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Herbalist's Journal > JUNE 2011


"Mine is the month of Roses; yes, and mine is the Month of Marriages!

                                                        ~ Longfellow


   June is, to me, a month of promise that is fulfilled. The beginning week or so, the roses are almost going to bloom, the strawberries are getting bigger each day, the poppies and peonies almost open, bees swarm.......and by the end of the month, everything has bloomed, fruits are coming ripe, early peas, greens and lettuces are ready and we are outside more than inside....not too hot- yet.....it is warm perfection.


June 1 ~ While my garden is late getting in and it was snowing not that long ago.....I am already making complete salads from wild picked herbs and weeds, making tinctures and drying batches of herbs every day--earlier than usual. Everything is so lush this year.  My grandson discovered that if he rubs mint all over himself--as soon as he goes outside....the bugs never bother him. He keeps a wad of it in his pockets and told me I should keep a pot of it on the picnic table on our porch --so we could pick sprigs and rub them on ourselves if we are being bothered while trying to eat. I have always hated the smell  of citronella--overpowering and very unappetizing----so I tried his idea and it works---simple. Out of the mouths of babes.

June 3 ~ After all the rain delays in getting the garden in, now there isn't a drop to be found--lots of sun, heat and wind. While that is delightful for us humans, it is devastating to new, tender veggie transplants and a real setback to seeds just waiting for a bit of moisture to burst open. I am spending a good deal of time watering--not a good thing this early in the season. So, my salad plants will grow more slowly than I'd like--even with my interventions, but........herbs and weeds are not at all bothered by droughty periods, so my salad bowl is full of: daisy leaves, mallow leaves, gallium, garlic mustard, chickweed, dandelion, naturalized viola blossoms, chives, oregano, tarragon, lemon balm, violet leaves, parsley, cilantro, fennel, chard (regrowing from last year's garden), borage, lovage, thyme, sage, anise hyssop, wild strawberry and raspberry leaves.............

June 6 ~ Today is what it is all about........while cutting asparagus and oregano, I checked on the progress of the strawberries (getting BIG!)...all the while taking in the various fragrances of interplanted roses, lilac and dianthus. It entices and satisfies all the senses and primal needs of gathering, pleasure and caretaking.

Of all the fragrant plants that grow here, my top 4 favorites are wild roses, milkweed blossoms, lilac and cheddar pinks  (dianthus).  Indescribable aromas---and heart stopping. These experiences make you WANT to eat well and be well; to be in sync with nature....a part of it. 

June 8 ~ It is very hot and dry ....and, as my grandson reminded me..."Time to make lemonade, Grandma". We make ours with fresh sprigs of mint or lemon balm.

June 10 ~ Eli learns plants that are useful or tasty. He now first runs to the mint patch when he goes outside and picks big handfuls, rubs them all over his face, neck and arms and then shoves them in his pockets for later use and then picks enough for whomever else is outside.

June 11 ~ Comfrey is ready for processing. I made tincture yesterday when I picked it, but  also wanted some for salves and oils, so I let  some dry overnight and today to get out excess moisture that would spoil those products. Comfrey is a very useful, but difficult plant. It contains a lot of water and will not dry well hung in bunches as most herbs will. Luckily, I have a dehydrator and  dried a large batch for off season emergencies that may require full strength comfrey (sprains, festering wounds, breaks, chest conditions) as compresses or plasters...and of course, for tea.

June 13 ~ The garden has been in for less than a week (3 weeks behind "normal" years) and I will start a second sowing of salad crops next week. So, that is one relief....but...we just had moderate temperatures and 2 days of light rain and totally overcast. This was a blessing for the small plants I set in on Friday who would have wilted under sun/wind and dry weather----but today, it is a JUNGLE out there. EVERYTHING that was 1 foot tall on Friday, is now 3-5 feet tall (Valerian, hops) and slugs moved in on my ripest strawberries and the cucumber beetles are just beginning on my squash, pumpkins and cukes. Time for the castille soap and cayenne spray!

I did decide to use fresh dug valerian root on the new kitties---works wonderfully--they're happy, I am happy----and it is a usefull way to deal with all the 5 foot valerian plants.

June 16 ~ Because of all the heavy construction trucks on the property last year----my plant diversity has changed. Basically, all the traffic scraped off topsoil and left poor dirt. When we first moved here 30 years ago, farmers had hayed and planted corn for many years--also depleting the soil. Since we've been here, we rarely hayed or  planted anything in the fields, so the soil slowly improved and the plants we have had for the last 15 or so years are different than those here when we moved. so, now, there is a return of some of my favorite weeds that thrive in poor soil and are very useful medicinally--especially Shepherd's Purse (used for bleeding internally and externally). There is tons of it. I also missed what is called "Blue Eyed Grass"--a pretty, graceful and small blue flower. Where plants are concerned--there are always silver linings........and remembering my long ago gardens  helps in my plans to redo them--since they have just gotten out of hand and go back to the simplicity of when they were new and a bit more sparse. I often tell my students to pay attention to the plants that grow in abundance or that disappear in any given year--as it is always a message from nature trying to help you with current or upcoming concerns. I am listening!

June 20 ~ Midsummer's Eve !!! Perfect night for a bonfire and magic. My grandson got a fairy party ready (sweet foods, flower petals and a little fairy house), we both picked a bunch of fairy favorite flowers and those traditional at midsummers (thyme, foxglove, St. john's wort, wild roses, lady's mantle, valerian, rosemary, sage, elder.........)

June 21 ~ First day of summer-----it's all herbs, every day for the next several months. Not one day will pass where herbs are not being used for multiple purposes----and fresh new herbs are processed in various ways to last the rest of the year. It is a complete cycle of growth, use and preparedness. But today I do take time to be thankful for the land to nurture and protect plants of all sorts and to garden happily in spite of the heat....with my mint in my pocket, the scent of wild rose blooms and a pitcher of (fresh picked) strawberry water...

June 23 ~ Last day of school for my grandson--so this is MY real first day of summer. He said he is going to come home this afternoon and make a list of all the things he wants to do this summer. I sure hope he will leave time for me to get gardening done! I also have some plans for him--he is old enough to help with basic weeding and fortunately, he loves picking up dry grass clippings to throw in the compost heap. But, he also wants to know the names of plants and the stories behind them. To me, it is the stories that make herbs come alive in our minds, which is why our ancestors retold them over generations. So while I probably won't have time to get my gardens looking great, I will have plenty of time to pass on plant knowledge . It is imperative that all of us interested in plants, the environment, etc. finds someone younger to pass our love and information to. There is always at least one grandchild, niece or nephew who wants to inherit nature's secrets.

June 26 ~ I am really concerned with the rapid change of plants habits in my gardens. The last several years of weather changes, have made old stand by plants less vigorous, invited in many more pests, allowed already tenacious grasses take over beds too quickly to keep a handle on. It has become too rainy/damp/cloudy and cool and the plants and I are not adapting well.  I also notice in seed catalogs there seem to be more and more crop failures. The end result has been smaller harvests and a few failures. On my scale of gardening, not much of a real problem--rather, more frustration. But on a larger market scale, this will mean unavailability of useful herbs and  higher prices. This requires educating oneself to the various herbs that can be used to treat any given illness, staple crops that can fill in nutritionally in a year where some needed crops fail. So, I would not say the last several years of gardening have been terribly relaxing....but certainly educational.......and...has produced a renewed respect for the will of nature over our need to control it.

June 28 ~ Too much information!! I get 3 herb magazines, several more concerning gardening, food, country living, etc. I sit and read, highlight special info tidbits, dog ear, rip out special articles.........long story short, I have huge stacks of "special articles" that may soon rival those found on a Hoarders documentary. Will I ever read any of those articles again to make it worth saving? As an herbalist, who writes and teaches, I can make an argument that sometime I will need to use some of those tidbits of info........ but as I try to write this summer, all the cool articles I am reading are swirling arond in my head, giving me great ideas......and totally paralyzing me!! I can't decide which thing to focus on, prioritize, stop myself from coming up with 100 more projects on top of my already 100 uncompleted ones. The message here is to scale back the amount of information and actually DO something--experience the summer and all its herb/food possibilities. Don't read about them in the summer--BE with them. While I prefer to read instead of weed, my plants will not agree! I am going to put the magazines away and avoid any books until late Fall--when it is appropriate to think more and do less. I will have to address the issue of article hoarding later.

June 29 ~ This has been a stressful year and the plants that have been growing the best are Lavender, Lemon Balm and chamomile--all stress relieving, relaxing herbs. I harvested tons of them today--and made a quick pot of tea using a combinatin of all three.

June 30 ~ Got boys? My dog is getting frail and not a good deterent of deer as he once was---so some deer have been nibbling on my elder trees for the  first time. This has to be stopped!! So, I have a 5 year old grandson, always running around and loving to pee outside--so today I explained to him how peeing NEAR--but not ON plants will keep deer away and told him that when we are outside,  to let me know whenever he has to "go" and I will direct him to imperiled crops. He was amazed and thrilled. For today, my Elders are protected.


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