May, 2021.

The paper-like sunshine of morning cradles me these days. I rise early. I sip a coffee. I blink into each day as they grow longer, warmer, with dew and pollen shooting upward like tiny sprites into the air. I put on a pair of boots to step into the barn. It is here where I greet the chickens, goats, barn cats and the reverent elder donkey named Bob. They tell me what they have dreamt of sometimes and the baby goats eagerly demonstrate their skills in climbing and hopping off of things. We laugh into the stillness of the countryside. I like it when the trees join us in the riotous chorus of the morning too. Swaying and chuckling in joy that the sun has returned yet again. Here we are once more… Beginning together. What a blessing.

I walk along the driveway and into the garden beds. A trellis waits patiently for the scarlet runners to reach their arms up and to twist their bodies into its support. Brussel sprouts wave back and forth. Motherwort is quick to reply from her perch alongside catmint in the shade of a cedar bush. The apple tree has just burst into fragrant blossoms. It’s surreal to look at this tree. The breath of it is almost overwhelming. She is so alive! The maiden that is Spring is at her deepest dance of seduction and fertility. Every time I walk outside there is the crescendo of the spring symphony; birds, insects, flowers, even the soil and the waters that have thawed of ice now rejoice. Once stretching into the world slowly waking, and now an unruly ecstasy of movement. The joys of spring.

Dayna with Mullien

I pack my car with my fiddle and a jar of tea to drive to spend the day with my mentors. During my week, I shift between two gears. One of which is farm work, and the other is in a production lab. I greatly revel in each of these opportunities, which only begin to outline the amount of options while following the plant path. There is no one way of practicing herbalism.

We shovel. We carry. We drive out on 4 wheelers into the forest to identify and rescue at-risk plants. We ask the plants how they would like to live and set out to the fields once the dew dries. We carry baskets to gather dandelion flowers to infuse in oil. I eat dandelion greens, cleavers, chickweed, catmint, nettles with nearly every meal. Spring salts and minerals. Deep nourishment. Dug up roots dry in the sun. We pour tinctures and smile at them with our hands on our hips, remarking their magnificent chlorophyll shine. We rescued Valerian in a spot where it would have otherwise been thrown out. We dug the roots and held them up to each other’s faces to inhale the aroma. Deep, dark, somehow like honey. We all sighed at the plants in their transplanted spot of the plant sanctuary. Home at last!

Dayna walking in Field

Penny spoke of splitting the seasons into smaller segments; early spring for harvesting roots, late spring for harvesting blossoms and flowers and, of course, everything in between. I’m seeing it now as I recognize that the time for wildcrafting certain plants has come and gone, or that I am anticipating the harvest for another plant weeks away. My interest in plants has become an immersed life of study for me since taking on this apprenticeship. I am encouraged to play with recipes and ask questions! I love walking and putting leaves in my mouth, and talking about plants while working with them. I’m using herbs now more than ever and it truly feels wonderful.

I have learned so much from Penny and Nick in a short amount of time. I came from a foundation of books, home experiments, a good amount of internet research and a community of people that were also into herbalism as a hobby. I had a novice level of knowledge, and I still do. I’m learning. I had said that I believed I was moving beyond the level of, “curious plant enthusiast” and in order to truly know more, it was time to take courses and find mentors. This manifestation has come to me with overflowing gifts. The time to work one-on-one and ask questions from two experienced and devoted herbalists is absolutely priceless! For me, it is the best way to learn. I’m humbled and honoured and endlessly curious.

(Blog photos provided by Penelope!)