Weekend Getaway: Northwest Herb Fest

Reader Contribution by Staff
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Erin is the Communications Manager at Mountain Rose Herbs and an apprenticing herbalist at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies, where she botanizes and wildcrafts medicinal plants in the magnificent Oregon Cascades.www.mountainroseherbs.com

This year’s Northwest Herb Fest was a lovely gathering of plant people from the Pacific States and beyond.  For two sunny days in July each year, Wise Acres Farm welcomes 200 excited attendees to explore their lush gardens, study with diverse teachers, browse handmade herbal goodies at the market, and make friends with other herbalists from the community. The festival offers a unique opportunity to learn different healing modalities and plant traditions from a plethora of botanical experience.

To prepare for the weekend’s festivities, I harvested and bundled towering mugwort, catnip, spirea, lavender, milk thistle and motherwort to decorate the Mountain Rose Herbs booth. As I hung the dazzling bouquets, our tent was instantly transformed with a bit of garden charm. So simple, yet so beautiful–assembling these herbal bundles quickly put me in the spirit for celebration.

Fragrant herb bundles drying in the sun.
Photo by Erin McIntosh

Classes began early Saturday morning as the sun perched on gently sloping green hills. Festival-goers wandered around the farm, happily drinking tea and reading their programs for the day’s events. From Medicinal Trees and Flower Essences, to The Solanaceae Family and Nutritious Seaweeds, every class sounded amazing and it was excruciating to choose between them.

One of my favorite classes of the weekend was a plant walk with Wren Davidson. Wren has been an herbalist in Eugene for nearly three decades. Her knowledge and wit kept us smiling as she told stories from her childhood and illuminated new things to love about old friends like yarrow, blackberry and nettles. She even brought tasty homemade roasted dandelion root from her garden to share with us.

Oregon herbalist Wren Davidson lecturing on nettles.  
Photo by Erin McIntosh

Another delightful surprise was the spectacular sun tea that Jane Bothwell made for her class on blending herbs for health and pleasure. Early that morning, Jane peacefully strolled through the garden collecting a rainbow of nutrient rich and medicinal blooms. She poured cool water into a glass jar filled with roses, calendula, borage, lemon balm, red clovers, peppermint, prunella, lavender and others, and set the blend outside to solar infuse. The colorful medley opened to the warmth of the sun and released its rich symphony of tangy-green-sweetness. Drinking the exquisite floral liquor felt both decadent and nourishing on such a hot summer afternoon.

Jane’s beautiful garden bloom sun tea.   
Photo by Erin McIntosh

Classes held in the garden and along the bubbling creek path allowed the plants themselves to guide our lectures. Tobias Policha’sWild Weed Walk brought us down to a bug’s eye view as we investigated the medicinal treasures lurking in the grass and under shrubs. It was a refreshing reminder of how “pesky” plants like dandelion, red clover and lemon balm are valuable to us as bitters, astringents, nervines, diuretics or alteratives in our herbal medicine chests. Another garden talk by Julie Bailey focused on our deeper connections with plants, beyond their uses. How do our imaginations and intuitions shape our relationships with these green neighbors? What can the delicious perfume of a rose–and its severe, piercing thorns–teach us about desire and boundaries? The philosophical musings danced through our minds well after the walk had ended. 

Tobias picking a specimen for the wild weed walk.  
Photo by Erin McIntosh

As this incredible weekend came to a close, our notebooks were scribbled full of new inspirations, wise tips, and beloved recipes. It was a truly memorable event for all who attended. Next month I’ll be traveling to New Mexico for the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, which promises to be another extraordinary and enlightening herbal gala!  

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