Western MA Folk Remedies for Wellness

Miscellaneous Remedies


"I use Chicken Soup for everything, it is soul food. Using herbs and spices like Pepper, Paprika, and Cayenne help to warm the body and clear the sinuses." - Diane Todrin

“I use Chicken Soup for everything, it is soul food. Using herbs and spices like Pepper, Paprika, and Cayenne help to warm the body and clear the sinuses:

Chicken Soup

  • small fryer chicken
  • 4 or 5 ribs of celery
  • 4 or 5 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 bunch of dill
  • 4 or 5 onions cut in quarters
  • ginger sliced into 10 quarter size pieces
  • 1/8 cup whole peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs. paprika
  • 1 Tbs. Thyme
  • salt to taste

Honor the chicken and give thanks.

Fill large pot with cold water and add chicken. Stove should be on high. When the water comes to a boil, lower the flame to medium low. The chicken will release a tan scum as it begins to boil. Scoop this out. When pot has been cleared of scum, add all other ingredients simmer for 4 hours. Strain, chill and then remove fat that accumulates on top. Heat and eat.” —  Diane Todrin

“My unabashed plug for the health benefits of my personal lifestyle: After years of thinking about it and procrastinating, I finally embraced a way of eating that has proven so beneficial to my health that I am still discovering new positive effects. And while I think it’s important to have a working repertoire of remedies for what ails us, I think it’s even more important to know how to live without dis-ease!

“This is what works for me: no refined carbohydrates and no forms of refined or concentrated sugar (except what naturally occurs in fruit, eaten whole). This means eating only whole-grain products, and avoiding all forms of sugar, including fruit concentrates, honey, raw sugar, politically correct sugar, anything ending in -ose, and artificial sweeteners.

“The refined carbohydrates (white flour, organic wheat flour, white pasta, rice noodles, and anything that does not have the word “whole” in the ingredient list) turn into sugar in our bodies, and have the same effect metabolically speaking. I also do some very simple food combining: I eat fruits by themselves, protein/fats meals without starchy carbohydrates, and carbohydrates meals without fat/protein. I believe this results in more complete metabolizing. It certainly improves digestion and makes “gas” and “fullness” a thing of the past.

“The benefits for me have been amazing: my energy level is on an even keel all day; I lost the extra weight that I’ve been dragging around for 10 years; a recent trip to the dental hygenist was pain-free, blood-free, and tartar-free; my knee and “arthritis” pains have disappeared; my life-long allergic reactions to mosquito and bee bites don’t happen any more; junk food cravings have disappeared. In general, I feel more energetic, more positive, and sleep like a rock. I have come to believe that sugar and refined carbohydrates (the bulk of the modern American diet, and even the modern vegetarian diet) in combination with a sedentary lifestyle are responsible for most of what ails us, be it physical or emotional. I am also amazed that decades after the expose of the “empty calories” of white bread, that our supermarket shelves contain nothing but.  Worse yet, we now have a plethora of products, both in supermarkets and in so-called health food stores, which use deceptive labeling practices to dupe the public into thinking they’re getting whole grain products.

“Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now.” —  Grace Edwards

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Western MA Folk Remedies for Injuries


“Five Flower Formula is the remedy for emergency! This flower essence formula is used for all aspects of emergencies, containing the Clematis for being fully grounded, Cherry Plum for letting go, Impatiens for patience, Rock Rose for transcendence and Star of Bethlehem for peace.” – Tony(a) Lemos of Ashfield, MA

“Joanna Campe of Northampton learned this from her teacher, Eva Graf of Great Barrington and uses it all the time with great success – including in the jungle of Columbia and on a glass cut wound: with a mortar and pestle mix Goldenseal* powder and Slippery Elm* powder with water to make a thick paste. Apply to wound thickly as an antibiotic covering and cover with bandage. After wound is beyond getting infected you may rub banana into it to keep it from scarring. I have used Cayenne powder directly on a cut to stop the bleeding and to avoid infection and was amazed that it did not sting until three hours later.” – Lauren Mills (Williamsburg, MA)

* Editors Note: Goldenseal and Slippery Elm are on the United Plant Savers (UpS) At Risk List, therefore only cultivated plants should used. 

“When I have an injury, like a backache or a sprain or anything of that nature, I go out and buy as many Epsom salts as I can afford and take a hot, hot, hot bath. I remain in it as long as I can then I get out and drink as much water as I possibly can … it helps, and it will help you too!” – Star Drooker, Raine Arrow Drooker, Jesse Salmon Boy Drooker who is eternal, Fire & Water Cafe (Northampton, MA)

“A wormwood pack for your bruises: Use 1 heaping tablespoon of dried Wormwood herb per 1 cup water. Make an infusion. Steep for 20 minutes. Strain. Dip cloth in tea, ring out. Place some of the wet, strained Wormwood into the cloth. Fold over to make a large compress. Apply to bruise and secure with plastic wrap.” – Kathleen Duffy

“Hey, don’t leave home without your rescue remedy… RESCUE REMEDY is a Bach Flower Remedy Composite made up of 5 Flower Essences that is used for all aspects of emergency: Accidents, Physical Ailments, Emotional Upsets, Stress, etc. Dr. Edward Bach, who developed this remedy over 60 years ago, attributed it with saving many lives. The negative patterns or conditions that Rescue Remedy works with are virtually limitless. They include everything from near fatal accidents to emotional upsets to minor cuts and bruises. Rescue Remedy can be used both internally and externally.

  • It can be applied to burns and lacerations.
  • It can be dropped in the eyes, or the ears, or on the head in cases of headache.
  • It can be rubbed on the skin to releive stiff, sore muscles or sprains.
  • It is helpful on insect bites or stings.
  • It revives dying plants.
  • It helps in any recuperative process for people, plants and animals
  • It can be used for sunstroke.
  • It revives the spirits.
  • It is very helpful in cases of colds or fevers.
  • It helps one to cope with extreme pain and shock.
  • It can be used in recovering from addictions, in hysteria and in pregnancy.

It contains Clematis for being fully grounded, Cherry Plum for letting go, Impatiens for patience, Rock Rose for transcendence and Star of Bethlehem for peace. It is the remedy of emergency. The standard dose is 4 drops as often as needed. The Flower Essence Society makes “Five Flower Formula” which is an analogue for Rescue Remedy.” – Tony(a) Lemos

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Western MA Folk Remedies for Stress


“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing in a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: 'I’ll go take a hot bath.' I meditate in the bath. The water needs to be very hot, so hot that you can barely stand putting your foot in it. Then you lower your self inch by inch, till the water is up to your neck. - I remember the ceiling over every bath tub I’ve stretched out in. I remember the texture of the ceilings and the cracks and the colors and the damp spots and the light fixtures. I remember the tubs too, the antique griffin legged tubs and the modern coffin shaped tubs, and the fancy pink marble tubs overlooking the indoor lily pond and I remember the shapes and sizes of the water taps and the different sorts of soap holders . . . I never feel so much myself as when I am in a hot bath.” - Excerpt from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

“Staying healthy to me means staying happy with myself. If I’m feeling sad, lonely or stressed (which can lead to lower immune functioning and dis-ease of all sorts) I call over a group of friends and we have a meal, play games, dance, laugh and/or create art together. I think this is the best household remedy of all! Life is full of dis-ease, if I keep myself at-ease within community and friends my mind stays happy and healthy a day at a time. Good health is not always curing the symptoms – to me it is rejuvenating my spirit.” – Ricki Carroll, New England Cheese Makers Supplies, Ashfield

“When I’m feeling down, blue, or all-around crappy, it’s usually because my own world feels too small. So anything I can do to break out of my own world perception is especially helpful. I definitely make plans with friends with whom I laugh a lot or I go see some sort of entertainment that is a far cry from my own life – an anatomically incorrect rock musical for example. Anything that helps me to see, understand, and embrace the infinite possibilities of this world. Of course, spending my day wandering around trying to get the babies of strangers to laugh or smile is also very satisfying as well.”– Kelsey Flynn, Available for lunch, Northampton

“A tincture with St. Johnswort, Lemon Balm and Motherwort (along with self-heal and mullein flower essences) has been really helpful for a couple of friends. One was suffering from panic attacks and my other friend was feeling very depressed.” – Cathy Whitely

“Hot milk and honey and put your worries in a sack under your bed. They will be there in the morning.” – Eileen Latshang

“Maude knew. . . . “It’s oat straw tea. You’ve never had oat straw tea, have you?” “No.” “Well then.” She smiled and picked up the kettle. Do you remember this scene from the 1971 movie Harold and Maude written by Colin Higgins? –  Oats (Avena sativa) are in fact one of the best remedies for ‘feeding’ the nervous system, especially when under stress. They’re a specific treatment for nervous debility and exhaustion, particularly when associated with depression. Oats act quite slowly but can be of real long-term benefit in any weakness of the nervous system. Oats are one of the classic plants which form a bridge between food and medicine (see oatmeal recipe under winter blues). Whenever I am feeling frazzled, rushed, overworked and that there is not enough time in the day, I brew myself a pot of oatstraw tea.” – Tony(a) Lemos, Ashfield

“I use passion flower and valerian tincture for anxiety and sleeplessness.” – Becky Loveland, Northampton

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Western MA Folk Remedies for Stomach Ailments

Stomach Ailments

" I smelled it deeply. I knew then that she was to be my ally, it was my remedy. It was ginger..."

“How I Found my Plant Ally in Marrakesh: My battle with motion sickness all started on a seemingly endless bus ride through the mountains of Morocco. The hairpin turns were countless. I was not the only one throwing up into the plastic bag provided- so were the locals. This was the only bus ride I’ve even been on that had a hired hand to mop the aisles and between the seats. To make things worse, those who were lucky enough to not loose their already eaten tagine* held a cloth saturated with very cheap perfume close to their nose in an attempt to keep it down, or keep the sour smell out. That wretched smell left me with a vivid memory, a memory that goes straight to my stomach the moment I start moving . . . cars, trains, planes, boats, ferris wheels. You name it, I get sick.

“Morocco is the place I found my plant ally. I finally arrived in Marrakesh. I could still smell that cheap perfume everywhere and I felt sick! I had two weeks left. I needed relief. I walked the streets, the narrow foot paths that led to the market place, filled with jewelry, lamps, rugs and scarves, and people who wanted to decorate my white skin with a deep red henna, monkeys that danced, snakes that hissed. It was a mosaic of color and new finds. When the night air blew in new people came to light. In Marakesh the day time does not hold a space for the herbalist, they come out at night, with their promises to enlarge this and increase that. I met many an herbalist in the darkness of Marakash. One particular man sticks in my mind.

“Laid out in front of him was a square blanket, on it every remedy you could possibly imagine. Like all great herbalists his glass jars of every size were filled with unknown powers, flowers, and potions. Everything from dried lizard head to amber resin. He didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic. So I looked him in the eye, stuck out my tongue and held my tummy. He smiled and searched for something. He found it and held it to my nose. I smelled it deeply. I knew then that she was to be my ally, it was my remedy. It was ginger, plain old, buy at the grocery store powered ginger. I bought a small packet and went to my hotel.

From that day on it’s been the first thing that goes in my carry-on bag. I do get strange looks went I ask the flight attendant “can I please have room temperature water” then I reach into my bag and pour a spoon full of powered ginger powder in. I would put in more but the taste is a bit extreme for my tongue. I mix this up before I even start moving and any time during the trip. It really works. I have not thrown up in a long time. I do get nauseous and ginger clears it right up in a matter of minutes. It’s easy, safe and cheap. A true ally to any nauseous traveler.” — D’Arcy Alyse Gebert (Shutesbury, MA)

*Editor’s note: for a great Tagine, check out Amanouz Cafe on Main Street in Northampton, MA. It makes a good warming winter’s meal.
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Western MA Folk Remedies for Chest Congestions and Allergies

Chest Congestion

Natural allergy relief: common stinging nettle, Urtica dioica. (Photo credit: Tony(a) Lemos)

Onion Cough Syrup: 2 lbs. onion, peeled and cut. Use enough raw honey to cover onions (1 1/2 – 2 lbs.) in a double boiler or crockpot. Heat to simmer. Add 1/2 oz each; Anise seed, Wild Cherry bark, cut Licorice root, Horehound. Cook for 2 hours. Strain by squeezing mixture through cheesecloth and into clean glass container. Store in refrigerator. — Kathleen Duffy

For bronchitis and coughs I’ve done different things, but what I usually stick with and love is an infusion of thyme, coltsfoot and mullein. I also dose up on echinacea. I know some people feel it’s overused or works better before you actually get sick, but when I’ve waited too long, refusing to believe that I really need to slow down, I’ve taken a dropper-full every two hours for a couple of days and it’s worked. Of course, if I start taking it when I should, my cough doesn’t turn into bronchitis in the first place. — Cathy Whitely

To treat lung and cold congestion a home made poultice made of mustard seeds and water, rub onto chest and cover with warm cloths, go to bed; wake
up dead or alive! — Mindy’s paternal great grandmother

the truth is . . . i was raised a christian scientist, the only medicine in the medicine cabinet was a box of bandaids and some vicks vaporub. everything was dealt with through prayer and practitioners (and denial). oh yeah, we got ginger ale if we were feeling crummy . . . but otherwise, we had to “work it out” with god, prayer, reading, scripture etc. — Lois Brown (Artist, Shutesbury, MA)

Collect the leaves of sage and thyme from your garden or potted window herb box, loosely fill a pint jar, and cover with olive oil. Let it sit for a moon cycle, shaking whenever you remember. Strain. — In a double boiler (saucepan is fine on low heat if you do not have a double boiler) melt 2 oz of beeswax. Once this is melted add 1 oz of your infused sage and thyme oil. Turn off the heat and add up to 3-4 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil and up to 6 drops more of any combination of the following Essential Oils: Clove, Ravensare, Pine or Peppermint. Pour the hot liquid into your containers, and let harden. If the salve is too hard melt down and add more of the sage infused oil, if it is too soft melt down and add more beeswax. — In the Valley Essential Oils can be purchased from Cornucopia, Joia and the Greenfield Coop. They should not be used directly on the skin without first diluting in either water or oil and they should never be used internally. — Tony(a) Lemos

My other grandmother administered this remedy if we had the kind of deep, uncontrollable coughing that accompanies bronchitis. She would beat an egg white until frothy, and add fresh lemon juice and honey, beat it up a bit more and have us drink this odd foamy mixture. We weren’t crazy about drinking grandma’s potion, but it sure stopped the coughing! — Grace Edwards (Sunderland, MA)

Bone Soup to Cure Lung (what Tibetans say is too much wind energy, the feeling in the lung area that makes you spacey, anxious, restless, nervous.) Put cold water in a soup pot, add beef bones, knee bones are best! Swish to extract any juices into the water, bring up to boil then simmer for an hour adding salt, bay leaves, star anise, sechuanne peppers and sliced ginger and some cut up beef. Grounding will be insured as well as a great night’s sleep. — Eileen Latshang


allergies? what allergies? i am not allergic to anything. i don’t want to label myself or trap myself into a box. my body believes what i tell her and when i say i don’t have allergies, it is true. oh, that terrible sneezing spell i have every fall? with swollen sinuses and constant pressure, a tickle in my throat, and itchy itchy eyes. that’s just my annual adjustment period. and every year it is smoother and less painful with the help of a couple herbs and my attitude. people say, wow your allergies are really bad. i say, i don’t have allergies. i can breathe deeply all of the air around me, smell the difference in the breeze. i deserve to live and breathe and be.

you know the days when your sinuses are draining uncontrollably for the seventh day in a row and if it doesn’t stop you’re going freak out and rip your eyeballs out of your head so you can scratch the back of them? well, those are the days that you need to say . . . HEY! i can breathe freely! i can breathe deeply! i can handle anything that comes my way! i want to live and breathe and be! it can be very hard to love and encourage myself that much. i need to treat myself compassionately. i can heal myself! i don’t need to sneeze at every speck of dust or pollen or mildew in the air, i can breathe it all in, and my body is strong enough to deal with it! i am sensitive and sassy! i am free!

i say these mantras to myself while i sip a large glass of nourishing nettles leaf (urtica dioica) infusion. nettles, my dear friend and healing helper, gives me long term support for my entire being to live allergy free. you can drink as much as you want, as much as you can. nettles is like a cooked green vegetable. you can’t overdo it with the infusion, capsules on the other hand may be dangerous, and certainly not as delicious. my favorite herb to stop a sneezing attack is osha root (ligusticum porteri) infusion. you can infuse the osha root over and over again. this infusion is taken in small sips. you can feel how strong and potent it is. i take a few sips as needed each day during my freak out period of autumn, but i wouldn’t use it every day of the year. that’s what nettles is for.

while i am making, drinking, sipping my infusions i say to myself . . . i deserve to live and i deserve to breathe deeply. i deserve to live and breathe in freedom. i can do anything i want to do, and i want to live and to breathe and to be. —  emily millspaugh, wise woman herbalist, shutesbury

Previous Posts:


Tony(a) LemosTony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA, she also maintains an herbal medicine practice in Western Mass. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering, Falcon Ridge Folk Fest and the Women’s Herbal Conference.  Tony(a) is presently working on her next community supported project, a collection of the spirit and wisdom of the valley’s women offering alternative remedies and support for those dealing with Post Partum Depression and related condition.  A call for submissions will follow. — A Cure for What Ails appears on the second Tuesday of every month.

Kids Becoming World Citizens: Recommended Reading

Peace Travelers: Kids Becoming World Citizens
By HF Contributing Writer, Tony(a) Lemos

Up until last year my daughter was in a homeschooling program that I co-wrote with my friend Kate O’Shea called Peace Travelers. The program is presently taking a hiatus, but the organization is still meeting and we are continuing the development of programs and curriculums.


One of our favorite books for exploring global citizenship is One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway. I have read it to my daughter several times and it has sparked many conversations. We have also borrowed If the World Were Village from the library a number of times (based on the quote I have included below) along with One Well, the Story of Water on Earth.

Just this week I realize that these titles are included in the CitizenKid collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.

One Hen reminds me a little of Beatrices Goat by Page McBrier, based on the Heiffer International approach: when a new goat arrives in Beatrice’s poor Ugandan village, big changes can be made.

Another element of these stories that I really like is that they can also fit into a geography curriculum as each one is set in a different country: Uganda, Honduras, Ghana, etc.

The Good Garden: How One Family Went From Hunger to Having Enough, also by Katie Smith Milway, and illustrated by Sylvia Daigneault, is another fabulous book to set kids on the “Peace Traveling” path; helping them understand some of the issues while promoting global connectedness, community, and the concept of world citizens. The Good Garden tells simple stories about big global issues; such as: food security, community and water.  There is also an interactive website connected the The Good Garden full of further activities for children aged 8-12ish: www.thegoodgarden.org.

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Make Your Own Sunblock

"Americans know that when they head to the beach they need to protect their skin, which usually means putting on sunscreen. But consumers need to know more than just the SPF rating on the bottle ..." (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Victoria Worth of Ashfield, MA writes:

There is a good article in the New York Times about sunscreens.  Below is the beginning of the piece and HERE is the link to the whole article.

“Americans dutifully slather on sunscreens every summer, hoping to stave off aging, wrinkles and cancer. But with each passing season, more questions are raised about whether the labeling and safety guidelines for sunscreens, created in 1978, are adequate or misleading. The Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, has been criticized for failing to approve new ingredients that are available in Europe.

“Research is also questioning the safety of certain ingredients that have been widely used for years. Just recently, Senator Charles Schumer of New York called on the Food and Drug Administration to investigate reports suggesting a possible link between skin cancer and retinyl palmitate, now found in many sunscreen products.

“What should the F.D.A. do about sunscreens? And what do consumers need to keep in mind even if they cover themselves with a SPF 70 sunblock?”


Want to try making your own sun block? Local herbalist Tony(a) Lemos of Blazing Star Herbal School shares the following recipe.:

Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA

Sun Block Recipe

  • 1/2 c. St Johns Wort Infused oil
  • 1/2 cup unrefined sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Aloe Vera Gel
  • 2 Tbsp Orange  or rose or lavender water
  • 50,0000 IU’s Vitamin E Oil


  • 2 Tbsp. Coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp. borax powder
  • 1 tbsp. unrefined avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp. unrefined jojoba oil

All ingredients can be ordered from JeansGreens.com, or you can order the finished product from Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA by emailing blazingstarclinic@gmail.com.

Herbal Medicine is the People’s Medicine

Herbs On My Mind. Snow On the Ground.
By HF Contributing Writer, Tony(a) Lemos

Pussy Willow (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Pussy Willow (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The excitement of Pussy Willows this time of year is an exciting one for many New Englander’s (and transplants too), and even more so for herbalists. The seed catalogs are all dog eared. Lists upon lists have been made. Plans of new gardens have been drawn. Books have been referenced… will this be the year I install my chamomile coated napping bed in the garden?

The maple syrup sap is running, the snow is melting, and there’s mud on our boots. Instead of being stuck in the snow, our tires are spinning in the mud.  Most of the local folks here in Ashfield, MA know about the local food movement and are pretty savvy when it comes to eating local.  Some Ashfield families are members of CSA’s, or personally know the farmers who grows their food (Maribeth and Derek from Sangha Farm; Anna and David from Natural Roots). Many of us shop at farmers’ market’s (Honey from Dan, Blackcurrants from Kate, Peaches from Donna), and are even getting savvy about buying other products locally at the farmers market (Gourds from Liz, Yarn from Roberta) and we support our kids by shopping at the Kids Market in front of the General Store in the summer. Not bad for a small town.  Well on our way to sustainabilty.

Now that we grow our food how about growing our families medicine and becoming self sufficient in one more area.  Why go to the drug store for medicine when you can grow and craft your remedies from a wide variety of ailments in your own back yard? It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s relatively cheap. And I can tell you that you don’t have to be a master gardener to do it!

Herbal medicine is the people’s medicine.  The earth’s medicine. Herbs have been an integral part of medicine from the beginning of civilization. Over 80% of the worlds population still uses herbs as their primary means of health care. Medicinal herb gardening is easy, very enjoyable and rewarding both in the beauty of your gardens, and medicines that can be made for free. It is also a great family activity.

From a young age my daughter has always wanted to know from which plant medicines come from and how each formula is made. Her imaginative play often includes concocting plants into medicine for her dolls. If you are interested in teaching kids about herbs I have written a 100+ page curriculum called “An Herbal Summer.” Email me at blazingstarclinic@gmail.com for more information.

Photo Credit: Tony(a) Lemos

Photo Credit: Tony(a) Lemos

Making Herbal Medicines

Medicinal herbs can be used in many ways.  Sometimes steeped in water to make a mineral rich herbal tea,  in honey to make an herbal honey,  in apple cider vinegar to make a calcium rich brew, or you can mix with other ingredients to make natural home remedy such as cremes, salves and oils. There is nothing quite as empowering as knowing how to make your own medicines. Herbs are magical but preparing and using them doesn’t have to be mystical.

To start with chose a few of your favorite herbs to grow. Common herbs to chose if you are just starting out are:  Read the rest of this entry »

Candle for Tibet

Tony(a) Lemos of Ashfield writes:

Hi everyone,

Some of you may already know about Candle 4 Tibet who are organizing a light protest on August 7th, just prior to the opening day of the Bejiing Olympics in support of Freedom For Tibet.

In support, here in Ashfield at Blazing Star Herbal School we are going to have our second fire circle this summer on August 7th from 7:30pm-9:30pm. Please bring a candle and a blessing/prayer/poem you would like to share and don’t leave your drums/rattles behind!

If you are interested please also add your light to their website (www.candle4tibet.org), as of now 508,035 people have joined worldwide. As many of you know this is a cause near and dear to my heart. It is so painful everytime my daughter Zoe looks at a map and says, “Mama why is Tibet not on this map? How can I be from somewhere that is not on the map?”

I’m hopeful that you will join us on August 7th at 7:30pm. I know it is late, but please bring the family. Email me for directions if needed. Please feel free to spread the word. This is a free event open to the community. Read the rest of this entry »

Tree Books Worth Discovering

By HF Contributing Writer, Tony(a) Lemos

Sienna’s Arbor Day Episode on HFVS inspired me to compile a list of some of our favorite tree books I thought readers might find useful this time of year. One of my favorite things to do is to take my daughter Zoe on a hike with the intention of finding a new tree friend. We will hike until she finds one, then we’ll stop and spend some time with “her” doing a bark rubbing, tracing/ drawing the leaves, photographing, hugging, identifying and finally sitting up against her quietly to see if she has a message for us. Often we will end our time together by me reading or telling Zoe a story. Our favorites for our tree walks are nature tales by Thornton Burgess.

There are so many kids books about trees. Some fiction and some not. I am drawn to them all. There are the typical early science ones by Gail Gibbon or Bobbie Kalman, but here are a few of our favorites:


  • The Tree Farmer – By Leavell & Cravotta
  • The Old Tree – By Ruth Brown (A fun nature story with a great surprise at the end!)
  • An Elm Tree and Three Sisters – By Norma Sommerdorf
  • Sarah’s Willow – By Friedrich Recknagel
  • Spirit of the Forest: Tree Tales From Around the World – By Eric Madde


  • Sky Tree: Seeing Science Through Art – Illustrated by Thomas Locker & written by Candace Christiansen (Beautiful Illustrations as we all expect from Thomas Locker.)
  • The Tree in the Ancient Forest – By Carol Reed-Jones (Beautiful lyrical story of life around an old-growth fir tree


  • Around the Oak – By Gerda Muller
  • My Favorite Tree: Terrific Trees of North America – By Diane Iverson (Kids share their special tree. Somewhat of a field guide)
  • A Logs Life – By Wendy Pfeffer (Decomposition for kids.)
  • Exploring the Forest with Grandforest Tree – By Joanne & Hand (Great homeschooling book! Like no other.

Guide Books:

  • Trees, Leaves & Bark (Take-Along Guide) – By Diane Burn

I have to stop. Oh don’t forget the story the Man Who Planted Trees and Hope, another classic! I’ll have to gather up some of my favorites from my adult collection and share a list one of these days!

After a couple of season of doing these tree walks I have found that Zoe notices trees where ever we are, ” Oh that would be a great tree house tree” or “look mama that tree needs a hug”.

About the Author: Tony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA and maintains an herbal practice in Northampton, MA. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She is the vice president of the North East Herbal Association, and has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering and the Women’s Herbal Conference. tlemos@noho.com

Discovering Our World Through Scavenger Hunts

Zoe Travels the World: Scavenger Hunts
By Tony(a) Lemos, HF Contributing Writer

(c) 2008 Tony(a) Lemos

While putting together a travel journal and activity book for Zoe, I remembered all those years teaching at Summer Camp at the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA in Becket, MA, and how much fun we had planning scavenger hunts.

What’s a scavenger hunt? A scavenger hunt is a game in which individuals or teams seek to find a number of specific items, or perform tasks, as given in a list. The goal is either to complete the list first, or to achieve the highest score within a given time limit. They can be indoor our outdoor and they can be fun as well as educational. They can also be part of a larger treasure hunt. For example, riddles leading to the location of a custom made puzzle piece and then when all the pieces are found and assembled the puzzle can be a map to the “treasure.” The ideas are endless.


The scavenger hunt that I have the most experience with is the Nature Scavenger Hunt. A sample list might include:

  • Find three different tree leaves, seeds or pods
  • Find an insect
  • Find a feather
  • Find a twig shaped like a letter
  • Find a leaf that a bug has nibbled
  • Find something that has decomposed
  • Find something that is no longer living
  • Find something that was never alive
  • Find two different kinds of tree bark


There are simpler methods for younger children, such as:

  • Color Scavenger Hunt: find something red, blue, brown, etc.
  • Pattern Scavenger Hunt: find something with strips, a spiral, dots, etc.
  • ABC Scavenger Hunt: find something beginning with a letter or shaped like a letter
  • Number Scavenger Hunt: find one of something, two of something else, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating the Seasons with Your Family

Nature Tables & Seasonal Literature
By Tony(a) Lemos, HF Contributing Writer

Photo credit: Tony(a) Lemos


Creating simple rituals and seasonal celebrations have always felt important to me. The seasons are an important part of our lives here on earth, and living here in New England we get to experience the beauty of all four seasons. In our home, creating a seasonal Nature Table display is a part of that experience, keeping us aware of the changing cycle of the year.

Our Nature Table dioramas are always evolving throughout a season. For instance, in the early Spring we may include something that reminds of the maple syrup season, and in later Spring may include seedlings bursting forth.

While many of us value nature, it can be difficult to find the time enjoy a deep connection with it. By keeping a Nature Table we have created a constant connection in our home, forming a communion from the inside to the outside. For us it is especially important in the Winter. New England winters can feel endless at times. Experiencing the small changes of the season we bring to our Nature Table brings us hope that Spring will indeed come.

Photo credit: Tony(a) Lemos

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Zoe’s Big Adventure Across Eastern Europe

Zoe Travels the World: Join Us in Our Adventures
By Tony(a) Lemos, HF Contributing Writer

(Photo credit: Tony(a) Lemos)

Hi, my name is Zoe. Some of you may know me as I live here in the hilltowns. And while I love the hilltowns, one of my favorite things to do with MamaT is to travel. I LOVE to travel! I’ve taken an airplane to Europe when I was four months old, and I’ve journeyed by car from the hilltowns to Florida. I’ve traveled by bus and by train, and I even spent seven months in India (in utero!). I don’t remember much about that trip, but MamaT has stories to share!

This spring (March 2008) we’re taking off again. I can hardly wait! We are flying to Amsterdam (Holland) and then caravaning through Eastern Europe to Greece to visit my Giagia (greek for grandmother). MamaT says that our trip this spring is just a warm up for the BIG ONE … a journey over land from England to Tibet! And all along the way we are planning our adventures with visits to many cities in seven different countries, including:

  • Berlin (Germany)
  • Prague (Czech Republic)
  • Vienna (Austria)
  • Budapest (Hungary)
  • Bucharest (Romania)
  • Sofia (Bulgaria)
  • and then into Northern Greece

You can follow our adventures right here on Hilltown Families. You can read our posts, which will include photos, activities, maps and links to suggested readings. And when we return we’ll be sharing more stories and craft projects at the Children’s Art Museum in Shelburne Falls, MA.

(c) 2006 Tony(a) LemosPOSTCARDS FROM THE ROAD

If you would like to receive a postcard from us during our travels, send us your name and mailing address, along with a donation of $1.50 to cover costs and we’ll send you a card during our trip. Drop it in the mail to arrive before March 7th, 2008. Our road trip will begin the next day!

About the Author: Tony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA and maintains an herbal practice in Northampton, MA. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She is the vice president of the North East Herbal Association, and has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering and the Women’s Herbal Conference

Creating Seasonal Remedies

From the Apothecary: An Herbalists Check-List for Creating Seasonal Remedies
By Tony(a) Lemos, HF Contributing Writer

Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal:  A Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health and VitalityFrom an herbalist’s perspective, the Fall is full of fun times of harvesting roots and barks, and creating remedies to last through the winter months. I have been doing this for many years now. Still, I am always inspired to make new products. Last year I was pursuing the creation of the perfect herbal lollipop (for coughs) for my daughter. This year I have been inspired to make Spikenard/Orange Peel Cordial.

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Have Lovie, Will Travel

On Traveling with a Small Child: How One Hilltown Mom Manages Traveling
By Tony(a) Lemos, HF Contributing Writer

CCL (c) thaths
At 3 ½ my daughter Zoe is an experienced traveler. During our most recent trip to Greece we had a six hour lay-over in Amsterdam. “Mama there’s gate E6. E7 must be next,” she says to me during our layover, as she walked ahead wheeling her little suitcase. I didn’t even know she could read!

I’ve traveled abroad extensively since my mid-twenties. I’ve included my daughter in my travels since she was 4 months old. She’s traveled by boat, train, bus and has spent many long hours in the car. And she has always traveled well (with the exception of one 10-hour flight at 18 months when she had just started to walk…). And I, as a single mother, am able to reach our destination calm and collected.

If you have plans to travel this holiday season, ask yourself if are you relaxed when traveling? Kids pick up on any anxiety and unease. If you feel a little stressed or unsure about an upcoming trip, pack some Rescue Remedy, anti stress aromatherapy patches, tea bags…. Why not pack yourself a little goodie bag too? With a little foresight and planning, traveling can be a fun experience for the whole family. (Click here to recommend a favorite family vacation destination).

To follow are a few travel ideas that have worked for us. Give some a try and see if they will help your travel experiences flow:

Read the rest of this entry »

Make Your Own Natural Itch Relief Spray Using Wildcrafted Herbs

From the Apothacary: Families Can Find Some Itch Relief!
By Tony(a) Lemos, HF Contributing Writer

To follow are a couple herbal recipes to relieve the summer itch of bug bites or poison ivy. Take the kids and wildcraft what’s abundantly local in a clean area in your area. Take what you’ve gathered and head into the kitchen to make a few batches. Give extras to your child’s mom or dad, along with the recipes below. Both recipes are for external use only.


Equal parts:

  • Comfrey Leaf
  • Plantain Leaf
  • Violet Leaf
  • Mugwort Leaf
  • Jewelweed Leaf (whole plant)
  • (If Sweet Fern Leaf is local to you this can also be added)

Make a decoction of Comfrey, Plantain. Violet, Mugwort and Jewelweed Leaf, add Witchhazel 30% of the total liquid, add 1 teaspoon per ounce of Grindelia extract, add alcohol to equal 15% of total liquid (this is the preservative). Decant into a glass jar and store ina cool area. Keep out of reach from your children.


Blenderize the following fresh plants, adding rubbing alcohol and distilled water as needed. Do not strain.

Succous (plant juice preserved in alcohol) of the following wildcrafted plants:

  • Comfrey Leaf
  • Plantain Leaf
  • Violet Leaf
  • Mugwort Leaf
  • Grindelia Leaf
  • Jewelweed Leaf

Decant into a glass jar and store in a cool area. Keep out of reach from your children.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fairy Festival in Shelburne Falls – July 15th

Fairy Festival at the Children’s Art Museum

  • Fairy Festival
  • Sunday, July 15th, 2007
  • 2:30-4:30pm
  • Children’s Art Museum
  • Shelburne Falls, MA
  • $15 per child
  • Contacts: Tony(a) Lemos (413) 625-6826
  • Pre-registration a must to guarentee your child’s spot in Fairyland!

Bring your children to join together in celebration of all things sprite!  Come dressed in your faerie finery. All elves, pixie, gnomes, fairies and sprites are welcomed!  There will be a Fairy Tea Party, dancing in a Fairy Ring and making Fairy Art! A Sunday afternoon mythical celebration. Read the rest of this entry »

Make Your Own Root Beers

By HF Contributing Writer, Tony(a) Lemos

Sassafras, Burdock, Yellowdock, Sarsparilla and Dandelion … these roots, as tonics, are known as blood purifiers that promote the regeneration of the cells and the elimination of toxins by assisting in circulation, digestion and elimination. The brews made up by a combination of these roots are excellent spring tonics and commonly known as ROOT BEERS.

To follow are a few herbal beer recipes I’ve compilied, including my favorite Root Beer and Ginger Beer recipes the kids might like making (and drinking!). I’ve also included a recipe for Nettle Beer for the adults.   Read the rest of this entry »

Make Your Own Natural Bug Repellent Using Essential Oils

Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me!


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It is easy to make your own non-toxic bug spray by using store bought essential oils. Essential oils are steam-distilled pure concentrates of the natural oils present in plants, flowers, roots, and trees and can be purchased at your local health food store.

The high amounts of essential oils that are so often found in store bought natural bug sprays are unnecessary, and can be made at home using less.To make your own insect repellent, combine rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, vodka, or olive oil with one of the essential oils listed below. Read the rest of this entry »

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