In my apprenticeship at Bluebird Hill this summer, one of the things I have been most looking forward to learning about is the harvesting and processing of herbs. There is something so magical about making our own medicine. With the new garden beds being built there is a lot of room here to grow these herbs. Some have already begun to bloom and I have been able to help harvest and dry them. Every day there is something else ready for us and it has been really beautiful to see them gathered up to dry. We will usually wait until early afternoon to harvest, once the sun has had time to dry the morning dew away.
Here are some of my favorites so far…
A beautiful yellow bowl of Arnica, Arnica montana, generally used topically to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds. We harvest the blooms almost daily, and every day there are as many as there were the day before!
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, we have growing all over the garden pathways and elsewhere on the property. The most common use of Yarrow is to apply topically to wounds to reduce bleeding, but also has traditionally been used internally to reduce inflammation, especially in digestion, and for soothing anxiety.
Calendula, Calendula officinalis, one of the brightest, most beautiful flowers at the homestead. We have calendula growing in several different garden beds and it is just starting to really get going! Calendula is generally used topically as a healing salve, for minor burns, cuts, bruises and infections.
Here is just the beginning of our medicine set up! On the back of the table are tinctures and liniments. On the screen drying we have arnica, chamomile, and plantain leaf. Hanging from the rafters we have mullein leaf and lemon balm. Much more to come!
Our Earth Warriors Nature Club started up again today with a lovely group of kids.
Tending gardens and planting seeds for the first day…I had almost forgotten how much I love this life.
Our meander up the switchbacks was a hunt for stones to paint for our garden entrance. These kids made some sweet discoveries nestled in the hill. Quartz and agates, likely right where the glacier dropped them off.
“The best place to paint is nature because there are so many beautiful things.” ~ Asha, age 8
We had the pleasure of hosting two wonderfully synergistic permaculture apprentice groups this month and they helped us make HUGE progress on our medicinal garden beds!!
The process of building these raised beds begins with gathering brush from the land to form the base. More brush is woven in until the bed has three “walls” making it level with the hillside. Then we layer more brush, leaves, and straw to fill the beds. Topped off with beautiful composted horse manure (from my dad’s horses over the hill) and we are ready to plant!
Here’s an aerial view so you can see how we hope to expand the gardens this year!
(The blue outline is our existing “kitchen garden”…the yellow outline is space we hope to fill this season with terraced beds on the south-facing slope.)
The girls and I spiffed up the garden paths today with some fresh straw. ❤
(The cardboard is to smother the brambles that have started to poke through.)
This is our “kitchen garden” that we actually started before we were even camping here on the land. In the first couple years we expanded it and then trenched in the crucial fence for rabbit control. It had produced a ridiculous amount of food in such a small space, and I do love this little garden.
Such a satisfying day today! We took the tangled mess of brush from last fall’s tree harvesting and turned it into new terraced garden beds!
It may not look like much yet, but soon this will be an explosion of food and medicine!
Watch for more updates on our garden plans soon…
Weeee…I am so excited!
I know the colder it gets the sweeter the carrots, but pitchforking through two inches of frozen soil for today’s soup is a bit much! Can you tell I’m a bit behind on the garden chores??
Including greens we planted and “weeds” that just pop up, like oxalis (sheep sorrel) and lambs quarters (wild spinach). Yum!
Tonight the forecast warns of the first frost of fall out here. We helped my mom harvest the last of the cucumbers, peppers, squash and melons. We built a big tent blanket around the tomato plants, hoping there will be another few weeks of warm weather after this light frost to ripen all those green fruit still on the vine. I guess we’ll see in the morning what all survived.
Our Indiegogo fundraising campaign ended on Friday night at midnight and we successfully raised $2,190! It is less than our original goal, but a generous amount to move forward on a classroom structure for winter. We are so thankful for everyone’s contribution, and for the ability to take the next steps for Bluebird Hill Homestead.
As the weather gets colder, I am feeling my squirrel instincts kicking in. We moved back in early May, and with the hubbub of getting settled and creating the framework for Bluebird Hill Homestead, we chose to not plant a garden this year. Well, my mom did give us 30 left over tomato plants and a row of space in her garden to plant them. We’ve been so busy though that I can’t take any credit for the fact that they have produced an amazing amount of delicious tomatoes this year. I paid them no attention and they produced food for my family. My mom has been canning tomatoes for several decades, along with all sorts of other food preservation, and I finally sat down to help her with it this year with the intention to actually learn something. It was good fun peeling the skin off the scalded fruit. The smell of stewing tomatoes is definitely a sign of fall around here.
Other than the accidentally successful tomatoes this year, I don’t have much food to harvest for my family for winter. This year we are harvesting new friends, new inspiration, and the knowing that we are Home. All this will feed us this winter while we gather around the fire to share stories. We hope to share some stories with you soon, in the warm embrace of the structure we are about to create…