I feel privileged today to share a little email interview I did with my friend Jamie Jackson of "Little Mama's Herbals". Jamie and her husband Jeffrey are living the dream that many of us have, of going back to the land and building a home from scratch. They live in the Ozarks of Missouri in a beautiful wooded acreage with a creek and several springs. I asked Jamie to tell us a little about herself, and give a little advice to others, and here is the result (All herbal information given is strictly educational). I'm sure you will feel blessed by her story (My questions are in italics)~
~(All photos courtesy of Jamie Jackson)~
"Tell us a little about yourself, Jamie~"
"I grew up in the Houston, and East Texas area. I was a sick child, that grew up to be a sick adult.
When I was about 17, a lady at church gave me a job at the health food store and I ended up being book buyer. I got to read all I wanted and really started getting more into health and fitness. My aunt was a body builder. With her, my mom and I went through a body building kick.
For a while, I was very mainstream health, like jogging, vitamin pills, protein shakes, and roller skating. I was healthier in some areas, but still had nagging health issues.
In my mid-20's and 30's health was a side issue or a non-issue as I worked, drank and partied myself towards an early grave or at least a very hard and fast dead-end. After the suicide of my brother, a downward spiral started that ended 4 years later in a health collapse right after working through the Y2k project for a software company. It was the perfect storm of depression, illness and complete exhaustion.
Over the course of that next year, I became sicker than I ever had in my life. I was diagnosed with A-typical Narcolepsy with A-typical cataplexy. I had pain everywhere - every muscle, every joint, it was hard to walk. It swung from being impossible to sleep, to being impossible to be awake. I caught every bug, couldn't think or remember, developed RLS and all this on top of my existing health issues that had gotten worse. During a horrible bought of sleep paralysis, I met the "Old Hag" - though I didn't know who she was at the time. This was the dead end, my brick wall.
A friend gave me a book that I needed. It taught me how to breathe properly and how to meditate. That helped me sleep and start getting my strength built up. That book led to another book from so many people, which led to so much for me.
I started breathing correctly, got more energy, started eating better and was able to get off all my medication. I've met new teachers along the way and everything changed.
Someone gave me Countryside Magazine and I fell in love with the back to the land movement and the self-sufficient lifestyle. That led me to cut back my work hours, save every penny, work on getting out of debt and within 3 years I moved to the country to start my first small homestead.
"I feel like the hand of the divine lifted me out of the pit and that was the biggest blessing of my life. I try to live my life now showing how grateful I am for that. "
"What motivates you to live the lifestyle you do?"
My health issues started me down this path. Now I feel like I've found out about a birthright that everyone has and should know about. I want to learn and pass down as much as I can. We have the right to know how to simply build a home, grow our own foods and make our own medicines.
That is the way healthy people and societies have lived, until now. I may not hit the mark completely, but I at least want to give a leg up to another generation. I hope I can pass this all down to my niece if she remains interested and that I can teach others one day.
"What advice do you have for anyone who wants to learn how to make their own medicines?"
First get a field guide like Newcomb's wildflower guide. The first few pages show you how to identify flowers using a key method.
Not being able to afford formal training in herbalism held me back for a long time. Then I read a Susun Weed book and that opened the flood gates of affordable and free information, training and a whole new way of taking health into my own hands. I found her website, more of her books and videos, then books from Rosemary Gladstar and Juliette de Baïracli Levy. I found affordable herbal teachers and another big snowball began.
There is so much information available through used books online, money should not be an issue for anyone. Read as much as you can first. Get on forums and trade books with people if you have to. Then when and if you are ready for more training, there are many affordable teachers you can meet through either Susun's network of friends such as Kiva Rose and Barbara Hall and so many others. Or maybe like me, a teacher will just arrive in the form of an herbalist neighbor.
There are videos on www.herbmentor.com . Read anything by Stephen Buhner or Matthew Woods, read the online works of Jim McDonald or get his CD's, take Barbara Hall's affordable online class on Choosing and Using Herb Books or any of her classes.
Pick one plant to work with and learn everything you can about that plant. You'll learn about it just sitting down next to it and spending time with it. You retain information about a plant better the same way you do about people, by associating with them and making friendships.
"What is/are your favorite plant/s to work with, and why?"
"My favorite plants to work with are the most common and abundant plants that are growing where ever I am at the time. The plants that are growing at your doorstep are usually the ones we need the most and they are working the hardest to get our attention.
We are now in the Missouri Ozarks and I had to leave behind some wonderful plant allies in NY. There is was Motherwort for the extra support I needed during the beginning of menopause; jewelweed and plantain for the poison ivy, cuts, scrapes or bruises; goldenrod for sore muscles and allergies; and dandelion for bitter greens and minerals.
Here in Missouri my favorite and most abundant herbs are "self-heal" for minerals; juniper needles for healthy breast tissue and a great tasting decoction (simmered tea); elderberry and rose for immune support; and mullein for lung support and a nice herbal infusion (long brewed tea).
For herbs that aren't so common, we have started herbal gardens in no-till beds and in the woods After the home is finished, it'll be nice to have more energy to focus on food forests, gardens and cultivated medicinal herbs.
My prayer is that everyone can discover the life changing experiences that working closely with plants continually has to offer."
"Thank you so much for your time, Jamie!"
If you would like further information on Jamie's homesteading adventures, please visit her blog Update From Falcon Creek.