Greetings, I’m Julia, and I’m WILD ABOUT WEEDS!
Where I come from
Plants are in my blood. My Grandfather was a nurseryman in Kent, England, my Grandmother arranged flowers from their huge garden and sold them in London. My parents grow vegetables and flowers and my four siblings garden too.
Growing up on a dairy farm in the Wairarapa and then the Manawatu gave me a strong connection with nature. Building on this passion for nature and especially plants I studied for a Diploma of Horticulture from Massey University in Nursery Management and did a practical year on a deciduous tree nursery where I tied a lot of grafts and buds and made a lot of cuttings.
From Massey I got a job at Weleda in Havelock North which is run on the principles of Rudolf Steiner (an Austrian visionary who has given indications for education, agriculture, spirituality and many other areas of life), for healing and medicine. I grew the herbs that were turned into tinctures and medicinal remedies and teas. I still have strong memories of the smells in the drying shed where herbs like peppermint, lemon balm, chamomile flowers, nettle, rosemary and many others were laid out on hessian hammocks to dry. We finished them off in a cabinet clothes dryer and then rubbing the dried leaves off the stalk made my eyes water with some of the volatile oils being released.
A keen interest in healing and health has extended from my love of herbs, flowers and plants and, while I studied for a BA in German language and Anthropology, I cared for private gardens and had my own. Anthropology is all about the study of people and I loved learning about indigenous peoples all over the world and how they live often closer to nature than we do. Their healing systems were of particular interest.
My Healing Journey
With a background of interests such as mine and thinking I was a healthy person you can imagine how shocking it was in 2004 to be diagnosed with Idiopathic Thrombocytopaenic Purpura (ITP) or low platelets, meaning I bruised easily and didn’t clot blood very well. It is an auto immune disease. I tried many alternative health remedies from homeopathy to acupuncture to aura healing to cure it. Nothing worked. I also had heavy menstrual bleeding, which together with low platelets is a dangerous combination. Thus in June 2008 I had to have a hysterectomy. Three months after that operation I suffered a stroke when the platelets were again extremely low although it is not clear whether the low platelets caused the stroke or not. I spent six weeks in hospital, surrendered to the healing process of relearning to use my left hand and to walk again. It is with total gratitude, a lot of loving family support, a positive attitude and determination that I am completely recovered and I can honestly say that today I feel the healthiest and most energetic I have felt in all of my adult life!!
How can that be? I have to thank a combination of western medicine and edible weeds, leafy greens and fresh fruit turned into a rich green smoothie. I have now been drinking smoothies for one and a half years. I first heard about them from the gardening expert Wally Richards who lives in Palmerston North, where I also lived until 2008. Wally talked about the benefits of leafy greens and making them into a smoothie. I was interested in this idea but it took until September 2010 for me to take the leap and start making green smoothies. I recovered from the stroke but noticed how stiff I felt and I had aches and pains in my joints and this is what prompted me to start making smoothies. I have realised that I wasn’t getting nearly enough nutrition from my diet before the stroke happened and even after it up until I started making smoothies even with supplements. I now drink between 1-2 Litres of green smoothie every day. It has become my breakfast and there’s usually some left over for afternoon tea.
What are the benefits? The benefits are increased amounts of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and fibre. They help boost the immune system, maintain the correct pH balance in the body, cleanse our inner organs and are a complete, easily digestible superfood. I have noticed that I have lots of energy, I need 1-2 hours less sleep, I wake up fresh and alert, I have lost weight, I am not stiff anymore and my joint pain is vastly improved, I recover really fast from heavy physical work, I often pass two stools per day, I don’t have low blood sugar in the afternoon anymore and my platelets are very stable. I am so hooked on green smoothies and feeling so well that my intention is for you to feel the same way and have the same benefits.
The stroke was a blessing in disguise as my whole life changed and brought us to live in Tauranga. We have created a permaculture garden that maximises what one can grow in a small space from the scene on the left to the lushness of the right in only a couple of years.
It is now 2014 and I no longer live in the beautiful garden below. However, all the fruit trees I had in large containers have moved with me as you can see in the photo below where they now live around the swimming pool. I am in the countryside living in a flat on my parents’ small farm. I am surrounded by trees, lush plants in and around the large garden and pastures. We have chickens, dogs and lease the land to a farmer who has dairy cattle. I feel blessed to be here and can assist Dad in the garden and Mum in the house. My parents are in their 80’s and are still very active, they also drink green smoothies and are a constant inspiration to me.
Wild Edible Weed Workshops are Born
These came about in 2012 when I offered two workshops during the Sustainable Backyard programme that happens every March through the Tauranga Environment Centre. We were also part of the Sustainable Backyard garden tour. We had 33 people come around our garden and see what we are growing on a 700 square metre section. This has now extended to sharing with others through workshops and my ebook how to identify the wild weeds that we have in our gardens. These grow without us sowing or planting them and require no care, although they do grow better in composted soil.
I love to hear how those of you who are already using wild edibles and making smoothies are going and whether you’ve noticed any changes in your health or any stories about your journey.
I invite you to start noticing what little plants you have growing in neglected corners of your garden and be curious to get to know them. It is my intention that this website nourishes your new enquiry and opens up a new world.