The artwork shown here is by my sister in law, Trish Gibbon.
I want to make a living, by living. What that means to me is to live my best self, and offer the fruits of my labour to you. In 2009 we moved to our five-acre property. We quickly settled in, and unpacked most of the boxes, life was a blur at this time. My kids were 6, 4 & two-year old twins! And just to add a bit more to the mix, I was also freshly pregnant with another set of twins (surrogate) for extended family members.
I loved our house and property, and felt deeply connected to this being my ‘forever’ home right away. There was endless potential in this property, with a barn, bunkhouse and greenhouse, extensive gardens, and the huge lawn was dreamy! I gave little thought to the upkeep of such a property – all I could see was space for the kids to run and play.
We tried to keep the acres of lawns mowed, and I didn’t even attempt to tend the gardens – I didn’t know what was a weed and what was a flower! We eventually gave way to only mowing sections of the lawn mostly up around the house, and then only mowing the fields once a season, and keeping mowed paths instead.
Four years in, and the gardens were looking pretty shaggy. I started to feel embarrassed at having let the place go. I’d have friends and gardeners (all with good intentions) tell me I needed to prune this back, and pull that out, and divide that up… With literally more than a dozen LARGE gardens, there was no way I could even attempt to prune, pull or divide – it was an unsurmountable task.
So I didn’t. I noticed an invasive weed appear in the gardens, and I worried I’d lose everything. I pulled it out. It came back more aggressively, and I knew I wasn’t getting the roots. I decided I’d have to figure out what the plant was in order to figure out how to get rid of it. I’d never looked up a plant before, so identifying this random weed took me a few months (remember…4 kids!). When I finally learned what it was, I also learned it was medicinal, and the roots were edible and were used as an alternate food source in times of famine. Suddenly, I could no longer kill this weed, and it opened my eyes to what else was growing right under my feet that could also feed or heal us?!
Through this process of learning about the weeds that had ‘overtaken’ my property I realized the amazing diversity of herbs growing here. My heart softened, and I fell in love with my property all over again. No longer embarrassed at the overgrown gardens, I was now carefully harvesting them to use in lotions and salves.
I was soon introduced to distilling plants by my neighbor who has a lavender farm and brewery (Meander River Farm and Brewery). And soon I started distilling my own plants with my own copper still. Around the same time as discovering plants, I had a bad reaction to a store bought deodorant. I decided I’d try to make my own. And while I was at it, since most of the ingredients were the same, I made a few lip balms for my kids. Friends and co-workers started asking me to make them deodorant, and soon, I was ordering packaging and materials, and making a few extra products for people. I was encouraged to sell at markets – and my first market was a huge success.
Wanting to further my knowledge I attended a women’s herbal conference in New Hampshire, and it was there that I felt like I had found my tribe. I returned from this trip with a clear vision of wanting to study herbalism. I became a Certified Community Herbalist.
What is a Community Herbalist? Community Herbalism differs from a clinical herbalist, in that we don’t follow clients. I have taken a particular interest in backyard herbalism. I only work with the plants I know, watch, and harvest. I know the plants I use intimately. They are gentle medicines available to everyone – since they grow wild in our yards, fields and forests. Community Herbalists are happy to share knowledge and suggestions of things you might want to look into trying. We’ll direct you to more resources, and can also give you the names of clinical herbalists in the area.
As part of my journey to creating Resilient Barn, I have travelled to international herbal conferences, studied with clinical herbalists, and catered a three-week herbal education program.
Resilient Barn is the home of Dig It! Naturals, and Resilient Barn is the natural evolution of both my herbalism and my passion for supporting people with diverse abilities. I am excited to offer my services and my passion to my community in an incredible variety of ways, all of which culminate in this wonderful five-acre property that is my home.