Making Mullein Torches!

 

A few weeks ago was a magical day at Village Day.

First the Bobcat clan followed through on their challenge from last week and we started the morning fire for the whole village!  Since not everyone arrives at the same time we had assistance from some VERY helpful Bear Clans girls! Thanks!

After we sang a song and shared Gratitude as a group, (the way we start every meeting and program at Feet on the Earth) I had the privilege of sharing a story with the Village.  This story has never been heard before and will never be heard again! It involved a community that lived very close to the land. This community knew how to work together, especially in the fall time to ensure that everyone was prepared for the winter.  They also took turns with neighboring villages in hosting a massive 3 day party where the hosts would provide everything for their guests.  The featured Village was hosting in one short week and was scrambling to prep.  I will not recount the whole story but there were some  boys in the story that weren’t quite helping and got themselves into a bit of a pickle but learned their lesson by the end!

After the story, Lorene spoke about our own Village and asked if there was anything we needed to do to prep for the coming months. A few kids piped up right away that we needed more firewood!  Lorene then challenged the Village! As much firewood as we could collect and stack in a 40 minute blitz, she would match with bought firewood!

Everyone got really excited about this and what followed was beautiful to behold.  The entire Village got to work immediately! Everyone fell in to a task:  Some ran out to find dry logs to drag back, some collected dry Cottonwood bark for tinder, some started sawing the wood we had close, some chopped with hatchets and axes, while others split sawed pieces with their knives in a process called Billeting (or Batoning). The remaining folks organized and stacked in influx of wood onto pallets that we could cover with a tarp!  Everyone from the youngest to the oldest chipped in and contributed with a purpose!  When the time was up, it was difficult to stop them from working!

After we split into clans, the Bobcats stayed by the fire as we had a super fun project cooked up! My nature name, Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), is a spectacular and ubiquitous plant that we see so often that a lot of folks just ignore it!  This plant is actually a powerful medicinal plant however.

The Native Americans that lived here knew to use the leaves of the mullein plant to relieve respiratory discomfort, sore throats and coughs.  Lab studies of the mullein leaf have show it to possess antitumor, antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.  Mullein also has anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. A mullein poultice soothes skin irritations. A poultice could also sooth bruises or relieve arthritic and rheumatic conditions. This amazing plant has also been know to relieve digestive disorders and earaches and aid in restful sleep! And all of this with no serious recorded side effects.  Nature truly has provided such a bounty of medicines!

The project I had in mind however had nothing to do with Mullein’s multitude of medicinal qualities. (I hope we can revisit this plant in spring with fresh leaves!) For years I have been transfixed with the idea of the Mullein torch ever since a housemate in WA made a bunch years ago and lit them up at a party.  The thick dried flower stalk of the Mullein makes such a perfect wick and the flame it throws off is incredibly beautiful!  And I learned the process is as simple as dipping a stalking in some melted wax,  spinning it around so it dries evenly and “WALA!” you have Mullein torch!

To do this in the wild, we brought a metal pitcher designed to be double boiled and a whole bunch of beeswax!  We needed to boil a big pot of water with the pitcher inside and the beeswax melting within.  This can take quite a while on an open fire so we set it up and went to play a game!  We needed to let loose after all of the squirrel energy that morning!

After lunch, the wax was ready so we got to work.  The liquid wax is very hot so we carefully took turns dipping our torches while a mentor held the hot vessel.  The cold air helped solidify the wax pretty quickly once they came out! There was enough wax for everyone to make 2 torches which was pretty exciting and we made two extras to light up the entrance to our potluck later that afternoon!

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Dipping a Mullein stalk in the hot wax

 

 

At the end of the day, we invited all of the parents out to the land for a celebratory community potluck.  Before we ate, we played some games and had a big circle where everyone shared some favorite memories from the fall! My we have had a busy year so far already!

It was great to connect with so many families and eat some wonderful food! Extra thanks for everyone who helped with BOTH TEEPEES that had blown down in the crazy wind storms the night before.  It truly takes a Village…

 

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A Beeswax Mullein Burning Beautifully

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