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Herbalist's Journal > FEBRUARY 2011



     February is really the start of spring. It is still plenty cold and snowy, but there is a sense of "stirring" and urgency...and excitement. The days are getting longer, and for many, Spring Fever will start to rear its ugly head. This is the month to THINK about new adventures and projects, but to continue HIBERNATING and dreaming.

   February is from the Latin: Februa, to cleanse..... So this is another transitional month to atone, purify, to be thoughtful as you move foreward.


February 1 ~ Big storm will keep us socked in for a few days--I think it will be another round of snow ice cream!!....and maybe some ( fresh picked from the greenhouse) thyme biscuits with potatoes from the root cellar and.......some oatmeal with raisins/apples/cinnamon and maple syrup............and some herb beer with popcorn.

On this day, it is said ALL greenery left over from the holidays MUSY be removed from the house or else the devil will take his due. This is an attempt to make sure people mind the changing of the season. I took mine down a few days ago, but today, I'll burn them in the woodstove, filling the air with a nice fresh scent and the anti-bacterial components of cedar.

February 2 ~ No shadow for the Groundhog today. While it is and has been snowing and cold almost endlessly for 2 months, an early spring sounds good now, but if it comes too early, it will present several gardening challenges in general and will seriously put a damper on my procrastination time. In the meantime, while waiting to see who is right, I am going to double down on my calming and energy building teas.

February 5 ~ I have to do my Valentine baking early so we can send boxes of chocolate and cookies to relatives--so the last two days were full of cookies and royal iceing. Kids don't care for it too much, but when making cookies or cupcakes for adults, think about putting either rose water or rose petals in the batter for Valentine treats.

February 6 ~ I just wrote an article about Horseradish--the 2011 Herb of the Year.   Not a  lot of people use it or like it--but if they mixed it correctly in various condiments, or used just a smidge in recipes--they would love it. My husband got some out today to add to a dip for his  Superbowl snacks. This time of year--horseradish is great to eat every day since it builds immunity and can knock out a sore throat if nibbled or added to a syrup.

February 7 ~ There is an old saying--"If February give much snow, A fine summer it doth foreshow"---well, with snow every day this month so far and most days this week are calling for more, I think, it is time to get excited about a fabulous gardening year!

February 8 ~ I made what elderberry syrup I could from my newer trees this summer, but it is gone already. The weather has been so cold and constantly snowing tha most people are just staying inside too much and germs are circulating and re-circulating......... I will have to buy some, because my grandson loves to take it--as opposed to the ginger/thyme syrup I still have on hand--that I love, but no child would tolerate because it is too hot. But--FYI--it works just as well as commercial Elder Syrup (Sambucol).

February 9 ~ My seed order came a few days ago and I started sorting out those that I bought specifically for the greenhouse (fast growers, those that are cold hardy--and will germinate in cool temps.) and had hoped to get another planting of early lettuces/greens in for eating before the spring garden will be producing---but it is bitterly cold. So today, I will turn under this older batch of greens that have been going since Fall--and are now pretty well spent and raggedy and top dress with some compost--let that set several days and hopefully plant by Sunday or Monday when the weather breaks a bit.  Sooner or later--we WILL get out typical February thaw, after which, it gets progressively warmer---even with some very cold days still due, the sun is out more than not, which heats up the soil and brings pretty rapid growth to young greens. Because it is still cool/damp in the greenhouse----after the seedlings come up, I will sprinkle some chamomile and nettles near them to ward off "damping off disease"--the bane of gardeners who start seedlings only to have them rot at soil level and die. If it gets hot, I could also make a spray  as well.  When the seeds came, I remembered that I also ordered several new flower and herb plants that will not arrive until late April/May--but the fun part is that I have forgotten what I ordered!!

February 11 ~ I'm going to use Biodynamic gardening techniques in my greenhouse as well, so today, I raked the soil in the planting bed and added compost to sit for several days. On Wednesday, I'll plant new greens (and radishes on Friday). This crop(or at least portions of it like the mache and arugula and cress) should be harvestable in 30 days--a good month before I can even plant my spring greens in the garden because it is too wet here.

February 14 ~ For Valentines dinner, a warm potato soup with herbed bruschetta and a citrus/feta/walnut green salad is the menu. YEARS ago, I found a great idea for dressing upTHICK-WHITE soups for various holidays---use a fairly large, flat bowl and place a 1-2 inch TALL cookie cutter in the middle of the bowl (For Valentines, I use a heart shaped cutter) after making the thick, creamy soup (potato, corn chowder, cauliflower work best due to the white color and using the white soup to add colors to), separate out a cup of it and blend it with a red sweet--or hot pepper--whichever you like--enough to turn the soup red. Slowly pour the original soup AROUND the cutter--making sure the cutter sticks up at least 1/4 inch above the soup. Then, pour the colored soup into the cutter. QUICKLY pull the cutter straight up and the shape will hold. Use a 4 leaf clover cutter and a green pepper for St. Patrick's Day........whatever cutters/colors you like. If you don't have the needed veggie to color the shape in the middle.......you can use just a drop of appropriate food coloring instead---just this once!!!!

February 18 ~ 2 days of weather in the 50's really tempts me to think SPRING--but tomorrow calls for 3+ inches of snow and single digit night time temperatures. My grandpa used to say "This is graveyard weather"--meaning that the rapidly changing weather was very hard on  immune systems and lots more people died during these transitional times of the year. If you look at the Obituary section in the paper, you will see it expand for the next several weeks. On a more positive note, my grandmother always said...." Until it is warm every day--keep your chest and neck covered up when you go outside". We are very careless about these types of things today, but heeding the idea behind it will save you from the cliche spring cold/flu. Hippocrates felt the WIND was a major factor in ill health and we all know that from now, through March, we get a lot of it...some cold, some warm...but all of it debilitating. So go out for spring walks, but bundle up and don't be deceived by an occasional warm day. Continue with all the immune builders from Winter and  prepare your Spring Tonics!

February 20  ~  As expected, each year right before spring, my skin gets a bit bothersome.  Minor pimples--especially around the jaw line, break out for a few weeks....letting me know that big changes are occuring in trying to get my system changed over for the warmer months. It is my cue to give my liver and kidneys a little extra attention during this transition.   More fluid--for me, that means green tea, black tea, nettle tea, red clover, some burdock root........and....cutting out any crappy foods I may have let slip into my diet. This is one reason it is a tradition to give up something at Lent and to eat up all the greasy fats at Mardi gras and move on to better foods.  Spring traditions are of giving up and cleansing, readying the body for more activitiy.

February 25 ~ I have a few friends with chronic illnesses and arthritis runs in my family--which rears its ugly head in my body when I act carelessly. Medicines are great and herbs are even better--especially to help with chronic problems and the side effects many medications have--but our FOOD is the most important factor in prevention and in management of illnesses. Most people decide around New years to change their diet to lose weight. That is great--but as we all know, usually not successful or long lasting. Eat to LIVE--and not only live, but live WELL. For those who are so inclined...Lent is coming soon and offers another chance to start again....reset our priorities and change our perspectives. Why not just give up bad food? I am giving up all restaurant food--that is my downfall.  I get asked for herbal information all the time, but barely anyone asks how they can eat better as a first line of defense against a problem they are having.  Remember that...... foods are herbs......and what Hippocrates said--"Let your foods be your medicines.....let your medicines be your foods."

February 28 ~ It looks and feels like winter outside, but I can feel the spring fever within!! Tomorrow, I'll start drinking my spring tonic. After a lot of weekend snow, our trusty plow guy came this morning to dig us out and under the 2+ feet we have on the ground, I can see tiny shoots of various plants. It is still winter, but it is the beginning of spring--it is TRANSITION....an exciting and perilous time.  Hope your weather, wherever you are is better than our sleet/rain/fog,  here in Central New York..........Today is St. Romanus Day, which........"if bright and clear, indicates a goodly year"


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