In fifth grade, I played an apothecary. All of us in the G&T (gifted and talented, not *that* G&T) program dressed up as various roles in a Colonial village, except that of the slaughtered indigenous person or the enslaved black person or the like, of course, because it was Texas in the early 90s, and–
Anyway, I was one of two apothecaries serving the quaint Colonial Lake Cities. I rolled lots and lots of pills and leeches out of modeling clay, and I told a twenty minute story about chasing away Redcoats that I made up on the spot. It was exhilarating.
You probably know that my life has been saved by Western medicine more than once, and I’m immensely grateful. You probably also know that I’m a little obsessed with plants, particularly those found growing in their native surroundings, go figure. And if you’ve gotten this far, you certainly know that I’m pretty into making, making, and making some more. After a lot of dabbling, I thought it was time to dip my toe in the power of plants. Like, for real.
A couple of months ago I launched an online store called Spruce Tips Apothecary, selling deodorant and hair tonic that I’d crafted myself, right down to fermenting the vinegar and decocting the marshmallow root for the hair tonic. It’s not surprising, given that I’d been shoving these things onto anyone who would stand still long enough for months. It was a learning curve, the processing and shipping in particular, which is pretty rich considering I ran a bustling e-commerce department in a previous life. So I made some mistakes, set some processes in place, and here we are. Running a business.
Here’s my simple about:
I’m always looking at the ground. The ground is where plants grow, and plants provide medicine, food, joy, and more. Whether mallow and lambs quarters from the backyard, shepherd’s purse from the playground, or mullein and alpine strawberries from up in the mountain, plants are all around to help. When my Choctaw forebears were moved from Mississippi to Oklahoma, the familiar sight of wild onions helped them to know their new land could be a home, regardless of circumstances.
I named the shop Spruce Tips because, well, it was the last thing I foraged! It’s one of my favorites to gather in late spring, when new growth is gaining hold. We carefully gather a few of the tender, green needles as we hike, being sure to only take a few from each tree. At home, we use them for their citrusy flavor and high vitamin C content in syrups, teas, oxymels, and preserves.
I’ve been whipping up remedies and the like at home for my family for a long time: salves for irritated skin, spritzes to help make hairbrushing easier, deodorant so we all still like each other, plus teas and infusions and all manner of poultices. I’m excited to share my finds with you and your family, too!
But it’s about more than that, too. For as long as I can remember, every walk with my grandmother has been an exercise in plant identification and use. I mentioned this to my aunt, who confirmed that my great-grandmother and two-greats grandmother had been much the same, using plants for healing, food, and more. Choctaws have named many of our months after plants: sassafras month, blackberry month, mulberry month, peach month. Other months allude to similar ideas, too, like cooking month, a time to preserve the harvest, or the months of the little famine and big famine. Sassafras month is the month for digging roots for medicine, food, and dye, while the month of fires all out is the time when folks leave their homes to travel to Green Corn celebrations.
So here is the newest extension of our rhythmic life and our desire to make. Hopefully this leads us closer to the plants, to the farm, to the bio-integrated teaching farm, and beyond.
Visit the site, tell a friend, or ask a question. I’m really excited about the new adventure,and I hope you are, too.