Herbal Abundance

July!!! Everything is blooming and growing a mile a minute! It is the highpoint of the growing season here in Vermont. What a wonderful time of overwhelming abundance and absolute beauty. I sometimes have to calm myself down, take some deep breaths, and realize that everything will not get harvested, and processed to its full potential.

I’m interested in what each herbalist prioritizes this time of year, because the options are endless….

Recently I’ve been focused on:

~setting up drying racks in the school bus so that it can become a drying tunnel for herbs!

~Harvesting Elder blossoms, Echinacea leaves and flowers, Mugwort, Yarrow, Lemon balm, Peppermint, Sage, Lavender, Thyme, and Roses.

~Harvesting Calendula, St., Johnswort, Comfrey, and Plantain, and using them to make fresh oils for the year to come. I will use some of these in formulas, and salves. This is one of the most simple yet rewarding things you can do with herbs! Here’s how: Step 1- fill a jar with the fresh herb you’ll be wanting to extract the healing properties from. Step 2- pour oil (I usually use a high quality Olive oil, because of its inherent medicinal properties and ability to extract many of the herbs benefits) over the herbs to fill the jar, poke at it-with a knife or chop stick to get the air bubbles out, make sure all herbs are submerged. Step 3- cover and let sit, shaking daily, in a warm window for 2-4 weeks. Step 4- strain the oil and squeeze as much as you can from the herbs, bottle into dark colored bottles, label and store!

Summer Herbal Blessings!

June News From Harvest Hill

In the photo essay, we want readers to see Alyssa who is now harvesting elder blossoms, and they have the herbs drying in the school bus on the property at Harvest Hill!!

Herbalist, Alyssa Holmes, and her daughter, Sage, worked together to cut and harvest the blossoms.

The weather in southern Vermont has been glorious this June. The cool nights and long summer days of late June have helped to increase the bounty in our surroundings.

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Elder
Sambucus nigra
Parts used: Flowers and berries. Properties/Actions: Diaphoretic, alterative, stimulant,
antirheumatic, antiviral.
Benefits: Eases colds, flus, fevers, acne, burns, rashes, wrinkles.
Suggested uses: Syrup (berries), infusion (flowers), herbal oil (flowers), salve (flowers).
Growing, harvesting, and wild crafting tips and specifics: Perennial. Divided roots. Prefers moist, well-drained, fertile soil.
Cautions: Only the black elderberry (nigra) is safe to use. The red variety is toxic.

Here is a good overview from the Cornell Unversity Department of horticulture:

Elderberries are popular for their unusual taste in pies, jellies, and jams. They are occasionally used in winemaking. The plants are very hardy (usually to Zone 4 but some kinds to Zone 3), and because they flower in late June, the crop is seldom damaged by late spring frost.

They are attractive and easy to grow, and are great in landscape plantings. Elderberries contain more phosphorus and potassium than any other temperate fruit crop. The fruit is also rich in vitamin C.</blockquote>

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Ode to Nettle

IMG_6578It would be difficult to do, because I have such a deep love for so many herbs, but, if I had to pick a favorite that I hold dearest to my heart…it would be nettle.

Nettle has been such a faithful and steadfast daily herbal ally for me for about ten years. I feel that we have merged and become one, that when I drink nettle infusion, it is bonding with my very blood, and every cell of my body. I sometimes feel like Popeye when I drink my infusion, strong and robust. I usually brew up a quart and let it stand overnight, excited to unveil my deep green drink in the morning. It feels so nourishing and hydrating–similar to an electrolyte drink such as coconut water.

Nettle as been especially beneficial for me during my two pregnancies. I drank it almost every day, sometimes alternating with red raspberry leaf, and a few others, but for the most part nettle was my drink of choice. I felt that it helped me with all aspects and symptoms of pregnancy making for a healthy, enjoyable time in my life. I also believe that it delivered vitamin K to my infants, which they so need for proper blood clotting in the first few weeks of life.

I feel a foundation of health and strength in my body, which I attribute in large part to the regular consumption of nettle. I rarely drink plain water-it does not feel as hydrating!

 

The Book is Out & Spring has sprung!

ChamomileSpring is a time of motion, and massive transition—not only with the earth and the change of the season, but within ourselves and our bodies. Spring is a beautiful time to do some gentle cleansing by eating foods such as fresh greens, asparagus, dandelion, and nettle shoots. It is also a good time for drinking infusions filled with rejuvenating, mildly cleansing herbs such as red clover, nettle, dandelion, yellowdock, and plantain.

As the rivers are melting and flowing again, it’s the time when we start moving, frolicking, leaping about in the wild places, or on the sidewalks and in playgrounds and parks.

Let us go easy, and remember to not push too hard— remember that we don’t have to get the entire garden planted right away in May; to take it slow and notice, sit, be. The green world is unfolding, and we don’t want to miss it.

This is the time to dig, to turn, and to fortify the soil you will be planting herbs into. Have you decided what you’re going to grow this year? What perennials you may get from a friend or neighbor, or what annuals you are starting from seed, or buying seedlings of at the farmers market?

I got a whole lot of Tulsi Basil seeds to put into the ground this year, and plan on making a large area filled with Chamomile that will be trimmed down frequently, so that we can actually lie in it to take naps!

I urge each of us to do one fun thing like this each year…just for our pleasure, to be able to reflect on all our hard work, and reap the many benefits.

Enjoy the spring. work. relax. admire.

~Alyssa

PS/Today is the big day! Our book is officially out and available online and in bookstores nationwide. Local (Brattleboro, Vermont) readers will find the book at Everyone’s Books on Elliot Street; others can simply call or visit their local indie bookstore and ask for it! Thanks for all your support.

Hunger Moon

In want and hunger was their lot,

They who fled to the parched wastelands:

They plucked saltwort and shrubs;

The roots of the broom plant were their food.

~Job 30:3-4, Translated from the Hebrew

 

What a great time of year for the herbalist. A quiet time when the plants are in relaxed dormancy beneath the snow….a time to dream, reflect, and plan.

By mid winter I have usually let go of the past season, and am ready to plan for the next. Each new year is so exciting, with so much green promise. I like to flip through seed catalogs, map out new garden beds if need be, reflect on what worked or didn’t work in the garden in the previous year, and plan what annuals I will plant to augment the perennials.

Along with planning the spring and summer, this is such a beautiful time to enjoy the medicines we have made from the plants we have grown last season. I find myself being drawn to the roots, berries, and barks at this time–there will most often be a simmering pot on the stove filled with astragalus, echinacea, cinnamon, ginger, dandelion, burdock, or yellow dock, just to name a few. Drinking infusions and decoctions daily for winter health is vital!

Enjoy this time of the hunger moon, for it will be so short–and soon enough we will be in the busy fray of the rapidly growing green again.

Welcome to our site

AlyssaandDedeWe are excited to begin this blog. Alyssa Holmes, the resident herbalist at Brattleboro Holistic Health Center and her neighbor, Dede Cummings have started the blog to acquaint our readers about our upcoming book, The Medicinal Gardening Handbook, which is coming out in the Spring of 2014.

We are looking forward to using this space to “create space” for our readers to tell their own stories and share ideas and recipes about their herbal remedies and gardening techniques.

 

Thanks for visiting!
Dede & Alyssa