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Herbalist's Journal > OCTOBER 2010


October is MY month. It has my birthday, Halloween and a chance to experience nature at her best---crisp air, breezes, clouds with drizzle and bright warm sun, clear nights with a spectacular full moon, the constellation Orion becomes a major aspect of the night sky.....who could ask for more? Then there are the apples...cider....applesauce...apple butter...apple pies...apple crisps.....baked apples...hard cider...and apple cider vinegar...caramel apples.......and don't forget pumpkins......roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie, curried pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread........This month, we can still enjoy the outside, but not have to mow grass. It is all about final harvest, but not about garden maintenance. Revel in it and try to catch 12 falling leaves--1 for each month of good luck for the coming year!!


October 1 ~ Right now, the greenhouse is a hodge podge of hopes.  I brought in lots of stuff having no idea how it will fare--or really how to take care of it in that environment. All I know for sure is that at the rate it is growing, I will have salad fixings in a little over a month.

October 3 ~ Getting the barn tidied up for spring, and doing last minute harvesting of herbs----all to be used for food/seasonings and not for proper medicines.  This is the first full sunny day we have had since our solar installation was activated--so we spent bits of time watching the electric meter run backwards. The sun was also helping to get my compost heated up--after the  4 inches of rain we had this week.

October 4 ~ I am starting to dig potatoes and bringing the pumpkins up to decorate the porch. The weather is cool enough that they will keep until it is time to carve them for Halloween. Until then, there will be the occasional pie made from the smaller pie pumpkins and a soup or two. My favorite pumpkin soup has a lot of curry and cumin in it--along with black beans---DELICIOUS!


October 5 ~ An announcement from my local Garden Club ended with a quote that is appropriate for this time of year:  

 Fall is not the end of the gardening year; it is the start of next year's growing season. The mulch you lay down will protect your perennial plants during the winter and feed the soil as it decays, while the cleaned up flower bed will give you a huge head start on either planting seeds or setting out small plants.”                                                                                                    

                                                                                          --Thalassa Cruso (1909-1997),  was an authority
                                                                          on plants and was known as the “Julia Child of Horticulture”

Aside from the truth of this statement, these are the words of Thalassa Cruso, who, besides my grandparents, had the biggest impact  in my knowledge and fascination with plants. She had a show on PBS right before or after the Galloping Gourmet  and her approach to plants was similar to Julia Child's regarding foods. Thalassa, with her thick English accent, was very matter of fact/no nonsense about plants---LOVED them, but did not pamper them. It occurs to me that everything technical about houseplant horticulture, I learned from her--potting, propagation, pest control, botanical terms....Watching her unpot and split a plant was a fairly aggressive event, but it taught me not to be afraid when tending plants, not to overthink and worry. That information and way of being with plants has served me well. What a pleasnt and unexpected reminder.

Today was also nice because my daughter sent me two lovely plant stands for the greenhouse as a birthday gift. Tomorrow I have to reorganize already as I rushed ot get things together and plants started, so it looks untidy and crowded already. I would like it to look inviting and civilized---at least this year.

October 7 ~ After digging up a few pepper plants and a nasturtium from thr garden and potting them up in the greenhouse--they actually continued to grow (I have no idea why I continue to be so amazed--except that anyone who knows me has heard me frequently lament my lack of skills with houseplants--I guess the greenhouse environment is still enough like a real garden that I can work my magic)-so I was able to harvest 2 peppers that I watched get bigger each day--and a lot of nasturtium blossoms, along with their seed pods--which are equally spicy.  I did reorganize/move and tidy up and overnight, a few plants that looked a bit sorry after their transplant, perked up right away. My culinary herbs are doing well and for this year, that will be my greatest treat--to enjoy them fresh all winter.

October 10 ~ An old apprentice, who then became a dear friend and who also happens to share my birthdate, came over for lunch yesterday. While showing her my new Labyrinth and the Lilac and Elder trees I have framing the entrance--she remembered her old herb class lessons and referred to the Elder as "that tree with an attitude".  A perfect description!

October 11 ~ Talk about falling behind with tasks this summer--I've been so busy playing catch-up,  I have now become tardy with Fall preparations! Most importantly, I forgot to make up Fall tonics for family members--which should have been made and already being taken LAST month. So it is on my must do list this week. Most formulas need to be tweked every few years or so when you are making them specifically for a particular person---because people change, their environment may change....and...as you work through certain health issues, some are cured, some new ones come to the fore and then there are age specific concerns to address. So, I have some thinking to do. After I pull all the herbs out of my cupboard, FINALLY, I can put them back in order--another task that has been put off for too long.

October 13 ~ Had to rush around bagging up herbs drying in my garden shed before this new batch of rain---and finding I have little space for all the new herbs. Disorganization always gets me--even though I know better--herbs simply take over your life---and house!!!!

October 15 ~ After making some cider, letting some go to vinegar. Aside from being a food, vinegar is so valuable a medicine and household cleaning agent--so simple, so powerful. With cold/flu season here, I use it everyday for all three of these things--in dressing, to ward of stomach bugs (take a spoonful when you feel queasy) and to resolve hard water issues with faucets and toilets. Water is known as the "universal solvent"--so to me, vinegar could be called the "universal problem solver".

October 16 ~ Some of the seeds I planted a few weeks ago need to be potted up already--the tomatoes, melons,  zuchinni, cukes and dill. Potting seedlings is something I have done since I was 11 years old, but to be potting up cuke and tomatoes to grow during the winter is strange to me--so I was petrified. Later today, I happened upon a small blurb about greenhouse potting--which said......always wait for a cool/overcast day to re- pot plants in a greenhouse so they are not overstressed by intense light/heat. (I know to do that for garden plants--but for some reason, I am too nervous to make use of my experience in general and apply it to this new greenhouse venture.)  Well, today certainly qualified. We are having another day of intense rain and it never got above 48.  My point is ....that sometimes in floundering around, you stumble onto the right thing........or, that some things work themselves out without a lot of thought and stress......or, that sometimes you just trust the journey and learn as you go rather than being well prepared.  Next cloudy day, it will be time to repot all the rest of the seedlings--calendula, borage, cumin, parsley, cilantro, peppers......by the time spring seed starting comes around, I'll have it all figured out!

October 18 ~ In Fall and Spring are when I get the bulk of my calls for health information--these two seasonal changes present the biggest challenges to our bodies and minds. This year, the e-mail and phone lines have been especially busy. Right now, immune system info is requested--not just for the obvious illnesses of colds/flu.....but most immune/auto immune system issues also present more active in the Fall. it is a peril of going on as usual, when nature is telling us to eat, drink, dress and adjust our activity/sleep cycle differently.

October 20 ~ It is root digging time. We have had 2 hard frosts, so I will start with Yellow Dock, dandelion, elecampagne and work my way up lastly,  to the difficult burdock over the next few weeks. Conversely, it is also bulb planting time-and my Daffodils arrived today. I will wait until early November to plant my garlic.

October 22 ~ While it is WAY too early to decalre success,  I had the best time in my greenhouse this morning as it was snowing outside, while I was busy picking a few peppers and enjoying the smells of fresh cut parsley, oregano and thyme.

Tonight for supper, it will be baked, herbed brussle sprouts as a side dish, with an herb salad. The garden is still very active--i can pick cabbage leaves, brussle sprouts/broccoli/rapinni, chard, beets, carrots and onions--and a smattering of other greens--including some cold weather spinach that has rebounded from summer heat.

October 23 ~ Time to gather rose hips--maybe a bit on the late side since we've had so much rain.  Iknow many people think highly of rose hip tea--or at least are in love with the name of it--but it is too tart and drying for my taste. It makes my throat feel prickly. BUT....it contains lots of Vit C and other heart healthy constituents...so I add it in small amounts to other, more robust teas......or make a simple tea and add it to a tea cake batter (in part or place of the liquid)--where it shines in bringing out flavor.

October 25 ~ This greenhouse is like having another small child or pet to take care of.  I have to watch it constantly while the weather remains moderate to make sure it doesn't over/under heat. Today, is cloudy and calling for thunder storms. In regular gardening--that is ideal planting time as the rain and lightening fix nitrogen in the soil and help things sprout faster. I can't help but think there is a special "growth spurt energy" that will help the plants in the greenhouse too. This is the first all cloudy day in  a while, so I finally got around to all the repotting that needed to be done.

Up until a few days ago, I was amazed and grateful plants were just surviving in the greenhouse, but have now noticed that they actually look good--like they are thriving. The herb cuttings and transplants are putting up sprouts and some of the calendulas have dropped seeds that have sprouted already..............................BUT...............I have always looked forward to the "down" months of no gardening and now it seems odd to be at it all year, but I will adjust--especially when I start harvesting my radishes and lettuce and can make holiday dinners with fresh produce. This new cycle of growing herbs/food seems as though it may replace my very regular, but lately, very unpredictable cycle as I move through menopause.

October  28 ~ Received my yearly batch of hawthorn via UPS today. My aunt  in Albuquerque harvests it off a tree in her backyard and boxes it up fresh to send me. When it arrives, I open it up, put on gloves (becauses of the thorns) and turn over the leaves and berries to give them some air circulation---I do this every day uintil they are dried--except for the one large handful I took out to make a fresh tincture.  Our deal is I send her back a year's supply of hawthorn tincture.

October 29 ~ As I have entered my labyrinth for a walk the past few days, I see my Elder tree is now berriless and is down to her last few leaves. Elder is a "Halloween" or Samhain  plant as it is associated with death (in a good way.........AND in a bad way---one HAS to treat her well !!). To me, this means it is time to really slow dowm , begin to go within ( a sort of hibernation of the psyche) for the winter---to stop making excuses to keep up tons of activities and not feel guilty about sleeping more. To that point....there was an article in the paper today about scientists suggesting we stop the Daylights Savings clock changes (ie .leave it the way it is now--not turning back clocks in the Fall) as it will increase physical/mental health and have many environmental advantages. What we have been learning about the importance ofdarkeness to health, regular sleep patterns, etc. makes this seem appropriate. My Grandmother always HATED the time change and took her stand by refusing to set the clocks back for a week or so--before having to give in to societal demands.  It is certain that what seems like such a small thing can have huge detrimental effects on our bodies--which are finely tuned to natural daily/yearly and light/dark cycles. I hope we do take the scientific advice on this one.

October 30 ~ Pumpkins are carved--but now it is time to make Halloween treats and decorate them with death related themes. This beats Christmas decor as far as I'm concerned! Even the Christmas spices we love so much (cinnamon, cloves, ginger) --were at  one time used to mummify or mask the stench of death/dying/decay--of people and foods.  I always take a small symbolic dose of Poke root tincture (in large doses.....it can be harmful)  on Halloween to spur on my immune system as we go into winter and to acknowledge death as a constant companion--whether we like it or not! 

October 31 ~ Happy Hallows !!


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