success

Ass+u+me: How Assumptions Hurt Your Business

Donkey

Definition of assumption (n)

  • as·sump·tion
  • [ ə súmpshən ]
  1. something taken for granted: something that is believed to be true without proof
  2. belief without proof: the belief that something is true without having any proof

We all make assumptions. It’s human nature. We take whatever bits of information we have available to us, filter them through the limited view of our window on the world, and start piecing together a story about what it all means.

There’s actually no harm in doing this. It can even be a useful exercise. But things get dangerous when you forget that what you’re doing is forming a hypothesis, and start making decisions under the delusion that you’ve already discovered the truth without bothering to test the hypothesis.

Attempting to build and run a small business on a series of assumptions is a recipe for disaster. An assumption that is built on a reasonable knowledge base can be a great jumping off place, but it’s just the beginning.

When it comes to business, the only thing you should ever assume is responsibility.

You assume that if you follow up with past clients you’ll be bugging them, when maybe the truth is that they’ve been meaning to contact you, but keep forgetting, because life is busy.

You assume that it’s a crazy pipe dream to quit your day job to pursue your dreams, because when you were thirteen your dad told you that painting is a hobby, not a career, and you needed to be realistic. Sadly, your dad didn’t know anyone who made a living painting, but if you do a little research, you’ll discover that people do that.

You assume that you don’t have what it takes to advertise successfully. In fact, you’ve convinced yourself that this is why your business is failing. How do you know? Have you read books on the subject? Attended courses? Hired someone to teach you? And if you did do those things, did you actually attempt to implement what you learned? How many hours a week do you spend on advertising?

A lot of the assumptions we make are based on fear and low self-esteem, and the only way to move out of these inhibiting thought patterns is by pattern interruption. This doesn’t mean that you won’t think the thoughts. It just means that you won’t let the thoughts dictate your actions. These paralyzing assumptions don’t just hurt your business, they can actually stop it before you start. A lot of fantastic ideas have never seen the light of day because of this type of thinking.

The other side of this ever-spinning coin would be assumptions made out of arrogance or full-on delusional thinking. These are the things that lead to impulsive, and oftentimes disastrous, decision making. If you’ve come up with a fantastic business idea and have decided to tell your boss to shove off tomorrow, even though you only have twenty bucks to your name and haven’t even taken the first step towards turning that great idea into a reality, please reconsider.

There are different types of programs, tools, and professionals that help business owners make decisions that test assumptions and provide data and feedback for informed decision making. A lot of them are fantastic, so I’d never suggest that business owners should bypass these services. However, if you’re on a tight budget, they can be cost prohibitive. Luckily, when you’re just starting out, you can take a much simpler approach that won’t cost you a cent.

Instead of assuming that you know what people are thinking, ask them. Instead of assuming that an idea will work or fail, test it on a small scale. And most importantly, do not ever, ever, ever assume that you’re not good at something unless you’ve invested a significant amount of time and effort trying to get good at that thing.

Letting assumptions rule your life keeps you in a perpetual state of ignorance. You’re too smart to hang out there.

What assumptions have you been making about your business that may not be true? What steps can you take to test the validity of your beliefs?

 

 

Advertisements

On Missed Opportunities, Anaphylaxis, and Waking Up Alive

Ambulance

On June 12th, 2014 I woke up alive. Not just breathing. Alive. 

This is significant because on the morning of June 11th, I missed an opportunity. That lost opportunity felt like a punch in the gut. It knocked the wind out of me. In fact, I was temporarily consumed with my feelings about it. But not for long. A couple of hours later, I almost died. And that’s when everything changed forever.

The morning started like most weekday mornings start in my house. My partner brought me coffee in bed. Then we moved to the deck and enjoyed each other’s silent company, the early morning quiet interrupted only by chirping birds, rustling leaves, and the occasional sounds of a car in the distance.

And then it was time for her to shower, so I flopped down on the bed and started my work day. Several minutes later, I stopped working to admire her while she got dressed, and she teased me, pretending to be surprised, because this is the morning routine. Too soon, she was dressed for work and ready to walk out the door, and she kissed me goodbye. I didn’t want her to go. I pulled her back for a second kiss. She went into the kitchen to grab her lunch, then came back into the bedroom to kiss me goodbye again. We laughed about the silliness of missing each other when she’s just going to an office less than fifteen minutes away and we know we’ll see each other again at the end of the day.

After she left, I goofed around with the kids for an hour, then shooed them out the door to school, with the little one popping her head back in to tell me “just one more thing,” at least three times.

And then, on this very typical morning, one that was until this point nearly identical to dozens of others I’ve had over the last nine months, I found out about the missed opportunity. It was something I had really wanted to do, an opportunity that felt significant and worthwhile. The worst part was that the only person I could be pissed off at was myself. Shortly after I had been asked to do this thing, some extremely urgent family matters had arisen, and my obligations as a mother totally eclipsed everything else. I hadn’t blown it off. I had good reason for not following through. But I was still mad at myself. Certainly, if nothing else, I could have found the five minutes to tell the other person involved what was going on and why I had disappeared, but I didn’t. I just disappeared.

And now I was wallowing. I decided to let myself wallow for fifteen minutes before forcing myself to get back to work. I went to the kitchen to pour myself a refill of coffee.  I noticed a small square of baklava on the table. We had ordered takeout from our favorite restaurant the night before, and they had tossed a few free pieces into the bag. I had been too full to eat mine.

I picked it up, and without giving it a second thought, popped it in my mouth. I chewed slowly, savoring the impossibly thin, flaky layers of pastry drenched in honey, layered with pistachios, crushed almost into a paste. It was delicious.

And within a few minutes, I knew that something wasn’t quite right. There was a horrible aftertaste lingering in my mouth. It tasted similar to a melted aspirin, and no amount of coffee or water would get rid of it. Soon after, my tongue and gums started to itch and burn. My lips felt like they were on fire.

At this point, I knew that I was having an allergic reaction. I recalled that several years ago I had an allergic reaction to pistachios, but I had eaten small amounts on several occassions since then with no consequence.

I wasn’t scared. I just thought it was a minor annoyance. A small blip on the radar of my day that would be remedied with Benadryl. I checked the medicine cabinet and realized we didn’t have any, so I decided to walk to the corner store a couple of blocks away to buy some. I sent Jena a text that said, “Ugh! I can never eat pistachios again. Not even a little!”

I made it to the end of our cul de sac. After walking just a few yards, my heart was beating like I had been running for miles. Adrenaline was coursing through my body. I had a vague recollection of reading something once about exercise speeding up or exacerbating allergic reactions… or something like that. Walking anywhere seemed like a terrible idea. So I headed back to the house and called Jena.

I told her that I might be overreacting, but I needed her to come home from work. I needed to be seen by a doctor. I must have apologized for inconveniencing her at least three or four times. She heard something in my voice that I was not yet aware of, the way it was getting higher, shrill and raspy at the same time. She said she was on her way and asked if she should call 911. I said no. Just get home.

I called her back less than two minutes later and asked how close she was. Apparently, I was no longer capable of rational thought, or I would have called 911 myself at this point. But I didn’t. I called her and she told me she was calling 911.

I sat on the porch, peeling off my jacket because I was hot and flushed, yet shivering almost convulsively from adrenaline and fear. My heart was slamming against my chest so hard and fast that it hurt. And now my breathing wasn’t just fast, I was having to think about it.

There were sirens drawing closer, and I felt a mix of relief and embarrassment as the ambulance pulled up in front of the house. I was relieved because I knew deep down that I was in real trouble. Embarrassed, because some small, irrational part of my brain was still certain that they were going to give me Benadryl and tell me I could have just waited to go to the ER on my own.

That isn’t what happened. Instead, they asked me a few questions and got me on a stretcher. They rolled me into the back of the ambulance while I wheezed something about my partner being on her way home, how she should be here any minute.  He reassured me that we would probably still be at the house when she arrived, that they were going to start an IV with Benadryl before we rolled out.

I was relieved when I saw her car pull up behind the ambulance. She climbed into the back and squeezed my hand and tried to ask a few questions, which I’m not sure I ever answered.  She asked if she should ride in the ambulance or follow in her car. The paramedics told her to follow in her car, so that she’d be able to drive home later.

I didn’t want her to follow in her car. I didn’t want her to leave my side. I know her well enough to know that had I said so, she would have refused to budge. But I didn’t say so, because all of my effort was going into breathing.

I felt a pang of despair as she climbed out of the ambulance and they shut the door behind her. I watched her get into her car. And then we pulled out onto the road, and I lost sight of her.

While we were rolling down the road, I glanced at the monitor displaying my vitals. My heart rate was astronomical and climbing. The paramedic sounded sharp when he told me not to look at it. When I couldn’t keep my glance from returning to the screen, he flipped it around so I couldn’t see it.

Time lost all meaning. Had I told her I loved her? I couldn’t remember. I hoped that I had said the words out loud, not just thought them. I wanted to call my kids to tell them I loved them. I glanced down and saw my cell phone, still lying on my belly where the paramedic had placed it when he put me on the stretcher. I wanted to tell them I loved them, but I didn’t want them to hear me like I was. And anyway, I couldn’t bend my fingers, let alone pick up my phone to make a call. I prayed.

And the man apologizing as he pulled down my pants and jabbed an EpiPen into my thigh was telling the driver to call the hospital. He was calling out my name and date of birth and the situation. His face was calm, but his hand was shaking.

And then he pressed his hands down over mine and told me to relax them, to breathe with him, and I did. And it felt like it took a very long time, but eventually my throat loosened, the air passed through with less struggle on each breath, and we pulled into the bay at the emergency room.

Several hours later, I returned home with EpiPens, steroids, my life, and a major paradigm shift. The Meaning of Life, revealed.

And what is the Meaning of Life?

Speaking only for myself, the meaning of life is that we GET to do this.

Life is not something that is happening to us, which we are forced to endure. It isn’t a slog or a burden, and even when it feels like it is, it is still an extraordinary privilege.

We get to be here. We get to live these days. This life. Not some life that has already happened to us and ended five years ago. Certainly not the imaginary ones we conjure up in our heads and call The Future. This life. Here. Now.

And when it’s all on the line, you’re not going to give a second thought to stressful deadlines, or the housework. You’re not going to feel sorry for yourself that your bank account isn’t as large as you had hoped it would be by this point in your life. You won’t be worrying that anyone will see your stretch marks or that hair on your chin that you forgot to tweeze.

The Meaning of Life is, “Did I remember to tell her I love her?”

There are a million opportunities to love. And for every opportunity, there are a million ways to blow it, too.

Honestly, my business didn’t cross my mind while I was in the back of that ambulance. The missed opportunity that has felt like such a big deal earlier that day left my mind entirely. But when the threat of imminent death had passed, I thought about it a lot. Over the past month, I have assessed and reassessed every aspect of my life, and what I realized is that I don’t want to miss anything that matters.

We can’t have it all, true. But we can have everything that matters. Life is fleeting. I don’t want to waste a single minute on things that don’t matter. I don’t want to strive for some ridiculous, fictitious work/life balance.

Your life is not a series of compartmentalized boxes. Your work is your life, and more importantly, your life is your work.

If you spend the vast majority of your hours doing something you hate, you are not loving the vast majority of your life. If the vast majority of your hours are not spent doing something you really, truly believe in, why are you doing it?

I am lucky that the vast majority of my work time is spent doing things I love and believe are valuable to other people. On occasion, I take side work that I feel are neither, because I value taking care of my family’s needs more than I value ’round the clock emotional fulfillment from my work. It’s a choice, and it is one that I don’t regret and I refuse to complain about.

We love to tell ourselves that we have no choice, but that is false, and it is self-victimization. Make no mistake, there is almost always a choice. Nearly every moment of every day of our lives is comprised of a series of choices.

Yes, there are things we can’t foresee. Yes, there are emergencies and tragedies that leave us with no choices, other than how we respond to them. That happens.

But these are exceptions to the rule. Most of our days are not comprised of series of tragedies and emergencies in which we are helpless to change our circumstances. And thank God for that.

The thing is, we rarely have any forewarning about when they’re coming. and in what form. If we did, I wouldn’t have eaten the baklava.

I won’t give you a long list of all the things I think you should or shouldn’t do, based on my experience. Most of it wouldn’t be relevant, because we aren’t the same person. We might have different value and hopes and dreams. As we should. That’s what makes this big crazy world so beautiful.

There’s only one thing that I learned from nearly dying that I know with complete certainty will apply to you.

This is your life. Your one and only life. This day is happening. Choose carefully.

In Honor of Maya Angelou

IMG_20131103_165814
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”  – Maya Angelou

I’ll never forget the first time I encountered Maya Angelou’s poetry.  I sobbed through that first reading of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, not because of the grief of it all, but from relief. And that relief grew by leaps and bounds as I devoured every piece of writing by this magnificent woman that I could get my hands on.

As a young girl, reading Maya Angelou’s work, learning about her life and the multitude of ways she had triumphed over what many would consider to be insurmountable odds, I took it as irrefutable proof that outside forces could never detain or control the spirit that refused to be dominated by circumstance.

Of all of the gifts I received from Maya Angelou’s work, the most important lesson I took from her was this:

There is a difference between living a life that has known tragedy and living a tragic life. You get to decide.

Or, in Maya Angelou’s words, “No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”

It’s the sort of gift that can never be repaid, only paid forward. Each day that we’re still alive is a chance for spiritual revival, and rather than mourn her death, I am celebrating her life, because she lived each day like it mattered. Her days mattered. Every single one. So do mine. So do yours.

 

Thank you, Dr. Maya Angelou, for the courage and tenacity of your 86 years. Thank you for doing what you loved. Thank you for persisting, overcoming, encouraging, and speaking out so boldly and relentlessly. Thank you for every single life you ever touched, the people you knew and loved intimately, and the hundreds of thousands of us you never knew, but forever changed.

When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

 

Great Ideas vs Great Execution

IdeasIf you’re reading this, I know that your head is full of great ideas. After all, you’re creative, or you feel like you used to be creative, or you’re yearning to tap into your creativity for the first time in as long as you can remember. People with that sort of desire tend to have a propensity for great ideas. It’s a given.

Now, you might not feel like you can fully access your great ideas at the moment, but that doesn’t mean they’re not in there. Of course they are. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t feel the insatiable tug to tease them out of hiding and into being.

We don’t try to find things unless we believe they exist.

Before you can create, you must have the idea that you are capable of creating. After you have the idea, you have to allow yourself to believe it. After you believe it, you must summon up the courage to begin. After you summon up the courage to begin, you have to keep going. You have to see your idea through to fruition in order to have created something.

Being creative begins with having great ideas, but being creative is not the same as creating.

Creating is 10% great ideas and 90% execution.

In other words, if you want to make things happen, you’re going to have to work for them. Some of that work will feel like play. You’ll find your flow, and the hours will pass by in a blink. Those are the parts that feed your soul and create ecstatic feelings of living the dream. You might even tap into that creative sweet spot that feels akin to having a transcendental experience.

This creator’s high is very real. And it is very worthwhile. It’s a gift.

But then, there are the other parts. Seeing a project through, all the way from the first eureka! moment that causes you to jump out of the shower covered in a film of body wash in order to write it down, to the moment of completion, is rarely (okay, maybe never) just the transcendental state of flow.

There are other components to execution. Components that are less than thrilling to contemplate. Components to which many creative people are averse.

Oh. Those.

No one wants to talk about those! We’d all rather stick to talking about our great ideas and the super-happy-fun-times.

No one wants to hear that in order to be a successful artist or creative entrepreneur, sometimes you’ll have to spend hours on a task so boring and tedious, you might refer (only in that moment, you’re not insane) to your past life as a data analyst as exhilarating.

No one wants to hear that you might have to give up, or greatly cut down on, things like your favorite TV shows, other hobbies, long naps, social gatherings, and sleeping in on weekends. Maybe for a long time. Or that you might sometimes find yourself in the position of having to work such long hours to hit a deadline that you convince yourself that life has no meaning other than sleep. Sleep is the meaning of life.

With the exception of some of the extroverts of our ilk, very few creative people are excited to hear that it isn’t enough to be good at what you do. You’re also going to have to get good at telling people what you do. Yes, that means networking and marketing. To a lot of people, networking and marketing are terrifying concepts. To others, they’re dirty words.

That doesn’t sound like fun. That sounds like a whole lot of hard work. It doesn’t sound like creating. It sounds like business with a capital B. For boring.

Executing a Great Idea is Hard Work.

Which is why so many great ideas never get beyond the idea phase. And if simply having the great ideas is enough to sustain and fulfill you, you’ll receive zero judgment from me. Hell, I’ve had no fewer than 157,836 great ideas in my lifetime that I never pursued. They simply weren’t important enough to me to invest what it would have taken to get them off the ground. Plus, no one is capable of executing that many great ideas. There aren’t enough hours in a lifetime.

If your ideas don’t matter enough to you to see them through, there is nothing wrong with that. Not one thing. You know why? Well, first of all, because this is your life, and no one has to live it but you. That alone is enough. But there’s something else. Something even more important than that.

When it is the right idea, you will move heaven and earth to see it to fruition. When your idea is based on something that you believe in so fully, or brings you so much joy and fulfillment, that you know that you’ll have deathbed regrets if you don’t at least try, you’re going to give it all you’ve got.

You might not ever find yourself giddy over fixing broken code on your website or learning about the pros and cons of short copy versus long copy on a sales page, but you’ll do it.

You might not ever feel a rush of euphoria while learning about putting together a newsletter or attending a networking event.

You know when you will feel it? When all of those puzzle pieces, all of those multifaceted chunks of hard work, the ones comprised of moving past fear and inertia, start twisting and turning, and clicking into place. They form a big picture that looks one hell of a lot like a completed project, or maybe even a business.

You will feel the high when you realize that this time, maybe for the first time ever, you invested yourself fully in what matters to you. You did the work. You didn’t just think about it, you did it.

You’ll feel it as the realization hits you full force. You’re not just creative. You’re a creator.

Reminder: If you’re ready to start executing your ideas, or if you want help coming up with the ideas to execute, Creativity Consultations are Pay What You Can until the end of April. It’s my way of offering up thanks for getting to do what I love for a living, including the tedious and scary parts. Click here to enter your own price and then send me a note at withwoman@gmail.com to set up your consultation time.

In the Spotlight: An Interview with Latisha Guthrie of Sunflower Herb Farm

Elecampane

This post is the first in a series of interviews with entrepreneurs and artists following their passion and offering up their gifts to the world. If you’ve made the transition from dreaming to doing, and would like to be featured here, please drop me a line at withwoman@gmail.com. I’m excited to hear about it! Let’s inspire the world together.

When I decided to start sharing other people’s success stories, Latisha was one of the first people I thought about interviewing. I was overjoyed when she accepted my invitation, because her love of what she does for a living is palpable. Get her talking about plants, and even if you’ve never had an interest in the subject, you’ll find yourself wanting to take up herbcrafting.

Herb crafting is an intimate experience, even when it’s what you do for a living. Would you mind sharing some of your story about how you first came to connect with the plants? 

Well, the beginning is not so sexy, I’m afraid. It really started with smells. I have a really odd sense of smell and things can linger and bother me to the point of distraction. I have trouble concentrating; when I smell something funny I must hunt it down and resolve it. Having allergies and prone to asthma, I couldn’t stand most of the commercial scent-fixing nonsense, so I set out to discover some alternatives. I was fascinated by what I found was possible with just a few leaves and flowers, and my love affair began. When I became pregnant with my first daughter, my passion seemed to kick into overdrive and this deep knowing within me said this was our heritage to learn and share. I felt responsible to the medicine at that point, and let it take me from there. 

When and how did you make the leap from crafting just for personal use and making a living with your herbal wisdom, whether that means crafting products to sell or sharing your knowledge with others? 

It was all your fault, Mani! I’m sure I would have got there eventually, but you were the first person who saw something in me I didn’t yet see myself. You asked me to consider teaching a few beginning herbcrafting classes at your midwifery office in Phoenix. I remember how much I was freaking out and how incredibly gentle and encouraging you were. After I held my first class, I felt more alive than I had ever felt in my life. I knew then that this was exactly what I needed to be up to. 
Ha! I swear that I wasn’t fishing for that answer! I honestly didn’t know what you were going to say. But this works out beautifully, because it illustrates something I believe is extremely important: when we share our gifts freely, we free up others to share their own. If it’s all my fault that this has become your livelihood, I could say that it’s all your fault that I’ve pursued creativity consulting.

I think I was already penciling you into the calendar before you were done telling me all of the reasons you couldn’t possibly do it. You did it. And everyone that came to that first class Couldn’t. Get. Enough. They were raving about it. It was in that moment that I realized I had a gift for seeing other people’s gifts and encouraging them to own it. It took me some time to get to this point with it, but here we are! So thank you.

What fears or obstacles did you have to overcome to pursue your passion? 
With herbcraft there are so many. I still work through them now. The biggest fears are my inexperience and wondering, will I hurt someone? The world of herbalism is full of amazing, storied wise men and women who have been at this for a long time. That old record, “Who am I to be teaching this stuff?” playing on repeat in my head. In truth, I’m really a teenage herbmama. Awkward and shaky at times, overconfident at others. I’m really learning so much, right alongside those I’m grateful to work with. But, I do it anyway. We all start somewhere, and this is what I’m here to do. For me, there is no alternative. I also worry that someone might become ill or have an adverse reaction based on a recommendation, teaching, or product from me. And in truth, though the incidents were relatively harmless, it has happened a handful of times. The thing is, you can’t fully predict how everyone will react to medicine, conventional or herbal. We just proceed cautiously, start with the things that are the most gentle, and work our way up. Though it can be scary to think about, it brings up one of the differences with plant medicine or most holistic healing practices that I love: teaching the patient to know their body and their medicine. Empowering people to understand what they are doing and not just following orders, giving them the opportunity to read the many signs our body gives us, and watching them feel confident to choose their own healing, is the best affirmation I can receive. 

The farm. Won’t you please, please talk to us about your home? 

I could talk about this all day long! It sits just under Mt. Baker in North Bellingham, Washington. Our house is the 100-year-old farmhouse the original owners lived in. The property has a full orchard with walnut, hazelnut, plum, pear, apple, and cherry trees. Right now, our wee little 1.3 acres is still a blank journal, waiting for its story to be written. My husband is the main farm guy, and he is a food forester and permaculturist, so growth will be slow and long. This winter we worked on preparing the soil for the two main gardens: the three veg gardens and the twelve herbal medicine wheel gardens. Now that spring has arrived, we have begun the huge task of planting. We also just received a new batch of chicks, which takes our total up to nine. Next year we are hoping for ducks, and either goats or sheep. Neither one of us have any experience at this sort of thing, so we are taking our time, letting it all sink in. Our hope is to grow it into a teaching forest. A place where people can come and play and learn about plants, and see just how much can be done in small spaces. We have a big ass vision, but we are children of the earth, and we’re really here to do her bidding. So, for now we roll with the seasons, tinkering and sowing as we can. 

Your business has soul. I know that it is so much more than just a means of making money. Please tell me what it is that you hope to give to the world? And just as importantly, what do you receive from the world in return (that isn’t monetary)? 

I have two wishes for my contribution. One: to inspire a deeper connection to the earth. Two: to empower people to take an active role in their own health. I want every child to know what plantain is, and how it can be used. I want mothers to ask hard questions of their doctors, and to feel like they know what’s best for their children. The return for me is the healing and preservation of the mama. We are all here, living on this earth, together. Nature is a ridiculously awesome resource of food, medicine, and beauty, if we just notice it. Whatever you believe, we all need trees and oceans. When I see a child make a plantain spit wad and throw it on a bee sting, my heart grows ten times. When a mother emails me to tell me she can’t drive around anymore without rubber necking every patch of green to see who is there, stopping to harvest things she never noticed before, right there in such abundance all the time, I feel seen, too. We are earth. I am earth. When people notice and take care of her, I feel cared for as well. 

What is your favorite plant in this moment? 

Really?? Okay. I don’t play favorites. I just can’t. But I do choose one plant to work with deeply each year. This year it is elecampane. She is a cousin of sunflower, yet her roots are harvested for medicine. As we are finally rooting down, she has been a good plant to study. Those bright yellow flowers splaying out, proud and beautiful in summer, only to give way and offer her root up for healing. It is the ultimate sacrifice, and these plants, they just give so freely. We have much to be grateful for. 

That was a beautiful answer to a question I knew you weren’t going to like! Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

A lot of people shy away from herbs, even if they’re curious, out of fear. What would you say to them? 

I see you, friend. I felt the same way. It was the driving force behind the creation of my HerbCamp eCourses. First, I always say, just play. Don’t take it too seriously. Make some spritzers with essential oils, or some lip balms. Throw some weeds in your salad. There are literally hundreds of plants that you can use quite effectively and safely, before ever getting into some of the controversial things. Pick just a few to really get to know first. Start with kitchen herbs, for example. Sage, thyme, and rosemary make powerful remedies. Let the plants convince you. I promise they will. And find other herbmamas to share stories with. One of the coolest things about doing this work was discovering all the closeted herbcrafters out there. I’m not running my camps anymore, but our HerbCamp FB group is open to anyone who wants a safe place to land and explore. It is specifically created for folks just like you. By talking about it with each other, by bringing it out from behind the back door, by playing lightly, we remove the fear. 

Please direct us to your wildcrafting ebooks. Also, I know that you’re busy on the farm at the moment, but would you like to share any teasers about future offerings we should keep looking forward to? 

The ebooks can be found at Petal and Moss on etsy. I just listed the Dandelion book for April. I will also be listing loads of closeout herbals in the Petal and Moss shop in May to make room for this summer’s harvest. Finally, I am super excited to be collaborating on some local herbcrafting events here in Bellingham. If you’re in the area, look for those this fall. We’d love to have you visit us on the farmette!

Camera 360

Latisha is a mama, an artist, and an herb farmer in Northern Washington. A little bit fairy, a little bit witch, she delights in the juxtaposed, the contradictory, the paradoxical. Visit her farm site: Sunflower Herb Farm and her personal blog at http://petalandmoss.com