Winter Herbal Adventure - part 1
by Jane Foxglove
My Winter Herbal adventure began in Woodstock, NY. My husband, Charlie, and I had gone up for the weekend to the 20th Anniversary Dedication of the Wise Women's Herbal Center. The owner Susun Weed had been a teacher of mine over the years at the Women's Herbal Conferences in New Hampshire.
We met Doc and his wife Lynn there. They had come east to pick up a new (used) small plane and attend the Dedication. Doc had been invited by several of the visiting "celebrity herbalists" to speak at the International Herbal Symposium in New York City the following week, and Lynn had always wanted to see the holiday displays and Museums in the City.
We bonded so easily over the weekend it seemed natural to invite them to come and stay with us in New Jersey to save the cost of hotels in NYC. We planned to fly to New Jersey in their "new" little plane and leave our rental car near the airport in Woodstock, NY. We enjoyed the lunch buffet on our way out of town and packed some sandwiches for the trip home. Near the airport was a farm market stand and, being such tourists, we could not resist bringing some New York Sharp Cheddar Cheese and local honey combs and apple cider back with us.
I called my Mother, who was babysitting our Parrot-child, and my dog- sitter friend, who was caring for our little puppy, to let them know we would be home in a few hours. Doc and Lynn called California to check in with their daughters at home and let them know of the change in plans.
Leaving Woodstock, NY, Doc flew above the Interstate Route 17 south towards New Jersey. We circled over Harriman State Park, also known as Bear Mountain, to see the colorful fall foliage and beautiful scenery.
Suddenly the engine hiccupped and our small plane lost altitude! Doc spotted a clearing on the ridge, and we had a bumpy landing. Lynn, co-piloting, had loosened her seat belt to reach for the maps as we were descending so she got banged about in the landing and cracked a few ribs. Doc had a cut on his forehead, but it was not bleeding much.
Charlie and I had been packed in tightly in the back seat with all the gear we had from the camping weekend, so we were unhurt. We all got out of the plane and smelled a fuel leak. Quickly we moved all of our gear and supplies out of the plane and set up a spot closer to the tree line, just in case the plane exploded from the fuel leak. Lynn stayed in the "safe spot" and organized the belongings to take an inventory of our supplies. Her ribs were hurting and we did not want her to lift anything heavy.
It was now about 3:00 pm, and we figured we had about two and a half hours of daylight to make a camp for the night. The radio in the plane was not working, and we had not heard a response to our "Mayday" call. Our cell phones were out of range on this high ridge, and I knew my Mom would start to worry soon.
Charlie and I used to go primitive camping with the Mountain Men group years ago, so he was able to lash together a few dead fall pine poles and we fashioned a simple Tipi using the tarps from the plane. A fire can be built inside a "Tipi" type shelter, and in this winter cold a fire is key to staying alive.
He used some duct tape to piece together a few of our solar blankets to fashion a liner for our shelter and packed the space between the liner and the tarp with pine needles and leaves to act as insulation, leaving some gaps for air flow upward to channel the smoke out the top.
He left the top of the Tipi open a little to allow the smoke out. That way the smoke could escape through the upward draft, but no cold draft chilled us as we huddled around the life sustaining fire.
Doc started a small fire using his strike anywhere matches and a few flyers from the conference with kindling and plenty of dry branches that lay about after a very dry summer. In no time the inside of the Tipi was warm and cozy.
Lynn did a great job organizing our supplies. Between the four of us we had: a compass, three small flashlights, two tin whistles, a New York State map, a butane lighter, waterproof matches, a few gallons of water, a cosmetic mirror we could signal with, a few handmade scented candles and souvenir mugs I had purchased from the Wild Woman center, toilet paper, bungee cords, a zip-lock bag of granola trail mix, some hard candy mints, Doc's fishing hat (with fish-hooks in it) that he never leaves home without and his big mug and gun.
I always bring along a huge speckle-ware enameled two quart cup when camping plus two large knives and my Swiss Army knife. Lynn had a magnifying glass with the map case and a few pens, markers and paper clips. We had an assortment of colorful flyers and papers from the conference, our sleeping bags, a wool blanket, pillows, and some fancy velvet cloaks and wool capotes from our party wear at the dedication.
We each had jackets, thermal underwear, flannel and khaki shirts, jeans, gloves, extra socks, hats and a sweatshirt with a hood. Between us we had canvas tote bags and assorted plastic bags and zip-lock bags and a small trowel, for digging up plants that I never travel without. The plane trunk held a few tools: screwdriver, hammer, wrench, tie-down ropes, duck tape, tarps and wheel chucks for the plane.
Our first aid kits combined had a surgical knife, needle and threads, sinew, safety pins, butterfly bandages, water purification tablets, band aids, ace bandages, scissors, some napkins, lip balm, skin cream, medications for Doc and Charlie's diabetes, my horse chestnut tincture for leg cramps and lavender oil for stress relief. Lynn had some allergy pills and thyroid medication, spices and salt and some herbal tinctures that Lynn and Doc always carry.
As darkness approached, we saw snow clouds and smelled the scent of snow in the air. While Charlie collected more wood for the fire in the gathering darkness, he stumbled carrying a heavy log. His knee was twisted and sprained and his ankle sore. I wrapped his knee and ankle with an ace bandage.
The native Indians had always used the needles of White Pine for medicinal tea, the sap for band aids and blisters and the pine nuts for food. I remembered that White Pine has five long needles in each cluster. I brewed up a tea of white pine needles from the tall trees around our tent using my large speckled two quart size metal mug to warm the water. I served our leftover sandwiches and warmed cider for dinner along with the tea sweetened with some honey comb.
Doc suggested we sprinkle some of his cayenne pepper in our socks to help keep our feet warm. Now I appreciated his spicy taste buds! Each couple zipped sleeping bags together for cuddle warmth. A wool blanket warmed the floor of our tent, carpeted with pine needles. We huddled around the fire in the middle of the floor circled with rocks so no one could roll into it by accident, and told stories into the night.
Charlie and Doc took turns watching the fire and let us ladies have our beauty sleep. We started out wearing many layers of clothing but in the warmth of the Tipi it wasn't nearly as cold as it got outside during the long winter night. As long as the fire burned well and we were out of the wind it was bearable.
We hoped someone would look for us. But who will think to look on the scenic side of the ridge for us? Still no cell phone service. We kept our cell phones and flashlights in our pockets to protect the batteries from the energy draining cold.
In the morning the fuel smell was gone, the radio still did not work, and the plane could not be started. I warmed more water for a simple meal of cider and granola cereal. We assessed our situation. We are four adults with skills as herbalists, historical re-enactment "time travelers," a distribution manager, a floral designer. But none of us are plane mechanics!
Lynn and I laughed that our husbands would never complain about our packing too much stuff or the weight of our purses again even for a short trip! Charlie joked that all that extra weight may have been what brought the plane down in the first place. We decided to make the best of the situation at hand.
About three inches of snow had fallen. We were in a clearing, on a ridge with no visible roads in sight. Perhaps one of us could walk out of those woods in a day, but we did not want to move Lynn with her painful ribs and, with the cold damp of the morning, her bad cough. Charlie could not walk out with his swollen knee. Doc had many painful RSD spikes and spasms of pain and I knew he could not hike for very long in these hills. After all, this place is called BEAR Mountain. Thank heavens Doc carries a small hand gun.
Charlie suggested we shuffle/dance/stomp the word HELP in large letters in the snow in the clearing and highlight it with more of those colorful flyers from the conference weighted down with rocks so a rescuer could see it from above. We also decided to get a second fire going outside the Tipi to which we could add wet wood to make a lot of smoke to use as a signal fire. Hopefully someone would be curious enough to investigate.
2008 © Jane Volkmann/Jane Foxglove
I am a Reiki Master and Herbalist living in Bloomfield NJ with My husband Charlie, Parrot Grizwold and Mini Dachshund Lexi. This story was written as a part of an online herbal survival class with Chuck Garcia to illustrate knowledge and uses of regional herbs and how to identify them in winter season.
Juliette of the Herbs DVD Video
Award-winning DVD video! Juliette of the Herbs is a beautifully filmed lyrical portrait of the life and work of Juliette de Bairacli Levy; herbalist, author, breeder of Afghan hounds, friend of the Gypsies, traveler in search of herbal wisdom and a pioneer of holistic veterinary medicine. Filmed on location in Greece, Spain, France, Portugal, Switzerland, England and America, and interwoven with Juliette's vast collection of archival photographs, together with scenes of Gypsies dancing and Bedouins with their herds, is an inspiring portrait of a remarkable woman.
Order Juliette of the Herbs DVD Video