Category Archives: northern california herbs

Weeds, Seeds and Caddyshack. All Happening in the Garden.

Standard

Hey everyone!

A couple of things have happened lately that took me out of the game awhile. One, I got super sick and two, I switched to a new alternative work schedule. This long weekend is the first in long time that I’m able to do things like blog and work in the yard.

Speaking of the yard, with the crazy weather we’ve just had, ours is out of control. Since yesterday was sunny and somewhat warm, I went out with shears in hand to clean up and harvest. Check out what I’ve found.

Crawling Rosemary

Initially I had this planted in the ground, but our resident gopher is treating the yard like a buffet. I came out one day and the gopher had eaten one of my rosemary plants. Then I found he’d eating my african tall grass. And a few other plants. Yes, I am currently wearing a Rambo style head band and clenching a knife in between my teeth. How did you know?

Roses and Rosehips

We had a week before the snow (yes I said snow) came that was in the 70s, so my roses started blooming. These are the last two that aren’t completely gone.

I have a lot of rosehips (above) in the yard now. I’m getting ready to process them now and will take lots of pictures for you.

At the same time, even with the hot weather, because of the rain, a lot of my roses had rust on them.

See the orange spots? Thats rust. Meh. So I spent a lot of time removing all the rusty leaves.

Yarrow

My yarrow (also known as achillea) has completely dried out so I finally took the dried blossoms from the yard. They actually looked really pretty dried. Oh yeah, and ignore the weeds in the background. Thanks.

Lavender

Yes, lavender infused oil is coming soon. And I mean like REALLY soon. I can’t wait to harvest this. Last year when I transplanted this into the ground, I was really unsure if it would take. I am so happy to see it green and vibrant.

Blueberries

Okay, so these aren’t blueberries, but this is one of my blueberry plants. Fernando bought these for me last year and I almost killed them. Luckily, I got smart, moved them to another spot in the yard and now I have blooms coming. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for berries this year.

Raspberries

For the last month, my raspberry plant has been growing quite a bit. I’ve been lazy on harvesting so I’ve been feeding the bugs and critters with my raspberries. I’m okay with that.

Rose Geranium (Attar of Roses)

If you can believe it, this plant was originally a quarter of it’s current size and I’ve only had it for about 7  months. I’ve done almost nothing to this plant, other than watering occassionaly and pulling weeds. (Except for the ones you currently see of course – just ignore them. Thanks!) It amazes me how even with some neglect this plant has just thrived. It’s even got flower buds coming out.

This particular geranium is “Attar of Roses” and it truly does smell like a rose. All you have to do is rub a leaf between your fingers to get the fragrant oils on your skin. I am still debating how I will process this plant. Infused oil? Fresh tea? Lotion blend? I dunno.

Of course, I left out all the weeds. Except for the one I’ve been munching on.

When I was a kid we called it sour grass but there many different names for this weed. I love how cheery they are and how tart and refreshing they taste. Somebody told me that too much can be poisonous, so I try not to eat too many of them.

Well, thats all for today. Any good things growing in your yard?

-Camille

store: www.havelinasoap.com

 

Advertisements

Herb Walk Part 3

Standard

Our last day in the woods…

Sunday

Sunday came bright and early for us. I was up early because I couldn’t sleep, but also because Kathryn and I wanted to catch the early morning Arati ceremony at the Hanuman Temple at the center.

Photo courtesy of the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple at Mount Madonna

The ceremony was at 6:30 am so we were up and ready to go by 6:15. One of our classmates was already there, completely bundled in blankets.  That morning, it was so very foggy and it was so wet, that water drops were falling off the trees as if it were really raining. The temple, while covered, was open to the elements, and so even with being wrapped in blankets ourselves, our socks were wet and we were chilled to the bone. In spite of that, I thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony. The priest (I think it’s okay to call him a priest) sang songs in another language and rang bells and blessed us with the red dot on our foreheads (wish I knew what to call it properly). I managed to wipe the blessing off my forehead within 10 minutes. Again, I am that kind of girl.

But, again, it was a beautiful way to start the morning.

After the ceremony, we went down to the center’s garden and harvested some plants. I picked rosemary, lavender and rose geranium. While picking lavender, I came across this little guy:

I didn’t know that bees slept outside and wasn’t sure if I should continue to harvest. (My teacher mentioned he basically got “locked out” for the night.) I felt really bad waking the little guy up, and I didn’t want to get stung. In the end, he did wake up a little bit, and hung out with Kathryn before I brushed him off and we left the garden to have breakfast.

After breakfast, we met with the rest of our class and went walking in the woods. Our teacher pointed out different things to look at and told stories about the redwood forest. The area where Mount Madonna is located had been heavily logged just 100 years ago and many of the trees we were looking at were on average about 60 – 70 years old. You could see evidence of where man had decimated the forest, with chopped down stumps, burned bark and patches of empty land. It made me sad to think that people took from the forest without any thought of replanting what they took.

Even with sad feelings, it was still a mystical place. The fog and mist crept through the trees and I was filled with a sense of wonder. It was so peaceful, yet so alive, and I felt almost an electrical current running through my body the longer we walked in the woods. I almost expected to see faeries and spirits and any other mythical forest creatures.

Making our way on the trail.

Fog drifting through the trees

No sign of a blue sky

Destruction and rebirth

Further into the woods

Eventually we made our way out of the forest and back to civilization. Kathryn and I made our way back to our cars, said our goodbyes and headed home. It was a wonderful weekend and I really cannot wait to do it again. I miss the woods already.

­-Camille

Herb Walk Part 2

Standard

Okay, now where was I? Oh yes, we’re on Mullein now.

6.  Mullein

Mullein was the herb/plant of the weekend. It covered the entire property and you could easily find it and identify it no matter where you went. Mullein feels as fuzzy at it looks and has thick leaves. It is a 2 year plant and the first year it looks like a rosette:

The second year, the plant grows into a stalk.

Those are rose petals on the plant.

Mullein is a European plant but somehow made it here to America. It’s considered a weed, as it’s highly invasive, but has a lot to offer. In the past, people would use the stalk and dip it into wax to use as a torch. (Even my teacher had done it.)

With Mullein, you can harvest the whole plant (flowers, leaves and root) It can be used fresh in tinctures and oils and dried in tea or oils. When harvesting the root, you’d chop it and then dry it for teas. Mullein is anti-spasmodic and a lung relaxant. It’s a mild expectorant and helps prevent tightness in the chest. It can be used as a preventative lung tonic going into the cold & flu season and can be used long term. The root tea is good for the urinary tract system and helps tone the bladder and reduce inflammation. The oil is good for skeletal muscle pain.

7. Comfrey

This plant originally grew in Europe and Asia. It’s very easy to grow and attracts bees. This is a blood alkalizing plant and is iron and calcium rich. The plant can be used fresh or dry in a tea, but must be used dry in oils. This plant is also known as “knit bone” because it will literally “knit” your skin back together. In oil, it’s a very powerful skin healer. You can use it on superficial wounds, but not deep wounds. Why? Comfrey will heal the top layer of the wound but not the deeper layers. It can also be used on poison oak or any other skin irritations. It’s considered a miracle oil/salve. You can also use it in a poultice or compress on sprains. It can also be taken internally as a tea, to help fix broken bones. Some people have had problems with it internally (especially those with liver problems) so it’s important to know your body’s limitations before trying it internally.

8. Chamomile

Who hasn’t heard of chamomile? Most of us have used this herb before in the form of a tea. Fresh chamomile is very fragrant and smells a little like apples. You can use chamomile fresh or dry in oils and fresh only in tinctures. Chamomile is very calming and can be used on babies, children and pretty much anyone. One thing to note is that chamomile is a diuretic, so you don’t want to drink it at bedtime or you will be up all night going to the bathroom. After dinner is okay.

9. Mallow

Mallow grows everywhere. I know I’ve pulled it from our garden before. Mallow has a very green taste and can be eaten raw. Just chop up the leaves and put it in your salads. Mallow can be used fresh in teas and dry in oil. It’s a cooling skin healer whether you take it internally or apply it externally. It has astringent, antiseptic and disinfectant properties. It’s also anti-microbial. You can also use this in compresses and is great for dry skin, eczema and psoriasis.

10. Calendula

I love calendula. It’s such a sunny and happy looking flower and can bloom all year. It loves sun and only needs a small amount of water. When harvesting this plant, you leave the stem and harvest the whole flower only. Calendula petals can be eaten fresh and can also be used in a fresh flower tincture. Dried flowers can be used in tea or oil. Calendula is a warming plant and gets the lymphatic system moving. It’s great for colds and the flu. It’s also a “delivery” herb that helps other herbs in delivering their medicine. Calendula is also awesome in oils/salves on dry skin and lips.

So these were all the plants we identified and harvested on Saturday. Sunday was much more laid back, with hiking in the redwoods. That’s part 3 and will be posted soon…

­-Camille

Herb Walk, Part 1

Standard

Hey young world!

As I was going through my pictures from the herb walk weekend, I realized I had so many that this will be a mini series of posts. Now, let’s start at the beginning…

Friday

Last Friday, I made my way down to the Mount Madonna Center in Watsonville, California. Mount Madonna Center is a conference and retreat center set amid the beautiful redwood rainforest about 2 hours south of San Francisco. It seems that their primary focus is yoga, but there is a school for children from kindergarten to high school, and there are continuing education classes (of all kinds) happening at the center all the time. Kathryn and my class was only one of the many held there this past weekend.

Two hours on the road and I’m here!

After checking in with my herb teacher, I went to find my sleeping accommodations in the Oaks Campground area. I had signed up for a private room, but Mount Madonna had many choices for how you could stay on the property. Some people chose to camp, others chose to share a dormitory type space, and some, like myself, chose private accommodations. I don’t really mind sharing a room, but I really wanted my own bathroom. Plus, I had been camping the weekend before, so I wanted to live a little more comfortably for my stay in the redwoods.

So, off I went to look for my cabin. I had a sneaking suspicion I would not have a bathroom, but I kept an open mind. When I saw the first cabin, I was completely charmed! The next building I saw was the toilets and shower rooms, confirming my suspicions that I wouldn’t have a bathroom en suite. Ah well, c’est la vie. I spotted Kathryn’s car in the lot and of course, started walking around yelling out her name. She popped her head out of Cabin #3 and we had our girly hug greeting. Finally, I found my cabin, #6.

Super cute cabin #6

After thinking my cabin was super cute, I noticed it was set back the furthest from all the other cabins. Then I noticed the little statue in front of it.

Ummmmmm…

Suddenly Blair Witch Project came to mind. Remember that scene where the kids come out of their tent to find little rock piles/statues in front of it? Yeah, that scene. Even though it was broad daylight, I already started to get a little spooky. Then I checked my cell phone and there was no signal. What if Blair Witch tried to get me? What if Freddy Kruger showed up? How would I make it out alive? Who could I call? When I got inside my cabin, I was relieved to find out the door bolted on the inside and I could see Kathryn’s front door from mine. I promptly told her that I would be screaming for help and that she would have to rescue me.

Yes, I am that kind of girl.

But, in spite of my spookiness, I still liked the little cabin and I was glad that our teacher put Kathryn and me so close together.

The rest of the evening was pretty calm. We had dinner at the center and then had an evening class where we set our intentions for the weekend. My intention was to learn as much as possible from the plants to be able to cultivate them in my own garden.

Saturday

Saturday started with a mini herb walk with Kathryn as the guide. Unfortunately, I did not bring my camera on this walk so I don’t have pictures of the herbs and plants she identified. Some of the plants we came across were rosemary, rose geranium, Mexican sage, mullein and pennyroyal. Rose geranium is one of my favorite essential oils to use and I was thrilled to see one up close. After our mini hike, we met up with the rest of our class and began our foray into the wild herbal world.

1. Yerba Buena

We found this yerba buena growing right next to the road. It tasted minty and smelled like oregano. This plant is native to California and loves the moisture from being on the coast. It’s been used in teas for taste and medicinally when someone has a cold or a cough. This plant can be dried also, and will last for about a year.

2. Horseweed (also known as Fleabane)

A second shot of horseweed where you can see the top and leaves more clearly.

This plant is considered a weed but has so many uses. It had a very refreshing taste and reminded me a bit of cilantro. My teacher told us that this plant was used for bleeding, cuts and sprains. It can be used as a tea to help with internal bleeding and as a poultice/compress for external bleeding, due to its astringent properties. It was also used in the past on animals in poultices. This plant generally grows near animals/barns and can be found all over the United States.

3. Pearly Everlasting

Unfortunately, the flowers had already died, so this picture is just dead flowers. Sorry! I did get to taste the flower and it wasn’t to my liking. I don’t remember quite why, but it’s not something I’d make in a tea unless I needed it for medicinal reasons. Most people dry this flower and use it for decorations. (When dried, it lasts for a couple of years) Medicinally, this flower is used in teas for wet, boggy lung type colds. It is anti-microbial and a very good expectorant.

4. Magenta Lambsquarters

Here is a shot of the full plant.

I absolutely love the coloring of this plant. It almost looks as if the magenta color was spray painted onto the plant. It has a very strong green taste and is extremely nutritious. It is anti-inflammatory and full of amino acids, in addition to being full of vitamins A and C. You can eat it raw or steamed, but you only use the leaves and the top of the stem. It can be an invasive plant and some consider it a weed.

5. Purslane

This is one tasty plant being both tart and sweet at the same time. It is a late summer plant, and while some consider it a weed, you can actually buy it in Mexican grocery stores. This plant has anti inflammatory properties and is good for your digestion system. It has also been shown to heal ulcers. It can be eaten every day but only the leaves and tops of the plant should be used. This plant is also high in omega 3 & 6’s. My teacher mentioned that chickens love it.

I’m going to take a quick break but should have Part 2 up shortly.

-Camille

Herb Walk Recap

Standard

Good morning Monday!

I’m back from the Santa Cruz mountains and have tons of pictures to share. I learned so much this weekend from Kathryn and the wonderful group of women I spent time with. We sang, we cried, we laughed and we exchanged ideas and information.

I’m gathering all my notes and organizing my photos and will get back to posting, hopefully later on today. Can’t wait to share with all of you!

Camille

Herb Walk

Standard

Happy Friday everyone!

This weekend I’m meeting up with my good friend Kathryn for an herb walk in the Santa Cruz mountains. We met in an herb class last November, and since then, have been making tinctures, salves and all kinds of goodies together. I’ve been really looking forward to this weekend because while I know how to use herbs, I have a hard time identifying them in the wild. Northern California has an abundance of wild herbs, so I can’t wait to get out there. I’ll be taking a ton of pictures to share with all of you.

Speaking of Kathryn, she owns a fantastic herb shop in Cambria, California called Heart’s Ease.

Heart’s Ease Shop

A few weeks ago, my family went down to Cambria and we hung out in her shop. None of us wanted to leave. There were herbs, soaps, lotions, oils, jewelry, perfume and the most amazing backyard garden. She even has two little fairy villages in the garden! Kathryn’s store really does need it’s own post to do it justice, so stay tuned because it’s coming.

Have a great weekend!

-Camille