7/3/2019 0 Comments
Dog Days of Summer
HOT! The rain has given way to clear, hot summer days. The Dog Days of Summer are upon us, named for the visibility of the Dog Star Sirius in the night sky of Greece. These days I am heading out to the gardens 9:00am to get inside by noon. I like to thing about lions lounging in the shade after capturing a meal. How fitting is siesta this time of year.
Sun hasn't even gotten above Mt. Beacon at 9:00am so Sargent-Downing remains in shade for another hour or so. I made the mistake of wearing shorts once, but that won't happen again as the memory of insects feeding on me for breakfast is embedded in my brain. I can go barefoot though and the cool Earth beneath my feet is refreshing.
Corn (Zea mays, Poaceae, Mexico) is six inches so it's time to add her other two sisters Bean and Squash. Weeding the bed in preparation, I find Yellow Dock (Rumex obtusifolia, Polygonaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) also know as Bitter dock, sister to the more well known R. crispus which is also called Yellow Dock or Curly Dock. I decide to take some roots home to make a Decoction, which is the only way I've seen them used. Turns out Yellow Dock roots can also be made into a Tincture and Vinegar. I have made the seeds into Vinegar. Yellow Dock increases the uptake of iron. One can add Molasses to the decoction for iron and sweetening. Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris, Papillionaceae, Annual, Peru) provides protein and adds nitrogen to the soil. The vine grows up the Corn stalk. Squash (Cucurbita maxima, C. moschata, C. pepo, Cucurbitaceae, Annual, Turtle Island) provides vitamin C., giant leaves to give shade and hold down weeds. Squash has varieties from Summer to Winter. I've made Zucchini bread and Butternut Squash soup is one of my favorite soups.
As I've mentioned I weed from June to September although I have been weeding at Hiddenbrooke all Spring just to establish the herbs. I have one Clematis plant at Sargent-D0wning and it took no time at all to liberate her. I am so excited to see her back because she got weeded out last season. Flora Jones driveway has become Violet (Viola odorata, Violaceae, Europe) and as I discovered yesterday Red Clover (Trifolium pratense, Leguminosae, Europe). Violet can be used like lettuce in Wild Salad and Red Clover is good for managing our Moontime and provides iron.
Chocolate Mint (Mentha x piperita 'Chocolate Mint', Labiatae, Europe) at Hiddenbrooke is struggling so I have to liberate her. Mugwort is the culprit of course. There turns out to be more Chocolate Mint than I anticipated so I am pleased. I drink Chocolate Mint Tea through Winter for digestive issues like any mint. I have also made her into a Vinegar. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island) is poking her head up right through Sasa or Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum, Poaceae, Perennial, Asia). In hindsight I should have taken some Sasa home for Wild Salad, she was still small enough for the leaves to still be tender enough to eat. Later in the season she gets fibrous. Once again there is a lovely amount of Skullcap in the bed. Skullcap is a painkiller. There is something to be said for plants choosing their spot.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium, Asteraceae, Perennial, W. Asia) is growing wild at Hiddenbrooke. She has overtaken a Phlox bed and has a spot next to the house, in the middle of the field and a full stand at the edge of the woods. Know here that half of our herbs are wild. It's always a treat to discover who will reveal themselves when I open up a property. I first saw Motherwort (Leonarus cardiaca, Labiatae, Northern temperate zones) in the foundation of the old barn last season at Hiddenbrooke. She has since moved up to the top of the field. I planted a bed at Sargent-Downing years ago now from volunteers in the garden. I still get volunteers and now along with Catnip she is gatekeeper to the fairy realm next to the Compost. It is time to harvest Yarrow flowers to dry for tea and Motherwort whole plant in flower for tincture and vinegar. Yarrow is diaphoretic, astringent, tonic and stimulant. The tea can induce sweating and reduce fever and can also be used as a skin wash for infections and inflammation. It can also stop external and internal bleeding. Motherwort's botanical name means Lionheart, so use her tincture, one dropperful every five minutes for anxiety attack, two dropperfuls three times a day for high blood pressure and three dropperfuls to be asleep in about thirty minutes. Motherwort Vinegar is a daily dose of heart tonic. I planted a bed of Catnip (Nepeta cataria, Labiatae, Perennial, W. Africa, India) at Sargent-Downing and she has since found spots throughout the garden as well as near the Compost pile. Catnip can be used for tea as well as vinegar. The dried leaves can be used as tea for colds. Tender leaves can be added to Wild Salad. The tea was used before tea was imported from China. The tea like many mints treats colds, calms upset stomach, reduces fevers, soothes headache and scalp irritation. Catnip is also a good smoke. I make a smoke blend with Mugwort, Tobacco and Marijuana.
I took a Yoga class this week which I don't get to do in the season. I'm committing to at least once a month. Yoga is life! I have been in yoga off and on for almost thirty years. I had a personal practice at home through Winter for the first time. It is my go to for restoration. I was and am in this moment astonished by the energy boost. The breathing alone is probably worth it. I can recall when I became a farmer thinking what a perfect compliment to farming is yoga, stretching out all those muscles I use on a daily basis. To find the time, energy and motivation at the end of the day is the trick. I have had pain afterwards in the last few years, but not this week. I have been through Hatha, Iyengar and Kundalini yoga. Iyengar is the most fascinationg with all the props and hanging off walls. I picked up my first Yoga book when I was sixteen in Miami when it was the last thing a young black girl would be thinking about. I must have seen it on television and it got stuck in my mind. My first yoga class was at the YMCA on 23 St. in Manhattan. The Hatha teach promptly sent me down the hall to the Iyengar class. I moved on to the Iyengar Center on 22nd St.
I've been eating Juneberry (Amelanchior canadensis, Rosaceae, Tree, Turtle Island) for the past three weeks. A cross between Blueberry and Cherry, wild, yummy sweetness this time of year. Also known as Shadbush because she flowers when the Shad are running in the Hudson River. There are three trees outside my apartment and I have been planting an upright variety for Arbor Day the past four years. A testament to our love of convenience and how our most popular fruit come to be, Juneberry has a tiny seed inside left over after eating them not unlike Grape, which is why we have seedless grapes, not to mention seedless Watermelon. Paw Paw is another native fruit similar in appearance to a small green Mango, but tastes like Flan. The fruit bruises easily which wold not be appealing in the grocery store.
Lazy, hazy, crazy days of Summer. Schools out and vacation is in the air. Gardening becomes meditation. I linger up to four hours some days. Soaking up that lovely Sun remembering our sometimes brutal Winters. We have had a spectacular season so far. April Showers, May flowers and now blazing hot summer. Occasionally, we get this most beautiful seventy-seven degree day with the loveliest breeze.
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