Herb of the month: Borage

Botanical name: Borago officinalis

An easy, fast-growing annual herb distinguished by its fuzzy, prickly leaves and bright blue flowers; also known as starflower. Fun fact that I just learned from the NW Horticultural Society: the nectaries in borage flowers are replenished every two minutes, which is a bonus for our bee friends!

Suggested uses: culinary, medicinal, pollinator friendly, companion planting, therapeutic benefits

I began growing borage in 2018 on our Portland-based farm, sowed around my vegetable beds in what I’d called my “soggy bottom garden” and in several wine barrels by our deck.  I loved watching bees buzzing among the dozens of borage plants that sprawled happily upon each other.

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Savoring as the soil for gratitude

Yesterday morning I read from Camille T. Dungy’s collection Trophic Cascade, while I waited for a doctor’s appointment. The poem Characteristics of Life, in particular, reached out and grabbed me; luckily, I had a chance to read (and fully savor) her words several times. I might mention that I’m in this strange new phase where lately, I’m processing things at the heart level instead of allowing the mind to race ahead and tell me what they mean. Interesting times.

How many times this week have you found yourself struck by beauty or stopped short in delight? Hopefully, often.

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Eating with intention

New calender years are like agricultural seasons, filled with opportunities to apply life lessons and to reassess what we hope to plant, moving forward.

Usually at the beginning of each new year, I reassess my current eating habits and ask myself a few of the following compassion-based questions:

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Herb of the month: Rosemary

In keeping with The SAVOR Project’s mission, I like to feature content that incorporates a hearty helping of mindful eating + therapeutic horticulture education, grounded in everyday strategies to engage positively with our food.

So….rosemary! Rosmarinus officinalis is one of my favorite herbs, and perfect to kick off the first of a series of monthly edible gardening highlights. Rosemary is a botanical star, even as cooler temperatures move us toward winter when many gardens are at rest.

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Composting the Messy Stuff

This month’s Mindful Writing session focused upon the organic process of composting, which turns discarded materials from our meals, gardens, and lives into a rich medium that enhances growth. Learn more below, and register for the remaining 2021 Mindful Writing events: Extending Thanks to Nature (November) and Sharing Nature Gifts (December).

The methods of composting can vary – from worm bins (known as vermicomposting) to traditional composting piles that utilize homemade or commercially purchased containers. Composting requires the collaboration of many macro- and micro-organisms, including worms, slugs, spiders, nematodes, mites, fungi, and bacteria, which aid in decomposition and improve soil fertility. Healthy, happy soil = healthy, happy plants.

Amending our own mind/body health also helps us grow good things.

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Move your precious body

In previous years, I’ve written about the benefits of mindful movement, especially walking. Check out those posts (and associated resource links) here and here. As we each cope with the daily and accumulated impact of living through this pandemic, especially for those of us who identify as primary caregivers, I find it reassuring that research-supported self-care strategies (to also include good sleep hygiene, mindful eating, therapeutic writing, and nature engagement) remain available to us all.

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Home is in the garden – CHTA

Below you’ll find select slides from my presentation today with the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association’s annual conference. I encourage you to take some time, in particular, with the “mindful inquiry” invitations – and consider returning to them regularly, if they prove useful.

A mindful eating treat

There’s not a lot more I can say about this essay by Steve Edwards from Sun magazine. Just read it. So delicious. What’s moved you, lately?

Happy September, friends.


Coming home to food

I wrote the following article for the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association’s summer newsletter, in anticipation of my presention on Day 1 of their upcoming annual conference – Branching Out: Nurturing Connections and Community, on September 16-18, 2021. This year’s online conference features topics ranging from sensory engagement with nature to vertical farming, guided nature walks, wildlife photography, and indigenous healing tools. It’s an amazing line-up! I hope some of you can join us.

Home is in the garden: Starting over during unprecedented times

We all long for connection, whether we spend our lives deeply rooted or like to spread our wings. Join Dawnn in a multimedia journey as she highlights personal and professional connections to edible gardens, food justice, and the rapidly evolving field of healthcare. We’ll also explore the nature of home – where it is, what it looks like, and how true belonging grows over time. https://www.chta.ca/2021-presenters

CHTA’s mission is “to promote the use and awareness of horticulture as a therapeutic modality.” Learn more about this volunteer-led organization, receive updates on horticultural therapy news, or register for the conference by visiting the CHTA website.

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Greening our mental “meal”

Throughout my career as a clinical psychologist, I’ve attended trainings led by neuroscientist Dr. Dan Siegel, MD, who is well known in the popular media for his books on parenting and mindfulness. I encourage you to check out his current work in collaboration with leaders like Dr. Sara`King and the embodied social justice movement, as well.

I’ve long been fascinated by the “healthy mind platter,” especially as I’ve moved toward a behavioral health consultation model. This framework was introduced by Dr. Siegel and his colleague David Rock around the time that the USDA transitioned from the food pyramid to My Plate, and includes a set of seven empirically-supported activities – sleep time, playtime, time-in, downtime, connecting time, physical time, and focus time, all part of a well-balanced “mental diet” designed to optimize mind/body health.

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