February 2010


It has been a mild winter here on the West Coast….wet, gray, fogged in day after day, but mild. And that means early nettles!

Here is some info on nettles from Susun S. Weed in her book The Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year (a book I HIGHLY recommend if you are planning on having babies) :

The common stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica, is one of the finest nourishing tonics known. It is reputed to have more chlorophyll than any other herb. The list of vitamins and minerals in this herb includes nearly every one known to be necessary for human health and growth. Vitamins A, C, D, and K, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and sulphur are particularly abundant in Nettles.

Benefits of drinking Nettle infusion before and throughout pregnancy include (Katrina’s note: I feel that many of these benefits are sure to be true after the birth as well!)

~Aiding the kidneys.

~Increasing fertility in men and women.

~Nourishing mother and fetus.

~Easing leg cramps and other muscle spasms.

~Diminishing pain during and after birth. The high calcium content, which is readily assimilated, helps diminish muscle pains.

~ Increasing the richness and amount of breast milk.

~ Improves the elasticity of the veins. Good help for varicose veins.

Feeling inspired to get out to the nettle patch and do some picking!?

As with any wild food harvesting, make sure you know what you are picking before you eat it! I find a pair of garden gloves and a plastic bag works best for harvesting nettles, but a pair of rubber gloves or even a thicker plastic bag for your picking had will work too (they really do sting!) Picking the top 1-2 inches of the plants in early spring (or late winter on the West Coast this year) gives you the tenderest treat, but I found that picking and using even the tougher late summer leaves was fine.

I did loads of nettle smoothies (and nettle tea, and steamed nettles) while I was pregnant with Sophia last spring and on into the summer. My intuition is that nettles and other green smoothies were part of the reason that my iron levels stayed in good range throughout my pregnancy (I was not taking any iron supplements or eating any meat.)

My favorite nettle smoothie:

1-4 cups nettle tops (they are very strong tasting, so if you have never had raw nettles before, start small!)

2 bananas

3 cups blackberries

1 apple

2 cups water

BLEND! YUM!

I also really love steamed nettles with a little bit of coconut oil and tamari. Simply put a huge pile of nettles, stems and all, into a pot with some water on the bottom. Bring water to a boil, and then turn off, leaving the lid on the pot and letting the nettles steam for about 5-10 minutes. Remove steamed nettles from the water and add a little coconut oil and a dash of tamari. After you have eaten the nettles, you can drink the water that they were steamed in!

Nettle tea, or infusion as Susun Weed calls it, is another staple in my kitchen. Here is how Susun recommends making a water based infusion:

Use one ounce of dried leaves (two handfuls of cut-up leaves or three handfuls of whole leaves) in a quart jar. Fill the jar to the top with boiling water, put the lid on and let it steep for four hours at room temperature.

Leaves contain the potent healer chlorophyll. Long steeping extracts all the chlorophyll, as well as the vitamins, minerals, and other medicinal components of the leaves. Steeping in a closed jar keeps the water-soluble vitamins from escaping in the steam.

Having the time to harvest and dry your own nettle leaves for tea is wonderful, but if you don’t, you can almost always find dried nettle in the bulk herb section of your local health food store! If not, try out our favorite bulk herb shop on-line, Mountain Rose Herbs.

There you have it, one of my favorite wild foods, the common stinging nettle.

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…about me.

I was tagged by one of my Flickr friends to share 10 things about me. Here they are!

1. I’ve spent most of my life living on the West Coast of Canada on islands and I am an island girl through and through.

2. I have lived in more homes than I am years old, and that means I’ve lived in more than 31 different places. Among the many places I’ve called home has been a sailboat named Sonja, several cabins without electricity, romantic old apartments in big cities, a house that I owned, many houses that I’ve rented, a cozy room under the stairs, a sweet little trailer, a cabin that I built with my sister, and finally…..

3. ….With my beloved husband. Anytime, anywhere that he is with me I am at home.

4. I was home-schooled along with my younger sister and two younger brothers. It was one of the greatest gifts my parents gave us, and David and I plan on home-schooling our children too.

5. I love to sew. There are several hundred pounds of second hand t-shirts in a basement waiting for me to re-cut, re-sew, and re-love one day when I can re-set up my sewing studio. (Before I ran away to Arizona, I was a busy little seamstress making one of a kind re-ally happy re-cycled clothing.)

6. Fresh, raw juice is magical to me. Green smoothies are magical to me.

7. Being a mother to Sophia and a wife to David are two of the most amazing things that have ever happened to me.

8. I believe in the elegance of simplicity, and try to live a life that reflects this.

9. Shopping for new things is really difficult for me. I have an anti-shopping attitude so deeply embedded in me that sometimes I wish I could just buy that nice new pair of pants and enjoy them without taking the “big picture” into account. Most of the time though I am thrilled to go thrifting, and feel just as sexy in my scuffed up, nine year old boots as I would in new ones because of what the old ones represent.

10. My current belief about food is “Local!” A farm is in my future….

There you have it! Thanks for reading!

Paper Heart Bunting made from an old magazine.

Wishing each and everyone of you a Happy Love Day 365 days a year! (and a belated Happy Valentine’s Day!)

We drank a lot of juice and ate a little chocolate and the love flowed freely…..

Valentine’s Day Juice: Almost anything with beet added to it for a beautiful red juice!

Today I am celebrating the beautiful, strong, healthy immune system of my little one who has successfully over-come her first little bug. Valentine’s Day morning actually found us in the hospital with Sophia after we woke up to find her little body covered in a red rash that looked like prickly heat.

I wouldn’t have worried too much about it accept that a week ago I found a tick embedded in my precious baby’s neck! The tick came out fairly easily with a handy little tool at the doctor’s office called a “tick twister” but now I wondered if her rash was related to the bite. So I called the Nurse’s Health Line (I absolutely LOVE our health care in Canada) and talked with a lovely nurse who said that we should take Sophia in right away to have the rash checked out due to her previous tick bite.

So, off we went. The doctor who saw us told us that the rash was almost certainly¬† NOT related to the tick bite, that no case of Lyme disease has ever been discovered on our island, and that it was almost certainly some kind of virus that Sophia had picked up somehow and that it would pass on its own. She also assured us that viruses such as the one causing Sophia’s rash are very normal for babies to pick up, and that they actually help the baby to build up a healthy immune system.

We headed back home and Sophia continued to look rash-y all day. Along with the rash came a slightly stuffy nose (she could still nurse fine though) and a very sensitive baby. Every little thing was making her cry, and she was sleeping very lightly, waking up with a cry rather than a smile. That evening before bed I gave her a sink bath with several handfuls of oats added to the water to soothe her skin. I also stopped feeding her any solid food and nursed her exclusively, which I feel helped a lot. We continued to giver her 500IU of Vitamin D, which we give her daily during the winter to support her immune system.

The next morning she woke up with the rash still there but much lighter in color. I continued to feed her only breast milk and we had a quiet day.

Today she woke up after a nice peaceful night (waking up every 4-5 hrs to nurse rather than every 45 min-2hrs.) She woke up looking bright and healthy, and with a big happy smile for her mama and papa and no rash! Hooray for healthy immune systems!

Along with the building of my little one’s immune system, I feel like my “Mama Immune System” has also gotten stronger. I am learning that along with being a mother and the chance to nurture another life comes an intimate awareness of our mortality, the ephemeral nature of being human, and our infinite preciousness. When Sophia was first born I felt this intensely, to the point of making me feel a little crazy! My midwife, bless her heart, assured me that my seeming neurosis and worry about my baby was natural and normal, there as part of the exquisite blueprint for our species’ survival….I was not being crazy by checking on her breathing every five minutes. I was simply being acutely, lovingly attentive to the new life that had been placed in my arms by spirit, there for me to watch over and protect, nurture and love.

When you are new to mothering, this acute attention to another life can feel overwhelming, and for a while it had me feeling like a nervous wreck! A newborn baby seems to change daily, and I fretted over each new thing: her breathing (is it supposed to be so noisy?), her skin (is is normal to be so dry and flaky), her eyes (is she going to be cross-eyed forever?), her cord (is that what it should look like?), and on and on. I watched like a hawk over anyone who held her, and only felt completely comfortable when her dad was holding her. I had a very difficult time going anywhere with her for the longest time, worried that some kind of bug would bite her, or that she would breathe in someone’s cigarette smoke, or even that I would somehow trip and fall with her….My newborn daughter felt so fragile, so vulnerable, and so precious to me, I couldn’t bear to think of anything hurting her and the responsibility to protect her felt huge.

While I was feeling all of this, I was also aware that it could not continue. While they may have been appropriate for a while, I had to out grow my “New Mother” worries! I did not want to pass on fear and trepidation of the world to my daughter! I wanted to be adventurous, to pass on trust and a sense of safety in the world! I want my daughter to feel at home on the planet, to feel confidant and strong, and I know that one of the best ways to show her this is to know it and act from that knowing myself.

My beloved husband helped me immensely with transforming all of my worry. He said something like this:

“You can listen to the voice of worry…it is there for a good reason. But, you don’t have to let it be the loudest voice, and from listening to worry you can act with mindfulness. When you are worried about falling with Sophia, don’t feel bad that you are worried. Instead say to your worry, I hear you, but don’t worry, I am walking very mindfully and each step I take is taken with great care. Thank you, voice of worry, for bringing my attention to the fact that I need to walk with more care now that I am carrying a fragile new baby. I have it under control.”

Taking worry and transforming it to mindfulness was a powerful shift for me to make as a new mother. When we are mindful and take care of what we are doing in the moment, there is little to worry about.

This is what I mean when I say my “Mama Immune System” has gotten stronger. Instead of falling apart at the sight of a tick on my baby, or her body covered in a red rash, I was able to stay relaxed and calm (for the most part, I did get a little freaked out by the tick because I know how devastating Lyme disease can be….) and mindfully do what needed to be done to take care of her.

I know that life has a lot of opportunities in store for me to continue practicing mindfulness with my daughter’s well being. The ow-ies, bumps, and bruises that are part of growing up are just getting on their way, and I hope to continue to grow through them, knowing that they are an important part of the balance. Children are incredibly resilient, and I hope that as a parent I will foster this resilience, allowing Sophia to know her strength while also being mindful of her very human, ephemeral, and precious body.

Celebrating with a little cucumber, celery, apple, and parsley juice!

Oranges are on sale for 0.39 cents a pound! Oh joy! We have been drinking lots of orange juice this winter and avoiding winter colds while also down-loading a little bit of sunshine from the little orange globes, condensed sunshine in miniature. If you live on Vancouver Island, get thee to a Thrifty Foods, where we found these beauties on sale, and stock up on some Vitamin C!