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Herbalist's Journal > OCTOBER 2011


   October  brings a big sigh of relief to weary gardeners. There is plenty of harvesting and frost dodging left to be done, but there is also plenty of time to just sit and look at the special beauty of a Fall garden. The foods and smells of this month make it my favorite.




October 1 ~ Frost will come soon, so I am picking the blooms of violas,  St John's Wort, pansies, etc. for both pressing to make gift cards and bookmarks and to "sugar" for winter cake decorations. Waste not, want not.

October 3 ~ Too wet outside to work--but not to dream! I am thinking of moving statuary, arbors, a fountain....... for next year and adding new sitting areas (my grandson suggested that so we could have little tea parties in various areas of the property). But as always happens, I was brought back to earth by the sight of all the Fall weeding that needs to be done-----the big potato dig!  And the Jerusalem artichokes are ready to be dug too.

October 6 ~ The first important frost of the year. I spent most of yesterday covering bedraggled looking tomatoes, picking the last beans, dragging in pots of tender perennials and digging several plants to put in the greenhouse---such a mad rush against the inevitable. But, when the hard frost finally arrives--it is a blessing because gardeners never like giving up and giving in---so nature forces us  and after it is all over and we lament the loss of plants and crops (especially when we go on to have several more weeks of warm, sunny, frost free weather)---we can still garden...in an abbreviated way...but without the daily pressure of harvest, weeding and dread of the first frost.  For the next few days, my focus will be on dragging all the pumpkins and squash out of the garden.  * For those with root cellars in areas with warm days and cold nights--leave the door open at night and closed during the day--it is no good to put crops into a warm cellar.

October 9 ~ There are  alot of plants I can still dry--mostly things like catnip to make gifts to my feline friends and some flowers--but this time of year,  it is too damp at night and too cool some days to get them dried in my herb shed. So I just cut and lay  them in my greenhouse for a few days. Before the greenhouse, though, I would put them in my car on a sunny day with the window cracked a bit---some people use the car trunk. It works fine--but you can't forget about them or leave them in for 2 or more days.

October 11 ~ So many flowers are looking so nice right now, but bringing in plants has its limits. I heat with wood and the resulting lack of humidity all winter does not make houseplants happy. Plus, many tender perennials drop most of their leaves in winter--even in the house--which is just a mess. So now is the time to take cuttings of of woody plants and  those that have a tendency towards putting off lots of shoots--like coleus, pineapple sage, mints, begonias, geraniums of all kinds, fuscias, petunias, impatients. Cut several stems below a shoot nodule, remove any leaves that would be under water and plunk it in water (unchlorinated) and set in a window. Roots will start to form in a few weeks and by spring, you will have several plants to pot up or give away. This saves space and watering time and the eventual, unavoidable loss of beloved plants that just dont like growing indoors getting over or underwatered. Cuttings also do not seem as prone to pests as potted plants, nor do you introduce outside pests to your permanent houseplants via the soil.

October ~17 Still no hard frosts and still picking tomatoes. But the Fall garden is sort of like a second summer because all the plants that hate  the heat, are flourishing--broccoli, brussle sprouts, lettuces, spinach, the carrots and onions are ready, and my peas are forming baby edible pods.  It can't get better--plentiful food without all the work.  Nothing needs processing or storing--that work is done for the year. Instead, a daily stroll (or quick run in between rain showers) offers a  dinner of foods that don't even need to be cooked. All of my herbs are on their last legs, but still have fatastic taste and nutrients (though a lower level that during their peak growing season)---so it is herbs in every meal--including hiding them in my grandson's smoothies!

October 19 ~ We are probably the only people I know who have not yet dug their potatoes.  It has been wet and our time has been stretched, so this weekend is finally "P Day". I am also picking the last of my dill seeds and my chives are reblooming as I write, so the newly dug tubers will give us a delicious meal at the end of some back-breaking work.

October 22 ~ This is a day for a the first hot, mulled cider--which I find a lot of people love the smell of, but not so much the flavor. All mulling spices that you buy pre-packaged sort of taste the same and are heavy on cloves and anise---niether of which are my favorites in large amounts as they overpower and make the cider or tea a bit too acidic. I use the store bought packages to put in a kettle of water on my woodstove to make the house smell nice---and--to kill germs in the air. But to drink, I buy my own spices  and mix them to my taste: Cinnamon pieces, whole allspice, orange peel pieces, ginger root (small piece), pinch of fresh grated nutmeg....and a wee bit of 1 clove...and...a sprinkle of black pepper, which brings out the other flavors. Sometimes, I put in a few whole cardamom pods. It is sort of a mix between a traditional mull blend and Chai blend, but the cider base makes it taste different than a chai tea. Using powdered spices ruins the whole thing, by making it too strong, cloudy and leaving gritty residue.

Lots of outside work to do today....it is cold and cloudy and wet. All those warming, drying spices and the welcoming aroma will be much appreciated.

October 25 ~ My greenhouse is full of uprooted plants that need proper potting, all in disarray....my garden is weedy and also in disarray--though still diminishingly productive...my back is killing me......But, I savor these sporadic beautiful days and at the same time, am really looking forward to the coming days of calm, being able to spend the day writing and reading instead of hoeing and mowing, harvesting and preserving......just a few more weeks.....

October 26 ~ A rainy/snowy spell is here, so I had to make a run for my herb shed to put away whatever herbs had been drying. After bringing them in the house, I put them in shallow, open baskets to make sure there is no residual moisture before  putting them away in the herb cupboard. Some plants--like thyme, oregano, mint had to be stripped off their stems......but the stems are saved for near future simmering potpourris or bundled and used as wood stove fire starters.

October 27 ~ Finally got my pumpkins carved. I love Halloween and initially, so many years ago, started growing pumpkins primarily to have plenty of Jack-O-Lanterns. (Now, I also plant plenty of the smaller pie pumpkins to make into tasty treats)  I carved 10 this year--some both sides-- so we can enjoy them from our living room window while others enjoy them when driving by. Still, carving a pumpkin is sort of a waste....who knows how many cookies/cakes could have been made from the innards? But, I do get lots of seeds to roast from 10 pumpkins. I made three big batches this year--one "regular"--just salt and oil, another "sweet" with honey, oil, vanilla, cinnamon and a third one is "hot" with pepper flakes, salt, oil  and chili powder. Something for everyone and enough left to give as healthy gifts.

October 28 ~ Every year, I wonder what new herbal holiday gift I can inflict on long suffering family and friends. As luck would have it, NEED often inspires ideas. My daughter's  2 year old cat had dental surgery and had a dangerous EKG reading during the procedure. The vet suggested that further surgeries should be  avoided. So, this year, I will make baskets of Pet Care items: powdered herbs for general health in a sprinkle bottle for easy use, coat care, nervous system toner and a urinary tonic--and some valerian or catnip (depending upon kitty personalities) or some health home made dog biscuits. I even already have all the supplies!



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