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Herbalist's Journal > March, 2011

March gets our juices flowing......literally!! Our livers speed up the production of bile and our digestive systems change.....blood thins.... and how well you treated your body over the Winter will determine how severe your case of Spring Fever will be. Keep warm on your spring walks and start to nibble the greens that are pushing up through snow and mud ~

     "In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."
                                                                                    ~ Margaret Atwood

March 1 ~ Yesterday was full on winter---today is cold, but sunny and still and the birds are singing--rather than frantically emptying their feeders. The old predictions based upon weather on a given day seem backwards this year---"in like a lion, out like a lamb" .....while today is beautiful, it is not what I had hoped for.  And, one good day does not a spring make, but after this winter, any whiff of spring is so seductive.
I was worried that having the greenhouse may throw off my experience of the seasonal changes--but in many respects, it is, rather, intensifying them and showing me just how profound they are. The exact amount of light/heat provided by the change in the angle of the sun---NOT by my manipulation of heat with fans is what is causing a sudden boost in growth in the chives and cherry tomatoes. The greenhouse allows me to grow more, but HOW they grow (growing faster, getting a deeper green, setting blooms and fruit) is beyond my control--the plants are obviously more concerned with the additional length of the day instead of what I can provide. I am excited to get started growing some herbs from seed instead of from plants that I usually spend a fortune on......but it isn't quite time yet--3 more weeks! The singing birds outside my window are very encouraging.

March 2 ~ This is more like it......snow and strong winds--miserable!! So I got my winter herb organizing done--everything in my filing system, herb pantry and book shelves is in order--or at least I know where things are. But...gardening in the warm earth is several weeks away. I have procrastinated enough, so while waiting for the weather to turn, the next several weeks will find me sitting in front of my computer getting this web-site in order and starting to get the long promised herb classes on-line. Please bear with me during this period...I may not update this Journal as regularly.......but I am here, preparing what I know and understand about herbs to share with you.
March 4 ~ I have the day to myself, so I decided on some "me time". After cleaning out all the herb cupboards, I found old vinegars, creams, dried herbs that had been around too long and needed to be used up. First, I made a facial steam with some elder flower and chamomile, then a bath, using rosemary and lavender vinegar.(which softens and tonifies the skin--and cleans the tub when it drains (no reason not to be practical while relaxing!). Then, I slathered the remnants of various creams (mint, calendula, rosewater) all over myself.  I also found 3 almost empty bottles of vinegar/orange blossom window cleaner--but that can wait until  next weel when I delve into spring cleaning full force--a spa day for the house!   Now, it is time for tea.

March 9 ~ Waiting for my cherry tomatoes to ripen in the greenhouse--new blooms coming on every day. It is very satisfying to know that without me pollinating each blossom with a little paintbrush--nothing would be happening! That is all exciting.....But--now we are into ta bit warmer weather--still cold, but warm enough to cause heavy snow--that started to collapse one of my greenhouse panels. Between my contractor--who had to come over in a snowmobile because the roads were impassable, and me with my roof rake, we got it put back in place before any of my plants froze. I am now getting nice parsely, new nasturtium blossoms, borage blossoms and the chives are finally growing fast enough to keep up with my daily nibbling....... and all my greens planted last week are up. Now we are in for more heavy snow and 2-4 inches of rain..........so I am drinking nettle tea like crazy--to keep me from getting depressed and give me the strength to continue roof raking and shoveling snow !!

March 13 ~ Cold, snow.......but now I KNOW spring is around the corner. There are Red Wing blackbirds on my porch (which has never happened, but they have never arrived when there was 2 feet of snow n the ground before), I had my first sighting of robins...... and the cluster flies and the invasive ladybugs are hovering near light and dive bombing. The flies I have no use for---except I scoop the dead ones from the window sills and feed them to my African violets. The Lady bugs I have been capturing and placing in my greenhouse.  I'm sure they are happier there with all the dirt and plants......and they are being a great help with my aphid infestation (which was caused by my insistance on having nasturtiums, which are notorius for initiating aphids into greenhouses---but I am glad to deal with aphids in exchange for fresh leaves and flowers to eat all winter----and aside from ladybugs, a daily spritz of castille soap keeps them managable).
March 14 ~ When I was little and sick, my Grandma would make me buttered toast, tea and she would sit and spoon feed me apple scraped from the skin (sort of....fresh raw applesauce). Today, my grandson was home with the flu and I did the same for him. Those are my most fond memories of Grandma....I hope he feels the same someday.

March 15 ~ With today's sun, patches of ground are revealing themselves....along with a myriad of spring greens shoots---and crocus! 
I am taking a bit more than my usual daily spoonful of apple cider vinegar to ward off whatever bug my grandson has and really dosing up on the garlic. This time of year is sort of a mad rush to eat everything left in the root cellar before it goes bad or starts to sprout--so I see piles of mashed potatoes with garlic butter, onion topped pizzas, winter squash casseroles on my menus for the next few weeks. I am looking forward to Spring more than I have in many years, but pray it is a good growing year with moderate weather.

March 16~ My grandson got to the point of being too tired to drink/eat enough, so I went to Plan B--which is, to use Homeopathic medicine. After 2 doses of Chamomilla, Ferrum Phos and Belladonna (all chosen to fit his particular symptoms), he began to get better rapidly. 

March 18 ~ All is revealed !!---melting snow has uncovered the daffodils/crocus/snowdrops/bleeding hearts..... as well as a massive amount of dog droppings. But, this is the first day where gardening seems realistic in the not too distant future.  Appropriately, the knee pads I ordered came in the mail today---which will make weeding and planting a lot easier on my knees. I always prefer to crawl around in the garden and hand weed as opposed to using a hoe, but the knees of my pants are always ruined....and it takes me a little longer to get up every year!
The greenhouse is brimming......I have as much fresh herbs as I need without worrying about them growing back fast enough--and my tomatoes are starting to ripen!

March 20 ~ BEAUTIFUL!!! This is the nicest first day of spring I can remember......usually, it is ironically, snowy. I was able to walk the entire property to check on the bridge over our recently, severely flooded creek. It made it! all the bulbs are up and many perennials, the compost pile is starting to "work" and I could "smell green".
When we moved to this property 29 years ago, the house was surrounded by catnip---which is not as cool as it sounds. Growing fresh, and especially after a rain or in the dewy mornings, catnip can smell like skunks. Eaten or dried and made into tea, it is perfectly pleasant. Somehow, over the years, a lot of it has disappeared. I have tried planting new plants in places where the smell would be less noticeable, but it never thrives.....partially due to my many catnip addicted cats. Yesterday at the grocery store, they were selling a good looking pot of it and so I bought one and am keepng it in the greenhouse until it is acclimated and will try again. It is so valuable as a remedy when there are children in the house, cats love it and it makes great gifts for cat lovers--so it is one of my "must have" herbs. 

March 22 ~ My aunt sent me some of my grandmother's diaries she kept way back in 1953-1955-before I was born. Aside from family info, Grandma extolls the various vitues of regular, long naps, getting fresh air, not worrying about the news in order to stay happy.......She mentions that my mother--then a teenager--had gotten a cold and she gave her her "homemade cough medicine".  I wish I had the recipe for that!!. She was very worried about the diets of President and Mrs. Eienhower--feeling that he didn't eat enough to keep well with all the work he had to do (Apparently, he only had grapefruit and coffee for breakfast--my grandmother said "He can't live on just Vit. C") and Mrs. Eisenhower liked toast, which grandma said was too constipating. Well, she was right--even though studies regarding food were not well publicized in those days, she was the head cook in the school cafeteria and obviously picked up some information. But, I grew up on her food--always  well balanced and  fresh, home grown meals. 

March 24 ~ Went on a buying spree at a new hardware/garden supply store I found. Has everything I need---and tons of stuff I don't REALLY need, but bought just the same....wonderful pots for my fussy plants (Rosemary, scented geraniums, Cyreus and my yet to be delivered northern hardy FIG tree!!), garden ornaments, plant hangers for the porch..........this has been such a harsh winter----and not over yet (had three inches of snow last night and night temps. will be in the low teens until next week!), that everyone is so anxious for it to be over. If we think spring and buy spring things......we can make it so!! I am drinking my spring tonic, but also drink a cup of hot tea every day as well--for comfort during these last, unbearable throes of winter!!!

March 26 ~ This time of year, I start storing my banana peels in a bucket in my woodshed--where it is still cold--so I can start putting them around my rose bushes over the next month or so.  Roses love banana peels!! 


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