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Herbalist's Journal > AUGUST 2009


August 1 ~ August is usually a lull month in the garden, but this year, the flowers are just getting going and/or are lasting longer because of cooler/cloudier weather. The Hollyhocks are gorgeous and the Mullein is tall and commanding. Started a jar of olive oil and mullein flowers for earaches.


August 3 ~ It rained a lot yesterday, knocking over some holyhocks in full bloom. Once they fall, they really can't be propped/staked back up--too heavy. Still, I can't just cut them and throw them out. So, it was a perfect time to make the best of the situation and make Holyhock dolls with my grandson.

August 5 ~  CUCUMBERS are here!! One of my favorite veggies--made better with fresh cut dill/nasturtium leaves and flowers and parsley- all chopped fine with an oil/ vinegar dressing.

Talked to someone about their growing Scarlet Runner beans as an ornamental vine. They are a PRETTY heirloom--but they are also delicious to EAT. It is a pity they are forgotten about as food. What could be better--a beautiful and tasty/nutritious plant--good fo rbody and soul!!

August 6 ~ The last major weeding of the year-- at least I hope so. Most everything is big enough now to shade out weeds and a few "weeds"- like purslane, form a nice mat that shades out seedy weeds and retains soil moisture--but best of all, it is one of my salad pickings and I get the rest to dry. It is fairly tasteless, but juicy and provides constituents for heart health.

  Weeding out the Basil patch is probably the most wonderful experience (other than mowing a path through the mint bed). The aroma is intoxicating and relaxing---aromatherapy at its best!

August 9 ~ ANOTHER indoor day. Made more goats milk ice cream--peach. I NEVER have peach ANYTHING without adding a pinch of cinnamon and lavender sugar. Blooming lavender is a hard thing to ignore--so a bit went into my shortbread  (for tonight's strawberry shortcake) too!.

My aunt let me know she needs some Hawthorn Berry formula for minor circulatory issues. She has a Hawthorn tree in her yard and every other year or so, she sends me the berries-which i make up into tinctures and teas. But, I've been going through a lot of it the last several years as the population ages and cholesterol and heart problems become more prominent. Luckily, she lives in an area where herbal health is valued and she has a good choice of storebought tinctures to choose from. When she sends this year's berries, though, I'll make a special batch of it just for her.

August 11 ~ Perfect day for harvesting herbs. I made a third cutting of oregano and thyme, took more sage leaves, cut and bundled tansy and yellow yarrow. It is hard for me to cut back blooming herbs-but some plants make it easy to do because they get tall and fall over--and there is nothing more miserable looking than a beautiful plant laying on the ground. Yarrow and Tansy are two such herbs. Also, they both have very sturdy--really sort of everlastig flowers, so now is the time to cut them to preserve their full color for fall/winter decorating. I use them in wreaths/swags, as tree decorations and to adorn gifts.Truly well rounded herbs--used fresh or dry for worms and bleeding, as dyes, digestive aid or for colds, in beers or "tansy cakes" at Easter, as dried flowers in arrangements--and both associated with rich lore and rituals.

Also dug first potatoes --and steamed them with dill/chives and parsley--no butter needed!!

August 13 ~ Making fruit and herbed simple syrups to have on hand for whenever I want to make ice cream, granitas, soda or drizzle on cake/ice cream.

August 16 ~ Can barely keep up with the garden--which is great, in terms of harvesting tons of food and medicines--but also anxiety producing as it is becoming obvious which parts of the gardens will need to be overhauled--some totally--if i want aesthetics and production to be maintained. Already this year, the gardens look pretty bad and being a procrastinator is not a good quality to have for gardeners.

August 17 ~ Very hot the last several days, so i've done picking early and spend the later part of the day inside preparing bottles/jars for vinegars/tinctures/oils. The heat is a great time to get herbal oils started though--a day in the sun (calendula and St. John's wort) makes them more powerful.

August 19 ~ Mauve and gold-those are the colors of late summer and fall. The Joe-Pye weed is in full bloom as are the Black-Eyed Susans, soon to be followed by asters and goldenrod. These are all naturalized  plants--weeds--no gardening necessary, but they are as beautiful as any cultivated /pampered plant. Joe-Pye- also known as gravel root, is harvested a bit later (after first frost) as a remedy for gravel or stones (kidneys or gallbladder). Goldenrod-much maligned-is good for allergies and bronchitis--not the cause as is widely believed. This is a time to sit back and enjoy what nature offers--it is our gift for all our hard work in the vegetable gardens.

August 20 ~  PICKLES--pickle everything------and don't forget to add the herbs!!  I am usually guilty of making the same old pickle recipes--sort of like comfort food--familiar and satisfying. But, if you have a garden full of fresh herbs--experiment with small batches. For instance...watermelon rind with lavender; green beans with thyme; peppers and rosemary. Each is unique in flavor that can paired with a huge savory meal  later this winter.

   On another note--I was WRONG about the last weeding of the year a few weeks ago. Heat and decent rains have left another jungle out there. The veggie plants are big enough not to be bothered, but it looks scraggly. In a normal year, we would be worrying about a possible early light frost at the end of Aug. ---in which case, leaving the weeds to grow offers a lot of protection, but I think this year will be another long Fall period of fairly warm weather, so i will go in and at least tidy up paths.

August 22 ~ Pineapple Sage is a great favorite of mine-but it is an annual in my climate and does not do well indoors--i can keep it alive (barely), but it is not usable in winter--it just looks pathetic and mostly leafless for months. But--I do decide to nurture it or get a new one every year because it tastes and smells divine!! A cool tea of it on a summer/fall afternoon is sublime. Putting it in a citrus flavored smoothy--or one with just bananas and grape juice--yummy.

I love cakes or muffins with it--or in the icing. It tastes like a pineapple but without any tartness-but also seems to have a bit of coconut flavor as well. It is also a beautiful plant with striking red flowers. Today I dried some and made a tea and cookies with the rest.

August 24 ~ It has been really busy--and the ElderFizz I set to ferment--a long time ago--was sitting neglected on the floor. Got around to decanting it today, straining it and bottling it. It is as tasty as ever--and though I "took a nip", I think i have enough to get me to next year and still be able to give some away too. 

August 26 ~ AS we get older, thinking outside the box becomes "normal"--so I made some savory cookies--with curry and coriander. Sound awful? the combo of curry with sugar and butter is WONDERFUL!!!!!!! For those who love cookies, but worry about all the fat and sugar--at least the herbal additions make for good fat digestion, cholesterol lowering healthy eating. Speaking of which--corn is coming daily---and nothing is as enticing as buttered corn, but if you have a vinegrette or dressing that is low or fat free, use that instead--if the corn is of high quality, it will still taste good.

August 27 ~ Finally, I don't have to torture myself about deadheading plants to keep them in bloom. Now, I just let them go--for three reasons: Most herbs are not hybridized, so I can save their seed and get the same quality plants from year to year. What I don't get to, will fall to the ground for re-seeding, but I will collect enough to save for myself, give away and sell. Also, hungry birds will enjoy the seeds as cooler weather sets in and after the snows cover everything else, these seedheads will offer something to look at. Many plants survive cold weather better if their stems are left on--as it protects the crowns. Many people hate it--but I leave garden clean-up for Spring--unless there are some diseased plant materials that should be gotten rid of.

August 28 ~ Haven't had a chance to mow in ages due to  rain--but now there is a silver lining to all this miserable weather. To take the place of poor production  of my cultivated plants, I have more medicinal weeds to harvest--because I haven't mowed the grass in over 3 weeks. I now have a bumper crop of chickweed, heal all, shepherd's purse and ground ivy. Most of these do not taste great or dry well, so all were put to tinctures.

August 30 ~ Harvesting seeds of borage and evening primrose to grind and sprinkle in breads/soups/salads--for the EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids)

August 31 ~  Lots of Queen Anne's Lace (wild carrot) this year--made some jelly of its flowers--very subtle- perfect for plain scones or biscuits or with butter on any mild flavored bread. Dragonflies by the dozens are racing over my field of goldenrod.



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