New Class: 4 Sessions at Storyteller’s Cottage


Workshop: Into the Land of Dreams
Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN
Time: 6:30 – 8 pm
Date: Monday evenings: November 5,12, 19th and December 3rd
Location: Contact Storyteller’s Cottage, Simsbury CT. to register.
Did you know dreams come to guide you? Did you know the dreams of your heart guide you, too?
Dreams are not just about our nighttime journeys but more encompassing than you can ever imagine. And, dreams are our birthright.
But how do we understand our dreams and the dreaming time? This workshop will give you tools to begin your journey and excite your imagination. Dream sharing is a part of every class and you will learn an easy but profound technique to capture the meaning and essence of your dreaming and create practical action. Materials are provided.

Blog: Plants Clean up our Environment: How Phytoremediation works



Plants help in so many ways. Got a cold? Drink peppermint or ginger tea. Can’t sleep? Make a cup of chamomile tea. Want to cook with a wild edible? Harvest some nettles in spring, throw chopped leaves into a pot of soup, or steam like spinach and add to rice, pasta, veggies.

We forage for plants all the time. Some of us go to supermarkets where the harvesting is done for us and we can pick and choose. Some of us like wilder varieties and harvest from our land and gardens. We marvel at meadows that sway and glow with a variety of colors. Trees and shrubs contribute too to our gathering, whether wood to burn, wood to use for product, berries to eat, nuts to gather. So much in our natural world supports us.

But let’s go deeper. We have many areas in our country contaminated by toxic wastes. Watersheds are polluted. Soils are denatured and rendered unhealthy. Air can be dense with toxic fumes. How do we clean these basic elements up and leave a cleaner legacy for our children and future generations? My podcast guest this week, Kat Van Deusen, an ecological engineer has created a firm with partners that do just that: they clean up toxic spills with plants.

She states: Many of our undeveloped lands in these states, specifically New York and New Jersey, have soils and waterways contaminated with:

Petroleum products
Dry cleaner fluids (particularly toxic)
Landfill waste

These sites are termed Brownfield sites. Our traditional way of dealing with contaminated sites is to extract the soil, remove it. Then the question becomes where do we dump this toxic soil? Other techniques for water breaks down the contaminants and then sprays them into the air. Is that further contributing to air pollution?

Kat is unique in this field. As a trained scientist she uses the skills and tools from her education. However, her grandmother taught her something about working with the plant kingdom in more traditional, esoteric ways. Kat has a knack for scouting out an area, observing plant species present which often leads to a hidden toxic dump site. How does she do this? The plants tell her, she replies.

How does she work?

  1. She evaluates the landscape or Brownfield.
  2. Evaluates plant and tree species present; these two steps are complex as our topography undulates, has curves and slopes.
  3. If she has to replant the area, she uses plants/trees in multiple steps to prevent further contamination into water or lowlands.
  4. Specific plants/trees can eat up contaminants, metabolize them, which results in the expiration of water vapor into the air that is no longer toxic.
  5. First successors like cedar trees, pokeweed do this efficiently.
  6. Does it work? Groundwater is repeatedly tested and these scientists note an 80% reduction in contaminants in the soil and water.
  7. Cattails (Typha latifolia), Phragmites are great at protecting habitats. Have you observed these plants around waterways near our highways?  While some may consider Phragmites to be invasive I find it interesting that these plants are part of nature’s clean-up crew. Dandelions are soil stabilizers. Did you know sunflowers are planted extensively around Chernobyl? They absorb the radiation from the soil. Fukushima sunflower project is underway.

Kat concluded our interview by stating nature has effectively engineered a way to create balance and the renewed hope of cleaning up our mess.

Lastly, she gives thanks to the plant kingdom for their guidance and when done, she often feels she receives their blessing.

She states: “The true measure of a scientist is to allow themselves to be open to all possibilities not the empirical.” This philosophy allows the scientist within and her scientific curiosity to blend with her matrilineal ability to perceive plants differently: which plants give a clue to a problem, which plants can literally eat up toxins and bring healthy renewal to our land. Her projects are unique. Her approach is innovative. Her results are measurable and positive.

Most of us love plants, nature in some way. Today our science is helping us get back into nature with more awe, respect, reverence even for the intelligence that is right there often in our own backyard. What have you observed in your gardens? We enjoy your comments.

Oh and please share. let’s get the word out. Together we can make a difference.

Thanks, Judith

Podcast: Holistic Nature of Us: Meet Brian Stafford, M.D. Soul Guide

Description: What is eco-psyche-artistry? Meet Brian Stafford, founder of Wilderness is Medicine in Ojai, California. Brian guides healthcare professionals through nature-based resiliency and visionary leadership retreats. He is a soul-guide with the Animas Valley Institute.

Eco- connect to nature

psyche – encounter a being in nature or in a dream that mirrors your soul

artistry – begin to embody your unique soul gifts in the world.

Intrigued? I am. Join us for a soul-filled discussion that brings us back into nature and our wild selves.

About My Guest: Brian Stafford, MD, MPH is a depth psychiatrist, eco-therapist, wilderness guide, retreat facilitator, poet, speaker, essayist, and agent of human and cultural transformation, and the Founder of Wilderness Is Medicine. Previously, he was an academic pediatrician, and an adult, adolescent, child, perinatal and infant psychiatrist with over 30 clinical, research, and educational publications, research and service grants of over seven million dollars, as well as many institutional, state, and national awards, including an endowed chair. He currently guides nature-based resiliency and visionary leadership retreats for healthcare professionals through Wilderness Is Medicine and non-healthcare providers with the Animas Valley Institute.
He is finishing his first book, Wilderness Is Medicine.

Transcript:  Podcast #16 Brian Stafford


Podcast: Holistic Nature of Us: Susan Leopold, Director of United Plant Savers

Description:  Do plants need saving? Yes. Why? Susan Leopold, executive director of United Plant Savers, shares reasons why we are in danger of losing many plant species, through loss of habitat, overharvesting, non-sustainable farming practices. “United Plant Savers’ mission is to protect native medicinal plants of the United States and Canada and their native habitat while ensuring an abundant renewable supply of medicinal plants for generations to come.” Join Susan and me in a timely, deeply important discussion about preserving plants and their habitats for future generations.

About the Guest:  Susan Leopold, Ph.D. Susan is an ethnobotanist and passionate defender of biodiversity. Over the past 20 years, Susan has worked extensively with indigenous peoples in Peru and Costa Rica. She is the Executive Director of United Plant Savers [] and Director of the Sacred Seeds Project. Prior to working at United Plant Savers, she was a rare botanical book librarian at the Oak Spring Garden Library, specializing in digitizing rare herbals and botanical travel manuscripts. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Botanical Dimensions and the Center for Sustainable Economy. She is an advisory board member of ABC and a co-founder of the Medicines from the Edge conference in Costa Rica. She is a proud member of the Patawomeck Indian Tribe of Virginia and the author of the children’s book, Isabella’s Peppermint Flower, teaching about Virginia’s botanical history. She lives on and manages a productive farm, the Indian Pipe Botanical Sanctuary with her three children in Virginia, where she raises goats, peacocks, and herbs. She is an avid recreational tree climber, in love with the canopy just as much as the herbs of the forest floor.

Podcast Transcript: Susan Leopold Transcript 

Varney Farm in South Windsor CT: A Vision




I mentioned the Varney Farm in South Windsor CT in my last post. This farm, a small but remarkable farming venture that seeks to help reduce hunger, provides food for Foodshare. Foodshare is the coordinator and collector of food from farmers and stores in Hartford and Tolland counties. They  disperse collected food to various food banks, soup kitchens etc in these areas.

Sandy Varney and I met the other day so I could see the operation first hand and maybe help get the word out for volunteers. (see previous post) and see the following:


However in our discussions she asked me to highlight a dream of hers. She notices fallow land on her drives through north central CT. She envisions this land converted to grow food crops. Could retired farmers help out in some way? This sounds simple but retired farmers are an untapped resource. Maybe for various reasons they can no longer farm but could oversee, counsel those of us who want to get back to the land. How about organic growers, nurseries donating seedlings, seeds to get the farming going? Who will take over Varney Farm when she can no longer oversee and manage her own operation? Will her land go fallow too? She also reminded me that converting used land into food crops is tax deductible which can be a further incentive to considering this option. Lastly, could a person or a group step forward to pull this together?

I know of a small organic grower in VA who put up a 8 x 10′ shed for a helper to use. This young man has access to water, toilet but doesn’t want conventional work. He helps tend and harvest all that is appropriate to her farm. Young graduates cannot easily find work. Agriculture is a field that is expanding. I could add my own vision: home schoolers, a high school or college graduate wanting to use their education in creative ways seeking out this kind of opportunity, a grassroots adventure, working the land.

We do this in cities. Bette Midler comes to mind.  This well known actress put  her money to work and began to clean up four blocks in Harlem, NY several years ago of trash. This one idea has led to NYC being replanted one tree at a time, community gardens and rooftop gardens flourishing. The question is: what can we envision for our smaller farms, fallow land in smaller communities? how can we use resources more sustainably and contribute to healing our environment not just in donations, but in education, in a  hands on community approach?

We can and do think outside the box when need arises. Please send comments to Sandy at Varney Farm to her facebook page.

Comments can be added here too. Let’s get a dialogue going. . .  who knows what dreams will manifest.

Enjoy. Judith

Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN, Writer, Speaker, Holistic Health Consultant and Workshop Presenter, Master Gardener. ©all rights reserved. Including photos.

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