Soggy Sunday turns to Sad Sunday

Puff the dog with her friend Greta the duck who was sadly killed by a hawk yesterday
Puff the dog with her friend Greta the duck who was sadly killed by a hawk yesterday

Earlier on Sunday I wrote about spring/summer tonics and the healing power of cleavers and nettle. Little did I know that as I was writing that blog, tragedy was occurring down by the pond.

My lovely ducks, Greta and Anka, who have been sitting on eggs together under a flax bush down by the pond, were attacked by a hawk. I found Greta floating dead in the pond, along with one of the big ducklings from Mathilda’s brood. She and the duckling both had one single wound to the back of the neck.  At least it would have been quick. Anka was nowhere to be found. Their eggs were cold and one had been eaten. I cracked open one of the other eggs to see what stage they were at – they were probably about a week away from hatching. It would have been Anka’s first brood of ducklings.

I know that living in the country means death as well as life. I grew up on a farm and so have been exposed to all that since a child. But it still makes you sad when a special animal goes.

I really loved the gentleness of Greta and the bossiness of Anka. They were a delightful pair of characters to have around. They would feed out of my hand and trusted me around their precious eggs. They were a lovely part of the Archeus family. Today I will bury Greta, the duckling and Anka and Greta’s eggs.

But there is also another dimension to this story. Greta was Anka’s mum. My mother is very, very ill at the moment and it is very likely she will die in the coming days. Somewhere, Anka may be grieving for her mother and I am grieving for mine. I hope Anka comes back. I think we are going to need each other.

Here is a video I took of Greta the other day as she took a break from her eggs. R.I.P. Greta.

Soggy Sunday turns to Sad Sunday

Spring tonics

Raindrops in the Archeus garden

It’s raining here today at the rural idyll. Warm, spring and early summer rain. The kind of rain that makes gardens grow with vigour and lust for life. Cleansing rain. Rejuvenating rain. The kind of rain to be thankful for.

This is also a time of year for cleansing and rejuvenating body and soul. I have been enjoying drinking infusions of fresh nettle and cleavers that are growing here on the property. I just put a handful of cleavers or nettle (or both) in the teapot and cover with boiling water and leave to brew for 5-10 minutes.

Nettle is a wonderful and misunderstood plant. Nettle is a fantastic blood purifier and increases the efficiency of liver and kidney function. Nettle nourishes and rejuvenates all systems in the body. It is energising and also stabilises blood sugars. It is extremely rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, lipids and other micro-nutrients. I infuse organic camellia oil with nettles for the Vital Oil I make which is a gorgeous nourishing facial oil (I use it everyday!). I like the way such a prickly, stingy plant is actually such a beautiful, enriching friend for our systems. If Nettle were a person then I think it would be someone who is all gruff and prickly on the outside but actually has a heart of gold.

Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Cleavers is another plant that is regarded as a menace, but is actually a wonderful healing plant. You might also know it as goose-grass or biddy-bids. It is a fast growing ‘weed’ that creeps up through other plants and grasses and sticks to things. Its seeds are covered in little hooks (think Velcro) which make them stick to everything: clothing, socks, dogs…

To me, that ‘stickiness’ is part of its healing strength. It’s a fantastic blood purifier and for centuries has been a very popular herb for spring tonics. I envisage that stickiness, those little hooks, catching all the toxins in your system and gathering them up to expel them from the body.  It tastes nice and refreshing as an infusion as well! Apparently the ancient Greeks used to roast the seeds and grind them to make a coffee type of drink. Glass makers would use it to make glass because of its silica content; and if you are camping and need to give the billy a good scrub, then get a big handful of cleavers and use them as a scrubber.

So I think that I am going to go and make a pot of Cleavers and Nettle blend brew, find a comfy chair to curl up in and watch the rain falling on the Archeus garden on this soggy, Sunday.


Spring tonics

What ducks can teach us about expectant mothers

Greta and Anka are sharing egg duties

Greta and Anka are mother and daughter. Greta is the white duck and Anka, well she’s the black and white one. They were given to us by friends of ours who had hand-reared them but were, quite frankly, a little fed up with them using their front door as a loo. So, they arrived at the idyll in Poraiti not long after we did.

After an initial moment or two of nervousness about being somewhere new they soon settled in nicely (and nowhere near our front door) and started to feel quite at home.

Their arrival was quickly and duly noted by Lorenzo the Drake who thought all his Christmases had come at once and a florid and tangled menage ensued.

By the time Lorenzo had the audacity to turn up for breakfast with a new bird (we called Flossie) in tow, the proverbial seeds had already been sown and well, Greta and Anka were both up the duff.

But these girls are thoroughly modern women. They went off down to the pond, made a fabulous nest under a flax bush by the water’s edge and both sat down together to get on with the serious job of making sure those eggs, all ten of them, were going to hatch. They egg-pooled. One nest, two birds, ten eggs. I love it!

Generally they take turns to come up to the chook shed for breakfast and supper. But knowing a soft touch when they see one, they have managed to convince me that really, the best thing is that I should bring the food to them and hand feed them on the nest, or as the photo shows, on each other. And of course, I do just that. Every day.

It has gone pretty well so far, but I have to say that Anka has been spectacularly hormonal and has bossed us all around. She is very exacting in her nest standards and berates Greta if a downy feather is out of place. She pecked me so hard the other day I got a blood blister, and then she chased Puff the dog. She’s a baggage (right now she could do with some Beech remedy for intolerance) and she’s adorable.

I love watching the way these two ducks, mother and daughter, work together. The co-operation between them so one can have a break, get a meal, have bath, stretch her legs and so on, is well, it’s amazing. I am really interested to see what happens when the eggs hatch… there is so much we can learn from Nature.

Greta and Anka with Lorenzo the Drake
Greta and Anka with Lorenzo the Drake
Anka taking a break
The pond
What ducks can teach us about expectant mothers

Thinking about the lionhearted

The lovely Hawthorn (Crataegus) tree


Today I am thinking about the lovely Hawthorn. We are lucky enough to have three or four on our property.

This trees offers up its leaves, flowers and berries as medicine for the heart, matters of the heart, and the circulatory system. Even the physical presence of the Hawthorn suggests protecting and helping the heart – it is quite a densely growing tree and has (as the name suggest!) thorns to protect its own interior space.

It is making its presence felt for me at the moment because my mother is seriously ill and will die very soon. So this is a time of grief, and to be honest a fair bit of courage is required.

I take a Hawthorn tincture everyday now to help give me courage and strength to get through this phase. I have blended it with Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and St John’s Wort (Hypericum) which is a wonderful combination. Motherwort means lionhearted and is a wonderful herb and ally for women. Among its many attributes, it eases emotional swings, it is calming and strengthens the heart. St John’s Wort is well known for its help in banishing the blues. I have made my blend according to the greatest emphasis on healing I am wishing for, and I add around 30 drops to water and take it 3-4 times a day.

But when I am out in the paddock, by the pond talking to Anka and Greta the Muscovy ducks who are sitting on eggs at present, or walking through the glade of beautiful trees we have – including my friend Hawthorn, it is very hard to feel down. Contemplative – yes. But down, not so much. Just take 5 or 10 minutes to lose yourself in Nature – listen to the sounds around you; look at trees and plants, and then look a little deeper – you may be surprised at the extra details you see that normally would pass you by, and how much better you feel.

Nature is an amazing healer. Be kind to her, listen to her and she will be kind to you – Nature gives the biggest bear hugs you will ever get.

Thinking about the lionhearted

Connection to Nature

Recently I was privileged to be invited to speak at a conference in Wanganui called ‘A Place to Live’. I was asked to speak about why I have chosen to locate my business and my life in the regions rather than a main centre. Here is a copy of what I said:

GCgiftpackMy name is Georgina and I have a business called Archeus, which was a termed coined in the 16th century to mean the vital force in Nature, man and the universe. I handcraft natural skin care and healing products for humans and for animals.

I grew up on a farm in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. As an only child it was nature I escaped to, building huts, exploring the bush and the old pa sites at the back of the farm, looking after pets, watching seasons change and working on the farm.

Then as soon as I could, I took off overseas and for the next 25 years I built a life and professional career in Europe. But in my mind I often returned to those Hawkes Bay hills. That early connection with Nature they gave me fuelled a passion for learning about herbal medicine, how nature can heal.

DSC04723During my time overseas I worked for the United Nations Environment Programme with Pavan Sukhdev on TEEB study into The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. The TEEB study and the team of scientists, ecologists, economists and so on set out to show how the health of the environment has a profound impact on the health of the economy.

I found myself increasingly engaging with businesses that were taking steps towards addressing environmental issues and at the UN this was on a global reach. It was all pretty formative. It really made me want to establish a business that could build on my private passion for, and studies in, herbal medicine and healing but could walk the talk of the work I had done with the UN. I thought about doing this in Europe, but those Hawke’s Bay hills kept tugging at me and so I made plans to return. My lucky break came when the UN said I could relocate to NZ and continue my work for them from here.

I returned to Hawke’s Bay and juggled my UN work with building my vision and laying the groundwork for the future shape and form of my company. Life never goes in a straight line though and after a year and a half I moved to Wellington and it was there in 2013 that Archeus was finally launched. But I knew that my vision was not an urban one.

20141124_170522My vision and company ethos is deeply rooted in a sense of place and a commitment to minimising negative impacts on the environment. Archeus isn’t just about making products, it’s about growing medicinal plants, managing land in a way that ensures ecological resilience and creates havens for biodiversity, and ensuring that ecosystem impacts and dependencies are factored into all Archeus decisions. Furthermore, I wanted Archeus to give back to Nature from the outset and so I established a Raukawa Tree conservation project in Hawke’s Bay – which is inspired by the Raukawa district I grew up in and the cultural relevance of that area and that tree to Maori.

Trying to do this business from the city posed far more challenges than setting out to do it in Hawkes Bay. And to be honest I didn’t return to New Zealand to live in a city. If I was so keen on city life I would have stayed in the cities of Europe or New York.

Archeus_branding-1For me, Archeus needs to be deeply rooted to the land. I need to be able to manage and account for the way that land is managed. I want to be able to show my customers how Nature works from seed, to plant, to product.

Hawke’s Bay is a fantastic place to live, and from a business perspective it has some truly great qualities – you get more bang for your buck in terms of real estate, it has terrific transport links by road, air and the port. Its attractions such as wineries, beaches and festivals make it a compelling tourism destination.

There are excellent services for land-based business ventures and it has the climate and conditions for growing things. But for me it has something else – it gave me so much as I was growing up, and for me it feels right to come back and try to build a business that will in turn give back to nature and contribute to the region.

I feel that locating in HB ensures that not only can I put my notions of ecological sustainability into practice, but I am also using every bit of my life experience to make my vision real. Nothing is wasted – I feel connected to this landscape, I know how it works in way I couldn’t possibly know anywhere else. The love of animals I had as a child has now manifested into my Anima line for animals and the studies I am now doing in equine herbal medicine make sense here in way they never could in Wellington.

And creating the Raukawa tree conservation project here has been a way of saying thank you to the hills, the bush and the pa sites that nurtured me. This is my turangawaewae.

I don’t think of this as regional I just think of it as this is where I am meant to be.

November 2014


Connection to Nature

Welcome to the Archeus Diaries

IMG_4770 Hi and welcome to The Archeus Diaries. Those of you who visit the Archeus website or Facebook page will probably have noticed that we have recently relocated to a 5.5 acre lifestyle property in Poraiti in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. When we arrived spring was really springing and trees were bursting into blossom and bid, Mathilda the duck was sitting on eggs and we were pinching ourselves that we had actually found such a beautiful place to call home. There are so many wonderful stories to tell about life on this property, that I decided to set up this blog site to share insights into the plants and the animals that make this place so special. Archeus is all about Nature.  Exploring her starts right here. Gxx

Welcome to the Archeus Diaries