Notes from Windward: #64

The Chair of Herbal Arts

      There is a connection between herbs and intentional community which stretches back into the mists of time. Two examples with special relevance to Windward would be the work of Hildegard of Bingen in the early twelveth century, and the Shakers in the mid-nineteenth century.

      St. Hildegard did pioneering work in developing the link between nutrition and health, and the Shaker communities introduced the use of over-the-counter herbal tinctures to the general public.

      There's a parallel here with the Chair of Fiber Arts which would initially deal with both wool and linen, but each of those studies are clearly worthy of a chair in their own right, and it would be our hope that the work of the Chair of Fiber Arts would lead in time to the development of a program of sufficient scope to justify the establishment of separate chairs for woolen arts and linen arts.

      Or not, which would be okay too since striking a balance between animal produced fibers and plant produced fibers is a good example of the dynamic way that sustainability works through diversity instead of specialization.

      There's a similar potential in the fields of study and re-creation opened up by the herbal works of Hildegard and the Shakers since each alone is clearly capable of supporting the establishment of separate chairs, or of being developed as complimentary parts of a holistic program.

      The path that such programs would take would depend on the vision of the person who undertook to develop the Chair and the vision of the people the Chair attracted to participate in the program.

      Windward has set aside a number of areas to be used for the growing of herbs. The Chair might use one of these areas to establish a "Hildegarden" i.e. a special focus garden that would feature the healing and healthful plants grown and used by Hildegard von Bingen ("St. Hildegard"), a remarkable woman widely held to be one of the ten most important women of the Middle Ages.

      The Chair would also oversee the development of a Shaker-style herb garden recreating what was an essential resource to Shaker villages.

      Ancillary activities of the Chair would involve the growth and utilization of plants which are especially suited to our conditions. For example, saffron is ideally suited to Windward, and we have an area set aside in the upper garden to grow substantial quantities of the bulbs which produce the flowers which produce the spice.

      The Chair might, for example, host a camping weekend when saffron is ready for harvest so that people could participate in this ancient rite, learn to cook dishes which feature the spice at its peak of flavor, and be ready to grow their own crop of the golden spice that is more valuable than gold.

      The Chair could develop similar educational activities featuring lavender or rose-hips.

      While it's generally best to use fresh picked herbs, that's not always possible. While drying is a good way to store certain plants, others can lose vital oils which are best preserved as tinctures.

      While many common herbs are available as potted plants, there are others which are not easy to come by, but which many people would be interested in getting to know if those herbs were available as potted plants.


For an example of another potential Chair, Click Here

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 64