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Herbalist's Journal > APRIL 2010



   April Showers Bring May Flowers!

April 1 ~ Everything is popping up today--sunny and hot. It looks as though most plants survived the winter, though sages/thymes and lavenders are slow to  green up and often look dead well into this month.

April 2 ~ As the spring flood waters have subsided and the ground dried after the thaw, I took my first walk down to the stream. The fiddle heads are just breaking ground--so I hope for several good meals the next few weeks.

It is amazing the psychological changes brought on by seasonal changes. Spring is expansive and just being outside on the first few perfect spring days washes away all of the winter slothishness and dreams. Now, I am called to DO something! My plants call me to improve their lot, they tease me with all the remedies they provide and remind me of how good they will taste added to salads and tonights matzah lasagne.

April 4 ~ Greenhouse--at some point--but not in time for this year's seedlings--so I will have to muddle through one more spring of leggy plants. By all accounts, I should be starting seeds now, but for my climate and facilities, a later start ends up giving me more hardy plants. Patience is not my strong suit, but it is one of the lessons I try to learn from plants-- as the Russian Proverb goes..."Every seed knows its time"

April 7 ~ Time to start clearing off the gardens of old stalks. I completed 3 today--with many more to go. While clearing, I am able to smell the the scents--even in the year old dead stalks, but the smell of the valerian root is quite a shock every spring. I have known people who fall asleep for hours after digging/harvesting the root. Also got a noseful of the bitter feverfew plants as I pulled off old foliage. After all that work, I treated myself to a spring harvest of parsnips and greens for supper.

April 8 ~ After days of warmth, we might get snow tomorrow! That is fine--it will give me a few days inside to figure out my seed starting schedule and to finish up what spring cleaning I will be able to get to.

April 9 ~ As it starts to heat up and get a bit humid,  I have started to pick small sprigs of mint, southernwood and feverfew to put in my kitchen cabinets to keep weevils/moths away. As the season goes on, and more herbs are available, I'll change the herbs every 6 weeks or so. Basically, any strong smelling herb can be used--but be sure the scent is something compatable with your sense of taste. I wouldn't put lavender in my flour cabinet, for instance.

April 10 ~ My grandson saw a recipe  for dog biscuits in one of his magazines and wanted to make some. The recipe was nutritionally unbalanced, so he allowed me to make a few additions. I added soy powder for more protein and a huge handful of dried Nettles to aid in general health. The house smelled wonderful and the dog loved them.

April 11 ~ All the animals are shedding off their winter coats and it is too early to have doors/windows open regularly--so the house smells.......like too many animals. Time for the vacuum cleaner. Since it is spring, I put a small cotton bag full of lemon and orange peels in my cleaner bag and sprinkled some old herbal body powder  (with a baking powder base) on the carpets to set for an hour. Sweet and fresh smells prevailed!

April 13 ~ Most people never have smelled a daffodil unless they have them growing in their own yards--and even then. If you never have, find a few and take a deep sniff. I spent the day working outside with a bunch of daffodil blooms stuffed in my shirt pocket--it is a perfect way to get over spring fever and forget teh backbreaking work that is early gardening. This is Aromatherapy at its simplest...and best.

April 15 ~ There seems to be more to do in the garden each year--some of which is changing climate, but much of it is self imposed--bright ideas for new projects, which are great until the work actually has to be done. I already scrapped the idea of redoing all my herb beds. Construction on the greenhouse, etc. will take most of my time during prime gardening months. But whatever I do, I know now, theo older I get, preparing myself before starting garden work is essential. There is a nice book called Gardener's Yoga, that may give you some good exercises to do before heading outside.  I need to do a lot of stretching or else, I'll be in pain the NEXT day. However, it is also important to eat foods that contain lots of Calcium/Magnesium, to fend off cramping and herbs that maintain flexability (which coincidentally also have lots of Calcium) like Horsetail, nettles, chickweed, mint, comfrey root. I drink a couple cups of this "Gardener's Tea"-every day in summer and I throw in a symbolic amount of fern fronds so I can benefit from their ability to remail strong while also being graceful.

April 16 ~ Clearing off planting beds is THE time to make decisions for this year's garden. Everything is manageable, you can see the contours of the mass of each plant grouping, things are easily dug in damp soil and it is much easier to eradicate or cut back a plant before you get lured by its bloom. This year, I decided to be fairly cut throat---very difficult for me, but---NEXT year, I will be happy.

April 17 ~ Cleaning out closets this rainy day--and laying daffodil, grape hyacinth and squill flowers on the shelves to get out the old winter smells.

April 18 ~ Attention; tending to... Everything needs tending to  this time of year--the yard needs to be picked up and spruced, gardens need clearing, tilling and planting, trees/bushes anbd roses need pruning and plans for thr gardening season need to be finalized. Spring is inspirational and getting outside is good for the soul--but while tending your flowers/herbs/vegetables--also tend your inner garden. For me, plants/gardens are my business, so this time of year causes a lot of stress-- I HAVE to make things look nice for visitors and students--by a certain date--no matter the weather restrictions, so I always panic and get out of sorts and others usually have to remind me to attend to things in a more balanced and sane way. Lemon Balm tea helps A LOT !!!!!!! Because I am more of a cerebral person, Betony also is one of my best allies  in dealing with stress headaches and overthinking to the point of brain freeze. I need lots of both for this  very busy next month or so.

April 20 ~ Busy week. Planted 75 new strawberries that fruit at different times and some new perennials--Black iris and some other "Black" plant--which is my "thing " this year....a bed of black plants. There are no truly black plants-rather they are deep blue or purple, but look black-- I like odd things, but also need ALL of the colors represented in my garden if i make formulas that would be improved with an addition of a symbolic color--and to do demonstrations of herbs/pants as they relate to the body's chakra system.

April 24 ~ NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO !!!!!!!!!! that is what all my neighbors heard as I screamed at the top of my lungs as my husband  and his tiller were headed straight for my 1 year old Rhubarb plant. He couldn't hear me over the tiller noise, so I found that I could still run pretty fast. Fortunately, he has learned a lot about plants over the years and he did see the plant and was just tilling near it--so all is well---for now.  I have had many a student tell me some of their worst marital spats occured over plant destruction (unintentional and on purpose).  So,I always do the first big mowing of the year--which was today--because I know where the mullein and holly hocks have popped up in the grass and am on the lookout for the yellowdock as well. By the next mowing, they are big enough for my husband to see and recognize.  The smell of fresh mown grass, by the way, is a wonder of aromatherapy. It makes you feel great. Studies have shown that until 20 years ago--everyone could identify the smell of fresh cut hay/grass--and now onlt 70 % can. What a horrible loss of a common joy.

April 26 ~ After glorious spring days, we are back into the cool/rainy spring weather. There is always something indoors to do with herbs, though. Yesterday, I found oils that have gone unused, so today is a perfect salve making day--and with a 4 year old running around, I go through salve rather quickly these days! 15 jars of calendula/chickweed/yarrow "Boo Boo Juice" coming up!!

April 27 ~ My daughter called to ask me to dig her up some herbs to grow in her apartment. I have to replace them every year almost because her plants grow great on her Washington DC balcony in summer, but they fail after being brought into a hot/dry apartment over winter. Her favorites for cooking are mints, chives, oregano and lemon balm (for ice creams and iced teas).

April 29 ~ While planting strawberries, I came across several ant hills in the middle of my beds. ants are good--and I do not like killing them and often, they do no actual damage to the plants, but left alone, the hills can get really big--and it is no fun weeding near ants either! I was reminded that sprinkling cayenned powder or hot pepper flakes on the ant hill makes the ants leave.  Cayenne, aside from being a tasty and healthy herb, is also a lifesaver in the garden--getting rid of all sorts of pests.

April 30 ~ Beltain tonight--bonfire and a blessing over livestock and the property for the coming growing season.



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