Terra Sura Foraging » Foraging for Life

  • Welcome to Terra Sura!

    Terra Sura meaning "mother earth" and "new leaf" is a visual blogsite which reflects this everchanging beautiful planet. A go-to site which explores midwest plants, herbal remedies, foraging, plant identification, recipes as well as highlights of local and global movements in honor of mother earth.

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WEI farm, also known as the Women’s Environmental Institute is a place for woman and allies to renew, learn, and organize for environmental justice.  Hosting retreats, conferences, workshops, farming classes, WEI is a place to grow.

Located in North Branch, MN just 25 minutes from Taylors Falls.  WEI is close enough yet far enough away to feel the serenity of the woods.  Although the farm is outside the city, WEI’s arms reach into the depths of the city working with the Mashkiikii Gitigan (24th Street Community Urban Farm), Mother Brick Project, North Circle Project, East Metro Environmental Justice Education & Action Collaborative (EJEAC) just to name a few.

WEI also offers Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), delivering boxes full organic fruits and vegetables. Buying into a CSA is a great way to shop local, benefitting small farms which in turn benefits the planet as we rely less and less on monoculture farms and transporting food long distances.  Not to mention we are reaping the benefits of diversifying & preserving plant varieties.  Purchasing shares through WEI you can have the satisfaction of knowing you are supporting the numerous projects WEI supports in the community as well.

Proud to be taking Jaquline Zita’s Organic Farming Class 101, all of us students went out to the farm on a winter Saturday in March to get a first hand education.  It was so amazing to have snow on the ground and step into a lush, warm, vibrant and green garden.  WEI teamed up with Will Allen who supported them in building hoop houses where their aquaponic garden is thriving!

The class started working the vermicompost, seeding, transplanting, preparing beds, etc.  An experiential education that ended with a delicious potluck.  Enjoy a sneak peak into the WEI farm as we began to  prepare for spring!

Calling out to all advocates of life who wish to see a project, person or business that could use a spotlight.  Terra Sura is offering a complimentary photography session as a way to promote and honor an individual, business or event happening in our community.

Eligible Candidates:

  • Projects that promote community
  • Family or business that cannot afford professional photography
  • Community Gardens or organic farms
  • Non-profits/NGO’s
  • Permaculture, sustainability or environmental projects
  • Health activists
  • Teachers or Community Activist

Please make your submissions by May 15th to info@terrasura.com and include the following:

  • Subject area:  Terra Sura Spring Give-A-Way 2015
  • Name, phone, email & address
  • Description of project, person, business or event and how they contribute to “community”
  • Date of event (if applicable)
  • Why the images would be useful/helpful

Winner will randomly selected and announced July 1st.SharriKeller-RedBallParty-Web-9749SharriKeller-WEI-GardeningClass-Web-8652SharriKeller-WEI-GardeningClass-Web-8381


Boost immunity in a delicious way.  Oxymel – from the Latin oxymeli meaning “acid and honey”  is a traditional Appalachian preparation using vinegar and honey infused in herbs of your choice.  For this recipe I used Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, reaping the following benefits:

  • Rich in enzymes & potassium
  • Support a healthy immune system
  • Helps control weight
  • Promotes digestion & ph Balance
  • Helps soothe dry throats
  • Helps remove body sludge toxins
  • Helps maintain healthy skin
  • Helps promote youthful, healthy bodies
  • Soothes irritated skin
  • Relieves muscle pain from exercise

Infused in the vinegar we put in a combination of fresh & dried conifers including, Juniper (with berries), Cedar, Pine, pine resin and Spruce.  For additional health benefits and flavoring we added cinnamon,orange peel and organic raw honey.  Shrubs can be made in a variety of ways as the possibilities are endless.  Since it was winter time and I wanted to connect with the trees around me, the following recipe is predominately local conifers which contain lots of vitamins & minerals.

One of my favorite places is this treasure of red pine trees where the needles fall to the ground so there is no need to take directly off the tree.

Fresh fallen pine needles, abundance of resin from the trees (never take more than is given as resin is there to protect tree), spruce & cedar trees.  After you have foraged for the conifers you were looking for.  It’s time to begin the first steps of making your oxymel.


  • 1 part conifers of your choice (mixture of Junpier with berries, Pine (can use resin), Spruce, Cedar)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 orange peel
  • 1/3 cup organic honey (or to taste)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar


  • put conifers, cinnamon & orange peel into glass mason jar (1 pint)
  • smoother with honey
  • pour apple cider vinegar to top
  • poke with utensil of some sort (I used a stick) to get the bubbles out
  • cover with lid and shake, shake, shake til you cant shake no more
  • let sit between 10-20 days and shaking daily or as much as you can for maximum infusion
  • when ready, strain using cheesecloth or mesh strainer into a clean glass jar of your choice with lid

Shrubs can make great flu, cold and cough remedies as they extract the mineral & vitamins.  My favorite way to utilize them is to add in salad dressings or create a sparkling water fizzy drink.  I like to call it healthy pop!

Special thanks to Jesse Beldon as she introduced me shrubs through her winter conifer class this past year.

~ Be sure to positively identify plants before harvesting ~

~This content is provided here for informational purposes only ~

Cedar (Thuja Occidentalis), also known as Arborvtae is one of my favorite trees.  Fragrant, beautiful and strong.  A symbol of everlasting life providing oxygen, honorable medicinal qualities, shelter , it’s essence and sweet  fragrance.   Cedar is an evergreen, offering the color green which is the frequency of our hearts (4).  Into the depths of winter we are blessed with Cedar’s many gifts.


After “consciously harvesting” this particular batch,  I enjoyed making fresh cedar tea while preparing the cedar to be dried.  The smell of breaking up fresh cedar has left its imprint in my heart. Ahhhhhh, is what you’ll hear, a soft smile is what you’ll see and an awakened spirit you will sense.  Very greatful an entity like the Cedar tree is brought into exisitance and has been on this planet a very very long time.

Properties: Anti-inflammatory, Diaphoretic, Expectorant, Astringent, Anti-microbial, Diuretic, Anti-asthmatic, Anti-fungal

Energetics: Warm, Very dry, astringent 

Parts used: Berries (female cones), branches, leaves, bark

Cedar leaves are a diuretic so be mindful if one has kidney issues. Cedar is a low dose herb, not to be used internally in large doses for longer periods of time. It is believed to be a strong emmenagogue. It is generally accepted that it should not be taken in pregnancy.  However, this same principle may make it helpful in overdue pregnancies. (2)

As an antirheumatic, it has been documented to assist health by either making a poultice of powdered leaves used externally for swelling and/or decoction of branches in tea.  From coughs, to headaches to toothaches this generous tree has much to offer.  It has been noted that the leaves were used to repel moths in closets.  Some have used the branches in steam baths for mothers after childbirth, an infusion of cones were used for babies with colic, infusion of leaves as a diaphoretic to increase milk flow, and decoction to induce menstruation just to name a few.  The strong fragrance in a plant like Cedar indicates the presence of essential and volatile oils. These fragrant oils provide medicinal action that affects the lungs and can be used during respiratory infection as an expectorant.   In plants like the volitle oil rich  Sage, Angelica, Anise Seed, Ginger, Anise Hyssop, Cinnamon and countless others all share this tendency to promote expectoration.(2)

Not only has this benevolent tree offered its medicinal properties, it’s flesh has been used to create homes, toboggans, canoes, saunas, arrows, basketry, bedding, homes to animals, fire and the very air we breathe.

Thuja occidentalis is called Grandmother Cedar by the Ojibwe and are of spiritual importance as well as historically having a variety of uses.  Arborvitae means tree of life in Greek.  These names reveal to us that people from very different cultures have similarly recognized that this tree is exceptional.  Northern White Cedars can live for a very long time. According to DNR tree expert, Welby Smith, the oldest tree in Minnesota is estimated to be a Northern White Cedar that is estimated to be 1,100 years old (Smith, 2008). (2)

The name “Thuja” was given to this group of trees by the Swedish botanist Linnaeus in 1753; it comes from the Greek word thuo, which means “to sacrifice,” as cedar wood was often burned with animal sacrifices by the ancients to add a pleasing aroma to the fire. The fragrant wood was also used by Native Americans as well as the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans as an ingredient in incense blends. (3)

In Western herbal medicine, cedar leaf oil was used as an emmenagogue, abortifacient, vermifuge, diuretic, and digestive aid. It was applied externally to relieve the pains of arthritis and rheumatism, to treat external fungal infections of the skin (ringworm and thrush), and to remove anal or genital warts . Native Americans used cedar leaf preparations to relieve headache and to prevent scurvy. Cedar leaves and twigs are in fact rich in vitamin C , and it was their effectiveness in preventing or treating scurvy that led to the tree’s being called arbor vitae or tree of life. In addition, recent research has shown that extracts prepared from either Thuja occidentalis or Thuja plicata do in fact have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. A group of German researchers reported in 2002 that an extract prepared from cedar leaf, alcohol, and water inhibits the reproduction of influenza virus type A, while a team of researchers in Japan found that an extract of Western red cedar was effective in treating eczema. (3)

I’ve also used Cedar in this Oxymel Recipe.

**Disclaimer** The information in this article is NOT intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Its intent is to be purely educational; if suffering serious illness, please contact a professional healthcare provider.



  1. Daniel E Moreman, “Native Americsn Ethnobotany”, 2012
  2. http://minnesotaherbalist.com/?s=cedar
  3. http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Thuja.aspx
  4. http://www.chakra-anatomy.com/chakra-colors.html
  5. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1117-thuja.aspx?activeingredientid=1117&activeingredientname=thuja

A dear friend of mine, Lisa gifted my with some wild cherry bark (Prunus Serotina).  This would be my first introduction working with the inner bark of a tree.  It was delightful to say the least, the sweet aroma of almond and cherry infusing the space around me.  Something very special about this tree indeed.

Along with Cherry Bark’s seductive aroma, it is absolutely beautiful.  The inner bark which is what will be used in syrup is vibrant green and filled with all sorts of potent qualities.

The actions of Wild Cherry Bark are Anti-tussive, expectorant, astringent, nervine, anti-spasmodic.

wild cherry bark cough syrupWild Cherry bark is best suited for someone who has bronchitis, wooping cough or an irritating dry cough that will not go away.  For detailed information on harvesting wild cherry bark and to determine best cough remedy for you, I recommend visiting the Minnesota Herbalist website.

Quoting Erin Porier, “Wild Cherry Bark is a true antitussive, that is, it sedates or suppresses the cough reflex.  Most of the time, holistically oriented herbalists don’t suppress bodily processes. Instead we try to support the body as it moves through illness, enhancing the body’s natural mechanisms of healing like increasing surface circulation to open the pores and provoke sweating during a fever, rather than suppressing a fever. Or we may actually enhance the cough in order to help the body remove mucus by using moistening expectorants…However, an antitussive can be the perfect remedy when the cough is irritating, spasmodic and not productive.  Wild Cherry can also be used when coughs linger after the infection seems to be over and coughing fits are triggered by going out of doors during cold weather or doing some exercise or even laughing. The individual has nothing to cough up, he or she just keeps coughing.” (2)wild cherry bark cough syrupTo extract the inner bark, get yourself a sharp blade or knife, cut a line 6-12 inches down part of the branch and peel back outer layer.  When it is all green, take your knife and gently scrape off the green layer.   Keep in 2 separate piles.  The outer bark I saved and used for fire tinder.  And the green inner bark is reserved for the syrup.wild cherry bark cough syrupThere are many ways to make a Wild Cherry Bark Cough Syrup.  The recipe below works great, is very tasty and loaded with potent herbs.  Be sure to add a whole lot of intention and love into this recipe to maximum effect!wild cherry bark cough syrup

If I am needing more herbs that I do not have at home or can forage for, I usually go to a local herbal shop or Mountain Rose Herbs where I am confident the plants are organic or sustainability harvested.  Once you have the beautiful ingredients together along with a mindful intention you are ready to start brewing.Fill one quart of water and add herbs, bring to a boil then slightly cover, turn to low and simmer until half of the water is gone and you are left with about one pint.  This can take a couple of hours.  Once water has reduced by half, strain herbs using cheesecloth and pour liquid back into pot.  wild cherry bark cough syrupNow its time to add a little bit of sweetness into our lives.  I used 3/4 cup of honey, but by all means use as much or as little honey as you like.  To preserve and to add a warming effect to syrup, add in a TBS of brandy.  After incorporated, let cool and pour into your favorite sanitized bottle or jar.  I prefer to use the stopper bottles as they stay fresh for a long time. Keep refrigerated if you would like syrup to last even longer.  wild cherry bark cough syrup

As I was gifted with quite a  bit of Wild Cherry Bark, I had excess inner bark of which I decided to make a tincture.  Bark is covered with Brady, left to sit for 7 weeks and shaken daily or close to.  Strain and bottle and you have another potent herbal remedy.wild cherry bark cough syrup

Reported Uses of Wild Cherry Bark:

“Wild Cherry Bark is a fine expectorant that loosens and expels phlegm from the lungs and has helped bronchitis, colds, flu, dry coughs, tuberculosis and many other pulmonary complaints. It also acts as a mild sedative that not only may calm coughs, but also nervous irritability and nervous indigestion.

It has been used for centuries to treat pulmonary conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, dry coughs, tuberculosis, scrofula and catarrh. Furthermore, its cough-suppressant qualities have been beneficial in cases of whooping cough, nervous and chronic coughs, colds and influenza; and for that reason, it is familiar to all of us for its use in cough drops and cough syrups.

Wild Cherry Bark is considered a mild sedative and has been used to calm irritation, diminish nervous excitability and alleviate nervous dyspepsia. The herb is said to be soothing to the nervous system and has been used to slow a nervous, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) and help a heart that is characterized by a feeble pulse (bradycardia) or frequent, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). Cardiac friendly, Wild Cherry Bark is also thought to be helpful for high blood pressure.

Wild Cherry Bark is believed to be very beneficial in cases of dyspepsia, poor digestion, gastritis, excess flatulence and general indigestion. Its astringent qualities may also help to relieve diarrhea, colitis and dysentery. Wild Cherry Bark is reputed to have parasiticidal qualities and has been used to destroy and expel parasites and worms from the intestinal system.

As a diaphoretic, Wild Cherry Bark encourages sweat, and the increased perspiration helps to cool the body, bring down fever and expel toxins through the skin.

Wild Cherry Bark is believed to possess antioxidant properties that may be helpful in the fight against the oxidative damage to cells and tissue caused by free radicals. Its amygdalin content is believed to be the active constituent responsible for this effect.

Used externally, Wild Cherry Bark has been included in poultices that may be applied to relieve ulcers and abscesses.

Instructions: Use 6-12 drops in juice or water, under the tongue or as desired. May be taken 3 times daily. Shake well. Store in cool dark place. Keep out of reach of children.

Contraindications: Pregnant and nursing women should not use Wild Cherry Bark Herbal Supplement, nor should people who are being treated for hypotension. (4)”

Livestrong website mentioned…

“Wild cherry bark is classified as a “relaxing expectorant” because it thins mucus secretions and coats irritated respiratory tissue, states Shayne Foley, contributing author at HerbalEd.org and education director with Herb Pharm, a manufacturer of herbal medicines. It is easier for the fine hairs of the respiratory system, known as cilia, to move thinner secretions out of the lungs and bronchial tubes.”(5)

Disclaimer: The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


  1. http://commonsensehome.com/cold-and-cough-care/
  2. http://minnesotaherbalist.com/2014/07/29/plant-profile-wild-cherry-bark/
  3. http://www.healthy.net/Materia_Medica/Wild_Cherry_Bark_Herbal_Materia_Medica/296
  4. http://store.newwayherbs.com/wild-cherry-bark-prunus-serotina-p314.aspx
  5. http://www.livestrong.com/article/271834-what-are-the-benefits-of-wild-cherry-bark/
  6. http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Prunus+serotina
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