What’s in the works spring 2024: Well…might as well break the news now!

For the past nearly half a decade, my friends and I have been slowly, (semi-)patiently orienting ourselves to achieve a goal: Move to the woods. A year ago, we did just that.

Goal #2: survive and thrive the rest of our lives and try to help our loved ones and community do the same.

We formed Appalachian Rhizomes, a project to share information, plant seeds and starts, and medicinal preparations in the hopes of expanding medicinal plant access–and as a way to help others in establishing medicinal plant gardens as a means of conservation through cultivation (although, that term doesn’t really feel like it suits me…conservation through ecological participation?) and community-scale resiliency in the face of climate collapse; a medicinal counterpart to many radical food forest projects. There’s currently a limited wordpress site, buuuuuut I’ll be honest I’m a pretty lousy Online Presence Coordinator (or whatever) & somehow managed to lose every piece of log in info to update it for this year, so, I’m working on building a nicer real website that will be released Sometime This Summer. Educational resources we’ll have available in the near future include a reading list of all the books that have been most helpful to us in preparing for and making this lifestyle change, as well as hopefully some abbreviated articles and how-to’s for stuff we’ve decided you really don’t need to read a whole book for (like building a composting toilet!). Long term, we’re working on compiling a field guide. It’s been a frustration for a long time that there are incredible, herbalist-made guides for the west coast by authors like Michael Moore and more recently Scott Kloos, but similar guides are nonexistant for our region…So i guess, we’re doing it. The current plan is to build an online resource with a similar format to rjwhelan.co.nz, with articles compiled from other herbalists’ accounts, any extant (usually very exploratory) scientific information, and our own personal experiences as we get to know more of the herbs in our area; and eventually publish those articles as a print resource.

The other thing we’re doing is…starting a business.

The plan is to start selling tinctures and other herbal products made from plants that are plentiful and responsibly harvestable here as well as some grown in our garden space; marketed towards folks who are already in the habit of buying tinctures from big-name brands like mountain rose, herb pharm, etc. We will be able to offer a lower price-per-ounce than most industrial herbal suppliers. We’re on track to launch this Fall with a slightly limited catalog including oft-pricey (& difficult to ethically source) favorites like goldenseal, garden classics like fresh-prepared lemon balm, as well as harder-to-find & lesser known friends like pedicularis; and we’ll be expanding our catalog to include medicinal mushrooms and other exciting offerings once the seeds we’ve sown have a chance to become established (some figurative, most literal). I was thinking about doing print catalogs, maybe with illustrations and a bit of trivia or poetry like Strictly Medicinals Seeds does–is that nuts or a good idea? I don’t want to deal with accepting orders by mail but I always prefer to shop for herbs with a paper thing in front of me that I can browse and then order online once I know what I’m getting. Anyway.

We’re doing this because, unfortunately, we currently live in a world where money is an important resource (duh). While we have the massive privilege of access to a space that doesn’t require rent to occupy, we live in an extremely rural area where jobs are scarce and the ones that do exist suck shit–which means living here requires either a dedication to becoming a mountain hermit for the foreseeable future, or access to savings, a well-paying online job, or locally-desirable professional qualifications and the ability to do those jobs without being untenably miserable. This applies to me as much as it does any of our precariously-housed or perpetually at-risk friends & community members we hope to be a more effective safety net for. I love my practice, I don’t plan on shutting it down, but relying on it as a sole source of income is pretty terrible for my mental health considering a large part of this as a job in the current landscape of the internet is being a small time public figure (and i make like, less than two bucks an hour if you count writing hours as something that should be paid–oof). Having a job that is tied to living here lets us be more secure, as well as act as a more reasonable safety net in our community where people have the option of leaving with more than they came with.

We had considered for a long time working within the medicinal herb supply chain as non-public facing farmers; and quickly learned that the margins on that are Actually Terrible and any reasonable income would require unsustainable and deeply harmful harvesting practices. No fucking thanks. By launching our own brand, we can make a lot more per pound of harvested plant material and be offering stuff made to our own standards and have it still be cheaper; and generate funding for a project I’m entirely more enthusiastic about.

Under the Appalachian Rhizomes banner, we are hoping to within the next year begin donating large amounts of herbal preparations to mutual aid crews in our general region; as well as offering customized hands-on training for folks that would like to skill up as mutual aid herbalists. The ideal version of this project is, well, rhizomatic; providing folks with training and supplies to get started while facilitating their own development of community-based herb growing projects. I’ve already made some connects with a few people we might be supporting in this way; but for the most part info about this (& how to get looped in) will be released in the fall and projects really under way as we have more time in the winter post-harvest season and business launch.

Other Stuff!

In addition to collaborating with the crew on the business scheming, Appalachian Rhizomes projects, and the general work it takes to live here, I’ve been putting together plenty of other stuff as well!

Life Skills Unschool

I know a large number of parents & other caretakers of children these days who are anxious about how to have conversations about ecological collapse with their kids, and worried that they don’t know how to prepare their kids for a life where many modern conveniences may become unavailable (due to supply chain collapse, economic failure, or both). As someone with a fair bit of experience in these skills as well as exposure to a lot of the varying spectrum of “outdoors” or self-sufficiency educational materials geared at children, I wanted to make something that covered practical skill introduction and a radical collapse-aware lens for kids and grownups alike; taking the form of a zine called “eco life skills for kids and grownups”.

Since I’m busy as hell and take forever to finish large projects, I’ve started releasing the projects and articles in the zine via a free substack called Life Skills Unschool as I complete them.

Fight the Hatman and Win

The other draft I’m slowly chipping away at is a zine aimed at students and shift workers called “Fight the Hatman and Win: Herbal Remedies for Sleep”. (I thought of the name while drunk and everyone I told it to said I needed to keep it, so. There will be an anime hatman on the cover.) This is a beginner-friendly guide to using herbalism for sleep issues, based on the frameworks I’ve built up in my own practice over the years.

This, too, will take a while to come out, so I’m considering hosting a one-off workshop called something like “Herbal support for persistent and resistant sleep trouble” (catchy, I know) with an abridged version of the zine content that’s more geared towards herbalists with more experience.

Fun with jewelweed

I’ve also just been having a lot of fun with jewelweed lately. It’s an extremely abundant herb in our area; and it’s finally big enough to harvest and try out some schemes I came up with over the winter. Jewelweed needs to be fresh to work well and doesn’t really seem all that oil soluble (my friend makes salves with it that they’re happy with, but honestly it’s not my bag–it ends up spoiling very quickly because there necessarily has to be a lot of water in the oil and I just really don’t feel like it’s that potent.) It’s also juicy, so i’ve been, well, juicing it–crushing the plant material, adding about 60% weight to volume rubbing alcohol, blending, and pressing the same day. We’ve been using it as a skin spray to deal with itchy/irritated skin while working on garden projects and prevent poison ivy. It makes a really lovely slimey liquid that helps a lot with bug bites, and the plant properties combined with the high alcohol content make for a super cooling and refreshing sensory experience. I’m going to be playing around with using the juice as the waters in creams and lotions, and I’m very excited about that.

On we go…

Frankly, I’ve been really exhausted and depressed lately…which makes it strange that I’ve been able to keep up with a fairly unprecedented level of consistent productivity for months now. I’m very used to being miserable, but I’m not used to being tired, sad, anxious, and… fine? Functional, noncatestrophic, generally happy with my life, and feeling like the day to day sludge is somehow fundamentally worth it because I like who and where I am now. Wild, huh? We’ll see where this goes.

What’s In the Works: march 2022

Writing sucks, mostly.

philosophical revamp

I mostly haven’t been up to very much that’s public-facing because of a major problem with my work–i’ve drifted away from my values.

A few weeks ago I posted this instagram story:

I am currently in the process of developing a manifesto and rewriting my website copy in order to align better with these ideals.

And it is exhausting. I don’t like theory. I don’t like writing it, I don’t like reading it–I build my worldview primarily off conversations with the people around me and that’s a-ok with me. However, as the piece I’ve started from scratch five times now states, I’ve gotten to a point where it’s very important to me to actually communicate what I’m about and where I’m coming from.

Teasing new projects

The MOST frustrating part of trying to write a manifesto is that there’s an offering I’ve been developing in secret (with the help of a dear comrade) that I am SO thrilled about; but I feel like I need to keep the project on hold until I have my own issues worked out 🙁 Hopefully, I’ll be able to announce it in the next few weeks.

AAFH waitlist, I guess?

Interest in hardcopies of An Anarchist Free Herbal is ticking up again, aaaand I’m actually out, so I’ve made an appointment at the printer’s and am currently running a waitlist.

…not to mention the current itch.io analytics which make my heart flutter in my ears.

If you want to join the waitlist, just shoot me an email with your address! I should get copies out mid april.

Practitioner workshop

Aaaand since this post seems to be all about projects that feel like they’re in a perpetual state of unfinishedness, I’ve logged a good handful of hours this month working on the practitioner version of the herbal emotional support and regulation workshop.

The pilot session is still well over a year away–not only am I taking my sweet sweet time with it, but I want to open registration at least six months before the first session due to both the time commitment and prerequisites.

While subject to change, my current plans are for a six-week class, with 2hr sessions and 1-2 hours of homework every week. I strongly believe that any radical practice of herbalism HAS to be deeply rooted in personal experience, so some form of prior experience with self-regulated, autonomous herbal/chemical emotional support is required–which is why I want to offer a few sessions of the individual workshop out ahead of time, to help people fulfill that requirement.

The practitioner class will focus a lot more on research and communication skills instead of offering an out-of-the-box framework–I’ll guide participants through building their own materia medica and practicing non-hierarchical consultation.

And I think that’s about it that I’ve been up to. The sun is coming back, things are looking up… and I just have to finish writing this damn essay.

What’s in the works: February 2022, or: A lesson in creating backups

Yeaaaaah…. Hi y’all.

Some variety of catastrophic failure befell my website, ending in me having to reinstall WordPress entirely…and, uh. I never backed up my damn posts. Luckily, this site was pretty new, and the only thing I really lost was my post about Oxymels, which I will recreate at some point.

We’re due for a what’s in the works, though, so what better time to rebuild!

Winter 2022 herbal emotional support & Regulation workshop

As of earlier today, we wrapped the winter session of the herbal emotional support & regulation workshop! It was lovely. I will likely write a reflection post in the coming days.

self-check guide (1.0)

Finally finally finally, I am releasing the self-check guide I’ve been working on since December. Here is the post with a PDF.

I feel the slightest bit conflicted about releasing this piece, honestly. I think it’s better than it used to be, for sure, and enough people have asked me for it that I feel like it’s the right choice to release it instead of sit on it for another few months, but at the same time I worry. Self-policing is an issue I don’t think is taken seriously enough, and I have major concerns about presenting to the world half-cocked practices that give a veneer of mad liberation but fail to actually dismantle the ideas that western psych rests on.

Suffice to say, new and updated versions will be coming.

Summer planning

Extremely excitingly, I will be spending the summer on a breathtaking patch of land in the Appalachian mountains, re-establishing and encouraging native plants (including a breathtaking array of woodland medicinals), and building trails and… well… a whole-ass cabin.

Internet privacy and good sense dictates I not share too much about this project, but I am so, so, so thrilled. I have never tended a garden I knew would still be there in a year, much less potentially lasting for generations, and to do so surrounded by friends (human and otherwise) is the greatest honor I can think of.

A lot of my plans are heavily dependent on site assessments, and considering I’m 2k+ miles away at the moment it’s been difficult. I’ve done quite a lot of research though, and there’s tons more to learn before I return to the holler.

For the cabin we (my compatriots and I) and building, we’ve decided to go UNDERGROUND–this is because 1) There is no flat land that doesn’t flood in the holler and 2) I’m heading up this particular construction project and I would rather dig than fuck with trying to build level above-ground platform. This will be the first permanent structure on the land, and it’ll basically just be a big kitchen–massive stone fireplace included :Hearteyes:. The Fifty Dollar and Up Underground House book by Mike Oehler and Chris Royer (link) has been a fascinating starting point. Despite being sexist as fuck and having the worst opinions about carpet on god’s green earth, this book has some really valuable insight about eliminating the drainage problems of underground houses. I’m especially excited about the construction method they suggest, which incorporates terraced gardens and as much grow-able outdoors space as indoor space.

The main goal on the land is forest gardening, but having some easy-to-access more developed space as a nursery and for growing food close to the kitchen will greatly lower the energy needed for long-term occupancy.

Ideally, I’ll be able to finish the cabin at the beginning of fall, in time for fall seed sowing. Even if the terrace gardens aren’t finished, I’ll be getting native ginseng sowed in the forest this fall so-help-me-god in order to repopulate the area that has been wracked from decades of overharvesting. Other exciting plants on the list include wild columbines, maypop and wild yams snaking up the terraces, and wood betony (a hemiparasitic plant) interplanted with the native sedges that are going in as structural support for the terraces and cabin roof.


Is it worth this kind of update? Probably not. But I’ve been wanting a hori hori for months and FINALLY got one, so I wanted to share.