Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Summer Days

I can’t believe summer is nearly over. I started July with the “Great Potato Weigh In” at the allotment gardening club and there was quite a competitive spirit in the air! Earlier in the year our gardening teacher gave each allotment plot a “Jersey” potato to chit and plant and then to see which plot grew the most potatoes from their spud. Our poor potato got left in Iain’s car for a couple of weeks and had travelled about 700 miles by the time we planted it in March. We walked around each plot to witness the digging up of potatoes and we achieved second position with 1.637kg from our little potato – they tasted good as well. Outside of Jersey our potatoes can’t be Jerseys they have the unglamorous title of International Kidney.
Iain and Barry harvest our potatoes

 We have also had a fund raising day at the allotments, live music from 3pm until late, real ale, hog roast and children’s activities, it went really well. The men from our allotment plot formed a folk group (Barry, Iain and Steve – The BIS) and did really well. One of the children’s activities was to make a snail from Willow; I have always fancied a go at Willow work and whilst obviously not fitting a child category any longer I managed to trade a cabbage for a go at snail making!
My willow snail

 At the Herb Sanctuary in July  we did some harvesting including purple sage, St John’s Wort, betony and rose petals, we also sorted out some herbs which had been drying in the summer house and put the leaves and flowers into paper bags these included catnip and elderflower. The sheep’s fleece that we boiled a few months ago to make lanolin made a reappearance; Janey had some equipment for carding the wool and showed us how to do it. It doesn’t look like the wool will spin very well as without the lanolin it is very dry. I believe the fleece will appear again at Sarah’s Herb Festival in September where everyone will be able to use plants to make different natural dyes and we can dye some wool. I have agreed to do an Introduction to Aromatherapy talk at the herb festival.
Herbs for Harvesting

 My most time-consuming project recently has been trying to develop recipes for skin-care products which my daughter and I are hoping to market. We are using only natural and plant based products (except for beeswax) and it’s taking a lot of research and a lot of time. We have started testing our recipes and when we are happy we need to send it to an industrial chemist to get it tested. The sad thing is that I have had to buy a lot of my herb products which I now make such as macerated oils and tinctures as the products need "traceability".
 I didn’t make the August herb workshop as I was already committed to a garden party organised by The Fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table of King Arthur, we had a go at Bhangra dancing, a show and tell session with swords, our fortunes told by Madame Arcana and were served cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off! All this raised money for the Acorns Children’s hospice whilst having a fun afternoon.
 I’ve got some catching up to do with my herb homework, I seem to have been so busy and September is looking just as crazy. We are camping at the Mercian Gathering next weekend; it’s the Herb Festival in the Cotswolds the weekend after. We’ve had lots of produce to harvest from the allotment, the weeds grow faster than everything else though. This week is the village scarecrow festival and on the 14th September we are having an official allotment opening by the Countess of Wessex so we'd better tidy up!
 The 12th September is the day for the ancient tradition of the Abbots Bromley Horns Dance this year and I'll be dancing in the village while we wait for the Horns Men to return. I must confess it's an honour to be asked but as I haven't practiced for ages I've got more than a few butterflies!
 Thank you Claire and Trish for your comments on St John’s Wort, I no longer seem to be able to reply to comments on this blog as used to be able to so will have to reply like this in future. It is so interesting to hear from someone who has tried the oil for sun protection and only had a reaction when taking internal supplements; I am so pleased you have shared your experiences Claire. Sarah also makes her oil with sunflower which does complement the whole sun theme of the herb; this conjures up visions of warming sunshine easing joint pain for Trish’s husband. Sunflower oil is easily absorbed by the skin and can help active ingredients to be absorbed quickly. St. John’s Wort has anti-inflammatory properties.