Category Archives: WILDCRAFTING

Sweet Fern

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47dc-4fae-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.rThe fragrance of Sweet Fern after a summer rain is unmistakable. It’s as if somebody peppered the very air with an exotic spice. Fresh and refreshing are the words that spring to mind each time I breath in the aroma of this versatile plant.

Once you know that Sweet Fern (Compton Peragrina) is cousin to Bayberry (Myrica cerifera),  you begin to understand the lure of this lesser known member of the Myricaceae family.

Also known as Meadow Fern, and Spleenwort Bush, the plant is not a fern at all, but a deciduous shrub. It grows in rocky, sandy habitats, often on sunny hillsides along roadways. It reaches a height of two to three feet. Sweet Fern was a well used medicinal remedy among Native American tribes.

As a flower essence, Sweet Fern opens energy channels, making it an important component in my Energy Healer blend, along with Lilac to reconnect deep memories, and Lady’s Mantle to imbue Mother Earth’s nurturance.

The blossoms of the Sweet Fern are small. They can be easily missed when they present in late spring. There are male catkins and female, cone-like buds. Pollinated buds burst into a tiny fruit, or more correctly seed pod.Seed PodIt’s late in the season to be seeing the bright green seed satellites with their spiky hulls, especially this year, with the unusually high temperatures and drought like conditions we’ve been experiencing in the western Lake Superior basin, but I spied a few on my morning walk today.Brewing

Since I’m running low on last years stock of Sweet Fern essence, I decided to give it a go with the fruits of the plant. After all, the theory behind flower essence is that the plant’s vital energy is primarily in the blossom, and at it’s height in early morning. It seems to follow that the same would be true of the fruits and seeds—the progeny of the blossoms and method of procreating the plant. I’ll be sure to let you know how it works out.

Bottled Sweet Fern Stock Essence

Sweet Fern is a very versatile plant medicine. All parts of the plant can be utilized in many different forms. You’ll find loads of information and uses with a simple search.

Normally after I’ve bottled up my stock solution, I use the mother essence to water my houseplants. This time I’m saving it to add to a weak infusion of the leaves, which I’ll cut using sterile water. I want to try it as an astringent eyewash.

Finally, I’m going to harvest the leaves to dry in bundles along with my prairie sage to use as a smudge.



I spent a few very pleasant hours this sunny autumn afternoon grounding myself in nature. It’s something I don’t do as often as I’d like, or should. If only I would remember how good it is for me to get away from my work/the tech screens and out of my head.

Being outside, whether rain or shine, working or playing, draws my energy back down into my body, to my lower chakras. It reminds me that I am a spiritual being very much captive in a limited human form. The limitations mean I need rest, I need reconnection with my source energy. I need to ground.

Today I spent my time outdoors harvesting herbs from my garden gone wild—mint, culinary sage and native prairie sage, gently cleaning them, stripping any browned or spotted leaves and layering the best of my crop into my drying basket.


My back porch makes the perfect drying room, facing the south and west it gets toasty warm in the late afternoon. The two exterior walls are brick, so it holds the heat for hours after dusk. With only one window out of range of any direct sunlight, the herbs can dry naturally on top of the high wardrobe without any discoloration caused by oxidation.

My back porch smells sooooo good, spicy and savory scents filling the 10×10 space. Dried Bee Balm and Mint

There was a previous crop of mint and bee balm in the basket all dried and waiting to be bottled. I can’t explain why I derive so much joy from seeing these natural, organically grown herbs filling up baskets, coffee filters and jars, but I suspect it comes from active connection to the web of life.

It’s magical, when you think about it. Shoots poking up through the dirt from scattered seeds or roots that laid dormant through a frigid northern winter. Coming to life, reaching for the light, budding, flowering and, eventually, dying back again. There is comfort in knowing they will return and live again next year.

The cycle of life, the manifestation of energy transformed through seasons.

Connecting with nature helps me internalize and accept the Five Remembrances:

am of the nature to grow old.
There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill-health.
There is no way to escape having ill-health.

I am of the nature to die.
There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love
are of the nature to change.
There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.

 – Buddha

At face value, I suppose those words can be quite depressing, but their truth is inevitable. I am like the herbs I harvest and forage, here for a time, vital when conditions are favorable, but time passes and so it behooves me to stay present and enjoy the now.

A dear friend passed away earlier this week after first beating cancer several years ago, but then being stricken by Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. It was a long but valiant leaving; I don’t believe I ever saw him without a smile on his face and a cheerful disposition at the ready. I’m sure he had difficult moments and moments when he was being difficult, but in the loving care of his wife he continued to enjoy social engagement to the last. I’m guessing he didn’t waste time worrying about what was to come, but endeavored to stay grounded in the present.

He is now transformed; his spirit is free of the body that progressively limited his final years. He lives on in the memory of his wife and sons, his grandchildren, father and brother and his many friends.

Rest in Peace Mikey. May your spirit soar and your memory be eternal.

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This Ain’t Witchcraft. It’s Wildcraft.

Wildcraft or Witchcraft? This explanation from Anna Wess at Appalachian Ink is the most eloquent and accurate I’ve ever read. Enjoy the beauty of her words.

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