We have recently moved as a family to Backsbottom Farm and I feel at home.
Last year, I answered a post from the permaculture farmer, Rod, who is seeking a new lease of life on the farm as he nears his retirement. Personally, I can’t see this ever being a full retirement or imminent as he is well into his 70s now and has recently been on a three month hike and still walks round the farm much faster than I can, with his bracing downhill shortcuts and endless energy. Within our connection, I could feel that I had a role there, a sense of belonging. Shortly after, we had some beautiful conversations about what the land might want as well as what we might want from the farm as a family. It has been a permaculture site for over 70 years and he makes his own apple cider vinegar from the apples which grow in the forest garden and ancient woodland.
Since starting as an aromatherapist, I was really taken by the distance that seemed to exist between my role as blender and selecting high quality oils and my connection with the Earth. There seemed to be a gap. That is, in part what lead me into shamanism. I was seeking a deeper connection with the land but more than that I could hear it calling me. Everything I learned in my shamanic journeys confirmed what I had felt, the land is needing healing, to be honoured and celebrated again. It wasn’t about the exotic faraway plants but those beneath my feet.
It didn’t seem to make sense but I was being guided by nettles, they seemed to be showing themselves to me in everything I do. This was everything from making nettle tea and really needing it to be deep green as I could feel my system being depleted, tea for the compost heap’s activation, and then in my daughter’s book I found myself reading a story about “The Nettle Princess” and being moved to tears. She even said Mummy, I think this story is about you. The connection with nettles and the love story entwined like a mirror of my life at the time.
Over lockdown I bought myself a copper distillation kit from Portugal. Inspired by a feeling and no obvious sense as all the best ideas are. I then and enrolled on an online course with Penny Price Aromatherapy about how to make your own skincare range. I could see that the anti-inflammatory properties of nettle and their vast availability was exciting and bridged my connection with the land.
Following on from that, I connected with the Airmid Institute in California created by Kelly Ablard who has created a list of endangered medicinal plants. The list is frightening and continues to grow. Rosewood, Penny Price has stopped selling as it is being burned along with the Amazon Forest and many more medicines are being lost due to logging and environmental disasters and global warming. I shared my ideas with Kelly and she emailed back with excitement and offered suggestions about funding and we decided to keep in touch and share research.
I then pitched my idea to Penny, from Penny Price. I even told her that I felt the nettles really wanted it and was heartened to feel that she was as excited as me about the project. It is what is needed now, a return to the Earth under our feet and bringing the sacred to the weeds once dismissed as harmful. They are now to be embraced.
At the same time as the medicines are being lost across the world, the market for aromatherapy is growing and growing. So great is the aromatherapy industry and so big the market that adulteration of oils, chemical adulteration and incorrect labelling is very common. As it is such a global industry and not standardised in the way that other industries are, a lot of poor practice in search of cheaper prices is making a very ugly picture of the future.
I wanted to share this as Greenwashing is such a prominent marketing tool in the spiritual world today. The truth is that the aromatherapy industry is a deeply unethical one. Oils are being shipped around the world and many people are not aware about ‘dosages’ and little respect is often given to the plant itself.
There is also limited knowledge about properties. For example, Frankincense and Eucalyptus are often highly adulterated. This is because of the belief that they are the only oils that will serve certain needs. Frankincense, due to its high price and difficult to obtain and for a UK aromatherapist travels a long way and Eucalyptus as it comes immediately to mind with the thought of coughs and colds. However sacred UK grown herbs such as Yarrow and Sage also have similar properties and have the benefit of being widely abundant under our feet.
I shared all this with Rod and before I knew it, I had created a venture on the farm, distilling organic and native plants for hydrosols and oils. Bringing the local and land connection back. I felt excited and right.
On Friday, our first samples for our nettle hydrolat hand and body wash arrived from the laboratories at Penny Price. They will go through their full cosmetic testing and we will distil from the land. Receiving it through the post felt like a gift, it felt alive in its bottle and happy. I felt the smile of the nettle spirits and we felt at home. We tried it out in the shower and all five of us loved it. We hope you do too!