical activism trainings, teaching people how to stay calm and grounded in emergency situations and when things get chaotic. Now it’s time to put the training into practice. Aaron, a tall, red-headed young man who could be one of my nephews strides along beside me. “Are you grounded?” I ask him. He nods, and runs ahead.

Nobody can keep up with Lisa, who speeds ahead like an arrow, walking, not running, but still covering the ground quickly. Andy and I trail behind. We’re often street buddies, because we’re both big, slow, and supremely calm and stubborn, willing to wade into almost any situation and become the immovable object.

We’re stopped by a line of cops just before we reach the building. They refuse to let us through, or to move their van which is blocking Scarecrow’s car. There’s an investigation underway, they say, and won’t say more.

Brush, our dear friend, is inside, having gone to a jail solidarity meeting, ironically enough. So are two very young people who had just joined our cluster that night. I try calling Brush’s cell phone, but get no reply.

We wait. That’s what you do when the cops have guns trained on kids inside a building. You wait, and witness, and make phone calls, and try to think of useful things to do.

We call lawyers. We call politicians. We try to call media. We call friends who might know politicians and media.

Through the kitchen door, we cansee young kids sitting on the floor, handcuffed. We walk across the street, back, made more phone calls. An ambulance is parked in front, and the paramedics head into the building, leaving a gurney ready. Susu, from her car around the corner, reports that the cops have been grabbing pedestrians from the street, forcing them down to the ground, handcuffing them.

Song, one of the local organizers, calls her City Council member. She wants to call the Mayor, Chris Coleman, who has promised that St. Paul will be as welcoming to protestors as to delegates, but no one has his home number.

What I have forgotten to tell people at the training is how much of an action is just this: tense, boring waiting, with a knot of anxiety in your
stomach and your feet starting to hurt. Song talks to a helpful neighbor, who’s come over to find out what’s happening. He knows where the mayor lives, says it’s just a few blocks away, and draws us a map.

We decide to go and call on the Mayor, who could call off the cops. About five of us troop down there, through the soft night and a neighborhood of comfortable homes and wide lawns on the bluffs above the Mississippi. The Mayor’s house is a comfortable Dutch Colonial, and lights were on inside. We decide that just a few of us will go to the door, so as not to look intimidating. Song is a round, soft-bodied middle-aged woman with a sweet face. Ellen is a tiny brunette with a gap-toothed smile, and Lisa, formidable organizer though she is, looks slight and unthreatening. The rest of us hang back. Someone opens the door. Our friends have a conversation with the mayors’ wife, who is not pleased to be visited by constituents late at night, and who tells us we should call the office. The Mayor, she says, is asleep, and she will not wake him up.

We think a mayor who was doing his job would get up and go see what’s going on. Nonetheless, we head back to the convergence space.

A protestor has been released from the building. A small crowd has gathered across the street, and Fox News has arrived. They interview Song, who does her first ever Fox media spot. She tells them the truth—that people were in there watching movies—a documentary about Meridel Le Seuer. Meridel would be proud, and I’m glad she is with us in some form.

One by one, protestors trickle out. Now we get more pieces of the story. The cops burst in, with no warning. They pulled drew their guns on everyone—including a five year old child who was there with his mother, forced everyone down on the floor. It was terrifying.

They had a warrant, apparently, from the county, not the city, to search for ‘bomb making materials.’ They were searching everyone in the building, then one by one releasing them as they found nothing.

They continue to find nothing, as we wait through long hours. Meanwhile, more and more media arrives. These cops are not as creative as the DC cops during our first mobilization there against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Those cops confiscated the lunchtime soup—which included onions and chili powder, claiming they were materials for home made pepper spray.

We wait until the last person gets out. He’s a twenty year old who the cops have accused of stealing his own backpack—but apparently they relented.

And now it’s morning. I wake up to the news that cops have been raiding houses where activists are staying, bursting in with the same bogus warrant and arresting people, including a four year old child. They’ve arrested people at the Food Not Bombs house—a group dedicated to feeding protestors and the homeless. They’ve arrested others, presumably just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Poor Peoples’ Campaign, which had set up camp at Harriet Island, a park in the middle of the Mississippi, has also been harassed, its participants ordered to disperse and its organizers arrested.

Let me be perfectly clear here—all of us here are planning nonviolent protests against an administration which is responsible for immense violence, bombs that have destroyed whole countries, and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

This is the America that eight years of the Bush administration have brought us, a place where dissent is no longer tolerated, where pre-emptive strikes have become the strategy of choice for those who hold power, where any group can be accused of ‘bombmaking’ or ‘terrorism’ on no evidence whatsoever in order to deter dissent.

Please stand with us. Because it could be your home they are raiding, next.

Call the Mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Tell them you are outraged by these attacks on dissent. Urge them to let Poor People encamp and to let dissent be heard.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman

Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak
(612) 673-2100
(612) 673-3000 outside Minneapolis

Copyright (2008) by Starhawk. All rights reserved.
This copyright protects Starhawk's right to future publication of her work. Nonprofit, activist, and educational groups may circulate this essay (forward it, reprint it, translate it, post it, or reproduce it) for nonprofit uses. Please do not change any part of it without permission. Please keep this notice with it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Naked Lammas Ladies in Bloom!

Scattered throughout my gardens are a gorgeous flower that my mother-in-law always called "Naked Ladies". They are a type of Nerine. The strap-like leaves come up in the spring, and die back completely by early summer. Then, at the first of August every year the flower stalks emerge from the ground like smooth green snakes, growing 6 inches a day, gradually opening to these beautiful lily-like pink flowers. Because they emerge at the first of August, I have taken to calling them "Naked Lammas Ladies".

Goddess Crop Circle in Wiltshire!

Crop Circles are such an interesting phenomonon, aren't they? Where do they come from? I don't know. A new one was found in Wiltshire about a week ago & it's a perfect goddess image! Here's a link to a great web site.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Botanical Sketching in the Garden

Being an herbalist, I (Sarah) have wanted to be able to sketch plants for a long time. I'm not an artist, I just want to be able to draw a likeness of plants in my garden or that I see other places. Finally, the opportunity presented itself! Eli Weaver is an artist and a lover of herbs. She's also my garden apprentice this year, and the idea for these classes came out of our conversations as we worked together in the garden. The first three classes were held this summer, and all of us were happy with the experiences we had together. I even managed to draw some recognizeable plants! So we've scheduled 3 more dates this Autumn.

Experience the garden as it puts itself to bed. Come to this class led by local artist, Eli(sabeth) Weaver and learn how to view plants, how to portray their characteristics, style and spirit through drawing. Join her in our outdoor studio - the Herbs from the Labyrinth garden - over the course of several weeks. We will gather as a group to study plants and practice our drawing techniques. All levels are welcome.

This class will be held in the gardens of Herbs from the Labyrinth, 1053 Wheatland Avenue in Lancaster.

Sunday afternoons 3-5pm
November 9, 16, 23, 2008

$ 40.00 for the series of three classes, $15 for each individual class..

To register call Radiance, 290-1517, or stop by the shop at 9 W Grant St, in downtown Lancaster, right across the cobblestones from Central Market.

Vitex is Blooming!

Late each summer the stately Vitex (agnus castus) in my gardens comes into bloom. The flowers are an exquisite blue-purple, and cover the top with a soft haze. At dusk each day, the flowers emit a sweet scent, that travels a great distance. I know rationally that the flowers are luring the pollinators in the garden, but I always feel like I'm being called outside from the kitchen. I keep a bench positioned underneath the Vitex, so I can meditate there. Often, I send women who are struggling with irregular menstrual cycles to sit on that bench and commune with the Vitex. Once the flowers are finished blooming, a small seed will begin to set where each tiny flower was. Once the seeds are fully formed & dry, we harvest the seed heads. The seeds are used in teas and tinctures to help normalize hormone fluctuations. Centuries ago, the seeds were called Monk's Pepper, and it was believed that they could suppress sexual urges in men. Hence it's common name, Chaste Tree.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Priestess of the Forest, and perfect summer read!

Where does the time go? Between the garden and the shop, this summer is quite busy! I have found the time to read a good novel, though, and recommend it highly! You can purchase it on my web site or at Radiance, my shop in downtown Lancaster, if you like.

The Priestess of the Forest – a Druid Journey written by Ellen Evert Hopman, published 2008 by Llewellyn Publications

A well-written, engaging story of Ethne, a Druid-trained herbalist and healer, this book intertwines traditional herbal wisdom and a glimpse into the heart and spirit of a traditional healer. Ethne has sworn an oath to live alone in a small house in the forest, to provide healing to nearby villagers. She loves her peaceful life, but change is at hand. Ruadh, a wounded Fennidi warrior is brought to her for healing, and in the months that she cares for him, they develop a bond of deep spiritual love. Upheaval moves across the island, as representatives of the Roman church maneuver for power, and shifting tribal alliances require that Ethne return to her pagan Druid community.

Ellen Evert Hopman, herbalist, author and Druid herself, has written this book in the style of a Druid teaching tool, weaving rituals, spiritual practices and worldview into the tale.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Experience the Spiral: Yoga & Journaling on the Labyrinth

Saturday, May 31, 2008 10 AM-2 PM:

Need to refresh your body and spirit before taking on the glories of summer? Don't have time for a full weekend retreat?

Join writer Jill Althouse-Wood and Kundalini Yoga instructor Padmani Kaur (Christine Cappabianca) for an outdoor experience with breathing, movement, and creative journaling as we take in the herb gardens and labyrinth of Sarah Campbell, owner of Herbs from the Labyrinth & co-owner of Radiance.

A spiral experience in a beautiful setting: we will start the day with gentle movement, meditation, and breathing. From there, we will glean insights from our bodywork and meditation with guided writing and a chance to share. The centerpiece of the day will be a silent walking meditation through the herb labyrinth. Continued silence through lunch will allow time for further reflection. From this silence, we will emerge renewed--spiraling out the way we entered--but with more verve. Afternoon writing and yoga will be filled with playful intent, creative infusion, and interaction in the garden realm.

This retreat, appropriate for all levels of yoga (and journaling) experience, is a lovely investment in redefining our mind/body practices, stimulating our imaginations, and reconnecting with the natural world.

Cost is $60 including lunch. Please bring a blanket or yoga mat and a journal. Contact
Radiance for more information or call 717-290-1517 to reserve your spot. Rain date is June 7th.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fair Trade Day 2008

This Saturday, May 10, is International Fair Trade Day. It's a great day to raise public awareness of the importance of Fair Trade in the world economies. Fair Trade means that a fair, living wage is paid directly to artisans, collectives or small farmers around the world. It's a way that we can support and participate in local economies worldwide.

Most people are familiar with Fair Trade Coffee and Tea, but did you know that there are certified Fair Trade Chocolates? And lots of hand-crafted items, too.

In our shop, we always carry hand-woven traditional market baskets from a women's collective in Ghana. This 20-year-old collective has completely changed the economy of the villages where they are made. All of the children now attend public school, there are clean public wells for water, and health clinics. All because the women of the village can make fair pay for making traditional crafts from their own homes.

From Nepal, we have bags woven from hemp & purses made of recycled silk saris. We have beautiful sterling silver and stone earrings from Nepal, India and Chile. From Bali we have capiz shell wind chimes and beautiful parasols. And from Indonesia, we have hand-batiked clothing!

Come see us on Saturday, either at our shop, Radiance, right across the cobblestones from Central market in downtown Lancaster, or at the Landis Valley Herb Fair just north of Lancaster! Purchase any Fair Trade item and receive a free postcard about Fair Trade and a sticker to let others know that you participated in Fair Trade Day!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Garden Day Today!

Today is a garden day for me. The shop isn't open on Mondays, so a sunny Monday is just what I hope for. Today, the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing gently, and the temp will begin rising from 45 to about 70 by late afternoon. A perfect day!

This photo is from last summer - the white flowering plant near the bird bath is Valerian. You can see the arc of two of the labyrinth walking paths a little to the left. I have finally decided that the Valerian must all be moved from inside the labyrinth to a bed that is just outside of the labyrinth. Already it's more than 2 feet tall & I know it will be 7 or 8 feet tall by the time it flowers in mid-summer. It's just too big to live inside of a walking labyrinth. So, I'll be transplanting it. I think it will make a exquisite wall around the outer path, so it's actually a bit exciting to me!

In fact, I'm sure that I have more plants than I need, so if any of you are local & want to stop by today for a Valerian or 2, please do - just come on around back. I'll also have some Great Burdock (Actium lappa) that could go home with someone. You have to be a courageous gardener to have Burdock in your garden. It's huge! Small children like to use a leaf for a parasol! I always let a few plants mature, so that I'm sure to have more each year. I'll be digging some roots today for the vegetable bin!

I'm sure I'll also be doing some weeding - some unidentified, rapid-growing, chrysanthymum leaf-looking busy-body came in on a load of mulch a few years ago & I'm STILL pulling it out by the armful every Spring. Grrr.

There is a beautiful clump of volunteer Greater Celandine in flower - my plan is to dig it out & use it for the dye-pot. As pretty as it is, it selected the spot in the garden where the lovely tissue-paper poppies live. My MIL planted them 30 years ago & so I'm very protective of them. The poppies don't really like to share space & they don't like to be moved, so the Celandine must come out of that spot. That might wait until next week, though.

Green blessings,

Monday, April 14, 2008

The World According to Monsanto

I'm a member of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. Today I received a notice from them, which I feel compelled to share:

On March 11 a new documentary was aired on French television (ARTE –French-German cultural tv channel) by French journalist and film makerMarie-Monique Robin, The World According to Monsanto - A documentary that Americans won't ever see. The gigantic biotech corporation Monsanto is threatening to destroy the agricultural biodiversity which has served mankind for thousands of years.
Please watch and forward before this gets removed.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Chickweed for Breakfast

I love early Spring when I can finally begin harvesting wild greens from the garden! I make scrambled eggs with sauted' greens about 3 times a week year-round, but in Winter, the greens are locally-grown baby salad mix from a farmer with a greenhouse. They're good, but they don't compare to wild greens! The day before yesterday we had Nettles in our eggs for the first time this year, and today we had Chickweed! We have several little mounds growing near each other - here's a photo of one of them just before I started snipping. I use sharp scissors & take the longer stems, back to the outer edge of the rosette.

I harvested about 3 cups loosely in the colander & then went back inside to rinse the little bits of soil off. Chickweed (Stellaria media) is so soft & moist that you really have to handle it gently or it will bruise. I use a colander with larger holes & a smooth surface, so that the debris can wash through the holes & the tender plants won't be scratched with the wire most colanders are made of.

After a good rinsing, I melted some butter in the skillet & added the Chickweed.

Once the Chickweed was thoroughly wilted, probably 2 minutes, I poured an egg & goat milk mixture into the pan & made scrambled eggs! Voila! Breakfast!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Poem from Shekhinah

It's interesting how things happen. This morning someone placed an order on my web site for a book, Ariadne's Thread, written by my friend Shekhinah Mountainwater. Shekhinah died last August. So, missing her, I "searched" her name & found a poem I don't remember reading before. A call to heirloom apples! Here it is.

Apple Tales
by Shekhinah Mountainwater

Five things a proper apple must contain
Ripe, crisp, tart, juicy and sweet
To satisfy me tooth and tongue
And make the eating of her complete
Can these be alligned perhaps
With the magic pentacle?
Is that why She placed Her star So cleverly within?

So hard it is now to find such
In the marketplace
Apples are there so vividly displayed
In colors red and gold and green
But alas they are mealy or dry or flavorless
Even now the beloved MacIntosh.
"Delicious" grown to distorted unnatural shape
And Braeburns from Australia
That I had found still held those Five
Have also changed.

Gone are the true authentic apples
Fading from our world even as Gaia herself is fading
Sisters we must bring them back!
Find the seeds and plant anew
Rewrite the myths now gone askew
No wonder apples have lost their taste
When the tales told of them speak untrue!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Essential Herbal Blog: A Sense of Wonder Camp

As I have mentioned before, I am one of the founding board members of Full Circle Susquehanna, Inc. We are a small non-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment of women and girls. We have a distinctly earth-centered perspective.

Each June, during the week of Summer Solstice, for nearly 15 years, we have offered a one-week camp for girls, called Sense of Wonder camp. Girls often return for four, five or even more years for this wonderful experience.

This morning, the mother of one of the long-time campers wrote about it on her blog. Here's a link:

The Essential Herbal Blog: A Sense of Wonder Camp

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Carpet of Blue Scilla

It's amazing to me how early Spring seems to have arrived here. There is a fabulous carpet of blue Scilla under the Japanese Maples in front of our house. My mother-in-law, Maggie, planted some many years ago. I've lived in this house for 18 years & they multiply every year. There are thousands of them now. I can see them from way down the street & my heart just leaps every time they come into view. What a wonderful way to be welcomed home!

That's the fence around my compost in the background, and a gate into the back garden where the labyrinth is.

"Turn off the Lights" tomorrow night!

On Saturday, March 29th at 8pm local time, millions of people will "turn off the lights" for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming.

This is a global event, location doesn't matter! Just DO IT!

Get involved and make a difference! It's easy, and you can make it fun!

To show your support sign up at:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Snowdrops are Blooming

I got home about 5:45 tonight & thought that I might have just barely enough light to take a photo of the snowdrops, which are are the fullness of blooming. There are hundreds of them in my gardens, little clumps everywhere. These are in the front of the house, where they get more sun than the ones in back in the labyrinth. It's still quite chilly here, but every year the snowdrops come out, as soon as the light begins to grow. Some years they are mostly covered with snow, but they don't seem to mind.

I read somewhere that snowdrops are sacred to the goddess Brigid, but I can't seem to remember where I heard that. If anyone knows more of the lore, I'd love to hear from you. Since they are the first flower to bloom, snowdrops are like a promise from Mother Nature - reminding us to be assured that Winter is coming to an end, and Spring is on the way. The Wheel of the Year keeps turning.

I've also read in Anne McIntyre's book, Flower Power, that snowdrops are considered a flower symbolic of death, and that many people think the flower looks like a shroud. What a lovely, soft, sweet-smelling shroud that would be.

If I could harvest all of the tiny snowdrop flowers in my garden and sew them all together, I would make a shroud for my dear friend. Lynn was in a terrible car accident on the night of the lunar eclipse. She's been unconscious ever since, and was removed from life support on Tuesday afternoon. Her body still breathes, but not for long. Her spirit is ready to move on. I will miss her so much. I always thought that Lynn would be a long-time elder in my spiritual community, but alas, it is not to be.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Permaculture & Earth Activist Training in May

Wow! I got this notice from Starhawk last night. If you've ever thought about getting training in Permaculture, this 2-week course looks phenomenal! I think I'll start saving my pennies.

Earth Activist Training

Radical Sustainability and Regenerative Activism

So much more than a permaculture design certification course, Earth Activist Training (EAT) weaves the principles of permaculture, earth-based spirituality, and regenerative activism into a captivating curriculum that blends classroom lecture and experiential exercises with practical, hands-on learning opportunities.

May 3-17, 2008


Instructors: Starhawk, Margo Adair, Bill Aal, and Charles Williams
Manzanita Village, Warner Springs, Southern California, USA

In this course with a special focus on social permaculture, participants will learn ways to collaborate and build just and enduring alliances across social divides, as well as skills to build personal, interpersonal and community resilience to sustain themselves through hard times.This two-week residential intensive is a permaculture design certificate course.Curriculum includes: Water harvesting, graywater, bioremediation, natural building, cob, plant guilds, alternative energy, sustainable forestry, plant propagation, soil fertility, compost and mulch, consensus, facilitation, alliance building, alternative economics, direct action, strategy, issues of power, privilege and creative collaboration, Applied Meditation combining work with intention, intuition and mindfulness, energy shifting and ritual creation.

Sliding scale pricing:
$1700, if you have abundance in the form of money
$1500, if you are working and solvent
$1200, if you are scraping by
* work trade and scholarships available—please visit our web site for additional courses, updates and to register 800.381.7940 (USA)
Hear the teleseminar with Starhawk and Bill Aal at:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Labyrinth Tour coming to visit Herbs from the Labyrinth garden on April 20

Quite a few years ago, I put a lot of effort into establishing a labyrinth committee at the Unitarian church here in Lancaster. We painted a Chartres Cathedral style labyrinth on a 40 foot square canvas, that is still used there. Later we had a seven-circuit Cretan style labyrinth inlaid in the floor in one of the rooms on the lower floor. I'm no longer active there, but the labyrinth committee is still going strong, holding monthly walks on the first Sunday afternoon of each month.

This year, the labyrinth committee is organizing a tour of local labyrinths on the afternoon of Sunday, April 20, and they will be visiting my garden & walking the labyrinth here. It won't be covered with snow by then. In fact, there should be lots of new green life by then. If you'd like to get more information & register for this tour, you can call 717-393-1733 or email

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ants Away!

I live in a house that is more than 100 years old. It’s a brick house with a stone foundation and window sills that are nearly a foot deep. I love my house. Apparently, I’m not the only creature to love this house. Every late winter, tiny little ants begin to emerge from their mothers’ nesting places in the stone foundation. Some of them mistakenly make their way into the house instead of outside into the soil. I have to admit that I’m not pleased by this behavior. For years, I’ve been making an herbal ant repellent spray, tweaking it every year. It’s always worked well, but this year it’s working incredibly well! To repel ants and keep them from coming into your house, spray this along door frames, windowsills, the edges of the hearth & wherever else you see them traveling. Ants leave a scent along their trail so that other ants can follow them. This herbal spray will interrupt their travels & they don't like the way it smells at all! Distilled water and cider vinegar infused with Peppermint & Tansy, pure essential oils of Peppermint, Clary Sage & Black Pepper. A 4oz cobalt bottle with a mister top is only $9.95.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Free Online Issue of The Essential Herbal

My friend, Tina Sams, publishes a wonderful herb magazine, The Essential Herbal. I have written columns for her, but it's been a while, since I'm so busy with the new shop. Anyway, she's offering a free issue (online) so you can see what the magazine is like. It's a paper magazine usually - not an ezine - printed on recycled paper & with soy ink. It's not glossy - it's real. It's down to earth. It's full of useful articles on a wide range of topics to appeal to herb lovers. I look forward to reading each new issue as soon as it comes out & then I save them so I can reference them later. We sell them at Radiance, our shop in downtown Lancaster, and on the Herbs from the Labyrinth website, including back issues. You might even decide you want to subscribe!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Exotica Bath Products on Special this Week!

What could be better than a warm, relaxing bath on a cold winter day? A warm bath infused with our Exotica Bath blends. Exotica is the name for our secret blend of pure essential oils that we scent bath salts and oils with. Our exquisite bath salts are divine unrefined grey Celtic sea salts and Dead Sea salts. Pour the bath and body oil into the bath water or massage it into your damp skin when you step out of the shower.

Choose a tube of salts (enough for several baths), or a gorgeous bottle of them to put on display in your bathroom. The recycled green glass bottles are from Mexico and a closed with a natural cork stopper.

The bath and body oil comes in a beautiful cobalt blue glass bottle - 6oz, tall and slim.

And, this week only, save $2.00 each on all Exotica items when you order through our web site.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Green Zone (or will Herbs from the Labyrinth be on Television?)

A while back, summer actually, my friend Annie Goeke called me & asked if she could interview me for a pilot for an idea she had. Annie is co-director of the Earth Rights Institute. Anyway, of course, I said yes! The idea is for a series of short spots that would run between shows on public television, sort of like public service announcements, but a little different. The series is tentatively called The Green Zone, and it will focus on environmental issues and Green living. Hopefully, it will be picked up soon & you'll be able to see them on a television station near you! In the meantime, film maker Andrea Campbell of Natural Light Films brought me a dvd so I could post the pilot interview of me & my gardens online! Here's the link: Let me know what you think!