Learn how to take care of yourself with whole foods properly prepared—and herbs. The better self-care you provide, the more lightly you can walk on the planet. Focus especially on foods that are also herbs, such as nettles and dandelion. You can cover more bases that way with fewer inputs.
Learn a thing or two about so-called weeds. There are reasons “weeds” are so prolific and tenacious, all of which, I believe, have to do with their innate will to survive and their intelligence. If I had to, I could probably help to resolve many conditions with the plants in my yard that have come on their own: dandelion, plantain, chickweed, chicory, yellow dock, wild carrot, violet, speedwell, poke, cress, tulip poplar, sweet gum, clover, aster, lamb’s quarters and more.
Make access to the herbs convenient. If your garden and your kitchen are a house apart, put containers closer to your kitchen to grab a pinch or of this that whenever you need.
Infusions, decoctions, tinctures and infused oils leave you with…dregs. Return these to the Earth via your compost pile or indoor worm bin. (I would not put infused-oil dregs in with the worms. If I didn’t have an outdoor bin, I’d find some woods nearby and leave the plant leftovers there.)
Plants can help plants. Make a compost tea out of some favorite nutritious plants, such as nettles, comfrey, even lamb’s quarter. With comfrey, for example, fill a 4-gallon bucket two-thirds full of comfrey leaves and weigh them down with a brick, then fill with water. Let this sit for a couple of weeks. Voila! A stinky, yet effective compost tea, perfect for fruit trees and other heavy feeders.
Hone your sense of what you really need so that you don’t overuse through misuse. Plants have our back, but they also have their own purposes and we respect them when we learn how best to pair them with what we need. Kind of like a good matchmaker, we know our boundaries and we know theirs, so we can tell what kind of relationship we’ll have.
In every season, choose a plant that calls to you to develop a relationship with. This means sitting with a plant for 20 to 30 minutes, spending some of that time drawing it, which allows you to see it and know it better. Then, if possible, take a piece of leaf and hold it in your mouth and meditate on it. This, of course, depends on who the plant is and whether it’s feasible. For example, I would not take a piece of poke leaf or poison ivy and hold it in my mouth, but I would absolutely take a piece of dandelion leaf and do that.
Make an infusion of a plant that calls to you. Take a sip. What’s the flavor? Sweet, salty/minerally, bitter, sour, or acrid? Take another. Notice where it hits on your tongue. Take a third. Where does it go in your body—where do you feel it? And, how does it feel?
Choose a plant you’ve never liked. It could be mimosa or horsetail or English ivy or poison ivy. Spend a little time with it. Try to discover why you don’t like it and what it has to offer you—or not offer you.
Talk to the plants. Or better yet, if you’re extremely grounded and confident, sing to them. They love that!