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Spring means many wonderful things, but it also means (sigh) spring cleaning. One of those jobs that I want to put off and put off, dreading the mess that will ensue before order is restored—even more so now that I have a toddler and must measure out my chores in naptimes (he’s not quite old enough that he can help yet, unless by “help” you mean throwing things at random, stuffing anything-not-nailed-down into his mouth, etc.).

This spring, high on my to-do list is taking inventory, organizing, and relocating my medicinals. I keep a lot of my herbs in tincture form because it has a much longer shelf-life and takes up less space than bulk herbs. Having tinctured here and there since 2008, my medicinals have been kind of crammed in odd spaces as I finished them. Thank goodness I at least had the presence of mind to label them (herb, menstruum, date) so I could figure out what I was finding. I’ve also just begun Aviva Romm’s Herbal Medicine for Women course, so knowing what I have on hand in advance and getting it all in one place will be really helpful as I move through the course material.

After dredging bottles, bags, and boxes out of the bottom of the kitchen pantry, the back of a couple cabinets, and the upstairs closet (I hope I didn’t miss any hiding places!), I gathered all the herbies together, made a list of what they were, how much I had (by volume or weight, as appropriate), and date. I then stowed them all in roughly alphabetical order in one place in the kitchen where they will be kept dry and in the dark—and much more easy to access than their previous hiding places. The inventory list (with room for notes, additions, etc.) will be posted inside the door to the herb cabinet for quick reference.

herbal pantryAs you can see from the picture, my tinctures are stored in various and sundry glass jars. Some are the wonderful flip-top bottles, others in different sizes of canning jars, others in re-used glass juice bottles—a decidedly un-fancy hodge-podge, but whatever works. I fit my few bags of bulk herbs, oils, etc., in where I could. Doubtless I’ll need to find a bigger space for them down the road, but for now, this will suffice. As a special reward for my archeological dig herbal inventory, I unearthed a half-dozen bottles of homemade t’ej in assorted flavors—watermelon, lemon balm, mulberry, apricot, etc. YUM.

What are your spring herbal chores?

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!

It’s gorgeous outside, all my windows are open, and I’m trying to study, but every hour or so a birdsong or breeze or scent pulls me with cartoonish tendrils out the door to wander the yard, investigate new growth, feel the soft young grass and golden sunshine sandwiching my pale and happy feet.

Sun Tea

Clearly, a day like this calls for sun tea. This is a staple of southern life, and about the easiest thing in the world to make. All you need is a sunny day, a large glass bottle, and some herbs. You ready? Fill your bottle with water. Put your herbal blend of choice in a tea ball and put it in the water. Cap your jar and set it in the sunshine for, oh, an hour? a day? however long you want? It’s that easy. Store it in the refrigerator and enjoy for up to 4 days.

I love making sun teas with bright tasting herbs like lemongrass and hibiscus. Look at the hibiscus in this tea, lustily dropping its color into the water. I love to dance the tea ball a bit from time to time, watching the color ripple into paisley swirls.  And look at the shimmering, fiery stained-glass light that the tea in the bottle casts on the ground… le sigh—a girl can fall in love with tea like that.

Okay, okay, back to the books…

Sun Tea

Your favorite sun tea combinations?

Every spring I do some form of cleansing diet or fast, looking at one’s wellness as a form of soilless gardening, this is a good way of preparing your body’s garden for another full and fertile year, eliminating toxins, sweeping out the cobwebs.

Since we recently learned about the master cleanse in my herbalism class, I decided to try it out for myself. Generally ten days are recommended for this fast. Being as I have low body fat myself, I aimed for five and completed four, listening to my body for when it was time to come off the fast. I posted daily blog entries on my other blog, the Purple House. If you’re interested in reading about my daily experiences and tips, see Master Cleanse, Days 1 – 4 on the Purple House blog.

What are your experiences with cleansing diets and fasts?

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