The Herbal Academy

I never claim to be all-knowing in the realm of natural healing–or anything I dive into. As a result, I am constantly seeking new information. It is never enough for me. I get a true high from grasping new information and storing it away for later use. I am just as happy learning alone as I am in a group of people. In fact, I hate crowds, but it is very easy for me to tolerate a crowd if learning is involved.

Even better than learning is actually using what I have learned, especially if I’m passionate about it. Many people we have become acquainted with or work with ask, at least once, how I know as much as I do about natural remedies and using herbs as an appropriate means of being healthy or solving ailments. My answer, for a very long time in my youth, was either “We have a garden…” or somewhere along the lines of  “That’s just what we use.” It wasn’t until around middle school that I realized my love and appreciation of nature and its partnership with us wasn’t the norm. My easygoing nature probably saved me from a lot of bullying because no one knew what I was talking about in this department–ever. It wasn’t important for preteens or teenagers. Most friends were either minutely intrigued or just brushed what knowledge I did carry off.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

In my late teens and early twenties I hit a wall. And it was unexpectantly devastating. I had what I learned growing up in a household that valued and respected nature–but that was it. And it actually bothered me because I knew there had to be more. I ventured into the world of Google and learned there was a whole world I was missing, beyond the common culinary herbs of the kitchen. By mid twenties, I was mostly properly making tea infusions, oil infusions, and salves. Then I hit a wall again. I needed to know more, but Google wasn’t cutting it. I now know it was a combination of not really knowing what else to research for deeper understanding and technique and of not having a mentor or group to communicate with. So, I did what most of us do and I stalked forums and joined a few groups on Facebook later on when groups on Facebook first became a big deal.

Although it was very encouraging to communicate with like-minded individuals, the wall was still there. I realized it was time to do some research into education being offered to further my own studies.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

I traveled back into the Google realm and found numerous online schools. After much consideration and research, I fell in love with the Herbal Academy. They offer numerous courses ranging from introductory to advanced with other courses in between. The natural starting point is their introductory course.

In the introductory course, the student has little to no herbal experience upon enrollment and is immersed in a world full of infusions and other handmade body care products. Don’t let the fact that it’s an introductory course turn you away; there is a lot of information on herbs (some found in the kitchen and some found with wildcrafting). There are recipes, plant identification tips, and much more content you can access online or download to print and keep a hardcopy of. And you’ll find that with every course available, all content is able to be downloaded and printed (minus the informative videos).

I have been really happy furthering my herbalist education with the Herbal Academy. When you’re done with the courses you’re taking, it is such an invaluable resource to have at your fingertips for future referencing.

Along with being a student at the Herbal Academy, you have access to their student-only Facebook community. There, you interact with students in various courses as well as the teachers.

If you are looking to receive a more formal education in the world of herbs, I highly recommend this school. It’s self paced, online, and interactive. Students and teachers are always sharing something, there are quizzes embedded into each course, and you do recieve a certificate of completion at the end of your courses.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

I do recommend starting at the beginning, even if you’re on the fence between introduction and intermediate levels. Dosing is discussed even in the introductory course, as well as herbs for children, women, and men. Various body systems are discussed and what herbs are used to promote good health in regards to those body systems. So, even though it is an introductory course, it is definitely not for the faint of heart. There’s a very balanced combination of what I would label “newbie” stuff with very enlightening details as to why everything works the way it does, which is what I found to be lacking in my independent research before enrolling into this school. When you finish any course, you really get the sense of knowing what to do or use, but what I find to be most satisfying is that you begin to understand the why, which is most important because that why knowledge is what will help you make independent decisions if a scenario calls for it. Having a recipe is great and many are provided, but that why is going to help you change–in a responsible way–anything that needs to be changed in a formula based on the more unique needs of an individual and/or case, even for something as minor as a cold.

Many of you have enjoyed discussing our natural world with me and if you’re looking to further your own independent studies, check the Herbal Academy out. Knowledge is power. There are different courses and if you’re very certain you’re serious about it, check the different packages out below because it can save you money if you’re just going to take more than one course in the long run.

Clinical Herbalist Package
Entrepreneur Herbalist Package 
Professional Herbalist Package
Family Herbalist Package

I know some of you are probably tired of hearing this, but I am going to say it again. The family at Harman Farms does NOT discredit the practice of medicine and we do not ignore its place and need in society. Although we do believe much of medicine (the biggest topic being antibiotic overuse) is blindly overused by society as a whole, we do know that doctors of varying degrees are important and actually helpful (we LOVE our kids’ pediatrician and gladly overlook his lacking bedside manners in exchange for his brutal honesty); and although using herbs just as responsibly as you do pharmaceuticals is a BIG bonus to overall health, you’re going to AT LEAST need a diagnoses from a medical professional to make the proper lifestyle changes to benefit your unique needs the most. If you are unsure or concerned of something, there is nothing wrong with consulting a doctor and there is nothing wrong with also consulting a professional herbalist as well. Again: knowledge is power and the more of it you have, the better decisions you can make for yourself and your family.

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Maggie’s Herb Farm

I am feeling pretty overwhelmed at the amount of cool stuff I’ve been wanting to share lately! We have so much going on. I have to introduce you guys to one of my favorite places, Maggie’s Herb Farm. This introduction is long overdue, this place is amazing. Every single medicinal (and some culinary) herb I have came from Maggie’s.

This farm has been in the same spot since 1983. Dora Baker is the current owner. My family and I carry a very deep appreciation of her. She has worked in the clinical setting as a herbalist so it’s only logical that her nursery carries many medicinal herbs. Being a lover of nature, she also carries plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Maggie’s Herb Farm also carries plants native to Florida, one of my favorites being the datil pepper. This pepper is a native of one of my favorite cities, St. Augustine. It’s kind of a big deal around these parts. We purchased a few plants on our last visit to hopefully incorporate into our homemade spicy Italian sausages we sell at the Port Orange Pavilion Market.

Maggie’s also hosts numerous classes. We have attended the Herbal Medicine Chest and Beginning Soap Making classes. Being a teacher and also a lifelong learner my most enjoyable experiences during these classes have been learning new things, but it’s also quite inspiring to be around other like-minded people on similar quests to healthier living.

The environment itself is relaxing, so it’s no surprise that this nursery hosts yoga classes. Living in Ormond Beach, I simply have not been able to attend. Being someone who greatly enjoys the benefits of yoga, I would attend at least for the setting, if I lived closer.

Touring the nursery is a pleasant experience. Depending on the season, the plants will be booming with butterflies. Every day of the year one can see the chickens roaming the land. They’re far from a nuisance and don’t spook easily from people. It’s obvious the flock is well taken care of and loved. Even the roosters are calm, but being prey animals by nature I instinctively never tell anyone to try to hold or cuddle a hen or rooster they simply do not know. If you’re browsing plants at this nursery, do not be startled if a hen walks over your feet as she does her ritual foraging.

What I appreciate the most when I visit Maggie’s Herb Farm, is if I have a question Dora is there to answer it and she is actually knowledgable in the area of medicinal herbs. That’s really not an easy thing to find locally.

If you’re looking for an actual nursery where you can browse herbs and plants that you don’t typically find in most nurseries, I definitely recommend coming out here. It is such a gem and so much nicer than ordering plants online. As a studying herbalist I appreciate being able to grow most of what I use. I understand that it is not always possible to grow what I need to use, but to be able to grow as much as possible on site  is really a dream we’re trying to achieve on our farm.

If you are in St. Augustine–or anywhere in Florida–make a trip here. Visit the historical aspects of the city, do lunch somewhere, then come to Maggie’s to shop. It’s one of my favorite ways to spend a free day.

Check out their website, or their Facebook. They have a very quick respond time on Facebook and happily help with any questions you may have. Check them out, they are amazing.

And if you want to follow what we have been doing with these herbs check us out here, here, and here. These are some older posts and we will be adding more in the future as we look to the possibilities of a greenhouse and as I practice more with my copper still.

Check back with us the next couple of weeks as we share our beginning journey in soap making and other natural products.

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If you have anything you would like to share, please comment below.

Growing up on the Homestead

Botany & Wildcrafting Course by Herbal Academy 

My husband grew up in close proximity with Amish communities. He was exposed to good food and understanding where food actually comes from. He did not personally work a farm the way that we do now as a family. I grew up with a family dog and store-bought food. We did grow our own vegetables and dabble in herbal medicine, but that was it.

The choice to switch to a homesteading lifestyle was based on our children. We wanted them to eat well, learn empathy, and work hard. When my children talk about their home life in school, the common reactions I hear from other adults range from “That’s amazing” to “That sounds like… a lot.”

It is a lot. And it is nonstop. My daughter failed one of her first small social studies assessments because she argued that people do make their own food today, not “long ago.” The teacher told her that people do not make their own food, they buy it at the store. My daughter was pretty adamant that the teacher was completely wrong. We both had to explain that the general population buys eggs, chicken, and other dairy products from the grocery store. Not everyone makes it or trades with other farms. Despite the fascination or harsh judgements made by other people, our children are growing into–we hope–healthy and enlightened individuals.

Talking about homesteading life often sounds less desirable than it truly is. There are bad days. There are horrendous days. There are scary days. There are breakdown and cry all day while you’re still working days. But most days are good, happy, and fulfilling.

I am going to showcase a compilation of what homesteading life looks like on the best of days because I feel those don’t get talked about enough.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is dandelion wishes.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is finding the occasional fairy egg.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is when new animals stop by your property just to say hi (not our cat).

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is hugging a 6 hour old goat.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is homemade remedies and bad handwriting.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is fresh and rejuvenating.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is full of 4 in the morning surprises.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Homesteading is about more than one family sharing space.

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Homesteading is good food.

I didn’t grow up on a homestead, but we’re very thankful for the opportunity for our children to live this way. They help every way they can. There is a lot of hard work, but there is plenty for them to thoroughly enjoy as well.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. I earn from qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you, if you click the links and make a purchase.

Tea with Dragonflies

When we first moved out here three years ago, the land was completely overrun with trees and weeds whose heights could easily lead one to believe they too were trees. An unkempt pond in the front created a small swampy environment. Amphiumas inhabited the land where it was most moist. Three years of vacancy did not help the land flourish. It was very easy to just want to tear everything out. And, in some sad ways, that’s mostly what was done. Although most involved with the task were very excited about the end result, I had a very heavy heart whenever I witnessed a fleeing snake or a random fish pop up in the yard, trapped, as we destroyed its watery home. In the process of destruction to build new, I had personally rescued three fish and two Jerky McJerkface Creepy Snake Fish amphiumas. My husband and I worked together to move a huge softshell turtle. Later that year, we Taz–our Weimaraner–brought us a baby softshell turtle. He did not harm the baby, but probably rescued it from the huskies. That warmed all of our hearts.

As we cleared practically everything we clearly got a good look at two trees. One right out front of the house and the other near the front of our property. I had fallen in love with the tree by the house, and my husband was fond of the one near the front of the property. We’re unsure of what the trees actually are, but they were too gorgeous to get rid of.

The tree right outside the house provides plenty of shade. In seeking a moment to myself one afternoon, I decided to finish off a cup of hot tea I had steeped. I know it’s summer, but I do love my hot drinks. I held my knees to my chest as I leaned against the tree. A dragonfly landed on my bare foot. I continued my tea.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Another one, green, landed to my left. Then another to my right. One bumped into my right ear. Another landed on a twig above me to enjoy a snack. I closed my eyes and listened to them. They don’t buzz like bees, though there were a few working in the shade as well. They didn’t mind my presence so I continued to share their space. Listening to them fly and land nearby was tranquil.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

I allowed myself a moment to feel young again; a little girl with butterfly wings, pretending these gentle beasts came to visit me from a faery realm. Smiling at them as they ate in close proximity of me. Blue, green, and yellow.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

I finished off my tea and returned to work. Later in the evening I visited my friends again with the camera. I couldn’t resist documenting–to an extent–our interaction. I took advantage of how undisturbed they were by my presence and thoroughly enjoyed our little photo shoot. At the end of the day, with the amount of work I got done, I was most proud of enjoying tea and socializing with the local neighbors in our tree.

Take time for yourself; even if it’s not everyday.

Take time to acknowledge and enjoy the peace around you presently; even if you had to cause destruction to get there.

And despite past destructions and chaos, never stop growing and helping the growth around you.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman