Long before the ‘tiny house movement’ became a trend, there was the Clearpath Herbals’ apothecary building. Affectionately known as the ‘herb shack,’ it boasts a less-than-100-square-foot floor plan. Realtors would call it cozy. Here are a few of my students– Chris Sturk, Gina Shvartsman, and Lilly Demers — squeezing into its snug interior with me for a pre-activity meeting to get clear on what we are going to do for the afternoon.

Spring is here, and the agenda is long. At the top of the list is determining what we need to grow and wildcraft for our apothecary needs. Because the space is so miniature, the shelves are loaded three deep with jars of tinctures. Several eyes make for a quick scan of the more than 300 herbs lining the shelves.

Gina, Chris S., and Lilly in apothecary March

Lilly is the Clearpath Medicine Gardens’ manager. While Gina and Chris took care of filling a few client herbal formula orders, Lilly and I had a short meeting about seed starting logistics, such as knowing how many seeds of each plant species to try to germinate. For instance, tulsi/holy basil is an easy germinating annual, and although we have more than enough of it on our shelves, we always grow a big bed of it.

Clearpath Gardens are as much about teaching and peaceful sanctuary as they are about plant production. Simply being in the gardens is medicine, and tulsi is a favorite for people and pollinators alike. Plus there are this year’s experiments: herbs new to our gardens. I have strong interest in growing essential Chinese herbs, like astragalus, licorice, and andrographis. I am also interested in cultivating native herbs that are ‘at risk’ on some level, so that we may benefit from the medicine without putting pressure on the native populations or the environments in which they live. This year we will be experimenting with osha and lomatium. We’ll keep you in the loop with updates and photos.

Optimized-Chris and Gina in apothecaryGina is my main assistant and trouble-shooter. Among other things, she helps me keep all of the various Clearpath Herbals projects prioritized optimally, so we accomplish things in what we call ‘E-cubed style’; that is, Efficient, Effective, and Entertaining. The third E is a given, and we have been getting progressively better at the first two. If it weren’t for Gina, it is doubtful things we do at Clearpath Herbals would ever reach your awareness.

Chris Sturk is new to the apothecary and lab. He was steady and reliable at Clearpath Medicine Gardens last year, showing up to more Monday volunteer work days than even me. Plus he is deeply immersed in an area that I am passionately interested in — music and sound healing — check out binaural beat brothers to get a better idea. More to come on this subject in future blogs.

Optimized-Chris Sturk in apothecary

Working with herbal medicines in all its facets is among my greatest joys, and the way it brings truly amazing people together and into my life — to share, explore, co-create, and laugh, with each other and with plants — is my favorite part of it all.


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