The warm, spring days have come at last! I’ve been busy in my yard and garden – introducing new plants and harvesting the first herbs of the season. Today, while heavy clouds and bright sunlight raced each other across the sky, I mixed and melted on my little stove, picked pretty violets and spicy leaves, and bottled up potions.
If you’re interested, I’ll be sharing a few of my favorites below:
But first, I just want to apologize to those of you who have reached out through email. Since getting rid of my smartphone, I’m finding fewer and fewer reasons to go online. When I do pop on, I usually work quickly and then head back to my home and garden. If you’ve reached out and I haven’t responded, feel free to send me a reminder, and thanks so much for your patience as I learn to balance all the little things.
This morning, I took a little basket and went out into the woods where my many birches are standing tall and slim among the pines. We have an abundance of gray, paper, and yellow birches in our woodland, and a few beautiful black birches as well. I gathered leaves from all of these trees.
Birch leaves can be made into teas to boost the immune system and fight viruses. But I’m using these leaves externally. Birch leaves are fantastic for soothing tired muscles and reducing inflammation, so I’ve chopped up some of the leaves and left them infusing in oil. In a couple weeks, I’ll make a salve with the oil. I may use some of it this summer, but most of it will stay on the shelf ’til winter, because birch encourages circulation, the salve is good for cold, aching fingers and toes.
I’ve also mixed chopped, fresh birch leaves with epsom salts, baking soda, burdock, yarrow, and lavender to make a jar of muscle-soothing bath salts. We spend a lot of time on our feet all year long, and when we start feeling achy, there’s nothing better than an herbal, espom salt bath under the trees. I’ll let this blend sit for at least 2 weeks before using it, but it already smells amazing.
Young, bright green fir tips are everywhere in spring. Full of vitamin C, antimicrobial, antiviral, and delicious. Of course, you can harvest fir needles all year long, but the tender, springtime tips are tastier and more nutritious than the older needles.
I’ve infused half of this batch in some of our raw honey, to use as a cough syrup and/our lung-opening tonic in the winter. The other half I’ve chopped small and mixed with sea salt as a nutrient dense and flavorful seasoning.
Tomorrow, I’ll be harvesting more to dry for tea later in the year. I’ll also be making suntea with some fresh tips for us to enjoy right away.
Most of my remedies have multiple applications. This elixer is one of them. The herbs in it – violets, lemon balm, plantain, mullien, and rose hips – are lovely friends for lungs and those emotions that settle in our chests and make us feel tight and closed off.
Right now, these herbs are steeping in brandy and vodka. In about 10 days, I’ll strain them out of the liquor and add in a generous amount of raw honey. Then I’ll set it on the shelf, to take in spoonfuls when my everything feels harsh and tight and lonely.
So those are the remedies I mixed up today. This summer, we’re building a larger herb shelf to house all our remedies, so I’ll be adding to our little stockpile as my herbs ripen instead of simply drying them to mix up later.