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Early March and spring is right around the corner. I thought it would be good to take some pictures, check in with the herbies as they venture out into the chill. Imagine my surprise when, four days after taking pictures for this post, this happened:

Crocuses in a March snow

Crocuses in a March snow

Ah, March. In like a lion, true to fashion. Let’s see if it goes out like a lamb?

Elderberry

Elderberry, budding out from where we cut it back this past fall (our dog Rowan in the background). My husband was so worried we would kill it. Now he knows *grin*

Black Cherry

Part of our dwarf fruit tree plantings, this black cherry is now three years old and budding out all over the place!

Lavender

New growth on the lavender bush. We finally found a spot where it could winter over. Hurrah for south-facing walls!

rosemary2013-03_2

Rosemary. Isn’t she gorgeous?

Rosemary

All abloom – just beautiful

Garden rhubarb

Garden variety rhubarb (not the medicinal variety) busting out ready for pies…

Tansy

The tansy is starting to reach out for another year of trying to escape its pot…

St. John's wort

and the St. John’s wort, so eager for the returning sun

Marjoram

Our marjoram is a bit singed from the frost, but weathered yet another winter, the old girl

Lemon Balm

The lemon balm is creeping up between the fallen leaves

Feverfew

and the feverfew as well

Grapes

The muscadine grapes are starting to bud out – these guys are three years old, too, and soooo tasty…

Hyssop

Hyssop is interplanted with the grapes…

Vitex

The vitex still looks pretty barren, but soon enough it’ll be busting out in beautiful blooms

Vitex berries

Damon holding some of the dried vitex berries

Echinacea

The echinacea is starting to peek out in clumps here and there

Daffodil and santolina

Daffodil and santolina cuddling up close for warmth…

Daffodil

so lovely…

Crocus

and of course, the crocus, flagbearer of spring.

Stay warm everyone! And if you’re on the East coast, enjoy the snow and stay safe!

Apologies for not writing—it’s been an eventful couple of weeks and my mind’s been elsewhere due to exciting developments at home. I expect that I may continue to be a bit… er… distracted for the next eight months, but promise to do my best to stay on target with continuing to learn and post here. That said, I’m a very happy girl.

Last weekend, noting the imminent end of a long dry spell and the coming fall season, I decided to make some herbal oil from the needs-to-be-cut-back-anyway-before-winter rosemary bush (tree??) in the garden. Seriously, it’s huge. The following methods for making  oil are how I was taught by my teacher Kathleen Maier.

For a fresh plant oil, as with most other fresh plant preparations, you want to gather the herb after dew has lifted and the leaves are completely dry, mid to late morning. Remove any bad spots (do not wash it!), chop your herb, and fill a mason jar 3/4 full with the herb. Fill the jar the rest of the way with your oil of choice. Close the jar, put a plate under it in case the oil leaks, and let it sit in a cool dark spot for six weeks. Strain the marc from the oil, and your oil is ready for use.

What oil you decide to use depends largely on what you want to use the oil for. For cooking, you want to use a heat-stable oil like grapeseed, sunflower, or avocado oil—NOT olive oil (contrary to popular use, olive oil is unstable at high heat and should not be used for cooking). Coconut oil is also good for cooking, but since it’s generally solid at room temperature, I don’t recommend it for fresh plant oils. For an oil that will not be cooked, you can use whatever you prefer. It’s always a good idea to be aware of issues of rancidity and shelf life in oils, as well as which oil may suit your purpose or constitution better. For my rosemary oil, I plan to use it for cooking as well as a skin and hair oil, so I chose sunflower.

To make an oil from dried herb, place the herb in a crockpot and cover with  oil. Heat the oil mixture, maintaining a temperature of just under 110 degrees Farenheit for 24 hours. Strain and store oil in a cool, dark place.

Feel free to share your own oil-making tips in the comments!

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