Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spring is here. 
Here are some things from the last few days
blending work and play

infusing neighbourhood dandelion, cherry and plum blossom vinegars

while looking for a spot to pee...

working in a pond, there was a little birdie hanging around, and then I came across this sweet scene in the middle of the cattail stand. Realizing I may be causing this sparrow some worry, I stepped away for lunch to let her feel safe and sit

and then some butter-sauteed cattail shoots as part of the evening's supper

when you embrace the health-supprting offerings of our local "weeds"
 open your palate to their wild flavours 
instead of despair
the sight of them brings joy:
burdock root for tomorrow's supper

"blending work and play"
... which is which?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

  Spring is here, i notice the brown water pooling in the bathroom sink as I wash hands after a day in the garden, and welcome the first forearm rash of the season, 
and I look forward to all this year brings                   

                     burn me
                     burr me
                     bite into me
           in my tangles
              and prick me
                     stain me
       with my senses
                     rough up my skin
              and dye
                    my hands
                    steal my breath
                      morning air
                    sneak into my house
                    fall over me
                    and after it all
                    embrace my body
                      icy river

          this is life
   and i am alive

Monday, March 27, 2017

IMG 1730

After an afternoon in the shop, tools are tuned, sharpened, and oiled - ready to get the season going after a long and snowy winter!
Contact me to talk spring clean-ups, garden maintenance and plans for the 2017 growing year.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I'm looking forward to hosting this experiential workshop about Evergreen Trees and Infused Honey:

Ever-giving Evergreen Honeys, from Forest to Kitchen
A Plant Walk and Infused Honey Workshop 

Evergreen-infused honeys are bright, surprising and uplifiting for both the palate and spirit, and great medicine to boot! 

This workshop will begin with a plant walk in a Nelson forest where we meet our local conifers. We will learn to identify the different trees, as well as indulge in their raw scents, tastes and textures.

Everyone will harvest a branch or two of their choosing and we will then gather indoors where I will guide you in creating your evergreen-infused honey, and we will cover tips for infusing,decanting and enjoying, as well as Evergreen Medicine.

Honey-making supplies are included and tea will be be served.

in case the poster is a bit small to read, here are the pertinent details:

-Sunday, March 19 2017, 10am-1pm, rain or shine
-Meet at Nelson Memorial Cemetery gates at the top of Falls St (2300 block)
-$35 includes Plant Walk, Infused Honey Workshop and all supplies to make your honey
*maximum 10 participants
*pre-registration and payment (by e-transfer or cash in person) required

contact me for more info or to register

Monday, April 25, 2016

Garden Understories is now based in Nelson BC!

Ahhhh, Wowie. My family moved to Nelson BC early this year and I'm so happy to say my gardening services are now available here. I am offering the same garden work and play (listening to nature, permaculture inspired, soil building, silent and human powered,  mulch heavy...), except that my beloved trailer, built with scavenged materials around our former home in east Vancouver, did not make the trip. So I'll be travelling by foot or car. You can have a look at the Services page to read more about what I offer. Reach me at 250 505 4403 or email if you might like some help in your garden this year. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

This Sunday November 22, I'm looking forward to hosting a free workshop: Introduction to Urban Foraging, at the Hastings Community Centre in Vancouver. These workshops are fun and informative conversations about some of our most common "weeds". They are packed with info about the plants, what they offer, and how you can get to know them and bring them into your life. I choose plants that are seasonal and in everyone's neighbourhood, so people feel confident begin wildcrafting as soon as they leave. There will be samples of tea, vinegars, food and even tinctures, as well as a little booklet to take home. Join us for some lively discussion and inspiration!

Sunday, November 22, from 11-1. Meet at Room 9, Hastings Community Centre, 3096 East Hastings Street, Vancouver. This workshop will be indoors and outdoors, so please dress appropriately!
Registration Required - Please email me at
or call 604 202 9755

Friday, April 17, 2015

Delicate and delicious, lush green colonies of Stellaria media ("among little stars") can still be found throughout Vancouver. Here's an introduction to this wonderful little "weed"...

ID: Chickweed has teardrop shaped leaves with pointed tips and little white flowers. The flowers appear to have ten petals but upon closer examination they are actually five very deeply cleft petals... little stars. Its stems are densely branched. If growing alone, it spreads out close to the ground; if growing among other chickweed plants, they support each other enough to appear upright.  

Chickweed has two defining characteristics: The first is if you carefully break a stem apart, you will reveal an elastic inner core (remind me to update with a photo of this). The second is that the plant is hairless, save for a single line of hairs travelling down each stem. This line of hairs changes position between each leaf node.

LOOK-ALIKES: Mouse-Eared Chickweed looks very similar, except it's hairy all over. You can eat this one too, but probably want to cook it first .

Scarlet Pimpernel is considered poisonous and looks and grows just like Chickweed except it has: a square stem, no hair, dark spots on underside of leaves and reddish flowers. Also, if you perform the elastic inner core test, this plant will fail. I have yet to encounter Ms. Pimpernel in Vancouver.

FIND IT: Chickweed loves the cool moisture of late winter. It has a great flush around this time in Vancouver, and dense colonies seem to sprout up out of nowhere. You can still find it a bit later in the season in fertile well drained soil if the area is moist and somewhat shaded, but many exposed patches will have yellowed and dried up by this time. But not to worry, there will be another flush with the cool rain of autumn. I've still been finding nice patches at the base of large trees in parks and boulevards around the city.

HARVEST & PROCESS: Snip off the top 1 to 2 inches of the plant; any further down and it may get a bit too stringy to enjoy. I always do a little taste on site test for characteristics like bitterness (chickweed isn't bitter) and stringiness. 

At home, wash in a sink-full of cold water  

and pick out the inevitable bits of grass and other plants.
This can also be an opportunity to check for lookalikes in your harvest. Although this process may seem tedious, it can actually be quite meditative, and you'll really get to know these little starry plants as you sort through them, which will help you find them in future.

FOOD: Chickweed is full of vitamins and minerals, all of which I am not going to list here this time around. It's mild tasting and makes a great base for salads. It can also be used on sandwiches or anywhere you would use sprouts. It can be made into pesto, and also cooked into dishes (add just a couple minutes before turning off the heat). Some people liken its taste to corn silk.

Chickweed (and some dandelion) ready for our salad tonight:

MEDICINE:  If you associate chickweed with cool, starry nights (the star-shaped flowers), you will easily remember when to use it. It grows in cool, moist conditions, and passes these qualities to us - helping with hot, dry inflammation and irritation (especially itchy skin conditions) Poultices, salves and teas are some easy ways to use Chickweed.

As if food and medicine weren't enough reason to encourage a patch of chickweed in your garden, it is one of the most important forage plants for birds (it's called chickweed, after all), and a nitrogen fixer to boot!

I will be hosting workshops in Vancouver featuring Chick and other Weeds in the next month. Details will follow...

Some references:

Don Ollsin - (my herbal teacher, check him out!)Pathways to Healing, A Guide to Herbs, Ayurveda, Dreambody and Shamanism by Don Ollsin
Healing Wise by Susun Weed
Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas