chicks in brooderI’m sorry, I just can’t help myself. I can’t believe that there are chickens at BLD farm again. It’s been over 4 years now since they have been here. It just made sense that they go with my ex-wife when she moved out. She is a home-body and at the time i was gearing up for long periods of being out on the road doing this and that, mostly activism and low-bagging on my friends couches. So she go the flock. At one time there were 130 living out back. I can’t see myself getting back to that many, not just yet anyway.

The last time I ordered chickens in the mail (yes, in the mail) they came from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa. Their selection is top notch and their blood lines are strong compared to some of the other hatcheries I’ve ordered from. In the past, my survival rate was over 90%, usually only losing 1 or 2 after the first 48 hours. I wish i could say the same this time, but I’ll get to that.

First things first, I needed a brooder box. Since it was February when i ordered them, and they were scheduled to arrive at the very beginning of March, I knew that they couldn’t start off out in the bar because of at least 2 reasons; 1. it’s too damn cold outside without a hen sitting on them and 2. the barn is trashed. Last time i brooded this early in the year, they were set up in the basement. That wasn’t so good. Mostly because they are so damn amazing to watch, and if they are down there, I would never see them without going down there. I knew that with spring, I would need to put up the sprouting table in the sunroom again so i figured to just double duty the table and build it into a brooder.  If you remember, the shop across the street has a giant stack of freshly cut Poplar and Quaking Aspen in it, so I just grabbed a few of them and a couple of saw horses and put them in place of the table i used last year. Funny thing is, over the last 4 years, the sprout table has been different every time. Anyway, while I was over in the shop, I pulled out a bunch of old window sashes that came from somewhere or other and a couple of the pine shelves I’ve been using for most everything else. Needless to say, the mice made a multiplex condo in my window pile. Multiplex + mice= mouse piss!! Scrub scrub scrub. Pretty nasty. After they dried off, the sashes were stood on end and attached to the table with the shelves forming the lid. Long ago (6 years?) I had used 2 of my brooder lamps out in a pig shelter I threw together behind the barn. Pigs being pigs and me being me, the lights got pulled down off of the ceiling of the shed and mashed into the mud by the pigs and then just stowed on a shelf in the barn as is by me. Clean, wash, scrub, disassemble, clean more, reassemble. These are hung from the underside of the pine shelves. Using the thermometer from the front porch, the temperature inside of the brooder with both light going got up to, and slightly beyond, 100* F. warming the borrder That’s fine to dry thing out, but a bit too hot for the baby birds. A quick $100 stop at the farm store and the feeders, waterers, food, and wood shavings are on hand.  I set all that up and then it was time to wait. Of course, the Sunday that the birds were born and put in the mail was not only one of the coldest days in months, but, at least out in Iowa, a full on Blizzard.  While waiting in line at the Post Office, the woman at the counter told every single person in line that “we have chicks in back” and “someone really needs to get down here and put them under a heat lamp” and “I think at least 4 of them are already dead.” It was all I could do not to shove my brooder with guardway to the front of the line. Once it was finally my turn, I grabbed by box of birds and ran for the car. cranked the heat to max, opened the box and stuck them under the heater vent. I could tell that that more than 4 birds had died as there were a bunch mashed down in one corner with the rest walking on their corpses. Nor what i wanted to see. By the time i got them home and into the brooder, I had counted 10 already dead. By the end of their first 48 hours in the brooder, another 7 died, leaving me with 10 vigorous chicks.

With a little detective work I figured that of those dead, my 2 Sumatras, 6 White Faced Black Spanish, at least 2 of the Black Breasted Modern Game birds and 7 of my Rainbow Layer Selection had gone to the great coop in the sky. McMurray was as distressed to hear of the mortality as I was to find it and they promptly offered to refund or replace my loss. Instead of a refund, I had them replace and i filled out the 25 bird minimum with more of what i had already ordered. The next box gets here this coming Monday, and the weather this weekend looks to be very warm for this time of year. Hopefully they come thru the journey better than the first set.

I mentioned that the barn is trashed. It’s not a huge place, only 17×23′ with a loft. The only animals using the barn for the last almost 5 years are a family of barn clean upgroundhogs that hollowed a section out under the cement floor. I’ve been parking lawn mowers in there too. Mostly it is in pretty much the same state as when the goats and chickens left, only worse. This morning Leah and I went out and hauled everything out that wasn’t nailed down. I disassembled everything that was screwed together while Leah swept down the ceiling and the floor. My issue right now is the floor. drennen ranchWhen it was left by the previous owners, it was no where near flat and the intervening years have only make things worse. Just yet, I don’t know how I’m going to pull it off, but the place needs a new floor. From the front door sill to the lowest corner is a difference of almost 16″. On average, the difference front to back is about 8″ I figure i can slope the floor some, but I still need to come up with a bunch of fill, whether gravel or dirt or cement, I still need to figure. barn stallCement is the most costly and time consuming option. I should add that getting a cement truck back to the barn is simply not going to happen. Which means everything need moved back there by hand. UGH.  What I figure to do is tear out all the preexisting stall walls and lay a whole new floor. I have to rent a jack hammer to bust up the one that is in there now, which I’ll use as a base, then just rent a mixer and go at it. Makes my back ache just thinking about it.

Corn Crib Cabin

About 6 years ago i managed obtain an old corn crib from a local farmer instead of pay for some work i was doing. He even hauled it to my place. to call it a corn crib back then was a bit of a stretch as the roof had rotted pretty badly and fallen in.

Unfortunately i can’t find the original pictures i took of it.

It measures a 6×12′ footprint, flaring to 8′ wide at the eaves and 8′ tall at the peak.

The first 4 years were very slow. i replaced the roof rafters with a downed boards milled from a downed Ash tree. I don’t recommend  cured Ash as a building material. It is as hard as a rock. i covered it with “Shark-Skin” house wrap and green metal roofing that was left over from a friend’s new roof up the road. (thanks Katy!!)

Another long while passed before i managed to drag the Crib across the road to my shop. (up to this point it was parked in the driveway in front of the house.)

Once there i look a lot of time standing there staring at it. I knew what i wanted to do but just couldn’t bring myself to cut holes in the oak slat walls.

Finally, about 2 years ago i took the plunge and cut the holes. After that, we were off and running.unsided crib south wall

The south wall was framed with 2 large windows, built to match some old window sashes i got somewhere along the way.

I put studs into the walls. 2×6″ in this case, and filled the voids with 3 layers of re-purposed garage door insulation panels. Effectively turning it into a large styrofoam and fiberglass box.

crib insulated interior west wall

insuated interior crib door

The door had to be built from scratch. I started with a cedar door from an old fence i had replaced from my sister’s house in Columbus. The gaps in the door are filled with more of the insulation panels and the door is backed with weather stained oak boards i got from another frientrimmed crib doord. (thanks Chad!!)
When finished it weighed in at about 16,000#. Well, not really, but it sure felt like it while i was hanging it by my self.

The outside is covered lap-siding i pealed off an old farmhouse in town that has since gotten demolished. (thanks Tim!!)

partially sided west crib wall

crib south wall finished

The inside is covered with these beautiful pine panels my father got from a friend of his. They were origionaly designed as warehouse shelves that would work on a 48″ wide shelving system. After removing the metal brackets and wooden retaining tang off of the ends, the panels measured 24×46.5″. Let me tell you, 46.5″ is not an easy size to work with. Over the course of 12′, it stops matching up with the 24″ wall studs pretty fast. Like most of the things i build, just don’t look too closely.

The floor came from the same house as lap siding. It is tongue and groove 2×4-6″ poplar that was painted yellow. Some of the boards are a little thicker and some are a bit thinner than 2″ and almost all of them are different widths.

The entire crib, both inside and outside is trimmed with black walnut that was timbered off our property back in 1984.

For heat, i’ll be using the wood stove that Curtis helped me make back in 2001 in Columbus. Back then i used it to heat my 8×14′ room at the origional BLD studios. All the pipe and bricks are there. I’m just working up the courage to punch another hole in the wall for the chimney.

I use Google Sketch-up for many of my projects, and my first ventures into learning how to use the system were designing the inside of the crib. crib sketch inner 1 crib inner sketch 2Since then i have been informed that i was using it in about the most difficult method possible, but hey, who cares. I know exactly what it will look like. All the materials for the inside are on hand.

Back to the land again: Folk schools teach skills for modern-day survival

Looks like a good time to open a school of self-reliance and folk arts…


With mounting school loans and the uncertainty of finding a job after graduation, 26-year-old Jenny Monfore decided to leave college early and look for alternative education. At the Driftless Folk School in Wisconsin, the Bozeman, Mont., native and massage therapist studied organic food preparation, blacksmithing, and mushroom identification — skills she hopes will augment her income and allow her to live a more independent lifestyle.

“We no longer have practical skills, we don’t know how to feed ourselves, and we’ve basically become lost,” Monfore says. “So we’re slowly building new, thoughtful communities.”

Folk school: The phrase calls to mind cloggers, birch bark hats, and strains of “If I Had a Hammer.” But these craft schools of yore are experiencing a resurgence of late, drawing young do-it-yourself homesteaders and restless baby boomers to the woods to learn about everything from organic farming to electric cars.

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The Art of Making Tinctures

Poke TinctureSome of the frequent questions I hear from students and friends is “why doesn’t my tincture look/taste like yours?” I  have spent many years making wonderfully potent tinctures and making horribly disappointing mistakes. So here are my lessons learned. But first…

A note on menstruum, marc, and other words used to describe tincture making. The art of making herbal tinctures comes with its own vocabulary. The vocabulary words aren’t necessary to the process, so if you aren’t interested skip down to number 1. If you are interested, read on. The first word is menstruum. The menstruum is the solvent liquid that is used to extract the plant constituents. Solvents are liquids that the medicinal constituents of a plant will dissolve into. The menstruum can include the following liquids: alcohol, vinegar, water, vegetable glycerin, oil, or wine.

Generally, the word tincture is referring to an alcohol extraction. A tincture made with glycerin is usually referred to as a glycerite. Other extractions are often referred to by the type of menstruum used, such as vinegar extractions. The plant you want to make the tincture from determines the menstruum. For example, if you are making an extract of a plant like Stinging Nettles, that is high in minerals, consider making a vinegar extraction or using a higher water to alcohol ratio. Vinegar and water extract minerals better than alcohol does.

If you want a tasty extraction that is safe for children or people with alcohol sensitivities consider using vegetable glycerin (note that glycerin is often sourced from soy). Glycerin can also be used for plants that are high in mucilage (slimy constituents that help heal mucous membranes and other tissues, such as Marshmallow and Mullein. Plants that are high in resinous constituents like Pine or Balsamroot require a higher alcohol content or can be extracted in oil. The marc is the plant material that remains after the extract is removed by pressing or squeezing. The marc can be put in the compost. Two other important words are standardized and folk method.

Standardized vs. Folk Method
Tincture making with alcohol usually follows one of these protocols. Standardized tinctures adhere to the protocols established by a conference held in Belgium in 1902, “Conference Internationale pour l’Unification de la Formule des Medicaments Heroiques.” This protocol was adopted by the US Pharmacopoeia in 1906. Making a standardized tincture involves weighing the plant material and then preparing the menstruum at the appropriate ratio. Different ratios were established for dry plant vs. fresh plant and for varying potency. For example, a dried plant is prepared at a ratio of 1:5, 1 part dried plant in grams to 5 parts menstruum in milliliters. If you want to learn more about standardization, pick up one of the following books:

The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook, by James Green
Making Plant Medicine, by Richo Cech

The folk method is far less complicated but in my experience often yields similar results. Start by thoroughly garbling your plants (this is described below under number 2. I choose a container that I think that all of the plant material will fit in once it has been cut into small pieces.

Fill the jar about 1/4 to 1/3 with your menstruum. Start placing the plant material in the jar before you begin cutting it. As you place the plant in the jar, chop it up as small as possible with scissors. You will be cutting the plant up in the jar directly into the menstruum. (I describe this more in number 3 below). Keep cutting and adding more of the plant and menstruum (if needed) until the jar is full.

Make sure that the menstruum covers the plant material. Put a lid on tight. Now maceration begins. The process of maceration has two parts time and agitation. The recommended time is two-four weeks. Agitation means shake it. Shake it as often as possible but at least two or three times a day.

The shaking helps distribute the plant material so that pockets of air and water don’t stagnate and cause your extract to rot. After the two weeks is up, strain, press, or squeeze the liquid out of the marc. Put your extract into a dark colored bottle and store in a cool dry place.

Note: the above methods are for alcohol extractions. To learn more about using other menstrua, get one of the books mentioned above.

And now for my lessons learned…

1. My tincture just tastes “green.” Usually what they mean by this is that it tastes ambiguously vegetative. This effect usually occurs when certain plants are grown in or near vegetable gardens. Plants create various chemicals as part of their survival strategy. Certain types of stress cause plants to create their own protective chemicals in response.

A few years ago I had a group of herbalists sitting on my front porch. We each had our own yarrow tincture (I had at least 3 from different places). So we did a taste test. We found that the yarrow that grew in the high desert near the Columbia Gorge in Oregon surpassed all the others in complexity and potency. Those places included the Rocky Mountains, the bluffs along Lake Erie, and a hayfield in northern Wisconsin (and perhaps others I’m forgetting).

I’ve also tasted yarrow tincture made from a plant grown in a garden in Portland, OR and found that it had that ambiguous and bland green taste. It doesn’t mean that you have to travel to eastern Oregon to have a good yarrow tincture. But, if you have the option, choose the plant that lives under some duress. That said, avoid plants that look diseased or inhabited by tiny critters, unless you know that the chemicals created under that stress are the ones you are looking for.

2. “My tincture isn’t as strong as yours.” This usually occurs when the garbling process is overlooked or under appreciated. Garbling is the process of removing dead leaves, dried up flowers, woody pith that comes off when peeling barks, and other parts of the plant that contain little to no medicinal constituents. This will add more time to the process but as you can see in the picture of the two St. John’s wort tinctures, it matters. And really, why wouldn’t you want to take the time to make the best tincture.

Variation in St. John's wort tincture. One was carefully garbled and chopped, the other was not.
Variation in St. John’s wort tincture. One was carefully garbled and chopped, the other was not.

Another thing that can happen is that the plant is not processed soon enough, especially when the plants being used have volatile oils that evaporate quickly. Timely processing captures more of the potency. Although I often lose some of the bulk of the plant while garbling, I often leave out stems unless they taste nearly as strong as the other parts I’m using. Which is a good reminder: taste the plant before you make the tincture. That’s what your tincture should taste like. If your tincture tastes different, something went wrong, and usually it’s the problem I describe in number 4 below.

Another aspect of potency is knowing when to gather plants. And I will say right now that there are many different theories about this. Some believe that the phase of the moon is critical. Others will say that time of year matters. Others emphasize the age of the plant. I will leave it at that because I believe each herbalist should find their own way as they develop direct relationships with the plant.

3. “My tincture isn’t as dark as yours.” This often happens when plant is cut on a cutting board. If you do this, take a look at your cutting board next time and notice whether the cutting board turns the color of your plants. You could be losing your color and potency on the cutting board. Instead weigh your garbled plant material and measure the appropriate amount of menstruum. Begin adding the plant to the alcohol while using scissors to chop it up in the alcohol. You will also increase the potency because you will likely end up with smaller pieces. You might be tempted to throw it all in the blender. Some herbalists do this and others don’t. Those that don’t say that the blender breaks down the plant material at a cellular level compromising the tincture quality.

4. “My tincture smells or tastes funny/different/weird.” The first question I ask the person that says this is, did you shake it with real commitment? The process of letting the tinctured plant soak and shaking it is called maceration. This process is vital especially if you are working with fresh rather than dried plant material. If it isn’t shaken, air and water bubbles could be trapped and lead to rot. Rotten tinctures are not good tinctures. There was a time when I had a chance to gather some important plants but then I had to travel. They were all lost. So if you can’t do it, find someone that will.

Last Words
Remember that intention is the most important part of the tincture-making process. Be mindful while gathering plants with good wishes for community and personal healing. Be mindful of where you are and your methods of wildcrafting – some of our most precious plants are listed at-risk of endangerment by United Plant Savers ( Take time to learn some basic principles of ethical wildcrafting. I will share my ideas on this website after I present a workshop on ethical wildcrafting in August at the Planting the Future Conference (


Leah Wolfe



Shadybrook plans a fundraiser to help the Serpentine Project

Reposted from the News-Herald in Ashtabula, OH.

The News Herald (, Serving Northern Ohio


Shadybrook programming helps explore spiritual traditions, personal growth

Monday, January 14, 2013

By Janet Podolak

With deep roots in Lake County dating to more than a half-century ago in Kirtland Hills, Shadybrook has perhaps come full circle as a place to explore spiritual traditions and achieve personal growth.

Times have changed since the Layman’s Retreat Association in the post-World War II melting pot world sought to help people learn and thrive from their differences. That was in 1955, when the group began to meet at Shadybrook House, one-time Kirtland Hills home of the Arthur Baldwin family that later became headquarters for the Lake County History Center.

Learning from their differences remains the mission among the Shadybrook members and friends who now meet at a church for programming drawn from faiths ranging from Buddhism to Catholicism, Hinduism to spiritualism.

But Shadybrook is by no means a religion.

“Finding joy in life is something we embrace,” said Laura Christian Imbornoni, a professional-level yoga instructor and retired longtime director of the Mentor Senior Center.

She’s a member of Shadybrook’s board of trustees, along with her husband, Steve Imbornoni, an ordained spiritualist minister, who is a psychologist practicing in Beachwood and both a licensed hypnotherapist and massage therapist.

Another trustee is Dean Williams, an ordained Zen Buddhist priest and leader of Shadybrook’s current series of meditation workshops. Other board members include an attorney, an educator, a mental health professional and an Internet technology professional.

The diversity of the board reflects not only the diversity of Shadybrook’s membership but its programs.

“Since it’s where we meet, we tend to be joined at the hip with East Shore Unitarian Church,” said Williams, who says he has seen greater and greater numbers of that church’s members among those attending his meditation workshops. He tells folks that Shadybrook is welcoming to all spiritual seekers.

“Culturally, we’re Jewish, agnostic, atheist, Catholic, pagan, Protestant and none of the above,” Laura Imbornoni said.

That would seem to make Shadybrook a good fit for many folks.

A recently released Pew Research Center study found that one in five Americans, or 33 million adults, is religiously unaffiliated — a 5 percent increase in just the last five years. But, that nationwide survey found, 46 million adults describe themselves as spiritual in some way. More than 55 percent said they felt a connection with nature and the earth and 68 percent professed a belief in God.

“There’s no obligation for anyone to agree with something that’s presented,” Steve Imbornoni said.

Last year, for instance, he presented a program based on hypnosis-based regression therapy, taking hypnotized subjects back to childhood and even to the time before they were born,

“It’s a fascinating therapeutic application,” he said. “Although Zen Buddhists like Dean and others don’t believe in past lives, but belief is not necessary for this program to have validity.”

Buddhist priest Williams said he may not subscribe to all the practices presented, “but I’m not dismissive of them either. The intention of all of them is to be beneficial, and people find what is of benefit to them.”

Intention is something fostered at Shadybrook, whose members are increasingly forging partnerships and raising money for other organizations intended to serve the greater good.

“Right now we’re planning for a Spiritual Spa Day on March 23 that will give people the opportunity to try out a variety of alternative healing modalities,” said Beth Bracale, Shadybrook’s director of operations and programming. “Beneficiaries will be Forbes House in Lake County and Serpentine Project in Ashtabula.”

Chair massages, Reiki, drawing and various meditation techniques will be showcased, and practitioners also will take their skills to Forbes House to administer them to the abused women living there. There will be a nedra yoga healing experience, and drumming for healing is being explored.

Herbalist Leah Wolfe, founder of the Serpentine Project, will be on hand with healing herbs. The Serpentine Project is dedicated to preserving and protecting native plants, learning about their uses and why it’s important to protect them.

“The Spiritual Day Spa is a good example of us presenting options and possibilities of different avenues toward healing to help make people aware and to see if there’s something they wish to explore further,” Steve Imbornoni said. “If there’s sufficient interest we sometimes have follow-up experiences.”

He said Shadybrook’s careful stewardship of an endowment received many years ago allows for it to have the funds to hire employees such as Bracale and not concern itself with constant fundraising efforts to stay afloat.

“We are really blessed in that way,” he said.

“In December we had our first fundraiser to benefit Angel House in Strongsville,” he said. “They work with the Girls and Boys Club of Cleveland and Girls and Boys Hope of NEOhio to bring in teens and their counselors to experience a day of healing and working together.”

Some Shadybrook members expected the eye-rolling response they’d seen before from teens but were delighted to see how instead the young people embraced learning to manage stress and empower themselves.

“They learned journaling, and that was just one tool that has allowed them to share things with their counselors that they’d been unable to talk about,” Bracale said.

The experience resulted in several Shadybrook members becoming more closely involved with Angel House and even signing on as volunteers.

Williams says he sees Shadybrook’s intent to reach out with support for other organizations as a game changer.

“To me it’s such a joy to be able to find out about and learn things in ways that would have been almost impossible before this,” Laura Imbornoni said. “We are in such a fast-paced information age that Shadybrook’s wide open posture of listening is even more worthwhile now. We give people the chance to sit and focus and spend time looking inward so then they can reach out again.”

Shadybrook House


Dancing in response to the Kirtan devotional chanting by the group Enchanted Hearts, shown today, will take place again in April.

Shadybrook programming takes a winter break until March because weather becomes an issue. But Dean Williams’ meditation sessions take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. the first Monday of each month at East Shore Unitarian Church, 10848 Chillicothe Road, Kirtland. Fee is $10.

Let’s make syrup!

Earlier today, after looking at a few more websites and pictures of various rocket stove designs, I got it into my head that I would just go out and make the thing.

Why not?slab

I used a rectangle of cement that was poured by the Drennans, the people who lived here while my dad was growing up.

Just barely legible on the slab is written, “Drennans’ Dogwood Dell”

Anyway, I laid the slab our away from the seed room and started carrying bricks over to it.

Some of these bricks I’ve had for almost 20 years just waiting for the right time and project.base layer

They are mostly fire brick and refractory soft brick, of various shapes and sizes, with a few red brick mixed in.

Directly on the slab I laid a bed of 16 red brick with a row of soft brick along either side. This would be my base.

Why red brick?
I really couldn’t tell you.

Then I ran 3 courses of fire brick in a long skinny rectangle.

 capped fire box

I capped off the fire box with a large fire brick, I have no idea where it came from.


The chimney was proportioned roughly the same size as the firebox opening (which I didn’t like) so I took a red clay chimney tile and set it into the existing opening.

Then I just built up around the tile a couple of layers of fire brick, switching to soft brick until the final course, which is one level above the top of the chimney tile.

let'g get it going
The entire lower section was then covered in soft brick, 1 layer along the sides and back and 2 layers over the fire box.
4 pieces of broken kiln shelf are used as the supports for the pot with the syrup in it.
At 1:00pm Leah lit the first fire.
It was about 50 degrees and falling with a pretty good wind out of the NNE.
syrup cooker v1.0The chimney started drafting properly from the start, but as things slowly began to heat up I felt that the firebox was too close to the chimney so I added a cinder block outside of the firebox opening with hard brick for walls and cap.

From no fire at all, it took about 1 hour 20 minutes to bring 10 gallons of maple sap to a boil burning only pine at first, then adding maple and ash as it heated up.

We cooked the sap till it got dark and started to rain. night fire

For whatever reason I just can’t get enough of looking at a fire burning in a brick firebox at night.

final cooker for now

After a little thinking on things over night, I decided that I wanted the chimney even taller and that there needed to be something to deflect the heat up the sides of the pot.
So I added 4 more courses of brick.

Just letting it vent straight out the sides seems a waste.steamy cauldron
For that, I stood the final course of bricks on end.
The redirection of the heat is made obvious by the additional black carbon accumulating up the sides of the pot.

almost syrup

Considering how much of the water was boiled away and how many hours we fired the cooker, we used remarkably little fire wood in the process.

Still a couple of hours from finished, the syrup is starting to take on the golden brown of maple goodness.

There’s more about making syrup (and sugar!) here:

The Seed House and the Trillium Center

Becoming a member of the United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary Network has opened some doors to transformation for the Serpentine Project. In 2013, we will launch the Trillium Center and the Seed Gardens, which will include the Seed House.

The trillium is a three-petaled flower deep in the woods that wraps its seeds in what looks like a pat of butter. Ants carry these seeds, three times their size, and store them in their underground tunnels as food for the colony and its queen. Thus the flowers spread slowly through the woods, unlike the mayapples and partridgeberry dispersed by deer and birds.  There are two species growing here, the common white trillium, some which may be as old as 50 years, and the rarer red trillium that was given as a gift from a friend on the Medicine Council for the Lenape Nation. Trilliums are at-risk of becoming endangered. As we work on this land, helping to restore the forests and growing gardens, we realize that the relationship between the trilliums and the ants is like the dream we are weaving of a place where people can come to find creation and creativity in the retreat from the buzz and the press of the cities. People will come here and carry away their own precious seeds and perhaps store them until the time comes for them to germinate and bloom into new projects and ideas.

At the Trillium Center people will learn folk arts through experiential skill building projects and workshops. The workshops will allow participants to create in a collective environment so they can apply these skills in their own communities. Currently, we have a list of people who are interested in teaching ceramics, dyeing with plant-based dyes, carpentry, creative gardening and cooking, outdoor skills such as building shelters and starting friction fires, and wildcrafting wild foods. We are seeking people who can teach a wide variety of skills that would include woodworking, painting, blacksmithing and tool making, wildcrafting plants to make cordage and baskets, making snowshoes, and other folk and healing arts. We believe that health and healing are intrinsically connected to artistic expression and hope to encourage people to integrate functional art and folk traditions into their healing process.

The Trillium Center workshop topics will complement the herbal medicine and wellness workshops that Leah Wolfe, founder of the Serpentine Project, currently teaches, which are offered locally and throughout the country where workshops are requested. Her philosophy holds that traditional approaches to healing, including plants, nature, and storytelling, support community health. Some of the workshop topics include Kitchen Medicine, Storytelling and Healing, The Ancient Art of Wildcrafting and Medicine Making. A full list is here: The donations received at these workshops (less the expenses) are put into the seed fund for the Serpentine Project. Leah founded the Serpentine Project in 2009 as a botanical sanctuary and an educational endeavor to improve community health and resilience through plant medicine, education, and folk traditions. The botanical sanctuary has been accepted into the United Plants Savers Botanical Sanctuary Network and is taking on a life of its own. Meanwhile the educational aspect of the Serpentine Project will become the Trillium Center and the botanical sanctuary will be called the Seed Gardens.

Plan for the Seed House
Plan for the Seed House

The Seed House will be a place to plant seeds and nurture plants to share with the community while planting seeds in the hearts of our participants. The Seed House will be an educational program that launches in 2013. It will include monthly plant walks and seasonal workshops. The free plant walks will start with an introduction to the Serpentine Project and UpS. We will then take a tour of BLD farm to see the Native Plants Learning Garden, the Seed House, the food forests, and the wild forest.

The Seed House will be a two-part building: sunroom and greenhouse. Back in the 1950s, the Drennans lived here and ran a small dairy. What remains of that family business is a small barn and a concrete slab where what may have been a milk-processing room stood. That slab will serve as the sunroom’s foundation. The straw bale sunroom will have a timber frame sourced from our land, a passive solar design for winter warmth, a rainwater collection system for the greenhouse, and a bench thermal mass heater to dry plants and seeds and to provide a warm sunny place to go in the winter. A hoop-style greenhouse will attach to the sunroom, which will allow us to humidify the sunroom if needed.

Help us raise the funds to make this dream come true!

We need some help from our friends and plant friends in general to make this happen. Please make a donation via PayPal or send us a check or money order.

The finished frame for the sunroom in the Seed House

Send checks payable to Serpentine Project to:

Serpentine Project
c/o Leah Wolfe
715 Furnace Road
Conneaut, OH 44030

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an educational center for natural arts