May / June
It has felt more than usually difficult to get projects off the ground this past month-or-so. Also, seeing as I’ll be leaving the country tomorrow (June 28th) to go to Germany & Italy, I hope you’ll forgive me if I condense my reports of both June and May activities into one post. Sarah has given me a list of things to be getting on with while I’m away, which I’m already quite excited about getting started on. I’ll update you as soon as possible/feasible upon getting back home, which should be around mid-August in time for the Dark Mountain Festival. Without further ado:
May Task List
Practical Task: Preserving your herbs
Now is the time to start thinking about what you may need both for the coming summer and winter. Which conditions may you need to treat? What would be good to make just for the fun of it? Which herbs to you need to dry, which oils should you be making, which flower waters, tinctures or vinegars can you make fresh now?
Years 1: Make a plantain double infused oil using the aerial parts of either ribwort or greater plantain. Do you have any other plantains growing locally? If so what are they? Press, draw and photograph your plant.
Your herbal ally
What have you been doing with your herbal ally? Review what you have learned so far and write a story either for adults or children which incorporates some of your knowledge.
Seasonal task: Make a dogrose petal and leaf vinegar and/or elixir and as many different elderflower products as you can. (eg double infused oil, cordial, vinegar and champagne!)
June Task List
Practical Task: Cooling herbs for summer
Many of the herbs which flower during the summer have a cooling (think heating reducing/anger calming or anti-inflammatory) effect. June is a good month to start preparing for the really hot days of summer by utilising what is abundant now. If you are intending to dry culinary herbs for use over winter e.g. marjoram, mint, lemon balm, now is the time to gather before they flower.
Years 1: Make a mint infused cider vinegar and mint & lemon honey. If you have fennel growing abundantly, think about a fennel cough syrup or cordial for very young children. Make up a bath mix for children with dried lemon balm, catmint, chamomile and lavender heads. If you have not made an elderflower or chamomile water for cooling sunburn/heat rash, do so this month.
Your herbal ally
What have you been doing with your herbal ally? Can you make a flower essence from the ally? Can you incorporate an ally meditation during the infusion? If so, what new, intuitive information did you receive?
Seasonal task: Make a burdock leaf tincture and dry the leaves for winter use. Look for yarrow. If it is flowering, collect flower stalks and make tincture/oil/dry. If only leaves are visible, use these instead. Is self heal flowering in your garden or harvest space? If so, gather, dry, tincture or make a vinegar.
Okay, preparing for the summer…
I still have lots of St. John’s Wort oil left over from last year’s sun infusion, so I will be taking some of this back to its place of birth in Italy, where I will probably end up using it to forestall or treat sunburn, to treat small cuts, scrapes and skin irritations, and to experiment on my cousin who has been complaining about muscle/tendon pain in his wrist on-and-off for a year since spraining it climbing. I picked some of the first open flowers I found by a drainage ditch (above-left) and dried it for tea along with what I think is feverfew and this year’s Limeflower harvest (above-right).
A few weeks back I made a double-infused oil with Comfrey leaves in the same way I made the Elder-Bark oil back in January. I turned this into a salve by grating beeswax (bought from the local hardware store) into it until it reached the desired consistency. Following Sarah’s instructions, I’ve found that the best way to do this was to use a wooden spoonhandle to drop some of the mixture into a glass of cold water and then rub the congealed blob between finger and thumb to see if it was the right sort of texture. I let it cool (but not completely solidify!) before pouring it into a plastic container. I gave the first batch, along with a print-out of Jackie’s excellent post to an elderly neighbour who has been basically house-bound by pains in both knees and her lower back, loosely diagnosed as osteo-arthritis. She has been applying it to one knee as an experiment and will get back to me in due course with any results.
After this I made another infused oil with plantain, using the same method. Here’s my picture of the plant, taken after I made the oil and showing the immature seed stalk or ‘rat-tail’ which appears to be in flower:
Earlier today I made two more jars of salve for my trip, using the Comfrey and Plantain oils respectively. Travelling to the warmer parts of Europe, I tend to get eaten by mosquitoes, and for the first week (until my blood gets used to it, I assume) the bites can get quite swollen and itchy – sometimes to the point where they prevent me from sleeping. For the past two summers I’ve had some success chewing Plantain leaves and applying them as a poultice to cool and soothe bites. This year I thought I’d try a salve, which I’m guessing might be more effective, seeing as it doesn’t dry and flake off the skin in an hour or so – thus more practical for night application, too. I also made another batch of Comfrey salve in case SJW doesn’t work on my cousin. So, from left-to-right: the darker green Plantain oil; Comfrey with beeswax; both salves along with their parent oils – Comfrey on the left, Plantain on the right (in the background is a Rosemary decoction which will be my shampoo for the summer):
Oh Boy, it’s getting late…
Okay, quickly (I’ll get back and fill this in properly with all the details/recipes in August) – Sage vinegar:
Linden chocolate (failure – too much olive oil, plus baking accented the bitterness, resulting in a crumbly, dry, biscuit material that tasted foul):
Yarrow starting to blossom in the old horse-field:
…which I harvested as sensitively as possible for just enough to make a tincture:
I have an extended poem/story in the pipeline, but I’m afraid it isn’t finished yet, so you’ll just have to wait 😡 In the meantime check out the towering monsters in my back garden:
They’re now even bigger – at least up to my waist (around a metre), with several heads poking out of the top of the leafy shrub, against which I’ve leaned them for support. The first few flowers started poking out in the sunshine today. They’re also starting to attract insect life:
I’ve been watching ants show interest in the aphids on our young apple tree for a while now. I’m not sure what they’re up to. I’ve heard that ants will sometimes ‘farm’ aphids by bringing them down to their nests where they feed on the ‘dew’ they produce after eating a certain fungus (which the ants collect for this specific purpose). However I’ve yet to see an ant bodily grab one of the aphids and drag it down the stem of the plant. For the moment they seem content to march up, have a little inspection, and then march back down. That’s all I can see, anyway…
Arg, how did I get into this?? It’s now 1:15am and I’ve got to be up at 6!! Time to sign off.
Have a nice summer everyone, and I’ll speak to you again in August.