Being part of a community garden has its advantages! Though I was on the road more than I was at home for the past month my medicinals were watered and watched and are now lush and flowering. Thank you to everyone who made sure my plants stayed alive. The skullcap (Scutellaria laterflora) is bushy and flowering, the lady's mantle (Alchemilla) is golden, the tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is HUGE, the horehound (Marrubium vulgare) is trying to escape its pot, and the mullein (Verbascum) is tall, looking like it belongs in a storybook. My herb garden is perfect.
Everywhere I traveled to or through this past month has provided herbs to harvest and learn. Plant identification is an entirely new way to engage with nature that I adore. It's focusing my experience of traveling, making it richer and more beautiful.
A simple start-- at the music festival in Ohio there was red clover and dandelion all around our campsite that I picked for my morning teas.
In Sioux Falls, Idaho I was surprised to find sweet pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea) covering every surface at the Falls. A year earlier when we had stopped there I didn't notice the plants at all. I suppose just last year I saw the flora around me as a very general green and yellow mass.
In Yellowstone I saw prancing red bison babies and tiny baby bears jumping around and climbing up a tree. We only could spend a few hours there this time, but it was a really breathtaking few hours.
I realized that the mist of green I saw in every direction last year in Yellowstone was actually fragrant mountain big sagebrush (Artemesia tridentata). Some of the plants are over 100 years old! The park ranger there was enthusiastic when he saw me studying the sagebrush, but misinformed. He suggested that we season our food with the plant, as it was a type of sage. It actually isn't a type of sage (Salvia), and is mildly toxic. Oops. It is medicinal, though-- traditionally used for headaches, infections, and colds.
In Washington State we stopped the car to stretch our legs roadside. Incredibly, we had pulled off at a 1 mile hike through a hemlock forest along a pristine glacial runoff river. The air was so pure and the fallen hemlocks all around us were covered in glowing red reishi.
In Bellingham, Washington I found lots and lots of alien-looking horsetail (Equisetum), (but forgot my camera!). In Seattle I there was oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) planted everywhere along a vegan-centric street in the University district. I was thrilled to find this very special plant after reading so much about it in Becky Lerner's book, The Dandelion Hunter: Foraging the Urban Wilderness.
When we arrived back in Ohio (after a relaxing week on the beach in North Carolina) I used herbs to treat Brad's eye infection, which developed as soon as we collapsed in bed after our 12 hour drive, of course.
In Northeast Ohio I visited my parents and collected baskets and baskets of red clover, red raspberry leaves, and stinging nettles from their woods. It's all still drying in my childhood bedroom and I'm excited to collect more when I go back there this weekend. I'll use several jars of each this year in my teas.
As a group, my herbalism class went to a narrow preserve between two tracts of farm land to identify the plants we could find there. This is something I wish we could do more often. Being shown an actual plant and touching it, connecting with it, has been the best way for me to learn.
Feeling tired of generally feeling tired I decided to make an easily accessible, plant-based vitamin and mineral syrup to take daily. It turned out to be more of a drink, a la Floradix.
I volunteered again at Blue Owl farms, learning still more from Janell while weeding and picking berries. I've loved the time that we've spent with her in her vast herb gardens and her cozy house. Again, I came home with news herbs to try.
My friend Tess and I explored the magnificent herb gardens at a nearby metropark and made a new dream oil together with some mugwort from Janell.
I harvested lemon balm, mint, bee balm, and basil from my mother-in-law's gardens and started playing with herbal flower arrangements for Brad's birthday party (happy birthday!).
Summer had been so good to me so far.