Results for category "Herbs"

Misty Monday

Soon enough, our quiet weekend had passed. Monday morning was upon us. As we looked out over the farm, the myriad of water droplets suspended in the air reflected the early morning sun into infinite directions. After our warming porridge with brown sugar breakfast, we followed Jan through the thick mist, clinging to our clothes and feeling cold against our exposed skin, to the herb beds for our first tasks of the day.

As we approached the beds, their lovely fragrance welcomed us, perhaps accentuated by the dampness of the day. Firstly, we were to weed the rosemary bed of the grasses and other sporadic weeds that had found their way in amongst the tall stalks of glorious scent. Lilly was there with us as a constant “helper”. As we methodically weeded, the farm’s black cat suddenly appeared from the middle of the bed. It was most certainly the place to be.

With mist continuing to hang heavy in the air, we worked through the weeds and moved to the next bed where the mint needed to be trimmed down to one-inch stems and any weeds pulled from the bed, as well. Most of the mint had already been harvested or had wilted, so the bed was not entirely as pungent as the others, but we did find a few sprigs that filled our noses with the familiar tingle.

The next bed was full of an enticing sage, plump and aromatic, leaving us to consider a new cologne creation for K as we passed it over, as it needed no maintenance at the time. The next bed, however, needed to be cleared entirely of all of its expired plants and the weeds that had made their way there.

Once this last bed of our assigned three was clear, we circled back to the rosemary to lay some dung onto the soil around the plants. K made quick work of filling the wheelbarrows and we forked the manure around the edges and in between the plants, giving them extra nourishment and minerals. After two and a half wheelbarrows, we had put in a couple of hours of work and were ready for more, so we went to find Jan.

Back to the same line of beds we went with our host, but beginning from the other end. We now set about weeding around the garlic chives in the first bed on this end of the row. From the next bed, K transplanted two more phlox to the bed he’d grouped phlox in on Friday. The third bed was full of bronze fennel, which needed to be trimmed to only a few inches high to make room for the new growth already sprouting from the centre and the entire bed thoroughly weeded.

We stopped after another couple of hours for a quick cheese sandwich lunch and then made our way back to the final bed of the day, which needed to be cleared of all weeds and expired plants, leaving only seeds and seedlings there from the cornflower. This time, Pickle was our constant companion, offering much advice on weeding techniques and opportunities to smooth her, whilst perching in the first direct sunlight of the day.

Once we’d swept up and disposed of the last of the weeds and plants onto the compost and could see clear pathways once again, we put the tools of the day away and headed back to the annex. After our usual walk of the lanes, we enjoyed a pasta dinner before relaxing the night away, content with our progress and accomplishments for the first WWOOF day of the WWOOF week.

A Day with Diana

As Friday dawned on our little caravan, we were soon aware of the cold seeping into our tiny space. Flicking on the electric heater, we quickly warmed before going over to the house for breakfast. Rob had driven to market early, so we were to spend more time with Diana today. However, before we could begin, there was a little more to do in the garden. So with our tummies full and our bodies bundled in jumpers and bodywarmers, we ventured out to revisit the spinach and chard plants from the day prior.

Our task for these beds was to clear the dead and wind-battered leaves to make room for new growth, along with weeding between the smaller plants that then remained. The wind whipped around us as we leaned into the beds to prune and care for the plants, and remove thistles, chickweed and other invaders from their home.

After a quick tea break and welcome opportunity to warm cold fingers and toes in front of the kitchen Rayburn, we were ready to help Diana. Diana was working on the last items needed for her stall at the biannual craft sale hosted in  Holsworthy tomorrow. Today’s agenda included making calendula and chamomile ointment, used for cuts, scrapes, bruises and burns, and as an antiseptic or antibacterial treatment.

We began with a brief tour of her consultation room/office where she showed us some of her books and gave as an introduction to herbal medicine. Soon we were next door in the preparation room, ready to create a simple lotion. The room was bright and clean and consisted of two work areas, drying racks (for use in the summer months) and a closet with a low-energy electric heater used in the colder months for drying the herbs. Dotted about the place were salves, lotions and tinctures at various stages of preparation.

We measured 100g each of calendula and chamomile oil into a pot and heated with 30g of beeswax over a double boiler. The oils are made by covering finely chopped plants with olive oil (or sunflower oil) for a couple of weeks and then leaving in the sun to extract the plant’s healing properties. The process can be sped up by gently heating the mixture until it is about to boil and then quickly pulling it off the heat.

Once the wax was melted, K handled potting the liquid into little jars. They started to set immediately and were soon lidded, labeled and ready for sale the following day.

Diana also explained how to prepare tinctures, which can be made at varying concentrations. Labeling typically indicates the ratio of the plant to liquid and the percentage of alcohol in the liquid, as compared to water, for example 1:3 45%. To create a tincture, finely chopped plants are covered by the liquid and left for weeks to extract the plant’s value into the liquid, strained and then bottled for use. In place of ethanol, which requires a special license to purchase, vodka could be used, as it’s typically 80 proof (40%) and most tinctures are prepared at 45% alcohol, although Diana said that the properties of the plant can actually be extracted at 25%.

Lunch came all too soon, although it was another opportunity for kitchen Rayburn warmth. We sat down to hot soup leftover from yesterday, but now with the addition of lentils, together with more yummy olive and sun-dried tomato bread.

Lessons concluded for the day, we made our way through the hazy rain to one of the polytunnels and planted broad beans using the traditional “bean stick” method. Here you simply use a stick to create a hole and pop a bean in. When we’d finished raking over the earth to cover the beans, we went on to transplant some self-seeded kale into neat and tidy rows along the middle beds of the polytunnel.

The rain broke so we made our way back to the spinach and chard bed to continue our trimming and tidying, this time with the help of Nieve, our hosts’ golden retriever/lurcher puppy. In this case, we use the term “help” rather loosely. Just before finishing for the day, we were treated to a splash of sunshine and a beautiful bright and clear rainbow across the smallholding, a wonderful end to a pleasant day.

The cold rain that had frequented the day soon continued as we headed out for our evening stroll around the Pyworthy lanes. So, the trusty brolly was again called into action before returning to Ceridwen for a broccoli and pasta bake with a side of kale. After dinner, we made the short walk back to our little caravan and electric heater, once again warm and dry in our cozy little space at the end of the garden.

Loving Simplicity