Observations from a woman in the woods

Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

The backcountry has a curious way of magnifying a person’s beliefs and perceptions. Despite the pretense that sexism is somehow an antiquated concept, gender bias is still highly prevalent, and noticeable, in the wilderness.

Three years ago, I was the only woman on a small trail crew. I thought nothing of it. My male colleagues had become my close friends over several months, and the fact that I was the only woman wasn’t even a topic of conversation.

One day, it was business as usual when we set out to improve a local hiking trail, equipped with rock bars, shovels…

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

Our food system was built to control us, but we can fight back.

When I glance out my window, a display of surprising color catches my eye: leaves suffused with red and yellow have already drifted gently to the ground in my yard, despite the hurried sensation that summer had only just begun seemingly moments before. Mabon — the Fall Equinox — will be shortly upon us, however, thus instilling within me a delicate reminder that the wheel of the year continues to spin, whether I am paying attention or not.

Right now, one might hope that gardeners everywhere are busy collecting and preserving seeds from their heartily-stewarded veggie plots from this summer…

Potato beetles wear black-and-yellow-striped suits and orange black-polka-dotted masks as if dressed to play the part of the circus clown. When you pop them in between your fingers, they snap-crackle-pop, bursting with bright orange goo, their deaths staining the dirt encrusted lines of your hands. Leptinotarsa decemlineata lays neon-orange eggs on the under-leaves of our potato plants while nibbling away at the foliage in an act of decimation while awaiting to be decimated by the thumb and the index finger of my right hand. Smushing potato beetle larvae can be likened to popping a particularly luscious pimple.

We call it…

Photo by Hannah Troupe on Unsplash

A month ago, my cat’s death sent me reeling in ways that I never could have anticipated.

“How long?” I ask half-jokingly one day when my boyfriend returns with our cat, Aji, from a check-up at the vet.

“Thursday.” It’s all he can do to force the word out, like speaking too many could unleash something dangerous.

Thursday. In that moment, I hate that word. It is a terrible word. Thursday is the shock of ice on bare skin. It is a fist, clenching and unclenching in my chest. It’s not a word. It’s not even a real day.


Toward an alternative future in herbalism & society

by Tyler Dozier on Unsplash

The way I see it, the rise of herbalism parallels a rise of laypeople — a budding “peasant” uprising, an evolving sovereignty on the margins of capitalism; a sort of side-ward mobility that allows us in some ways to step outside of the system and reclaim autonomy over our relationship with the land, with plants, our bodies, our medicine. In this light, can we work together to disperse our medicines through alternative economies that also sidestep the system?

It is a common trap for herbalists to fall within: the commodification of the…

Because you have the right to tell your story

by Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash

November is coming. In addition to voting your heart out, that also means that National Novel Writing Month is right around the riverbend (NaNoWriMo for short). ’Tis the season to coerce your creativity out of hiding and onto the page in the form of words, preferably sentences, hopefully paragraphs, and maybe even chapters that culminate with the creation of an actual, coherent story.

Every year on November 1st, much to the indignation of MFA holders worldwide, thousands of laypersons put on their wordsmith aprons, get out their anvils, and embark on…

It’s time to stop punishing women for being in pain

Julie Johnson on Unsplash

Have #spiritual Instagirls been trying to convince you to banish everyone in the vicinity for their treasonous negativity so that you can sufficiently #shineyourlight, practice #selflove and unfurl your #authenticself without their hideous shadows getting in your way?

Look, I’ve been known to throw around some hashtags myself. But let’s take a breath and talk about why this “love and light” mentality is not only problematic, but also dangerous.

Because hey, we’re all sisters here! One for all and all for one! It’s all about radiating that light and love, right? We women have to lift each other up, right?

Everyone Poops

When I was little, I had a book called Everyone Poops, by Taro Gomi. You know the one: captivating illustrations of deer pooping on the move. Babies pooping in their diapers. One-humped camels pooping one-humped poops. After all, everyone poops (although I do remember a curious lack of girls in that book — but we don’t do that sort of thing, do we? No, we emit rainbows or whatever.)

I suspect that this book was supposed to diffuse society’s inherent discomfort with the notion of excretion, to educate us out of our tendency to laugh and jest at the mention…


Professional editor. Folk herbalist. Feminist. Mountain woman. Follow on instagram @qmnichols

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