Giant Suntrees OMG

I’ve been so crazy busy this summer helping my fledgling out of the nest, expanding the coop run and going berserk in the garden…. which, I think, these Sunflowers must have channeled. Lol. The tallest is 14 feet. The variety? Mammoth Russian.

I think I’ll leave these epic beauties to the birds. I can’t bear to harvest them. I’ll just stare in awe instead.

Scullcap: An herb we could all use today.

Spent my entire self-alloted hour and thirty on FB being appalled by the rampant racism. Timely enough, today I have some fresh tincture to make: Scullllllcaaaap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Scullcap, Mad-Dog Scullcap). I use this stuff every. single. day. and I may need some EXTRA (gallons). It’s great for helping with sensory processing, restlessness, agitation…y’all might wanna check it out. Should be fresh tinctured for full potency. It is native to this continent, but not to this area. Easily grown where it can get plenty of water and a little bit of shade.

I have two varieties growing in the yard and I’d love to share both with you. One is the medical variety we use and is more reserved in appearance. The other is native to the Driftless. That one looks like a nursery variety with it’s showy blooms. It surprises me that more folks don’t sell it. I’ll have to plant some for sale, because, well, jussssssst look at this beauty…

And here are the medicinal, lateriflora, and the native, ovata, growing side by side…

Both of these lovely plants are in the mint, or, Lamiaceae family, but they are one of the mints that don’t smell.

The foremost being lateriflora, the one with flowers showing, ovata, the regionally native.

And here is the lateriflora I will harvest for my fresh tincture. Scullcap likes to be tinctured fresh or she will lose potency.

So, off I go to make my tincture. It will help me deal with the chaos and agitation I feel by focusing my thoughts and dampening all the distraction. A focused mind can work to help people and that’s where I can direct my energy best.

Daily Harvest: Monarda, Mountain Mint, Anise Hyssop, Tulsi, Scullcap and Nettles

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Every morning, after the dew burns off the plants, I harvest throughout my herb garden. It’s a meditation and ceremony. The rest of the world melts away and my senses are filled with delicious scents, bold colors, the quality of the light and all the creatures that make my garden their home. In a typical day, I might have 3 to 5 plants to harvest and process. 

Today, mountain mint, monarda (both red and blue), anise hyssop, tulsi, scullcap and the last of the nettles before they flower, were ready. They are now swimming in vinegar, being made into tincture, or drying in the darkened drying room. The house smells amazing.

St. John’s Wort’s Unknown Diversity

Today, I’m working with Hypericum perforatum, or St.John’s Wort. Most people think of this plant as “The Depression Herb.” However, helping with mild depression and anxiety is only one of the myriad of ways it is useful. Did you know that it’s great as a wound healer? It helps to regenerate nerves and helps with nerve pain. It is also an antiviral with an affinity for the nerve system. For example, it works well for shingles and herpes simplex. These are just a few of this wonderful plants medicinal qualities.

St. John’s Wort is not indigenous to the Driftless.  Hypericum perforatum is our local native variety and it shows promise. I hope to work with it in the future to discover the ways it might be most useful.

The information in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.

Driftless Indigenous Herblore: Elder Flower

Flu season last Winter: how many of you used an elderberry product? I remember so many people asking where they could get it in town because it was sold out. It’s that good, but did you know that elder FLOWER is also really helpful during flu season? And it can help with your allergy complaints now. Elder flower will help move congestion, it’s anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. It also has a calming effect on the nerves.

Elder, Sambucus nigra being the variety we use for medicine, loves to grow near wet areas as a large bush in groups in the Driftless. You’ll often see it in the ditches along the roadsides and near agricultural fields. Caution: heavy metals drain off the roadsides from our cars and chemicals run off the farm fields into the ditches. It’s best to find a patch that is away from roads. When you find a patch, be sure you are 120% certain of it’s identification. (Hemlock is just as tall, grows in wet areas and has white flowers too. Hemlock is deadly.)

Sambucus Nigra Elderberry
A lovely elder full of floral umbels in early summer.

When you collect Elder Flowers, there is no need to cut them. You can get blooms AND berries. Take both hands, one on each side of the fully flowering umbel. Gently fold the umbel in on itself and rub the two halves together over your collecting container while the umbel is still on the plant. You’ve just collected flowers and pollinated it at the same time and will still get berries. This works best when the entire umbel is in full bloom with no more buds. The flowers will fall off easily from that point.

You can enjoy a cup of elder flower tea, or, my favorite way is to make a strong elder tea and mix that with an equal part sugar, then boil a bit to make elder syrup. You can use the syrup so many ways. Dried elder flowers can be infused in honey too. I make elder flower tincture to use in combination with other herbs for excellent flu and allergy care. For kids of all ages, syrup always goes down easier than tincture 🙂. This weekend, we enjoyed it with our waffles and blackberries. Yum. Mr. Ambroz agrees.

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The information in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Driftless Indigenous Herblore- Motherwort

Finding myself swinging between rage and despair for the umpeenth morning in a row, I was gifted by a sudden offer of large rocks to use in the medicine garden. When we are angry and afraid, our bodies ready us for fight or fight. In modern, colonialist culture, we regularly handle this by numbing ourselves with electronic devices or pharmaceuticals. We never burn off the energy that was preparing our muscles and brain for the fight or flight. That isn’t good. We need to physically work off that energy and momentum. So, what better way than to lug large chunks rock around the Driftless?

I lugged. I threw. I pushed and pulled 2 heavy loads. My bangs were plastered to my face, sweat in my eyes, but I kept noticing Motherwort, subtle in bloom. How appropriate.

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You see, Motherwort, or, Leonurus cardiaca, it’s exactly what we all needed today, if not in plant form, most definitely in spirit.

When you see Motherwort, you notice her soft grace. She rises tall, her leaves drooping softly over the column of flowers in rows around the stem. Soft pink flowers are protected by prickly sepals around the square stem of her mint family lineage. Where she grows, she fully exists, spreading to a voluptuous size on the edges of the woods or in the sun spreckly shade. Rumor has it, if she isn’t growing in your yard and you invite her, she’ll move in. I haven’t had the need to invite her because one of my favorite neighbors has a patch growing on the side of her yard. Thanks, Lily.

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Traditionally, Motherwort has been used for regulating menstrual cycles, reducing painful periods, but, also, to calm heart palpitations and reduce high blood pressure caused by anxiety, among other uses. Spiritually, and physically, she is said to give you the heart of a lion. Thus, Leonurus cardiaca, lion hearted. Not only that, but, her calming effect is described as “like getting a hug from your mother.” Motherwort can help you feel safer, more capable of holding yourself together: appropriate under the circumstances.

So, there she was, wanting to be noticed today. I told her about my worries and fears for these children, separated from their mothers, held in tent camps, in industrial spaces, wailing in anguish for mami and papi. I asked her spirit to please give her comforting hug to their spirits to help them feel more safe. I cried as I harvested, and thanked her, made tincture and cried some more. Thank goodness we have our plant allies to help us cope in these trying times. Stay strong. Resist.

The information in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Bug Berms Encourage Pollinators

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Today, I planted a mix of wild lettuce, Echinacea, elecampane, Monarda, anise hyssop, culver’s root, Lobelia, Scrofularia, yarrow, and will seed some red clover into this bed which was already full of purslane and amaranth. The amaranth has got to go once it’s big enough to pull (we’ll eat it lol), but the purslane can stay 🙂. Besides being a tasty garden snack, it’s an excellent nutritional herb with omega-3 fatty acids.

These beds are positioned between sections of Sinsinawa’s vegetable rows. They will attract insects to help with insect pest control and pollination. They will be filled with plants I’ll also harvest for medicine.