An Ode to Autumn

 

 

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom friend of the maturing sun,

 

I can still remember John Keat’s poem To Autumn even though I was in school when I last read it.  It stayed with me, I think, because Autumn has always been one of my favourite seasons. I was born on the Autumn Equinox and naturally, whenever it was my birthday it felt as if it was a new year – which it was in a personal way.  With school starting just before my birthday – a new school year, (and then I became a teacher so had the same experience through work),  Autumn has always felt exciting and rejuvenating.  The smell of Autumn is so distinctive as well and smells go deep, deep down into memory, into the oldest part of the brain.  I can remember smoke from gardens as people tidied them up and burned leaves and whatever.  The smell of the frost in the morning also added an air of anticipation.  The difference in the light,  the sense of change,  of stepping over some invisible threshold, has always piqued my imagination making me look forward to whatever is coming next.

 

This year is a BIG birthday! So big I can hardly believe I have spent so many decades on this planet.  I look back at all the years of loving Mother Earth and feel very grateful that I found my way home to her.  Growing up without a garden I never imagined that one day I would be growing trees and flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables; that I would be saving seed and doing my best to create a little paradise, yet here I am!

The Autumn Equinox represents the second harvest, the fruit harvest, and this year in particular, I am contemplating all I have harvested in my life and what seeds I intend to sow in the years coming.  With talk of a serious recession, I am intending to sow many food seeds in 2021  because I think it is a good idea to be a little more self-sufficient.  I also plan to sow metaphorical “seeds” for the things I want to see grow in the world.

 

After all the freshness of spring and early summer with their busy-ness and thrust to action; then the heat of summer proper, there is something relaxing about Autumn.  The work is done – almost, (it’s never really done in a garden), and the sun is visibly “maturing” as the year ages.  Even though some plants are dying back, there are still the joys to be had from collecting blackberries and harvesting apples from our trees.  The last of the courgettes have just been discovered under a mass of leaves and there are still potatoes, kale, cabbage, leeks and chard to harvest as well as some herbs .  Lots of flowers have gone to seed; Foxglove, Mullein, Rose Campion for example, although Evening Primrose is still holding its own and Fuschia is still spilling its ruby-red dancing flowers. The roses are also still going strong and I have been pleasantly surprised this year by some flowers that have just emerged.  I am not sure what they are – some kind of bedding plants that were just leaves when I bought them.  I was disappointed during the summer that they had not flowered and now, suddenly, boom!! – lots of bright pinks and purples.

 

Thinking of red, there are Hawthorn berries too.  More abundance to be collected and dried for medicine.

It is during Autumn when I really feel and appreciate the abundance of Mother Nature.  I feel a sense of fulfilment looking at my jars of chutneys and relishes;  my dried herbs for medicinal teas and bottles and jars of medicines all supplied by Mother Nature.

 

There are also lots of Nasturtiums still flowering, adding their own colours to the Autumn palette.  I collect them for making Nasturtium Vinegar.

After a month of infusing, this vinegar will be ready to treat sinus problems and head colds.  It can also be used as a prophylactic as it is full of Vitamin C,  just take a spoonful each day if you are prone to head colds or blocked sinuses. Soon it will be time to make  Fire Cider Vinegar and once that happens I will know we are on our way into winter.  In the meantime, I continue with the harvest and start to make soups and tasty veggie casseroles and stews.

I really love this time of year as there is so much of everything which feeds the body and the soul.

Which season do you prefer?

 

Danu’s Irish Herb Garden – Healing for Mother Earth

The weather is growing colder and the nights become darker earlier.  With the fall of leaves, the landscape changes and the trees appear skeletal.  Their nakedness reveals other things within the landscape, things that are usually hidden, such as tussocks and hillocks and animal dens as well as the rocks and stones that are the bones of the land.

At this time of year I think of the Cailleach – the Old Hag, as she takes hold of the dying year and brings the seasonal changes of winter.  She is in charge now until Imbolc, when Brigid, as a maiden goddess, will herald the return of Spring.  The Cailleach’s mode of healing is rest and the deep sleep of winter.

Irish Goddesses are notoriously difficult to make sense of when they are compared to the Greek or Roman pantheons.  They are very rebellious, not really fitting into any of the usual “Goddess boxes” and when we think of the virtue of healing, several Goddesses  have responsibility in this area.  For example,  Brigid is the Goddess of Healing and Airmid is the Goddess of Herbs; and healing in the past always included herbal remedies, salves and medicines.  Healing though, is so much more than oral medicine or topical applications and when we talk about our health and well being, I think we should also include the state of the land/Land as a component of our own health.

In ancient times, the health of the land depended upon the integrity of the king, his wisdom, truth and justice and his care of the land as his bride.  When such a man was king the Land flourished.  At the moment our Land is sick – the Land of Ireland and land elsewhere.  A study has just announced that the fertility of Irish soil has fallen by 40% during this last decade and no-one knows why.  No-one knows why? One expert suggested it may be because we do not use enough fertiliser!!  But surely it is obvious!  When the land is unloved and is only seen as a commodity instead of as our nurturing Mother; when the land is repeatedly poisoned instead of fed and appreciated; when humans neglect to care for the land, is it really any surprise that the Land is sick??

 

Our Land needs healing.  To do this we must actively interact with and communicate with the Land and show love and appreciation.  In the past we left offerings of gratitude, at Lughnasa for example when we gave thanks for the harvest; we allowed our old Mother to rest by leaving some fields fallow – to recover from their hard work.  Trees and shrubs were planted around fields so that leaf fall could rejuvenate the soil.  Birds and wild life were encouraged and tolerated as all life is connected and all beings have their place in the wonderful web of life.  We knew that there were seasons for work, rest and for healing. We are learning now – possibly too late –  that we must rely on all the other life forms to maintain balance and harmony and yet we allow badger culls and hare coursing.  We remove ancient hedgerows and clear fields of bushes and shrubs…..It is a monstrous madness of destruction.

 

The Goddess The Morrigan is associated with death, war and destruction, was seen to incite blood lust and battle frenzy and her motif is the carrion crow.  The crow however, does not create destruction, rather it cleans up after Death has visited.  For me, The Morrigan is also a Goddess of healing who brings peace and calm after the battle, harmony and balance after chaos.  She is also a territorial ancestress of the Land, a sovereign Goddess and she made a rather alarming prophesy. She foretold of a time when there would be “…no flowers in summertime, no milk from the cows, no fruit from trees and no fish from the sea. … the women would be shameless, the men without strengths, old men would tell lies and the politicians would make unjust laws……men would become thieves and there would be no virtue in the world.” 

Will she be right? Is she right?  What can we do?  There is no point relying on politicians to heal our Land, this Earth, we must do it ourselves, one step at a time.  Be a careful consumer and plant something – anything, just keep at it.  Commune with the Land and with plants, become an ally.  Do some healing.  Anyone can heal anything, just go into your heart space and set an intention to heal. Make amends.

I believe that everyone does care and does want justice for the Land and the planet but it is so difficult to change the conditioning of a lifetime.  Change is necessary though.  Call on one of our healing Goddesses or to the Warrior aspect of the Morrigan for help and guidance and you will find a way to do something.

Let me know if you have any good ideas by using the comment box below. For each comment I will send a FREE packet of seeds to you.  (Postage is 1.50e)  These seeds will go someway to healing and beautifying our Mother Earth.

 

The Sun Stands Still

Solstice literally means “sun stands still” for about three days.  About ten days ago we had snow and sleet on the mountains.

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We had hope that we might get a “White Christmas” and a shining, sparkling Solstice but our hopes were dashed as temperatures rose again and we became engulfed in mist. The mist wrapped itself around and imposed a magical enchantment, reducing sound and only slightly revealing ghostly shapes.  Soft and velvety it protected us from the madness of current crazy consumerism. Then, on 20th December it seemed to be clearing.

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The mountains were becoming visible.  Perhaps we would be fortunate to see the sun the next day.

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On Thursday we were up to celebrate the solstice,  to greet the returning sun. Just before dawn, standing in our bare feet to connect with Mother Earth,  we sang and chanted and I drummed a welcome but unfortunately the mist was too heavy – it was a fog!!  We could not see the sun but we celebrated anyway.

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Celebrating the Solstice is celebrating the return of the Light, celebrating the strengthening sun.  We lit a candle and made our dedication for the coming year.  Thinking of the light with-out and the light within, we lit candles around the house.

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The house is dressed with the gifts of greenery from the forest, Holly, Ivy, Pine and Spruce, representing our hospitality to the Green Plant Spirits and our recognition of the sun’s vital role in generating life on this planet.

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As we lit the candles we thought of all the aspirations we had for ourselves for the coming year.  We thought of how we all carry Divine Light within and how can we best use it for the benefit of ourselves and for others. What do we want to illuminate and allow to shine?

 

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Eventually the day lightened – we still couldn’t see the sun for the mist but our house was well lit and we felt full of optimism for the coming year.  All will be well in 2018, all is well.  May the blessing of the light be with you.  As my yoga friends say, may the sun shine upon you.  Happy Yule.

A Feminist Imperative! The Rise of The Divine Feminine.

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Christmas is coming and at this time of year I sometimes think of the Holy Mother about to give birth.  Nowadays, the Holy Mother for me is an archetype of the Divine Feminine.  I have heard this term, The Divine Feminine  in passing for the last ten years or so.  What does it mean?  Several definitions I found can all be paraphrased as follows:

The Divine Feminine is the ultimate level of feminine manifestation and expression in the universe……the Divine Feminine is the “matrix of creation”, the best of all that is feminine in all its measure, the representation of all the greatest sacred mysteries, the divine light..

 

Do we need to know about the Divine Feminine now?  Most definitely and absolutely!  For more than 2000 years we have lived under a patriarchal, masculine dominated cultural system.  Only recently, within the last 100 years here in the west, have women begun to achieve any kind of equality and it is still doubtful that we women have full equality.  However, I think it is important to understand that patriarchy and masculine values are not necessarily bad, it is just that at present the energies of masculine and feminine are out of balance.

The Divine Masculine energy is one of strength and gentleness. It should be an expression of the highest, most inspiring and truest manifestations of the masculine.  Some of its qualities are logic, adventure, action, reason and loyalty and both men and women carry these qualities.  It is the same with the Divine Feminine energy; the qualities such as creativity, compassion, intuition and wisdom are inherent to both men and women.  What has happened over the last 2000 years is that the feminine aspects have been degraded and denied, forgotten and repressed and the masculine aspects have been, in some individuals, corrupted. Consequently our society, our culture has become out of balance and the planet and her people have suffered grossly.  Strength in a person is a good thing.  When that strength extends to bullying, becoming overpowering or overbearing it is not a good thing, it has become corrupted…… and dangerous to all.

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Some women of our time have intuited the energy of the Divine Feminine but have misunderstood how to express it and have (hopefully) unwittingly expressed their feminine power in an imbalanced, patriarchal way.  Margaret Thatcher and Hilary Clinton for example, have enjoyed great power but only by playing the game as if they were men.

The Divine Feminine expresses conception, creation and birth and allows us all to participate in the greatest of sacred mysteries – bringing a soul to life in a physical body.  Due to centuries of denying this divine mystery of the feminine,  denigrating it, calling it unclean,  we are also denying our connection to Life and Love.

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This denial of the divine mystery of the feminine means we are also denying Life itself.  If we denigrate women for being the bearers of life, of our own children, then it becomes easy to denigrate Life on the planet. Plants, animals and minerals are seen at best as commodities and at worse as something to destroy and get out of our way. If we view feminine power as something to fear, we fear Nature – Mother Nature.  If we fear something we try to destroy it.  Women through the centuries have endured torture, abuse, exploitation, rape and destruction,

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and so has our planet.

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I believe that it is imperative that women come together in groups and in Circles as friends and sisters;  recharge our intuition, our compassion and our wisdom and all the qualities that we hold that are of the Divine Feminine. It is time to acknowledge that what is done to us is done to the planet, to  Mother Earth, to the Goddess; and what is done to the planet, to Mother Earth and to the Goddess is done to us.  It is time for us to use our feminine power to demonstrate that we can have a successful society that reveres women (and men) and all Life on this planet.  For the Christians amongst us it is time to extend peace and goodwill to all beings, not just to Christian men, but to all women, all men and all beings.  To mothers of sons, I implore you to educate your sons to be the best of men, to be strong but gentle, kind and wise, adventurous but stable, rational but creative and for them to know that the Divine Feminine is within them too.

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Peace and blessings to all.

 

Wild and Free – Elemental Energy

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MOTHER EARTH

Thanks to the early moon missions we were able to see what our planet looked like from space.  Our home, the extraordinarily beautiful planet, Earth.  The impression this made on people at the time and since has been profound and certainly added energy to the then burgeoning environmental movement.  Looking at this image today, I feel a deep love for Earth as well as a yearning to become more wild, more earth-like, more of the Earth. The constraints and pressures of modern life on myself, my family and on my friends makes me want to just run away and be free in the wilderness. I think many people feel this same urgency which is why the notion of living off-grid is so appealing.

There are many ways to nurture a more intimate relationship with the Earth in order to feel wild and free once more.  One can go into the wilderness, walk barefoot, hug trees, sleep outdoors … and there are many books which encourage just that.  Jay Griffiths’ “Wild”, George Monbiot’s “Feral” and Rachel Corby’s  “Rewild Yourself – Becoming Nature” to name a few.  It is also possible to enter the “wilderness” through the garden, through the window box, through a plant pot,

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…or even an old paint tin.

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Once you put your hands into soil or compost and intend to grow something, something magical happens.  The spirits of place, the spirits of the land and the spirits of the plant all work with you to co-create.

Once the call is made (by humans) nature responds accordingly to support that defined call.” 

Machaelle Small Wright (author of “Perelandra Garden Workbook – Co-Creative Energy Processes for Gardening, Agriculture and Life”)

Once we start co creating with Nature we are back into the wilderness.  (It is really not very far away – note the Dandelion that springs up through tarmac!)  The energy of the wilderness simply wants to encourage and enable all things to thrive.  Some people describe that wild energy as elemental; and some people go further and describe that energy as being caused by an elemental being.

Elemental beings are the spirits of place, the spirits of the land, the spirits of trees and streams and pebbles and all that we identify as Nature.  One writer, Pam Montgomery describes a water droplet creating a rainbow as light passed through it, as an individual elemental being. (“Plant Spirit Healing”and “Partner Earth”)  As we now know, everything is made of energy, so it seems perfectly reasonable to me that there are energies out there, in the plants, in the garden, in the wilderness.IMG_2148

This, by the way, is not wilderness – this is neglect and the co- creativity has stopped. The wilderness has not returned, with a diversity of plant and animal life; this is a stagnant field, in suspended animation, waiting for love.

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A little patch of our wilderness that flowered this year for the first time!

It is possible to return to wilderness by co creating a garden with helping elemental spirits.  They are also regarded as Divas or architects.  I have been trying to communicate with the Elementals here and I think it is starting to pay off.  The furze above has never flowered in the twenty years I have been here until now.

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Hawthorn with about three foot of growth on lower branches

The Hawthorn has been here for who knows how long without any change until this year.

The trees that we planted over the last three to four years are already ten to twelve foot high.IMG_2028

Our garden is being co-created, I call for help with every task.  I ask for help to grow our trees because they prevent erosion and provide homes for birds and animals. I ask for help when growing flowers and herbs because they feed the insects and birds and provide medicine.  I remember to give thanks for the wild gifts – the medicinal plants, the food plants.

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Hawthorn Berries – Food and Medicine

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Blackberries in profusion

I’ve been working in this garden with intent for about five or six years now and it is still a wilderness.  I do not use pesticides, I do not use fertilizers.  I make compost and call for help from the Elementals and I believe it is working.  Many gardeners would look at my garden and despair because there are no neat rows, it is not tidy and there are lots of “weeds” everywhere. It is definitely NOT a neat suburban garden with no leaf out of place.  It is a garden and it is a wilderness.

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A suburban garden here on the left is a fine example of what my garden is not.

Mary Reynolds, a former award winning landscape gardener, has decided she can no longer design gardens because ultimately they need to be controlled to keep the wildernesss out.  She writes,

 “Nature had her own ideas about design…..garden maintenance is fighting the  intentions Mother Nature has for herself.”

Machaella Small Wright argues that

Humans tend to look at gardens as an expression of nature. Nature looks at gardens as an expression of humans”

If we call to the Elementals and work as co-creators we can have wilderness gardens that express both Nature and human. If we call to the wild and free energy of the Elementals we will find ourselves connecting with the wilderness where ever we are.  In connecting with the wilderness we are communing with Mother Earth the Goddess.  For me, I think I’m getting results.    Leave a comment below and let me know how you connect to the wilderness or if you call to the Elementals.

     


 

Magical Seeds of Life – The Thrill of Seed Saving

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One definition for seed is

” …the fertilised ripened ovule of a flowering plant containing an embryo capable of germination to create a new plant…”

 Seed saving is absolutely vital for a number of reasons and this age old tradition (and necessity) is under attack in our present world.  Only recently, the European government pondered on new legislation to prevent ordinary people like you and me from saving our seeds, from swapping, sharing and giving away seeds.  Having been lobbied by huge agri chemical businesses such as , yes, you’ve guessed it, Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta, the legislation was only stopped by people power.  The Irish Seed Savers Association and their compatriots in Europe, along with the public who signed petitions and wrote to our MEPs managed to stop this legislation.  We must all remain alert and vigilant that such crazy ideas are not to  be enshrined in law in the future.

IMG_2121Mullein, Nigella and Nasturtium

We started our garden about seven years ago, as we became more concerned about food security and sharing the belief that growing our own food is a revolutionary act.  We cannot trust governments to protect our food sovereignty because they are so exposed to powerful lobbyists . We are taking responsibility for our own well being  and we are growing nutritious fresh food.  Only yards from field to table.

IMG_1977A portion of our harvest

Now I am taking things one step further – I am saving seed.  At the moment I am only a beginner, saving seeds that are large enough and easy enough to access.

IMG_2124Poppy, Coriander, Marrow, Lunaria, Pea, Mullein, Pink Campion, Calendula, Nigella

I have also saved Kale, Perennial Cauliflower, Purple Sprouting Broccoli various lettuces and Columbine.  Some of these are flower seeds.  I once thought that growing flowers was self-indulgent but now I know that flowers are vital to attract the bees and other pollinators so that my vegetables are pollinated giving me the seed for next year. Saving seed brings us one step closer to Mother Earth and further realisation that we are indeed,  connected to everything – the bees, the insects, the plants, the food,  the planet.

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The thrill of opening a seed case and releasing the seeds into a bowl or container is just fantastic.  It is indeed a thrill to know that by collecting and saving seed I am part of the cycle of life – I am contributing to LIFE and to bio-diversity.  I am happy to know that I am doing something positive and beneficial for the planet.

IMG_2126Pink Campion Seeds (on plate) and Evening Primrose Seeds behind

Saving seed is a time consuming job but it is so worth it.

IMG_2130My box of seeds – a treasure chest!

Seeds can also be metaphorical and we can think about the “seeds” we want to plant in our lives; what do we want to harvest in our lives?

If you would like to purchase any of my seeds, they are 2euro per packet.  Let me know which seeds you are saving by using the comments box below.

A Champion for Herbs!

Finally, after years of studying, planning and dreaming of becoming a voice for the herbs and plants we share our planet with, my first herbal health course went ahead on Saturday.  It was lovely for me to see how eager the participants were  to learn how herbs and plants can help prevent sickness and help us to recover from sickness.  Plants have been on this planet for 700 million years with flowering plants arriving about 140 million years ago and it is this group “...on which all terrestrial ecosystems today depend including the existence of humanity.” Peter Hochukin University of Zurich, Paleontological Institute.  Furthermore, in the journal SCIENCE Blair Hedges, evolutionary biologist claims “…that plants paved the way for the evolution of land animals by simultaneously increasing the percentage of oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere and decreasing the percentage of carbon dioxide” So it is very reasonable to accept the latest science, that plants are intelligent and communicative.  Mother Earth provides all that we need via plants – food, medicine, clothing, shelter and tools; and according to W.H.O, (World Health Organisation) 80% of the world’s population relies on herbal medicine as its primary form of health care.

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I believe that Mother Earth lovingly provides all the plants we need to stay healthy and consequently to keep the environment healthy.

Everything was ready before the participants arrived, all the ingredients and utensils I needed, with some remedies I had already made to show them what to expect.

 

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I’ve got Thyme, lemons, ginger, onions, garlic, honey, various essential oils, organic apple cider vinegar, beeswax, fennel seeds and other vital necessities.

We began by tasting some Dragon Fire Vinegar which is a folk remedy shared by American herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar.  Equal amounts of organic onions, garlic, chilli peppers, horseradish and ginger are chopped and grated and placed in a large jar.  Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is then poured over these ingredients and left to infuse for a month. This is a very potent, warming, anti-viral and comforting medicine and can be taken by the spoonful each day as a preventative or added to hot drinks should the virus take a hold.  It can also be added to casseroles and stews as well as to salad dressings.  After trying this I took the participants outside for a walk around the garden to identify some kitchen herbs and some wild herbs that are very useful for combatting  colds and ‘flu.  One person said  he was very glad to have taken the vinegar before going out as it was a cold day and yet he felt warm from the inside.

DSC_0238I talked about the properties of Thyme. This is a kitchen herb with powerful healing qualities.  It is an anti–viral, anti-microbial, anti-septic, anti-bacterial and is also an expectorant and anti-spasmodic.

All herbs have many qualities  and can be utilised for different health issues.Thyme is no exception as the above qualities also make it useful in other kinds of infections.

We drank some Thyme tea, which is a very pleasant drink with that comforting, medicinal taste before going on to try some Yarrow tea which I had picked in the polytunnel.  Yarrow helps colds and ‘flu sufferers because it diaphoretic and astringent.  That means it helps you to sweat out toxins, which brings down high temperature, and as an astringent dries up the mucous membranes when there is a copious amount of mucous or phlegm.

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What an opportunity for me to demonstrate the power of herbs; and so especially fulfilling because people were interested.  After a tasty organic lunch, we went on to make a honey throat soother, a cough syrup and a chest rub and I also shared with the group how to make tinctures and tea tinctures.  I have a selection of herbal tinctures already made for my own use and as one of the participants was sneezing and sniffling, I gave him some Elderberry and Thyme tincture.

DSC_0235Garlic had already been used in the Dragon Fire Vinegar and could have been used in the cough syrup and throat soother as well as it so powerful and healing.  It helps with all kinds of infection as well as supporting various body systems such as the cardiovascular system.  A clove cut in two and rubbed over the feet is one way of getting garlic into a child.

I had a wonderful day and was glad to receive very positive feedback as well as some useful suggestions for the next workshop.  I wish I had remembered to tell them all about Raspberry Vinegar which I had sitting on the countertop but forgot to mention.  Raspberries infused into organic white wine vinegar and left to stand in a warm place for two weeks before straining, makes a tasty throat soother and brings a little sunshine during the dark days of winter.  It can of course, be used in any salad dressing or even drizzled over desserts.

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Doesn’t it look lovely?

At this time of year there is not a lot growing.  The Lemon Balm, Oregano and Chamomile have barely resurfaced although it was possible for people to taste some young fresh leaves of Lemon Balm and Oregano.  During the growing year ahead of us, there is plenty of time to grow and  harvest your own herbs in preparation for next winter’s viral attacks. If you suffer with chest infections or have respiratory problems such as asthma, maybe you will enjoy the next workshop!