lots of "stuff"! We believe the kitchen table under
sampling what we've just been making!
It was strange going down to
the Sanctuary after nearly three months absence. I usually find winter
visits really difficult because there is so much debris, so many jobs to do
and yet neither the weather nor winter conditions allow you to do anything
very much at all.
My visit was very short – just over an hour or so – but the sun was shining,
the wind wasn’t too strong and I was able to tidy the comfrey and goats rue
from the strip of garden in front of the veranda. I was also able to use
secuteurs from the summerhouse and cut down most of the goldenrod,
heliotrope and New England Aster from the top herb bed. It felt good to
accomplish something positive!
The main purpose of visiting was to take a picture of the mulberry tree in
the hope that someone might want to come and move it into a new space. I
wandered round the pond, finding fallen crabapples still yellow and whole on
the grass. It was amazing to see violets in bloom so early, complementing
the snowdrops on the bank and green spears of bluebells and daffodils.
I spent the afternoon digging up and processing dandelion roots. You can
find the full account with pictures on my blog by
Splashes of sunshine during weekends encouraged me out into the garden at
home. I was surprised to see how much was growing – not just spring bulbs
but young shoots of several herbs. I managed to cut down all the michaelmas
daises to uncover the bay and olive trees and a lanky curry plant. The
thymes have all given up the ghost, but the heathers were just about to
flower, making me wonder if I dare try Juliet Blairacli-levy’s recipe for
heather tonic if the snow goes away some time soon!
At the end of January, our house was full of people eager to discover more
about tinctures. They came from all over the West and East Midlands, with a
wide variety of experience and knowledge. I hadn’t had so many people to one
workshop (16) since the first visit to the Sanctuary by Balsall Heath’s
Jungle Women in 2004 (14). On that occasion, Noreen Lopez was the
accompanying qualified herbalist and this time, Jenny Jones, who is on the
council of The Herb Society, came to try her hand.
After an initial short talk about the nature of tinctures and a
demonstration of how a rosemary tincture could be made in a kitchen with a
recycled glass jar and some vodka, the workshop split into two. The blue
group began by tasting soothing tinctures – lavender, lemon balm, rosepetal,
skullcap, vervain and nettle. They were also encouraged to see what happened
when they dropped a few drops of a chosen tincture onto their inside wrist
and sat quietly.
The red group went into the kitchen to look at warming tinctures. They made
either lavender, ginger or chilli tinctures and were able to taste ginger,
clove, cinnamon and angelica tinctures. Elderberry elixir and angelica root
and lemon balm liqueurs were also sampled. The groups swapped after
forty-five minutes so everyone had the opportunity to try everything.
When we came together for the last half hour, several people commented on
how simple it was to make a tincture, something which gave them the
confidence to go and try it for themselves. Other people said how relaxed
they now felt after trying the soothing tinctures and it was very evident
how much they had all enjoyed the workshop. This was very gratifying for me
as I’d spent many hours writing the handout and planning and preparing for