Farm News

Yarrow, Unlimited

photo of yarrow blooming

It seems as if yarrow, (Achillea millefolium) has always been at the farm. Surviving in droughty soils, its niche is at the margins: field edges, tucked up next to both wellheads, growing steadily alongside fence lines. As with many of the naturalized plants co-existing in our yards and gardens, we rarely give them a thought. Such un-flashy, common plants simply exist, such as we exist in our own physical bodies. It is all too easy to forget, ignore and undervalue. And yet, with or without appreciation, there is a quiet richness that lies within us all.

Yarrow is a plant of multitudes. This medicinal herb contains up to twelve different anti-inflammatory compounds. It is also considered a catalyst herb, meaning it enhances the medicinal qualities of all other herbs with which it is compounded. But its medicinal qualities extend beyond humans to both the land and wild creatures. Yarrow is a nutrient accumulator, drawing up minerals from lower layers of the soil profile so more shallow rooted plants can access this fertility. This is a plant that works on behalf of the greater community. Even wild birds line their nests with yarrow to prevent parasites.

It has been said that humans too, contain a multitude. We sense this infinite potential in nature; it may be one reason wild places and plants resonate so deeply with us. To find yarrow’s beauty, it is necessary to look closely- beyond the wispy, plain stalks and thin, slight habit. Up to three feet tall with feathery fern-like leaves, yarrow has tiny clusters of white flowers with yellow centers.

My daily summer schedule is overflowing. I feed and tend, weed and harvest, water and gather. What a wonder then- no matter my work route—I find myself passing by some patch of flowering yarrow. On hectic days, this gentle, steady plant is my touchstone.

I never tire of seeing the flowers within the flowers; I pause, exhale, and soak up yarrow’s diminutive, but yet extraordinary beauty. This is a grounding ritual of simplicity; yarrow acts as a mirror, reminding me of my potential, my gifts within gifts.

Because our earth has provided such stability and abundance, we believe natural resources to be unlimited. Because we fall into the comfort of familiarity and routine, we believe ourselves to be of a single nature. We would be wise to remember the opposite is true: the precious, irreplaceable gifts of our world are indeed very finite. We ourselves, each unique individual being among us, is truly limitless. ~ AJ