Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The End of Year 2 of my Herb Apprenticeship

Our last herb task of the year involves reflecting back over this year and forwards to next year.

I want you to look out your original list of herbs and go through each one answering the following questions.

Did I plant this herb? If yes, what happened - do you have photos, did you make notes or drawing? What did you discover about this herb? Do you feel you know enough now or what else do you need to find out?

Did I wild craft this herb? If so, where from, when, what did you do with what you gathered? Will you return to this colony in the future?

Go through all your activities with your herbal ally. Is there anything left you haven't made or a particular part you don't know about? Is there time to complete your task or is this something to carry forward to next year?

Bergamot: not a good start, I haven’t really thought about this herb this year and have decided to drop it from next year’s studies.

Bilberry: the idea here was that I believe I ought to have knowledge of what grows in my own locality; this grows in abundance on the hills behind my house so I am walking past it all the time. I have photographed it and tried bilberry leaf tea but got so busy I never made the time to harvest berries, this is where I miss my kids being little, we would pick together from moorland and hedgerows and I’d make a pie with the fruity hoard.
Blackberry or Bramble

Blackberry: exactly as above, leaves wild gathered from bushes on the hills.

Calendula: I never got my own seeds sown but helped to sow and harvest at the Sanctuary, I have photographs. I have used calendula in my skin care products as it’s so healing and gentle on the skin.

Comfrey: I had a bit of root from the Sanctuary a few years ago and it has grown vigorously. I made leaf oil which is pictured on the blog but I still need to make root oil which I think is more effective although I am aware of PSAs.

Dandelion: my herbal ally this year; I have been more aware of dandelion, spent time with it, talked to it (don’t lock me up!), lived with it and experimented with it. I have also photographed, photo-shopped pictures, drawn pictures and been inspired by it. I have made infusions, bitter tincture and vinegar. I wanted to make more things and write about more of its uses so I shall have to carry on a while.
Dandelion pictures

Elder: This also grows on the hills behind my house; I have made an elixir and made my first glycerite earlier in the year from dried berries. Photos were taken. This tree is so versatile with so many uses, I want to look at it in a more energetic way and I think it will be fun to look at the stories from times gone by.
Elder berries

Elecampane flowers & dried root

Elecampane: Sarah gave me a bit of root and it grew, not as big as hers and it didn’t flower but I expect great things next year! Even though I will still observe it and use it I’m going to take it off my study list now.
Feverfew: I can’t really say I grew it this year as it has self-seeded all over the garden. It’s such a cheerful looking flower that I have let it go where it wants. Tried it in a sandwich as I read somewhere that this was a good way of damping down the strong taste, it still tastes bitter, I feel I’ve completed my time with it now, I’ve decided to let this one go from my list after 2 years.

Hawthorn: I have it growing on the hills but by my allotment were the biggest and brightest red berries I’d ever seen so I picked these and put them in a tincture. I took pictures, I just feel drawn to it so it’s staying on the list.
Hawthorn berries
Lady’s Mantle: I’ve used it from the Sanctuary and my garden and put it in my Lady’s blend. This one’s going from my list now.
Lady's Mantle

Lemon Balm: I’ve used it in a tincture with St John’s Wort and I’ve found that the tea is such a soother after I’ve worked in the garden during hay fever season. I feel Lemon Balm and I have a bit more potential.
Lemon Balm

Meadowsweet: I’ve grown it in the garden but didn’t get to harvest it; I’m disappointed with myself about this and will do better next year.

Motherwort: I’ve taken some pictures and have made a tincture, I need to look at it closer.

Mugwort: a magical herb I think, I enjoy working with mugwort, I have dried some for a dream pillow, harvested at samhain for extra potency.

Nettle: growing well around the compost bin! I’ve had macerated water and lots of nutritious soup, there’s still some in the freezer.

Plantain: I didn’t do anything with plantain this year but want to carry on another year with it.

Skullcap: this got me through a rough patch last year so I wanted to study it more but haven’t yet.

St John’s Wort: this still fascinates me; it’s growing really well in the garden and keeps me going in oils and tinctures. I have experimented and tried to research its sun protection properties and got some great feedback about other people’s experiences.
St Johns wort

Valerian: I have this growing in the garden and this must be why it’s on my list but I must confess I’d forgotten it was on my list until I came to do this list, woops! What does that say about valerian and me?

White Horehound: I haven’t done a lot with it this year except to put it in the most bitter tasting cough mixture in the world! I looked into its properties in more depth last year; I shall publish my article on here. I feel I’ve finished with it for now.
White horehound

Yarrow: keeps escaping me, it grows scantily on the hills. There’s a lot in town at the roadside but this is too polluted to use so I shall plod on with yarrow, it’s an interesting herb.

Which tinctures/vinegars/honeys/flower essences/elixirs have you made throughout the year? Have you kept notes of the recipes? If not, can you still remember what you did so you can make a note now?

 I’ve kept this blog since the first of January and it’s been great for keeping a record of what I’ve done along with my photographs. How great to find I something kept in an organised way! I can recommend it for other apprentices.

You will need to choose a new herbal ally for next year and a further 5-10 herbs to study. You are allowed to drop any from this year's list which you've either finished with or not felt drawn to. (If there is one you are studiously ignoring but which refuses to go away, I would suggest you take a deep breath and embrace it!)

Chamomile, mullein, guelder rose, solomons seal, marsh mallow to add and elder for my ally.

Do a herbal stocktake this month - what do you have in your cupboard/larder/herb drawer?

I needed this task to prompt me to tidy my potion cupboard! This is what I found:


St John’s wort, St John’s wort and lemon balm, hawthorn berry, motherwort, mugwort, bitters, hawthorn blossom, horsetail, wild cherry bark, meadowsweet, dandelion.


Four thieves, lady’s blend, dandelion leaves, rosemary, thyme, fire cider, bramble root.


Iron tonic


Wild cherry bark and elderberry, grapefruit bitter, ginger, elderberry, colt’s foot.


Quince, crab apple and guelder rose.


St John’s wort, meadowsweet, calendula, plantain, elder bark, mugwort, thyme, yarrow, dandelion flower, comfrey leaf.


Elder bark, ginger, chilli

Flower essences

Hawthorn, chick weed, dandelion, feverfew, crab apple blossom


Wands of various types of wood, crab apple being my most recent addition, some cramp bark to save the bark from, mugwort and ashwaghanda seeds drying in the airing cupboard and all those things that will turn up in drawers, cupboards and handbags that I had forgotten about.

Now is the time to think about what we've done over the past year - what was helpful? What would you have liked more of? What did you hate but found useful? Would you have preferred to have done something differently? Could I have done more to help?

I would also like you to think about how you have changed and what you have achieved and what you would like to achieve next year.

I can’t believe how much I’ve achieved this year, looking back through my blog of the year brings back memories of not just what I have done but who I have shared these moments with; such lovely people. Working with other people, even if I don’t know them at the start is so helpful as everyone shares their own knowledge and experience and has alternative ways of doing things. This and having a mentor who is knowledgeable and gets me to try things I never would usually is the difference between learning with others and learning from books, so keep making me taste things I wouldn’t usually dare to! My style of learning seems to be to try the tastes, smells and experiences that can only be learnt by having a go and then reading what the experts say and seeing if these merge.

 Life happens to us all and we have to prioritise so sometimes it’s hard to keep up. I find a monthly task gives me a nudge to get on with my work!

 Setting up this blog was my first scary moment of the year, not being very techno-minded; but it’s helped me to keep a record of my work that you can read and has been enjoyable. I have felt brave enough to join a blog party as well! I find I have more confidence with my knowledge and with giving advice but still feel I have so much to learn.

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