Monthly Archives: March 2014

“Upheaval” Excerpt

I know as “The Herby Lady” I’m supposed to be all about herbs but I’m having fun writing fiction. There’s nothing more satisfying than writing someone you know into a story…and if you don’t like them, writing them out of the story!

That said, I can’t seem to get away from herbs. To prove it, here’s an except from the upcoming Upheaval: Ogre’s Assistant #2:

After lunch, she took me into her greenhouse, both cats following. “I understand Gregory did a lot of energy work with you and what you did at the fight kinda shows that he did. So, I’m not going to focus on that with you right now. The greenhouse is a good place to get you used to plant energy. Let’s start with one of the friendliest I know, peppermint. Focus on the plant and tell me what feelings you get or what your gut tells you.”

I tried not to feel silly when I stared at the plant. But all of a sudden, I got the same feeling like you do when you open the refrigerator door on a hot day – a wash of cool air.

“It’s in the second book but I’ll tell you that means in healing it’ll bring down fevers. For spellwork, I use it if a situation needs “cooling off”. Naturally, it has other uses but generally speaking, the first impression you get is the one where it’ll work best for you.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“For the most part, every plant has more than one medicinal or magical property. The overlap is mind-boggling. So if you need something for a specific situation and you don’t have it, there’s almost always a substitute. Because your energy goes into anything you do, the better your connection with the plant, the easier the work, whether you’re drinking tea for an illness or casting a spell for something.”

I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t get sick so I had no idea about illness – unless you counted the occasional hangover. Ibuprofen and gallons of water healed me there.

Over the next couple of hours, she introduced me to about half the plants she had, some in flats ready to go into the ground when it got warm enough, some that were permanent residents in the greenhouse.

Peppermint wasn’t the only one I got something off of. Basil gave me an image of Martin – it must be good for money; off sage I got a hot, desert-dry wind – drying; mugwort made me giddy but I felt a cocoon surround me – you can get high off it but it’s good for protection; and so on. I wrote all my impressions in my notebook which, according to Cassandra, I’d be transferring to the second binder.

Then there were the plants where no matter how hard I focused, I got nothing. Feverfew? Lavender? One of her ferns? Zip. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “Some are easier than others, and some you’ll never form a true connection with. Just make notes of what I tell you in case you need them for something.” I furiously scribbled.

All of a sudden, I heard Cassandra yell, “Hey!” I looked up from my writing to see her shooing both cats away from a plant in a deep pot. I could see the soil was disturbed and both of them had sheepish looks on their faces.

“You know better,” she chided Merlin. “I’m sorry, I could not help myself,” I heard from Fudge.

She sighed. “I should have known better. They were after the valerian root.”

“Valerian? Is that a form of catnip?” I asked, pen poised to write down her answer.

“No. Believe it or not, some cats don’t like catnip. However, some react to valerian or chamomile in the same way. I knew about Merlin’s affinity for valerian and it appears Fudge has the same love for the herb. Here. Smell this.” She held out a large amber jar with the lid off.

I took a whiff and almost choked. “Eeew. That smells like freshly-worn gym shoes.”

She laughed as she screwed the lid back on. “I know, right? But cats seem to like it. I’ll give you a little in a muslin bag for Fudge to play with once in awhile.”

See? I can do herbs & fiction together! Upheaval: Ogre’s Assistant #2 should be available soon. It’s all done but the cover. In the meantime, Stressed! Ogre’s Assistant #1 is available on virtually all e-book platforms.

I’m Spring Cleaning & You Benefit!

It’s the Spring Equinox here in the northern hemisphere and I have some “cleaning” to do. You see, the publisher of A Green Witch’s Formulary sent me a double order of my books and I have stacks of them in my office.

Because I’m a neat-freak & those stacks bother me, you benefit! From now until Beltane (1st May) or when I run out – whichever comes first, I’ve marked my inventory down to $7.50 instead of $13.95. That means you US folks get an autographed copy shipped to you for less than the cover price! (I can’t easily calculate overseas shipping but I’ll honor this price to you, too!)

Hurry! Supplies, while somewhat plentiful, are limited. Click here to take advantage of my irritation at piles of books in my office!

Adventures with Kyphi

So…you have probably heard of Kyphi. No? Ooh…you’re missing out.

Our friends over at Wikipedia describe Kyphi as “a compound incense that was used in ancient Egypt for religious and medical purposes”. The good folks over at Ancient Egypt Online list four different sources for Kyphi recipes.

Since getting called by an Egyptian god, I figured I ought to do something kinda familiar to him so decided to make a batch of Kyphi. I opted for a modified version of that found in the Harris Papyrus but then … proportions? More rootling around the ‘Net and I found this site where she talks about making Kyphi, complete with proportions.  I modified that a little further to suit my own needs and then made up a shopping list – I’ve been rather lax in keeping my herbal stock up.

Once I had all ingredients in hand, I started in. The first thing to do is grind all the dry ingredients. Oh, not to a powder but awfully fine. (I’m a Virgo. Neatness counts.) I’ll say it here: I didn’t use a mortar & pestle. Grinding resins is a bitch, especially when you’re a little person without much in the way of upper body strength. I have a coffee grinder used solely for grinding herbs. It got a workout.

Problem one: the Frankincense is sticky. It ground up all right – and then immediately stuck to itself. I broke that up as best I could but I still ended up with little perls of it. (Shudder. Not neat.) (I found out later if you freeze resins overnight before grinding, they won’t be nearly as much of a pain. I made a note.)

Dry ingredients in one jar? Check. Wet ingredients in a second jar? Check. Shake both daily, giving loving intentions all the while. Two weeks later…

Problem two: couldn’t find fresh juniper berries so had to use dried. I use dried berries a lot and they generally plump up okay when soaked in a liquid but juniper berries don’t have as much meat as some others & they didn’t quite “plump”. (Makes sense. They’re not actually fruit but seed cones.)

Smoosh the juniper berries & raisins with the rest of the wet ingredients, try to make a smoothie out of it. Again, I prefer modern conveniences: hand mixer instead of elbow grease.

Modern WitchesMostly successful. Combine slightly-lumpy smoothie with kinda-lumpy dry ingredients. Admire subsequent goopy substance.

Dust fingers with powdered benzoin, form the goop into little balls. Dusting didn’t prevent my fingers from looking like those of a toddler eating without utensils. (It’s not too horrible tasting if you lick your fingers. Just sayin’.)

Kyphi Balls

Although I own a dehydrator, I wanted the timing to be “old-fashioned”, so I let my little balls of goop air dry for an additional two weeks.  This is the only advantage I can think of to low humidity in the house. Static electricity be damned – these little guys dried HARD!

Finally, six weeks after I’d decided on the project, my incense was ready to be tested out.  Fired up a charcoal disk in an incense burner, plopped one ball on the disk & waited to be transported by the scent. It did smell heavenly. I’m usually not a fan of sweet scents but the whole combination is sweet/spicy. I can see why the Egyptians concocted this incense.

Kyphi on Charcoal

Problem Three: It’s been a long time since I used combustible incense and now I remember why. Within minutes, my eyes started burning – even sitting at the other end of the house. (I’m a smoker and smoke bothers me. Go figure.) Although it didn’t put out a horrible amount of smoke (the alarm didn’t even cheep), I ended up opening a window in 40°F weather & putting the burner on the sill until it was done.

So, I want to “burn” Kyphi for this guy but can’t handle the smoke. What to do? Enter the oil-warmer, generally used for – what a concept – warming essential oils.

Kyphi in Oil Warmer

I poured a little water in the top of the warmer & plopped another ball of Kyphi in there. The ball melted and as it did, released the scent beautifully without irritating my eyes. It’s a balancing act – you want little enough water that the herb mixture gets good ‘n hot but not so little that it burns & starts smoking. This is my solution. It does leave a goopy residue when it’s done but cleans up easily with hot water. (Now I have to find a suitable, masculine-looking oil warmer. Pink ain’t his color.)

I had so much fun making the Kyphi, I ‘m going to make more. Plus…I’m working on a custom incense blend for a friend. Didn’t like the first combination so try, try again. But oh, it smells so loverly in my shop…!


Ack! Pollen Season…

…started two weeks early this year & caught me unaware. Itchy eyes, itchy skin, a little sneezing (which is bound to get worse if I don’t do something). Of course, it didn’t help that today, the US Forest Service did a controlled burn and smoke permeated the better part of two counties…

It’s time to take more frequent showers to get the pollen off my skin & out of my hair; grab the sterile saline solution* to rinse my eyes; and start drinking three cups per day of a Nettle infusion to combat respiratory reactions to all the pollen.

* Get the stuff made for rinsing contact lenses. It’s less expensive than anything else and works like a charm.