Nestled on 45 acres in the northern end of the Appalachian foothills of Central New York, Mountain Spring Homestead, is home to cats, a dog, chickens and bees, wild animals, birds, fields, streams, woodlands, organic gardens and lots of plants-both wild and tame. Here, Master Herbalist, Tina Finneyfrock, began teaching herb classes and Apprenticeships in 1988 and founded Mountain Spring Herbals ~ a place to learn about herbs and plants and healing while sitting in the gardens, working with the plants and enjoying good food. Over the years, new and returning students have watched the gardens grow and change and many have been able to better care for their families, become stewards of their own property or started a wide variety of herbal businesses.
Having been brought up by my grandparents, I spent every day immersed in the old fashioned way of doing things. My Grandma cooked everything from scratch, did laundry by hand (a washing machine bought for her by my aunt sat unused in the basement for years), embroidered, crochet, mended things until they could no longer be fixed, made quilts, cooked huge quantities of dressings/sauces for church dinners, drank potliquor, made soap, made jelly, made squirrel pot pie for Grandpa, had beautiful flower garden, canned and froze everything in sight and she was the one who people would call if they wanted the best rolls/cookies or German Chocolate cake.
Grandpa worked as a carpenter and in his later years, maintained a huge garden and grape vines. He did not use a tiller until in his late 70's- preferring to use a hand plow. For several years, a robin would hop along behind him in the garden as he plowed rows for beans. His garden produced most of our family food for the year as well as enough to sell to many passers by and regular customers. He was famous for his beers and wines--which he would cool in a metal container down at the spring head of our crick.
Both of them were from farm families (tobacco and tenant) and never got further than 8th grade, but were smart enough to buy land and build a house themselves during the Depression by raising chickens, selling eggs and trapping muskrat. I was fortunate enough to grow up in that house.
My jobs, growing up, were to spend hours every summer day picking raspberries in the morning, peas and lima beans later in the day, then another few hours shelling/hulling for grandma to cook and freeze. Then, I would help grandpa bag up customer's vegetable orders, help with housework, and do the dishes after supper.
I was never "taught" to do anything--I just watched and I never realized how much of it I remembered or knew until I started my own family. As to herbs--they never used the words "herb/herbalism/herbalist"-they simply would say "This plant is good for this.....". My first recollection of herbs used on me was for athlete's foot. Grandpa grabbed a stalk of milkweed, broke it and dabbed the white, thick sap on my toes. Everything was cleared up by next morning. Every June, because of humidity and the sweat of gardening, I get the same condition, and every year, I use milkweed--which is growing right near the garden --where I need it. I also learned that each season had its special tasks/labors and fruits and that to work with these seasonal changes had benefits on many levels- and that to work against them (or ignore them) usually came to no good at all.
It seems to me that the more "modern" we become, the more we crave, or at least see value in many of the old ways of doing things.... That some things are worth keeping and that our lives are enriched by doing so. But, we are also in danger of losing so much information as the folks who were alive to remember life before indoor plumbing, fast foods, machines to do most household chores, are rapidly passing away. Many people who come to my workshops begin to remember what their parents/grandparents did and want to carry these memories forward or make practical use of them. It is my hope that I can teach what I know to a new generation... in honor of my grandparents and the richness of life they bequeathed to me.
I hope you will join me!
Tina Finneyfrock, Herbalist
Tina Finneyfrock has studied herbal traditions formally for 38 years, but was raised by her grandparents who used plants every day for healing, medicines, beer and winemaking and entertainment. Originally from the Washington, DC area, Tina and her husband moved to rural New York in 1981, raised two daughters, Sarah and Rachel and now, is helping to raise her grandson, Eli. She holds a BS in Social Work, is a certified Childbirth Educator, earned her Master Herbalist and Wholistic Therapist degrees from Wild Rose College of Natural Healing in Canada and holds certificates in Homeopathy, Iridology and Women's Health. Tina has written a book~" Wholistic Healing for the Family", teaches classes, lectures to groups, maintains a small consulting practice and spends as much time as possible tending her gardens.