A Cuppa Tea from the Garden!

It was time to prune back the ornamental Camellias, and clean up the dead flowers and fallen leaves. My mother-in-law (from China) was coming over for brunch, just before my day of gardening. As she passed by my waiting basket and hedge clippers, she asked: Was I planning to make some tea?


According to her, the fussy-flowered Japanese cultivar (Camellia japonica), which is typically grown as a garden ornamental, also has leaves that can be used to make tea, just as the leaves of the regular “tea” making varietal (Camellia sinensis) – only somewhat less flavorful.

I had my doubts. But after verifying by web-research that Camellia leaves are not considered toxic, and can, indeed be used to make tea, I set out to harvest some shiny, waxy new leaves for an experiment in tea making!

I harvested one large cookie-rack-full of baby Camellia leaves, and let them wither indoors overnight, covered with a towel. By lucky coincidence, our weather for the next few days was expected to be in the upper 70s and low 80s, which would allow for fermenting at room temperature. The process I attempted to follow was one which I obtained from the University of Hawaii’s Cooperative Extension Service: Tea Processing (PDF downloaded from U. of Hawaii). The following morning, I wrapped the withered Camellia leaves in a couple of layers of cheese cloth, and kneaded and crumbled them, as the handout suggested. Then, I spread them in a thin layer on damp paper towel, and covered them with a wet towel, and set them in the sun to ferment in the heat.

The result was about 1/2 cup of what looked and smelled like a mild black tea.

The next morning, I brewed a few cups of tea with it, to serve to the family with breakfast. Much to my surprise, it yielded a very respectable cup of oolong-stye tea!

I believe the main trouble I had in getting my desired black tea out of the process was that we live in a very dry area, and so, while I set the tea out in the warm sun (covered with damp towel) to let it ferment in the heat, the towel dried out too quickly, and the dry heat stopped the fermentation before the full flavor had been achieved. Next time, I will try re-wetting the towels periodically, to keep it fermenting for a few hours longer, before allowing the dry heat to stop the process.

I had for a long time regretted my attachment to coffee and tea, and other culinary staples that I thought must be transported half-way around the world, with the associated carbon-footprint attached. Now, it seems, all I need to do is plant a few more Camellia bushes (probably sinensis variety), and snip my own leaves for a local-harvested tea supply. It sure makes pruning “chores” a whole lot more palatable!

Wisdom from our Elder Brothers

The Mamas of the Kogi people of Colombia are true ancestors of spirit to modern-day Druids. They have a very deep and detailed understanding of the ecological principles that rule the workings of our Living Earth. Anyone interested in defending or protecting Mother Nature should listen, very carefully, to their words.

Having studied ecology for decades, myself, and having engaged in small-scale ecological restoration projects, I used to think that I understood quite a bit about ecology — until I watched this pair of films. Now I realize that my knowledge was still limited, focused on the workings of individual ecosystems, in isolation. The Kogi offer an even deeper level of understanding, tracing all the golden threads that weave the various ecosystems together into a united, magical whole.

The two documentaries here explore first, who the Kogi are, historically and sociologically, and second, the wisdom they have to offer regarding what needs to be done to heal the Earth Mother and save the world.

I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I did!

Oak Tree Masting Year

We are always observing the activities of the flora and fauna in our yard (native CA ecosystem restoration area), and this past fall, we became quite concerned when we noticed that most of the native Oak trees on our property (which are normally evergreen), were dropping the majority of their leaves, over winter. Were they overly drought-distressed? Succumbing to a disease? We had no idea, but were worried.

Then, as I was reading the amazing book, “Hidden Life of Trees,” I stumbled upon Peter Wohlleben’s description of how nut-bearing trees such as oaks will (in unison) drop a very high proportion of the leaves in their crowns, to make room for the ridiculous number of flowers (and later, the acorns) which they plan to make in the following year, which they have decided (in unison) will be a masting year. Masting years are the years in which the oaks bear a bumper-crop of nuts. They do this only once every several, unpredictable number of years – so as to produce more food than the regular population of nut-predators can possibly consume in a year, thus increasing the likelihood of successful procreation. They risk death by starvation in order to do this, but once masting year is over, they work hard to replace all the leaves they had jettisoned for the masting season.

So, I wrote the question in my diary, last autumn: does the leaflessness of oaks portend a masting year, where we live? Now, in the first warm sunshine after a long, rainy winter, we have the answer…

A masting year, it is! Achoooo!

So now, I know, when the oak leaves drop from a healthy-looking, California Coast Live Oak tree:

  • It is a good omen;
  • Plan to spend time in the autumn, harvesting and processing acorns;
  • Recognize that Nature will provide well for your family in the coming year.


Lynx Rufus!

When engaged in a multiyear, ecosystem restoration project, starting with helping to restore the living soil, then moving on to replanting mixed evergreen forest and coastal sage scrub plants, one 1-gallon seedling at a time, then waiting, and waiting , and waiting as the years tick by… it is easy to become discouraged, to wonder if you will ever really get the whole thing right, with all the plants and animals, mycorrhizae, and forest-floor clippings in balance. It is therefore heartening when the first native birds and reptiles move in and begin to fight for ownership of the property. It is even more heartening when you start to know (and name) the individual animals, the breeding pairs and their offspring — brush rabbits, quail, and red-tail hawks.

But nothing shouts success more loudly than the long-awaited arrival of your first top predator. In our case, it was the arrival at dusk, yesterday evening, of this beautiful Lynx Rufus, who came to hunt rabbits and rodents on our property, last night:

A healthy top predator is the best indicator that the ecosystem is finally robustly in balance, with all pieces of the food web healthy and thriving. The celebration begins tonight. Drinks are on me!

World Druidry Data Deluge!

This week, I have been doing a bit of preliminary data-review for the World Druidry Survey, to get an idea of how many responses have come in so far, in which formats and languages, and to think about how to best organize the data for analysis. I am pleased to report that the response to the survey has been overwhelmingly positive.

As of this writing, 855 people have requested links to the SurveyMonkey questionnaire, or submitted completed PDF forms.  Of these, 620 people have completed the survey in its entirety. On average, people have been spending 50-60 minutes or more, responding to the questions. And, rather than doing so grudgingly, respondents have expressed their gratitude for the writing prompts and the suggestion (implicit in the survey questions) that they take the time to deeply reflect upon their personal Druidry practices, and the reasons (or lack thereof) behind their choices. A sampling of what people have written regarding the survey as a reflective process include:

“Larisa, this questionnaire is huge! I think I never looked so much in detail and in depth upon what I did and what influenced me etc. in the past decades and actually: Thank you for giving me that opportunity! I think it will take me a bit of time to complete it, but my answer will come.”

“[The survey] has sparked me on to doing some more with the druidry, as your questions provoke options in me that I had not seen. Thanks for the asking. I am going to now create an excel spreadsheet to observe the seasonal changes that I am noticing as I progress through the wheel of the year.”

“I have received the link […] and am looking forward to the reflective process completing this survey will be. Thanks for all your thoughtful work that’s gone into it. It’s really helpful to have the PDF version to get an overview. […] What a wonderful opportunity to reflect on my evolving journey.”

The responses also indicate that word about the Survey has been very widely disseminated, and has reached people in all corners of the world. As of this writing, I can report that we have responses from Druids living and practicing in the following 30 nations:

USA (320)
British Islands (122 – see breakdown, below)
Canada (36)
Australia (35)
Netherlands (26)
Germany (22)
Ireland (11)
France (8)
New Zealand (Aotearoa) (6)
Belgium (5)
Austria (4)
South Africa (3)
Brazil (2)
Czech Republic (2)
Denmark (2)
Switzerland (2)
Europe – undefined (1)
Gibraltar (1)
India (1)
Italy (1)
Japan (1)
Malaysia (1)
Mexico (1)
Norway (1)
Salish-Kootenai Nation (North American First Nation) (1)
Saudi Arabia (1)
Spain (1)
St. Lucia, West Indies (1)
Sweden (1)
Uruguay (1)

For those reporting from the British Islands, the breakdown of reported “nations of current residence” is as follows: British Isles (1), England (57), Great Britain (10), Jersey (1), Scotland (7), United Kingdom (35), Wales (11).

The responses that have been submitted to date also offer a wide variety of “flavors” of Druidry, which will enable the analysis to say something meaningful about the similarities and differences among the Druids of the world. As of this writing, the 136 “Druidry group affiliations” reported by survey respondents include:

OBOD (316)
None/Solitary (136)
ADF (79)
AODA (41)
BDO (31)
The Druid Network (23)
NOD (15)
Anglesey Druid Order (8)
Order of the Yew (7)
Reformed Druids of Gaia (7)
A Local Group (6)
Henge of Keltria (5)
Sylvan Grove (5)
Green Mountain Druid Order (4)
Pagan Federation (4)
RDNA (4)
Anderida Gorsedd (3)
Discover Druidry (3)
Druid Clan of Dana (3)
Druid College (3)
Druids Down Under (3)
Flame and Well Grove (3)
Isle of Wight Order of Druids (3)
Keepers of Dragon Knowledge (3)
Mystic River Grove, Boston (3)
Sisterhood of Avalon (3)
Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn (2)
East Bay Druids (2)
Fellowship of Druids Aotearoa (2)
Fellowship of Isis (2)
Mountains of Bran Beith Seed Group (2)
Peaceful Earth Druid Grove (2)
Setantii Grove (2)
Solas An Iarthair (2)
Ancient Way Druidic Association (1)
Artio Seedgroup (1)
Awenydd Tradition (1)
Bardic Banter & Druidic Drivel (1)
Bitter Root Grove (1)
Black Oak Grove (1)
Blidworth Druids Grove of the Corieltauvi (1)
Can y Gwynt Grove (1)
Cascade Sunstone Seed Group (1)
Charter Oak Grove (1)
Chiltern Nemeton Grove (1)
Circle of Three Trees (1)
Clann Bhride (1)
Clareira Druídica da Borda do Campo (1)
Collège International d’Études Celto-Druidiques (CIDECD) (1)
Coventia Seed Group (1)
Coventry Earth Spirit (1)
Dancing Waters Protogrove (1)
Daughters of the Morrigu (1)
Dobunni Grove (1)
Doire Bhrigihid Seed Group (1)
Dolmen Arch (1)
Draegons (1)
Draoï (1)
Druid Grove of Brighid (1)
Druids Defence Pagan Network (1)
Druids Welt der Linden e. V. (1)
Duinroos Grove (The Hague) (1)
Eclectic Light Fellowship (1)
Forest Druids of the Cascades (1)
Free Foresters (1)
Free Gardeners (1)
Gnostic Celtic Church (1)
Greylock Shadow Protogrove (1)
Grove de Stenencirkel (1)
Grove Gort (1)
Grove of Red Cedar (1)
Grove of the Poplar Cross (1)
Grove of the Summer Stars (1)
Grove of the Tuatha de Dannan (1)
Hazelwood Grove (1)
Hearthstone Grove (1)
Hel’s Gate Heathen Kindred (1)
House of Blackthorn (1)
Irmandade Druídica Galaica (1)
Keltia (1)
Keltoi Tradition (1)
L’Assemblée Druidique du Chêne et du Sanglier (ADCS) (1)
l’Ordre des enfants de la Terre (France) (1)
L’Ordre Druidique de Dahut (1)
Lake Agassiz Seed Group (1)
Luna Circa (1)
Macademia Grove (1)
Modern Druidry (1)
Moor Cottage Stone Circle (1)
My family (1)
Nemeton broceliande Seedgroup: witte raven (1)
Nemeton Cruciniacum Seedgroup (1)
Nemeton of the Ways (1)
Nigheanan Brìghde Order of Brighidine Flametenders (1)
Northern Rivers Grove (1)
Northern Roots Grove (1)
Nos Coryn Seed Group (1)
Oakdale Grove (1)
Oaken Heart Grove (1)
Oddfellows (1)
One Tree Gathering (1)
Ord Bridheach (1)
Order of Celtic Wolves (1)
Order of Christian Druids (1)
Order of Maine Druidry (1)
Order of the Oak (1)
Order of the Stone Circle (1)
Order of the White Oak (1)
Parisi Seed Group (1)
Prairie Sky Protogrove (1)
Protogrove of the Valley Oak (1)
Red Maple Grove (1)
Roaming Ravens (1)
Roharn’s Grove (1)
Seedgroup of the Wild Moor (1)
Seedgroup: Droai (Noord-Nederland) (1)
Silver Branch Seed Group (1)
Silvereyes Seed Group (1)
Summerlands Druid Seminary (1)
Sylvan Celtic Fellowship (1)
The Celtic Golden Dawn (1)
The Forest Tradition Druidic Fellowship of the Green Path (1)
The Heathen Federation (1)
The Keltio Olde Stone Grove (1)
Three Cranes Grove (1)
Tuatha de Bridget (1)
United Heathens and Pagans South Africa (1)
Wayist Druid (1)
Well of Segais (1)
Welt der Linden (1)
Wexford Ireland Seed Group (1)
White Dragon Seed Group (1)
Wild Hunt Druid Order (1)
World Fellowship of Druids (1)

If you glance through the lists of nations and Druidry organizations, above, and notice that your part of the world, or a Druidry group to which you belong is not as well represented as you feel it should be, please get out there and spread the word! The more of us chatting up the survey, the more complete and informative the results will be, once the study is complete.

Data collection is still ongoing, but:

The World Druidry Survey will officially close on 1 May 2019.

So, if you have intended to participate in the World Druidry Survey, but have not yet begun the process, or if you have started but not yet completed your survey, please go ahead and do it! Your voice and perspective are so important to this work, and I really do want all practicing Druids (of any variety of Druidic path, or level of experience) to have an opportunity to have their story heard.

Until next time…

Yours, under the California Coast Live Oaks,