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Herbalist's Journal > NOVEMBER 2009



 Darkness begins to overtake light this month, we look inward and are more drawn to mental pursuits. Start looking into a new interest to read up on, or take up unfinished tasks from last winter.....start having a daily cup of hot tea.....

November 1 ~ Made my list of holiday tasks I have to attend to. Lots of holiday crafts or baking take weeks to prepare--pomander balls, herbed liqueurs, rum puddings.

November 2 ~ A nice clear night--FULL MOON. Every month in the winter, I take a Full Moon walk--it was an idea that came from an activity book when my kids were small. During the full moon, everything looks different/special/dramatic. Dead plants look better in this light than during the day! It is a way to stay connected to the outside in a really primal way during months of being inside most of the time.

November 3 ~ Shopping for perfect oranges to make pomanders. I make these every 4 years or so ( they keep nicely in airtight tins, but still get weak after several years) The oranges have to be big--but not too big (too juicy to mummify properly) and too small is equally disasterous(they shrink up into nut size!).

My herb order came, so I got started and this is a great craft for my 4 year old grandson to help with. Pomanders are pretty, but due to the strong cloves/cinnamon they act as air fresheners and anti-bacterials during the cold season.

Nov 6 ~ Cut cedar and juniper for wreaths. It is early in terms of decorating and both these plants stay green all winter--but--heavy frost can burn and snow/ice make cutting hard--not to mention thawing frozen, snowy branches. So I keep them in a big open garbage bag  on the porch and they stay great and ready for use--- whenever.

November 8 ~ Made goat cheese--had lots of extra milk this week, so I made a soft, spreadable cheese with fresh thyme, salt/pepper and parsley. Great on bread/toast. Also made a plain batch because that tastes really nice on toast with jelly.

November 9 ~ Bought beautiful concord grapes the other day. My grandpa grew them for wine and jelly and taught me how to eat them--not to bite in and chew as with most grapes, but to slip the grape out of the peel into your mouth and swallowing that whole--it is so delicious and sweet. Most people don't have a clue--and hate concords---just as well as that means more are left to make jelly. This is one food I can make as well as my grandmother did. It will be an all day project, but I will have enough jelly for three years--and purple hands for several days!! Concord jelly tastes great with all cheeses and on herb bread toast.

November 10 ~ In spite of many hard frosts, the pansys are still blooming--such a welcome site--but the red rose hips of the wild roses are also on display, as well as the staghorn sumacs. Dug up everything else in the garden to root cellar, but I am leaving brussle sprout plants. Already harvested some of the sprouts, but there are little ones that will still grow. Dug some parsnips--which are supposed to stay in the ground until Spring--but I can't wait! Some of the older lettuce that got damages by snow, has now grown bag in cooler weather and is again tender and sweet--so, what was a really miserable gardening year is at last givng some last minute treats.

November 11 ~ Veteran's Day-- A day of Remembrance always calls for Rosemary. If you visit a gravesite of a soldier, leave a sprig of Rosemary.

November 13 ~ Getting the woodstove ready to go for the winter. Aside from the type of heat that only a woodstove can provide, my favorite part of the woodburning season is that it make it so easy to cook soups and teas-all the time--without standing over a stove. Soup is probably the easiest and best tasting way of getting herbs into your diet on a daily basis--it is really like a thick, chunky tea!

November 15   ~ Spent an HOUR at the local health food store getting my holiday cooking spices. It pays to buy spices/herbs in their WHOLE forms and invest in a $15 dollar coffee grinder to powder them as needed. The taste is fresher(and the medicinal qualities--that nobody really cares about in cookies and cakes-is amped up too). The price ends up being a fraction of that as getting them in little jars/tins.

November 17 ~  I found (as I was making room for pumpkin puree), a quart jar of ginger root juice that was a by -product of making candied ginger--two years ago!! Thank goodness I labled it. My husband works in an office with faulty heating so he came home with frozen feet. What a toasty treat a footbath of ginger was for him. It would have made a nice chest compress for  a friend who had bronchitis last week.

November 19 ~ Made some holiday wrapping paper with my grandson using sprigs of herbs and some cut fruits and veggies. For years, I haven't had finger paint or tempra in the house, but with a 4 year old around--I do! I had forgotten how much fun it is to make paper--and how nice it looks. We used lemons, kiwi, pears, oranges, mushroomsm sage leaves, yarrow heads, sprigs of thyme and lavender. The trick is to make the designs close togther.

November 21 ~ Talked to an old apprentice today. She asked advice on bone growths on the knees. My suggestion was a daily hot compress of horsetail, comfrey and chickweed to dissolve, bring in circulation and strengthen tendons/muscles/tissue.  Using castor oil as a compress works well too. A month of that should show improvement. If not, then considering a more medical approach may be useful.

November 22 ~ Getting ready to visit family for the holidays, so I have to get together stuff from the gardens to take: potatoes, garlic, onions, hot pickled green beans, salsa, relish, thyme, oregano, ginger syrup, grape jelly, nasturtium capers, pie pumpkins, winter squash.......

November 23 ~ I also found some Love-in-a-mist pods (Nigella) which are beautiful and easy to grow (and reseed themselves very well). I wanted to get the seeds out to take to my daughter as she loves to cook, and Nigella seeds are used in Indian cooking (I don't know what they call them). This was definitely a labor of love--the seeds are tiny, the pods papery and brittle- so there was a lot of sifting...and re-sifting, but it is so unusual for people to use this ornamental flower for foods--I felt it was worth it--at least ONCE!

November 25 ~ Every year, our local Historical Society holds a holiday program in a charming old train station and it is my job to supply the greenery. This year, I am taking special care to only include things on the wreath that grow naturally in our township--so I had ot save/dry some plants way back in summer--White Yarrow, Goldenrod, Rose Hips,  small Pine Cones, Milkweed pods (with some seed down sticking out), dried yellow dock seed stalks- on a wreath or swag of Cedar. Local is Lovely!

November 29 ~ My grandson was given a small tea set over the weekend and has been making all kinds of imaginary- yet YUMMY- teas: chocolate, applesauce, mint, apple, "herb". All kids should have a set as it encourages them to make tea to help when someone is sick

November 30 ~Getting everything ready fo rholiday decorations--bringing in the green--but best of all, the woodstove is finally going and on the stovetop, a continuous simmering kettle of various herbs to keep the air clean and kill germs--orange peels, all types of spices, vanilla........


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