The Lessons of Nature at the Winter Solstice

The Druid's Garden

In the fall, I always feel like I’m fighting against the coming dark at the time of the winter solstice, and each year, I have to learn the lesson anew.  This year proved particularly challenging for a few reasons. After the time changes at Daylight Savings time, and the sun starts setting at 3:30pm.  It is down by 4:30 and completely dark by 5:15pm. As a homesteader, in preparation for spring planting and the winter to come, there always seems to be so much to do.  Bringing in the harveset, preparing the greenhouse, preparing and clearing garden beds, stacking wood, cleaning gutters, shoring up the hen house, and doing all of the necessary multitude of other preparations for the coming winter.  As the fall deepens, each day, the light continues to wane, and there is less light each day to work with. On many days when I go to work…

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Food as Medicine Update: Carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus, Apiaceae)

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Widely available at most supermarkets, the common root vegetable carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus, Apiaceae) is a biennial plant with erect, green stems and fine, feathery leaves.1 The plant produces densely clustered white blossoms in an umbrella shape, which is typical of plants in the Apiaceae family. The edible taproot comes in a variety of colors: orange is the most widely available in stores, but the root can also be white, yellow, red, or purple.2

The modern carrot is a domesticated cultivar of wild carrot, Daucus carota, also known by the common name Queen Anne’s lace. Indigenous to Europe and southwestern Asia, frost-tolerant carrots are now cultivated in a wide range of environments.1 Carrots are popular with home gardeners due to their colorful varieties as well as their hardiness.

Phytochemicals and Constituents

Favored for their sweet flavor and versatility, carrots contain a vast array…

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Herb Gardener Gift-Giving Idea: Hori-Hori

The Herb Society of America Blog

I’ve asked five blog contributors to share their favorite herb-related gift ideas.  HSA’s blog will be running one per day during the first week of December. – Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster

By Beth Schreibman-Gehring, Chairman of Education for The Western Reserve Herb Society unit of The Herb Society of America

image2My father had over three acres of the most glorious organic gardens, filled with historic roses, lilies, and every kind of beautiful perennial and herb imaginable. I remember perfect summer evenings when he’d wander his gardens with a cocktail in one hand and a sprinkling hose in the other. He taught me everything I know about growing beautiful gardens organically and with a minimum of intervention.

The funny thing about my father is that he didn’t have a garage full of tools. He wasn’t into the latest, greatest gardening anything, well except for permaculture which really isn’t a latest and greatest secret…

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Bittersweet … A Tale of Two Sisters

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Kathleen M Hale, Western Reserve Herb Society

The Sisters’ Shame
We were two daughters of one race;
She was the fairest in the face.
    The wind is blowing in turret and tree.
They were together, and she fell;
Therefore revenge became me well.
    O, the earl was fair to see!

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

bittersweetA lot of legends of magic, revenge and sorcery begin with two sisters. Sometimes they are friends.  Sometimes they are rivals.  But an unspoken message in many stories is, “Don’t pick the wrong one!” Increasingly, North American gardeners are finding themselves faced with this dilemma.  The choice may be between a native plant and its sometimes seductive, sometimes invasive sister, introduced from elsewhere.

Bittersweet gives us such a story. American bittersweet, Celustrus scandens, is seen everywhere this time of year in wreaths and dried arrangements. It has tiny vivid orange fruits…

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Home-Grown and Wildcrafted Smudge Sticks: Plant List and Recipes

The Druid's Garden

Basket of newly made smudge sticks Basket of newly made smudge sticks

Creating homemade smudge sticks with local ingredients is a wonderful activity to do this time of year.  As the plants die back, you can harvest whatever you aren’t using for other purposes and create a number of beautiful smudges that can be used for many different purposes: clearing, honoring spirits, protection, setting intentions, letting go, bringing in, preparing for ritual or mediation, and much more.

A few years ago, I wrote an initial post on homemade smudge sticks using local ingredients–this has become my most popular post on my blog.  Given that, I wanted to offer a follow-up post with some additional information and share a few smudge stick recipes for specific purposes. For initial instructions on how to make your sticks, please see my first post.  This post expands the plant list that you can use to make smudges and also offers…

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Making Smudge Sticks from Homegrown Plants and Wildharvested Materials: Step by Step Instructions with Cedar, Rosemary, Sage, Mugwort, and More!

The Druid's Garden

I recently posted about my research on Eastern White Cedar, and I wanted to follow-up that post with information on making smudge sticks, inspired by Eastern White Cedar. Smudge sticks are bundles of herbs that are dried and burned for purification and ceremonial uses. They come out of Native American traditions, but today they are broadly used by many for their purification purposes.  I use them as a druid in my ceremonies, to bless and cleanse my house, to cleanse outdoor spaces that are in some kind of energetic funk.  But I also use them practically–as a blessing for my garden at the start of the growing season, as a way to remove hostile energies from my chickens who aren’t getting along, or to pass among friends before sharing a meal.  They are a great way to bring a bit of ceremony and the sacred into the everyday.

Freshly Wrapped Smudges Freshly Wrapped…

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Add Lemongrass to Your Garden Plans — The Herb Society of America Blog

Lemon grass is probably one of the easiest, cheapest herbs you can grow.

via Add Lemongrass to Your Garden Plans — The Herb Society of America Blog

Sacred Tree Profile: Oak’s Medicine, Magic, Mythology, and Meanings

The Druid's Garden

A glorious oak tree in fall colors! A glorious oak tree in fall colors!

There is nothing quite as majestic as an oak, which is likely why ancient druids met in groves of them to perform their ceremonies.   As I write this, I look at my glorious black oaks, white oaks, and burr oaks in the surrounding landscape and their incredible mantle of gold, tan, crimson and oranges.  Where I live, the oaks keep the green on their leaves through most of the fall season, and begin their transition into color just before Samhain. The oaks and beeches, here, are the very last to lose their leaves–if they lose them at all.  Many of the oaks, especially the younger ones, keep their leaves all winter, dry and crackling, and only drop them before they bud out again in the spring.   Their behavior in the fall and winter months is certainly a testament to their energy and…

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Let’s Create Some Herbal Remedies – When Cold and Flu Season Arrives.

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

These two recipes are prepared as teas but are not taken in your tea cup – they help with the discomfort of flu season in other ways.

Winter Inhalation

living-herbs-for-cold-flu-thymeThis traditional herbal steam helps open your sinuses, discourages bacterial and viral growth, and reduces pain and inflammation. Remember to stay a comfortable distance from the steaming pot to avoid burning your face.

8 – 12 teaspoons fresh or 4 teaspoons dried eucalyptus leaf {Eucalyptus globulus}

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried peppermint leaf

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried thyme herb

3 cups purified water

Essential oils of the herbs above {optional}

Place the eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme, and water in a saucepan and stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and uncover. Drape a large towel…

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Food as Medicine Update: Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas, Convolvulaceae)

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas, Convolvulaceae) is a trailing, herbaceous perennial in the morning glory family.1,2 It is indigenous to Central and South America and grows best in subtropical climates, spreading along the ground and producing oblong, tuberous roots. There are more than 400 sweet potato varieties, and most have yellow-brown or copper-colored skins with bright orange or yellow-red flesh.3 Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSPs) are the most common varieties consumed, but white, cream, yellow, pink, and deep purple varieties also exist. The sweet potato plant has alternate, heart-shaped leaves and produces funnel-shaped white, pink, or rose-violet flowers that appear in clusters in the leaf axils as the plant matures.4

Taxonomic confusion can arise over the common name “yam” that often is given to sweet potatoes in the market. Botanically speaking, true yams belong to the genus Dioscorea (Dioscoreaceae) and are much less common in the United…

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