Spring Weed/Herb Harvest

Fellow gardeners, before you start pulling all the weeds out of your garden – vegetable or flower – take a look at what it is that is growing. Right now is a huge opportunity for spring tonic herbs and medicinals which are abundant in spring only.
So, instead of thinking of it as ‘weeding’ think of it as ‘harvesting’.
I go out with a basket or tray or something to hold separate kinds of plants, and some pictures or a field guide (or as you become familiar, just recognition), and go to town!
Here is what is currently growing that is valuable Medicinally and Edibly right now in our own garden:
wild geranium (M),
chick weed (M&E),
plantain (M&E),
cleavers (M),
ground ivy (M&E),
Violet (M&E),
goosefoot aka lambs quarters (M&E),
curly dock (M&E),
broadleaf dock (M&E), Yellow dock (M&E),
dandelion (M&E),
goldenrod (M),
Field Madder Sherardia arvensis(Dye),
henbit (M&E),
hairy bittercress (M&E),
Indian mock strawberry (M&E),
purple deadnettle (M),
purslane (M&E),
spurge (M though poison if not used properly),
ragweed (M),
shepherd’s purse (M),
Sicklepod (Senna Obtusifolia) Seed,
Spiny Amaranth Amaranthus spinosus (M),
yellow woodsorrel (M&E), wild garlic (M&E), white clover (M&E),
smilax aka greenbriar (M&E),
red clover (M&E),
cat’s ear (a dandelion lookalike) M&E).
Each of these wild plants can be looked up separately but they all have useful properties – one even makes a lovely red dye. So, identify then use as you wish.
I always leave one plant to go to seed when harvesting so I can continue the species in my space, even though others consider them weeds. There are others but these are growing here at Hillside Gardens, and many of them are drying in my dehydrator now, are macerating in alcohol tincture preparations, or in oils for salves and ointments.
Patricia Kyritsi Howell, a beloved herbalist from North Carolina, told me once that the Cherokees recognized and used 1500 medicinal herbs in the Appalachian range and foothills. The above plants are just a smattering of that treasureful abundance.
This list changes as the seasons unfold, but right now it’s such an abundance I thought I’d share this with you.
3-19-19
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Posted in Food Forest, Gardening, Herb gardening, organic gardening, Permaculture, Seasonal gardening plants, Self-Sustainability, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FINISHING HANDSPUN YARN

 

I won’t go into the whole activity of spinning yarn because that is a whole subject unto itself. But recently I had spun a bunch of yarn and had to make sure it was a good final product for people who trusted me to spin for them. So, here was my journey.

One of my passions is fiber arts. Especially I love hand and machine sewing, knitting, crocheting, weaving and spinning yarn either with a drop spindle or on a spinning wheel. I also weave baskets, which is considered a fiber art too.

I make my own hand sewn 1700’s attire for my living history society with natural fiber cloth like cotton, linen, wool etc. and spin wool, alpaca, and dog and cat fur. And for several years I have demonstrated drop spindle and spinning wheel for people visiting Fort Yargo in Winder, Ga. at the 225 year old block building, originally built when George Washington was president.

Recently I was asked by a lady and her mother to take a large bag of their beloved afghan dog’s fur and spin it into yarn. This was quite a challenge because the fur was stored in plastic, had partially felted, and was hard to clean and comb. I pulled it apart by hand, discarded the bits that had been included which were short and un-spinnable, picked out the debris, and systematically carded (combed on special carding combs) into rolags (sausage shaped rolls of combed fiber ready for spinning) as much of the fur as I could dislodge from the clumps. It was time consuming but I did it over the winter.

Then once most of it was carded and made into rolags, I spun the fur carefully and slowly using my spinning wheel, into a single stand called a ply. It was slow going because the length of the fur was so uneven and often broke apart. But eventually I spun enough of the fur to make 6 balls. These were carefully wound on a special stick called a nostapin which rolls the yarn into a ball with a hole in the middle.

Then taking the strand from the inside of the ball and the outside, I carefully spun the two strands (called plies) together to make a finished two ply yarn. I used the method of doing it with one ball. This allows a more careful control of the spinning together of the two strands without the individual two strands, usually from separate balls, rolling around and into each other, because it keeps the balls from rubbing together and agitating the fibers, possibly loosening them. Then once the 6 balls were thus plied, I wound the plied yarn around the back of a chair into 18” long skeins, tied each end, and set them aside.

This yarn can be directly knitted or woven, but the twist is uneven and it isn’t strong. So, in order to even the twist and make it processed enough to make for easy knitting or crocheting by their users, I researched how to best finally process the fiber and even out the twist.

There are a number of traditional ways to do this which include washing in hot then cold water, without agitating (to prevent felting), using special soaking liquid, and either just hanging to dry, or using weights to straighten out the fibers.

For a stronger product the skeins can be stretched and snapped between the hands, which evens out the twist (after hot and cold water soaking several times, and squeezing them in towels) to then hang and allow to dry. Further stronger and partially or fully felting the yarn can be processed by wacking the skeins on a counter or floor after soaking and squeezed, or full-on agitating with a plunger while soaking between very hot and very cold water. This makes for very strong yarn but it shrinks it. Wacking it after squeezing it makes the fiber fluff out called ‘blooming’. Strongly agitating it makes it very firm not fluffy, and smoother. I had to make a decision on which to do.

I opted not to stress the fiber too much by wacking or using a plunger on it but I did want to even out the twist for an even looking yarn. I knew the things made with this fur yarn would be precious heirlooms in the family because this dog was beloved so I wanted to give the yarn the most longevity.

I looked at making my own SOAK liquid to clean the fiber. And I found a good recipe for it on a website – several sites giving almost identical recipes. SOAK can be purchased on Amazon or various websites, but I like to do things myself.

Here is the recipe: (see site below)

2 cups grated soap (not detergent) – either as flakes or grated from bars

½ cup methylated spirits (I thought rubbing alcohol would work just as well since it is ethanol and easily available and is likewise denatured)

1 Tbs Eucalyptus essential oil

1 cup hot water

Mix in a jar, shake well to incorporate and melt the soap. It was suggested to add lavender oil for fragrance or other favorite fresh scented essential oils. Add a couple of Tbs. of this mixture to a sink of water for soaking and cleaning yarn or wool garments. Or use in a washing machine on gentle cycle, where it was suggested to add vinegar to the rinse cycle. But if it’s washed or soaked by hand, it doesn’t need to be rinsed with fresh water. (Machine washing is only recommended for finished garments as this can easily felt loose yarn.)

Once the yarn is soaked and squeezed, then rolled in a towel to get the majority of the water out, it can be snapped, or wacked, then hung. It doesn’t have to be rinsed again.

However, I also found out that the yarn can be soaked in the hot then water using shampoo or even dish detergent, but it needs to be rinsed after soaking unlike using ‘SOAK’ liquid in the soaking water.

Once the final product has been ‘fulled’ – i.e. final processed – it is hung to dry out of direct sunlight, where there is good ventilation. If it is yarn pulled off a garment such as an old sweater, or from woven cloth, it tends to be crinkly, and needs to be straightened out. Using a clip on the downside of the skein, you can hang some kind of weight to pull the yarn straight, or even use a bottle of water, lay it in the bottom loop of the skein till it is dry.

Once the yarn  has dried, it can either be wound into balls or left in skeins for later winding.

This whole process works for any animal based yarn. Single ply (usually used for weaving) benefits from ‘fulling’ – the plunger method which mildly felts the individual strands. This list of processes are particularly used for animal fibers such as sheep and lambs wool, alpaca, llama, angora rabbit, or mohair angora goat, dog or cat fur, camel hair, and silk. These listed are particularly for hand crafted and spun yarns, not commercial work.

Silk is usually more delicate and handled differently but it is a protein fiber. Raw silk has similar properties to the above listed than processed fine silk.

The cellulose – i.e. plant sourced – of fibers have different properties and use different processes and are the subject of a different study on another day. These would include cotton, linen (flax), bamboo, hemp, okra stalk, stinging nettle and a number of other wild and domesticated plant fiber sources. But they too can be spun with drop spindle or spinning wheel by hand once the fibers are coaxed out of the plants.

I hope this has inspired you to take some fibers you find and learn how to make yarn. Once I found how comforting it is to sit and spin yarn, then take that and make great and beautiful things like shawls, hats, mittens, and a host of creative things, I was hooked.

Actually my mother took me to her weaving classes at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan at the Henry Fort Museum and village site, in the 1950s, where I was shown how to use the little loom, while she worked in her classes weaving broad loom fabrics, which she later tailored into clothing for our family.

Many years later I returned for a visit to the old weaving building there and saw that little loom sitting on a table just as I remembered it up on the second floor where all the large looms were still being used to teach.

She worked for happy hours at her own loom at home and made my brother and I, as well as herself, warm coats and clothing for many years. She also was an accomplished knitter, crotchetier, embroideress, seamstress and costume maker (all my ballet class costumes) – including my dresses. She taught me all of that when I was younger and I made many of my own clothing, which I still do.

Read these for further information on yarn finishing and related sites:

http://knittyblog.com/2013/09/jillians-spinning-finishing-yarn/

http://www.theyarnloop.com/article/make-your-own-no-rinse-wool-wash

https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/learn-about-washing-yarn-2117323

https://www.mybluprint.com/article/washing-raw-wool-get-ready-for-some-serious-suds

Happy Spinning.

Diann Dirks 3-18-19

Posted in Uncategorized, Permaculture, Self-Sustainability, Basket making and fiber arts, Yarn, hand spinning, yarn processing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring Harvesting -Wild herbs and Vegetables March 2019

It’s wild herb harvest time. The world is full of flowers and bees, greens and good things to eat.

This morning I went out in the cool crisp spring air to pick some flowers for the house, this being such a prolific time for large bouquets for the house. I had many to choose from. Daffodils with peach cups, pink peach blossoms, yellow forsythia, and purple iris are now so lovely and in enough abundance that I cut enough for three large bouquets. My mantle looks so nice with two bouquets, and the kitchen table has the larger one.

But the exciting thing for an herbalist is how many spring herbs come up now ready for making medicines.

Purple Dead Nettle – a lovely spring tonic herb – was in profusion. I picked enough flowering heads for about two or three cups worth. They will go into the dehydrator after I give them a bit of a dunking.

Purple violets were showing and I gathered a large handful of them then cut the leaves. They too will go with the other ones already harvested into the dehydrator. Not only are they medicinal but when gathering enough of the flowers they make a lovely fabric dye. And a friend of mine – Anne-Marie Bilella herbalist and award winning innovative cook – makes beautiful jelly from them.

I noticed loads of Dandelion flowers ready to pluck and make oils or other goodies, even in salads. All parts of the dandelion are edible or medicinal so it’s a good time to dig up the larger ones for their roots, or harvest the leaves and flowers.

The Wild Lettuce, a wonderful pain relieving herb, has established itself in many locations – when last year we only had two plants. They are too young yet to gather, but having so many of them makes me happy.

Speedwell – Veronica persica is in profusion – a lovely muscle relaxing herb. It’s a new acquaintance to me, but I have wondered for several years what it was. Luckily I didn’t just arbitrarily ‘weed’ them – a practice I am grateful for – because they are a wonderful wild herb. They got harvested and rinsed, and are about to go into the dehydrator for tea and other uses.

Cleavers is flowering its tiny almost un-seeable blossoms – a great lymph cleanser and mover. Once they are a bit larger I will harvest them and make tincture. I use a dropperful every morning in my coffee for lymph health.

The Mullein is in its second year so I will want to harvest some of the leaves before it gets too big and sends its huge flowering stem up into the air. That is a wonderful upper respiratory herb. Once the stem forms and starts producing little yellow flowers, if I can bring myself to rob the bees, I will pick as many of them as I can and dehydrate them for later or make tinctures.

Henbit is flowering – a lovely edible for salads. I suspect it is a kind of spring tonic food. But it is delicious in salads and is full of good nutrients.

Cat’s Ear Hypochaeris radicata is just starting to put up stems. This is a dandelion look-alike as the leaves are roseat (lay flat in a whorl of leaves) but the stiffer stems come up high and produces more than one yellow flower with squared off leaves unlike the dandelion whose flowers are on short tender hollow stems. Cat’s ear leaves are hairy while dandelions are smooth. Soon Cat’s Ear will replace the dandelion in my yard for yellow flowers as the vast abundance of spring dandelions peters out. They have very similar medicinal benefits and are edible as well.

Chickweed is at its most tender now – a wonderful astringent and useful in healing salves and ointments. It also makes a delicious addition to salads. Another herbalist friend of mine makes pesto with them, but beware – they are a powerful laxative if eaten too much at a time.

This is just a fair sampling of what is out there. Green Briar (aka smilax) vines are setting out tender tendrils on the ends of their stiff thorny stems which are tasty and delicious. But it takes a LOT of them to make a meal. Wild Geranium is just coming up now which also has medicinal benefit, and a host of other ones too. Go nuts and google spring weeds. You might find it as fascinating as I do.

There is such treasure in the spring up-growth of the wild plants particularly in this part of the world. I used to think I had to get out there and mow it all down, but that was when I was still ignorant of what I was seeing and having close to hand. Now I look at it and am glad for all the benefits. I get quite excited actually. My dehydrator runs non-stop.

The fruit trees have been flowering one after the other. Right now the plum tree is a cloud of white flowers. The almond tree and cherry trees in my neighbor’s yard have lost their pink blossoms, but other flowering trees are providing the bees with food.

Weeks ago when the dandelions started coming up I watched as wave after wave of honey bees found my yard. When I went next to one of my peach trees two days ago, their pink blossoms were alive with the buzzing of more of the bees. I particularly try to keep flowering varieties in succession so the bees always have things to eat. So when my vegetables need pollinating later, the bees will be used to coming here and I will get the benefit of their industriousness.

Winter vegetables which rode out the cold weather under plastic this year are now providing an abundance of greens and we have the most wonderful salads almost every night. The lettuces of many colors are sweet and crisp. We have a nice number of spinach plants which are coming into their own as it has warmed up a bit. Swiss chards in several colors are alike providing delicious leaves and stems, plus bright colors to make salads more appetizing as well as nutritious. Bok Choy is now flowering and those flowers are also delicious. I’ll leave many of them to go to seed, but meanwhile I love biting into a fragrant and sweet flower head from them. Look-alike, the diacon radish flowers also are out and edible – being in the same family. The broccoli provided some nice heads recently but now are growing lots of little mini-broccoli heads which with the leaves are delicious.

Into the mix I gather some of the edible leaves and flowering heads or stems of the nicer wild edibles. This makes for a very rich and nutritious spring tonic effect after a winter of store bought and stored-in-warehouse-vegetables, or brought in from foreign lands with who knows what sprays. We need good chlorophyll now, and alive plants to perk up the bodies grown sluggish.

If you have a yard, don’t spray it or put pre-emergents on it. Give it a year, then let the ‘weeds’ come out. I know some of you have HOA’s that don’t let you do this but if not, see what bounty you can glean from what nature provides. Once you see how delicious and energizing eating them is (of course you need to ID them and harvest them away from roads or sources of contamination like neighbors who have their grass sprayed – overspray isn’t good), you might never want to spray again.

The concept of perfect velvet green yards is getting to be passé. It used to be that this was a sign of nobility – having vast green lawns with narry a weed. But with enlightenment and people realizing how sadly lacking their grocery store food is, it’s getting more ordinary to see people putting their lawns into raised beds or edible gardens in amongst the ornamentals.

If you need help making your property a haven for bees, growing food or herbs, fruit or wild crafting, get in touch with me. If I’m close by, I can directly consult your property. If not, I can help you in other ways. Comment and I’ll get back to you. I’d really like to see people do better than they are health wise.

Diann Dirks, The Garden Lady of Georgia

3-16-19

 

Posted in Bee haven gardens, Bees, Flowering herbs, Flowering plants', Gardening, Herb gardening, organic gardening, Permaculture, Seasonal gardening plants, Self-Sustainability, Uncategorized, winter gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring Tonic Time 3-12-19

Here it is the first week in March and already we’re having weather in the 70s. It’s sunny outside and lovely.

Here at Hillside Gardens, we’re trying to catch up on the seasonal transitions. It’s a month early as I mentioned in my last post. We did have a cold snap last week for which my neighbor and I covered the annual beds, blueberry bushes, and container rows with plastic. But I doubt if it will freeze again this year. So, yesterday he came over and removed the plastic off the annual beds, and then we together removed it all from the containers and blueberry bushes. All is looking good.

When we were finished, I took a basket out and harvested a sink full of delicious salad greens including several kinds of lettuce, spinach, bok choy blossoming heads, small broccoli sprouts, and a bit of this and that. Delicious with dinner, nothing like fresh out of the garden spring greens.

Our front grassy area (I hesitate to call it a lawn since most of it is ‘medicinal’ plants, aka weeds we use and eat) is a blanket of dandelion blossoms. The bees are busy at work getting their spring food. The fruit trees – almond, plum, peach – are in lusty bloom for which the bees are happy and busy. Even the daffodils and other bulb flowers are happily showing their best glad rag beauty. This is March! This isn’t supposed to be happening until April around here.

I’ve been researching spring tonic herbs. We have stinging nettle in containers and I made my first tea from it last week – I was amazed at how delicious it is. Then I ate the greens left in the tea pot – the stingers were barely noticeable and not stinging at all. Yum. All those ‘weeds’ you see coming up in your yard and garden are probably so wonderful and beneficial for you. So, instead of ‘weeding’, harvest and use.

Here is a partial list of the wild crafted herbs (aka weeds) and garden herbs that are used traditionally as spring tonics – either make tea, eat raw, tincture or steam and eat.

Birch bark

Burdock

Chickweed

Cleavers

Red clover (which usually comes out a bit later, but you may have some)

Creasy greens Lepidium sativum, also called upland cress

Curly dock

Yellow dock

Leaves of oxe eye daisy (leucanthemum vulgars)

Dandelion- leaf flower and root

Echinacea root aka cone flower

Gold thread – coptis Canadensis

Ground elder

Dwarf ginseng – panax trilolius aka ground nut

Ground ivy

Hawthorn blossom

Jack by the hedge aka garlic mustard

Lady’s smock

Lambs quarters

Young linden leaves

Parsley

Plantain

Poke – only very young leaves – boil and change water 3 times before eating

Purple dead nettle – flowering heads

Purslane

Sarsaparilla – aka smilax root bark

Sassafras bark

Wild sarsaparilla

Sheep sorrel

Spikenard root

Stinging nettle – tea or tincture, or steam

Three cornered leek aka wild onion

Tree sap (or maple syrup – 1 Tbs. in 1 pint of spring water)

Violet greens

Wintergreen – Gaultheria procumbens

See sites below for specific uses, preparations, and identifications.

There may be others but this was a fairly thorough search for this area. Some of the listed plants are found in the U.K. per the site listed below. But most are local to Georgia.

Many of the other ‘weeds’ like henbit with their cheerful little purple flowers are also edible and go beautifully in fresh salad. They just aren’t necessarily medicinal.

When we have been living off of store bought head lettuce all winter (which barely has any nutrition compared with wild crafted herbs) I love taking advantage of the bounty that spring brings. Some of the herbs mentioned above, example chickweed, are also wonderfully edible and can be made into pesto, salads, added to stews and soups, and made into omlets too.

Winter brings stagnation in the body, liver, intestines, lungs, circulatory system, and immune system from all the heavier food and fewer fresh fruits and vegetables. Winter food keeps us warm but at the end, we need a bit of house cleaning internally. A spring tonic or two can do this. Many are diuretics (increases kidney activity and makes us pee more to flush out), some are warming others cooling depending on your constitution. Many are anti-inflammatory, as well as energizing.

There are two strategies for use of a spring tonic. First is elimination and enhanced digestion – stimulating the natural detoxification processes in the body, particularly the intestines, liver, gall bladder, and generally to handle stagnations. Secondly is to bolster the immune systems, increase power, energy and stimulate the hormonal systems including the endocrine system like thyroid and others. Some of these herbs do both.

But from my research, I think it’s safe to dig up some dandelions (never from where you have sprayed, or along a road or within at least 50 feet from them) – clean off the roots and cut them up to make some tea, then eat the greens and flowers. Stinging nettle likewise is terrific for cleaning out the body and giving you energy and much needed fresh minerals and nutrients lacking in the winter foods. Drink some maple syrup water or add it to tea you’ve made with some of these herbs. If you dig up roots or use barks, these need to be simmered for awhile to get out the benefits, then take the pot off the stove and add the more delicate green leaves and flowers in hot but not simmering water, covering to keep in the volatile components.

I share the viewpoint of the “Wise Women” group (herbalists) who meet twice a year in North Carolina, in that for everything the body needs, you’ll find the remedy in nature within a very short space around where you live. The abundance of the natural plants which grow around us on our little bit of land as well as in our cultivated spaces is simply awe inspiring.

Since I have taken the time to really study what is here, and before I pull something I don’t recognize, I take the effort to identify it, I have found we live in a treasure trove of plant magnanimity here in the foot hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. More than half of what I have listed above grows here without any help from me, except I don’t pull them out indiscriminately. I think of the ‘weeding’ process as harvesting, and like a wise herbalist forager, I never take it all, leaving flowering and seeding plants to replace what I have taken for use.

Nature blesses us with unexpected bounty. I have a wild cherry tree growing without help but several years ago I tried to transplant one and it didn’t take. But a bird must have heard my request because our tree is about 30 feet tall now. I have sarsaparilla (aka green briar, and smilax) growing in several areas and even though my husband wants to pull the long thorny vines, I smile and say, no honey they are medicinal and I make baskets with their vines. He’d still like to pull them out but he knows I have some method to my madness.

I hope you can find a space that hasn’t been contaminated by pesticides and herbicides where you can wild craft the wild herbs and tonic herbs you need because after winter’s stultification and inactivity, getting things moving gives energy and vitality when we come up out of hibernation (and TV couch potato living).

Do some research on your own. Your area may not have the same offerings in spring but surely wherever you do live, you will find what you need.  Here are a few of the sites I found of interest: https://whisperingearth.co.uk/2014/05/01/spring-wild-green-cuisine/

http://vtherbcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Spring-Tonics.pdf

https://www.traditionalmedicinals.com/articles/tea/spring-tonic-teas/

https://theherbalacademy.com/spring-tonics/ 

https://www.motherearthliving.com/health-and-wellness/spring-tonics

https://oldwaysherbal.wordpress.com/tag/spring-tonics/

https://www.motherlove.com/blog/view/spring-tonic-herbs-are-spring-cleaning-for-your-body

https://www.anniesremedy.com/aralia-racemosa-spikenard.php

 

Cheers. Here’s to your health and a very Happy Spring. 3-12-19

 

Posted in Basket making and fiber arts, Bee haven gardens, Bees, detoxification, Flowering herbs, Flowering plants', Food Forest, Gardening, Gut health, Herb gardening, Immune booster, Kidney stones, Liver protection herb, organic gardening, Permaculture, Seasonal gardening plants, Self-Sustainability, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spring Tonic Herbs

Here in NE Georgia we have had a one month early spring. If that doesn’t get you moving in the garden or homestead, nothing will. Fruit trees are in blossom, bulb flowers up and blooming along the roads and in the garden, the greens planted in winter going nuts. It’s all good except when all those things I was going to do in winter suddenly ran out of time to do.

I’ve been out making cuttings of all my bushes and trees for propagation, transplanted hundreds of seedlings for spring crops, and am now having to imagine where I am going to put starts for summer already.

So, it’s also time for some spring tonics to get all that blood moving around from sitting by the fire. I spent a day watching a bunch of YouTube videos on some of my herbs now coming up and ready for harvesting.

The big one, the real revelation, was stinging nettle. I went out and picked a bunch of the young heads and made my first nettle tea, and then I ate the leaves. If you have never tasted nettle tea, this is the time to harvest because the baby starts and tops of the plants are so gentle they don’t sting (but have some dock plants nearby because when you get stung, the formic acid in the little needle like protuberances which is what hurts, is handled by rubbing some squished dock leaves – takes the pain out immediately).

So, I cut a small pile and made my tea. A small handful of the fresh leaves, a cup of really hot boiling water in a mug or tea pot for 10 minutes, good to drink. DELICIOUS.

This stuff is so nutritious and a wonderful tonic, it’s worth trying. If you don’t grow stinging nettle, you can get it dry from several herb companies in bags. Try I Herb or Mt. Rose Herb Co. But fresh is the best.

Also delicious out there is lemon or lime balm, catnip, peppermint, sweet mint, purple dead nettle, and dandelion – all out in force right now. Mix and match for some delightful wild crafted or garden grown tonic spring pick me up.
BTW Stinging nettle is a wonderful energizer.

Take some time to admire the world as it comes out of hibernation. Birds singing, grass a vibrant spring green unmatched the rest of the year, wild flowers, trees in transition, the earth coming back alive.

I’ve been making grocery bags full of newspaper quick pots for planting seeds. Take a half sheet of newspaper, fold it lengthwise, and with the folded side up, roll it around a wine bottle leaving about an inch or so at the bottom. Turn this under the bottom of the bottle and tape it. Pull it off the bottle, then tape the loose end at the top up and around the lip.

Into this I put good potting soil like Miracle Grow, and set a sprinkle of seeds in each one. I like to keep the large Styrofoam meat trays from the grocery store as trays for these little pots. I label each pot and sprinkle a bit more soil over the top – however much the seed packet says to cover the seeds. Tap it down, set in the tray, water with rainwater if you have it, or tap if not, and set either outside where it will be warm and not freeze, or by a sunny window.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company gifted me with a bunch of seeds for helping them restore “Abe Lincoln” rare tomatoes. When I looked thru them to see when they needed to be started I was shocked to see almost all of them need to be begun NOW. Panic! What I need is a green house with shelves for starting, instead of my poor small space on a plant table in the window of my south facing living room. I need a garden fairy to donate one, or find one that is within my budget and I have room for on my terribly hilly place.

It turns out that many of the herbs I list above are all coming out now. I go out and fill my pockets with the flowering heads of Purple Dead Nettle, then put them in a tray in my dehydrator almost every day.

Likewise, Dandelion flowers are coming out in vast plentitude (probably not making my neighbors happy, but since I consider them a medicinal and edible herb, I just let them be happy). I made a bunch of Psoriasis salve for a friend of mine, using the yellow petals as one of the ingredients. It helps with pain and inflammation. You can do so much with the flowers, they are highly medicinal and edible, I go out and harvest a basket full and could every day it is a bit sunny.

Many of the others are coming up now too. So, if you are adventurous, go look at the ‘weeds’ in your garden or lawn (if you don’t spray chemicals) and see what’s out there. You might be very surprised at the wealth of naturally occurring spring tonic herbs that are at their peak right now.

Nature is the most amazing spiritual provider of our needs if we only take the time to look and learn.

Good Gardening.
3-9-19

 

Posted in Antiinflammatory herb, Flowering herbs, Flowering plants', Gardening, Herb gardening, Immune booster, organic gardening, Permaculture, Seasonal gardening plants, Seed propagation, Self-Sustainability, Sustainable and safe seed companies, Uncategorized, winter gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dilema (A seedling saga)

It’s just past the middle of February when usually I’m thinking about what spring seeds to start in my sunny window. We’d have a few inches of snow on the ground, and I’d be dreaming of spring.

Instead I have daffodils blooming out in the beds, and the blueberries are starting to blossom.

Because I seeded my winter bed with cool weather plants for spring in the fall and covered them with plastic sheeting, I have hundreds of little seedlings, some not so little, that I have suddenly had to find more space for. So, between my interns and myself we have transplanted almost all the space in the 9 big beds I have surrounded by deer fencing for annual plants. Only a part of one bed is un-planted yet there are way more plants than will fit.

So, shall I take the ones needing transplanting and set them in seed cells to sell, or try to spread them outside the fenced area, to be poached by the deer? I know they would love it but do I want them roaming around nipping off this bud and that plant? They are very undiscriminating.

I ended up double planting seeds thinking some of them were older. And because they didn’t germinate within the usual 2 weeks, I thought them to be sterile or stale. Alas, they decided to have a party out there and now it’s going to be amazing but overwhelming.

I’m already harvesting lettuces, Swiss chard, spinach, kales, radish leaves (from diacon, they get huge), and mustard greens. Not enough to sell yet but OH BOY!

Then I got an amazing gift from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company for gifting them Abe Lincoln rare tomato seeds which they now offer in their catalog (check this one out, it’s just a fabulous huge meaty tomato at rareseeds.com).

I went thru all of the packets they sent me (some 47 varieties) looking for which would be best started now and almost all of them were! Now I figure I need about 5 acres of prepared beds to grow all of them. Gosh, where do I start? My protected beds are almost all full and will be until mid summer when they start to bolt and I’ll secession plant where they are pulled or harvested.

Does anyone know of a way to plant in the air? LOL That’s about all the space I have left.

So, the lesson is, plan ahead – and you say SURE how do I do that? Well, it only works when you actually have some control over the numbers of plants you begin. I have this thing about loving plants. I hate to just waste a beautiful little plant. So, I’ve put out into my social groups that I have seedlings to trade. I love to trade.

Some years nothing germinates due to too much or too little rain, too cold or too hot, bugs, wilt, or gophers (which I seem to have overrunning the underground of my beds).

I would love to have a green house but I have almost no flat space I can put one on, thus the name of my garden – Hillside Gardens. One of my friends in Fort Yargo Living History Society was joking when a new member expressed an interest in getting a tour. He said to the newby – bring ropes, you’ll need some climbing experience. It’s a bit steep in places, not that bad – but good for being teased.

The solutions to this are begin your seeds in little home made planting cells made from folded newspaper wrapped around a glass bottle like beer or wine, taped and tucked and taped in at the bottom, then filled with planting mix. I usually sprinkle 10 or 15 seeds in the top, lightly sprinkle with soil, water and set the little pots in rows on the lids of big plastic storage containers to act as a ‘saucer’ and put them were sunshine hits them. Then when they get big enough to transplant but too small to plant in the ground or it’s too early in the season,  set them into seed cells and allow to grow.

But in this case, I already have used up all the space on my planting table by the window in my living room, and have no more room. I feel like Mickey Mouse in that scene in the movie Fantasia where he is trying to get rid of the water he ‘magicked’ which turned into the flood of the century.

All are heirloom varieties so I will certainly make sure I have well labeled the cultivars out there so when I let at least one plant of each kind bolt I can save the seeds this summer.

Happy Gardening and wishing you confront-able abundance.

Diann Dirks 2-18-19

 

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Garden and Medicine Making Tips

Here’s a tip for those of you (us) who make our own medicines. When making herbal tinctures or infusions – either water or oil – how to strain out the marc (herbal solids) can be difficult. I make my own muslin bags long enough to fit inside a quart sized mason jar and over the lip about 2″ so I have something to grab when I’m squeezing out the liquid. But if sewing isn’t your thing, you can go to Sherwin Williams paint stores and look at their 1 gal and 5 gal paint straining mesh bags. These make great strainers. If it’s finely ground what you are filtering out – use two at a time. The 1 gal bag works well for this. Plus, if you make your own compost or manure tea, a 5 gal bag holds about 2 good sized shovel fulls which you then tie at the top and submerge into a big barrel or container of rain water (I attach a string so I don’t have to reach down into the brown liquid once it’s done). This is so much better than straining out the marc later when making foliar (leaf) spray clean enough not to clog the nozzle. They are very inexpensive and last a long time. You can throw them in the wash easily. I have a stack of them and use them for a variety of different things. Hope this helps.

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