Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bringing in the Harvest

Blog Party! Check out other posts on harvesting at Gais's Garden; http://desertmedicinewoman.blogspot.com/

I set out this afternoon armed with my large basket, camera, and the usual assortment of dogs. I head down the graveled road in search of things to pick, dig, and carry home in my basket and my memories. The dogs are excited about our daily walk, never growing tired of it, always spying or scenting something new to chase, eat, or roll in.

I take a picture of one of the many Poke plants in the yard. The berries hang like bunches of purple black grapes, and I cut several bunches to hang and dry in my sunroom. They make great little pills that way, and I take one every time I feel the slightest hint of a cold or other virus. With her as my ally I am rarely sick. I indulge myself in a little childish face painting while I’m at it.

My garden is almost dead now, a few tomato plants with no more tomatoes, dying squash vines, and some spent pepper plants. But crowning the upper end are my Jerusalem Artichokes, “Sunchokes” that I planted for the first time this past spring. The bright yellow flowers top the towering stalks and I know I will have a nice crop of inulin filled tubers just after first frost.

I pause to cut a bunch of goldenrod flowers. This sweet herb has recently teamed with others to help me pass a very large kidney stone. I stroke her leaves and whisper my gratitude as I gather more to dry for winter teas. Delicate white flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace join the Goldenrod. She too has helped me with the stones, and I gather flowers in all stages from full bloom to dried birds’ nests with mature seeds.

I pause as always at the place of the Fairy wands, and am excited to see several tall stalks sporting not yet ripe seeds. I will gather a few of them to share with friends in another few weeks. For now I enjoy my picture taking and the energy of this special place.

I hear a sudden explosion of wings and look up in time to see all three dogs flush a small flock of turkeys we have surprised. They take wing and head up to a higher spot on the ridge while the dogs, ever futile but always game give chase. Bella yips her hunting call while Bear runs at breakneck speed up the steep slope. They will no doubt join me on the path as it climbs later.

I find a large Lobelia inflata plant right at the crest of the trail and stop to speak. I don’t need to harvest any this year, as I have plenty on hand, but I pay my respects just the same. I’ve only used her for my friend’s migraines, and mild asthma a client has had since childhood, but have made a mental note to use a large dose on myself if the pain from my remaining kidney stone becomes unbearable. A powerful plant, she commands respect, as she will hurt you if used unwisely.

I am joined by the dogs, panting and hot now as they greet me on the upper trail. The turkeys are nowhere to be seen. I step over a few of the outer husks of hickory nuts and know that the squirrels are doing their harvesting now too. The scarlet leaves of a maple contrast with the still deep greens and the few yellows of early fall. Bear pauses to rest a moment and I get a rare shot of him. And when I reach the place where I make my daily prayers Bella allows me a quick shot of her too. Rusty, getting slower as his eyes continue to fail is almost always under my feet.

I walk on and spot bright red berries, Solomon’s Plume, and more berries that turn out to be Spice Bush. I pick a single berry and chew it slowly, enjoying the burst of spicy flavor in my mouth as I continue on the trail. I find a single pink-purple turtlehead blossom near several varieties of morning glory. I have loved this plant since I was a child and I have future plans to encourage them to grow up a home- made trellis.

I see Solomon’s Seal as well and pause to thank her for the help she has given me with my friend T’s shoulder problems. I don’t need to dig a root this year as the one I got last year was huge and will last me through this winter easily.

As I walk back down toward the house I think about harvesting Joe Pye roots, and decide to wait a bit longer, digging them when I dig the roots of Black Cohosh, Goldenrod, Queen Anne’s Lace, Dandelion, and Poke, all of which are better after first frost.

Heading to the pond I gather a few Buckeyes to make salve and tincture for my friend’s varicose veins. I drop them into the basket and go back to the yard to finish filling it with chestnuts from my two large trees. I toss a few cracked ones to the chickens and laugh as Bear harvests a few for himself and chews them, spitting the shells. I cut sage, oregano, rosemary, and thyme from my small culinary garden and begin filling a second basket. I add cuttings from Mugwort, Tansy, and Wormwood to them and a bunch of Comfrey leaves.

Back in the house I empty the basket, tying herbs in small bunches and hanging them to dry for teas and winter dishes. I chop some of the Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s Lace for tinctures and crack and chop the Buckeyes for tincture and oil. The chestnuts go into the refrigerator to be roasted later. They will make a sweet addition to some home- made bread and the stuffing for my Thanksgiving turkey.

The next few weeks will be much like today. I will harvest a few plants at a time, and smells of oils, drying herbs, berry syrups, and teas will fill my home.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Thank you for sharing your harvesting with us! We must be kindred spirits as your journey sounds so similar to some of mine, but with slightly different plants. I've just walked round to some public land gifted to the community by the local friary - a trade off when they wanted to sell a five acre field for housing. I've lost the whole of September as we were on holiday in the US, so I've missed the elderberries and most of the blackberries, but I managed to find some beautiful hawthorn berries to make vinegar for my father in law who is having heart problems and a few blackberries and rosehips to make a demonstration syrup for two talks I'm giving to residents of sheltered housing complexes. Most of today has been spent decanting vinegars - hawthorn, golden rod, winter savory, red clover, angelica and lovage. I still have a bunch of tinctures to decant, but I'm not sure where I'm going to put them all!