Sunflowers

Our sunflowers have been very productive this year! The heads are drooping under their weight, and our tallest one comes in at about 10′ 4″.

A very happy bee.

This one is almost ready for drying. We’ll have to keep an eye on it and claim it before the birds do!

I’m only 5’4″ – it’s fun to know the tallest one is almost TWICE my height!!

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Winter Garden Planning

It’s the middle of winter, but I have spring greens on the brain. I can’t stop thinking about that newly tilled and expanded garden sitting under that layer of snow.

That fresh  upturned soil, I can’t wait to dig into it. Anyone want to share their choices for their garden this year? This is what we’re thinking of:
Veggies-
     String beans- “Provider” (new to us)
     Dry beans- “Jacob’s Cattle” (new to us)
     Carrots- “Danvers”
     Swiss Chard- “Ruby Red”
     Cucumbers- “National Pickling”
     Potatoes- “Red Norland” (new to us)
     Pumpkins- “New England Pie” (new to us)
     Turnip- “Joan Rutabaga”
Herbs-
     Basil
     Cilantro
     Oregano
Flowers-
     Purple Coneflower (new to us)
     Sunflowers

It looks like we’re trying a lot of new stuff this year, but we’re keeping all the successful crops from last year and replacing the not so lucky crops with the new guys. Plus, we have a lot more room than last year and look forward to working with more.

Team Violette-Giroux hard at work this past fall. I think they probably doubled the size of last year’s plot. You can see we don’t have a lot of space to work with (the large fields are not ours) but it’s more than what some people have, so we are working to make the best of it. Our first year was a rough one, but it hasn’t scared us away!

Sensible Sundays: Take Time To Say Thank You

It’s something we all need to remember to say- thank you. All too often we forget, and so today, in honor of Mother’s Day, I bring you flowers for Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day! To all of my Moms, I say thank you for all the terrific things you have done for us. 🙂 And now, your flowers.

Pear1

Pear2

Fushia

Bee1

Bee2

Blossom1

Blossom2

All flowers are tree blossoms that I took from where I work. I love New England in the spring time. 🙂

The Harvest

Working off my last post, I decided that I would harvest some of the St. John’s Wort growing not only in my backyard, but also along a section of railroad tracks that I frequently walk. So after a little online research, I got to cutting and picking. First of all, I realized I was a little late in my harvest, so there were quite a few that had already bloomed, but that was okay, because there were still plenty left! Second, I made sure to selectively cut from each plant, taking only a small branch in every cut (think about the plant as looking more like a tree or a shrub, with many branches off one main stem). And third, I made sure to leave atleast 1/3 of the flowers on each plant, allowing for the flowers still to be enjoyed by other people, bees, butterflies, and everything else that may find joy and life in them.

As I harvested, I was sure to offer my thanks, and realized how relaxing and calming the whole experience was. There’s nothing like taking part in activities that help ground you.

I even had a visitor help me out- well, if you call being attacked helping! Our neighbor’s cat Domino is a frequent visitor of ours and decided that once I entered the tall weeds, I was in her turf and would play by her rules!

The photo doesn’t show it well here, but the way the sun was setting, it was hitting the flowers and making them glow a bright gold. After cutting, I removed some of the leaves from the stems and shook them well to release any insects that may have been holding on, in addition to any of the seeds that came from other since past flowers.

And then I gathered them in bunches and hung them in my bedroom- only because the kitchen walls did not offer enough hanging room that was located out of direct sunlight. Here they will stay for a few weeks or until they are dry enough to continue processing and then stored. Depending on what part of the country you are from, in addition to your own personal experience, you may decide to dry yours differently. A commenter posted she puts hers in a paper bag and in a dark dry place to dry- but like she mentioned, she’s out west where it’s naturally much dryer and she doesn’t need to worry about mold. I’m sure hers will dry much faster too. But small bunches allows for greater penetration to the center of the group for drying, and keeping them out of direct sunlight, although you might think they would dry faster if they weren’t, will help prevent the flowers from drying out too fast, breaking down, and loosing their beautiful color. And hanging them upside down will prevent any stress put on the stem if they were left right side up and left to wilt before drying- it also makes them easier to work with after dried. Besides, they look a lot nicer hanging like that than somewhere wilted!

After dried, I’m going to save the flowers for use in tea. I did a lot of thinking about tinctures, and although they sound to be much more powerful and convenient, I’m still a little unsure about the logistics and decided to stick with something I’m more familiar with for now. Maybe next year I’ll venture that way. For now, the flowers will dry a few weeks until ready for storage.

A Blessed Wandering Mind

I am so very blessed to have a mind that always wanders and never stops! Over the past two weeks, my mind has been jumping around from making my own granola (thanks to my last epiphany) to canning and jamming harvested foods, and now to harvesting useful herbs that I’ve found in what I  thought was an ungodly overgrowth of weeds. This weekend I was able to purchase the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Wildflowers (Eastern edition of course) and decided to get right to work identifying what all the flowers were that I was seeing in my jumble of unsightly overgrowth.

View one to the left below my porch that has the most flowers and….

View two to the right which is where I would like to put the garden in next year. A lot of work, I know!

So I knew I had a lot of milkweed (which I knew from last fall, but it was this spring I realized what their flowers looked like), some morning glories, daisies, and of course typical stuff like ragweed, but there were a number of other flowers I didn’t know. My new book helped me out on that.

What a surprise I had last night when I easily identified the yellow flowers to the left in the first photo as common St. John’s Wort! During the winter I take capsules of the stuff which costs me more than $10 a month when the stuff is growing right in my backyard! Needless to say, this got my mind to thinking about harvesting some of it and using that this winter! For those who don’t know much about St. John’s Wort, it’s a wonderful little flower that helps with mild to moderate depression, seasonal and full-time, and anxiety- for me it’s perfect for kicking my mild winter blues. I encourage you to research it a little online if you are interested in learning more about it.

So here begins my next lesson: harvesting medicinal herbs. There will be more to come on this, I’m sure!