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frequently asked questions about my herb work...

So, you're interested in my classes/consults/plant work, but have some questions; here's a bit of info...



Wow, most of your classes are long...


Yup; I tend to do long classes so I can take lots of questions and explain everything well.  But, all end times are "ish", and we often finish beforehand.  I figure I'd rather get done early than keep you all longer than you planned (though that sometimes happens if people keep asking questions and no one tells me we were supposed to end already).


Your end time ends in "-ish"?  What does that mean?


If I have my say, all class times end in "-ish" (though not all hosts are comfortable with that kind of vagueness.

Really, there are a few reasons for this:  In each class, I have a certain amount of info I want to cover.  Usually, the class is long enough that I can do so before the end time.  If that's the case, and people don't want to stick around for informal after class Q&A, they're more than welcome to head home and have some extra time to run an errand, grab a bite, or just sit in the woods for awhile.  I try to not pass the proposed end time as best I can, but sometimes when participants ask lots of questions, it happens.  Also, sometimes at evening herb walks it gets dark before the sunrise/sunset website told me it would.  Maybe it's cloudy or something.  Hence: "-ish".

For my part, I usually stay the full length of proposed class time as long as anyone also wants to.  At walks, darkening skies don't deter me (after all, having it get dark on you while you're wildcrafting is a reality).  I turn it into part of the class.



Do you still do walks/classes if it's raining or snowing?


Yup; most of the time.  I've only ever cancelled once, because lightning was literally hitting the ground and the rain was literally a deluge... while I might still enjoy a walk in such weather, I recognize it's not really conducive to learning.  But for run of the mill rain or snow, I will still hold classes. 


Many, perhaps even most, weather issues can be handled by being prepared for weather: if you're coming to a walk, please bring clothes to keep you warm (or, when appropriate, cool) and dry.  A rain coat, poncho, rain pants, and waterproof shoes are awesome things to own and will prevent most class relates weather discomforts.


Any questions the day of, of course try calling/emailing me, but be aware I may be in transit and away from a phone in the 1 1/2 to 2 hours before class starts (which is to say, yes, that does mean what it says: I don't have a cell phone).  I'd probably post any cancellations to my email list and on facebook. 



Wow, your classes offer a lot of info for how much they cost... you should charge more...


Wow, your classes are expensive, don't you do anything cheaper?  I want to come but can't afford it...


I've been asked/told both of these...


My classes are generally on par with or a bit less than comparable classes offered by someone with comparable knowledge; sometimes by a little, sometimes by an awful lot.  Very few people give the quantity and quality of written material I offer with my classes (usually over 20 pages).  Still, I understand that sometime people still don't have the expendable cash to come, and whether or not its a fair price, it's still too much to make happen.   To address this issue, I always offer free and real cheap classes/talks and events every year.  They're not as long as my full length classes, and sometimes don't include the handouts, but they're still quite good.   Check out the classes page for info on these.


You can also talk to me about hosting or setting something up; I'm happy to do this (as practicality allows), and will work with you to make something happen.


I occasionally am asked about barter.  The answer to whether or not I accept barter is a tricky one, because I'd need to barter for something I'd be spending money on anyways, and also I've had a few barter agreements fall through.  So, the answer to that question is a decisive "maybe".  You can try, but please don't be put off and/or offended if I'm not in need of what you have to offer.  This applies to work/trade offers too, which require me to be around or know what needs doing in advance, which I'm not always good at.


If you're on the other end of the spectrum and think I should charge more, then you're more than welcome to use the "make a donation" link at the bottom of the main page to support your humble herbalist.  I very deeply appreciate it, whether its $5 or $5,000 (I think I'd faint at the latter, but I could be OK with fainting...).

I also accept "tips" of fine cider.


missed classes...

What if I pay in advance for a class and miss it?


If you miss a class you've paid in advance for (whether because you were so warm and cozy in bed, or because it was raining/snowing, or perhaps you started watching Doctor Who and couldn't pull yourself away), what'll generally happen is that you get credit.  There are exceptions to this, and if I teach at a specific venue they determine how this gets handled, so contact whoever is hosting the class (for the record, Upland Hills EAC, as far as I know, issues credits missed classes).  Credits ~don't~ apply to the long term intensive course, simply because that course requires a fixed commitment for participants to follow through (kinda like enrolling in a yoga course, or leasing a car...).


On the whole, refunds are not given, since in many cases pre-registration determines whether or not certain classes will happen, and often classes max out, which means if someone doesn't show, I may not be able to fill that seat.

All that said, I do try very hard to work with people, so please do reach out to me and communicate about it.



Do you provide lunch at your classes?


Generally, no.  Sometimes I'll bring some food to share, but making lunches for groups of unknown size stressed me out too much when I used to do it, and I'm now having folks bring their own lunches or, if they want, bring some to share.  If I am doing something where food is provided, I'll make that clear.



How physically challenging are the herb walks?


Well, in many ways that depends on how used to walking/hiking you are.  At the classes I do at Upland Hills, the walking is generally around the building, and not too challenging, though we will go short distances into the woods, and sometimes there aren't any real "trails".  But walks there are pretty easy.


If the walk is at a park, it's worth contacting me to talk about it.  Sometimes parks have real nice flat wide trails, and other times I really lead a vigorous hike up hills and down dales.

What should I bring?


That's really pretty much up to you, BUT...

Probably the most important thing is clothing to keep you comfortable and dry.  Being wet and cold is not good.  Also, be sure to bring enough water for hot days, and perhaps something with electrolytes if you know you dehydrate easily.

Other things: food, cameras, pens, paper, lots of friends... whatever you think will serve you best.



Can I bring my baby/child/children?  How is that (or is that) charged?


Please bring along your adorable children.  I love wee ones and kids are always welcome at my classes.


That said, common sense and courtesy do apply.  You'll want to keep your children from chewing on any tincture bottles or herbs I might be passing around, which may or may not be appropriate for little one's mouths.  Likewise, while I'm quite fine with having little ones make their accustomed noises and antics, if your child/ren is/are screaming bloody murder for any completely understandable (or who knows?) reason, the front row probably isn't the best place for them... so, I certainly don't expect kids to stay still and be quiet, but generally do expect parents to be attentive to their needs when fussing does come up.  What's most important to me is that being a parent doesn't become an obstacle for coming to classes.


As for how much of whether there's a cost associated with kids coming to classes, the definitive answer is "it depends".  No charge ever for babies and toddlers, and usually not for younger kids unless a class is specifically for them.  As for teens... again it can depend, usually on the focus of the class.  The underlying theme is to get ahold of me and ask, and we'll work something out. 



Are there things outside that I should be worried about?


Absolutely.  There are mosquitoes and rattlesnakes (in northwest oakland county we have one of the countries healthiest populations of massasauga rattlesnakes) and ticks and biting flies, and irritating flies (you know, the kind that never actually bite you but keep running into your head...).  You could trip on a fallen branch, you could slip on a mossy stone.  Birds sometimes poop on people.  Some people don't clean up after their dogs and you can step in it and not notice until after you get into your car.  On a date. 

But it's usually really beautiful, and as long as common sense safety is adhered to (which includes things like not trying to pick up rattlesnakes and doing tick checks), you'll very likely be fine.



What if I take your class and think that you're off your rocker?


Well, I suppose that's a possibility...


One of the reasons I have so much info on this site, and have posted so much info online in various places is that I feel that the way I write gives a very clear picture of the way I teach.  You'll notice that the basis for my perspective on the use of medicinal plants is rooted in traditional herbalism, and both my direct experience and the experience of other herbalists I know and respect.  While I'm fairly up on a lot of the research and studies being done on medicinal plants, I usually find these to be dreadfully flawed in a lot of different ways, and generally do not use them to support the points I make.  If this sort of scientific validation is important to you and you can't take anything in without it, you might not really jive with where I'm coming from.   That said, I think I'm able for the most part to explain a lot of things in a way that makes rational and logical sense, so you still might get a lot out of a class.  Besides, it makes sense that if you want to learn about medicinal plants, you need to understand them in the context of traditional herbalism.


You must never get sick/stressed/fill in the blank...


On the contrary, I learn by doing.  I view the fable of the person who starts using herbs and never gets sick again similar to the one about the couple who loves each other so much they never fight or argue.



Do you take on apprentices?


I have, but the parameters are based more on my ability to make it work than on whether someone would make a great apprentice...



How can I become a certified or licensed herbalist?


There is no certification or licensure for herbalists anywhere in the United States.  Classes or courses offering certification/certificates/master herbalist degrees or whatever are simply giving you their own "certificate" that indicates you completed the class or course they offered.  This type of certification has no standing independent of the course it was offered by.  This is neither a good thing or a bad thing, really.  Some people like certificates because it shows that you did go through a course (which is certainly something to be proud of), while some others might think that it doesn't matter at all.  What does matter is what you've learned and what you can offer.  Having or not having a certificate or whatever is incidental to that.


I don't have any certificates, and so I don't offer them.  Sometimes students of mine will say that they studied with me, and I'm happy to offer myself as a reference for students who need them.  I've written letters of recommendation for acupuncture school, nursing programs and other herb courses.


On a side note, I hope and pray that we never start to mandate certification or licensure of herbalists.  While some people feel that this would "ensure standards" I think the main thing it would do is make the study of herbalism more expensive and spell out a lot of things that we're no longer allowed to do. 


Herbalism is the medicine of the people, and anyone and everyone who chooses to immerse themselves in this study should be able to do so to care for themselves, their families and communities in the way that makes sense to them, not to be mandated by a bunch of bureaucrats influenced by special interests and ignorance.


if there are other questions you think should be on here, let me know...  jim


 all material jim mcdonald

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