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Herbalist's Journal > JUNE 2010




   " In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them."   ~ Aldo Leopold


June 1 ~ The last day of may was the big planting day--of all the tender crops. My husband and grandson spend 2 hours putting in heirloom corn/melons/pumpkins...and christening the new scarecrow, "Mr. Corn Corn".                                        

May is a pretty month, but way too hectic in terms of getting gardening tasks done, to really enjoy. June marks the  beginning of the "kicking back" and relishing the hard work of spring--to enjoy outdoor meals, fully blooming gardens and...STRAWBERRIES. Mine are a wee bit early this year. I will enjoy them with some lavender sugar.

June 2 ~ So many herbs to harvest--coming all at once it seems. It was so dry for a few weeks and now a day's rain/storms have made the medicinal weeds explode...... Comfrey, poppies, valerian....... Have to make my trek to the local liquor store for several gallons of brandy and vodka for fresh tincture making-----always a bit awkward since my husband is a local addictions counselor!!

June 3 ~ So many new, interesting herb/plant books with odd themes--like "Wicked Plants" by Amy Stewart--about the downside of many plants. Definitely the wrong time of year to sit and read, but there is no winter long enough to go through my stockpile of reading material--so while summer is busy, there is something to be said for kicking back regularly--especially after a hard day in the garden. It is satisfying to work with plants and read about them in the same season. I often find myself sitting down to read a herb book or magazine and then jumping up to head back out to the garden to act on an inspiration.

June 4 ~ Fuschia ballerinas, pansy monkey faces, grass whistles........a four year old's paradise. Planting a garden of his own was Eli's idea, but the plant games and play are what is making the biggest impression at his age. We also planted lots of sunflowers and broom corn (which can get 12 feet tall)-that once full grown, will leave the feeling of absolute awe.

June 5 ~ I am still trying to figure out the changing weather patterns--so are the plants. I was smart to plant some late blooming lilacs last year because the ones that have ALWAYS bloomed in mid/late May, have gotten totally or partially bitten by abnormal frosts. I took a chance and went ahead and planted my really tender Basil plants and a large tomato that I bought to have an earlier crop than ususal--and have been rewarded with no frost, lots of fresh basil and tomatoes coming on already--things I normally would have ot wait another month or so for. Still it is all precarious, new and not the comfort of knowing what to expect.

June 7 ~ Construction on an addition, greenhouse and porch have begun, so my nice quiet summer is over before it began--I need to concentrate on the end result 2 months from now. In the meantime, I have to make a new path to the gardens. I have tons of parsley, fennel, chives (which had to be cut back today-so I separated the hard blossom stems from the tender, edible ones and chopped/ froze them--along with the flowers)--too much to eat and freeze on a daily basis--so I made pesto. Basil pesto is best, but any culinary herb/mixture makes a great one as well.

June 8 ~  My scented garden is in full swing--so early...but much welcomed. Various dianthus, scented geraniums, old fashoined roses and petunias, peonies.....PEONIES!!!! Huge and beautiful when in bloom; old,floppy eyesores when they are done...but so worth it. I learned a great tip on Martha Stewart show---you can cut tight buds of peonies on the stem, wrap them in paper and put them in the fridge for up to 6 months!!!! When set out in water, they will open. So months from now, when it is getting cold and dreary, I can pull out a few and put them on the table for a taste of summer. The problem, of course, is who wants to cut off all their peony blooms?? The answer, of course, is to plant more peopnies!! I addressed this problem years ago when I began making floral waters as perfumes and needed a good number of blossoms--so i split my 3 peonies into over 20. I had to be a bit patient and wait 2-3 years for the new ones to bloom, but I have had plenty ever since--well, what is plenty? Always room for more.

June 10 ~ Contractors all over my property, trying to create new spaces.....but constantly on the verge of destroying various plants. It has been a full time endeavor for me to keep them from walking through, dragging equipment into even well established gardens. So much for my plans of redoing gardens this year--I am just able to protect the ones I have! After they leave each evening, though, I run to the scented beds and take a deep breath...and I calm down!

June 12 ~ Starting to make a lot of simple syrups to have on hand for various summer treats--lemon balm, lavender, anise hyssop, basil, rosemary, rose petal......all these are steeped in a mix of equal amounts of water/sugar that has been boiled.  I lable them all and store them in the refrigerator for future use in making seltzer sodas, ice cream, breads, mixed drinks, icings......As wih many herbal preparations, you have to think ahead and work with plants as they present their bounties to you and then reap the real rewards later--sometimes, much later in the season or year.

June 13 ~ More rain, so an indoor day of cataloging articles /recipes from magazines. I still have seedlings to set out--but the ground has not been fit to work for almost a week. It is almost as bad to plant out when the soil is too wet, as too dry!

June 14 ~ The gardens are in full swing a full 2 weeks early. It is very confusing as I am used to (over the last 30 years) planning tasks/chores and class dates around when certain things are in season. This is no longer possible. Beer making used to be in July--now it needs to be 2-3 weeks earlier as the yarrow and nettles are harvestable NOW. I used to have my Herbal Serendipity class in late July when the hollyhocks were in full bloom so th eclass could make holly dolls and lavender wands---both of which will be past their prime by then this year. August was always still interesting in th egardens, but it looks as though it may be pretty drab----but, weather has also made it impossible to plant sweet peas oe zinnias on time--so maybe I will have a late harvest of those and the late planting will work in my favor. Still, this is all quite precarious.

Deer are taking advantage of my elderly dog--who they must realize does not always hear or see them as they nibble their way through the vegetables.  As luck would have it, I now have a 4 year old grandson who loves to pee outside--so I put him to good use by having him do so around the perimeter of the garden, thus repelling the deer and making him feel useful.

June 15 ~ The strawberries are ripe!! Aside from all the regular, yummy ways to eat them, just mashing them in water as a refreshing drink--is simple and satisfying.

So much plantain this year and I bet, next year will bring even more. Plantain prefers compacted soil, so will spring up on well worn paths--making it an accessable plant that likes being a helper to us humans. With all of the construction going on here, there will be new areas of soil compactions. I am drying a lot for teas/compresses.

June 16 ~ Planting out the last of the seedlings---I always plant closer than suggested to cut down on weeding and frankly, I need the space. I never notice a problem with productivity. Had to do some quick re-tilling since the rain has made lots of weeds come back into the veggie garden---so I chose this year's Mullein to save. They sprout up in the garden and eventually get so large, that they will shade out crop plants--so they have to go and are not transplanted well. But, they are one of my favorite plants, so just as the President pardons a Thanksgiving turkey each year, I choose one every year.  I planted some mammoth Dill next to it on one side and pole beans on the other. 

June 17 ~ VINEGAR--one of the finest herbal remedies is finally becoming "hip"!  I read about it everywhere--even in mainstream publications. I have had occasion to use it 4 ways in the last several days. I have a tenacious patch of knapweed--that once established, is almost impossible to remove without a great back, a pick ax and a large vocabulary of expletives. Pouring vinegar on it works though--just make sure no prized plants are right next to where you pour. Ant hills also are taken care of. I love ants and they do important work, but a huge hill appeared in my rose/strawberry raised/box bed. If they are invading the foundation of your house, this is a good remedy to try. Then, I ate too much ice cream (chocolate/peanutbutter!!) and nothing calms a queasy stomach like vinegar--just a teaspoon-tablespoon will do the trick for overeating or a  flu  bug. Now, I am writing about  Summer Drinks for this web site...and one of the most refreshing are one of the many varieties/flavors of SHRUBS--or old, traditional, vinegar based drinks used on hot days to fend off dehydration/sun stroke--and believe it or not, tastes really good. Did I say 4 ways?? Well, make it 5. Arthritis runs in my family and everybody gets a bit creaky here and there, or during certian types of weather, so I added a daily dose of raw apple cider vinegar to my routine, along with exercise, to help fend off those aches and stiffness.

June 18 ~ The peonies are beginning to dwindle--always so sad--but--just in time for Midsummer's Night (the Solstice Eve- June 20). Take the petals off all those poor peonies lying on the ground and make a faerie party place with a petal floor. Decorate with whatever other twigs/seed heads/leaves you have on hand--making them a proper place for their yearly feast. Also, the 16th century herbalist, Gerard, stated that the seeds of peonies can be strung or put in a pouch and worn to ward off evil spirits. So, peonies, in all their glory--will be gone, but not forgotten.


JUNE 20/21-Summer Solstice/Midsummer's Eve--the longest day! Another Solstice, another bonfire, fairy party, herb gathering and a picnic. Aside from the festivities, it is the official beginning of the summer season--carefree days and living outside as much as possible.  "Summer afternoon----summer afternoon.....to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." ~~~ Henry James

June 22 ~ It has been very hot and there is a lot of garden work to be done--the tedious, physical work of tilling/weeding.......We took lots of drinks out to refresh ourselves while we worked--water with mint sprigs, lemon water and when it got really hot, switchel (a vinegar/molasses based beverage to maintain electrolyte balance).

June 23 ~ Mosquitoes are back. I do not like to use DEET or citronella (even though that is plant based, most products have a heavy petroleum base that make my skin and lips swell)--so I use one of many mints ---such as lemon balm, peppermint, orange mint, rosemary, catnip....and wormwood--specifically, Sweet Annie. This herb, in particular, has been under extensive study for several years for its use as a quinine substitute (as quinine is less effective than it used to be and not safe for all people). You can either rub these plants on your skin at 1/2 hour intervals, or make a spray and apply hourly--or more frequently if sweating a lot. They all smell great to us--but mosquitoes and many stinging insects do not like them at all. They are all easy to grow in all parts of the country--and are completely safe for all ages.

June 24 ~ It is garlic scape time again--most don't even know they exist! The flower stalk of garlic is weirdly beautiful and FLAVORFUL!! garlic harvest is a few month away....so until then, cut the scapes and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Cut finely for salads, or add to soup stocks or saute.....they are milder than garlic.  The scapes have to be cut or else the garlic bulbs will develop poorly or remain small. If you have too many, freeze them or lay a few around garden plants that are prone to being eaten by bugs or deer/rabbits/gophers. Instead of making garlic spray, just lay the scapes on the ground next to your plants as a deterent.


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