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Herbalist's Journal > June, 2009

JUNE 2009


June 1 ~ This is a big month for traditional herbalists and those that enjoy being and working outdoors and can get swept up in lore and ritual. There is a lot of opportunity to play in the gardens, cook celebratory feasts, etc.--but there is more work to be done this month than usual. Knowing that, it is rainy and cool today- keeping me from the hundreds of garden tasks to be tackled. So many plants can be harvested now, but this is not the weather  for it. I made the best of it by TRYING to organize my herb pantry to make room for freshly harvested plants and new oils/tinctures.


JUNE 2 ~ Made compost  "teas". These smelly brews will have to sit a few weeks before putting them on crops as fertilizer.  I used nettles and comfrey in several 5 gallon buckets and set them out of the way to "mellow" before being used on tomatoes, beans, peppers and squash/pumpkins--all of my heavy feeder plants. ~ Also was able to plant some sunflowers and cosmos. Several hundred plants/seedlings of all my tender veggies/flowers and herbs are on hold in my greenhouse waiting for danger of a final frost. Aside from that, it does not pay to put them out this early and then have to spend a few weeks babying them as they will not grow until night time temps. remain in the mid 50s. They are better off growing  in a warm place for a few more weeks--and, most importantly, less work for me. Today--the gardens look good


JUNE 3 ~ Took an inventory of what dried herbs and tinctures I have left to evaluate how much to harvest this year. Able to pick fresh herbs and greens every night for dinner now ~ and the lemon balm is big enough to use for daily iced tea.


JUNE 4 ~ Looked over a few new herb books and one on food and sat on the porch ~ with my lemon balm tea to read through one of the many plant/herb/cooking/homesteading magazines i subscribe to. Planted remaining/left over flower seeds an dtilled up spot for all the basil seedlings. Noticed breeding/mating behaviors of my growing number of resident hummingbirds. They fly back/forth in an arc for several minutes. also noticed a few indigo buntings. The birds and th ebees are very busy, building nests, pecking seeds and collecting nectar. The Dames Rocket is gorgeous this year.



JUNE 5 ~ I saw my black cat laying in the grass with the look on an animals face after they have been hurt or are sick. As I approached him, I laughed in relief as I saw him laying on top of some Valerian I had uprooted several days ago. Cats LOVE valerian--even more than catnip and it makes them dazed and sleepy, just like us humans. Tilled more garden space to finally put in cabbages/eggplant and peppers. Harvested feverfew for tincturing. Several plants (the peonies in particular) are a bit slow to bloom this year--they are as confused by changing weather patterns as we are, it seems.


JUNE 6 ~ Big planting day--50 cabbages (most of which will end up as saurkraut), 30 broccoli and 30 more broccolini (which i prefer), various flowers (mostly for my scented and cutting gardens) and I set out my scented geraniums, which have been kept inside all winter. Used herbs to make a butter for dinner veggies.

JUNE 7 ~ All garden plants are now in and row covers on to keep flea beetles and cucumber bugs off squash/pumpkins/cukes/eggplants and cabbage family. Picked first wild strawberries.

JUNE 8 ~ Grandson, Eli, brushed up against my nettle patch. As always, plantain was growing near by, so I did a quick poultice on his hand/arm for quick relief and later applied what he calls- "Boo Boo Juice"--which is my calendula, plantain and yarrow salve. To further relieve his injuriy, i made goats milk (chocolate/mint) ice cream. June is DAIRY month, after all!

JUNE 10 ~ Cucumber and flea beetles are feasting on my melon and eggplant transplants. Humid weather is what they love. I was able to put floating row covers on cukes and cabbage and it does keep the insects away, but our melons/pumpkins are spread over too large an area to do that--so--I resort to a spray of 1 qt. water/1 Tbsp dish soap and 1 Tbsp of cayenne powder. It work, but must be reapplied after rain or every few dry days.

JUNE 11 ~  dug up some valerian--to get rid of it as it is a wicked spreader and gave to a friend who is a cat lover. Looking at what wild herbs (AKA-weeds) are growing in abundance this year, I see yellow dock EVERYWHERE-which indicates illnesses concerning blood/digestion/immune issues. Also--TONS of chickweed, which is good for immunity and lymphatic health. To me that says changing weather patterns will leave us vulnerable in terms of immunity until we can readjust.

JUNE 13 ~ The iris are in full bloom. Cheddar pinks are also going full tilt and smell WONDERFUL. It is times like this that being an herbalist becomes difficult. The colors and scents of lilac, peonies, iris, pinks, etc. is amazing and to pick the blooms you have waited a year to see is devastating to me...but...these flowers make very nice "Floral waters"--light, refreshing perfumes that carry the scent of summer all year. So, I picked enough blooms to fill a pint jar with each, filled with distilled water and 2 Tabsp. of vodka (to preserve them) and sealed them up,  In a few days, I'll remove those spent flowers and put in fresh ones and keep doing so until it smells as strong as I like. No need to overdo, as each season has it's own scent, roses will come later--a little bit will get me through the next 12 months with plenty to share and give as gifts. I always place the spent blossoms back around the base of the plant.

JUNE 14 ~ I felt compelled to plant more flowers this year--it has been a difficult family year and flowers make me happy--a healing aspect of even inedible plants. Got in sweet peas, morning glories, zinnias and cosmos.

JUNE 16 ~ So far, I am not really pleased with the way any (except the veggies) of the gardens look. It has been too wet to tend them regularly and lack of sun and lots of rain, just makes plants lean/fall and look waterlogged.....BUT...for every garden disappointment in one year, there are always unexpected treasures. This year, it is my IRIS. They have not ever looked so beautiful or smelled so wonderful.

JUNE 17 ~ There is a right time and a wrong time to harvest herbs. While this week is prime in terms of things being ready for picking, the weather makes it the wort time to get a quality harvest. Dampness and lack of sun makes plants hold too much water, therefore diluting taste/smell and medicinal integrity. On the other hand, if I wait for the weather to improve (for which the forecast does not sound hopeful), the plants will be way past their prime--also leaving them inferior. Sometimes circumstances trump perfection. So is the case today. Winds and rain knocked over my stand of comfrey. More rain is coming, so if I leave them there to dry out a bit, they will just get more soaked (comfrey is difficult anyway as it is one of the more juicy plants and very hard to dry in the northeast). So i harvested them, and will pull off the leaves and dry them in my dehydrator instead of hanging them in my drying shed. They will not be the most potent comfrey, but because they are freshly picked and processed, they will be better than most commercially sold products. I will note the weather conditions on the tag when I store them, so I know how and when not to use this weak batch. I fear, there will be many other herbs/weeds harvested this summer under the same conditions.


 JUNE 20 ~ Midsummer's Eve ! One of my favorite days and busiest. Celtic lore cites this as a day to honor the faeries of your property, who watch over plants and animals. To do this, faerie foods are put out, a bonfire is lit and bundles of your favorite herbs are thrown into the fire as an offering. Also, any old herbs left over from last year are burned as well. I  make a plant bundle for each member  of the house, and will start the fire around 10PM as it must be kept going until midnight. Faeries are shy, but don't mind sharing their food treats, so we will have  a party of sweets (ice cream, strawberry shortcake with honey drizzle, nuts, raisins, and some Elder Fizz from last year to drink.) Sitting , eating and smelling the aroma of smoldering herbs is blissfull--while we wait for the fireflies to bring the faeries to the party.

JUNE 22 ~ After days of rain, this has been the first time to get out to enjoy the gardens--but still too damp to harvest. Instead, it was just a time to revel in the scents of everything in bloom. Usually, scented plants are at their best, or even noticable at dawn and dusk, but because it is still humid and wet, the scents were there to enjoy all day long. Blooming right now are the Valerian, Wild Rose, Gallium, Peonies, Dianthus and the heavy air brings out the best of the scented geraniums.

JUNE 23 ~ The nettle compost tea I made a few weeks back is ready--it is really smelly. The rains have diluted some of the soil nutrients, so I will wait one more day to let things dry out a bit and then apply to my heavy feeding crops.

JUNE 24 ~ Couldn't work in teh garen today as i had to help my daughter pack and move. As i waited for her to collect boxes from various stores, I was noticing all of the medicinal weeds growing on the city streets. There was lots of Motherwort, wild lettuce, chicory and agrimony. Variously, these are aids for menopause, circulation, liver tonic, nervines and nutritives. It reminded me of an old Apprentice's story of downtown Philadelphia where mugwort grows up through the pavement. She never knew what it was until seeing it in my garden. Philly is the home of American beer industry--starting with the Yeungling Brewery--which used mugwort to put the head on its beers. Today this is done with chemical additives, but the mugwort remains, bearing witness to its past usefulness. ~ If this clear weather continues, I will be able to spend the weekend harvesting like crazy.

JUNE 28 ~ So much for clear weather...no harvesting of medicinal herbs, but plenty of edible/salad weeds...and LOTS of garden cleanup. I always over plant crops-especially the salad greens. This is partly because I am not a careful gardener, but mostly because i know that thinning the crops will not just be weed pulling, but rather, make for some tasty early salads. Today, i "weeded out" my carrots/dill/fennel/cilantro/radishes, etc. So, for salad tonite, we'll be having baby carrots and the green tops, sprigs of dill, etc. plus "weeds" such as penny cress (which is hot and spicy--and now being grown as a potential biodiesel crop), lamb's quarters, purslane. As expensive as lettuce and other veggies are, this salad is had for nothing. Garlic scapes almost ready!!!

JUNE 30 ~ Had my first watermelon of the year today---had a craving and they were on sale. melons are not just yummy summer eating--they are great kidney tonics and aid in metabolizing fats. And...please do not throw/spit out the seeds!!! Eat them whole  (No!! they do not grow in your stomach!)or chew them, or roast them like pumpkin seeds--they too are kidney tonics. Like asparagus, another kidney tonic, eating melon seeds makes you pee a lot.

This has been the worst June for harvesting herbs i can remember. Good riddance.


Tina Finneyfrock


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