Diary - 02/08
Diary - February 2008
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February 2008

A burdock plant

Snowdrops in February

Violets also seen during February

Horse chestnut branches, as referred to in the text

February’s workshop was cancelled, which gave us the opportunity to get out into a warm spring garden to do some essential pruning jobs. A large cherry tree which had grown from a sucker when we first moved into the house 28 years ago was hampering the growth of a flowering cherry directly beside it and shading half the garden during the summer. The apple tree was also vigorously pruned.

I have been reclaiming flowerbeds from ivy this year as I want to grow more golden seal and black cohosh, both shade loving plants. I am also tempted to try growing some poke, but we shall see.

The aim of the workshop was to look at preparing for spring through the use of herbal tonics. I made up three different kinds, using recipes from various different authors. Tonics are quite easy to make because they only need to infuse for 1-2 weeks, which means they are accessible fairly quickly.

Towards the end of February I was finally able to make my first trip down to the Sanctuary – the first time I’d been there since last October. The snowdrops were almost over, but the daffodils, primroses and violets were flowering in yellow and purple profusion. Other plants such as nettles, brambles, wood betony, vervain, St John’s wort, angelica, goats rue and motherwort were all flourishing with various shades of green, while the Echinacea spears were deep crimson. My favourite was the green and silver leaves of the second year burdock plants.

I managed to clear all the winter debris from the top and bottom herb bed and started to think about what needs to be done to prepare for the rest of the year.

Only the elder and quince trees were showing new tiny leaves, but the horse chestnut tree was flush with sticky buds. One of the main reasons for going to the farm was to make some horse chestnut bark salve for my ankles, so most of Saturday late afternoon and evening was spent stripping bark and buds from young twigs to cook in sunflower oil.

After many hours heating, the oil was turned into a beautiful pale green salve which feels wonderful on my skin. Horse chestnut is an ancient remedy for strengthening vein and capillary walls, being used for varicose veins and haemorrhoids. Tincture is best made from the whole seed and casing in August while they are still soft enough to be sliced through, but salve is made from the bark, leaves or seeds, depending on what you have to hand.


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