Diary - 03/08
Diary - March 2008
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March 2008

Workshop - Karen washing some bramble root ...

Sally and Nabeel busy working on more bramble root ...

Maddie and Julie also busy ...

Freezing for our love of herbs!

We always look forward to our four day Easter break in the Cotswolds, but this year the weather decided to see what we were made of! We were lucky in that the snow did not stick, but we woke up every day to swirling storms and white fields.

On Good Friday, once the snow stopped and the sun came out, I walked down to the Sanctuary and took photos in the howling gales of various plants. The only sheltered spot was the meditation area, which says something for mature ivy!

Saturday was the herb workshop. I have to say it was a real adventure to hold a workshop in-between driving snow showers. There was a major panic just before everyone arrived because the electricity wouldn't work and I thought the rabbits had eaten through the cabling again! It transpired my son had turned off all the fuses as well as the main supply switch when he last visited in November. (He decided he wanted his birthday party to consist of playing laser quest in the dark and cold running around the unoccupied farm buildings after midnight!)

The four women who had been before - Julie, Karen, Maddie and Sally were all very brave souls who travelled some distance to attend. The new participant was a young student from Pakistan, Nabeel, now living in London who had only been in the country ten days and found my website whilst searching the internet. Chris collected him from the local railway station and we leant him wellingtons so he would be able to walk down the fields. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself and wants to come back in the summer.

We tried some fresh nettle tea and cider vinegar and honey as well as Juliette Levy's medicinal wine tonic. Salve was rubbed on sore, cold hands whilst discussing the principles of how to make medicinal oils and thicken them. Lunch consisted of a nettle and sweet potato and ginger soup to keep the cold away!

It was amazing to find so many herbs displaying different colours. Amongst the herbs we discovered were agrimony, comfrey, ladies mantle, two types of echinacea (different shades or red leaves), fennel, chives, chocolate mint, motherwort, goats rue, St Johns wort, valerian, heliotrope (russet leaves), comfrey, lavender, dyers woodruff (scarlet roots), bergamot (deep crimson), thyme, angelica, feverfew, Solomons seal, wood betony, vervain and yarrow accompanied by hundreds of daffodils and primroses.

Everyone went on a burdock hunt to see which parts of the sanctuary the plant favoured (along the hedgerows). Another interesting thing we discovered was a new comfrey plant growing in the stream. This must have sprung from a dropped root cutting when we were making comfrey root tincture last September.

Then we all dug up bramble roots from different parts of the Sanctuary, washing them in the stream before cutting them up into short lengths and putting them to infuse in cider vinegar.

The workshop finished with plants taken home to nurture in other gardens.

On Easter Sunday I picked all the burdock leaves I could find and two lots of dandelion leaves and dried them over the top of my mother's rayburn. I infused the burdock leaves in vodka when I got home.

Easter Monday seemed much colder than the previous days and my hands froze as I picked some more dandelion leaves for tincturing (not very many as they are only about 3 inches long, unlike the enormous dandelion leaves growing on the grass verge outside my house which I can't use!). I also picked a huge bagful of nettle tops, which are sitting waiting for me to decide what I'm going to do with them. I’m thinking of perhaps some more soup, some nettle tincture and vinegar and maybe some more iron tonic if I can get some apricots and red wine.

I have come to the conclusion that I am completely and utterly mad hunting and gathering herbs the way I do - dandelion roots in freezing winds in January and now their leaves and nettles in snow and biting winds in March! I was just so mortified to have to buy dandelion leaves earlier in the year when I have access to a whole field full of plants! To me it's worth it because the dandelion root tincture tastes quite special with a definite sweetness and the dried leaves are still vibrantly green when dry and tasted wonderful fresh!



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Agrimony Bergamot Broad leaf thyme Burdock plus seeds Comfrey  Comfrey in stream
Snowdrops and bluebells Dyers woodruff Echinacea pallida Echinacea purpurea Fuggle hop shoots Goats rue
Heliotrope Ladies mantle Primroses Thymes Valerian  The well 
St John's wort Dandelion leaves Dog rose in leaf Elder bush in leaf Drying dandelion leaves on the Rayburn  

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