Saturday, October 31, 2015

Healing Salve Time


Knowing how to create a natural healing salve made with foraged medicinal plants can be deeply gratifying. This is a centuries old tradition that combines multiple activities that I love: nature, foraging and cooking. The first step is getting outside your door and hunting down the nearly always present Plantago Major.....also known as common plantain. It is a weed that is sure to be within a few hundred feet of wherever you are in Wisconsin. This weed has a history of medical use that goes as far back as Greek and Roman times. It is used to heal wounds, protect wounds from infection, ease pain, draw out toxins and is an all around anti-inflammatory. It is the first plant I seek out when making my healing salve and the easiest to find. It is notable for its protruding parallel veins on the back of the leaf that run into the ground. The plant itself grows from one central point in a tap root and leaves flop out when conditions are right and surround the tap root. When harvesting leaves, I look for deep green with no signs of bugs having been there. I brush off the dirt and they are ready to go. I don't wash them as that would wash away some of the medicine that I'm after. My yard is completely chemical free so I know its a great location to harvest.

I lay my plants out to dry in a warm indoor location out of the sun usually on a window screen or bundle them and hang them in a closet. After a few days, the water in the plant has completely evaporated and the remaining plant is crispy. I will then put all of the plants into a blender with olive oil and pulse until it is a more soup like mixture. This mixture gets put into a double boiler to speed the process of the medicine going from the plant to the olive oil much like plant material does when you put it in hot water for tea. The double boiler prevents it from getting too hot which would destroy the medicine. You never want the oil to boil.

After a couple hours, I will turn off the heat and let the plant material continue to infuse into the oil. When it cools, I will be ready to use to a sieve to remove the plant material so that only the infused oil remains. This I again put into the double boiler and combine with bees wax. Beeswax is what holds the whole thing together and also has great medicinal properties in itself. It is also antibacterial and aids in healing wounds. The correct ratio of olive oil to beeswax is 1 to 1. One cup of olive oil to one ounce of beeswax.

Once the beeswax has melted in the oil, turn off the heat and get your tins ready to pour the mixture. When the mixture starts to cool, it will have the salve like consistency. You can use your salve for any insect bite, cuts, abrasions, chapped lips, inflamed/irritated skin....etc. Your tin should last at least a year!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Outdoor Survival Class

On Saturday, June 27th 2015, 8 ladies met for the first time in the parking lot at the Scuppernong Trail Head. It was a beautiful day.....sun shine and in the 70's....perfect weather to do a 2.5 mile hike to our camp site. Along the way we discussed wild edibles which were the trailhead we munched on mulberries while I pointed out a half dozen more edibles or medicinal plants. From plantain, the wilderness band aid, to mullein, a powerful decongestant, the participants paused and jotted notes as we moved from plant to plant.

In between stops, the ladies paired up and exchanged brief life histories beginning the bonding that would be sealed up later at the camp site. Everyone was in great spirits and was enthusiastic for the material.

Three hours later, we exited the trail and ate lunch at a park in Pine Woods Campground. After refreshments and a five minute siesta, the ladies got down to business again. We brought out grass we'd gathered on the trail and I taught them how to make cordage as we discussed the importance of mental fortitude in a survival situation. Then I handed over each participant a piece of paracord that they later weaved into a bracelet. We headed into the woods again to make a survival shelter from the materials we found around us. Everyone was busy and got down to the task at hand and in just a half hour we had put together a shelter that would be a comfy little home for someone faced with an overnight in the woods. Pleased with the work, the ladies gathered around their little hut for a photo shoot and off we went to camp. The tents were already set up and they gathered their gear and transformed the tents into a home away from home.

Supper arrived in about an hour....a wild edible course served up around a fire. Soup featuring bee balm, garlic mustard, dandelion, nettle, wild spinach, turkey and quinoa...gluten free and delicious! Followed up with a mulberry cobbler and rhubarb tea.

Free time followed dinner and later we headed to our tents listening to the coyotes call around us. The stars popped out and the temp dropped for perfect sleeping weather.

The morning brought another beautiful day. We focused on matchless fire making skills and got some hot water going for coffee and tea. Breakfast was eggs and wild edibles to spice it up along with a gluten free bannock bread made over the fire. Delicious!! We wrapped up the event with a healing salve workshop where we talked about infusing a medicinal plant into an oil and combined it with beeswax to preserve the medicine for year long use. Everyone went home with a tin.

We gathered up for one more group photo and packed up as clouds were closing in. Everyone was safely back to their cars before the first drops fell!!!

Next Outdoor Survival Class planned for October 17th, 2015. Mark the date!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Quick Way to Make Acorn Flour

Acorns provide protein, fat, vitamin B3 and B6, folate and pantothenic acid, plus the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese! Plus its a easy to collect food source!

I started my morning today with acorn pancakes with acorns collected from this past summer. I have learned a quick and easy way to leech acorns. Follow these easy steps and you'll be cooking with your acorn flour within a few minutes:

1.) Collect the acorns. Don't pay any attention to holes or the quality of the acorn. Go for large quantities.
2.) Toss them in a bucket of water. Toss the ones that float.
3.) Dry the ones that fall to the bottom of the bucket. They are the good ones that haven't been invaded with insects. To dry them, simply lay them single layer somewhere warm with moisture free. Allow to dry at least a week to make shelling them easier.
4.) Shell the acorn. Crack with a nut cracker and peel the thin outer layer off. You can freeze any nuts that you don't use immediately.
5.) Take a cup of the acorn and put in a blender. Fill half blender with water. Put it on high for up to two minutes or until the acorns are cut finely.
6.) Pour mixture into a thick nylon sock (a nylon dress sock works quite nicely).
7.) Tie a knot at the bottom of the sock where the majority of the nut milk is. You will notice that the water that is coming out of the sock is whitish brown. That is the tannin in the acorn that must be leeched out before you can eat the flour.
8.) Put the sock under running water and squish the acorn nut meat between your fingers until the water runs clear and no longer whitish brown.

Taste the nut meat. Do you taste a bitterness? If yes, continue to run under water until the nut meat tastes very bland. When that happens it is ready to use!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Greenfield Soap Making Class

Soap making can be one of the most empowering skills you can learn. With one batch of soap you can provide your family with enough soap for an entire year! Once you know how to make your own soap you can also create your own laundry soap which is not only fun but can save tons of money! Every season I teach a soap making class for the Greenfield Recreation Department and the Milwaukee Recreation Department. The classes are in-expensive and fun...a great time to meet other people also interested in a life of self-reliance. Go to my website at to find the next Soap Making Class!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Body Butter Class!

First class of the 2015 season started out with a fantastic group of ladies at the Greenfield Community Center. We made up a batch of body butter and everyone was able to choose their own essential oil to create a unique product to take home. The great thing about these classes is the community and networking that occurs while we are "cooking" up a body care product. Strangers become friends over the course of a two hour class.

Many more classes coming up for Greenfield! Next week we will be doing a Medicinal Tea class and the week after that Cold Process Soap making. If you are interested in making your own products and becoming more self-reliant, these are a great series of classes to take. I will also be teaching how to make your own laundry soap, healing salve, insect repellent and so much more!!

Head to for a full list of class and how to sign up!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Overnight Outdoor Survival Class

Hosted by: Shannon Francis of Resiliency Training LLC
When: Saturday, June 27, 2015
Where: Ice Age Trail located near Waukesha, WI
Age Requirement: 18 +
Skill Level Required: Ability to hike 4.6 miles in and out of base camp
Participants: 8
Cost: $165 per person
Includes: Tents set up at base camp, wood for cooking fire, supper first night, breakfast second morning and all class materials

I have received many requests to host an overnight outdoor survival class that will allow for more in-depth discussion and skill development and so I will be offering what I think will be an incredible experience for a small group of outdoor enthusiasts.

We will be meeting at 10:00 am at an Ice Age Trail head on Saturday, June 27th. After a group meet and greet, we will begin the 4.6 mile hike to our campsite. Along the way we will be identifying edible and medicinal plants and discuss various uses. We will also be gathering materials to make cordage (rope) and learning various knots. We will discuss priorities in a survival situation and water procurement. We will stop for lunch along the trail that will include some wild edibles.

By early afternoon we will reach base camp that will be set up in advance of the group's arrival so we will have more time to discuss and create the perfect overnight survival shelter. We will break for matchless fire making skill session that will lead into creating the perfect cooking fire for supper. After supper we will practice making cordage from various grasses collected during the hike.

The evening will be reserved for more relaxed social time and trying out the shelter that the group created. Participants are free to sleep overnight in the shelter but tents will be provided for those that seek a little bit more comfort.

We will be up for an early am skillet breakfast featuring wild edibles and review skills from the previous day. Participants will also create their own paracord bracelet and take one home with them. After packing up the camp, we will journey back the 4.6 miles and review the edible and medicinal plants discussed the previous day.

If you would like to participate in the trip, contact Shannon Francis at or 262-515-5331.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Midwest Wild Harvest Festival

Pat Armstrong, foraging instructor at the Resiliency Institute in Naperville

Evening potluck with wild foraged food featured.
I just got back from the Midwest Wild Harvest Festival that was held at the Badger Camp near Prairie du Chien. This annual event gathered nearly 130 people all interested in learning to live a more self sustainable lifestyle by incorporating wild foods into their diets. The weekend event takes place at the Wisconsin Badger Camp and features top rate foraging instructors from the area as well as a guest speaker from New York. This is a family friendly event where the kids go to day care while their parents go on classes to learn to identify, process and store wild foods.
With five outstanding instructors it was really hard to choose from the classes offered. I have a pretty solid grasp of identification of plants so this year I focused on learning new recipes and ways to store the food that I gather. My favorite class was a food preservation class given by our guest speaker, Leda Meredith. She discussed the main ways to preserve food and then went into specifics. I now feel comfortable and confident to begin using fermentation as a means to preserve the wild edibles I gather. She also introduced us to a wonderful new way to eat plantain. You take the plantain leaves and dip them in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Then put them in an oven at 250 degrees for up to 10 minutes. Delicious!
The weather was chilly for this time of year but we still got out and did quite a bit of walking and collecting wild edibles. Sumac was in its prime as well as wild grapes, apples, and ground nut. Soon it will be time for the roots such as Jerusalem artichoke and burdock. Another amazing event and I am already looking forward to next year!