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Herbalist's Journal > JANUARY 2010

Happy New Year !!!


January 1 ~ New Year's Resolution- MAKE DO with what herbs and supplies I already have- rather than buy new. There are probably more misplaced herbal supplies around the house than the ones I actually know I have. So, very soon, I will pull everything out and organize it and plan this year of herbal projects. It will force me to be innovative, cut down on clutter, let almost out of date things get used well instead of wasted. I can get carried away with herb catalogues like I do with seed catalogues, so this will force some restraint. Making do is a great opportunity on many levels and a creative challenge.

January 2 ~  Second Resolution ~ After going through seed catalogues the other day, I have decided to combine my efforts with the "making do " philosophy with my gardening  as well. I have tons of plants that NEED splitting/cutting back and instead of getting around to them each spring, I am too overwhelmed with planting new herbs that I "just HAD to have". I had already decided to redo my gardens, but with the intention of adding new plants. Instead, I will move, split, find old stuff that are forgotten in a weed patch--and even  dig some weeds to add to the gardens (people in other states/countries PAY for many of the lovely "weeds" that grow wild here: Mallows, St. Johns Wort, Evening Primrose, phlox, Joe Pye Weed....) Doing so also will let others participate in one of my goals of herb gardening by taking cuttings/divisions and growing these historical/medicinal plants in their own gardens--learning about them and using them for healing.

January 4 ~ My weak spot is my back. The less active I am, now that it is winter, the more it bothers me..so I combine heat with a salve or tincture of St. John's Wort-directly on my lower back, and daily stretching exercises. Then, a daily large dose of Red Clover and Burdock, with more St. John's Wort.

January 6 ~ Some are STILL struggling with lingering affects of lung and sinus illnesses. In really small doses (1-5 DROPS per day for ADULTS---NONE for kids) POKE Root works wonders. It is a mild poison and is meant ot trigger the immune system. More is NOT better. It seems to have an affinity for congestive types of problems (colds/lymphatic problems/mastitis..etc). It is a catalyst and never meant for regular dosing. Use it carefully--with supervision. Over dosing symptoms begin with feeling pretty loopy. It is my remedy of last resort after other things have failed, or an illness is progressing or hanging on so as to weaken the the person.

January 7 ~ The Holiday season is officially over (12th Night was yesterday) and it is time to take down the tree. If you bought a cut tree and feel guilty about wasting it, there are  few ways to recycle: you can lay it outside  and let small animals use it for shelter the rest of the winter and then use it for a bonfire on the first day of Spring...or..you can snip the branches into smaller pieces and store them for various potpourris for the rest of the year/ as fireplace starters and scents--if you KNOW the trees were grown organically, you can use the needles for a Vitamin C rich tea. Whatever you choose to do, cut a foot off the trunk and save for next year --your YULE LOG to burn in the fire place the days of Christmas-for good luck.

January 10 ~ It is Celtic tradition to have ALL the holiday greens out of the house by  Feb 1 (Imbolc and first day of farming season in Britain/Europe) This is a way of paying attention to changes and living "in the season"--being attentive to your surroundings. It is said the devil will visit you if greens remain inside--so burn them in your fire or place them outside. I use my cedar/juniper for incense. My other favorite gathered plant decorations are yarrow and rose hips. Since these are not technically "Greens", I save them back and redo household arrangements during the year. Next up is Valentines day--the Rose Hips are brilliantly red and make a great centerpiece or little arrangements placed around the house--and all hips/seeds symbolize hope/love/fertility--perfect for that holiday.

January 11 ~ On Christmas day, I gave all my cats a treat of catnip. This very cold weather has made them all stir crazy--they need to go out, but don't want to. While catnip definitely would entertain them, it also has the opposite affect on cats as it does on humans. It makes us calm and sleepy. For cats, notice that way before they finally fall asleep, catnip makes them sort of nasty and they fight with each other. A better choice is Valerian root. They love it more than catnip and it almost instantly calms them down for a long winter's nap. No more racing through the house!

January 14 ~ Cleaning and found a nice big jar of tinctured Spilanthes--used in place of Echinacea. I like it better. Here it is a lovely annual--very unusual/short and easy to grow. Since I found it--and very little else of current use, I figure I SHOULD use it as a second round of cold/flu will start with the weather changing from really cold to above normal temps. I'll add it in to my daily tonic as I pour the tea.

January 16 ~ Going over the seed catalogues for the second time. I was not very adventurous this year in terms of trying many new things. Also noticed the catalogues noted a lot of crop failures due to last years cold/wet weather. But I am trying the Romanesca(sp?) Broccoli and as always--if there is a newly offered heirloom lettuce (especially reds or speckled)--I will get it! I spend more money on lettuce seed than anything else--but we eat LOTS of lettuce. I am going to buy locally on pepper/eggplant and some annuals and some tomatoes. While I prefer to do it all myself, failures are frequent because even in the best summer, my microclimate is cooler than most and my schedule does not allow me to baby my greenhouse grown plants as much as I'd like. I notice I sometimes grow twice as many plants from seed to get the same amount of produce from many fewer plants I might buy since they are really big when I put them out. HOWEVER--I am going to go whole hog this year experimenting with floating row covers on most all warm weather and flea beetle prone crops to see if I can remedy those situations. Last season, I had good luck with the few things I used the covers on. The end result is going to be a more sparse seed order, not too much crop experimentation. I will have to spend money on seed potatoes because the blight allowed us to get a crop, but we are being advised not to use the old potatoes to replant--and on tomato seed as I got barely any last  year-certainly not enough to save seed from. I also notice I gather about 8 beautiful seed catalogues to go through, but ALWAYS end up ordering from the same 2. It always comes down to prices and varieties that I like. So I did a lot od consolidating and weeding out and I will put the 2 catalogues that made the second cut away--for another 2 weeks--when I will go over it one more time and then send in the order.

January 17 ~ I have been getting lots of compliments on the Winter Tea I made/gave for holiday gifts. I have really been enjoying it as well. Many of the people I gave it to were not herb freaks, so I used a black tea base and added some tonic and spicy herbs as a way of luring them in without them turning their noses up at an "herbal" tea. Semantics are everything, with facts/ reality taking a back seat, sometimes.

**I am getting a new computer system installed and so will be preoccupied with getting used to everything for the next several days. I will write again next week!

January 23 ~ Nothing like being overwhelmed by technology to make you appreciate the plant world all the more! After computer nonsense, I finally had to sit down and just read herb magazines for a few days to get my bearings back. Gardeners often talk about being out in the dirt to put things in perspective and deal with stress--but in the cold of winter, a good perusal of herb books/magazines works just fine--along with HUGE pots of tea!

January 24 ~ This coming week is to be devoted to "transition". I have to get ALL the holiday greens out of the house (according to traditional taboos regarding the keeping of greens for too long), finish my seed orders and begin making SPRING tonics. While the calendar says spring doesn't officially begin until March 21, (* Feb. 2-also known as IMBOLC- is considerd the first day of the farming season in Britain--and of course, Feb 2 is Groundhog Day--which is just a fun reminder of the natural world letting us know what's going on) the natural world and our bodies begin to feel the tugs of seasonal change several weeks before that. I will be ready!

January 25 ~ I now have a huge bag of really dry cedar and a smaller one of dried holly leaves/berries. Some of the cedar will be saved for future potpourris, but for now, I'm also throwing it in the woodstove--it smells wonderful inside...and out. Some is also thrown into the kettle on the woodstove top, so the antibacterials in the cedar will permeate the air. The holly and berries could be mildly toxic if inhaled as smoke, so those will be saved just for texture/color in next winter's decorative mixes.

January 26 ~ Afternoon tea is wonderful whether you are alone or have some company. My four year old grandson has decided to join me for my afternoon respite and while I may have more refined foods with my tea, he prefers Cheez-Its--but he ate them with Pomegranate tea.

January 29 ~ Spending this weekend finalizing seed orders. This is one of my "every third year" orders--which means it is huge and overwhelming. After last year's gardening disappointments, I ended up playing it really safe and not trying many new varieties or buying a lot of any one thing. Instead, I bought a lot of different old tried and true varieties while I try to settle into the new normal weather patterns. So...........LOTS of different types of lettuces/greens and tomato varieties for really short summers. Except for lettuce--which I tend to plant nearly all of--in spite of the fact that I order tons of it, most seed packets have way too many seeds to use in one year--or even 2, so 1  order this year will tide me over a few years. Next year, I can spend a lot less and feel freer to try a few new things.

I am going to try 2 heirloom corn varieties that are said to be indiginous to NY and the northeast--while skeptical, I am in the mood to experiment. The rest of my order is in the floating row covers to help with my hot weather loving plants--and those the flea beetles love--and my handy Biodynamic Garden Calendar. If crops go well, I will also start the cycle of saving seeds, since this year--all of my garden will be planted with heirlooms that can be grown true from seed.

To save money (LOTS), I went through my favorite seed catalogues and then cross referenced the things I wanted to what FEDCO seeds had available--their prices are half or less of other companies while maintaining a GMO free policy and organic offerings--and  selling varieties hardy to the NE.

January 31 ~ Time for a bonfire, a full moon and VERY cold---it is said that by this time of winter, you should have 1/2 your stored foods and wood left, to get you through the rest of winter and spring fever! The same should be true of your herbs and remedies. If you are running very low on any of these, plan better next year and really take note of the illnesses that have been prominent in your household, so you can have enough herbs  for each person's needs next year. 




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