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Herbalist's Journal > FEBRUARY 2010



                      "Fogs in February mean frosts in May"----Old Farmer's Almanac


     February is short and sweet and a nice transitional month that can be very cold and also offers a period of thaw and warmth. It is a confusing month for our bodies and minds, but it is a great time to spend more time really THINKING about what you want to do the rest of the year rather than actually being physically active--plenty of time for that in  a month or so!  Enjoy the comfort that our last dark month can provide.


February 1 ~ Out with the old--in with the new. it is cold/snowy outside, but the light is different and glimmerings of warmth are stirring. This month really starts the agricultural year--seed orders off, plans for getting plants started or maybe even "forcing " some pussy willows/forsythia branches.

Tonight begins Imbolc or Candlemas. This date has become Groundhog day in America--if he sees his shadow, winter will remain another 6 weeks.....An old Candlemas saying goes..... "If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter will have another flight. But if Candlemas day be clouds and rain, Winter will be gone and not come again." Note the discrepancies between this saying and the one at the top of this page. Candlemas is a European holy day and their weather is different. Once their weather turns to warmth, it rarely gets really cold again like it can in many parts of the US.  Eat some dairy and add herbs to your meals today to get the blood moving! Mints, cayennes, ginger, thyme are some good choices.

February 2 ~ Groundhog saw his shadow so 6 more weeks of winter. I am  glad to think of more winter, lazy time and long winter naps.

When I am under undue stress, I always develope a nervous twitch in my left eye--have ever since I was 11 or so. It appeared again a month ago and I ignored it for awhile, but then decided I HAD to take care of myself. Nervous conditions always call for herbs/foods with lots of B vitamins & calcium. I started taking nettles, wood betony, vervain, catnip and skullcap in teas and took a B complex every other day. After a week, I noticed it less and as of today, the twitch is gone--and apparantly, my family thinks I am nicer, too!

February 4 ~ It is still cold--but it is sunny and it makes me want to clean and organize. Keeping my herb cupboard straight is an ongoing task. EVERY time I get in there, it is to hurridly make a formula for someone, and things never get put back in alphabetical order, so... it is always a mess. However, old herbs always make their way to the front of the cabinets eventually and when they do, I take a good look/smell and if they seem OK, I will make up a tonic for myself. While I would not give it to others, the herbs are usually fine ( I keep them in a cold/dark/dry place)--but for other people, I always make sure the plants  are fresh and less than a year old. This morning, I threw together several small half empty bags of herbs for various purposes into a nice calming, liver and respiratory cleanser for myself and husband. Waste not, want not!

February 7 ~ Made some Snow Ice Cream--with Lavender! I've done this at least once every year since I was a child--tightly packed snow, pour a bit of whole milk or cream onto it with a bit of maple syrup. I added the lavender to the milk and let it set an hour before making the "ice cream".

February 9 ~ Seeds are already arriving! I am in the middle of a decision to have my handyman build me a much larger place to start seeds indoors. My current method is barely functional and in the way of the  family and not efficient, leaving me with leggy plants before they can be moved out to my flimsy, cheap greenhouses. Then, planting out leggy  stock leads to more transplant shock/slower growth/smaller production.... it would be worth the investment in big tables and grow lights to get healthier/earlier producing plants.

February 11 ~ Took a snow walk--it has been awhile since getting out to the garden to see what's going on. Lack of snow cover this winter is making me worry about my sages/thymes and garlic, but there were signs of some greens and root veggies that have wintered over (parsnips by plan and carrots by accident).

February 12 ~ Valentine's Day weekend--chocolate and good food! SPICE things up!!! Remember that men experience pumpkin, cinnamon and vanilla as arrousing. Ice cream with cayenne infused chocolate sauce---yum!

February 15 ~ Spring cleaning is on my mind. With all the garden work I do, I HAVE to get this all done before it is time to plant. I won't start actually doing any cleaning until March 1, but today am doing an inventory of all my natural cleaning products (homemade and store bought) to make sure I have what I need. I need cleansers, wood polish, window cleaner, rug "sweetener", and incense to burn in each room as I finish cleaning it. Every 3-4 years I have the time/energy to really take down/move everything and scrub it all--this will not be one of those years!! I have 12 rooms and 4 big closets, so realistically, it will take over 2 weeks to get it all done.  I look at this task as a practical matter as well as a spiritual ritual--which makes it a lot less tedious.

February 17 ~ Very snowy and it is vacation week, so I am getting caught up on all the herb/cooking magazines that have piled up and am getting to read the books I've been buying all winter. While I LOVE the winter, reading all this stuff just makes me want to get out in the dirt--I am even having dreams about the design of this year's veggie garden.

February 18 ~ Winter aches/pains are setting in, so I dug out my various salves for nerve aches (St. John's Wort) and muscle tiredness (wintergreen formula made by an apprentice tha tis cold & hot!)--and drinking much more tea. I need to keep moving to really feel better all the time--another reason to be anxious for the warmth of spring.

February 19 ~ Read a nice article in a magazine about forgoing gloves in the garden. I know most people always wear them but I never have--though I've tried several times so my hands wouldn't look so completely dirty in public. I need to FEEL the plants as I'm planting or harvesting--and i know it sounds weird, but i can tell, by touch, the difference between a weed to be pulled and a plant i want to keep--which has given me the reputation of being the fasted weeder anywhere around. Going glove free gives you  flexibility, agility, precision and therefore, swiftness. I prefer it in spite of the occasional cut or pricker--and my grandmother always said "If your hands aren't dirty, you haven't lived".

February 21 ~ Everything is related! While doing some research for this web page, i came upon a reference that has been puzzling members od my local historical society for ages--why was our town's hamlet referred to as "Toad Hollow", years ago? Turns out it is an herbal term--and that many old towns contain their own Toad Hollow. It is a reference to the ancient plant Equisetum=Horsetail--which used to be called toad pipes--or --toad hollows as they are hollow stemmed and grow in mucky/damp areas where toads like to live. For years I have been harvesting this plant from beautiful stands in that area--never realizing that others, long ago, noticed them and appreciated them enough to name their hamlet after them. But---even more strange---is that I have been investigating the use of Horsetail for my own and my husbands particular health needs--which confirms once again what I tell students---"what you need is often in your own back yard".

February 24 ~ I can feel all the physical changes that Spring brings--getting anxious, tired.....it is my day to do errands and I am reminded that EVERY year at this time--almost to the week, I end up buying a plant at the grocery store because I just need the green energy. Usually, those plants don't survive if I give in and buy the one with blooms and I always try to be reasonable and get a real houseplant or an African Violet--which always do well for me because they are in south facing windows and --more imortantly--we have cluster flies and those wild ladybugs that eventually die on the window sills--many of them simply falling into the plant pots and apparently, making a great fertilizer. Buying plants is one way of coping with spring fever! (*Note 2/25/10--I ended up getting two varieties of ivy--nice and green, but can survive my lack of indoor green thumb skills)

February 26 ~ We have a fresh 18 inches of snow and school was cancelled today, but this is a perfect day to tap trees. It is Maple Syrup time--cold nights and days above freezing. The Maple is a sacred plant to the Native Americans of this region and it is widespread in New England. I usually tap every few years--getting just enough sap to make a few quarts of syrup for family use. It is sort of labor intensive to make such small batches, but it is fun and amazing to get something so good from a clear, tasteless sap. I drug out my sap buckets/spigots, washed them and used a hand drill to make the holes on the sunniest side of the trees (after wading out through the snow). Now I will wait for the buckets to fill with sap, and then boil it down on my woodstove. Next week--pancakes and fresh syrup!

February 27 ~ Today is ME day! Family is gone for several hours, so I'm going to get myself ready for Spring. I recommend starting spring tonics 2-3 weeks prior to the actual date of March 20--but there are other things to do to prep as well. This just happens to also be the "Fast of Esther"--a Jewish tradition for the spring holiday of Purim which begins tonight. So a short fast, a good detoxing soak in the tub with Epsom salts, a complete herbal facial (exfoliation, steam, mask, toner, oil moisturizer), lots of warm lemon balm  tea and getting some household tasks caught up. Consider doing something similar at every seasonal change.

February 28 ~ Full moon and Purim ( a Jewish spring holiday). The snow makes this a perfect night to take a walk in the moonlight -



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