Foraging

The Intuitive Art of Foraging

It has been an interesting foraging year for us. I have found myself feeling incredibly drawn to collecting certain plants – wild rose early on in the year, mugwort throughout the summer and wild oats as the summer progressed. There have also been other plants that despite their abundance and potential, for one reason or another we didn’t forage many/any this year – elderflower and rosehips stand out as two.

When I first began to discover just how many nutritious and healing plants grow all around us, life became an exciting and busy journey of researching, learning and (sustainably) hunting for plant treasure. Each walk would be an opportunity to gather some free food and medicine and we would spend our evenings experimenting with recipes and ways to preserve our harvest for the months ahead.

In those early years, I sometimes found myself gathering frantically, scared of missing a ripe and abundant patch of something that could have been stored for teas, or made into some healing potion. Experiencing a sense of fear at the thought of having to wait a whole year for its return if I missed a harvest.

What I have learned throughout this journey is that foraging takes time. It isn’t necessarily the finding and gathering of plants that takes too long, although sometimes multiple visits to a plant may be required to harvest it at its peak ripeness. It is the cleaning, preparing, drying and processing of plants in different ways that takes both time, energy and patience. Removing individual berries or flowers from stems, infusing and straining oils and vinegars, sterilising jars and equipment is a real labour of love (and occasionally hate- the sterilising part anyway!)

A life of foraging isn’t one of convenience necessarily. It takes time and the reward is vast. Slowing down and leaning towards a more intuitive way of gathering what we are drawn to maintains my enthusiasm and energy. I feel excitement at the possibilities of next year as I sync more with the pace of nature.

I would love to know if you can relate to the feeling of missing a plant harvest and what you have found yourself drawn to this year?

Astrological

Virgo season

Today – the 22nd August, the Sun transitions into the sixth sign of the zodiac; Virgo. Virgo season runs up until September 23rd, before the sun moves into the sign of Libra, at the Autumn Equinox.

Virgo season spans the height of the harvest when times are busy gathering, processing and storing produce for the months ahead. This practical earth sign is associated with qualities of strength, hardwork, organisation, practicality and determination with high standards for themselves and others.

Virgo season can be a good time to really connect with the earth, grounding ourselves in this abundant season. We may experience more focus for any projects we may have over the month ahead and it can be a good time to assess where we may be overly harsh on ourselves and others.

We create star sign prints for all the zodiac signs using our moon photography. You can browse them in our Etsy shop now.

Botanicals

Introducing Smoulder Sticks

We have decided to rename our handcrafted herb bundles that we have so far been referring to as ‘smudge sticks’.

We have spent a lot of time thinking about this and wanted to give some background as to why we have come to this decision.

As we have discussed in previous posts, burning plants to release an aromatic, beneficial smoke has been carried out across cultures for thousands of years. It would have been the earliest form of aromatherapy with methods and motivations for use varying across the world.

The term ‘smudging’ refers to a specific Indigenous American tradition, where herbs particularly Sage and Cedar are used in sacred cleansing ceremonies. In recent decades, this term has been adopted in Western spirituality, and the burning of Sage in particular has gained popularity.

This increase in popularity, has also seen an increase in the trade of sacred herbs, such as White Sage and Palo Santo, both of which have become over harvested and are now considered to be endangered.

Offering people sustainable plant alternatives is extremely important to us, as is sharing the benefits of connecting with plants on a daily basis. We only ever use herbs that we have grown ourselves organically or gathered from the wild in a responsible way. With so much wildlife depending on our plants, we work seasonally, using plants readily abundant during that season and follow responsible foraging guidelines.

We have been inspired by what we have learned about Smudging ceremonies, as well as other ancient burning practices and when originally naming our bundles ‘smudge sticks’ did so in a respectful way, to honour this sacred practice. However the more we have learned about the specific nature of a smudging ceremony and the increase in the exploitation of these sacred herbs, the more we felt ready to create a new name for our own herb bundles.

We have loved finding out about the variety of ways people have been using our sticks in their own lives. Sometimes for cleansing, often during mindfulness and meditation practices to help calm the mind, and some people choosing not to burn them at all, enjoying the energy of the plants in a different way.

After some thought we settled with the name ‘smoulder’ stick, meaning ‘to burn slowly with smoke but no fire’. It feels as though this word describes its action so well. So in celebration of our new name, we will be listing some lovely limited edition smoulder sticks, and how you choose to work with them is completely up to you!

Wellbeing, Wheel of the Year

Lammas

Lammas (also known as Lughnassadh) falls on 1st August and is the midpoint between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox in the northern Hemisphere. By Lammas we are into the second half of the year and may refer to this time as ‘high summer.’ The days are still long and the sun’s energy is strong yet active growth is waning. The earth is abundant and many of our grain crops have ripened and await their gathering, full and golden.

Traditionally Lammas is thought of as the first of 3 harvests; the grain harvest. This is followed by the second harvest of fruits at the Autumn equinox and the final harvest of nuts and berries occuring at Samhain.

Despite the suns waning energy, this time of year is often marked by celebration; festivals, fairs and gatherings that honour local produce, celebrate the remaining light and acknowledge the ease of abundant times.

Being aware of what is going on in our outer world can help us to connect to and learn more about our inner worlds. In this article I will discuss where we currently are in the seasonal cycle and suggest ways in which we can use this to cultivate inner reflection and growth.

Element: Fire + Water

This time of year is associated with the energy of both fire and water elements. The seeds of the grain to be harvested hold both the ignition and transformation of fire energy and the nourishment and fullness provided by water energy.

As with all the elements, fire and water energies possess more and less helpful qualities. When in balance they can encourage transformation, growth, nourishment, fulfilment and fullness. In excess these elements can bring an intensity or chaoticness to our emotions and feelings of overwhelm and heaviness.

Outer observations

The word I have chosen to summarise this time of year is: abundance. All around us, the earth is reaching fullness. Our fields have transitioned from the vibrant greens of Spring and early Summer to rich golds and yellows that signal ripe and readiness. Animals are fledging,  blossom has given way to fattening fruits and there is a sense of ease and ‘enough’ for all in the natural world.

Inner reflections

The time of year can be a guide for inner reflection. It may help to spend some time in nature, and just notice and observe the season that we are in. What words would you use to describe it? Be aware of what feelings it brings up for you. This will be different for us all, depending on where we are in our journey.

You can download our Lammas Wellbeing Guide with journal prompts and reflections to help you connect with the new season here.

Botanicals

The benefits of Bay

We are lucky to have a huge supply of Bay in the garden thanks to a rather old and beloved Bay tree. I love adding the leaves to our herb bundles for burning.

Did you know that Bay leaves contain Linalool a compound known for its calming properties, also present in plants such as Lavender. Studies have shown that Linalool reduces elevated stress levels to almost normal conditions.

These lovely leaves also contain Eugenol which is known for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving qualities. As mentioned in our previous post, burning is an effective way to release the therapeutic benefits of a plant into your environment.

You can find Bay in our best selling herbal garden smoulder sticks.

Astrological

Harvesting with the Moon


The moon’s gravitational pull influences many things on our planet, but perhaps most notably the rise and fall of the ocean’s tides. It is less well known however, that the same gravitational pull affects groundwater levels. The concept of aligning gardening with the moon phase is as old as agriculture itself. It is believed that as the moon is waxing towards the full moon, groundwater rises up, providing good conditions for planting. No dig gardener Charles Dowding has conducted a number of small studies comparing the yield of crops planted under the waxing and waning moon. So far, he has shown that crop yield in a variety of veg has been higher when planting with the waxing moon.

As the moon wanes its gravitational pull weakens. Groundwater it thought to fall during this period making it a good time to harvest plants. The sap is drawn downwards so sap loss is minimised if cut during this time. This is thought to speed up healing in the plant but also means plants dry out more quickly once harvested.
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We commonly harvest our herbs during the waning moon cycle. This cycle, we have harvested Goldenrod, Meadowsweet and well as some lovely flowering Marjoram for upcoming smudge sticks.

Botanicals

The magic of Goldenrod

It is lovely to watch the flowers that you have planted grow, but it is extra special when they find their own way into your garden themselves, which is exactly what happened with some Goldenrod this year.

Goldenrod is known to be richer in antioxidants than green tea. Its Latin name, Solidago translates as ‘to make whole or heal’ and reflects its long use in herbal medicine. It has superb anti inflammatory action and pain relieving qualities thought to help arthritis, cold and flu symptoms and bladder & kidney problems.
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Its sunny colour produces a beautiful natural dye, and attracts much life to its nectar rich, sweet smelling flowers.
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In folklore, Goldenrod is thought to bring luck and prosperity, especially when planted near the front door (even luckier when it self seeds) so you can see the many reasons I am happy it has found it’s way into our garden this year!

We have so far enjoyed it fresh in an antioxidant rich tea, and are weaving it into some prosperity and abundance smudge sticks that will be listed in our shop once dried. As always we are leaving the majority to be enjoyed by our precious wildlife.

Botanicals

Solstice Smudge Sticks

We have been busy harvesting our herbs and crafting smudge sticks during the Solstice period. We found it to be the perfect time as many of our herbs and flowers were peaking in tune with the sun.

We made another batch of our popular Herbal Garden Smudge sticks; a fragrant blend of Sage, Bay, Rosemary, Lavender and Rose. These will be back in our Etsy shop once dried in a couple of weeks time.

We also crafted some beautiful Solar smudge sticks blending flowering Feverfew & Nasturtium paired with Bay, Lemon balm, Lavender & golden Marjoram. Holding the essence of the summer solstice & solar energy these plants are thought to ease tension & worry and promote peace & lightness.

Mugwort was combined with Lavender, Sage and wild Chamomile for a small batch of sleep & dream smudge sticks that will also be in our shop over the next few weeks.

*As of 20/08/20 we have changed the name of our sticks to ‘Smoulder sticks.’ You can read more about our decision regarding this here.

Foraging

Wild Garlic Galore

Yesterday we stumbled across the largest patch of flowering Wild Garlic we have ever seen. We have had a few harvests this year already. Most has gone into pesto which is a firm favourite, or chopped and added to soups, pasta and eggs.

Today we made a delicious wild garlic butter by chopping around 50 grams of leaves and flowers and mixing into a pack of softened butter. I froze half; rolling it into a sausage shape and wrapping in baking paper before popping in the freezer. The rest we will keep in the fridge. We have already enjoyed it spread thickly on doorstep toast and it was such a treat! We also added a scoop into some boiled new potatoes which was delicious too.

What is your favourite way to enjoy wild garlic?