All my life I’ve had a deep love and fascination with plants. I started ‘studying’ them when I was in the 7-8th grade and did my school projects both on Native edible and medicinal uses of plants of Sonoma County. These plants have always been special friends of mine my whole life, no matter how far I’ve traveled or lived. As I mentioned, I grew up on a small dairy farm in Sonoma County, surrounded by the lush greenery of the meadows and hills of this special plant paradise. And my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Mary Egitkhanoff, lived near us as we were growing up. She knew her plants! She use to tell us that it was her belief in God and her knowledge of the plants that saved her life. And she meant it literally. She and my grandfather both were survivors of the Armenian genocide. She felt it was her ‘religious duty’ to teach us about God ~ and plants. And what she taught, at least about the plants, stuck with me all my life!
I can’t say I actually knew I was going to be an ‘herbalist’ when I was younger. I mean, it wasn’t actually a career option back then! But I knew some how intrinsically that I would be called into the service of the green. They began to talk to me when I was very young ~ and, fortunately, no body told me I was crazy for listening! When I was in my twenties, I took off on a horseback trip with my toddler son and a young girlfriend who I had met up in Canada. We rode horseback from my parent’s back yard to the Trinity Alps of northern California ~ a three and a half month odyssey. It was a great adventure! We rode every day, bedded the horses and ourselves down each night tired but excited, and woke up the next morning ready to ride some more! The great thing about that journey was that we ‘wild crafted’ our food almost entirely. We had a little pan that we carried with us and we would cook a few greens at night, and eat some seeds and wild fruit we found along the way. The only other food we had was some trail mix that we would munch on when we got hungry ~ and occasionally when we’d ride by a store, which was not often, believe me! ~ We’d buy a jar of peanut butter and scarf it down. I don’t think we could have lived forever on such a diet, but we were sure healthy that summer. Maybe healthier and more fit than I’ve ever been since. And my son, who was 3 years old at the time, had a great time. He looked like a little Indian boy, dark and brown skinned but with a golden halo of hair and rosy cheeks kissed by the sun.
It was when I arrived home in the fall from a summer of riding, wild and free, and so close to nature and plants, that I knew I was ready to start the ‘give back’. I felt like I was living in a period of grace and that was good, but now, I had to give back a little of all that I had received. I think that might have been ‘the moment’ when I knew I was an herbalist! That was in 1971. In 1972, with the help of some great friends, primarily Drake Sadler, Rosemary Sutton and Warren Raysor, I opened Rosemary’s Garden, a little apothecary in the back of the Guerneville Natural Food store. The rest is history!