Category Archives: Education

Making Room for Grief

I started writing a song or prayer many years ago. It’s very short, only 4 lines, and sometimes one of those lines changes. But it carries the depth of poetry because the meaning of it depends on what is going on at any given moment. In this version of it, I honor the life and death of my friend and teacher, Tracy Maier.

Tracy and Leslie

The four directions are acknowledged along with some of the things that they stand for when I think of Tracy. I choose this because the four directions are a compass for my life as an herbalist, a teacher, and a human.

Below my prayer, you will find a video called “The Meaning of Death” from Stephen Jenkinson, who has helped me make room for my grief. Grief for Tracy, Miriam Weisberg, my friend and student, Stephie Rexroth, also a student, and for the animals lost in our barn fire.

[facing north]            Have compassion, we are all dying.

To honor Tracy’s indigenous and non-indigenous ancestors, and all the people that came before us. To honor Death, the great equalizer that teaches us to have compassion. To honor Winter, the time of tending to our roots. To honor the element of Earth that brings us nourishment and medicine.

[facing east]               Hold gratitude, we are all living.

To honor Tracy’s life and all the joy that he brought his friends and family. To honor those that try to make a difference and give ease to others. To honor Life, the senses, and consciousness. To honor Spring, and the green things emerging from the soil. To honor the element of Air breathing life into us all.

[facing south]                        In resistance, we are all rising.

To honor Tracy’s work as a nurse and a street medic. To honor those that resist corruption, discrimination, and exploitation. To honor the passion of Youth. To honor the Summer and flowering of our gardens and our lives. To honor the element of Fire that refines our desires into life-long pursuits.

[facing west]              Seek forgiveness, we are all learning.

To honor Tracy’s mistakes, he once told me that the stinky hedge nettle was mugwort. To honor the mistakes of those that came before us so that we don’t repeat them. To honor the wisdom of compassionate elders. To honor Old Age as a time of reflection and a forewarning to future generations. To honor the element of Water that flowing force in our blood, rivers, and oceans.


Elsie comes to stay

So this happened. After nearly a year and a half, my search for a dog has come to an end. I’ve poured over every Aussie rescue, adoption agency and Craigslist post within 200 miles looking for a new companion. Too many times I’ve sent in applications for adoptions, only to be told that I either don’t meet the irrationally high bar for qualifying to adopt or that someone beat me to it. The one dog I did go meet, growled at me the first time we laid eyes on each other. I was looking for a full blood female Aussie. Preferably one that would show up in the dark (not all dark colors) and that wouldn’t bite kids or goats, which is fairly common among the breed. Recently I decided that the time had come to act and that I was being too picky. Granted, I could have just gone to a breeder and chosen the perfect creature off a menu, but I preferred the idea of getting an animal that someone else didn’t think was worth the trouble. There’s just something about “the unwanted” that has a delightful resonance to me. As my fruitless search continued, I began to consider dogs with less than perfect lineage, as long as they were still stock dogs. It’s remarkable what passes as an Aussie mix in the eyes of shelter web managers. An awful lot of the dogs looked exactly nothing like an Aussie. In my vast and worldly opinion (aka the meaningless mutterings of an aging buffoon) there’s too damn much pit bull blood out there. And after my first boy, Panama, got his front leg nearly ripped off by one, I just can’t abide having one in my house. I fail to see the attraction to having a live hand-grenade sleeping at the foot of my bed. My sister has 2 of them now. Dunno.

So me and this wee beastie are going to give it a go. Her name is Elsie. That’s long for LC. Because I’m a dork. She was the runt of her litter. Her mom is an Aussie but apparently a bit of a tramp. The dad is some sort of Border Collie mix. Spreading it around must run in his family. Her litter was born on January 15 and promptly dumped at a high-kill shelter somewhere in North Carolina. Save-a-Mutt pulled them out and put them into foster care in Mt. Airy, NC, where she stayed until this past Friday. After getting pumped full of veterinary drugs, she was loaded onto a van and delivered to a Petsmart parking lot at 10:00 Saturday night. I felt like we (there were 6 other groups ) were a bunch of drug hounds waiting on our dealer. There were couples, young and old, a group of 3 women in their early 20s and me.

This is her immediately after getting out of the van. I had found a small plot of grass in the parking lot and plopped her down into it. I think Leah referred to her as a crispy critter when I sent her the picture. Elsie was wobbly and didn’t seem to know what to do. “Who’s this strange man with the giant beard?” When I put her in the car, she just stared at me for the entire hour and a half ride home. A tiny girl out in the confusing world of big hairless monkeys. One who had been taken from her mom, probably too early, suddenly and with no explanation. Then schlepped around from shelter to foster home. Always with no expectations. Then 2 days in a van, alone and vibrating. I can’t imagine what that must have been like.

The last day and a half has been rough, particularly for Maly. He’s very confused by this little girl we brought into the house. They get along well but he wants to take things further than either she or we are willing to allow. But he’s a smart guy and seems to be getting the point. Can’t be easy for him. New dog, getting all the attention he used to get, can’t hump her, everybody gets mad when he tries. Crazy monkeys.

As if a new puppy wasn’t enough of a change, Leah went and got this yesterday.

10 little peeps, destined for the freezer. Because why not? They’ll spend a few weeks in the greenhouse scratching around while their feathers come in and then they’ll move out to the chicken tractor I put together last month. Life goes on.

Listening with Heart

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am. I am. I am.
~Sylvia Path, The Bell Jar


The senses are vital to foragers of wild foods and medicines. Sight, smell, touch, or taste reveal a plant’s identity; giving way to a deep knowing of the land.

Many of us use subtler senses to guide us as we wander in the woods and fields.
Heart knowledge, and gut knowledge.
The way a plant makes a person want to sing or cry or laugh.

Sometimes it takes an immersion to develop these senses.
Or sometimes it takes an introduction.

The only way I know how to share this knowledge is by taking people out into the woods. Asking them to listen and feel in new ways (or old ways).

Join me for an herbal field intensive focusing on Herbal Sensing.
More info:


BLD studios is dead. Long live BLD studios

I got a message from my sister last night. Not one I ever wanted.

Nothing could have prepared me for this image. 400 E 2nd ave, former home to BLD studios in Columbus, Ohio, is now a rubble pile. My brain grinds a bit slow sometimes and this is one of them. Today it all sank in. It feels like learning that my first true love was brutally murdered, dismembered and tossed into the garbage. It fully defined my reality for almost a decade. I knew that building nearly as well as the men who built it. I knew its secrets. It knew mine. I could feel the souls of the men who died there. The place was alive to me. The day was filled with memories. Discovering the secret rooms. Hiding my own caches in them. The things I would never share with person, I entrusted to that structure. Now they are simply more debris. Shattered and crushed. Like the lovely dreams I would spin while walking the halls. The echoes of a century of occupation whispering in my ear. The muted clomping of heavy boots at the end of a long ago workday. Voices raised in anger laughter prayer blasphemy. The ephemeral residue of acts of gentle kindness and unspeakable cruelty. Any structure of that age is saturated with the energy of what went on there. It permeates the very fabric of its mass.

And now it’s gone. Like a missing tooth. As though it never existed. Nowhere but in the memories of those who went there.

But that was yesterday. Many yesterdays ago. Lifetimes ago in fact. To dwell there is needless sentimentality. And that only leads to death. Being stuck in the past is, by my reckoning, what has led to many of the major issues we face today. Whether as a community, a nation or simply as the human race. I remember learning of the Dadaists in post WW1 Europe or the Situationists in 60’s France calling for the museums to be burned. The great historical monuments being razed. Railing against the crushing weight of history and the ways in which that weight has held humanity down. Where the Situationists talked of the Spectacle, the Dadaists we’re captivated by the frenetic energy of life and the ways in which new technologies (mass produced automobiles and the airplane) were reshaping life. “Look forward,” they said. The past is dead. Let it pass.

The similarities are not lost on me of how my current situation rhymes with the same themes they were grappling with. While the scale and scope are obviously different to the point of being incomparable, I can see the barn fire as my own personal mini WW1 with the devastation and loss of life. But to pine for what was, to allow myself the luxury of sentimental self flagellation, would be a disservice to not only myself and Leah, but to the very memories of what was. It was a time. Mistakes were made. Victories great and small were celebrated. But that chapter has ended. A new chapter has begun.

These are the tools that will move us forward. The materials I will use to build a better world. Or at least my tiny corner of it. It took a bit of doing, but I finally managed to acquire 3 corrugated grain bins. Funny bit there. These bins were originally erected in Indiana. I bought them from a guy in Vermont, which means they actually passed within 2 miles of BLD farm while in transit, only to spend a year in Vermont before turning around and coming back to Ohio. For some reason I never really considered just exactly HOW one of these things went together. It would have been obvious if I had disassembled them, but I did not. The one I took apart in Montana some years ago was fairly straight forward. These things though… I’ve got 2 large boxes of metal bits that don’t really make a lot of sense. I got 4 drying fans and only 2 blower chutes. There are some red paddle things. Not all the ring sections are the same length. And, AND no instructions.

I’ve finalized the drawings and submitted them to the City Zoning office for permits. Then we begin again. Like the mythological Phoenix rising from the ashes of its own demise. The footprint looks a lot like what the house will eventually be. There will be more than twice the square footage of internal space and a large loafing shed for winter. This will allow for a much larger flock, of both goats and chickens, if and when I ever decide to expand.

I must mention that I have been surprised by the number of people who are shocked that I’m actually rebuilding, not only the barn, but the menagerie as well. Granted, these are people who don’t know me very well. But I’m still perplexed that anyone would think that giving up is an option after a loss like this. It must be something akin to what drives people to suicide following a bad breakup. Not rebuilding was never an option. I mean, come on, did Europe just roll over and give up? Or Japan? No. They took their licks, weighed their options and moved on. In many cases, like Japan, devastating war allowed them the space to modernize. If you’ve read all of what I’ve written, you’ll know that I see the fire as a cleansing, a chance to start over. This is me starting over, again.

Upcoming Events

Since the fire, I’ve been having a hard time dealing with electrical objects and have only recently started updating the events at the Trillium Center or other events at other places in our community. So. Here it is. An update. And some photos of a hyper-local current event.

Robin Eggs

Some classes include a focus on St. John’s wort, herbs to prevent tick bites and to support people who’ve been bitten by those tiny vampires (this Saturday!), and of course, the most exciting class of the year: Herbal Sensing: an herbal field intensive. Details here:

Tiny Sleeping Robins

Off With Their Heads

seaweed14.JPGBack in December, Tracy Maier, a good friend of mine crossed over into whatever follows this life. It was unexpected.

Tracy was a humble easygoing person who laughed long and hard. I learned a lot from him, but if I ever said so, he’d wave his hand at me like he was waving off an annoying insect. Despite his unwillingness to consider himself a teacher, I learned much from him. Even in his death he taught me a lot, which I’ll come back to at some point.

To honor him I’ve been writing about him. I realized in the process of remembering my stories of Tracy is that the longer he is gone, the more I remember, and to allow myself the freedom of remembering, I’ve decided to tell his stories in a series of blogs. Because honoring him is also an exercise in honoring and enduring the seasons.

Right now the story that is fresh in my mind is about a plant called stinging nettles that comes up in the early spring.



There was a place near the Clackamas River where Tracy liked to visit and gather stinging nettles early in the spring. It was one of those magically green places where mushrooms winked at you in the corner of your eye, then pretended they weren’t there when you looked to see what it was. The kind of place that makes a person want to believe in fairies.

We were there for a couple of hours visiting the tall spiky devil’s club, the cedar, and, of course gathering stinging nettles. He taught me first to sit in the area, watching, listening. Noticing what other plants are there, what birds and creepers and crawlers are about their business. He taught me to ask permission and make an offering to the plants. His offerings were usually the marc left over from tincture making or any dried nettle leaves left over from the year before. Then he taught me to gather nettles by snipping off the top of the plant, leaving enough of the plant there to sprout two more stalks. Late summer he returned to gather the long stalks to make baskets.

I wandered off, filling my bag with the nettle tops, I kept getting a song in my head. “All you need is love;” a goofy relic from my childhood. But it persisted enough that I told Tracy. He grumbled. “Huh?” Mumble, mumble. Then he turned away and I’m pretty sure he said something about “off with their heads.”

I’ll never know if he was talking about the nettles or the Beatles.

And he probably wouldn’t say if I asked.

Herbal Sensing

Weekend in the Woods: Herbal Sensing
Herbal Field Intensive

June 29-July 1

Feel it in your gut, feel it in your heart, taste it, smell it.
Herbal Medicine.


The third Herbal Field Intensive will explore the diverse terrain of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The HFI is a 3-day educational retreat in the woods and fields to learn about wild medicinal and edible plants in different parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Skills included: identifying plants, foraging ethics, medicine making, and wild food preparation emphasizing what’s in season. Day passes are available if you don’t like to camp (contact us for more info).


This year the theme is herbal sensing, the art of learning about plants through the senses. The scientific word for this is organoleptic, the process of using the senses; usually referring to sight, touch, smell, and taste. In herbal sensing we look to other sources of sensing such as the cat brain and the lizard brain…

… if what I’m saying is suddenly not making sense, then perhaps you really need to take this class.

The HFI will camp at Heritage Farms in Peninsula, OH. You can find the farm’s description on, search for “Camping Among the Pines.”



Friday 7 PM
Welcome – Potluck Dinner
Herbal Sensing Introduction, Leah Wolfe

Coffee Tea Bar
Morning Plant Walk, Leah Wolfe
Developing Awareness Skills with Plants, Leah Wolfe
Foraging – When, How and Where, Leah Wolfe
Organoleptics – How to Learn Herbal Medicine with your Senses, Leah Wolfe
Evening Discussion
Evening Bonfire

Coffee Tea Bar
Taste and Herbal Energetics, Leah Wolfe
The Spaces-in-Between Plant Walk, Nicki Schneider
Closing at 12 PM

The cost covers camping, firewood, food, supplies, materials, teaching stipends, and instructor’s travel costs. To make this event more accessible, it is offered on a sliding scale between $160-$200.

This class is intended to be small so it will be necessary to reserve your space in advance. Please register at:

Questions? Click here.