My Blog

Juliette of the Herbs

28 Nov, 2016

“For we are all wanderers in search of happiness, and staying mostly where we find it in aplenty” Juliette of the Herbs

This remarkable women is one of the most important herbalists of our time. Juliette De Bairacli Levi, has my respect and admiration not only for the contribution she made to healing naturally but too the way she lived her life. We share a common love of many places she lived and grew herbs, treated animals, being a holistic vet, and lived among the gypsies all over the world, further acquiring more herbal lore for humans and pets. She is also a fellow Scorpio! Her beloved dogs, afghan hounds, were never far from her side. She lived on my doorstep at one time, in the New Forest, mostly in remote places without power or water, in Spain, North Africa, Turkey, Israel and Greece and planted her special gardens wherever she went. Go girl. Really an inspiration and when you consider the time, (born 1912) it was ‘not the done thing’ for solo women travellers to be rambling about the world with children in tow. She raised her two children by her side and taught them how to live in accordance with nature, eating largely a raw food diet and bathing local ponds and wells. Now deceased, she was the author of a great many books some of which I possess and there is a film about her life simply titled ‘Juliette of the Herbs’, as indeed, she was. You can get it and further info here. http://www.valleystream.co.uk/juliette-of-the-herbs.htm

Her book, ‘Wanderers in the New Forest’, now fetching £32.00 on Amazon, has been amongst my collection for some time. She describes her cottage on my old stomping ground, which I had to visit of course, as an idyllic life among her friends, the gypsies, who were free to roam at the time, during the 1950’s. Although I wasn’t born until the 60’s, I still remember seeing gypsies in the Forest when I was young. And went they were ‘forced’ off the forest, some of the herbs and grasses were lost when they left. The Gypsy lifestyle, roaming, foraging, catching their food, making their own medicine from natures garden meant they were naturally drawn to the riches of the New Forest. For hundreds of years it was home to many gypsies for its abundant herbs, medicinal plants, game and natural springs supplying themselves and their horses and pets. There still remains the wells at Godshill, Juliette speaks of in her book, one, open for the animals and one, covered for humans. The gypsy community was steeped in rituals and customs. The ridge at Godshill, by a certain holly tree, was where gypsy women went to give birth. Sometimes a tent was erected and men weren’t allowed anywhere near the scene, often not holding their babies until after they were christened.

Of course, I took a picture of her little house, while wandering, in search of happiness one Sunday in the forest with friends, and I share it with youhere; 

It is not dis-similar to my Spanish finca, and equally as off-grid. She was hard-core this woman, no utilities for her, and cold baths in the well! 

This is an excerpt from an interview she once gave;

Trinity Herb:What are your thoughts on gardens and do you have one?

Juliette de Bairacli Levy: “The main purpose of having a garden is to have the garden as a teacher and friend. If you have a problem then the garden will give you the plants you need. You are always learning from your garden. I’ve had ten gardens and miss them all. When I start my garden I always start with Rosemary and Southernwood. They are my two favorite plants. My children say I cure everything with Rosemary. It’s true. Even if they have had very serious injuries, merely bathing in a Rosemary bath has cured them. Rosemary is very antiseptic. It is beloved by the bees and the butterflies. Such a lovely name too – Rosemarinus – dew of the sea. Southernwood, my other favorite plant, is in the Artemisia family. Artemis was a great herbalist, and Southernwood is a wonderful protector of women and newborns. I’ve done miracles with it for animals that were unable to pass their young ones.

Of all the remedies I’ve used, the best one is the laying on of the leaves. For very bad wounds on people and animals I put whole leaves direct on the wound and hold the leaf in place with gauze. Ointments and bandages, when removed, pull off the scab, but the leaves don’t, and they also draw out the toxins, and heal the wound, with no pain whatsoever. Mallow is a wonderful leaf. So are Nasturtium and Geraniums”. (Source; http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/July09/empower.htm)

You can feel her passion for her gardens and herbs and see it in her writing. She left many places due to the environmental damage created by man that she could not bear. This included one of her favourite gardens in Greece, due to the hunting every year of the song birds which broke her heart. I too live halfway up a mountain in Spain and tend my garden, similarly as did she and chronicles her time there in her book A Spanish Mountain Life. I too, will bang an old saucepan when the hunters come, to let the birds know in advance, so that they can fly to relative safety. If I am as contented and happy as she was, and can plant my garden, look after the environment and share what herbal knowledge I have with others on my retreats, I will feel I have accomplished something of value. Inspiring and exciting to find a kindred spirit, who lives on in the legacy of her written work. 

Spot the difference

21 Nov, 2016

“The cavernous setting of the disorderly interior may well refer to the fact that alchemists were often accused of losing all their material belongings in their futile search of the philosopher’s stone”.


I can so definitely relate to that quote in so many ways, I can’t even begin to tell you. In fact, it pretty much sums up life as I know it!

This is a painting called The Alchemist by Adriaen van Ostade in 1661. It was later bought by the National Gallery, London. Close up you can see the date inscribed on the shovel by the fireplace, apparently. The paper by the stool shows writing from the treatise De Re Metallica, by Agricola 1556, a prominent book of the time cataloguing the smelting of metals. It says, “oleum et operam perdis”, - oil and work is wasted.

This is a picture of my finca in Spain before renovation work commenced. How similar they are! I have always thought of myself as a bit of an alchemist with the making of lotions and potions out of the herbs that I grow. I have never really got around to selling them, though I did do a local fiesta with some friends recently, near to the finca at a workers co-operative. And they are a feature on the Red Tent Retreat as we can wander about and pick the herbs that grow wild and from my garden nd make things from them. Such a fantastic way to spend a day. One of the best parts is naming the products. I really fancy getting into hair solid hair products next, so that you can take them on planes. Ryan Hair solid shampoo bar anyone? 

Turning 50 and The Day of the Dead

01 Nov, 2016

“You have skulls under the skin of your own faces, bones beneath your flesh. Like all mortals, you seek ways to understand death, to befriend it, and celebrate it in the context of celebrating life and love.” Aya de Leon, Author.

Today I am 50. I share my birthday with the celebration of the Day of the Dead, ‘El Dia de los Muetos’ as it is called in Spain and Mexico. The traditions surrounding the Day of the Dead, its history throughout the past thousands of years, and its meaning for us today are rather intriguing. It is a joyful, sacred celebration and a time to welcome the souls of the dead every year. It is considered the most auspicious day of the year for the dead and the living to communicate. The living and the dead are reunited for a short time over this period.It is a community celebration, a three day fiesta, party, food and booze, yet also a private family event. Some families open their homes so you can celebrate with them, visit their altar, ‘ofrenda’ which is decorated traditionally with flowers and sugar skulls. Artisan skull makers spend months making sugary delights to please the spirits in good time for this event. Indigenous families often spend up to two months’ salary on their preparations and offerings to their dead relatives, believing this will bring protection, luck and prosperity.

Flowers are vitally important for the celebrations, intricately woven throughout the home, it is the marigold flower or ‘cempasuchil’ that has been used since the pre-Columbians, to honour the dead on altars and graves. It is a favourite plant of mine and one that I use for healing, making balms for stings and scratches collected in my garden. Altars are laden with delicacies and favourite foods of the departed. Families gather in their local graveyards at night to meet with the souls. Graves are cleaned and decorated with candles and flowers. Musicians play. It lasts for three days. Time spent at the cemetery on the Day of the Dead differs from place to place. In some towns, people stay there whole night. The departed children called ‘los angelitos’, are remembered on November 1st, while November 2nd focuses on the adults. In essence, it is a celebration of life as ancestors briefly return to the relatives they left behind, and most notably, it takes the fear away from death. Unlike Halloween, designed to scare and spook, the Day of the Dead demonstrates, love, respect, family, community, brings the topic death to the living and shows us our lives should indeed be well-lived and celebrated. It is humorous, a lot of fun, a three day holiday and the best time of the year to connect with those gone before us. I’ll drink to that, and I am happy to share my birthday with a tradition that supports those values. Cheers!  

Life is easy.

18 Oct, 2016

“As usual, when people warn me against doing something once my mind is made up, I grow increasingly determined to try it”. Richard Branson.

When enough people had told me I am mad, crazy, (that’s becoming increasingly common), stupid, brave, impulsive, and unrealistic, and when I had heard enough about my Spanish venture being not thought out, insecure, full of red tape, at risk of land grabbers and pouring good money after bad, oh, and being dumped once again, I decided it was the perfect time to action my plans. Not that I don’t value others’ opinion, I do, but they have their own agendas and ingrained templates or set of belief systems that they must follow. I have been forced to, in lots of ways, and have wanted to break out of mine, and in any case, I don’t believe society has our best interests at heart, thus, we should design our own lives according to our ‘chosen’, rather than ‘imposed’ beliefs and by doing what we love. A big part of what I do is sharing ‘doing what I love’ with others who want to learn and do what they love too. Now read my first sentence again. So if that sounds like I am mad, crazy and stupid, I am all over that! It can be my new template for living, as the old one sure as hell doesn’t work for me.

Of course, there are those that know me well who are hugely supportive, and wonder why I hadn't made plans to leave sooner. It is said we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with, and that is somethingworth considering in choosing your friends wisely.

Noticing patterns.

In my last three jobs, I began by doing one job and ended up doing completely another. What happened in each one was that shortly after I started, as team manager or team leader, the management suddenly and unexpectedly plunged the company into redundancies. So my job became supporting people through the ensuing crisis. I watched as people turned themselves inside out to become the best in their field for the purposes of being re-interviewed for their own job, some of whom had been in post in excess of 25 years. Their faces became pinched as they considered the un-considerable should they not be successful in keeping their post, and how they would pay their mortgages and feed their children thereafter. They kept this up while carrying a full case load of work in the field of supporting others. Not one of them, in any of the three organisations, folded or went on long term sick leave. My role took on many forms, one of which was finding out what people love, in case, should the worse happen, they knew something of themselves to enable them to move forward. This work, which I considered to be fun and very interesting, is what inspired me to do it more and more and forged the decision that I should move to Spain and do it as much as possible. Enter Red Tent Retreats.

For further inspiration, check out Jon Jandai from Pun Pun Centre for Self Reliance, Thailand. Life is Easy. http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxDoiSuthep-Jon-Jandai-Life-i;search%3AJon%20Jandai

Hippy dating sites and Kim K

06 Oct, 2016

Hippy dating... I have been sent some hippy dating sites to try by some well-meaning friends, (yes, I know it’s time, but finding someone that isn’t quite normal is a hard task in any book let alone when you are half way up a Spanish mountain). I was advised by friends in the know that the better sites are the paid for sites. So I stumped up £25 to this one site, who shall remain nameless, (but the ones I tried are hippy ones or slightly alternative folk). I took the time to write up a profile and hit the ‘live’ button for all to see.

I must say I felt a bit exposed, as I’ve never done it before, particularly when a lot of men on there only have an avatar and not a real picture. Which I found slightly odd. Not that I am interested in looks only, but eyes are the windows to the soul and all that. Richard from somehampton looked interesting. He was into bushcraft and had just started teaching courses on it. I sent him a quick message saying Hi, and I’d just joined, that his interests were similar to mine and the site had ‘paired us up’ sort of thing and sent it off to his inbox. Call me old fashioned but I didn’t want to ‘chat’ with anyone else until I’d heard back from him! Which I am sure is not the way of it, but anyway, I heard nothing. I thought my months’ membership would expire if I didn’t move on so in my mind I finished it with Richard and moved swiftly on. If only he knew. Got another poke to tell me that I share interests with Darren from Bournemouth and off I went, similar message. No reply. Darren got his marching orders too. Then I started to do a little research.

What I discovered was that neither were active for some time, it seemed, and only paid subscribers could reply to my messages. The ones on there for free were just there to make up the numbers but couldn’t actually engage in conversation with the paid members. There was no way of knowing whether someone was a paid member or not, thus avoiding wasting everyone’s time so I emailed the site and said unless they make that information available I wanted a refund because it was misleading. There may have been no paid members at all and the entire site could be entirely full of men who can’t communicate. Been there before….why join a site ha ha! Had to say it!

I got my refund, minus the few days of wasted time, and less social interaction than I am used to ordinarily. The next dating site was a little odd. I had a look around the site and membership was £26. I moved on, can’t be bothered investing in it, I mused, what if they all run on the same principal? Closed the window down and felt my online dating days were over before I have even had so much as a message from someone. I had already had two rather disappointing ‘relationships’, that the men concerned didn’t know about, so I was done. Then, a couple of days later, and this may be a marketing ploy, I get a message from Happy Hippies (made up name) apologising for the site crashing the day before, (I hadn’t noticed) and by way of apology they wanted to offer me membership for a month for £1. (Which I accepted, rightly or wrongly). This was a hilarious pastime, not, as for the first three days it wouldn’t let me upload a photo of myself and the picture was returned to me with an email explaining it had been rejected due to it not being me. Umm, it was me actually and quite a nice one at that I have to say! But, computer said no. All these blokes were messaging me asking for a photo etc. But they seemed to be suspiciously a bot-like… messages like "hit me up"? and there weren’t really any hippies in the sense that I would call hippy. So I found a photo. Of Kim Kardashian. And uploaded it to my profile with the following tagline. “If you are in anyway drawn to my profile pic then I am not for you. Everything she is, I am not”. Bingo. It was approved.

I thought things were going swimmingly until I came across Fred Wests’ old profile, you know, the sicko serial killer. I kid you not. Bit off putting… says he would be 97 now. It doesn’t say he hung himself in prison, just that he is no longer active. Jolly good. I divorced Happy Hippies. Again, they don't even know! I work 24/7 when in the UK, so I doesn’t really leave much time for dating, but that’s ok as by the time someone actually reads my message, I too, could be 97. Most men who contacted me were 65 + (apart from one cheeky 32 year old, who was on there for entirely different reasons to me)! Not that I am ageist, I did have a fling with a 74 year old aboriginal story teller, and learned so much from him…you can read that blog here called a ‘A Fling with Francis Firebrace’ http://www.do-this-or-die.co.uk/blog-29-a-fling-with-frances-firebrace--aboriginal-storyteller-artist-and-ambassador-of-hugs. In fact, we are having a coffee and catch up in a couple of weeks. Perhaps my tagline may have been a bit off putting, or maybe the men on Happy Hippies do indeed want a Kim K? Upshot? Internet dating not for me. Gimme me my solitude on the Spanish mountain, a dog and my Red Tent Retreats. Yep. I am the original Happy Hippy. 

Recent Posts

Juliette of the Herbs - 28 Nov, 2016

Spot the difference - 21 Nov, 2016

Turning 50 and The Day of the Dead - 01 Nov, 2016

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