Adapt and Thrive

As I look back over 2017, it was without a doubt an atypical year for our world, our country, and our home. The saying, “adapt or die,” comes to mind but it makes more sense to me if I reword it “adapt and thrive.” It tends to resonate better for me, although I do indeed respect the original saying.

There is no way I can digest and respond to what has been going on in our world right now, it is too over whelming to tackle but I can focus on a small piece of our lives. This year, I’ve had very little time to focus on the natural world and harvesting herbs except for a couple of moments I stole here and there. With that said, Mike created a wonderful little nursery at our new home for some of my plant allies to move into.  Although, they had a very late start, they do appear to be adapting to their new home and thriving beyond my expectations. Some are even to starting to flower in mid-October!

After I transplanted Arnica (Arnica spp.), it appeared to wither, so I decided to cut off the tops, hoping it would help it concentrate on establishing its roots. For a month, it looked dead, except for a little leaf here or there emerging from the soil. Now it appears that it has settled in and enjoys its new home. It is leafing out nicely, I would be surprised if it flowers this year, but I’m looking forward to it spreading out in 2018.

Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) seemed to make itself at home instantaneously. I didn’t have to provide much support except water during our dry periods.

Three years ago, I transplanted St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatumin) to my old garden. It didn’t come back until this spring, and it did robustly. I collected flowers daily until I moved some of it to our new nursery. It continued to send out flowers but I did not harvest any, allowing it to get acclimated to its new home. Well, it must like its new home, because it is now sending out fresh new aerial parts. I am mentally prepared to wait a couple of seasons before it revisits the nursery but hopeful that it will return next year.

When I moved to a little cottage in the woods in 1998, I became enamored with Spearmint (Mentha spicata). It was growing right outside my front door. After a summer of adding it to my water, sun tea and random dishes, I couldn’t imagine life without it. It really brightens up the day and I have been planting a little stem at each new home since. Spearmint is a rather vigorous plant, and you really don’t need much for it to get established. Perhaps it was not prudent to put it into our nursery as our little plant is really thriving, but we can always find it a new home on the land next year.

A dear friend gifted me Calendula (Calendula officinalis) seeds and although they had a very slow start, they are now sending out lots of lovely orange blossoms. I am hoping they self-seed next year.

Although the new house’s gardens had Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) already, I needed to bring some with me. I cut the aerial parts so it could concentrate on establishing roots. I am overwhelmed that it is already sending out flowers.

Mike was planting Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) seeds for his orchard garden, so I took a couple seedlings for the nursery. Besides its medicinal qualities, it’s a great asset to any garden, as its root secretions will activate the disease resistance of nearby plants; and it intensifies the medicinal actions of other herbs.

Mike also planted some Tulsi, a.k.a Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) seedlings that I transplanted into the garden, which has started to flower. I love how the bees’ pollen sacs are bright red from visiting the Tulsi.

Although, I didn’t have much time to spend with herbs this year, I am overwhelmed with their ability to thrive in our little nursery. I cannot wait to spend more time with them in 2018.

Yarrow tested first hand

I do not have luck with manual can openers. They all seem to leave a little connection; never a clean cut around the entire can. I have even shopped around and bought supposedly, “new and improved” can openers, but after awhile they all leave a small frustrating connection.

One day while making supper, I made a mistake. I was in a rush and had very little patience while opening a can. Instead of slowing down, focusing on the little connection and getting a good grip on the can opener or use a proper tool to release the little connection, I attacked the connection with a chopstick. As it popped up my thumb slid into the can with a very sharp edge. It was a bloody mess.

white yarrowI immediately ran cold water over my thumb for a minute or two then quickly grabbed a towel, wrapped my thumb, applied pressure, held my hand above my heart and ran to my garden where I picked and “bruised” several Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) leaves. I slowly opened the towel, wrapped my thumb in the Yarrow leaves with the towel around it, and held my hand above my heart.

Mathew finished making dinner, thank goodness he is much better at opening cans than his mother. After dinner was made and we were waiting for Mike to come home, I looked at my thumb. The bleeding had stopped thanks to Yarrow’s amazing hemostatic abilities. I was very impressed as there was a lot of blood when I first cut it. Since the bleeding had stopped, I took the opportunity to look at the damage. I suspect some people with a similar wound would have gone to the doctor for a couple of stitches, but I decided that it would heal okay on its own. I found a couple more fresh Yarrow leaves, bruised them, wrapped them around my thumb and taped a gauze patch around my thumb. Along with having great hemostatic powers, Yarrow is a powerful antiseptic.

close up yarrow

After dinner, I removed the bandage, no more blood, so I simply put a regular band-aid around my thumb. It was still rather tender but in good shape. The next morning, I was rather impressed at how well the healing process was going.

The day after

The day after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a week, it barely looked like a scratch.

A week after

A week after

I highly recommend that you learn how to identify Yarrow: once you do, you’ll find it is an excellent first aid herb. It can help you in a pinch (or cut, or a slice…). After all, I do have first hand knowledge of it (pun intended).

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Let’s see who’s there

If you have been reading my blog, I am sure you know by now that gardening and maintaining a garden is just not my thing. But when it comes to foraging, now that is more up my alley. Although, you can claim removing last year’s dead stems and leaves is actually “gardening,” I view it more like exploration. Because the very act of removing all last year’s detritus from my little medicinal garden is always thrilling. It reminds me of when I would take Mathew into the woods to see what critters were living under logs and rocks. We would very slowly and carefully pick the object up to see who was there. It was always very exciting.  That’s how I approach my little garden. Mind you, it is a very small garden perhaps only 10′ x 10′, but an enormous amount of love and intention goes into it.

waking up the gardenAs I started to remove last year’s detritus, the first plants to reveal themselves were Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria). I think I could also see a very shy Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) peaking through. Since I removed everything that would impede their journey to the surface and as long as the weather continues to be “spring like,” I suspect now all the plants will have an easier time revealing themselves, and by the end of the week more will breaking through the earth.

Waking up Lady's Mantle

Waking up Lady’s Mantle

This will be the 6th year I will be nurturing the garden. Every year, I add one or two more herbs to get to know and learn. Some of them I had never worked with before, so it has been very interesting. Gratefully, most of the herbs love the garden, coming back and flourish year after year. Unfortunately, some have enjoyed the garden a little bit too much. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria) adore the garden but since they thrive all over our land, there is no reason for them to take up space here.  Other plants have found their way into my garden and are welcome, such as Red Clover (Trifolium pretense). Several years ago, I learned how tenacious Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) was, silly me, I planted it in the center of the garden, thinking it would look nice. It really did until it started to crowd all the other plants who were stifled by its beautiful large overbearing leaves and flower stalks.  The next fall, we tried our best to take it all out so the other plants could breathe again. We replanted the Comfrey between Mike’s baby apple trees, where is will help the trees thrive. Comfrey’s root system efficiently mines potassium, calcium along with other minerals enriching the soil around it. We did not do the best job eradicating it from the garden, as it keeps revealing itself, less each year but nevertheless she is always there. Truthfully, I am not too sure that it is possible to totally eradicate Comfrey, but I guess time will tell. It is a fabulous reminder that we really cannot manage nature. One of the very reasons I am more of a forager at heart than a gardener.

 

 

Bloodsuckers be gone!

I don’t care to be bitten by blood sucking bugs. I don’t like to put toxic sprays near me in order to repel them. But, what’s a girl to do? Previously, I blogged about how Catnip miraculously repels annoying bloodsuckers. Well, I have another tool to put into your arsenal – Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)! Not only is it great to help stop bleeding, but when tinctured, simply put it into a spray bottle, spray some on, and it will repel ticks, mosquitoes, and other creepy crawlies. It is nontoxic, so spray it on your skin or your pet’s fur. A United States Army study showed yarrow tincture to be more effective than DEET at repelling ticks, mosquitoes, and sand flies.

When I heard about its magical bug repellent qualities, I decided to give it a try.

Here’s how to make Yarrow bug spray:

  • Collect yarrow flowering tops when in it’s in full bloom and leaves. White flowered yarrow is known to be the most medicinally powerful, but I had deep red ones in my garden so I combined the red and white ones and it worked just fine.
  • Chop up flowers and leaves.
  • Place herbs in a clean, dry glass jar. Fill ¾ of the jar loosely, but do not pack herbs.
  • Fill jar with 100 proof vodka; make sure all herbs are completely submersed. Check on it periodically and if some herbs are above the alcohol, add some more alcohol.
  • Cover with tight fitting lid.
  • Shake.
  • Label the jar with the name of the plant, menstruum (alcohol), harvest location, and date.
  • Put in a dry place that gets full sun. I put all my tinctures on a windowsill that gets southern exposure on the 2nd floor of my house.
  • Shake every day, give it some love and intention.
  • Wait a total of 6 weeks. Just so you don’t forget, mark your calendar and note the date the tincture will be ready.
  • Strain the tincture through stainless steel strainer lined with cheesecloth or muslin.
  • Put in spray bottle, make sure you label it.
  • Use liberally and enjoy life without being bothered by blood sucking insects!

The first time I tried it, I was amazed – no more bloodsucking insects flew near me. Then I noticed no-se-ums flying around the chair and spray some on it – moments later – they were gone! Aside from the magical bug repellent qualities, you can use the yarrow spray for treating and healing all kinds of injuries. I use it to stop bleeding, to numb the sensation of pain quickly, to prevent and counter bacterial infections, and to nourish the growth of healing cells at the site of the wound.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

When you just have to stop the bleeding

The other day I was washing my herbal press. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it had very sharp edges. I found this out when all of a sudden there was blood flowing with the water in the sink. I had sliced my index and pinky finger. It was not bad enough for stitches, but neither was wrapping a cloth around it good enough. I actually became rather excited about the fact that I had two similar cuts at the same time. See, I love teachable moments and testing herbs. I had always wondered which herb was a better styptic (contracting tissue to seal injured blood vessels) ~ Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) or Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Both herbs have a long history of the being superstar first aid herbal remedies. Achilles kept Yarrow on hand during the Trojan Wars and the Ancient Germans always gathered Goldenrod before heading into battle.

Yarrow stopped the bleeding

Yarrow stopped the bleeding.

styptic goldenrod

Goldenrod stopped the bleeding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I went outside, collected and bruised some Goldenrod and Yarrow leaves, before wrapping the Goldenrod around my index finger and Yarrow around my pinky. I left them on for five minutes. Both herbs stopped the bleeding completely. The only difference I noticed was that there was some dried blood on the index finger (Goldenrod) and the pinky was clean (Yarrow). From my little experiment, I can easily surmise that both herbs are excellent styptics but Yarrow leaves a cleaner wound. So folks, if you ever need to stop bleeding quickly, pick whichever herb is closer.

What herbs do you use to stop bleeding? Please share and I will continue to share.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

What’s under there?

If you have been reading my blog, I am sure you know by now that gardening does not come naturally to me. Foraging does. Perhaps I am approaching gardening differently this year, because the very act of removing last year’s dead stems and leaves from my little medicinal garden was thrilling. It reminded me of when I would take Mathew into the woods to see what critters were living under logs and rocks. We would very slowly and carefully pick the object up, to see who was there. It was always very exciting.  That is how I’m approaching my little garden this year. Mind you, it is a very small garden perhaps only 10′ x 7′, but an enormous amount of love and intention goes into it.

waking up the gardenAs I started to remove last year’s detritus, the first plants to reveal themselves were Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria). I think I could also see a very shy Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) peaking through. Since I removed everything that would impede their journey to the surface and as long as the weather continues to be “spring like,” I suspect now all the plants will have an easier time revealing themselves, and by the end of the week more will breaking through the earth.

Waking up Lady's Mantle

Waking up Lady’s Mantle

This will be the 4th year I will be nurturing the garden. Every year, I add one or two more herbs to get to know and learn. Some of them I had never worked with before, so it has been very interesting. Gratefully, most of the herbs love the garden, coming back and thriving year after year. Unfortunately, some have enjoyed the garden a little bit too much. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria) adore the garden but since they thrive all over our land, there is no reason for them to take up space here.  Other plants have found their way into my garden and are welcome, such as Red Clover (Trifolium pretense). Last year, I learned how tenacious Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) was, silly me, I planted it in the center of the garden, thinking it would look nice. It really did until it started to crowd all the other plants who were stifled by its beautiful large overbearing leaves and flower stalks.  Last fall, we tried our best to take it all out so the other plants could breathe again. We replanted the comfrey between Mike’s baby apple trees, where is will help the trees thrive. Comfrey’s root system efficiently mines potassium, calcium along with other minerals enriching the soil around it. Hopefully, we did a good job eradicating it from the garden. Truthfully, I am not too sure that it is possible but I guess time will tell. It is a fabulous reminder that we really cannot manage nature. One of the very reasons I am more of a forager at heart than a gardener.

 

 

First herb of the year

Okay, I know I am not alone when I state that, “I am ready for some rebirth and all the glorious wonders that spring has to offer.” Winter has outdone itself this year. When I wake up to a small blizzard and it’s March 30th, it is time for a change. I am done with the bitter cold, high winds and layering my clothes for warmth. Stick a fork in me, I am done!

yarrow emergingAlthough there was still snow on the ground, I decided to take a walk to see if any of my herbal friends were peeking up through the mud and snow. I was overjoyed to see the distinctive featherlike leaves of Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) emerging. Thank goodness, it’s about time!

Not only does it validate spring has actually arrived but Yarrow is an herb that I rely on during most of the year. I welcome its return.

Yarrow is a very versatile herb. It is best known for its hemostatic (stops external and internal bleeding) and diaphoretic (reduces fevers) properties. But it is so much more. Yarrow is known as a normalizer; while it can stop bleeding, it can also promote blood circulation, which is very helpful with varicose and uterine congestion.  Yarrow is very bitter and aids in digestion. Its diuretic and antiseptic properties make it helpful with bladder infections too. It soothes and relieves pain making it great for aches, bruises and arthritis.  It pretty much assists and aids in all the major body systems.

Throughout folklore and history, uses for Yarrow have been mentioned over and over again. I believe the most famous mention is in Homer’s Iliad, where its legendary warrior Achilles uses Yarrow to treat the wounds of his fallen comrades. Recently, I came upon an interesting use for Yarrow. Apparently, in the Orkney Islands (north of Scotland) Yarrow was widely used for dispelling melancholy. It helps lift the burdens of troubled emotions, while cleansing them of sorrow or depression, which has lasted too long. Perhaps that is why I was so happy to see Yarrow on this fine day. It lifted my sorrows of a winter that’s gone on too long.

May spring and Yarrow emerge for you.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition.