Tuesday, May 29, 2012

the cotton flew

May is the month when the cotton flies. That's how we refer to it around here. When the cotton flies, you need to make sure your car windows are closed, even when you're driving, and you need to keep your mouth closed, too, when you're outside. Although I've been sneezing like crazy lately, making it suspect, I still love this fluff from the female cottonwood tree. And just from gathering a handful here and there when walking the dogs, I've collected a large bowlful, about 3½ ounces, maybe enough to actually do or make something with it. I still don't know how to spin, so that's out. But a person could pick out the vegetation and save the cotton for future pillow filling. Or make stars like on this little packet from a long-ago Waldorf holiday fair. A little experiment in absorbency might be fun.  And dyeing some. Or burning some. Or what else?

Yesterday, moonday, was a holiday in the U.S. so I holidayed by doing basically nothing. In case you're wondering, the waxing moon is under the sign of Virgo today.

Friday, May 25, 2012

funky plant pockets

At last week's plant sale, I bought two plant pockets from earthlinks, a development project (for homeless and low-income people) that has its roots in the garden. The goal is to use the harvest to create sustainable products that provide an income as well as a closer relationship with nature. They also sell a plethora of pressed flower items, soaps, lotion, bat houses, rain barrels AND honey from their hive in downtown Denver. Now how great is that? Of course, I bought a jar of honey, too.

I love the funky plant pockets hanging on our chain link garden gate -- made from wool sweaters, a bag of soil and a package of seeds are included. I tucked in some herbs for the photo but think I'll plant some lettuces in them instead. It would be super easy to duplicate this design but I won't -- I'll just buy a few more from earthlinks instead!

Happy weekending and thanks for visiting. xo

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

lemon balm moon

Each new moon, I draw an herbal tarot card for personal revelation. This is my favorite deck because it relates and connects a card's meaning with a corresponding herb. I always seem to draw the same 10-15 cards over and over, Moon XVIII Lemon Balm being one of them. The moon is also my ruling planet so drawing this card encourages me in so many ways.

I seem to have a life-long quest to relate to the plants in deep and meaningful ways. Ingesting a plant is one method of connecting with its essence so usually I taste its leaves or make a food or drink with it, if possible. Or touch it or smell it or burn it. Or wear it. And exploring the plants in new and unique ways seems key, so this time I ate some of the lemon balm stem alone.

Lemon balm-moon water is fairly regular around here during early summer and especially when I draw this card. In case you've never made it, let me tell you that it makes a most refreshing lemony water. This is how I do it. Go before a lemon balm plant, pause for a moment as a form of connection, and hum or sing quietly as a form of gratitude while filling a jar with 4" stem tips. Add water and admire. Leave the jar outside to infuse and absorb overnight -- it doesn't have to be a full moon -- all the while appearing to be gardening so as to not scare the neighbors. The next day the water can be strained if desired, the leaves really don't interfere with drinking it though. Then  place the spent leaves on the ground near the plant they came from. Or you can just infuse the water in the fridge or even on the counter at room temperature for a few hours.

The card's image on the black notebook brought to mind a white silk organza moon stitched onto black velvet from way back when. Clothwise, it's a fairly easy illustration to play with so that's exactly what I intend to do. The stone was collected from an English seaside by Lyn. A treasured stone.

Hanging herbs to dry has its drawbacks, the main one being dust. The nettles were hung on a rod over our fireplace and then I tied on a tablecloth to cover them. Dust-free. It's taken me 20 years to think of this!

Monday, May 21, 2012

scattered moonday

Like spring blossoms, little pieces of me seem to be flying off in all directions, scattering.  Whenever I feel like this, the only way to collect the pieces is to go outside and ground myself. So I did.

I caught my first rose bloom of the year (a Gertrude Jekyl) right before she was about to let go of her petals. I mostly pick roses when they're nearly spent rather than in their prime. That way we get to enjoy them longer and their condition doesn't really matter if they're just going to be dried anyway. Dried, fragrant rose petals are a luxury pantry item because you can make tea, syrup, oil, infusion, honey, recipes, potpourri, and a hundred other things out of them. I'm just starting to think about what to make this year. 

A little stitching. I don't know exactly how yet, but it's looking like the embroidered ticking is headed for the velvet long heart cloth

The goggles we wore to watch the annular eclipse. I don't think they were strong enough so I tried to only look for a second at a time.  

Today is a waxing moonday in Gemini. We've just had ourselves a banner sunday with the sun entering Gemini, then a new moon in Gemini followed by the annular eclipse minutes later. This is so much that I'm not even going to try to analyze or consciously process it all. What I do know is that new moon energy helps us to name and grow our intentions while eclipses seem to create bursts of energy and the two combined create a lot of potential. How we utilize it is up to us.

Airy, bright Gemini days are delightful -- anything goes now, one thing leads to another, branching out far from our original intent. Chatty Gemini days are great for meeting with friends or attending social events, my favorite Gemini activities. I think every lunar sign has qualities that can enhance our lives -- there again, it's up to us to realize them. Focus can be difficult though and we also have to be careful not to overdo it. Usually we think of overdoing it on physical terms, but we all know it's possible to overdo it mentally and emotionally, too.

Gemini affects the shoulders, arms and hands. When life gives us problems -- and it's pretty hard to live a life without problems -- we may literally carry them on our shoulders. And then we have shoulder aches and pains. This is a good time to become more clear about how this comes about and what we can do to reshape the outcome.

Even though we have a new moon, Gemini isn't really the best sign for planting in the garden if we can help it. Try to hold off until the moon enters Cancer on Wednesday, the most fruitful sign of all. Maybe pick roses today instead!

Friday, May 18, 2012

moving on

My cloth stones for the magic feather project are ready to roll so I'm saying good-bye. I'll have something to remember them with though.

The annual plant sale for a group I belong to, The Herb Society of America-Rocky Mountain Unit, is tomorrow. Set-up is today so I have to let go and say good-bye to these many green spirits in a little while -- over 100 plants with whom I've shared time and space and life over the last few months -- my donations are Genovese basil, Mrs. Burns lemon basil, red amaranth, nettles, and horseradish. The tenders got hauled into the house on cold days and nights but for the most part, all the plants were outside in the cold frame. It's remarkable really, and sort of sad. I hope they all have joyful lives in their new garden homes.

Big events with the earth, sun and moon occur this weekend -- 1) an annular eclipse, meaning we'll see a just a ring of the sun's edge around the moon as it passes by; 2) the sun moves into the sign of Gemini so happy birthday to all you Geminis; and 3) a new moon in the sign of Gemini! Eye protection is needed to watch the eclipse -- I'm hoping we have some welder's glasses around here somewhere. 

Thanks for visiting here and happy weekending. xo

If you live in the Denver area, the plant sale is at 1710 S. Grant, 9 AM to 1 PM, cash only. In conjunction with Front Range Organic Gardeners, there'll be dozens of varieties of herbs, heirloom tomatoes, vegetables, ornamentals, and garden-related vendors and items.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


This morning I started appliqueing little cloth stones on 2" squares for the magic feather project. I haven't stitched much the last few weeks and lo and behold the light had moved! I had to go find it -- it was in the living room. I thought about how the seasons can be marked by which rooms in the house have good enough light for sewing. Another way of noticing the wheel of the year turn. A nice quiet way.

Then the doorbell rang and there was a happy surprise -- the long-awaited package of indigo, Indigofera suffruticosa, plants from Companion Plants. They were thirsty but look to be in great shape. One section of the buddha circle garden, usually all vegetables, herbs and flowers, is designated for dye plants this year. Two other kinds of dye plant -- Japanese indigo, Polygonum tinctorium, and woad, Isatis tinctoria -- were seeded indoors a few weeks ago. I have to say they look nothing like these little beauties though. As always, fingers crossed.

Wishing you a good middle-of-the-week and maybe a few happy surprises, too.

Monday, May 14, 2012

far-fetched moonday

Ferns don't grow very well here in dry Colorado, so I'm loving the fiddlehead in the center of the bouquet my husband gave me. Sort of far out, it doesn't look real -- but there it is, in all its glory. Today I'm imagining far-fetched things -- ideas that seem improbable -- because, really, so many wonderful things in life were once far-fetched thoughts.

Today is a waning moonday in Pisces, a water sign that seems to blur our edges so we may not see reality as clearly as usual. And sensitivity, intuition, and imagination may be so pronounced that we find ourselves retreating into solitary space. One of my moon-time references names this kind of solitude as the "temple of our imagination". I like that.

Pisces affects our feet so treating or preventing foot problems is well done now. We should also take it easy with activities that aggravate existing foot conditions.

I'm imagining what I'd like to stitch in a contemporary boro class I've just begun. Could these old, Japanese-trouser-like, linen pants be embellished with moons and symbols? Moon pants. And if I have the time to do that, I'm wondering if I'll have the courage to actually wear them. It would be a stretch for me. Far-fetched!

Friday, May 11, 2012

nettle love

Cool weather has thankfully lengthened the stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, harvest -- this is the first year in quite a while that the plants haven't bloomed and begun to set seed by now. Once nettle starts budding, it's time to stop harvesting because the leaves will contain an irritating substance to our kidneys.

In the tradition I was taught, I almost always sing or hum to the plants while harvesting, and I also like the idea of a simple offering as a kind of acknowledgment. This time, I placed a little figure of Tara in the nettle patch. Sometimes I'll sprinkle cornmeal, dried herbs, leave a few strands of my hair, or burn a little incense. Once when harvesting osha root, a bear herb, we left squares of dark chocolate for the bears. We thought when the bears returned to that stand of osha, they might like a treat nestled among the osha roots.

Four big bunches of nettles are hanging to dry already and I expect more because this is a great year for nettles -- some of the stalks were 5' tall. A pot of nettle was picked for lunch, this is my favorite way to cook them. And a dye bundle with nettle, red amaranth, and lunaria moonseeds on a stained white napkin all ready to roll and tie. We have a dozen or more stained white napkins so this is the beginning of a dyeing series to maybe make them usable again.

I am trying to get my hands on 100% nettle cloth. While searching, I found a lovely video on the harvest and preparation of nettle for spinning -- so interesting to see how people pick and handle the nettles without actually touching them. There are a few websites with nettle products but does anyone out there have a source for 100% nettle cloth?

Thanks for visiting here -- wishing you a whole lot of happy weekending! xo

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

alfalfa is for assimilating

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." 
                                                                                                                   -- Robert A. Heinlein

Alfalfa is a deep-rooted herbal plant that helps us assimilate nutrients. Assimilating information is a core human skill that enables us to be proficient in many ways, so on another level, I'm hoping alfalfa will help me take in, remember, and use the experiences of the past week.

I wish it grew wild here like it does in most rural areas because I'll need a lot. I remember that horses love alfalfa, a member of the clover family -- if you're out riding and stop for a minute, your horse will find herself a bite of something in the clover family. An interesting tidbit about mineral-rich alfalfa is that it also contains coumarin, a blood-thinner. When you smell some plants in the clover family, you may get a whiff of freshly-mown hay -- that's coumarin. The same with sweet grass and sweet woodruff and the fragrance gets stronger as the plant material dries.

These silk bundles have assimilated what they could from dandelion flowers and mahonia roots, stems, and leaves. The mahonia on the right takes best in show for yellowness.

And now I'm off to the healthy food store for some dried alfalfa to make a nice assimilating herbal infusion. See you.

Monday, May 7, 2012

green water full moonday

They took my sketches! oh no they didn't! On my return from an herbal conference in Texas, TSA searched my luggage -- oh yes they did! -- and took a small stack of simple sketches of the Austin skyline as seen from my hotel window. oh no they didn't! I knew they'd gone through the bag immediately because it wasn't repacked the same way -- and then I found a notice of baggage inspection. I sure want those sketches back. I have them! see below. I'd also written some things, I wish I could remember what I all wrote so I'd know if they're going to take me away. But I guess they would've done that by now. And I hope I don't get in trouble for even writing about it. now disregard this paragraph.

green water moon is my take of the Austin sky scape over the green waters of the Colorado River. I was so lucky to have this great view of beautiful Austin. Later that night there was a cracking thunder storm, spectacular from the 14th floor. 

Today is a waning moonday in the sign of Sagittarius. Under Sagittarius, we tell it like it is by speaking honestly and directly. The waning moon prods us to let go of things. The two influences together help us to get things off our chest and to release that which burdens mind and soul. We also have a sense of well-being making us more generous in various ways, but mostly with our thoughts and opinions!

Sagittarius rules the lower back and thighs and sciatica may be aggravated now. I've been feeling discomfort in that exact area and attributed it to sitting so long in one position the past few days. Now I realize this, too, shall pass.

Just some of the memorabilia and reading material lugged back -- will keep me busy for a while -- all in all, I am so glad I went. I saw this little full moon magnet at the airport and had to have it. If you've made full moon art, please share by leaving a link in the comments or send me an email for the drawing down the moon page on the sidebar. I'd love to see what full moon vibes were cast on you! xo

Edit: Don't you hate it when you're publicly wrong about something? Well, I found the sketches inside a book inside a bag inside a tote bag. So TSA didn't snatch my sketches after all. My faith in the system has been renewed and I hope I didn't lessen yours there for a minute. xo

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

the goodness never ends with dandelion

The goodness never ends with dandelion. The white woolen felt dandelion flower bundle was boiled in plain water about 20 minutes every other day for a week or so. The result is a lovely light yellow with pretty sunny splotches. The silk bundle made up at the same time is still transforming.

I held off until May Day to make medicinal dandelion vinegar. What better time than when the veil between the worlds is thin, making it easier for fairy folk and plant spirits to reach through, and vice versa? In case you wonder, the ACV on the label stands for apple cider vinegar, the best vinegar for food and medicine.

I've started using pages from an old garden encyclopedia to make labels for my herbal preparations. I find that I much prefer using this old paper over buying new white sticky labels. And attaching them with clear packing tape also makes them waterproof. I've been wanting to design my own labels for years and still I write them out by hand. It's easy enough when it's something for me but if I'm bottling up tincture for someone else, there's quite a lot of information that needs to go on the label. But maybe it's just fine the way it is, taking the time to write out everything by hand. On old yellowing paper.

Saturday is the full moon and once again, I will be making full moon art. If you'd like to join me, please do! Paint, stitch, knit, photograph, write, etc. and leave a link in the comments on moonday or email me a photo and I'll post it on the drawing down the moon page on the sidebar.

I'm off on an herbal adventure for a few days. Have some very happy full moon weekending. And thanks for visiting. xo