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Herbalist's Journal > AUGUST 2010




August 1 ~  This is  down to the wire month in the herb gardens. Just about everything green or flowering will be harvested now or never, new beds for next year (or in my case, bed renovovation/reclaimation) should be initially plowed up now, veggie harvest is in full swing-drying, canning, freezing is everyday/sometimes...all day.......But for today, I am enjoying the new types of cukes I planted, using my various squash in lots of different ways, gathering my daily batch of calendula flowers to dry, and cutting the abundant phlox for arrangements. a few weeks ago, my grocery bill decreased significantly. Now, it is even less than that. I noticed my sunflowers are starting to open, and my broom corn--the show stopper of my garden, is tassling. And for dinner......probably some stuffed squash/pumpkin blossoms (male only---the femles have to be left to bear fruit)

August 7 ~ What a week! Gardening is a major priority, for sure--but--my greenhouse was being put up and I was very preoccupied with playing around with it. Lots still  needs to be done, but I have put a thermometer in and keep moving it around and looking for shadow/heat differences. It is soon when I will have to start some plants for fall/winter, so I needtoget my info together and set firmly in my head.

The garden is doing well and at its peak. Beans/cukes/beets/greens/squash--and the corn is coming. Cultivated herbs are so so this year, but the wild ones are fantastic and the red raspberries were the best they have been in my 29 years here.

The summer has totally gotten away from me because of all that is going on--lots of changes, so it seems a good time to play and experiment without worrying about failures/bad batches... So far, I've done a lot with flavoring everything with herbal syrups, vinegars--sweet and savory things--mixing up the various basic tastes. So far, so good---except for Rosemary ice cream---too woodsy

Did I mention...since the contractors are turning up so many stones and flat rocks---and since they have temporarily flattened out and de-grassed a sizeable area of lawn---I'm thinking of having them put the flat stones back to form a labyrinth--one that can be easily maintained by mowing over.  I generally hate change, but I seem to be making the most of it this summer. Made easier by almost daily doses of Rescue Remedy!

August 9 ~ My violas are on the way out, but before they go (they will renew somewhat when it cools down again--and may even overwinter--and I intend to take a pot of them into the greenhouse to see how they do)---I am sugaring them to preserve them for winter cakes/cupcakes/ice cubes/to sprinkle on ice cream or puddings.

August 10 ~ Laziness has taught me another lesson. Several weeks ago, while bringing in some thyme, lavender and calendula to dry, I tossed a few that fell on the floor into an antique collander on my kitchen counter---which is where I put fresh fruit. For one reason or other, the apples I put in the collander did not get eaten as quickly as usual--and all of them started to rot with the hot weather----all except the ones on the very bottom that were laying directly on the herbs. All three of these herbs are antibacterial--which is easy to tell someone, but to see it in action, in an every day application  is always a good reminder that herbs have always made our lives safer/more pleasant.....and that often, it was practical uses that led humans to think maybe certain plants could also be used for medicines.

August 12 ~ So far, my growing year has been good---but it did not get off to a good start--so here I am with great plants--but not enough of them. 1/3--1/2 of some things simply rotted in the ground or did not germinate due to early rains. Usually, I overplant and live to regret that too! Dealing with Mother Nature is too often similar to dealing with my willful 4 year old grandson. As I say every year about some aspect of gardening--"There is always NEXT year!"

August 14 ~ Went to our county fair and was very pleased with a resurgance in growing/exhibiting for adults and kids--and displays that tout local foods and the home arts. The slice of peach/rhubarb pie, alone, was worth the trip. However, the weather's impact on this growing year was also evident as many crops were either not ready for harvest or already past. My string beans were always ready for harvest a few days before the fair as my kids spent hours back in their 4-H days going over bags of beans to pick out the 10 most perfect ones to display--they always got first place ribbon. This year, they are just now coming in.

August 16 ~ I bought the soil mix for my new greenhouse growing boxes and really should be planting this week--but it is not ready this week--and probably won't be until late next week--so i have to go closely through my seed packets looking for all the greens/etc. that have the shortest maturity dates. This morning, I am already hearing geese flying over, seeing some leaves start to change/fall--and the light is different. So, while it still FEELS like summer, the plants are gearing up for Fall way before we are --at least we are conscious of.

August 17 ~ Today will be an all day weeding/harvesting extravaganza. This is the first day in a long time it has not been wet or too humid to pick/dry herbs. It will take me quite a while to just pick calendula flowers---which will mostly go into oil to make future salves. Then there are tons of oregano, thyme and dill--which are in great demand as gifts.

August 18 ~ I think we ARE getting somewhere! Yesterday, in the popular political blog-Huffington Post-there was an article about PURSLANE. This is not a sexy herb like Rosemary and Thyme--this is an invasive garden weed, which as it turns out, has been studied for its healing effects on the heart/circulatory system and reduction  of cholesterol. I have gathered it for years and tincture it or dehydrate  it (it is too juicy a plant to dry naturally in my climate). Strangely, it always seems to follow my plantings of tomatoes--another heart healthy plant. This time of year, I also eat it fresh on salads or steam it with other veggies. One thing the  blog mentioned that I did not know about purslane--is that it was Ghandi's favorite food and that Thoreau dined on it while at Walden's Pond.

August 19 ~ A few years back, I made an herb gathering apron---based on a basic farm apron, but with multiple, large pockets. My grandmother had one for gathering different types of produce ---and I also use mine that way--picking bitters, sweet, sour greens and veggies--a good mix of those to aid digestion/nutrient levels. But today, instead of toting around a lot of baskets, I had six large pockets to harvest into--then I walk  to my herb prep area and separate them all into piles for tincturing/oils/drying/eating fresh for lunch/dinner. While I used to sew a lot, this was the first sewing project I tackled in years and it took some tinkering with the basic pattern, but it is one of the most useful tasks I've done in  a long time. This makes a great 4-H activity, or a sewing circle project.

August 21 ~ Gardening all day/every day, probably for the next month.  Pulled garlic--way too late--but that is another story. It was not so good this year, partly my fault (leaving the scapes on a bit too long) and partly mother nature's (too much rain at the wrong time) The cloves that look a little iffy are eaten first and frequently because I  know they won't keep well---but that works out well because this is the time of year we need to begin building up immunity for the coming cold/bronchitis season.

August 23 ~ Have not been mowing frequently, but the rewards have been  a bumber crop of heal all and chickweed--more than I have ever had. There are specific illnesses each are good for, but they are also mild enough to add to many formulas, enhancing healing properties

August 26 ~ CORN--mine was planted late and is now just coming in. I have learned over the years, what a mess corn shucking can be, so I now always take a bag into the garden and shuck it on the spot.......except when I take 3 bags! I also gather the dark, dry silk for urinary formulas, and the husks for steaming Mexican food and for crafts. Corn does not need butter to be enjoyed, by the way (though there is nothing wrong with butter, the amounts of corn we eat would require way too much butter ). All you need is a great herbal salt, or rolling the cob around in a nice low fat dressing, or salsa. Good corn speaks for itself.

August 28 ~ One of the leisures of the late summer garden is the freedom to pick/eat as many squash/pumpkin blossoms as you want. Earlier, I am concerned with not depleting the harvest, but now, any fruit that will amount to anything has already set. I love the flowers raw in salads and stuffed with cream cheese and herbs or deep fried ( a once a summer luxury). They are packed full of carotene and minerals.

August 29 ~ It is time to make some BASIL decisions--leave some to grow, harvest a lot for pesto to freeze and choose some of the healthiest specimens to be brought into the greenhouse. Those will have to be potted and gradually introduced to the warmer climate. The greenhouse is still not finished--but by weeks end, I should be able to start laying out my raised growing bed and start lettuce/greens/beets/carrots. Also have to choose a few tomotoes and pepper plants to dig and bring in. I do not want to attempt trying those from seed for winter production until i get a handle on the particulars and rhythms of greenhouse growing, but I hope if I bring in a few indeterminant tomatoes, they just might keep going until January. The peppers have just sort of been sitting there most of the summer and have few fruits--lots of blossoms--but it is really late in the season to expect much--so maybe they too will enjoy the indoor location. This will definitely be a steep learning curve for me. Sometimes, what you don't know allows you to experiment and have some unexpected successes---sometimes, failures---so this first year will be full of surprises--good and bad.

August 30 ~  The elderberries are ready for harvest--I know it and the birds do too. I put netting over them the other day to make sure I got to them first. I planted a few new trees 2 years ago, so my berry harvest is still small. if I had a lot of berries, I would freeze a bunch, dry a bunch, make some jelly and syrup. For now, I am playing it safe and being practical--so all of the elderberries will be going to making cold/cough syrup. That is an easy enough process. Syrup doesn't keep long enough on its own, so I stick mine in the freezer. It never freezes hard, so when needed, I just scoop out a spoonful.


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