Sunday 25 August 2013

Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme.....

.......Or Borage, Meadowsweet, Calendula and Yarrow, Or Dandelion, Chickweed, Nettle and Plantain,...or?

The gardens and lanes are singing with flowers and my collecting basket is busy. When the morning dew has gone, I gather baby and children and set off to pick my winter medicine cabinet. Some ancient voice calls me from the hedgerows, from the herb beds in these beautiful gardens around us. I feel an irrepressible urge to gather armfuls of fragrant herbs and weeds to blend and infuse and extract their distilled energy from the sun; bottle the summer to sustain us through the coldness ahead.

We discover purple loosetrife growing in purple drifts by the river weir, and pink Yarrow and blue butterflies in a sun drenched meadow, dancing quietly. It seems as though we are very close to how we were meant to be, at moments like this. The bone dry, warmed grass, alive with insects, the flickering blue wings on the pink flowers. Aah, time to sigh down into the earth and melt into it. No separation.
Picking herbs feels sacred....

Sometimes it is more everyday..spotting the St John's wort on the way to collect eggs or pick some salad,

plucking a few sprigs of lavender as I go out to call the children in for lunch. More absentminded.

Making medicine seems to run deep in my bones. Even as a small child I found an old book of country folk remedies in my parents bookshelves, and spent many hours mixing herbal pastes and potions in the back garden.

In between Finch, the other children, writing, and all the other voices calling me each day, I dry teas, laying the herbs out on cloths in my warm airy bedroom; I make tinctures with brandy and vodka, infusing the petals and leaves to extract the medicines for fevers, earaches, coughs, colds, insomnia. It's fun, its compulsive, it feels like magic.

 The kids have been busy too, sometimes Tansy quietly goes off to the gardens to pick potions, and later, I see neat little rows of drying herbs in my bedroom and newly washed jam jars waiting ready to receive them.

We  made a delicious fermented flower elixir, infusing Meadowsweet, Yarrow, Roses, Lavender and Mugwort in honey water for four days. Slightly alcoholic, the resulting brew was earthily sweet and delicious with a myriad of mystical floral undertones. I have no bottle to show you, as it was all drunk at our last community pizza evening!

When it rains I can't harvest, as the damp leaves do not store well, especially in infused oils which go mouldy so quickly.

But I can sit and nurse, and drink the herbs I've collected, and feel glad to know my weeds....


  1. I need to learn so much more about these things :) I've had all manner of plants drying for 'something' this summer...must get me a good book on herbal remedies - do you have any special recommendations? x

    1. Hmm you know there are so many I may write a post about herb books...Can you wait a couple of days?

    2. Yes no problem, would love to hear what ones you find useful :)

  2. Beautiful... As we travel (and I have time) I am learning more and more about herbs. If we ever make it to your neck of the woods, I am sure you could teach me a great deal :-) Summer looks like it has been good to you... Glorious. Have you seen the video Juliette of the Herbs: (I am sure you probably have!) I am utterly in love with it. x

    1. Ooh thanks for reminding me about this, I haven't watched it yet although have some of her books and have been meaning to for ages. Yes do come by, there is place to park up and acres of grounds to wander in.....

  3. I do love coming over to visit your beautiful blog. :) x

  4. So wonderful. Sacred indeed.

  5. Beautiful photos and the flower elixir sounds devine! I've recently switched to using brandy for most of my tinctures, but since it is so tasty, I also find myself setting a bit of the brandy aside with vanilla bean, orange peel, rose petals, and cinnamon and then drinking it in more than medicinal quantities. Which herbs do you like for insomnia? My herb teacher at college had a real downer on Valerian root and was forever discouraging about but I am a huge fan, I don't even mind the taste! It is a fan of my garden as well, apparently, I have hundreds of invasive seedlings that have lain waste to my strawberry beds. oops, should have taken the advice to cut those flower heads off immediately a bit more seriously. I like hops too and it serves double duty as a bitter to stimulate appetite when stricken with anxiety (I'm a huge fan of bitters), but I've had no success in growing it here. Will keep trying.


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