Montana Herb Gathering reflections

I've come to realize that it's not what classes I take, but how I take them. It's not where I go, but how I experience it. It's not life that sculpts me, but rather I who sculpt my life. It's not the notes that make the music, but rather the space between the notes. The quality of relationships created between classes, rather than the amount of information accrued in classes. The inspiration from classes, rather than the information.

True, I don't get complete control of the matter. But, "how" is often more powerful than "what."

I taught an adult course at an herbal gathering for the first time, at the Montana Herb Gathering, this summer. It was a quick course, on basic flower and leaf anatomy, and how to key out a plant using a local flora. I over-prepared for class, talked as quickly as I could, breathed deeply, let go, and watched my students learn, explore, and enjoy botany. I loved it.

The gathering took place at Canyon Lake Ferry, at the Montana Learning Center: a small cluster of cabins set against a stunning backdrop of lake and sky. Most people camped, while others stayed in cabins. There was a small herb fair vendor area, between the cabins (where classes took place) and camping. I camped on the edge of a peninsula cliff, sleeping and waking to the sounds of water, birdsong, and crickets, admiring the mist creeping across the moonlit waters by night, sunlit ripples by day.

A comfortable camaraderie was cultivated at this gathering: we ate meals together, with ample time for milling around, meeting new friends, celebrating with old friends, and swapping plant and life stories of all sorts. This year's gathering was smaller and more quiet than in previous years. This being my first time here at the Montana Herb Gathering, I appreciated the coziness and intimacy of having less people. The classes ranged from scientific to energetic, and everything in between. The general participant demographic also ranged from experienced herbalists to first-timers, with a range of ages, some families, and a general peacefulness and joyousness.

I enjoyed most of the classes that I went to, but was easily distracted. Around 4 classes took place simultaneously within each 1.5 hour period. Most of them sounded interesting, so I would jump around from class to class to see different teaching styles, and get a general potpourri of all the different classes.

I start Chinese medicine studies this autumn, so was particularly interested in Miles Coleman's classes, and how he approaches western herbs with Chinese medicine philosophies. My most memorable class though, was simple yet profound, and not information packed at all. In fact, quite the opposite. Sarah Bunting is a young woman like me, and also somewhat fresh to teaching at gatherings. She led a plant meditation class, reading us a story about "Night Singing Bear" that she received from Usnea, before we went off on our solo plant meditation explorations. Sarah's Usnea-inspired story and profound yet playful approach to this work is deeply inspiring, a reminder for why and how I hope to continue walking on and exploring this plant-based path. 

Highlights of my time at the Montana Herb Gathering occur around and between classes, usually in the evenings. I went swimming everyday out to the closest island in the lake, the exhilaratingly cold water stimulating, waking, rejuvenating, and delighting my senses, the blue sky a blessing to my eyes, every breeze and splash of waters into my face and eyes a kiss from the divine. Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) grew in abundance around the water. I brought both of my classes (adults' botany class, and kids' plant-based arts class) down to the waters' edge, where we discussed, keyed out, drew, and immersed ourselves in plants. I visited the Henbane every morning and night, watching it grow, smelling it, rattling its seed heads, and sticking my face into its sticky witchy leaves and flowers. People made a bonfire in the firepit at the waters' edge, every night. I came down to the water on the first night, planning for a quiet date with Henbane, but instead surprised to find a group of people chatting around the fire. I socialized a little, then slunk out of the circle, down to the water. I drifted into a Henbane haze, a waking dream that wove my understanding of my place in all this, even deeper into the fabric of my being. Evening song circles by the firelight, Henbane, and water filled me with joy.

At dinner one night, I interviewed organizer Jim Nymeyer about his work with herbs, people, and Chinese medicine. Two other Chinese medicine people came and joined in the discussion, which became a miniature class. I ended the evening learning a taiji practice for cultivating my inner awareness, balancing my organ systems, and grounding my energy before and after working with clients.

The final evening of the gathering, the kids put on a hilarious and adorable play about how the fairies saved the plants and pollinators from GMO's and Round-Up, which basically meant that they put on colorful elaborate costumes, and chased each other around and around the tree of life (a ribbon-bedecked tree in the center of our circle). I couldn't stop laughing, especially at the "queen of the demons," who was a little boy who attended my kids' class, who kept hinting, "Wait 'til you see my dress," all through my class. He howled louder than all of the other demons, and opened his eyes and mouth so wide that I thought they might pop out. Then, we had a "botanical fashion show," (more light-hearted laughter and celebration). This cultivation of relationship with people and plants is truly a celebration.

The Montana Herb Gathering is currently looking for more people to join their Board of Directors, which recently went through major changes. If you are an herbalist living in that region, then consider joining a group of dedicated herbalists promoting plant-based awareness and education in the state of Montana, and beyond.


Jiling’s Herbal Medicine- Making Classes

Come join herbalist Jiling and learn how to make your own herbal home remedies, with the plants that grow around you. Each class includes a tea party, lecture, and demonstration. Students make and take home a useful natural product with recipes, further resources, and an abundance of information and inspiration. 

When: Wednesday nights (6:30 - 8:30 PM), October 14 - November 25
(Come for one, or all, of the classes)
Where: State Street Art University (810 State Street New Haven, CT)
Cost: Sliding scale $25-$50 per class. (Includes materials fee. Contact Jiling for trades, if needed.)
Register: Contact Jiling at LinJiling@gmail.com or 626-344-9140

The Classes
10/14- Welcome to Herbalism
10/21- Gathering, Processing, and Storing Plants
10/28- Creating Tea
11/4- Oil Infusions and Salves
11/11- Making Tinctures
11/18- Sweet Medicine
11/25- Incense, Dreaming Herbs, and Flower Essences

The Classes (detail)

Welcome to Herbalism (Oct. 14)
Come experience and experiment with a variety of herbal medicine making techniques and menstruua (solvents). We’ll introduce making teas, tinctures, vinegars, honeys, and oils. Further topics may include preparing salves, sugars, glycerites, flower essences, elixirs, oxymels, incense, and food. Students are invited to bring their favorite preparations, recipes, stories, and more to share after class!

Gathering, Processing, and Storing Plants (Oct. 21)
Once you know what plants do, how do you utilize their resources? We’ll explore some local edible and medicinal wild plants, then discuss ethical wild-crafting tools and techniques, and plant harvesting, processing, and storage methods and considerations.

Creating Tea (Oct. 28)
Teas are an ancient way to ingest plants, which is still ritualized in many traditional cultures. We’ll share a tea ceremony, then prepare teas, infusions, decoctions, and topical tea applications (washes, compresses, poultices, steams, baths). We’ll discuss some local delicious and nourishing plants for tea, then formulate a useful and delicious tea blend.

Oil Infusions and Salves (Nov. 4)
Our skin is the most exposed part of our physical body. We’ll discuss skin-care, and create a luxurious aromatic skin-healing oil infusion and salve.

Making Tinctures (Nov. 11)
Tinctures are plants extracted in alcohol. They’re easy to make, transport, and ingest. We’ll prepare tinctures with fresh, dried, and other plant materials with the folk method, and scientific method. We’ll discuss formulation, cordials, elixirs, and plant actions. Other possible topics include organoleptics, Ayurvedic constitutional evaluation, vitalist energetics, and balancing the five flavors.

Sweet Medicine (Nov. 18)
A spoonful of sugar truly makes the medicine go down. Sweet medicine is often delicious, as well as medicinal. Just don’t eat it all at once! We’ll make honey infusions, syrups, glycerites, and pastilles. Students will bring home a yummy medicinal honey infusion.

Incense, Dreaming Herbs, and Flower Essences (Nov. 25)
Working with plants on a ritualistic or energetic level can complement any self-care or therapeutic practice, and enhance the process of coming to know oneself, in relation with plants. We’ll discuss plant connection exercises, dreaming herbs, the ritual usage of plants, and how to make flower essences. We’ll make an incense blend in class, for students to take home, and continue the journey. 


Chinese medicine school: update and fundraiser

情愛的親朋好友家人們, 希望你一切平安 事事如意 基玲準備八月份進入美國的一個中醫學院​ (AFEA)​ 學針灸和東方藥草學 希望能兩年之內回台灣三四個月請跟我報告如果你打聽到美好的工作機會! 我想要跟台灣的中醫師學習 還有回師大上一些課 請跟我分享你的意見 感恩 祝開心 健康 生活豐富 美滿 ---基玲

Dear friends and family,

It's midnight on the full moon. As I type, the moon shines her light on me through the window, with the trees blowing in the wind, cricket song, and the smell of mountain wildflowers. I hope that this summer full moon finds you healthy, happy, and well, wherever you are. For those of you who I just met, it's good to connect again. I send group email updates every once in a while, usually every few months. For my "old" friends, thank you for your continued friendship and support. I am nothing without you.

This is a long email, with many big changes, and big questions. Here's a quick synopsis of my long email:
- I start graduate school in Chinese medicine (acupuncture and herbs) at the Academy for Five Element Acupuncture (AFEA) in Gainesville, FL this August. I'm going into debt for school. Any financial assistance would be greatly appreciated. Here's my little fundraiser:
- I'm looking for a job that fits me and pays well, where I can keep learning, sharing, and playing. I'm currently in New Haven, CT but can relocate.
- Suggestions for teaching and traveling are especially welcome, especially if it involves traditional Earth-based healing modalities.
- I would love help with fundraising, marketing/ business skills, time management skills, and connecting/ networking with Chinese medicine/ similarly oriented people.

… and now, keep reading for more details!

I chose AFEA because of its connection with nature, elements, and Chinese medicine. After visiting and considering many different schools, I primarily chose this one for its convenience: the first two years only require me to be on campus for a total of about two months each year. We have a 20-30 day intensive every 4 months. The third and final year of the program is a clinical residency. Three years will fly by. The first two years accommodates my nomadic lifestyle, allowing me to continue teaching, playing, learning, and exploring in different areas between intensives. The third year will better meet my need and desire for hands-on learning, but require staying put for one whole year.

I am still searching for a homebase, and am still primarily drawn to the desert southwest (especially New Mexico) and northeast (especially Connecticut). I love the wild and dramatic land of New Mexico, and am also drawn to her similarly bad-ass people. I have many friends and work-related connections in Connecticut, and the northeast. I struggle with living in over-developed Connecticut though, and miss the wilderness of the west. My seasonal lifestyle can currently include "living" in both places, but my apothecary and library don't fit into my car anymore, nor do my other creative projects that are community-oriented, such as clinical and teaching engagements. I'm looking for jobs in other places, especially outdoor education/ herbal/ healthcare/ yoga teaching/ etc possibilities, especially around New Mexico or other more montane areas of the southwest. I would like to explore being in the southwest for an even longer period of time.

My upcoming graduate studies in Chinese medicine at AFEA are the biggest investment of my life. Just tuition and fees will add up to about $63,000. I pay around $6500 every four months. School hasn't started yet. Just looking at these crazy huge numbers feels like flushing my life's savings down the toilet, as well as investing in debt for the next dozen years of my life. But, an older ND said to me, "Think of it as an investment in your future and the future of others, instead of going into debt." I'm trying to look at it that way.

I've work-traded through many different trainings and experiences, and lived frugally for all of my adult life. My biggest fear in entering grad school is this money thing, and going into debt… er, making this investment. I've never done this before. My biggest draw is reconnecting with the medicine of my ancestors, cultivating a deep understanding of the human body and its relationship with the world, and becoming one who can serve many.  

So, I am now, for the first time, seriously exploring how to make more money. I need money now to pay for school, to pay for something that I really care about, which will help me grow. I'm looking for creative ways to make lots of money in fulfilling ways that utilize my skills in a good way, where I can happily contribute lots, while continuing to grow as a healer, teacher, and human. I am happy to travel. I am most excited to be in the southwest or northeast parts of the USA, or in Taiwan... but I am also open to other ideas. I have the most experience with, and most love, nature-based education, and traditional (sometimes called "alternative") healing arts. I teach many things: herb classes, nature-skills, yoga, improvisational movement/ vocalization, and meditation. I'm looking for ways to live cheaply, work fulfillingly, and create financial abundance to fund my education. If you have suggestions for work-related opportunities, or if you hear of anything that could fit what I just described, or just feels right for me, then please let me know! I am searching, and open.

I hope to continue developing my herbal business/ work/ skills through school. I'm currently teaching, doing some clinical work, and wildcrafting/ making/ selling products. I most enjoy teaching, and doing one-on-one clinical work. I have no prior experience as a business person, and would love help in understanding exactly how to start a business, business possibilities and logisitics, and general business skills, especially the fine art of marketing.

I started teaching at herb gatherings, and love it. I just taught my first herbal series at my current home, in CT. I had low attendance, but thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, and learned a lot from the experience. Please let me know if you have suggestions for other places to teach, such as gatherings, retreat centers, etc. I am willing to dream big, be bold, and step large into the world. I also know how to, and am willing to, be small, and rise up slowly. I understand that it's a dance. And here I am, asking for your help in the form of support: ideas, experience, connections, and...

Fundraiser! I'd rather not just take donations, but would love to give you back something in return. I haven't thought of what is small and easy to give to many people. If you have ideas for this too, then that would be appreciated! I started a fundraiser for my studies, here:
I am just using my business page, instead of a crowd-funding site, because I am unfamiliar with the pros and cons of the crowd-funding sites, and this is just easier. Suggestions are welcome, again! (And, always.) Any donation is helpful. I have over 2000 friends on Facebook. If everyone just donated $5, then I'd have $10,000 which would greatly benefit my scholastic investment. I don't have perks for a $5 donation, but have perks for other "donations"... basically, raising my prices for herbal medicines and consults, for the fundraiser. But, just buying my stuff helps some, too. My goal is to fundraise $6000-$8000.

There aren't many scholarship opportunities for graduate studies in Chinese medicine. But if you know of any, then please let me know! Or, do you know anyone who is financially well off, and looking to fund an inspired young person who's looking to inspire others in turn? Or know other creative ways to fund graduate studies, for a low-income Asian-American young woman who turns 30 in January? Well, please keep me in mind, and let me know. I feel like I'm joining the system, a system that I pulled out of a long time ago in disdain, and am now returning to, in hopes of creating positive change: one person at a time clinically, and one group at a time educationally.

A few more logistical queries/ considerations:
- I have to travel to Florida three times a year for the next two years. I'll either take the plane or train, depending on my distance from school. What are your ideas on cheap travel, or cumulative travel points?
- Intensives are 20 days each, and I'm looking for good places to stay, preferably close to school, which is in downtown Gainesville, FL. I found a place to stay 15 miles from school, but am also looking for alternative options, especially with good people, in a place that I can worktrade to stay. I am also looking for good community around FL.
- I already started taking online classes. I'm only taking one class at a time right now, but it's already been tough juggling work, school, and life. Time management is an ongoing challenging learning opportunity. I welcome your suggestions for fun and effective time management skills. I get distracted easily. I make lists every week and every morning to prioritize and organize my life and needs, but still never have enough hours in the day to get it all done.
- Connections. Now that I'm more formally engaging in Chinese medicine studies, I'm reaching out for more Chinese medicine connections. If you have acupuncturists and herbalists that you love, then please connect me with them! Part of school includes observation hours with diverse practitioners, and point location practice. Regardless of school requirements, I love meeting fellow healers that I can exchange ideas, information, and inspiration with. I love learning, and am always delighted by fresh techniques, perspectives, and stories.
- I want to return to Taiwan for 3 months, within the next two years. If you somehow hear of work-related opportunities there, then please let me know! I could only substitute teach English there part time, if I'm only there for three months. Subbing is hard work. Alternate ideas are great!

What a long message. Thanks so much for your patience, support, and interest! As always, I'd love to hear an update on your life too! Thank you for all the ways you walk in my life, and in the world. May all your brightest seeds of intention sprout forth into the most majestic plants of prayer-fed-possibilities that even you could not have ever imagined possible. And may you continue to feed those beautiful dreams of yours with your hard work, soft heart, and delicious life. And, enjoy.

With love and gratitude,



If you could have “perfect health,” what would that look like? How would you feel? How healthy do you feel right now? Which parts of your body feel in pain? What kind of pain is it? What parts of your body do you hate? Which parts do you love? When do you feel the best in your body? When do you feel the most alive?


Autumn 2015 Connecticut Herbal Classes (level 2) with Jiling

I finalized my Connecticut level 2 herb classes, for autumn 2015. These classes are primarily geared towards the students that were with me for spring 2015, though others are welcome too (but let's chat, first.) Lecture days are more advanced, whereas field days are more accessible to folks with less experience.

I'm still working on scheduling basic medicine making (level 1) classes (they'll review the spring session for those who wanted to, but couldn't make it). I'm leaning towards Wednesday evenings, from 6:30- 8:30 PM, following the same approximate timeline (late September to late November) as the level 2 classes.

I'm considering creating a weekly kids' class. I am currently one-on-one mentoring one young student with wild edible and medicinal botanicals, and am happy to take on more students and turn that into a more formal class, if there's enough interest. 

I am also looking for marketing assistance, if you have suggestions. Thanks! 

On that note, here's...

Autumn 2015 Connecticut Botanical Medicine Level 2 Classes with Jiling

Autumn herbal classes will alternate between lecture and field classes.

Lecture classes:
Lecture classes cover a variety of topics, primarily materia medica for different body systems. These classes take place indoors with tea, discussion, and samples. A basic understanding of herbal principles is requested for this class. 

Field classes:
Field classes take place outdoors; all are welcome. These classes may include plant walks, botanical field identification, medicine making, sharing herbal projects, and general discussions/ Q+A. Please dress appropriately for walking outdoors, and bring your current herbal projects to share. Please RVSP, as some classes may take place in other locations, and the schedule/ location may shift with the season, and weather.


When: Tuesday nights, 6:30- 8:30 PM. Sept. 22 to Nov. 24. Come for one, or all, of the classes. Drop-in’s are welcome, though pre-registration is preferred.
Where: Out-on-a-Whim Farm (312 Litchfield Turnpike Bethany, CT)
Cost: Sliding scale $30- $50 per class. Trades welcome; no one turned away for lack of funds.
Register: Contact Jiling at LinJiling@gmail.com or 626-344-9140

Weekly Schedule

1. Herbal overview: constitutional evaluation, actions and energetics (9/22)
2. Field Class (9/29)
3. Nervous system (10/6)
4. Field Class (10/13)
5. Digestive system (10/20)
6. Field Class (10/27)
7. Respiratory system (11/3)
8. Field Class (11/10)
9. Herbal first aid II: commonly seen conditions, materia medica (11/17)
10. Field Class (11/24)



Smell a rose. Really stick your face into it. Notice its intoxicating perfume, how it draws you in, makes you feel. Notice its velvety petals. Open your mouth, and hold one of those petals in it. Breathe that aroma into your mouth, into your body. Lick the rose petal, then slowly begin eating it. Notice its aroma, how it courses through your body, as you imbibe this plant that has been associated with love, the heart, pleasure, and medicine, through cultures all over the world, from ancient times, til present moments.

All parts of the Rose plant (Rosa spp.) are useful: buds, petals, leaves, hips, seeds. I particularly enjoy the buds, petals, and hips. The leaves are more astringent, whereas the buds and petals are calming, cooling, slightly astringent, and balancing. The hips contain more vitamin C and antioxidants, and a tangy flavor. Buds may be collected at the start of the rose season, early spring or late summer, depending on your location. Petals are best collected right after the flower’s been at the height of its bloom, when it’s already been pollinated, and the petals are already preparing to fall off. I bring my gathering bag right under the flower, open my hand wide, then just brush the petals in. Hips can be gathered fresh or dried on the plant. This is a gentle yet powerful plant that is beneficial as both food and medicine, often abundantly plentiful, and highly enjoyable. Here’s a few of my favorite preparations:

Buds, petals, and hips all dry to make elegant teas, or combined with other dried plants for more complex tea formulas. Buds and petals have a gentle sweetness, and help unify any tea formula, especially when one is in need of soothing, relaxing, loving energy. Also wonderful used in a potpourri, or bath.

Rose petal honey
Fill a glass jar with fresh and clean rose petals, then fill again with honey. Honey is antibacterial, so if the petals are not too moist, then this preparation can last indefinitely. Store in a cool, dark place. Useful for superficial wounds and burns, or used as you would any usual honey. Decadent.

Rose petal sugar
Layer rose petals and your sugar of choice atop each other in a glass jar, until the jar is full. Let sit. If the petals are dry, then this turns into a delicious rose candy. If the petals are moist, then it turns into a candy-like syrup. If you add water (my mom’s favorite preparation), then it becomes a delicious rose wine. If making rose wine or any other fermentation, just make sure that all of your tools are sterilized first, to prevent unwanted mold growth. Otherwise, enjoy.

Rose petal/ hip jam
Rose petals make for a lighter tasting, highly aromatic jam. Rose hips create a sweet and sour jam. Try both! Just boil down the petals or hips in water, until the water is reduced to half. Add enough sugar that it tastes just slightly (or very) overly sweet. Have your sterilized tools prepared beforehand, then can it up! Enjoy through the winter. If making rose hip jam, try to de-seed the hips before heating them, as after heating they become very sticky, and difficult to work with. I like using fresh hips for this. I cut them in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, then plop the fleshy de-seeded bodies right into my cooking pot. Use this jam as you would any other jam. It tastes absolutely amazing, and can really help brighten up a long cold winter, or even just a tough day.

Rose petal coconut oil
Fill a jar with freshly wilted rose petals. Place the jar into a pot of water, creating a double-boiler type situation. (Or just use a crock pot.) Heat it all up, gradually filling the bottle with coconut oil, which melts with the surrounding heat. Let sit for a few hours, then strain. Delicious eaten, used as a decadent personal lubricant, or combined in other recipes, such as chocolates, or other sweets.

Rose petal vinegar
Fill a jar (notice a pattern, here?) with fresh rose petals. Fill again with apple cider vinegar, so that it covers the petals. Let sit for 2 weeks, then strain out the petals. This vinegar is delicious, with all the wonderful aforementioned rosy properties. It is also helpful as a wonderful sunburn remedy, or toner.

Roses are missible in a variety of menstrua, meaning that they go well into lots of different things, even being adaptable to different people. Other rose-related project possibilities include rose petal tincture, rose elixir, rose hydrosol, rose glycerite, rose hip seed oil, rose water, and rose petal chocolates. Get to know your local rose varieties. Experiment with these and your own preparations, and if nothing else, just spend time with them: pick them and place them around your home, admire them, and always remember to stop to smell, touch, see, feel, taste, and know the roses.


Sauerkraut Recipe

Fun, easy, delicious, and improves gut microflora health. Eat it, and feel your gut microbiota dancing. Make it, customize it with wild edibles, feast, and then feel them dancing even more joyously. Enjoy! 

1.       Chop/ grate cabbage finely into a large bowl. (You can add anything… onions, garlic, turmeric, various wild roots, etc.)
2.       Massage salt into the cabbage, adding 1 T salt at a time. Add 2 T of salt per head of cabbage. This will release the cabbage juices. Keep massaging it to break down the cell walls, until there seems to be enough liquid released to cover all the solids.
3.       Stuff it all into a clean glass jar. Submerge it under its' own juices, with a stone or glass jar to push down the plant matter below the juices. 
4.       Cover with cloth, and let sit for a week or so. 
5.       Enjoy!