February is often our coldest month here in the northeast. It’s also when we get our heaviest snowfall. By afternoon, usually having spent a good part of the day outdoors, we’re ready for some tea (and scones!!). I have been rummaging through the pantry pulling out many of the herbs I dried this past summer…. rosehips, lavender, chamomile, and raspberry leaf to name a few. This morning I combined these with some dried lycii berries, hibiscus flowers, and some dried orange peel. We love this combination, and with a little Maine maple syrup, it is purely delicious. Of course with all the lovely health benefits of the plant material, it’s really good for you as well! We offered a tea making class here at the nursery last summer, we’ll surely offer it again this year (we’ll post this on the blog once we set the dates). In addition to blending your own tea to take home, it’s a great opportunity to learn a little about drying herbs, flowers, and berries for winter storage, as well as learning about the medicinal benefits of certain plants. There are days I look into the pantry and feel such comfort from the foods that are either canned, dried, or tinctured. They sit waiting to be called into action…to feed our bellies, to be steeped into teas, or used to combat an oncoming cold. Fruits of our labor (or our wanderings through the meadows and forest), an ongoing task toward self-sufficiency that I am truly grateful for.
Our days now are spent tending to both the needs of winter and the needs of spring. We’re still hauling in firewood, and feeling the need to warm ourselves with hot tea and homemade broth. Somedays we are still putting a layer of long underwear on beneath our work clothes. The water buckets for the sheep and chickens are often still frozen in the morning. We are, however, for the most part without snow. Plants like winter aconite have pushed through the thawing ground and have blooms ready to open. Small, bright yellow flowers, just what we need to bring warmth to the landscape! Already the chickweed (Stellaria media) is starting to come up and spread along the ground in the greenhouse. This is great because I will pick it for salads, tea, and make a tincture with some – (More on this later).
A warm weekend coming up, a few new lambing pens need to be built and another wall boarded in the studio. Maybe one of the giant brush piles can be burned. What sorts of things are people doing to ready themselves for spring? Any new gardening projects on the ‘to do’ list? We’d love to hear.
There is quite a range of activity here at the nursery right now. Every day food is being brought in to be processed…..canned, pickled, or frozen. We’ve just harvested our first large crop of broccoli to be put into the freezer. Kale, chard, and snow peas are going in along with it. The summer squash and green beans are producing faster than we can pick them. Herbs and foraged plants are being collected for tea, or tinctures, and salves.Chamomile blossoms are set aside to dry, and St. John’s Wort flowers have been picked to make a tincture with. Our WWOOFer Hannah has been enjoying our foraging excursions, she is quickly learning the botanical names of plants here at the nursery and the ones we collect from the fields and woods to make tinctures and salves with. I think she likes learning about the medicinal uses of the plants we grow and collect. Rick has been collecting seed from the display beds, and plants like Adlumia fungosa, Corydalis lutea, and Myrrhis odorata are being potted up and put into the sales area. The sheep are being moved every two weeks or so for rotational grazing methods.Hannah has been spending a bit of time picking through this spring’s fleeces readying them for the next step…..washing.
And then there is the weeding, mowing, and daily maintenance around the place. We continue to advance on the studio project, the second floor being nailed in place soon. Boy, oh boy, our days are full! We do love every bit of it though and feel thankful for this good life we live. And as I’ve mentioned before, there’s always plenty of food!