In the garden

The Harvest of late Summer

'Life got away from me there for a while. We have just under 2 acres in cultivation and August seems to be the month where everything ripens at once. We have berries, apples, a rose and large vegetable garden and two medicinal herb gardens that took most of my attention this month. But as we are at the mountains it seems to slow down just as fast. We now have cooler temperatures both day and night and have gotten a bit of rain this week. I wouldn't mind a few more weeks of the hot weather, but as I'm a knitter I can't say I won't enjoy the days of knitting a sweater by the fire that will soon be here.'

That was the beginning of a much overdue email I sent out this morning to someone I am creating a friendship with that lives far away. I try to paint a picture of what is happening here. And as I continued to write I realized that this is a good place to start a long overdue blog post as well. I seem to paint myself into a corner by giving myself deadlines. I have always found that self imposed deadlines or 'it has to be just this one way' is a sure fire way for me to not do a thing. And yep, I did it with this here blog. And now enough of that--

August is so busy here, but July was as well. I find that once summer hits I'm a doer. My writing ends for all intensive purposes. Most of the writing this year has been in my newsletter format as well as my online class. I have several classes I want to add to that online school. However, I've realized that summer isn't that kind of season for me. So I've done some short videos and taken a lot of photos so that this fall and winter I can offer these short courses on the plants I grow and all their wonderful uses.

Right now I am processing plants that have been drying in my Chicken Coop. I can barely find room to create as the plants have taken over every surface. I love it and of course am really ready to have lots of counter space again. We finally came up with a drying rack system to get the plants out of baskets and onto wall shelving. That, of course, means cleaning up the area so that the shelves can be installed. So to that end, I have been sitting outdoors the last couple days stripping dried flowers and leaves from stems and branches into the jars they will be stored while awaiting alcohol, honey, glycerin or be saved for to drink as teas throughout winter. Last summer I really wasn't able to harvest many plants as I was sick for 4 months. It allowed perennials to get that much hardier, making this year a bumper crop for most of my medicinals. I will not be purchasing many herbs to make my remedies throughout this year as I unfortunately had to last year (although it felt great to support the several local herb farmers I did). I can't give up on my Chai collection though so those spices will come from trusted sources outside the area. Although I've had this niggling feeling of not getting all the projects done that I wanted this summer it has felt so very wonderful to just dedicate myself to the plants. This week I've been working with Blue Vervain, Skullcap, Lemon Balm, Calendula, Lobelia, Mugwort (Western, Japanese and Vulgaris), Comfrey leaves, Red Clover, Yarrow, Anise's been a busy week.

I have also had a booth at two farmers markets this summer. I love the community building and outreach that occurs in this type of setting. I have several new products that I've created from requests at the markets that I haven't had time to add to the website. This Friday will be the last market day for me in Sandy the Mount Hood Farmers Market so that I can get a bit more caught up on the website and plan for some other local encounters (keep an eye on the events page). A yoga instructor and nutritional coach in our village started the Hoodland Farmers Market in July that has been so wonderful! We are a food desert up here with a single grocery that has little organic foods and what there is has a very high price tag. The Sunday market (going until September 30) has been so well attended and allowed me to serve my community in a way that I haven't been in the past. Over the years I've seen myself as serving the people I was still connected to in Portland and others around the country that have found me in a variety of ways. This local connection feels right and I plan to continue to nurture it past the farmers market timeframe.

There are some plants that are needed especially right now, those that are hollering out saying hey don't forget what time of year it is! Elderberry is first on the list. While not yet ripe up this way, I do have products previously made that are ready to go (and I need to get them up on the website). Elder is a wonderful tender medicine that all ages can take in different formulas for the primary reason of helping your body to boost its own immunity. There are other uses for this small tree as well. The flowers are a beautifully scented umbel style flower that are very tasty in a jelly and taken as a tea help the body to break a fever. The leaves are not ingested but make a lovely lavender dye for cloth or yarn; also can be used as a poultice or ointment for wounds. The tree itself in quite magical. Known as a fairy tree, you never take from her without leaving a gift behind. As with any plant you always ask permission before doing any harvesting. The Elderberries are most known and widely available in natural food and medicine stores as syrups, elixirs, tinctures, teas to help all ages in the cold and flu season. I have all of these in my apothecary and take some to the farmers markets. They have historically been known to prevent or lessen the amount of time a cold or flu hangs on. A very gentle remedy, as I mentioned, this is a medicine that can be taken by young or old. Just make sure you've chosen the correct way to administer it. What does that mean? Well children until 1 yr shouldn't have honey (so infuse the berries in maple syrup) and really the very youngest should take any medicine through their mother's breast milk. There are also those that prefer not to have alcohol (take a syrup or use a glycerite). There are many products out on the market and I have some that I'll be adding to the website over the next week.

I'll be back soon with some other plants that are helpful to the body right now. If you are experiencing dis-ease in your body and are looking for something specific that you don't see on the website do email. I have a much larger apothecary than is represented in the shop. If I don't make a product I like to refer you to herbalists around the country where that plant medicine is local to them. There is such a wonderful network of plant people out in the world. It makes my heart sing to see what is happening now compared to when I first became interested in taking plant medicine myself back in the 80's.

If you want to read more make sure you sign up for my monthly New Moon newsletter. My words arrive in your inbox each month on the new moon. Columns include what is happening in the garden, the shop, my life, giving back through charity, my CBD products and always a special that is only available to newsletter subscribers.

A Seasonal Transition

Personally I love these transition points of the year. As a child not so much. A Leo, I looked forward only to summer. I was a sun loving baby spending most of every year at the beach, hating the end of the season. By my twenties I learned to embrace the joys to be had in every season. And now in my 50's I thrive at these pivots! I look forward to what is possible with each coming season whether it is the planning of a new garden or embracing the activities that come with the darker times of the year. Like waking up to a fire in the wood stove in Autumnimg_5649 This year there was a snap and summer was done. We have been so busy over the last couple weeks harvesting and processing plants of all sorts from the garden and from foraging. I increased my medicinal herbs 5 fold this year and there are just so many places I have to dry herbs in this moist climate. We also increased our vegetable growing space and I have found it is time to invest in a new freezer. We will be eating wonderful bean soups this year! img_5639 As I age I actually find myself feeling stretched at the end of a season, especially the end of summer. I know the activities will change with the cooling weather of Autumn and I just want to get there, embrace it, fully immerse myself in wool and reading and hot mugs of tea. Now that it has arrived I am almost giddy with putting the garden to bed (I still haven't quite finished that chore).

In the Chicken Coop all kinds of new things are brewing...img_5635 Quite literally. A little over a year ago I began exploring Alchemy and the teachings of Paracelsus. I'm not planning to create a Philosopher's Stone, but I do embrace the medical teachings and philosophies of this visionary thinker. I'm in the last group of students to go through the basic Spagyrics class in the school I've been attending here in Oregon. It will be another year before you see these new tinctures in the shop, but I'll be talking about the process a bit more this year. I find it fascinating! And there is another great school here in Oregon that is currently enrolling if you feel called to this type of creating. Each teacher approaches this work slightly differently, but all embrace the teachings and philosophy of this lineage.

I had hoped to enter the Autumn season with a festival of health, wellness and magic. But as I looked for a Portland venue that was reasonably priced I found it impossible for a small group of vendors to make a decent profit. I'm still looking for a space that can host seasonal events. If you know of one or have a space you'd like to offer up get in touch. In the meantime I offer you an open house in the Chicken Coop. Not a full on party, but an individual invitation. I had planned on a summer fest with classes on the mountain, but once I had my little Chicken Coop filled there wasn't a lot of room for many guests. We have plans for an outdoor space in the future. But in the meantime I want you to come visit! Let me make you some helpful remedies. Sit with the plants (they are out there even in the rain). Spend a few hours sipping tea and talking about how you can live a fuller life. These 3-4 hour visits begin at $50 and you go home with at least four custom items. Anything from potions/tea/essences/a plant/a stone/a chicken (just kidding)/a lotion/bath salts/whatever is right for you at this time. Can't make it to the mountain? Let's do this virtually. I just sent out a custom package for someone that gave me a mission and a budget. I do these all the time for several people in my life and I'd love to create for you too. If we haven't talked about what you want to work on I have a questionnaire I send out to help me get to know you a bit better. We begin a file that is added to over time. I personally love receiving a surprise package in the mail. And I find that we each need to have products tweeted just for us.

Coming up soon! The Podcast returns...for reals. Also, hoping to have the new online shop up early next month. I have officially handed over management of my kitchen so I have much more mental space for all the projects. I am still working at the restaurant every weekend during brunch. Come have breakfast with me (a great place to pick up products so you don't have to pay shipping). I started baking again and I'm not quite ready to give that up (bagels, brioche, biscuits, jammers, ginger cakes). It was the mental space I needed to fully immerse in the business of building the Chicken Coop Botanical brand. The making of products is the easy part;)

Here now! This most precious fairy child img_5643 Our first grandchild was born at the end of August. Her actual due date has not yet arrived so it has been an interesting limbo time for all of us. You'll see miss Fae Adele from time to time. She is lucky to have a village of love surrounding her now and always.

I'm Ready

I woke up yesterday morning to a gray, misty day. I looked out the window and saw plants that seemed to be rising to greet the moisture. It rained most of the last three days on our mountain and I thought, next week is going to be full of growth, the warm weather will reappear and I may just get some ripe Roma tomatoes from my garden. This morning I went through my daily routine and as I looked out the window I knew...Summer is ending here on the mountain. There is a transitional moment when you can feel the seasons change. We will still see some sunny days, but summer, here at least, is winding down. The city always sees some sort of a late return to sultry days, but on our mountain we've transitioned. And I am ready. I lit a fire in the wood stove on Friday night (a dark stormy night) and although I didn't have it going long waking to a house that felt dried out and comfortably cool felt great. I love going out to release the birds and look up to see our mountain misty in the background. IMG_4627  I've been gathering plants and flowers in a lazy, as I have time to process way. No more. Now begins the rush of harvesting Hops, Calendula, Vervain, Bee Balm, Meadowsweet, Catnip, and so many others that will need a warm wood stove to help them dry a bit before being added to honey, tincture, glycerin, oil or dried for tea. I love this time of year! I am ready for a change. I'm wearing a sweater and have one on the knitting needles. Soon the wild mushrooms will be popping up around Mt Hood. We are getting the trailer ready for that last trip of the season to gather and eat mushrooms at the camp fire. A few may even make it home. I'm also watching my harvest spots of Elder and Hawthorn berries. So close. They should be perfectly ripe by the time I finish with the garden. Again, I'm ready. Syrups, vinegars, jellies and teas are in my future. I can't wait! I'm also looking towards the Fall Equinox. This year it falls on a Thursday (September 22). I'm playing with the idea of gathering people together that sell lovely herbal products, seasonal food products, a Tarot reader, a masseuse, maybe offer a class of two. This is going to be somewhat casual as it is fast coming up. It would be in Portland, it would be a room full of lovers of the green, the mystical and products that reflect a love of place. We'll see if this comes together. I'll keep you posted.

Today's tea has some wonderful herbs to ease me through the seasonal changes--Oat Straw, Rose, Tulsi, Nettle and Lemon Verbena. Makes for a lovely afternoon tea and with the addition of a fruity Green Tea I'm feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed as I work with customers and on projects.

Enjoy this seasonal shift. Look to what needs to be finished up so that you can transition into what lies ahead.