January 21, 2014

How’s the fall out from the holidays going for you?

Are you feeling invigorated by the new year?  (Gosh I hope so.)  Or are you feeling like  a dull pencil, worn out from the celebrations, the scribblings, and too much togetherness?  Maybe too many cookies?  I must say it all sounds familiar…


I wanted to do something nice for you to help transition the calendar year, and all of the accompanying thoughts and beliefs that come along with this time.   We are prone to such highs and lows after the holidays.  They are in fact over, and we are the same mostly.  But we have some different feelings too.  Different ambitions and thoughts.


If you live in Northern California, the weather is a handy example.  The endless days of warm sunshine keep us feeling hopeful (the high part),  but the evenings are even colder than we are used to with the clear dry weather (the low bit).   We want the endless sun of course (it makes us feel so good), but we desperately need the rain and are headed straight for a serious drought if we don’t get it.   You mean it can’t just be sunny forever?  No, I guess not.


I must confess,  my personal tendency has been not to think about it too hard–to just enjoy the warm sun, this beautiful weather.   I don’t want to think about our lack of rain…the dark side of all that light.  Things are getting darn right crispy out there, organisms are struggling to survive.


But I know that if I can practice keeping both tendencies (light/dark, high/low)  in mind, I can stay more balanced because I can accept the existence and the interplay of these two extremes.   It will rain again eventually, and we’ll get to feel all that come with that too:  the cold water on our  skin, the difficulties in getting around, the confused traffic, and the collective relief that the green things will feel around us.


We are the same, but we are a work in progress too.  The sun and the rain are mirror elements of our personal work.  Sometimes we are on top, filled with the possibilities of change.  And sometimes we are so stuck change seems like a distant speck on the horizon.  We are human after all, and this is a very human cycle that we all go through.  Extremes are a part of living.

And so in the spirit of this New Year transitional duality, I am wanting to offer you…

 A Reiki 2-fer:
Two 50 minute reiki sessions for the price of one.  Gift one to a friend or keep both for you!  Unstick the stuck. $95

Herbal chai, a “clean house” tea:  burdock, elderberry, fennel seed, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, star anise.  A wonderful tea for helping to stay on track with that New Year’s Revolution–spicy, sweet, with a “built-in” tea ritual to help you stay rooted.  $15

Message in a Bottle:  let’s chat on the phone and talk about your health goals for 2014 (emotional, spiritual, physical).  Then I will customize a herbal extract for you, $25 for 2 oz.

It’s a good time to renovate the temple…xoxo, kt

(Get in touch if you’d like to order:  415.613.7010, wiseleafherbal@gmail.com)


Happy Earth Day everyone.   I really mean it.

Because deep beneath the designation of this holiday, the events, the greenwashing, and even the celebrations, is buried a very quiet, very sacred truth.  This truth not sexy, or shocking or hip,  but it’s ours.  It belongs to everyone of us.


The secret is that we all deserve to feel connected to this crazy living sphere that sustains us so well.  From it (and all the elements that govern it) we receive what we need to be alive.  And so do billions of other beings.  We’re all breathing together as we go round.  And it’s a pretty profound mind-blowing thing when you think about it.

Honestly you don’t have to do anything special to celebrate earth day.  There are so many points of access–take your dog or your kids or yourself to the park, and then take your shoes off.   Remember how good that feels?

Or maybe do something nice for someone or a fellow struggling being (pick up that earthworm from the sidewalk and return it to the dirt).  Little acts of kindness are contagious and the end result is a feeling of interconnectedness.


This past week was a rough one for our country.   One evening before bed,  my son expressed anxiety about random acts of violence.   I told him that we cannot predict who will be violent or when this violence will show up.  But we can be kind everyday.   We can be inclusive and reach out to someone we know who is lonely.   We can show love.

These simple actions over time can help someone feel less isolated and an increased sense of belonging.  And the simple truth is that we all belong to the earth, and it to us.  Not just some of us.  All of us.  Everyday.  All the time.  Not just today.

And the Wind Blew…

April 9, 2013

IMG_5742It’s spring again, and whew are gardeners busy.  We are so consumed with thinking about plant needs (everybody’s different!) that we forget to find a moment’s peace to reflect on just how dang cool it all is.  Stuff is growing, literally popping before our very eyes.  Buds are whispering.  Blossoms are singing either operas or Billy Holiday songs.   The bees and other buzzers are back.  When we stop a moment to take in all that wonderment, there is no gladder heart than a spring time gardener’s.


Spring means that I shed my skin and become a baseball widow once more

And so, in homage to the insistent wind, the much-needed spring rains, and all that glorious green, here is a pictorial love letter.  (Bloggettes, double click on the pictures to make them bigger…i know I need a new blog style that shows off the photos, but i am apparently not done with this sweet, intimate one just yet.)

Yarrow for days at Alemany Farm...

Yarrow for days…


Brand new Maidenhair fern frond


One of the Nuccio’s Camellias

I love you dirt.  I love you brand new frond.  I love you Sun.  You  sustain us all so well.   Thank you.

The very special bloodroot

The very special blood root

Last Minute Valentine

February 10, 2013


In your light I learn how to love.

In your beauty, how to make poems.

You dance inside my chest,

Where no one sees you,

but sometimes I do, and that

sight becomes this art.


Dear loved ones,

Now is the time when we focus on the heart.  Of course the heart permeates all that we do every day of the year, but in the month of February we make a conscious effort to remember that which makes ours beat.

I  have a few heart-centered teas and chocolates for you and your valentines…

Loving Kindness:  Hibiscus, rose, hawthorne berry, elderberry, schisandra, and red clover blossom

*Medicinal Properties:  Cardiovascular tonic, blood purifier, magical heart-opener

Taste notes:  Sweet and sour, mildly astringent, grassy

And the (almost) famous and dearly beloved…

Nap in a Field:   Wild oatstraw, skullcap, linden, nettles, lavender, and motherwort

*Medicinal Properties:  Nervine, blood purifier, elixir of ease and good flow

Taste notes:  Sweetly grassy, floral notes, a tiny bit salty

Teas are sold in 1/2 oz and 1 oz quantities, with prices being $6.00 and $12.00 respectively.   Also, limited quantities of…

Herbed Truffles Dark chocolate truffles infused with Damiana cordial and rolled in rose cocoa powder.  Six generously-sized truffles for $10.00

The Sweetheart Sampler:  Six Herbed Truffles and 1/2 oz of both teas, Nap in a Field and Loving Kindness all wrapped up pretty  $25.00


Get in touch if you’d like to order:  415.613.7010 or wiseleafherbal@gmail.com. *Teas are for supplemental use only, not for treating a medical diagnosis or serious health care condition


Hatred paralyzes life;  Loves releases it.

Hatred confuses life;  Love harmonizes it.

Hatred darkens life;  Love illuminates it.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

blown away

October 29, 2012

It is fall already.  The foggy winds are blowing hard.  The stone fruits are about finished.  The California hillsides are dried up golden, and leaves are starting to wither and hit the dirt.

And I must say I don’t feel quite ready!  I personally love fall, but this year I find myself fighting the seasonal change–maybe because late summer was so sweet.  Consequently I am just not living up to my own (high) expectations that I will gracefully transition into WHATEVER: a new season, a new job, a body transition or a mini-life crisis.

I admit I’ve been hiding out in the bathroom a little.  I know it’s reclusive of me, but that is part of the fall transition too.   Let me try and explain.

A friend pointed out to me that I always feel a bit deciduous this time of year.  Certainly I grow tired of gardening (though there is always one last push through the cutting back of the perennials and moving things around before winter and the holidays set in).  Heaving my hoe is slowly giving way to resting on my shovel…it’s almost that time.  Maybe another month and a half to get through before the big rest?  It depends on the rains.

So anyhow, in the evenings, (as I try to escape the sounds of another baseball game) I occasionally take a bath.  It’s the remedy for my autumn malady:   a pretend rain, filled with the sounds of actual rushing water, spruced up by beeswax candles and fragrant herbs to bathe in.  A little herbal ocean…

Just a few of my favorites are:  redwood needles or passionflower vine, fresh calendula, rose petals, sage.   It is amazing how alive one can feel after slipping into a bath with actual plants floating all around you.  I am so grateful that Kami McBride, my first herbal teacher, encouraged myself and fellow students to experiment with the healing powers of the herbal bath.  I remember her describing this incredible outdoor tub that she had taken in the woods beneath the stars.  As she told her story, the bath became a metaphor for the cosmos, with the immersed human body as galaxy and plant bits as individual floating stars.  It sounded literally out of this world.

While most of us don’t have access to a star-infused setting, the benefits of herbal bathing still run very deep.

I for one feel closer to nature and more aware of my amazing skin suit and the job it has to do.  More importantly, a bath helps me slow down and feel that relaxation can be a state of being, something I am trying to cultivate more of these days.  It helps me remember that within the human body, we contain all the elements of the cosmos.  Even as the winds and rain of autumn whip us around on the outside, we can take comfort in the quiet expanse within.

What’s next??

May 2, 2012

I just spent a week at my parents’ place in Wisconsin, and there is nothing like the country to lend perspective on all human endeavors.  My city slicker problems melted away as we discussed more relevant matters:  Which recycled materials in the basement were going to become a proper chicken coup?  How were my brothers and partner going to extract a giant boulder from the middle of the garden?  What shape would this year’s deer fence take?  What was for dinner?

The old hay fort...remember?

Admittedly, I sat out on most of the physical labor.  My sciatica has been bothering me, and my body needed a rest from the very regular work it does as an urban gardener.  I took a few naps, played with my son, and practiced not doing much (something quite challenging for me, actually.)   But as I observed the projects in action, I felt refreshed from the sidelines.  Country living is more about survival, and there is something both difficult and thrilling about that fact.

Please don’t get me wrong—this city mouse isn’t trying to romanticize “the land.”  I think I was just excited to get back to a tangible Process.  Can you build something from the materials you have?  Will your contraption keep the critters out?  And so on.  It’s almost as if life  feels like more of a process when you are engaged in a practical project.  What can I say?  I’m from Midwest farming stock.

The end results were good.  The boys built a stylish coup for the new chickens.  I did some cooking and with my Mom’s expert guidance, I learned to make a Schaum torte (an old family recipe.)  My folks got some work done, but most importantly we celebrated my Mother’s 70th birthday.  Another poignant reminder that life is a project, best done one day at a time.

Spring has been a little messy this year–not so great for projects.  Here are a few examples from my life (though I am sure you have your own.)

Bay area rains have come very late wreaking havoc on my schedule.

My son’s school is having an administrative meltdown for the second year in a row, and community moral is very low.  More serious conversations are in store, with no resolution in site.  I am feeling very sad about this, and have been looking around for some kind of fourth party perspective to help me understand why people will treat each other like like dirt (back to surviving…)

I’ve not had the stamina to market my business, and have been struggling with how best to represent what it is that I do in the world.   In short, “microcosmic” emotional work is still a very humbling project.

Yet I am still doing this work of herbalim and gardening, even though many don’t know about it and I don’t know where it will lead me.   I can’t stop even though there is some part of me that just wants to sign up for the ‘couch potato’ or ‘I don’t care’ position.  I know they have openings…

I’ve also learned a few things, like:

Some projects just take a long time, even though I wish it were otherwise.

Projects with other people take as many times as long as there are participants.   And some steps in a project are simple, but others are extremely complicated–one must take the long view.

It is good to just start by asking “what’s next?”  What’s my next step in my life’s project?

Happy Birthday Mom.

So I’ve been ruminating on roots…inspired by their undergroundedness.

Roots are the below to what is above.  It’s deep.

In a healthy plant, the root structure reflects the foliage.  As the leaves and stems reach wide, so do the root hairs branch below.  It’s the literal, physical foundation for the beauty we witness and appreciate on the surface of things and a wonderful metaphor for these winter times.  A mirror image in the darkness.  A good, quiet secret.

Now that all the rushing of the holidays is finished, we need to rest and restore.  Most likely our nervous systems were overstimulated with travel,  parties, and tons of social time.  When all that goes away, there is a tendency to wonder “Is that all?  It happened so fast.”  Enter the root as metaphor…

A root moves micronutrients and water up into the aerial plant parts.  It’s also a storehouse that feeds the plant in lean times.

Similar to a dormant plant,  it’s important to get back to what roots us–to go back to listening to our our inner dialogue.     Really take the time to ask yourself “Did I have a good holiday?”  “Did I really enjoy that (literal or symbolic) wild airplane ride?”

The New Year is a great opportunity for coming back to the “underground” energy  that feeds us.  The pulse of what gives us our vision,  strength, and stability.

This late fall and early winter season I’ve had the very good fortune of making some amazing roots into medicine.  Both are adaptogenic in nature– a plant that works on moderating the human stress response, helping to develop stamina for life’s bumps and thrills.   Introducing the dynamic duo:

Rhodiola~Rhodiola rosea,  a northern beauty!!  Literally smells like a (rootish)   rose.  Native to Canada, Scandinavia, Siberia.  Used to nourish the lungs, and often taken to prevent sickness in said cold climates.  “Shown to enhance alertness, reduce fatigue, and improve memory and depressed mental states” (Adaptogens, Winston and Maimes.)  Beneficial for the heart, helpful for regulating blood sugar levels and compromised immune systems.  Life feels a little brighter with this plant on your side.

And then there is…

Ashwagandha~Withania somnifera:  the Hindi name for this plant, asgandh, refers to its horse sweat odor.  This fellow may stink up your kitchen (if you are processing it into medicine) but it will also strengthen your chi like no body’s business.  It is calming plant, yet perfect for perking up a sluggish thyroid gland (suitable for hypo folks, not hyperthyroid.)    Works on anxiety and nervousness.  Good for stress-induced insomnia.  I love this plant for how strong it makes me feel…just a small dose once or twice a day makes a noticeable difference when I’ve got projects and no one to complete them but me.

Both handsome roots do so much more than I’ve just given them credit for.  They are the tonics of the winter, the quiet yin heart dirt energy.  Root medicine.   I love that we can both be rooted, and take roots into our bodies.

It’s time to get deep…

Deep rootedness, part one…

November 17, 2011

Lately I’ve been thinking a ton about being deeply rooted..being planted, really.

Secret:  there are days when I long to actually be a plant.  It seems to be a more peaceful, predictable experience.  But when sense starts talking again, I realize I am personifying the phyto-experience, and that is the wrong thing to do.  Both humans, plants, and all species are in the same boat when it comes to control.  That is, we have very little.  We respond to our environment, and respond again.   Leaves move to greet the sun and are literally shaped by lack of water or other extreme conditions.  Roots grow directly into sewer pipes when necessary.

While I am a bit fragile in extreme conditions, I can at least water myself.  I won’t forget and die of thirst, thank goodness.

This fall has been full of lots of harvesting and chopping…Yellow Dock, Skullcap, Blue Vervain, just to name a few.  I am learning how to be an herbalist, and  to remember the deeper cycles of things.

For instance:  Guess what?  You have to harvest when the harvest is ready.  You can’t just put it on your to do list and get back to it.  I am reminded of my mom putting up food (tomatoes, green beans, peaches) until the wee hours of the night.  As a child, I was always so amazed at how late she would stay up to get the job done.   Close enough to being a farm girl, she would fret about picking the peas and what to do with all that zucchini.  Poor dear.  I get it now.  Even though I am tired, getting the herbs chopped up and soaking in the alcohol (to make the medicine) is very important to me.  They receive a lot of star energy as I work late at night after my family has gone to bed.

So as I am dwelling on rootedness, and how I am not so good at it, I am cooking up roots.  Pots of them.  Because I’ve had a bad cold, and now I must make medicine for me.  (Roots for rooting.)  I like this…

Hey folks…I’ll be giving an herb walk on Sunday September 18, 2011 10:00-11:30 at the fantastic Alemany Farm, San Francisco:


We’ll be talking about all kinds of nice plants,  most of which are easy to grow in your own backyards.  Learn a handful of simple remedies for enhancing the health of you and your family.  Herbs can be powerful allies in keeping us well as we move into autumn and winter.

We’ll walk and talk about the medicinal plants in the garden and have picnic afterwards.  Please bring a potluck dish to share.  Come discover this amazing urban farm.

Inspiration steeped in fog

August 22, 2011

Well, it’s been ages.  The title of this post is a dead giveaway that my own inspiration seems to be coming and going with the fog here in Northern California.  In and out, not always burning brightly until 3pm, and then only for an hour or so.  Inspiration is a thin, smudged-up hard to open window these days.  Still, it’s a window.

After a frantic early summer, I have literally been head down in the garden, working the dirt and working it some more.  Learning these lessons again and again:  beginnings, leavings, plants gracefully growing and sometimes tragically ending.   Mildewy bud upon mildewy leaf.  Such is the way of the garden, and it is not always easy to accept.  (Like the fog.)

Still, there are glimmers of loveliness and some clear blue skies (which are always a guaranteed inspiration for me.) And of course the fog itself has very important things to offer:

First of all,  a deep and lasting, quiet.  I love how it becomes a buffer for city sounds.  Instant auditory insulation.  Amen.

Then there are the soaked bumblebees early in the morning.  There is something so dearly vulnerable about their damp, slow bodies.  They are a metaphor…we must move slowly through this dense blanket.  Buzzing is for warm days.

With the fog we don’t need to water our gardens as much.  And topical moisture is very nice for the skin.  I know you are appreciating my optimism here, but of course there is a cold side…

When it’s foggy, it feels to me like the world has been turned inside out and we are surrounded by our inner lives.   No more turning from the shadowy side of our existence.  It’s damn foggy.  The fog is in (us)!  It can be spooky sometimes.  Grumbly.  Nurturing.  Either way, it’s always a teachable moment, asking us to take a closer look at ourselves, as we can’t see the nearest (any)thing.

And so, while I work on developing my patented “Fog Suit” (No, I am really not kidding),  I thought in the meantime I would make a fog serum.  Because it never hurts to have a little help from our (plant) friends.   A lovely extract of Lemon balm, St. John’s Wort, and Ashwagandha.  Stamina for the fog, in a bottle.  One ounce is $10.00.  Available in fog-sized quantities, whatever that means to you.  To order call 415.613.7010 or email at wiseleafherbal@gmail.com.   Shipping available.

Photographs by the wonderful Daniel Norris.  Thanks Dr. Dan.