January 2, 2013 @ 7:43 PM

 New Year Resolutions for Herbalists


Follow me this month while I try to clear out my own chaos and get a few tips on how to get your herb cabinet and/or business back in order!  January is a perfect time for reflection and planning, but also, we have time for getting things done since the rush of garden season is still a few months away, the snow keeps us at home a bit more....as does the promise of a warm house and hot cup of tea. Each day, I am going to tackle something that needs constant care or attention, but that is often left to become dysfunctional as the year goes on. Will this be the year, I actually keep on top of things? Who knows...but if not, I will repost next year!

January 1, 2013



With all the best intentions, my herb shelves, supplies and books start out clearly labled, organized alphabetically, inventoried, but several remedy preparations for family or clients later, and a busy life, less and less is where it should be. Over the course of several months, nothing is..... and so the stress of having to rummage around before being able to find, much less make a tea or some needed concoction, is upon me. The disarray takes away from the positive energy I would like to imbue my herbal preparations with, it wastes time and it causes a waste of money--because if I can't find something, I assume there is none left--or can't bother with the time to find it. The end result is that there is often too much of any particular herb or ingredient, which sits under piles of other herbs and gets old. So, how can this typical problem really be resolved? There is only one way....and it begins with.....

1) Put Things Back Where You Got Them IMMEDIATLY--not later or in a little while or when you can get to it. It ends up saving so much time and eventually becomes a habit... a good one.

2) Do Not Be Afraid to Throw Things Out--If you grow your own herbs or have paid good money for them, but have not used them for several years, clean out your stores. Luckily, since these are organic materials, you can still use them in compost, as fertilizer (make a fertilizing "tea") or use them as incense. For old tinctures that have been decanted and put into dropper bottles--the rubber may deteriorate after a few years, so those should be disposed of down the drain. It is better to keep tinctures in their original tincturing vessle--if the alcohol levels were right, they will last indefinitely. Tinctures made of vinegar really need disposal after a year and can be used on ant hills or as natural weed killers. Undoubtedly, during the weeding out process, you will find 2 or more bags of the same thing that can be consolidated (one of my favorite words!), thus creating more space.

3) Get a Labeling System That Makes Sense to YOU--I need to organize by type of preparation and then alphabetizing. So I have separate areas for dried herbs, tinctures and specialized  mixtures/blends. Labels should be uniform and lettering should be neat and easy to read. Lots of people order herbs in bags and then shove those bags into already overstuffed cupboards. If that is you--you already know what a disaster that ends up being!! It is better to place all dried herbs in containers that can be shelved in rows (I prefer glass--and if you are lucky to hit  a sale--there are uniform SQUARE jars available  that are more space efficient. Sale or no, they are a good investment. Now---arrange alphabetically...and do not forget to enjoy the extra space you just created--it probably will not last long!!

4) Inventory--So you had to throw out the Elder Flowers you harvested in 2006 and now you need more. Sit and think about all the herbs you use regularly and ones that are just essential to have on hand--just in case. Since you just weeded out the cabinets, you have a good idea what you have enough of and what you need more of. Make an alphabetical list of what you have and hang it on the door of your cupboard. From now on--when you are low on a particular herb, put a star by it and reorder.

5) Books-- The books I use most often are on the shelf I have the easiest access to--i use them daily--if not more, so I know what is there--even though they are out of order. All the rest are grouped by subject and some by author if they are a favorite writer of mine--and prolific enough to have written more than 2 books. Again, this has to be a system that makes sense to you. The real issue is having enough shelves for the hundred of books we herbalists amass! It is an addiction!! It is also sad to have very good books forgotten and unused because they are on the bottom of the pile... in back of the door because your tenth bookshelf was filled up over a year ago. Some of those books CAN go--to young students, as gifts, library donations. You are not throwing them out--you are sharing. My first herb book so many years ago was Jethro Kloss--found at a library. Old unused closets make great book storage too--if they are not already being used for herbs!

6) Supplies--I have my kitchen herb supplies and then those used for teaching--and sometimes, 2-3 separate boxes of supplies depending upon if I am teaching here, or lecturing elsewhere. It is a lot of effort to pack and unpack after every class, so I have containers organized with supplies for various types of workshops. There is some duplication, but it is so much more convenient.

So, this blog post is one day late, because I took yesterday to organize my own herbs--it took all day (and I actually have some left to do). The real key to keeping on top of this is to  "Do it NOW"--whatever it is--putting away, cleaning, re- ordering,shelving books.  Tomorrow, I'm taking it easy and will instead be Reflecting on my realtionship with herbs.