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Womens Institute


Audition time!

On Thursday I have an audition. These days if you want to be included on the speaker list of your local or regional W.I. groups, and get invited along to deliver talks, you must first have an audition. This is a 10 or 15 minute sample talk of the type you would normally give, in front of a selection of  W.I. members from various regional groups.

Once you have given your sample mini talk, the members will vote you in or out. This is scary!  Can’t help but compare it with something on the TV…and am hoping I don’t have to stand there whilst the panel (of up to 80 people apparently!) tell me I’m appalling…(-:

No, I’m sure its all very well behaved and polite.  And besides, once I have taken my audience on a ‘virtual herb walk’ I’m sure they will all be very happy and relaxed. I plan to go and pick a few local and prolific herbs in the morning, and then I will pass each herb around the audience and describe the habitat and uses of each one…the 10 or 15 minutes will fly by. Plus its great to have props to use if you are in the slightest bit nervous.

Once you’re on the speaker list, you remain there for 2 years or so. Getting calls from lots of W.I. groups to go and do talks. Fingers crossed then!!

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Herbs we found on our walk and how we used them

The herb walk and workshop at Lydford Gorge National Trust on Saturday 14th September, went well, and the rain encountered on the way there, passed over and vanished.


We found plenty of Yarrow, some in flower, and gathered mainly the leaves to try in teas. Yarrow has astringent properties and has a traditional use as a wound healer and circulatory stimulant.  We used it in a tea combined with Lemon Balm (Melissa) – a delicious combination, with the thought that the calming properties of the Melissa would be carried around the body efficiently by the circulatory influence of Yarrow.


We found the lance leaved type (Plantago lanceolata) and discussed how nibbling on a leaf or two can help reduce the dripping tap type of runny nose that comes with hayfever or the first day of a cold. Used on the skin as a poultice its anti-inflammatory effects help sooth stings and bites.

We also visited the tiny courtyard medicinal herb garden and harvested some of the Lemon Balm.

After lunch we made a chest plaister, with eucalyptus essential oil and cocoa butter ointment, Plantago poultices, Yarrow macerated oil, and a healing cream with horse chestnut, plantain, and witch hazel.

The weather was good, the rain staying off whilst we did our walk, and for the rest of the day.

There are already dates set for 2013 workshops…look out for Natural Beauty, a Mothers Day Treat, Chocolate and Rose…Chocolate face masks, and Rose day face cream…on 1st March. And on Friday 13th September, Potions and Lotions…magical healing herbs.

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Herb Walk

Yesterday’s herb walk went well, with a fortunate dry spell. We found lots of plantago and yarrow, and also gathered lemon balm to make teas.


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Herb walk and workshop timetable

Tomorrow at Lydford Gorge, we will be starting the herb walk at 10.30. We will be discussing local hedgerow herbs and gathering a havest to turn into medicines. The walk will incorporate the small courtyard cafe medicinal herb garden where we hope to harvest some delicious herbs for teas.
We will then return to the stableyard which is under cover in case of inclement weather, and get the stove on the go and have a tea tasting session, discussing the benefits of each herb we try, and how some teas can have a synergistic effect by being combined with others.
Following this we will take a short lunch break, there is a lovely cafe, or packed lunches can be eaten in the beautiful grounds of Lydford Gorge.
The second half of the workshop will be dedicated to medicine making. We will be making eucalyptus plaisters for coughs and colds, plantain poultices for stings and bites, and horse chestnut rich cream for the legs.
This event has been advertised as booking only, but if you turn up on the day you won’t get refused. 🙂

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Herbs can be for cats too…

This is Mabelline Feathertail who is a very fit and well 16, and takes herbal medicine if unwell. Of course she visits the vet if need be, but for minor things I dose her with herbal tinctures in cat milk, or powders mixed in the water I’ve cooked fish in for her. Cats are more fussy about their food than dogs, so I am pleased to have found those easy ways of slipping the medicine in easily.

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Another reason organic is best

I already knew organic was best whenever possible, and hearing a discussion on Radio 4 this week made me realise its even more so…Did you know that seed crops such as mustard are sprayed with weedkiller prior to harvesting, to kill the plants so they are all dry and ready to mechanically harvest at the same time?  No matter what they say about the safety of this, I can’t believe its good that those plants have absorbed toxic chemicals ready for us to consume them. I haven’t had chance to research this fully yet, but will be doing so.