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Archive for November, 2014

A Slo-Tech Methodology

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Amaranth harvested from the 3rd grade garden at PWS.

Last summer I hunkered down and had a heart-to-heart with my work. What was I doing? Where was I going? What was my passion?

After much soul searching I realized what mattered most were the plants. Everything I did involved a plant that was either wild or wild grown in my garden back in LA. Whether extracting for medicine, nourishment or beauty, whatever I did always started with a plant. I realized I loved being the conduit between a living entity and the end result, where everything would pass through my hands. No mechanisms or special equipment needed, no computers or complex infrastructure, just a willingness to observe, explore, research and experiment.

It didn’t always work out. For years I experimented with making paper. Taking the discarded portions of the plants I had harvested and converting them to pulp. What ended up was often a moldy mess, but I never despaired, knowing in my heart that when the time was right, the correct methodology would emerge. I recognized a pattern emerging that involved a slow, laborious and intentionally low tech approach that I coined “Slo-Tech”. It informed all of my work, from the smallest detail to the big picture.

The computer era missed me by a hair. My formative years as an architecture student involved learning how to draw by hand and build models. But when I entered the work force, the tables were turned and I found myself scrambling to learn how to produce on a machine. I slogged away for years in a profession that increasingly distanced makers from their work, all the while yearning for a hands on approach. When I first started gathering plants, I didn’t know it would lead to such a massive change, but it did. I swapped that mouse track for a plant and have not looked back since!

How are YOU reaping what you sow?

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Foraged Plants

Wild plants have so much to offer; drawing energy from the sun and nutrients from the soil they harness it mysteriously to provide us with complete nourishment. These are gifts that we can gather free of charge. All we need to know is how identify, when to harvest and how to use, while never forgetting to offer thanks.

In all the years that I have worked with wild botanicals for food, medicine, beauty and art, one of my constants has been foraging plants for facials. You pick, you prepare it, you benefit from its immediate freshness.

Field

It’s late summer in the Hudson Valley and the fields are bursting with plants that have already gone to seed as well as those that are just beginning to bloom. From this crowded jumble one can pick out several beauties for a steam including wild raspberry leaf, wild strawberry leaf (both astringent), mint (stimulating), red clover (soothing), wild carrot flower (cleansing), wild evening primrose flower (hydrating). It’s always a good idea to include an aromatic plant in the mix since the volatile oils stimulate the skin and clear the lungs. It’s also important to select plants that are safe (i.e. no poison ivy or oak!). Just a couple of handfuls of plant material is enough. Fill the pot with water, secure a lid and bring it to boil slowly, allowing it to simmer a few minutes.

Steamed Plants

When the plants have wilted, place your pot on a low table (on a trivet), drape a large towel over your head to make a tent. Slowly open the lid releasing the steam gradually so it fills your tent. You don’t want to scorch your face so just hang out over the pot for about 10 minutes, turning your face and neck so all of your pores open up. I generally stop when I feel like my face is “sweaty”.

Raspberry Mush

Quickly pat off the moisture with your towel and proceed to apply your mask, in this case a simple wild raspberry, raw honey and ground oatmeal mush (very tasty) whipped up in a food processor. The fruit has enzymes that gently soften and break down dead skin cells, the honey is a humectant and the oatmeal soothes. Leave your mask on for at least 15 minutes. I like to scrape off the blobs with a blunt palette knife. I then gently rub to release the gummy leftovers. This is what the French call a “gommage doux”.

Raspberry Mask

Finally, I strain out the steam water and use that to rinse my face. Pat dry and apply a moisturizer and you’re good to go!

Some other safe botanicals you can use include: plantain (soothing), self heal (healing), blackberry leaf (astringent), dandelion leaf or flower.

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