I have been in a kind of self-inflicted hibernation for a long time now and feel like I spent the entire winter burying my head under an ever-increasing “to-do” list. Along with the Sun I have been slowly emerging over the last few weeks, some days I’ve been shining brighter than others but generally I am feeling a lot stronger. As I emerge from my hibernation I am starting to think about spring cleaning. Not just my house – everything!!!! Yes my house is in desperate need of spring cleaning but not as much as I am.
As well as spring cleaning the time around the Spring Equinox is a traditional time for putting things into balance, thinking about what new seeds you want to plant in your life over the forthcoming months and also what you want to weed out from your life.
This time of year is also traditional for detoxing, fasting, “giving things up for lent”. There are several reasons for this including:
- In harder times our ancestors were probably running low on stored winter supplies and had to supplement their diets with the first edible plants emerging in Spring such as cleavers, dandelions, chickweed, nettles, wild garlic and hawthorn buds.
- Coincidentally most of these plants also happen to be excellent cleansers for various systems in the body such as blood, liver and kidneys.
- The sunlight streaming in through our windows seems to illuminate all the dust and dirt accumulated over the winter and in the days before window glass it may have been the first time people could open their windows.
- We have been shut up in our homes living off stodgy foods for the winter which have given us the warmth and comfort we needed but many now often feel clogged up by March and feel the need to get the body moving again.
- We are surrounded by new growth, new life and change and this can bring inspiration for change.
So what have I been up to?
It started with paper, lots of paper in fact. I have spend an awful lot of time analysing myself and what is important for me to move forwards. I have created lots of to-do lists, looked at how I spend my time and decided what I want to do. I found that over winter I have been increasingly very busy “doing nothing”. I have spent hours on the bus each day looking at Facebook or browsing the web and hours in the evening watching TV. I now take a craft project to work on or reading or writing for the daily commute and lunchtimes. I don’t have much time in the evenings but I have been trying to focus on achieving one positive thing a day. I have also been trying to keep to regular routines.
Herbwise I have been trying to wean myself back off coffee – another winter habit which had crept in. I have been drinking more herbal teas and lots of water. I have also been taking vervain tincture and rose elixir, not everyday but when I feel a real need. The vervain for stress and the rose because it is uplifting. I also made a tonic wine for adrenal stress back at the January workshop. I have harvested fresh nettles and fresh cleavers for teas.
Adrenal Stress Tonic Wine
- Rose Petals
- Lemon Balm
- Elderries and Rosehips which had been in alcohol
- Evening Primrose
I have sorted out my “herb file” and worked out what I need to catch up on and trying to work out a schedule for doing this.
I’ve managed to get all of last year’s harvest into jars and somehow into my cupboard which is an achievement in itself (see A Cupboard Full of Good Intentions). I was disappointed that I lost half of my nettle seed harvest because I hadn’t been checking on it. It was in a big paper sack and had gone mouldy.
I have been adding herbs or essential oils to my bath/shower products and I made a lovely spring herb bag which has quite a strong scent and I find it uplifting every time I walk in the room.
Spring Herb Bag/Incense
- Lemon Balm
- Dandelion Root
- Geranium Essential Oil
- Star Anise Essential Oil
- Lemon Essential Oil
I have been digging, digging, digging since February and have been trying to identify as much as I can although it is mainly common plants such as nettles, cleavers, red dead nettle, buttercup, thistles, groundsel and dandelions. I am actually paying more attention to them and thinking “should I take this one home?”. However, in order not to overwhelm myself, I have only been harvesting what I can actually deal with that day. I did also get some strange looks when I visited Spain in January and was busy photography their “weeds” by the side of the road. I saw borage, milk thistle and marshmallow quite happily thriving in the winter sun.
I have planted some veggies and swept out the greenhouse. Amazingly a geranium I overwintered has not stopped flowering. I will be sowing some herbal seeds in April (including Vervain, my ally for the year).
Many of the outside plants have survived the winter. Mugwort, Angelica, Yarrow, Sage, Rosemary, Wormwood, Lemon Balm, Vervain, Mint and quite a few others all seem to be doing well and there is lots of new growth shooting.
Unfortunately I think I may have underwatered in the greenhouse and over winter lost my 7 year old lemon verbena which survived some very harsh winters, I may have also lost my rue . It’s a gamble in the winter on how much to water, too much water and a harsh frost can cause root damage, too little and they die. I have now given them plenty of water and left the pots undisturbed as sometimes I have been quite surprised when plants I thought were dead have suddenly started shooting again. I will give them another month or so to see if anything happens.
Hopefully 2016 will be the year I finally get organised and on top of things!!
Scott Cunningham Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Llewellyn Worldwide
Marian Green A Witch Alone, Thorsons
Kitty Campion A Woman’s Herbal, Leopard
Kate West The Real Witches’ Kitchen, Thorsons
Barbara Griggs, The Green Witch, Vermillion
David Hoffman, The New Holistic Herbal, Element