~ November is when I clean out the garden, eating as I go and storing root crops in the root cellar. This month is the time to completely change over your diet to mostly warm, cooked foods, to sit back with some tea and ......rest!
November 1 ~ All Soul's Day/ Samhain---tonite, a bonfire (didn't have time last night with Trick or Treating--and the snow!!). I always bake some cookies with rosemary (for "Remembrance") and lay them around the fire and eat some whilr thinking of my long gone, but not forgotten, ancestors.
Got out my new Almanacs. Farmer's Almanacs are to be used at the start of the Celtic year--which begins today. Almanacs are not like calendars that begin in January (all almanacs go from Nov 1.-October 31.) Almanacs in this country began in the 1700's by those who were more familiar with the English experience--which was a Celtic view of the seasonal cycle--a few months ahead of what we think of as the new year today. However, rural and farm people know the cycles are natural and not bound by the political and religious reformulations of the calendar years --so today's almanacs remain traditional.
November 3 ~ Thinking of holiday gifts--our family is mixed and celebrates Chanukah and Christmas--so I have to get on the ball quick. I'm going to do fancy cookies and chocolates this year-but with an herbal twist--so i was thinking of flavor combos and something unusual--herbs that people don't usually think of like cardamom, scented geraniums, lemon balm. I sort of went overboard on supplies--and got teacup and tea pot cutters, edible stamping ink and stamp pad to apply over thin glaze. As with many gifts, the presentation and tags are as important--and with herbal decor, the possibilities are endless.
November 5 ~ I too often forget that as I am steeped (pun intended) in herbal info all the time, I assume people know certain things. Today, someone told me they were using Chinese herbal powder and I felt the need to alert her to the huge problem of adulteration of Chinese products. My hope is that the person she got it from buys and makes her product here ---but if not, remedies coming in from China more often than not contain heavy metals, low levels of pharmaceuticals (barbiturates, anti-depressents, etc). Buyer Beware. It is often the case also, that people buy foreign herbs as they sound exotic, but if one were to translate, would find they are the same herbs we use here.
November 6 ~ The greenhouse is working--even as it gets colder!!! I still have no real idea of what I am doing and am very disorganized, so am throwing different plants together in pots--I feel like a mad scientist. But--the herbs are doing wonderfully and starting to reseed themselves.
Started processing the rest of the hawthorn berries/leaves--I am up to my neck in tincture----I know a stocking stuffer a lot of people are going to get!!
November 7 ~ This time I was smart--I actually went through supplies before buying new stuff and found TONS of fancy gift bottles for tonics and vinegars, lots of ribbon and even herbal gift tags I had made and stored nicely. Got the woodstove up and working for the season and scrubbed out the teapot I keep there for a ready cup of tea.
November 8 ~ Further cleaning and reorganization has led me to more gifty ideas. Since I have not been teaching many classes lately, I have a buildup of supplies that last a long while, but really should be used, so I will be making some salt baths and sugar scrubs. The problem with re-organizing is that too often, I just keep stuff----neatly. Real efficiency, though, is using up things wisely and making way for the new--in terms of freshness, what is in vogue and new ideas. Herbalists know stagnant bodies lead to ill health---but stagnant pantries lead to being overwhelmed and lack of creativity.
November 11 ~ It is not unlike early April out in the yard right now, in terms of the wild edible weeds available. Little nettles are coming back, garlic mustard is having a final peek and dandelions are back---just a few, but enough for salads and fritters. Don't retire inside quite yet! Get out and pick your weedies.
November 14 ~ Deer have decided my cabbages and broccoli make a good midnight snack, so today, I just ripped them out of the ground, stuck them in a bucket of good soil and gave them a space in the greenhouse. For my purposes, I don't want them to develope into full heads, but rather, to continue producing leaves and small side shoots all winter. There are plenty of greens left in the garden for the deer too.
November 15 ~ Too soon, the first of the many seed catalogues, arrived today.
All of my pantry, refrigerator and herb shelf re-organization is complete and as I have been going through recipes for possible gifts---I am able to plan the recipes around what I already have, instead of having to buy new ingredients.
November 16 ~ If you are really just getting into herbs and want to share your enthusiasm--but don't actually have and herbs on hand----a great gift idea is either an herb book or magazine--or even better and more personal, search out unusual/fun herb recipes. Retype and print out on good paper and package nicely. Recipes for herbal ice cream, herbed wines, bath salts, etc..... gear each recipe packet towards the interest of the recipient........endless possibilities !!
November 17 ~ I have been gardening for most of my life, but was never as amazed as I was yesterday to pick my first greenhouse radish!! It was beautiful!!! Nobody gives radishes much attention, but they are packed with B vits, C, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Copper. It was one radish, but I divied it up carefully like it was a chunk of gold--making it a part of four meals. Its spicy heat is also good for immune stimulation in this, really particularly wicked, cold/flu season.
November 19 ~ Every 5-7 years, I come down with a prolonged case of laryngitis--usually after I've been doing a lot of yelling/talking when the weather is damp. Well, it has been 7 years and here I am, sitting here voiceless. So, what does a sick herbalist use when they don't feel like putting together a formula? I keep the brand of tea called TRADITIONAL MEDICINALS around--for colds/throats/ bowels/digestion. Often, they have the same herbs I would put together anyway, though because they are already cut/sifted/powdered, they are not as potent as what I make. I always tell people to plan ahead and have formulas ready for the conditions that plague your family because it is hard to think or have time to pull out herbs from untidy pantries when there are sick kids and/or you are sick----so I have no excuse but laziness.
To make up for the lost potentcies of store bought prepared teabags, make sure you buy from a good company and always use DOUBLE the amount of bags per cup and let them steep COVERED for up to 4 hours (in spite of what the box directions say). Then, after the initial tea has been consumed, I pour more hot water over the bags and let steep a little while and drink warm ---to get every last bit of medicine out of them--they are expensive!!
November 20 ~ cleaning up the gardens, I found more nice lavender to harvest--probably use it in some nice syrups or ice cream. As with so many other things this year, I was late in cutting my holiday greenery--but had to hurry to make a wreath for our local Historical society door in time for the holiday program--so I went out --with hunters bullets all around to cut cedar and wild rose hips. The smell of cedar when you cut it is spectacular and uplifting--which is why it is called "arbor vitae"--tree of life----Since I was a bit late, the birds and rain cut my rose hip harvest in half. Dragging a cart of fresh cut greens back to the porch is always one of my favorite things.
November 21 ~ POOP !!! Simple stuff, but so important for good gardening. A friend delivered a load of horse manure today (chicken and goat and cow being the best since their multi stomach digestion helps kill weed seeds--there is always a danger of too many weede popping up due to horse manure--but we had to take what we can get.
It has been several years since we had goats and chickens. Back then, we would muck out their stalls twice a year- and apply to the garden. The chicken poop was usually already composted. Our garden has gradually been a bit less productive since we have not had the manure to apply. We have really nice soil, by nature, but we also grow heavy feeders like corn, beans and tomatoes--and all the rain we have had has washed out some nutrients. So, we are glad to have this to add to the Fall soil ----and to my too cool compost pit.
November 22 ~ My grandson and I put together some cotton bags filled with Valerian root to give as gifts to friends who have cats. He will also be making some natural dog treats with nettles, alfalfa, raspberry leaves and dandelion--along with all the regular biscuit ingredients.
November 27 ~ We lost a dear kitty while away for Thanksgiving. As with all the cats we've buried over the years, Jacques was laid to rest with his own bundle of valerian--very odd we had just finished making the bags as gifts.
November 28 ~ Bought a fresh knob of ginger root and a few beautiful pomagranates to add to my morning tea. Everybody around here needs al the help they can get to avoid/recover from this seemingly endless season of colds/flu.
November 29 ~ While visiting with my daughter over the holiday, she made us delicious popovers with lavender in the batter. Reading magazines and new cook book reviews, it is obvious and amazing that herbs have become an integral part of cooking--not odd or exotic, rather normal additions for taste. The fact that most do not know of the medicianl or nutritional benefits of adding herbs to foods is sort of nice---it means people are cooking by instinct. With all the constant herb info available now, however, the knowledge will follow soon enough.
November 30 ~ Time to decorate the house with greens. I make 2 cedar ropes for doorways (cedar dries quickly, but does not lose color or drop needles like pine does), and fill all my pewter vases and old crocks with a mix of cedar, rosehips, juniper and dried yarrow. ALL of those plants also happen to be great for winter illnesses--so I save all the leftover to hang and dry for a quick formula for colds/fevers/flu or aching muscles from too much shoveling. I also feel that having them arranged around the house--along with a fresh tree, kills germs in the air. This is the best of herbs.....to use them in daily life, for pleasure and healing.