Another season to learn about the abundance in our forests. Living in the Boreal woodlands brings season quickly and they are short. From one week to the next things suddenly bust out into life! I think it will take me many years to have observed my window for things and get organized enough to seize the opportunity to gather at hand, and swiftly. First, it’s always good to know what you really actually need and will have the time to process and use.
The amount of medicine plants & food even here, is pretty overwhelming. So i have to keep it simple. Life has me stretching in many directions right now being responsible for 4 rapidly growing weeds, one of them just turning 6 moons/months today!
It’s good to pick with intention. To know why you are seeking that plant spirit’s assistance. Last year i did some wild harvesting with a strong intention. I collected raspberry leaves (tonic) for tea (although i should have harvested much much more), Shepard’s Purse (bleeding), Willow bark (after birth pain) & Crampbark (after birth pain) :: all to prepare me for my pregnancy & upcoming birth on the Land the medicines were picked.
I gathered Red clover which i had wished i had more of, because it dried so well and was so sweet. Best clover tea i have ever had. Great for minerals & a blood purifier. I also picked Rose hips (vitamin C) for tea and some for extract. Labrador tea for an adrenal nourishing tea and immune booster.
I dried Calendula from the garden (which i’m late planting seeds!). What a beautiful flower she is…so fragrant and gentle. I hope to make a salve this year with her in it, as well as some plantain. I picked some rose petals for an oil, but didn’t use it as much as i had hoped. I really need to find myself some local beeswax. I really really love salves….and beeswax is such a gift from the bees.
I’m sure this will be an endless learning experience for me. One i will build on well into my Crone-Hood. Whenever learning something new, it seems so vast and overwhelming, but the baby steps on the path lead to great adventures and a stronger bond to the Land where you dwell. It’s always good practice to never take more than you can handle processing. Something called “processing fatigue”. You get out there and work your heart out to harvest, only to come home too tired & hungry to finish the job! i know for me this rings true and life with kids, so i have to start small, for the sake of all plant communities and to prevent disappointment in myself.
Here’s some wonderful advice from one of my favorite Wise Plant Healer’s
When you have positively identified the plant you wish to use, center yourself by sitting next to the herb in silence. Take several deep breaths. Feel the earth under you, connecting you to all the plants. Listen to the sounds and songs all around you. Can you hear the song of your herb?
If you are picking only one plant, ask that plant to give you its power. Tell it how you intend to use it. If you are harvesting many plants, look for a grandmother plant. Ask her permission to use her grandchildren. Visualize clearly how you intend to use the plants.
Make an offering of corn or tobacco, a coin or love to the plants. Sing with them. Talk with them if you feel moved to do so. Thank the earth and begin your gathering.
Take care to preserve and contribute to the well-being of the plant community. Take no more than half of the annuals or biennials, no more than a third of the perennials. Walk gently and with balance.
Harvest plants when the energy you want is most concentrated. Roots store energy in the form of sugar, starch, and medicinal alkaloids throughout the cold or dormant season; pick them when above ground growth of the plant has died back. Leaves process energy to nourish roots and flowers; pick them at their most lush, before flowers have formed, after all dew has dried, and before the day’s heat wilts them. Flowers are fragile, pollen-filled, joyous; harvest them in full bloom, before seeds form, and before bees visit them. Seeds are durable, but likely to shatter and disperse if left on the plant too long; harvest seeds when still green and before insects invade. Barks (inner barks and root barks) may be harvested at any time but are thought to be most potent in spring and fall. Look carefully at the plant you wish to pick and you will see where the energy is highest; let this guide your harvesting.
Deal with your harvest immediately. Allowing the cut plants to lie about dissipates their vital energies, encourages mold and fermentation, and results in poor quality preparations. If you intend to eat your harvest, refrigerate the plants, or wash and cook them and sit down and eat. If you intend to make a tincture or oil, cover the herbs with alcohol or oil as soon as possible; don’t refrigerate them. If you intend to dry the herbs, it is vital to lay them out or tie them up as soon after harvest as possible.
To dry herbs and maintain their color, fragrance, taste, energy, and medicinal potency, you need only:
° Pick when there is no moisture on the plant and do not wash the plant (roots are the exception).
° Dry the herbs immediately after picking, in small bunches or spread out so parts don’t touch.
° Dry them in a dark and well ventilated area.
° Take down the herbs and store in paper bags as soon as they are crisply dried. If insect invasions force you to store dried herbs in glass or plastic, air-dry them, then dry in paper bags for another two weeks before sealing in tight containers.
° Keep the herbs as whole, cool, and dark as possible during storage. Under optimum storage conditions, well-dried volatile, delicate herbs last about six months; roots and barks maintain potency for six or more years.
this excerpt from:
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed
Always be thankful for the gifts the Earth and the elements provide – give thanks with some tobacco or a simple Thank-You. Walk in Beauty.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”