I’ve been asked this question many times and my standard answer is “My mom got me started in gardening” or “a study of Native American culture.”  It’s true both have influenced my herbal life in deep ways, but the truth of the matter is, the plants found me and chose me to speak for them.  That may sound mystical to some of you, but here’s how it happened.

My young family was moving back to Nebraska after living in Florida for a couple years because my husband had never lived anywhere but Nebraska.  My daughter was starting school and I really didn’t want her to attend the overcrowded, understaffed schools there, but couldn’t afford private school.  I begged to moved back home and promised I wouldn’t complain about the winter 🙂

We had previously lived in Fremont, but were moving to the Norfolk area.  I had no intention of living in a city again, so we looked for a home in the surrounding small towns, or better yet, the home in the country I had dreamed about while living in the city.

First (big clue as to what will happen) was Battle Creek.  We rented a house that had been on the market for 5 years.  The landlady promised to take it off the market, but apparently, after we had fixed it up, she got an offer she couldn’t refuse.  We had unpacked all of our belongings from the 1,500 mile move just to pack them up again 2 months later.

Second, was Madison.  The only house we could find we rented knowing it was also up for sale, but the landlady said it was being marketed as a rental house so we would be able to stay even if it were sold.  Again, 2 months later, a knock on the door and I was told that the they had decided to sell their house and move into this one.  I was devastated and thought it was the worst thing that could happen to us.

We were desperate and tired of packing and unpacking, but I was also secretly glad we didn’t have to live in town.  We found an ad in the paper for a farm house in rural Stanton county.  When I called, I jokingly asked if it had a roof because of the ridiculously low rent.  He assured me it did, but said he thought there was someone else interested in renting it – friends of the current renter.  My sister, who happened to be visiting from Arizona at the time, went with me to look at the house and said “Oh, no, don’t get it”, but for some reason I really liked it, even though it was a dump.  It had potential as a home and it was 10 miles from town.  We waited anxiously, not knowing if we had a home or not and then the call came – we could have it!

That was July 4th weekend of 1993 – coincidentally the same weekend my mother-in-law had planned to move from her 5 level family home where she raised 8 of her 11 children, to a smaller home.  Of course my husband did most of the heavy lifting and the 2 households worth of goods made him so tired and achy it took most of the summer to recover.  And there was still more to do…

What my sister had seen was the absolute chaos of junk spread from one end of 5 acres to the other.  The two creeks that crossed the property had barrels of garbage in them.  One of the sheds was full of diapers and garbage.  The other one, with the roof in pieces on the front yard, was filled with barrels of glass and metal.  The front yard had, literally, everything AND a kitchen sink – wire, metal, glass, concrete, weeds, foam rubber from a sofa that was left outside for the dogs, a spray painted dog  house, a washing machine – the list could go on and on.

For the next 4 months we cleaned and cleaned and cleaned.  The house needed some work too.  The kitchen and bathroom were the worst, but we painted almost every room and cleaned every carpet.  The bathroom had carpet and was so soaked one of the joist had to be replaced.  The kitchen had a horrible linoleum floor, all stained and some parts ripped.  But, the one redeeming factor of the kitchen was this:

Built-in Herbal Cutting Board dated 1975

Built-in Herbal Cutting Board dated 1975

Looking back, it seems it was a sign of things to come.  True, my mother got me interested in gardening, but while gardening, herbs introduced themselves to me.  Every time I found a new plant I looked up what it was and whether or not it was edible or used as medicine.  Every time I saw an herb book, I picked it up and looked through it; many of them I bought for my growing (pardon the pun) library.

Those two activities, finding new plants and learning about their uses, continued over the past 20 years and is still my habit today.  Whether growing wild here or sitting in a little plastic pot in the nursery or in a seed catalog photo, some plants just simply stand up and say “look at me!”

It is in my nature to teach.  I was influenced by great teachers, including my mother, and I’m compelled to teach whatever I learn.  First, it was my kids who were my students.  Then as I grew to learn more and more, friends and family would ask me about treating some illness or rash and I’d share what I knew with them.  It would also encourage me to learn more – learn about more herbs and more about the herbs I already knew.

The experience of finding this “haven of peace and tranquility” with a kitchen that had a built-in cutting board which seemed to beg me to learn about herbs not only led me down the path to becoming an herbalist, it taught me a very important lesson.  Sometimes what seems like the worst thing that could happen, is actually the best thing that could happen!