Saturday, April 30, 2005

Designing a Moon Garden

The following is an excerpt from the May/June 2003 Essential Herbal Magazine:

Designing a Moon Garden
Michele Brown

What could be more relaxing than coming home from work after a long hot commute, changing into comfy clothes and taking a walk through the garden? Nothing to see, you say? Well, that’s where you’re mistaken. Many herbs and flowers lend themselves beautifully to an evening or moon garden. Night blooming vines, silvery textured herbs and sweet scented pale or white blooming flowers perform and perfume wonderfully under the moonlight.

Many nighttime blooming flowers are white for a reason. Not only are they gorgeous to look at but they provide food for night pollinating insects such as the sphinx moth which flutter throughout the garden collecting nectar. Illuminated only by moonlight or even starlight, pale flowers and foliage lend a magical quality to the garden.

Imagine a small space edged with rocks, bricks or steel edging shaped in a crescent moon shape. It doesn’t have to be large. It can be a garden within a garden or in a corner between two structures. Fill your garden with a pleasing layout of white and pale night-blooming flowers and silvery herbs. Place a pathway through the garden if it is wide. A bench or chair would be idea as well.

There are many flowers and herbs that would shine in a moon garden. This list is just to get you started. Moon Vine is perfect for winding around a trellis or archway. It has a wonderfully sweet scent and large white blooms. Lavender has gray foliage and purple scented blooms. Lamb’s Ears are low growing with velvety silver leaves. These will spread rapidly throughout the season. Plant them in clumps of 3 or 5 for a natural look. Thyme, especially Silver Thyme, lends a spot of color and a spicy scent throughout the garden. Plant them near the edge of the garden so visitors can brush past it releasing its scent. Flowering Tobacco and Jasmine are both sweetly scented white blooming plants. Flowering Tobacco is easily started from seed while Jasmine should be purchased as a plant. Jasmine blooms during the day as well and its blooms are a wonderful addition to teas and punches. Southernwood adds a wispy, mystical touch to the garden as well. Add some white Sonata Cosmos throughout the garden for that perfect touch.
May/June 2003 Essential Herbal Magazine

Thursday, April 28, 2005

resin incense

As the weather here changes to spring, it is possible to burn resins without a) freezing to death, or b) getting a visit from the fire department.

The easiest way to do this is by using charcoal blocks... or tablets. These are smallish disks - about 1 1/2 inches in diameter - with a dip on the face. When lit, they begin to spark and then the the entire disks glows red. They are then ready for use.
First, though, they must be given a safe place to produce this heat. Begin with an oven proof bowl, or many people like large sea shells for this purpose. Put several inches of sand or sea salt into the bowl. This will help absorb the heat so the bowl/shell doesn't get too hot. Beware, it will still be pretty hot.
Once you have prepared the bowl and lit the charcoal, sprinkle a tiny bit of resin on top. It will begin to smolder and release the scent of the forest.
There are many choices when it comes to resins. Frankincense, copal, dragon's blood, pinon, and myrrh... to name a few. Check out our shop for some of them. We also carry charcoal, and a kit for making your own incense... along with our book - Making Your Own Incense, a 32 page intro with recipes, published by Storey.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"steam and eat" nettles

At this particular time of year, the stinging nettle is very tender and tasty - not to mention VERY nutritious and good for all the slowness brought on by winter.
While out looking about, I alway take along garden gloves and a few baggies. Upon finding a nice thick grove of stinging nettles, on go the gloves. I pick enough for dinner and put it directly into a sturdy flat bottomed baggie.

There are two ways to proceed here. You can either sprinkle a tiny bit of water into the bag (depending on where the nettles were harvested, and whether you feel it is necessary to wash them), and place the bag - slightly open - in the microwave for a minute until the nettles are deep green.

Or remove the nettles to a pan, add a small amount of water and steam gently.

Either way, be very careful not to touch the uncooked herb, as it will sting like the Dickens! Serve plain or with a bit of butter or broth. Delicious!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Wildcrafting Tea

The post on the tincture reminded me of the "tea" I made the first year that wildcrafting was really starting to become an obsession (yeah... I admit it, its more than an interest).
Each time I walked in the woods, visited a friend's garden, or wandered through my own yard, I gathered anything that would be a worthy ingredient.
Onto a screen they went: violet flowers and leaves, rose petals(and hips), elderflowers (and later the berries), raspberry leaves, mints, thyme, sage, marshmallow root, and comfrey, echinacea, bee balm, chamomile, catnip. On and on the list of ingredients went.
Then, since we had a well stocked herb shop at the time, I added bits of licorice root, star anise, hibiscus, and a few other interesting elements.
All winter long that jar of dried botanicals served up different and delicious cups of tea - no two ever exactly like the other.
Since the spring yeilded a good 1/2 gallon of dried materials, there was very little of any one ingredient, and so little worry about potential side effects. Still I was careful to identify any addition.
It kept the spring clear in my heart for the cold dark winter.

We're participating in a blog carnival on MindBodySole Online come see!Link

Monday, April 25, 2005

An Herbie Day

Yesterday was a lot of fun. Although the weather was very chilly and damp, we headed out into the woods again. This time of year, it doesn't pay to skip a chance. Normally we concentrate on the side of the trail near the creek, because there always seemed to be the greatest diversity there. But yesterday when glancing up the hill on the other side, we were stunned to see an avalanche of yellow violets. Thousands of them cascading down the hill.

We hiked on up to get a closer look and found that they were nestled in with hundreds of small Jack in the Pulpits, Wood Avens, False Soloman Seal, and luscious Chickweed. There was also a plant our grandfather used to call licorice plant, because it smells like licorice, but we need to do a little research on that one. Even more surprising was a plant that appears to be goldenseal.

While we were out wandering around, a batch of soaps we hadn't tried before was in the studio curing. Its a cold process soap with salt added to speed curing time to just hours before cutting. I posted some pictures on the yahoo list site, but still haven't figured out how to do so here. They are gorgeous, but you'll just have to take my word for it :-).

I hope that others are taking the opportunity to get out there! Well.... maybe not those of you who had snow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Making a "Garden Tincture"

Here's an idea we ran in the spring of 2003 on making a "Garden Tincture"

In my garden, I grow an assortment of plants from which I harvest parts all season long for their medicinal virtues. (When I say that I pick the flowers, what I really mean is the flower along with stem and leaves attached.) When the Echinacea purpurea is blooming, I pick flowers and put them a jar filled with 70% ethanol (usually diluted Everclear).

When the yarrow blooms, some of those are added.
Of course, the Beebalm flowers are desired, and they add a pretty color, as well as antiviral properties.

Anise hyssop flowers go in when they arrive and lemon balm leaves are gathered as I pass them on the way to the elderberry “tree”.

This plant would normally grow as a shrub, but I’ve pruned it to grow as a tree and it has a beautiful canopy that shades the horse’s water trough now. When the berries are plump and juicy, I gather a handful and add them to the jar. Then I put the jar on the shelf to steep for a few months, and by the time winter and the accompanying sniffles arrive, I’m ready! We use it at the first sign of an illness, no matter what type, and the symptoms are gone in short order.
If we didn’t respond soon enough and a full-blown illness erupts, I’ll add some Usnea tincture to the flower tincture to ramp up the power.
This was submitted by  Roxann Phillips

Monday, April 18, 2005

into the woods

Yesterday we went for a walk in the woods to see what was up and blooming. Last Sunday there were tons of hepatica blooms. This week the hepatica was done, leaving just those odd yet beautiful leaves.
There were banks upon banks of trout lily, and spring beauty was everywhere. Next week those two will still be blooming, but there will also be geranium (maybe) and mayapple. The jack in the pulpit is just starting.
The woods are getting very lush. It would be easy to miss the tiny yellow and purple sweet violets so close to the ground. The well worn deer trails will become much less visible in a week or two.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

field guides

In the course of the last few weeks, we've been discussing on various lists the desire to identify wild herbs.
This is a subject near and dear to my heart, as I spend many winter evenings poring over field guides and thinking about the plants that will be visited like old friends when spring arrives. By doing this, often when I stumble across a new plant, it feels as if we've already met, as they've crossed my mind so many times.
A few favorites:
Billy Joe Tatum's Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook - The illustrations are line drawings that are somehow clearer than photographs. This book helped me find lamb's quarters, even though I'd seen tons of photos. Great recipes, and Billy Joe Tatum has a relationship with plants that I greatly admire. She sees them as friends and approaches them that way.

In the Peterson Field Guides series:
Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants by Steven Foster and James A. Duke
Edible Wild Plants by Lee Allen Peterson
These field guides have great photographs, wonderful information, and lots of diagrams and drawings to help learn ways to identify via leaf cut/type, stem shape, fruit, and flower.

Another book with terrific information and good hand drawn illustrations with some photos is the Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Too big to be taken into the field, a good one to study over the winter.

Anytime I see used or discounted books on weeds or wildflowers, you can be sure I'll snatch them up.

starting a blog....

Yes, yes... I am working on the magazine and skipped out to start something else (this blog!).
This issue is full of great articles, and we're including excerpts from each of the books we've compiled, so it's pretty exciting. May/June is always a fun issue.
As time goes on, I expect to learn how to post pictures and keep this up to date. This could be lots of fun! is the website associated with this blog.