Diary - 09/07
Diary - Sept 2007
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September 2007


The marshmallow plant and marjoram in evidence

Calendula plants putting on a colourful display!

An excellent example of the plant Joe Pye weed

This year has been perhaps my busiest harvest. The constant rain during June, July and parts of August made me wonder if there would be anything left to dry for teas.


When the marshmallow in my garden started to seed, I went down with my basket and stripped the stems of as many green leaves and pale green seeds as I could. Many leaves were already tinged with yellow to show their growing time was nearly over. I’d already made a small amount of oil during the year, but this time I was able to make a good 12floz of dark green silky oil, which should keep me going until next year’s harvest. I also dried a few leaves for use in teas should the need arise.


We made vervain oil during the September workshop with a mixture of dried leaves and flowers and fresh aerial parts from the plants in the bottom herb bed. Again, the oil came out dark and green, with no distinctive smell. It was good to make it again after an absence of two years.


I use a lot of hawthorn products during the year, so have made tinctures from the flowers with vodka and the haws with brandy. I’ve collected haws not only from the various trees along the field edges (as the one in the Sanctuary has been smothered by mature ivy and produced only a few berries), but also from my garden hedge and some trees in the Barnoldswick cricket ground in Yorkshire while we were up there for a Festival of Flight at the beginning of September. I’ve also made hawthorn cider vinegar, so people who don’t like to use alcohol, can have an alternative medicinal format to choose from.


The hops have also been prolific this year – so much so, they broke one of the hazel stakes holding up the plant’s profusion. I have made some hops tincture – both as a calmative and a soporific. If there are enough, I may try making some hop pillows at some point.


Apart from a few leaves, the yarrow in the top herb bed has completely disappeared. Whether it has been overwhelmed by the long grass which could not be mown this year until the very end of August, or whether it always dies away after about four years, I don’t know. It seems sad after the plants had only just reached the potency of their wild counterparts. Luckily I have been able to pick and dry some stray aerial parts from plants growing in my parents’ garden and I have quite a lot left from last year’s harvest. I kept a jar of yarrow vinegar in the caravan this summer and everyone who came down with colds were dosed with cider vinegar, honey and root ginger, which seemed to help their coughs and congestion for a while.


The borage has been prolific again this year, but most of the plants have succumbed to mildew and fallen over in the drenching heavy showers. I did manage to gather enough to make some more tincture and some vinegar.


One of the first herbal tinctures I ever learned about was comfrey root. Christopher Hedley recommended it during a workshop he gave for the Herb Society on making oils, salves and creams. I subsequently ordered some tincture from the Herbal Apothecary and was amazed by its rich, silky texture. Then came the regulation of comfrey and only a qualified medical herbalist could use the root tincture any more, so I let my plants run free.


Another medical herbalist encouraged me to use comfrey leaf oil, which I have done for several years. This year I decided my plant was old enough to share some of its roots so we could discover what they were like and what properties the root tincture would have. The fresh root sliced up really easily and is now macerating in the larder.

The New England Asters in full bloom ... ... and a lovely passionflower bloom in our own garden.
A colourful basket of rosehips and sloes ... ... and two jars of St John's Wort oil infusing in the sunlight on the kitchen windowsill. I just love the colour the oil turns to!
Nettle roots that have been painstakingly dug out, washed, chopped up, and then put into jars ready for "treatment" The September Workshop "crew". The smiles seem to suggest an enjoyable day was had by all attendees!

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