This blog informs you about upcoming workshops or retreats at Emerald Mountain Sanctuary along with seasonal events, here in the mountains of Virginia – perhaps a precious wildflower just in bloom, a meadow lark nest, a salamander down by the pond, or freshly picked produce from the gardens. Occasionally, we’ll review or link to posts by other authors about nature- and retreat-related themes. If you click on the “Follow” button below, you’ll be notified by e-mail about new posts, so you won’t miss anything. You can also stay in touch by “liking” our Facebook page.
2023 Foraging Classes
Please note: we added additional foraging classes on July 29 and September 30, 2023 because the ones listed in the flyer below are full.
Fall Foraging Class
The final foraging class for the 2022 season is scheduled for Sept. 24.
Fall foraging focuses on berries, nuts, roots, and other goodies only available this time of year.
Foraging Classes 2022
Launching 2021 Wild Ember Sparking
Are YOU working on a long-term project? Then you know the challenges of remaining committed, of facing the inevitable questions of purpose and worth, the need for continuous inspiration and ability to tap into your creative process.
I am thrilled to announce the 2021 Creative Project Coaching workshop, Wild Ember Sparking. This monthly workshop series runs from March through October and assists you in getting your creative project started and supports your ongoing project. Learn the techniques you need to dive deeper into your creative process and get the work done.
We are now fully online enabling participation from almost anywhere in the world.
If you are curious, please check out the details:
You can also sign up for a free newsletter there and receive a PDF download with interactive nature exercises that will spark your creativity.
Hiding Inside the Soil: Winter Food
You can still forage for food, even in the middle of winter!
It is hard to believe that this time of year, after the ground has frozen and re-frozen for months, and was smothered with snow for most of winter, that there would be anything left that would qualify as food.
And yet, during the spring-like weather last week, I dug up my Jerusalem Artichoke patch. Not because I really needed it for food, but because I wanted to be reminded of the true nature of soil: that alive, crumbly substance that is womb to most of our real food. And, because I had promised a friend that I would dig up some of the tubers for her so she could start her own wild food production.
You wouldn’t think that under these dried up stalks, there’d be anything left to harvest.
These particular stalks were about 6 feet tall but they can grow to 8 or 10 feet in…
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The Hummingbird’s Gifts
This is my farewell post of appreciation to the hummingbirds as they’ll be leaving for their long journey South very soon.
What the hummingbird brings:
- Delight when you first appear in late April. You bring the promise of spring and lively movement and sounds on my porch.
- Oh, the sounds: chattering and chittering, when you announce your presence; hissing, whistling and screeching when you attack a competitor.
- You move so fast, cutting through the air like a missile. Sometimes you hover around my head. Are you as curious about me as I am about you? Very, very rarely, I see you perched somewhere, for a few short moments.
- When you attack the others with your dagger beak, sometimes stabbing them in their belly, I want to tell you that there’s enough for everyone.
- I clean and refill the feeder for you and grow the flowers you like so much: orange jewelweed, pink delphinium, lavender hosta, magenta phlox, and the red flag of canna lily.
- You move so fast, cutting through the…
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Transformation in the Woods
As part of our Forest Bathing tours, we also work with symbolism.
I saw the standing deadwood from a distance. It was a giant tree trunk jutting high into the air. Something was dangling from it, swaying lightly in the breeze. Too soft and fabric-like to be peeling bark, I decided.
Walking closer now, my breath caught and I stood frozen in awe the moment I recognized the largest snake skin I had ever seen. Transfixed, I looked up at the thin membrane dangling like an exotic scarf from a height of about 10 feet. My next thought turned to the owner of the skin, probably a black snake that must be living somewhere around the tree roots. I looked around cautiously, not wanting to accidentally step on a monster snake.
At the same time, my mind kept chanting one word over and over: “Transformation, transformation.”
My heart beat a little faster. I knew this was the snake’s message to me. Spring…
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Creative Spark Workshop 2020
This is our second annual Creative Spark workshop series. Last year, several participants worked on long-term writing projects, others developed and implemented business ideas.
Each monthly meeting includes: a short lecture on an aspect of the creative process, a fun project to get your creative juices flowing, sharing your progress during the past month and receiving feedback from the group (if desired), and developing action steps for the upcoming month.
We keep in touch through weekly progress notes in between our monthly meetings.
What some of last year’s participants said:
“I was in a writing slump and now I’m not. That means everything. Plus I feel braver.” YS
“I developed better focus and motivation and increased my self-knowledge.” AM
“I liked having a sense of community and knowing I wasn’t alone in struggling to see my vision come to life.” AP
Is 2020 the year you finally commit to YOUR creative vision?
Now, at the end of May, the air is fragrant with the delicate floral aroma of black locust blossoms.
Black locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) are well known for the durability of their wood; not everyone knows that their creamy white blossoms are edible. Eaten fresh, they have an unmistakable pea-like taste. I have made fritters with them in the past, and baked them into cakes or breads.
If you are lucky to come across some low-hanging blossoms, you can quickly harvest a substantial amount. Don’t they look playful and even a bit romantic?
I make a hot tea by simmering the blossoms in hot water, then straining the blossoms out and adding honey or sugar. A soothing tea on cool, rainy evenings. The tea can also be chilled and enjoyed as a refreshing lemonade.
Two other wild foods that required a bit more effort to harvest today were red clover (Trifolium pratense) and lyre-leaf sage (Salvia lyrata). Because my husband was going to mow our front field, I did a walk-through to see if there was anything I wanted to rescue first. I found lyre-leaf sage growing in abundance and red clover showing its first blooms.
Salvia Lyrata is a medicinal and edible herb. It can be used as a gargle to treat sore throat and mouth infections. A warm infusion serves as a laxative, eases colds and coughs and calms a nervous person. Young leaves can also be added fresh to salads or cooked as a pot herb.
Red clover has a long history of uses. Considered a blood “purifier,” it has been used in alternative anti-cancer treatments. It is a blood thinner, and a pain reliever for skin conditions. Red clover also has a high concentration of phytoestrogens and contains anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory components. While red clover’s medicinal use is best left to qualified health professionals, a gentle cleansing tea from its flowers can probably be enjoyed by most.
I am dehydrating both the lyre-leaf sage and red clover I collected today to add them to my home apothecary for later use.
If you plan to visit Highland County, VA and would like to participate in a “Backyard Foraging” tour, contact me here.
I met her there, at the edge of the large meadow,
deeply rooted and
spreading her shade wide.
She is old, so old.
Still, she stands her ground and beckons to
those who will sit with her.
Like the Buddha head nestled against her roots,
she is a faithful witness to the beginning of time.
A stony witness to change through
loss of leaves, loss of limbs, loss of youth.
Still, she persists,
a timeless guardian
refuge, shade, solace, counsel
without expecting reward.
Take it or leave it.
If you would like to experience a connection with a tree, find one and visit it frequently. Sit quietly, observe without expectation, breathe, journal. The tree will tell you stories. I invite people to find “their” tree on our guided forest bathing walks.