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Herbalist's Journal > AUGUST 2011



      Enjoy it while it lasts! There is so much to do in the garden and in the kitchen this month, but don't forget to smell your Sweetpeas or cut your Zinnias.



August 1 ~ I had the whole day to myself and a long list of gardening tasks to get done....but I got out there and just could not make myself work. I sat and looked, ate a few berries, deadheaded a few violas, watched a toad.....and before I knew it, the whole morning was gone!

After lunch, I was able to focus and ripped up another garden, harvested more Lemon Balm, oregano, found my cat fast asleep in a catnip bush, deadheaded everything else in hopes that there might be a fairly decent looking garden come late August--with fresh leaves and some new flowers. Then I turned to the veggie garden and picked my first cuke of the year for dinner--but ended up eating it when I took a break to sit and watch some barn swallows.........one of those days!

August 3 ~ Harvesting Sacred Basil for medicinal use and regular basils for pestos and freezing in ice cube trays.

August 4 ~ I have 4 kittens to tend to--who, until they mature a bit more, make every day a combination of litter mangement and household cleanup. I have a 5 1/2 year old boy--enough said! I have an aging dog with minor incontinence...so  also tending a compost pile seems a ridiculous use of time, but it is, to me, a comforting use of time because it is a repeating, dependable cycle that solves a waste problem and yields  a useful product. The cats will grow up and sleep most of the day, the 5 year old will get older and more responsible, the dog will someday be gone---but the compost pile remains a renewing and changing constant.

August 5 ~ This is the day I love every summer---- when I pick our day's meals entirely from the garden...... potatoes, tomatoes, cukes, beets, string beans, chard, raspberries, squash--all flavored by: fennel, dill, parsley, cilantro, chives, oregano, basil and thyme. Friday is often my bread baking day--so all weekend, we can slather local organic butter or my homemade jams all over toasted slices, or make a tomato sandwhich, or an herbed bruschetta...........

August 7 ~ Summertime lends itslf to lazy afternoons laying in the grass discussing the shapes of clouds.......but this is the time of year when we dig our new potatoes, which is as much fun in terms of finding spuds in various shapes. We have found really unusual ones over the years--like the United States, a big heart, Richard Nixon, ducks of differing sizes. Digging potatoes is like prospecting for gold in the first place, so the additional treat of finding funny ones makes it a great family activity. THEN.....inside to steam them and serve with fresh cut dill/chives and basil.

August 9 ~ The weather has been perfect for harvesting (sunny/dry/moderate temperatures), but rain is coming, so today I got various mints, sages, scented geraniums, ground ivy, more lavender, agrimony. All of this harvest went into tinctures.

August 11 ~ Someone called to ask about harvesting bee balm (bergamot) because the leaves look moldy. There are several plants in the Northeast that are prone to rust or mildew and once infected, are not usable for food or medicine. Bee Balm is one. It usually happens right as and after the plants have bloomed. Luckily, herbs should be harvested before blooming. This lady will not be able to harvest this year, but will be on guard next summer. Harvesting at the right time obviously solves two problems: you get your year's worth of dried/tinctured leaves, and...since the leaves are harvested, there is nowhere for the plant disease to form!! However, for those unharvested plants, all diseased portions should be picked and burned---NOT composted or pulled up a left on the ground. There has been less rain that for many years, so I noticed there is much less rust/mildew than usual.

August 14 ~ Everyone knows about Tarragon, but few people grow it or know how it tastes  and are surprised it is one of several plants that taste like licorice--which for many is an immediate turn off. But, strange as it may seem--it is really good with baby beets that have been cooked and refrigerated and then tossed with a wee bit of balsamic vinegar and feta cheese.

August 17 ~ I was harvesting today when my grandson asked if he could help pick. He was picking chamomile and recognized the scent as one of his favorite teas...so we went right inside and he fixed a cup of tea that he sipped on all day long. He was very proud of himself.

August 18 ~  Late August brings a regrowth of plants previously deadheaded or mowed down--ususally a great thing since you get another harvest and more cut flowers for the table....BUT....there are always a few caveats. Several years ago a report came out about horses becoming deathly ill in late summer/early fall. It was eventually discovered that they were eating second growth Red Clover which because of the increased dampness of this time of year, harbored a fungus harmful to horses. Much of this is due to the changing weather/microclimates of global warming. So the question is--if it affects horses, can humans take advantage of a second growth, or is it also dangerous to us?

There have been no such reports that I know of--although ingesting any poorly dried plant (and therefore, moldy) material can result in illness. but, there is something to be said of "to everthing there is a season". A second cutting of plants in July is still part of their natural growing season. When we continue harvesting leafy plants,their health and the strength of their constituents will become compromised. So, in August and early Fall, just enjoy the regrowth for its beauty....the last hurrahs of summer before the winter die back. There is a balance between using what nature has to offer and over using th ebounty...called Gratitude.

August 22 ~ The summer is almost gone and I am still trying to get used to the new rhythm of gardening with a greenhouse. I have to start new plants from seed BEFORE the days shorten too much, or else they will not have time to set down strong roots before the weather turns. Thinking of planting crops now to harvest in winter--or even transplanting next spring continues to challenge my concepts of living in the natural cycle of the year. But, the greenhouse will be full this year--I got several plants that have to be overwintered and lots of experiments in food growing. Today I prepped the seedbed for all my greens, filled containers with soil for seed starting and digging up plants from the garden and set up the benches for an orderly, yet hasty setup when the first frosts threaten.......even though it is only August!

August 26 ~ Do as I say....not as I do. I am all for organization and teach that to my students....but this year, I have not prepared properly for harvesting. I did not clean out my freezer, so I am wrestling with stuffing in my frozen herbs and veggies. I did not clean out my drying shed, so while I have been harvesting and drying new herbs, at the same time, I also have to discard old/unused herbs. Nor did I get all my canning supplies together, or have enough freezer bags in varying sizes...... It is not efficient or pleasant. It is is the old ant the the grasshopper story being retold at my house.

August 27 ~ HOPS!!! In my county of NY, used to be the worlds largest producer of Hops for beer making until the 1940's. Today, local growers are reviving hops farms and supplying local microbreweries. I have an arbor of hops from original plantings and it has been many years since I got a decent crop. The past several seasons have been very rainy--whereas hops need a good amount of sunshine and dryness around harvest time. This year has been perfect.   But, tomorrow, hurricane Irene is coming and th erain from that will ruin the crop--so today was the last opportunity to pick.Aside from beer making, hops are used as a nervine and sleep aid among many other conditions. Hops strobils are beautiful and smell good and bad at the same time, taste bad ALL of the time and cause drowsiness in those who eat thema nd pick them--so my grandson and I feel pretty mellow tonight. They are tucked away drying in my newly cleaned out herb shed!                                                             


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