JULY 1 ~ Because of all the construction, most of my gardens are neglected, but still look OK for now because everything is blooming. In the meantime, I am reveling in the forgotten and unexpected--things that can only be appreciated in an unkempt lawn and garden. I picked a small bowl of wild strawberries from a patch of unmown lawn, found poppies growing in a strange spot, am gathering some spicy greens I planted, but have lost the seed packet for. It is the little things that keep upheavels from being too disruptive.
JULY 4 ~ Because of the rain and cool nights, my bleeding hearts and other shade plants are still blooming, making a porch picnic a pleasure this year. I made some lavender lemonade and cracked open the last of the pickles I put up 2 years ago.
Thomas Jefferson was a hemp grower-- as were many farmers years ago--for the purpose of making rope, cloth and even currency. This is not the same strength as "pot" and SHOULD still be a viable crop for farmers all over the country.
July 5 ~ They're Baaacckkk!!! Japenese Beetles have attacked my roses about 3 weeks earlier than ususal. I spend a good 20 mins per day picking them off into soapy water flled bucket--and letting that sit near the roses as a warning to other beetles. These were the bane of my grandpa's gardening. He grew grapes fro winemaking and spent hours trying to defeat them--which he did with the help of pesticides. That is not an option for me, so I pick away.. Do NOT get beetle traps--they attract MORE bugs than you would already have.
JULY 6 ~ My grocery bill was cut by 1/3 as all my salad greens are being harvested now. I plant multi-colored lettuces, carrots, chard, radishes and mix and match those with different herbs every day, so it doesn't get boring. But--berries are ripe now, so, they go into the salads too. Fruit salad has a different meaning for me--it means adding various fruits in season to greens and adding some nuts and cheese--which are also changed up frequently for variety.
JULY 7 ~ In spite of the Japanese beetles, the roses are gorgeous this year--and tasty. It sounds weird, but steeping some rose petals in milk for 1 hour (in the refrigerator) is refreshing, soothing and a real luxury. The same can be done with lavender flowers and rosemary or anise hyssop leaves, but rose is my favorite. This is "aromatherapy" at its best without the expense or dosing information.
Anybody who bemoans being bored with daily summer salads should experiment with various herbs, "weeds" and homemade salad dressings. No two need ever be the same!
July 8 ~ My greenhouse is about to be built. I am daunted now that it is becoming a reality and am trying to avoid the pitfalls that turn many greenhouses into abandoned eyesores that mock their owners every time they walk past. BUT--greenhouses are still an attempt to fool nature and so I want to keep things simple, but also make it useful for most of the year. So, I have a lot of reading/research to do--will read Eliot Coleman's book on growing in all seasons in the Northeast. In the meantime, I am rationing what I am planting in the garden and putting seeds aside to start in the greenhouse this Fall for winter eating.
JULY 9 ~ Serendipity? Sychronicity? Where my greenhouse is going, tons of an invasive plant called Japanese Knotweed ( a species of polygonium---and sometimes called American Bamboo) is being bulldozed under. I have always known that it, like many/most "weeds" has various uses. I have used it as an early spring asparagus substitute, it makes a great addition to bonfires as it loudly pops and sizzles, bees love the flowers.... mostly, I curse as I constantly pull it out of every cultivated bed I have and an increasing amount of the lawn........ but I've never made medicine from it. Today, in the mail, I got an herb journal with an article devoted to this plant, inspiring me to go save some roots to dry and tincture for future use in a variety of illnesses and also Lyme Disease. This is a tenacious plant, so no doubt it is a good healer. During construction, our contractor dug down about 8-10 feet and from that pit, shoots are popping up all over.--
JULY 10 ~ It is that time of year when you can pick a fresh mixed bouquet of flowering wild weeds---for free--as beautiful as any from a florist. Today, I gathered only flowers I did not plant--milkweed (the aroma of which is spectaculor), chicory, St. John's Wort, Queen Anne's Lace, Campion, Soapwort and Mallow. .....Tomorrow, who knows what else awaits?
JULY 11 ~ Picking raspberries this morning. It is frought with bugs, scratched arms/legs....and one of the most relaxing things I do. I eat as I pick--trying to restrain myself so I have enough for my morning cereal and afternoon fruit cup and for a few medicinal syrups and liqueurs. If I'm lucky..ie.--if the weather is right, there will be enough to freeze. My grandmother taught me that berry picking is not a straightforward endeavor--rather, you had to take into account the light/shadow and pick up a row and then turn around and pick coming back the other way. Light and leaves hide some of the juiciest treats. Having someone else follow along behind and pick is one way to answer this problem--or--as I found out this summer--having two little four year old eyes following behind helps to spot all those hidden treats!
JULY 12 ~ Perfect day for harvesting---I gathered armloads of gallium, chickweed (very prolific this year, but also abundunt because, due to the construction here, I can not mow certain areas, so the chickweed has flourished), hyssop, mints. Some went to be tinctured, but most is being dried in my shed.
JULY 13 ~ The shade in my front yard provides me with several plants for deep immune tonification and/or to aid with fairly severe problems. Often shade/woodland plants contain constituents that work deeply. Today, my Heal All is ready for harvest. It is short and so is dried in baskets or tinctured. I have a fair amount of tincture, but am making an effort this year--at least for myself/family, to rely primarily on teas for healing. No special reason other than it is good to get back to basics occasionally. I also dug a small bit of American ginger for a tea to keep me cool in this heat/humidity.
JULY 15 ~ Eating from the garden is one of the most freeing experiences!! Do not make the mistake of waiting for veggies to mature before harvesting them. I over plant EVERYTHING for several reasons--to outwit pests, to be able to harvest leaves without causing too much damage and to be able to eat freely all summer and still have plenty to store for winter. Aside from that, lots of people do not like turnips or beets--because they feel the taste is too strong. Picking them small/immature allows you to avoid peeling (especially beets), eat them raw and or enjoy a much milder/sweeter flavor.
JULY 16 ~ Eating first tomatoes along with basil and slivers of manchego cheese (raw sheep milk cheese).
The thyme is in full bloom--the bees are wild!! This calls for a fritatta!!
July 17 ~ This will be my last hand weeding. The plants are now big enough to shade out new weedlings and places where I am putting in my second/third plantings are already well tilled to avoid any of the deep, tenacious weeds. While it is a lot of work, it replaces, what I feel is "artificial" exercise--where you feel great, but nothing gets aaccomplished--my grandparents would call that a "waste of precious time".
July 18 ~ It is my intention to dry a lot of herbs this year, but this week is very rainy--and even if it dries off in the afternoon, it is muggy--things will not dry properly in this weather---but I can make tinctures with these plants. Not want I want to do, but I also do not want to waste them--the weather is not cooperating with their harvest, but conditions have made this a bumper crop year for a lot of weeds/cultivated herbs
July 19 ~ The Dragonflies were having their annual meeting in my field. One a year, hundreds converge and fly around for hours. Afterward, things return to normal, with my usual 5-10 dragons.
It continues to be hot/humid. To get kids introduced to herbal teas, try soaking a piece of watermelon/cantaloup/pineapple/apple or banana in an herb tea (or black tea for adults), inserting a popsicle stick and freezing them.
JULY 21 ~ The Circadas (katy dids) are out with their songs--which is the childhood memory of real summertime is for me. It makes me want a cool pitcher of iced tea like my grandmother fixed every day (she was too no nonsense to fix lemonade!). They keep me company as I continue to pick berries early in the morning, and rest on the porch after a day of gardening in the evening.
My grandson told me he wants to learn about the plants each day we are outside. His garden is growing beautifully too--much better than ours!!
JULY 22 ~ We have had the same contractors for years for various jobs, so the workers are used to me running out and pointing out certain plants/weeds that they can't step on or drive over---so today, it was with great appreciation that the foreman of this current construction--without my prompting, saved a plant. The cement truck was driving up the bank, trying to angle into a tight space near one of my gardens. I went out to find the worker hugging a huge hollyhock out of the way of the truck. It was adorable.
Talked to my aunt in Albuquerque who can't grow dill and who has cats that have never experienced the joys of valerian. I went out to harvest dry some dill ---I know what she will be getting for the holidays this year.
JULY 23 ~ More rain---this is the peak ofthe herb harvest season--lesson learned: never let a sunny day go to waste. Once a plant is past its best, it is too late and a few days rain can make all the difference. I salvaged this day by processing unused oils into salves. I am really glad I bought the dehydrator, because most plants would have a very hard time drying in my herb shed this humid, rainy summer.
JULY 24 ~ The rain has kept me from mowing for 3 weeks. In that time, "weeds" have gotten really tall and some, like milkweed, are starting to bloom. so, today, when I mowed, I decided to leave little islands of chicory, milkweed, mallow, queen Ann's Lace all over the yard. Earlier in the season, this would not be practical or appreciated--it would have looked like a really sloppy mowed lawn--but now, in full bloom--it looks like they were planted there on purpose. I do admit it was REALLY hot/humid and I wanted to get the mowingover with--so any shortcut was worth it--but, often times, even laziness has some rewards--and this was one. Aside form their beautiful flowers and scents, from a human perspective, milkweed is the only food source for monarch butterflies who are currently here laying eggs--so the fauna is appreciating my laziness as well. The chicory will finish blooming and then I can dig/dry the root for a coffee substitute/additive, make jelly with the Queen Ann's Lace flowers and salves with the mallow root.
JULY 26 ~ Last of the raspberries are coming ripe, last of the peas harvested and the last garlic scapes were cut--this is the beginning of the short lull before all the produce in the garden comes to harvest. I am getting a straggling of squash and tomatoes, but most things are just a week or so away from exploding and overwhelming me. Herbs are behaving similarly....I cut back the tansy and yarrow in hopes of a second harvest next month and many things like chickweed are simply done--but the chicory, balm, ground ivy, mallow are everywhere and the plenty more "weeds" are coming ripe in the next few weeks. Early August will be BUSY.