Check out Folklife Magazine!
Picture an old white farmhouse rooted amid gardens and trees, a rusting school bus and workshops. A U-shaped driveway directs you straight back to the place you came from, should you carry with you the scent of city and speed. For in this old house live stories of seas and herbs and manifestations.
Here is where she plants and grows, harvests and wild forages. Here is where she infuses and concocts, distills and mixes. Here is where she heals and soothes, enlivens and prevents. Here is where she bottles and packages, promotes and sells. Here is where she lives and works and mothers—in an old farmhouse that she dreamed into being 22 years ago.
“I finally decided to write down exactly what I wanted, no matter how ridiculous it seemed,” Margo Anfossie says. We’re sitting on her deck amid the greenery, savouring the last days of summer sun. The smell of chocolate, mint, and cinnamon basil tea, along with the fragrance of decomposing plants, fills the crisp morning air with a sweet earthy musk.
“An old farmhouse on 2.5 acres. I wanted somewhere to garden and to grow. Full sun and lots of water. Old fruit trees. Lots of soil. And I even went to the point of writing down that I wanted it to be on Horseshoe Road. Whenever I went down this road, I loved it so much. You never go down this road unless you know somebody or you’re buying eggs at the end. This house came up within a week of me writing down exactly what I wanted,” she adds, relaxing back into her chair. “There’s a bit of magic there I think.”
The sun slides over her face as she surveys her domain, the birthplace of Panacea Herbs—a line of all natural, organic healing products Margo creates in her sunlit workshop out back. Panacea: the Greek goddess of herbology. The modern use means universal remedy. “What’s your Panacea?” she asks me.
“It was an amazing step forward when we built my studio,” she says, gazing back at it. “My boys were starting to complain of tasting soap on their toast and essential oils in their juice. Having kids and being a single mother and running a business is exciting, but it is also very overwhelming. We do the best we can.”
Margo’s path has been paved with magic since child- hood. From finding bits of chive and peppermint in the middle of a city, to being healed with a special mountain herb in Turkey. From sitting with elderly Thai women holding baskets of herbs, to going back to Ottawa and discovering that a school for natural medicine had been just up the street from her childhood home all along. Trusting this path has become her life’s journey.
In 1993 Margo headed west, finished her schooling in horticulture, and found her new home on an island in the Salish Sea. “The feeling I get living out here ... it’s about the beauty. The fresh air and the smell of the salt water. The forests. The huge ferns and the mountains. It’s the dinners and swimming at the beach for hours. It’s the walking among the tall trees and feeling small.”
Margo lowers her voice as she recounts these island impressions. “It’s looking out at the mountains and feeling like there’s so much more to the world and to life ... making me feel like my problems are tiny in comparison. It kind of makes me feel better,” she says. “And the community is so supportive and amazing.”
Margo wonders if the island blood has always flowed within her. She felt this lifestyle beckoning her in her 20s, as she sacrificed ease for a new life of homesteading on a Gulf Island. “Living the full hippy lifestyle in a bus,” she says. “It was pretty free and exciting ... It kind of felt like we were beating the system—and herbalism was a part of all that somehow.”
With a life in herbalism comes a life rooted firmly in the seasons, Margo explains. “In the spring and into the summer, there’s planting the garden for food and such, and there’s the picking and drying of leaves and flowers. And in the fall, it’s roots, and barks, and berries. Along the way I sun-infuse herbs in oils or make decoctions, tinctures, or distillations to use in my products. The winter is for putting it all together and sending the products out. February is exciting because nettles come up and that means the beginning of the herb harvesting year. Nettles are so good for you to start your spring cleanse and boost your immune system."
"There is always more to learn,” she says. “A single herb can be beneficial for the digestive system while it also warms the body, moving the blood and relieving congestion. The possibilities are fascinating.”
And while Margo creates skin care products for a variety of uses, her real interest lies “in the medicinal aspect of the herbs. I noticed that there is a surge of people get- ting psoriasis and eczema. Almost in a pandemic way. I think it’s the hectic and frenetic lifestyle, or the food. I formulate products to help with this inflammation, and itchy, dry skin.”
Margo’s 2.5 acres on the quiet Horseshoe Road is filled with home and creativity and healing. She has manifested a sea of flourishing green “allies” thatcontinually whisper of the never-ending mystery of possibilities. Every day on this land, through every season, the network of greenery appears in different shapes and forms, so rooted in Margo’s chosen paths, so close to the earth.
Are you sitting outside? Take a look around, for the plants growing right around you are the things you need.
“That’s why they call them allies,” Margo says. “It’s incredible.”