Herb Gardening, Gathering and Medicine Making
The following is an herb gardening and medicine making calendar for three consecutive seasons here at Blessed Maine Herb Farm. If you are interested in learning about these subjects, it can be a very educational read. Potential students and apprentices will find it an excellent overview of what to expect while working and learning here. Herbal Medicine Correspondence Course students will find it useful as an herb gardening and harvesting guide.
March Full Moon, just a few days before the Spring Equinox. A new growing season is begun!
March 18 - We ordered a bunch of herb and vegetable seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds this week, and are anxiously awaiting their arrival. In preparation we cleaned out the greenhouse today, and planted six flats of rosa rugosa seeds.
March 25 - Our seeds arrived and we immediated planted a variety of hot peppers and our tomatoe seeds. These are stacked in a warm spot near the stove. Lots of perennial herb seed was planted in beds in the greenhouse yesterday. These will have several weeks of cold stratification and then germinate as the temperature warms. Among the herbs planted yesterday are lavender, bee balm, feverfew, mullein, rosemary, delphinium, ginkgo, codonopsis, lemon balm, lady's mantle, angelica, and yarrow. We've still a lot more seeds of all sorts to plant.
March 31 - We had about 4 inches of heavy snow last night! It looks like winter here again today, but we know it will melt fast. Poor woman's fertilizer is what we call these spring snows. Meanwhile, we've dug up and planted a few more beds in the greenhouse. Seeds that have gone into the ground or in flats over the last few days include more rosa rugosa seed, St. John's wort, licorice, passion flower, wild marjoram, bunches of lettuces and salad greens, our broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kohlrabi seeds. Next up will be a variety of fresh and dried flower seed for pretty bouquets all summer. This week we have to start retrieving all the bare roots we put into our cellar last fall. We'll be dividing the roots, packing them in saw dust, and sending them off to FEDCO for their catalog sales.
April 5 - We got a bunch of our bare roots out of the cellar and they look like they made it through the harsh winter in very good shape. We've started dividing the valerian, astragalus, codonopsis, lavender, and licorice. It feels so great to be working with the plants again, smelling the rooty, earthy aromas, soil under the fingernails, appreciating the incredible strength and beauty of a tiny sprout.
We also started more seeds this week such as delphinium, statice, larkspur, sea lavender, and more passion flower. The tomatoes are up and so is the anise hyssop(licorice mint), wild marjoram, licorice, and salad greens. Today we're having another spring snow storm!
April 30 - It's been a busy month here on the farm. The greenhouse is packed with seedlings of all sorts, and everything is growing beautifully. The tomatoes and peppers all need to be transplanted now into bigger pots. The hollyhocks, delphiniums and larkspur are tall and green, the licorice is putting out its second true leaves, and the long awaited passion flower vines are finally sprouting up out of the dark moist soil they've been hiding in. The planted beds in the greenhouse are also bursting with new growth. The lavender, lemon balm and angelica are all up, and so is yarrow. The anise hyssop and wild marjoram are fantastically lush looking, and we are still waiting for the ladies mantle to pop up. Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are all sprouting up out of their beds and soon we'll be starting a huge bunch of a variety of melons. The vegetable garden has been rototilled, and the soil there is looking fantastic. We haven't put any seeds in the ground outside yet. We're a little behind on that score this year. It is actually a good time now to put some peas in the ground, and some assorted greens for summer salads. Lots of hardy perennials are green and beautiful in the herb garden, where it looks like everything wintered over just fine.
May 19 - The apprentices arrived last week and jumped right into the swing of things out in the herb garden. We managed to get the old ginseng house torn down and have been preparing the site for the construction of a new shade house. All the ginseng seeds we planted last fall in the garden seem to be germinating. They have a layer of hay mulch over them, and are coming up very thickly. It is a beautiful sight! The apprentices have transplanted two beds of wild marjoram, and a long bed of anise hyssop. We've also gotten three rows of strawberries planted, and those are being mulched with newspaper and hay. Bed preparation will continue for quite a while now, as there are plenty of flats filled with healthy seedlings in the greenhouse waiting for their home in the herb garden. Most of this work is done with a fork followed by hand work. Roots are placed in a wheelbarrow and dumped in a special compost pile on the edge of the herb garden to decompose. Our garlic has been looking fantastic this year. Nice, green, sturdy tops and real good growth. They've been sprinkled with compost and will soon get another layering of hay over that. Jack and I spent a while weeding the echinacea beds after he convinced me to weed them instead of digging them all up! And we planted a few more rows of potatoes. He put in some colorful Indian corn, and I got two beds of calendula seeded, some more lettuce for salads later on, and a nice big long bed of zinnia seed planted. It's fun working on hands and knees in the dirt! I have enjoyed doing this since my childhood. I give thanks and praise for this little patch of earth to plant and have such fun in! Many blessings on your gardening work too!
May 22 - Bed preparation and transplanting continues. Yesterday was a nice cool, cloudy, misty day, perfect transplanting weather. We transplanted 3 100 foot rows of tomatoes, 2 100 foot rows of larkspur and 1 100 foot row of statice. We've got enough for at least 2 more rows. We also put in the asters, and everything is looking good. Last night I started mowing the grass around the garden. Everything is looking so verdant and fertile. The cherry and apple trees are bursting into bloom now. The daffodils are peaking and the tulips are about to open. Today we'll be working in the herb house, pouring tinctures into bottles, labeling, and preparing our product for this weekend's Wildgathering! at the Athens Fairgrounds. Hope to see you there!
May 29 - We've had a full week of cloudy rainy weather, just perfect for transplanting! We've put in a wide bed of lupins and another long bed of hollyhocks. We've also been working on cleaning up the lavender beds. This entails cuting the dead parts of the plants away, and weeding around them so that the fresh new growth underneath has full access to the sun. All the lavender appears to have made it through winter, and the new growth looks really strong and vibrant. After the beds are cleaned up they'll get a light sprinkling of compost. Then the apprentices will move on to the echinacea beds which are sorely in need of attention right now. The zinnias and calendula are all coming up strong, and everything we planted in the vegetable garden so far is looking good. I cannot wait to eat the dill and fennel, cilantro and basil, fresh young onions, and all those salad greens. The peas are nice and thick, and the potatoes are beginning to sprout up through the soil. Jack has already been rototilling between the rows. Yesterday he put in another batch of oats, five long rows of corn, a whole bunch of green manures like rye, peas, clover and brassicas, and we planted a few rows of cantalope in an especially rich corner of the garden. Jack also began the big job of creating shade for the ginseng, now growing in two different locations here, and both in need of new shade arrangements. Ginseng needs between 75% and 90% shade in order to grow well. Our broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale seedlings are about ready to be put into the garden, and today an entire new bed of licorice will be transplanted, but the lemon balm, lavender, rosemary, angelica, codonopsis, astragalus, bee balms, ladies mantle, yarrow and hot peppers still have a week or two of greenhouse growing left before we can put them into their new homes. Bed preparation continues...
June 17 - It's a beautiful bright sunny day today. Hay is already being cut by hand sythe this morning in long rows. All the plants are growing rapidly now, after what seems like weeks of mostly wet rainy weather. We've three long beds filled with hot peppers, all the brassicas have found their homes, cucumbers, melons and squashes are all up, and we're almost done with transplanting. All the angelica seedlings have gone in to their garden beds, as have the codonopsis, and sea lavender and yarrow. Tonight we'll probably finish putting in the lavender and lemon balm. Meanwhile we've been weeding! The lavender beds have been weeded and so have the echinacea and the hyssop. All have also been muched with cardboard and hay between the beds. Our garlic looks fantastic, the motherwort is peaking, nettles are flowering, and so need to be cut down, used for mulch or compost, and allowed to grow again for a second harvest. Our tomatoes are growing very slowly this year. Jack has been tending to his potato gardens, rototilling the soil, and mounding it over the plants. The potato fields look so pretty and well cared for. We're hoping for a really great crop this year. We're trying something new against potato bugs this year. It's a Biodynamic technique for bug control, and consists of gathering together what potato bugs you find, grinding them and mixing with water, and spraying this on the plants to revent bug infestation! We've heard it works and cannot wait to try it. We've not many bugs so far this year, so we're still in the gathering stage. Most of the sweet corn we planted was eaten by crows and ravens, so we have replanted some, and will be planting more.
June 27 - Oh so welcome rains are falling now after several days of intense heat. All the plants in the garden are growing like crazy right now. Except our tomatoes. They need some help and so today we picked up an organic humus and manure mixture and we'll apply some around each of our tomato plants to see if we can help them grow. The potatoes are looking great, Jack has been staying right on top of that job and it shows. His hills look so nice and neat, the plants so healthy. The corn we replanted is now up and taking off. The apprentices we had earlier in the season are gone now, and Moon Tietel, who apprenticed here last year, is now working in our gardens and assisting in the herb house. She's been doing a fantastic job of weeding and sheet mulching, or lasagna gardening, as I sometimes call it. This is a technique for weed control and soil building and consists of layering sheets of newspaper, cardboard, hay and other organic matter over the soil. Doing this between the rows inhibits weed growth plus helps the plants retain moisture and stay cool. Because you don't disturb the soil plenty of good bacterial and fungal growth is able to occur, worms are attracted as are billions of other microorganisms, and soil building and enriching takes place. The perennial herbs especially like this. Most of our perennial herb garden is prepared and maintained this way, in a kind of permaculture. Garlic thrives in this, so does the astragalus, hyssop, licorice, the mints, and the fruit trees also. The foxglove is blooming, so are the peonies! and the roses everywhere around here are in full bloom. The children and I gathered lots of beautiful and especially fragrant roses last evening and made two gallons of rose oil and lay the rest of the roses out to dry on screens for teas and beauty care. Enjoy these fine summer days...
July 3 - We've been weeding, weeding, weeding...And in between, harvesting, harvesting, harvesting...We've cut some comfrey and made comfrey oil, and gathered several more baskets full of roses. We must go out every day now to check all our potato plants for bugs. We've applied our biodynamic bug juice but it doesn't appear to be 100% effective. What really works is going out morning and evening with a branch and gently swishing it against the plants to knock off any bugs. We're eating dill, fennel, cilantro and all kinds of salad greens from the garden now. Two huge beds of calendula are looking real pretty right now, and the zinnias are growing well also. Soon those beds will be flowering. Our statice and larkspur are now just beginning to come into flower. The foxglove continue to bloom and look fantastic. Yesterday I potted up 14 baby ginkgo tree seedlings. They look so cute in their little pots. The rose seedlings are now ready for a protected home in the garden where they can grow until next spring when they will be transplanted into their final home. And we still have a hump of delphiniums that must go into the garden on the next rainy day. The St. Johns'wort is just coming in to bloom here. Over the next couple of weeks we'll be putting up gallons of St. John'swort oil and tincture, and drying some for teas. Our tomatoes got a good going over the last couple of days. First we weeded them real good, then gave each plant a generous side dressing of well composted manure. Hopefully they'll start doing something soon!
July 8 - We've been working on filling in the empty spots in our flower gardens. We've transplanted hollyhocks, delphiniums, and foxgloves up from the garden to the beds around the house. The cleome are flowering, and so are the earliest zinnias. We've harvested some ornamental yarrow in the prettiest of pinks. Those seeds came from Johnny's Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine. The plants are big and have tons of branches and buds for many more flowers. It looks like a prolific producer of beautiful blooms to me and they seem to dry well also. Yesterday Jack shook off a HUGE amount of potato bug babies, and made a new batch of potato bug juice. I guess we're going to keep trying! Our potatoes are thriving, despite the bugs. The tomatoes are showing some real improvement. I guess we'll have some tomatoes afterall. The oatstraw is looking so green and beautiful right now, though it will still be awhile before it starts flowering. The lavender beds are heading into full bloom! It's going to be time to cut them down soon...The angelica is in full flower, and looking absolutely gorgeous, and so powerful! We'll be at the Athens Farmer's Market every Saturday now for the rest of the summer. If you happen to be going through Athens, stop by to see us. We'll have whatever is fresh from our gardens, lots of herbs, and some herbal products.
July 15 - We're coming in to the height of our medicine making season now. The brilliant yellow St. John's wort flowers are everywhere now, and we've been gathering the flowering tops to make infused oils and tinctures. We've gathered in a lot of horsetail, coltsfoot leaves, and continue to gather our roses. All these are drying on screens in the herb house now. Today we will get red raspberry leaves from a special field where we have been gathering them for many years. We harvested some early lavender leaves and flowers for infused oil, and made a delicious lavender lemonade with the flowers. It was absolutely heavenly! The elders everywhere here are in flower, their huge white umbels poking out all along the roadsides. We harvested a bunch of these creamy flowers, putting some on screens to dry, and tincturing others. Our delphiniums are flowering and looking gorgeous, the foxglove are stunning, and the hollyhocks are just about to burst into bloom. Catnip is peaking, and ready for harvest, and the other day Lynn spent half an hour cutting all the garlic curly cues off our garlic tops. This must be done so that the energy of the plant goes to making a nice big garlic bulb, and not into making seeds. Today Moon will give all the garlic a big helping of liquid seaweed for extra nourishment.
July 25 - We continue lavishing attention on our garlic beds. Yesterday Jack and I moved all the mulch back from around the garlic bulbs and did some weeding. We pulled a few bulbs that were ready for harvest, but most of our crop still needs a few more weeks of growth. I think we'll give it one more application of liquid seaweed over the next couple of days. We began our oatstraw harvest yesterday, and this will continue for several weeks. We've all the screens in the herb house filled with drying oats. I love the smell of oatstraw drying! It makes me feel so mellow. We've also been engaged in a steady harvest of our larkspur flowers, which are beautiful. The statice is coming along nicely also. The hollyhocks are in full bloom, so enormous, and so brilliantly colored. The deep reds are incredible. And the delphiniums continue to look stunning, as does the very colorful yarrow we have growing in the garden this year. Our calendula flowers are beginning to bloom, and yesterday we did our first calendula gathering. Those flowers are laying on screens to dry now. We've been making tinctures and infused oils most every day now. Yesterday we made plantain oil, more comfrey, lavender, and St. John's wort oils, and several tinctures, including hyssop, rue, motherwort, and chickweed. Lynn and Moon spent the day in the herb house bottling and labeling. We're in the midst of stocking up our inventory in preparation for the National Folk Festival, August 22-24. Today we'll be gathering usnea, and wrapping smudge sticks out of hyssop, mugwort, and lavender.
August 1 -The larkspur harvest continues, with the plants producing new towering spikes almost instantaneously! They are drying beautifully along with long strands of hollyhock flowers and racks of raspberry leaves. The sunflowers are blooming, fat tomatoes are ripening on the vines, and the earliest rose bushes are loaded with rose hips perfectly ready for picking. We've been gathering red clover blossoms to dry, cutting oats, and gathering raspberry leaves. Yesterday Moon cut half of our long bed of hyssop and that is also drying now in the herb house. Hyssop tincture has been made and the rest of our hyssop will be cut for smudge sticks very soon. We're trying to find the time to get some weeding done, the asters especially need it. The anise hyssop is beginning to flower and will also be cut soon. Our first year lupins are blooming!
August 26 - It's been quite a while since we reported on our gardening activities here at Blessed Maine Herb Farm. We've been too busy!!! The harvest and processing of our herbal products has been our main endeavor for the past month. Over the last few weeks we've made a fresh new batch of our Feed Your Face Cream, which turned out simply fantastic. We made new batches of our Lip Wax, All Purpose Salve and an assortment of exquisitely scented Body Balms. We designed new labels for many of our products this year, so they look as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside. We made fresh new batches of rose hip syrup, astragalus syrup and ginger syrup, all of which came out superbly! Moon sewed a lot of Dream Pillows, and Jack and Gracie filled them all up with an incredibly aromatic mixture of mugwort, lavender, chamomile roses and oatstraw. We also made some very lovely lavender sachet bags. Our herbal products inventory is completely stocked up now, and the harvest almost all in. We returned from the National Folk Festival in Bangor to find the morning glories in full bloom. What a beautiful sight! They are climbing on the roof of the greenhouse so that it is covered with gorgeous blue and white flowers. The marshmallows are also in full bloom right now and I wish you could see the way the hops has gone wild over the entrance arch to the herb garden. We've got to get in there and do some work soon!
December 3 - This will probably be out last gardening entry for the 2003 season. All of our gardens have been put to rest. The last planting was made several weeks ago. It consisted of ginseng, black cohosh, ladies mantle and chaste tree seeds all planted in a snug bed in the greenhouse for spring germination. Many good blessings for a good winter. May all your dreams be sweet, and your next years garden plentiful.
Following is our 2002 growing and gathering news:
April 23 - Our gardening for the season is well under way. In the greenhouse seeds of lavender, astragalus, licorice, delphinium, hollyhocks, greens and more are all germinating rapidly now. In the garden angelica is sending up lots of green leaves, the garlic tops are up, and we've been digging the roots of lavender, codonopsis and ginseng for spring sales. It's so good to walk out to the garden, shovel in hand, and go to work in the earth again! Spring clean-up is also in full swing now and everyone is either raking or moving piles of wood around.
May 20 - We've been busy in the garden cleaning up the perennial beds. We've weeded, offered compost to, and mulched the beds of garlic, catnip, marshmallow and butterfly weed. We're just finishing up several beds of hyssop. The plants in the greenhouse are growing stronger by the day and some are ready to be transplanted. Beginning this week they'll be finding their way into their new homes in the garden.
June 10 - We've been transplanting perennial herbs into their beds such as licorice, astragalus, codonopsis, lavender, thyme and lots of flowers such as hollyhocks, foxglove, and delphiniums. We've seeded in several rows of licorice mint, or anise hyssop, as it is also known. We've also planted blessed thistle, milk thistle and calendula. The apprentices have been diligently working on caring for the beds of sage, lavender, and echinacea, and everything in the garden is looking beautiful. We've lots more beds to prepare in the herb garden, and lots more transplanting and planting to do. All is going along at a steady, calm pace. It's a lot of fun! We've one entire garden full of brilliant green strands of oats that are about an inch tall right now. We'll harvest them later while they're in what's called the "milky stage." Our vegetable garden is sporting rows of tomatoes, peppers, onions, melons, squash, potatoes, and salad greens. We're waiting for the corn seeds to pop up, and still have to put in carrots, cabbage, and more.
June 20 - This week we've all been on our hands and knees in the garden making new beds. After going through with a rototiller, the beds are worked over with a fork, and then finally gone over by hand. All roots and rocks are taken out to a depth of about one foot. This is tedious and time consuming, but makes a fantastic growing area with very few weeds later on.
When the bed is finished and smoothed out we sprinkle a liberal application of compost, and voila! Ready to seed or transplant into! After being planted the beds are mulched on both sides with hay, sometimes with cardboard or newspaper underneath, to inhibit weed growth between the rows. We have four apprentices working in the gardens three days a week right now, and one working five days. All of them are dedicated herb lovers, wonderful gardeners, and fun people. Our gardens are filled with laughter and high energy, and the plants are responding with beautiful growth. The roses are just beginning to come out, we've already harvested several batches, and there are many, many more to be gathered over the next month or so. Raspberry leaves are perfect for gathering right now, and that job is reaching the top of the list. We have horsetail drying on screens in the herb house, and the comfrey is ready for its first cutting. The corn is up, tomatoes and peppers are looking good, and we're eating fresh salads every day.
June 24 - The blackberries are putting on a magnificent display of blooms right now. From the heavy show of blossoms its our guess there will be an abundance of the juicy black berries this summer. Everything is growing rapidly now. The last of the delphiniums and foxglove have been transplanted, anise hyssop seedlings are poking up, the valerian is flowering, and the grape vines are sporting tons of grape clusters. We've seen our first potato bugs, YUK!!!! Work on the herb beds continues this week.
July 1 - The apprentice class met over the weekend and dove right into medicine making. We harvested comfrey leaves and flowers for infused oil, made thyme tincture and oil, sage oil and lavender oil. We went on a wildgathering adventure and gathered baskets full of roses
which we used to make jars of rose oil, rose water, rose mead, and rose glycerite.
We gathered bags full of raspberry leaves, tinctured some and lay the rest out on screens to dry for teas. We had a fire each night in the circle, celebrated the blessing of roses, honored the seven directions, and set our intentions for personal growth this summer. We also made flower essences with sage, rose and clematis.
July 17 - The harvest is well under way and we are having FUN!!! We've been gathering gorgeous flowering St. John'swort and putting up jars full of oil and tincture. We've cut the catnip and sage and that is all hanging in the herb house drying in small bunches. Racks of drying mullein leaves, roses, elder flowers, and lavender are stacked up, and all the herbs are drying quickly and beautifully. We've also started harvesting lavender and sage for smudge sticks, and many of these are hanging to dry now. There are many, many more to make. Today we are working on the preparation of rose petal and lavender flower jams. Everyone is excited! And believe it or not, in between harvesting, wildgathering, and medicine making there is still gardening to be done! The apprentices are doing a magnificent job of keeping the garden well weeded and mulched. The echinacea is all budded up, the angelica is in full flower, the lavender blooms are peaking and the hyssop is just coming into flower. We're eating scrumptous salads daily, and expect to start digging some early potatoes real soon.
July 18 - Garden bed preparation continues and yesterday the apprentices completed four long beds into which we will plant the seeds of lemon balm and St. John's wort. Along the shady edge of the garden we will make a couple more long beds for Black Cohosh seeds. The apprentices contine to put cardboard covered with hay down between the herb beds to inhibit weed growth and keep the soil moist.
We're cutting baskets full of lavender flowers right now which we tie in small bundles and hang to dry.
August 2 - We've been wrapping smudge sticks like crazy. The hyssop beds are in full flower and look magnificent. It's time to cut it all down! The marshmallows are blooming and so are the echinaceas. The lavender is almost all harvested now.
August 29 - August has been an extremely busy month for us on the herb farm. We've been harvesting, drying. and processing herbs all month. Jars upon jars of tinctures and oils have been put up, and many more decanted, bottled, and labeled. We've made our syrups, our first round of body balms, salves, and lip wax, bottled our exquisite floral waters, and today we're working on our powders. We've made a special flea powder, we'll be offering soon, and will be grinding roses and lavender for our flower powder. Many of our dried herbs have been worked up by hand and mixed into fresh batches of our herb tea blends. They look, smell and taste fantastic! Gardening work continues, and today the apprentices are weeding beds as well as harvesting every rose hip in sight and gathering red clover blossoms for drying. Our kids are back in school now so that means its time to swing into high gear in preparation for Common Ground Fair, September 21-23 in Unity, Maine. We'll try to keep you posted.
October 15 - We're still gardening! We've recently gone over all the beds in the garden to prepare them for winter. This entailed a little bit of weeding, and the addition of more mulch hay in the rows between the beds. The garden looks so well cared for. We've been collecting the seeds of astragalus, valerian, hollyhocks, poppies, echinacea and milk thistle, and these are all ripening on shallow baskets or brown paper bags inside the house. We've also been digging roots for tincturing. We've dug burdock, tons of dandelion, yellow dock and nettle roots. We still have to harvest our last batch of astragalus roots for the season. Soon we'll be digging the roots of echinacea, lavender, licorice, astragalus, codonopsis, and marshmallows to store in the cellar for early spring sales to FEDCO. That is our last job of the growing season. Once done, it's all over till next March when we start our new seeds.
November 5 - Our gardening year is officially over! All the roots are securely stored in our root cellar, we planted one pound of American Ginseng seeds, and several long rows of garlic. Then the snows came to create a beautiful blanket of white over our entire garden. Now its time to sit in front of the fire, cook, read, write and stay warm. Many Blessings to you for the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday Season, and prayers for a Happy Winter.
Below is our gardening diary from 2001.
July 3, 2001 Today is a partly cloudy, cool day, a welcome relief from the summer heat. Yesterday we transplanted a lot of pumpkin plants, summer and winter squash plants, more tomatoes, some eggplant, and more onions. We cultivated between the rows in the vegetable garden, and picked lots of potato bugs, YUK!!!! Today the apprentices are busy weeding the flowers and herbs in the medicinal herb garden. They'll also be mulching between the rows of echinacea, and will pick rosa rugosa blossoms before they're through for the day. Tomorrow we'll be partying at the 30th Annual West Athens Fourth of July Celebration. Come join us, and Happy 4th of July!
July 7 - Today our apprenticeship class met. It was to be a very full and busy day. After our morning smudge and talking circle, we headed out on a wildgathering adventure. We found a lot of wild St. John'swort just perfect for harvesting in a beautiful little field off a back road. It was gorgeous, and in full bloom. It's little yellow star-shaped flowers were practically glowing in the sunlight. We gathered all the St. John'swort we could use for today, and continued on our journey. Along the roadside we identified wild stands of coltsfoot, and some of the students gathered a small amount of these nice green healthy looking leaves. We found an incredible forest-full of horsetail, and collected a bunch of that, and finally came upon a wild elder tree. We offered her some tobacco, and had a teaching circle under Elder Mor's protective branches. From this elder we gathered nothing, but continued on our way in search of more, which we found in great abundance. We gathered many of the big white umbels, and this done, started back for the farm. After a wonderful pot-luck feast, we worked on sharpening our medicine making skills. We put up St. John'swort tinctures and oils, and elder flower tinctures. We laid the rest of the St. John'swort, elder flowers and horsetail out on screens to dry. After all that was accomplished, a few students lingered to make a few St. John'swort smudge sticks, now hanging to dry with the rest of the day's harvest.
July 10 - We've been weeding and cultivating, picking potato bugs, and eating lots of garden greens! Last night we planted a bunch more onions, a few eggplant, and some celery. Today the lemon balm and mullein got a weeding, and the rows in the vegetable garden were cultivated. We started a batch of St. John's wort mead last night, strained that today, added honey, yeast, and set it aside. We also made a couple of gallons of lavender flower water that came out incredible! We've a screen-full of lavender flowers drying now, and many, many more to gather and dry.
July 19 - Everyone's been busy maintaining the garden, weeding, thyme, wild yam, catnip, astragalus, angelica, lemon balm, licorice, and so many more. We've cut between rows with the hand sythe and let it lie as mulch. The red zinnias are beginning to bloom and are gorgeous. We cut a lot of mugwort for making into smudge sticks, and that is an on-going project here. The echinacea is just about to burst into bloom. We continue mulching various parts of the herb garden with cardboard, newspaper, and hay. another on-going project. And of course, we've been harvesting. We gather roses daily. Some of the ornamental grasses are being harvested now, and the first planting of oats is ready to cut. The late plantings of astragalus have germinated, and have been scrupulously weeded, and the goldenseal beds have also been tended. The ginseng was all budded up and ready to flower the last time I looked. We bottled up our last batch of St. John's wort mead, and today will start a pail of lavender going.
JULY 23 - We've been harvesting lots of herbs, and putting up tinctures. Over the last few days we've tinctured oatstraw, motherwort, hyssop, red clover, nettles, ladies mantle, and lavender. Our early plantings of oats have reached the milky stage, and are perfect for harvesting, so today we cut, bundled, and hung a great deal of it. We cut most of the hyssop, and placed it on screens for drying. We've been picking red clover blossoms, and those too are laying out on screens to dry. Bundles of wheat are drying in the shed, alongside lots of beautiful red zinnias.
July 24 - We are cutting our lavender beds now, and it will take awhile. Lots of drying screens are filled with lavender leaves and flowers. We've tinctured some, and will wrap a lot of our lavender into gorgeous and aromatic smudge sticks. We'll also be making some lavender oil. Does anyone have a special recipe for lavender you would like to share? Send it to the herblady. Our thyme is being tinctured today, a bunch of the huge, white umbels of elder were cut this morning, and lay on drying screens, and our plantain also has been cut and infused in oil. Roses are gathered here first thing every morning, and though their numbers are dwindling, our rose blossoms are still blooming. The ginseng is in full flower right now, and the golden seal is making berries, which are still completely green and unripe. The black cohosh spikes are all budded out, and about to burst into full bloom. We've eaten our first blueberry dessert of the season!
July 28 Our beautiful purple flowering sage is ready to be harvested for the second time this season! Here's some information on sage:
Salvia officinalis is an ancient medicinal herb we commonly find in the kitchen spice cabinet for flavoring meats like pork and lamb. Aromatic sage was long believed to bring the virtues of wisdom, strength and clear thinking. Researchers in Great Britian found that sage inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine, and so helps to preserve the compound used to prevent and treat Alzheimer's. Ancient Egyptian women drank sage juice as a fertility potion. Europeans used sage to nourish hormonal production, it enhances the production of estrogen, and also to increase fertility. Sage is loaded with antioxidants, so is anti-aging, and also offers lots of calcium, magnesium, the essential oil, thujone, flavonoids and phytosterols. It is sedating and soothing, and has a tonic efect on the nerves. Sage promotes the production of estrogen, try it to relieve menopausal headaches, hot flashes, and night sweats. It is also a wonderful tonic and strengthener of the entire female reproductive organs, will help to regulate menstruation and relieve painful cramps. Sage is an effective digestive aid, and will help alleviate indigestion and gas. It has a relaxing effect on the smooth muscle of the digestive tract, stimulates the appetite, and improves digestion by stimulating the flow of digestive juices and bile. Sage is a potent broad spectrum antibiotic, and immune stimulant. It possesses antibacterial, and antiseptic properties and is active against Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. E. coli, Candida albicans, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Salmonella spp. Some native tribes like the Mohican, commonly chewed the leaves of sage as a strengthening tonic, and people all over the world use sage to build strength and enhance vitality. Expectorant and diaphoretic, sage is especially effective against sore throat and upper respiratory illness, and infections where there is an excess of mucous. Sage dries up secretions, and will actually cut perspiration by as much as 50%. Sage is also traditionally used, and effective against, dysentery. Its astringent tannins make it an ally for healing mouth sores, canker sores, bleeding gums, and gingivitis, when used as a mouth rinse. A study done in Germany showed that drinking sage infusion on an empty stomach, reduced the blood sugar levels in diabetic patients. The usual dosage of sage tincture would be 20-30 drops once or twice daily, or 2-4 cups infusion. If you are worried about grey hairs creeping in to your hair, use a strong infusion of sage over your hair as the final rinse the next few times you wash it. Sage has a reputation for restoring color to hair that has begun to turn grey, and it will definetly leave your hair shiny and clean looking. Sage also whitens teeth, makes an awesome deep cleansing facial mask or steam, and a stimulating and deodorizing footbath. Many peoples the world over have used sage for smudging. It's fun wrapping sage into smudge sticks, because it's so aromatic and resinous, and I love burning sage. It is clearing, healing, and brings clarity to the mind. It absorbs negativity and misfortune, tensions, and mental and emotional disturbances. Use it to cleanse and protect. Sage mead has a reputation for being psychotropic, most likely due to the essential oil, thujone. Sage flower essence is especially helpful during the natural distillation process of mid-life. It helps us to review our life's journey and experiences from a new perspective, and to draw out the wisdom and inner peace that will crown us as sage woman, wise woman, newly born crone. In the kitchen, sage is commonly added to poultry stuffing, and is one of the main herbs to go into the stuffing for Thanksgiving turkey. Italians fry whole sage leaves and eat them with potators, and often add sage leaves to foccacia. The English crumble fresh sage leaves into cottage cheese, and spread it on toast. Crush sage leaves and add them to roasts, stews, soups, sauces, chowders, marinades, and lima bean dishes. Sprinkle sage leaves to enhance vegetable dishes like onions, eggplant, potatoes, and tomato. Sage is also added to cheese, cheese spreads, fish, pork and meat loaf recipes. Sage honey is incredibly delicious, and especially effective against sore throat. Place fresh sage on top of hot coals during a cook-out to impart the flavor to your cooking food. Sage has a wonderful affinity for parsley, thyme, oregano and bay leaf.
French, Sauge, German, Salbei, Italian, salvia, Spanish, salvia, Swedish, salvia
August 1 - We've been very busy harvesting. Yesterday we gathered in another large batch of oats. They are hanging to dry right now in the drying shed with a beautiful breeze flowing through. We've also been harvesting our calendula blossoms every day, and the incredibly vibrant orange blooms are drying on screens, and looking and smelling wonderful. An array of dried flowers are blossoming now, and these also are being harvested. This morning we cut and hung a lot of statice. Even though we're in full swing with our harvesting, we still have to keep up with the weeds, and so weeding is another on-going job here, though not as intense as it was earlier in the season. We cut a huge amount of mugwort, enough to fill an entire shed, and this too is drying nicely. We found time to take the kids to the circus last night, it was fun!
August 5 - We've been very busy having fun at, and
participating in the Athens Wessurunsette Valley Fair, an awesome old time country fair right here in Athens! Between the four of us, Gail, Grace, Belle, and Jill, who put a total of twelve entries into the herb and flower exhibits, we received nine blue ribbons, a couple of second and third place ribbons, and enough money to take ourselves out to a movie! In between, we had a full day apprentice class on Saturday, and have done a fair share of wildgathering, as well as a bit of harvesting from the garden. During class we made both rose and lavender glycerites, sage tincture, and calendula oil. We went on a wildgathering adventure, and gathered the last of the St. John's wort for this season, some beautiful coltsfoot, a bit of horsetail one student wanted for shining her wood carvings, and some birch leaves and twigs for vinegar. We took a swim after class, and found beautiful bedstraw on the way home, so gathered some and tinctured it, and then back to the fair we went!
August 7 - We gathered in another batch of oatstraw, wrapped it all in small bundles and hung it to dry. It is looking beautiful, and our oatstraw harvest is bountiful this year. There is more still to come! We also harvested our sage, and that is all laid out on screens drying also. Yesterday we wildgathered more coltsfoot leaves, made a glycerite with some of them, and spread the rest out on screens to dry. We've gathered in more red clover blossoms, and these are drying also. The drying rooms look so beautiful right now, full of colorful herbs on screens, and hanging from the ceiling in long swags. We made more lavender glycerite yesterday, and picked more calendula blossoms for dying. This morning we cut our catnip, some comfrey, ornamental grass, and mullein leaves, and all these are also drying now.
August 14 - Even though we've been busy tending our booth at the Skowhegan Fair from 1 to 10PM every day, we've still been able to keep up with a few harvesting chores on the farm as well. We've been gathering calendula blossoms nearly every day, cut lavender, and many branches of statice, ornamental amaranths, and beautiful, giant, red zinnias. We've also tended to taking all the dried herbs down from their screens, and stored them in brown paper bags, until it is time to use them for blending our herbal teas. The sage is all grey and gorgeous, the mullein dried almost overnight, and stayed so green, as did the coltsfoot. Our red clover blossoms also dried beautifully, and are all plump and purple, and carefully stored. The oats were taken down, they too dried really well, and are ready to be chopped. We've been able to get quite a bit of our work done at the Skowhegan Fair. Yesterday we had the sewing machine humming and sewed a lot of dream pillows, spice pillows, and sachets. Today we'll be working up the herbs, stuffing the pillows, and sewing them closed.
August 19 - We've been powdering a variety of herbs and flowers to be used in making our herbal products. We ground several pounds of roses and mixed them with sandalwood powder to make a new batch of our incense sticks. We rolled out many, many sticks, and they are drying on screens right now, and smelling incredible. We also ground elder flowers, lavender, calendula, and more roses for our flower powder, which we'll be mixing up this coming week. We strung up over a hundred strands of rose hips over the last few days, just about our entire harvest, all of which are hanging to dry. They look absolutely beautiful, all green and red and plump, and should dry nicely in this dry and breezy weather we've been having.
August 21 - Yesterday we strained and bottled lots of tinctures, including elder flowers, agrimony, hyssop, ladies mantle, oatstraw, and rosemary. We took down all the dried comfrey and put it away, and also put away the dried lavender and calendula blossoms. Then we gave thanks for the rain that mercifully began to fall upon on very parched earth. It is raining still. Hooray!
September 1 - We've been so busy keeping up with the harvest, plus making preparations for Common Ground Fair, September 21, 22, and 23. We've been bottling rose waters, packaging spices, making salves, body balms and lip wax, and so much more! We've also been breaking down our dried herbs, and preparing them for being mixed together into our herb tea blends. Boxes of products are piling up in the herb house, the rose hips are turning bright, brillant red as they hang drying, and everything in there just smells so good. There is no time to spare, so gotta go back to work!
September 27 - It has been a very intense and busy month. Now the energy has shifted once again, and we will begin to slow down a bit, but not completely! Roots and barks have been calling, and this Saturday our apprentice class will head out into the woods to prune some limbs and scrape bark, gather medicinal mushrooms, and perhaps dig some special roots. The field roots like burdock, dandelion, and yellow dock also call to be gathered in earnest now. There will be more time now to keep you posted on our herbal activities.
October 3 - Today is a crystal clear, bright October day, just perfect for working outdoors. This morning we visited an ancient spruce tree located well off the beaten track. Long strands of usnea hung from its branches. We gathered just enough of this antibiotic lichen (you can read more about usnea in Herbs for Healthy Immunity) to make a tincture, which we did immediately upon returning to the herb house. We'll wait until the tincture turns a bright orange before decanting it, which often means waiting quite a while. The orange color tells you that all of the medicinal qualities of the "old man's beard" have been drawn out, and are available.
October 28 - We've been enjoying the last of Indian summer, and have taken advantage of the wonderful weather to finish up the last of the gardening chores for the year. Over the past week we've dug up the roots of astragalus, codonopsis, licorice, ginseng, lavender, rosemary, and echinacea, packed them all in damp sawdust, wrapped them in burlap, and stored them in the root cellar. Come spring, we'll divide the roots, and most will be shipped to Fedco for distribution to folks who ordered them from the Fedco catalog. We've also finished up our seed gathering for the season, and these, too, are stored away until spring planting. Recently we gathered the last of the barks we wanted, putting up tinctures of willow and oak. Most of the trees here have lost their leaves, though the bright orange and bronze oak leaves are still clinging tenaciously to their branches, and the brilliant yellow of the poplars still enliven the tree line. Our attention is turning now to tightening up our home, getting in our firewood, and generally preparing for winter.
December 3 - Today we planted thousands of Rosa rugosa seeds in a prepared bed in the garden. We covered the seeds with a hay mulch, and look forward to them sprouting in early spring. Our plan is to plant an entire field full of rose seedlings by next fall. That will mean plenty of rose oil, rose water, and roses for our tea blends, all made with our own certified organic roses. For the record, this is the absolute latest that any planting has ever been done here on the farm. Our soil is usually frozen solid by this time of year here in Maine, but this has been an extremely long, warm season. For this we give thanks! Soon we'll be cutting our Christmas tree! Happy Holidays to you.
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