Mason is our Events & Outreach Coordinator at Mountain Rose Herbs. Eugene born and raised, he found an early interest in nutrition which eventually brought him to the world of herbalism. Mason attends fun events in the community and brings back the stories so we can experience them too…
A few weeks ago I had the fortune of attending one of the classic herb gatherings of the Northwest, the Breitenbush Herbal Conference. Not only did Mountain Rose Herbs sponsor the event, we also had an info table complete with free herbal goodies and the popular tincture bar! It’s always great to connect with so many herb enthusiasts, and to get their feedback in person. I was accompanied by our Domestic Farms Representative, Mary Woodruff. She was great to have around because she’s tons of fun and super knowledgeable about our organic herbs, especially the locally grown ones.
This year was the 26th annual event, and the theme was Community Herbalism: Radical Roots and New Awakenings. Cascade Anderson Geller was our keynote speaker; she gave a wonderful and empowering speech to get the festivities started during the opening circle titled, All that Falls Shall Rise Again - Why Herb Folk Flourish in the 21st Century. She treated us to an entertaining, informative, and inspirational slideshow, and capped off the slideshow with pictures from the early days of the conference, showing Rosemary Gladstar, Christopher Hobbs, and Kathi Keville, among others. It was really interesting to see and hear how it all began, and it was an honor to be a part of such an amazing tradition.
Besides the opportunity to soak in some of the most beautiful hot springs I’ve ever visited, and being surrounded by the awesome natural beauty of the forest, the part of the conference I was really looking forward to was of course, the classes! Although it was difficult to decide, I had my entire schedule laid out before I even arrived.
The first class that I attended was the intensive, Recipes For Rebuilding: How to Combine the Powers of Live-Cultured Fermented Veggies and Herbal Medicine for Deep Healing, presented by the delightful Summer Bock. I've made sauerkraut a few times, but that's the extent of my fermentation experience, so I benefited greatly from taking this course which covered using veggies and tonic herbs like nettles for a probiotic boost. Summer also gave us some delicious samples of her sauerkraut to try for ourselves. They were incredible! If you ever have an opportunity to take her class, do it!
What’s better than attending an herb walk by a renowned herbalist? How about two nontraditional herb walks with renowned herbalists? I was lucky enough to join two very unique herb walks during the conference. One was led by my fantastic instructor at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies, Howie Brounstein. The other was led by the humorous and insightful, Dr. Glen Nagel.
Howie’s herb walk was less focused on the plants (although they still played a large role), and more focused on how to actually give an herb walk. One tip I especially enjoyed from Howie is that if someone is discussing their favorite movie while you’re trying to give a detailed description of a particular plant’s habitat, say to them, “Oh, that’s very interesting about that movie; it kind of reminds me of this plant here, Monotropa uniflora!” Chances are Ghost Pipe has nothing to do with the movie, but it’s a light-hearted way to move the group’s attention back to the plants...
Glen’s herb walk was focused on the plants, however, the point of his walk was to discuss the non-medicinal uses of the plants. He showed us how to make fairy baskets with vine maple, horsetail flutes, and how to use the ever helpful pathfinder plant (can you guess how it’s used?). He also gave a demonstration on winnowing seeds, and making incense with mugwort.
The conference organizers this year were Cassandra Black and Sue Burns. Many, many thanks to them for creating such a memorable event. A lot of work goes into planning these conferences and they pulled it off superbly. If you haven’t been to this conference, I’d highly recommend it. The teachers are always cutting-edge, the food is homemade organic goodness, the tradition is strong, and it’s hard to beat the incredible beauty of Breitenbush Hotsprings. Plus, the Saturday night talent show is an absolute hoot!
Hope to see y’all next year!