I have been quiet this winter. The winter that didn't feel like a winter. Winter is for home, tucking in, re-grouping and rest. While I have done a lot of home and tucking in, there has not been so much rest. Last fall I completed my master herbalist and then after that I completed my Aromatherapy Certification. I spent most of the fall and early winter working on case studies and writing research papers. Meeting with people and making products. I was lucky to have the best case study mentor - she is an author and scientist I really respect and I felt it really allowed me to take off in my interest which is the in-depth organic chemistry and chemical profiles of essential oils. I love plants and botany and soil and growing things. But I also love facts and data and science. I love looking at a problem and scanning my brain for all matching components and the chemicals present in plants that make them work so well with our bodies. They are quite amazing, actually. So I went down the rabbit hole of organic chemistry, physiology and GC-MS reports and I am now out the other side.
Which brings me to the non-rest portion of the winter. I really love making custom products for people and working directly one-on-one to create unique products for specific issues. And I love creating and making. I am lucky to have a wonderful space to have my own herbal studio and I've been planning planning planning. I am launching my aromatherapy and herbal health consultations practice with custom blending for each individual, as well as launching a general aromatherapy product line this spring. I've been designing, planning, calculating, testing testing testing, working. And it is getting close. So close! When I combine that prep work, garden seed starting, and some design projects I have taken on, there has been no time for the winter blues. Which is exactly what I had planned.
And speaking of garden planning!!!! I am very interested in hydrosols and I am hoping to distill my own hydrosols this summer. Small-scale, of course, but still! A still! Something small and portable and that is in my backyard percolating away. I can't wait. I have so many plantings planned for this summer (both for my own herbal cabinet as well as food plants for the food pantry) that I know I will have enough to experiment and learn about the process of distillation of hydrosols. One thing I love is learning new things.
And design! I volunteered with Herbalists Without Borders International and I just finished re-designing the website and will continue to do website and print work for them as we go along. HWB is a great group of people and I have really enjoyed working with them - it inspires me to do more with my own knowledge to commit to find more ways to support my own community. I have been a designer for so long and I have always continued volunteering with my skills and have enjoyed working with small businesses who are environmentally conscious, community focused, and justice oriented - it is a good fit for me and works well with our life and family vision.
I cannot believe it is almost spring. Spring is the time for new beginnings, coming out after a long winter and new life. It is the perfect time to launch Wholly Rooted handcrafted botanicals. So keep an ear and an eye out. I have a lot of good stuff coming soon and I am excited to share!
Can you believe it is finally seed season again? Ah, the trays of soil, the hundreds of little packets and grow lights. I have done less hard core planning this year and more seed organizing (my time has been spent working on a new biz). We hope to have about the same amount of growing space total as we had last summer (crossing fingers), so I have hundreds of seeds in my little seed box, organized by seed starting date ready to go.
My first big check is always what did I put in ground here at the house last summer and the summer before. Our first summer in this house was all waiting for grading and driveway and all of that, so it was a wash, but last summer I did a lot of planting. There were also many things I grew out at the goat farm garden all summer that I brought home and put in ground in the fall as well. I also have some things in buckets in corners along the house (eep) waiting for spring to get planted in.
I hope/plan that for the summer we will again have space at the goat farm, we will garden into our landscaping more at our house, and ... we bought a wooded lake lot last summer (see below) where I am planning to plant endangered/rare woodland medicinals. It is too far away and too shaded/wooded for any more organized plantings, but it is good for plants that can just be left alone and not watered by hand.
Last summer was the big #happyflowerproject where we grew flowers for the food pantry all summer. We plan to grow things for the food pantry again, but expand to food and other plants and not just flowers. And I am planning on growing even more medicinal plants and have bigger harvests! So first. In ground at the house - most planted last summer:
I also have lemon, lime, lavender, rosemary, pomegranate, ashwagandha, and cuban oregano that have been inside all winter and will go out to the deck for the summer.
I plan to grow most of the flowers from last summer in smaller quantities plus more at the house. One thing we plan to do this spring is fence our yard. We have neighbors who let their cat roam - and it uses my garden beds as a litter box and dumps half eaten carcasses daily throughout the yard all summer where I always go barefooted. So, fence. And that will help keep any future neighbors from drifting anything into our organic garden. I enjoyed the flowers more than I expected last summer - I am a practical midwestern gal after all. But they were all so beautiful and loaded with pollinators that I am keeping them this summer.
And of course medicinal and tea herbs. I grow most of these every year, but I am increasing the plantings at the home garden as I expand all of the beds.
Of course the culinary herbs are important too. These I mostly grow at home so I can snip daily at all mealtimes.
Veggies & annual fruit. We are increasing veggies this summer. We will still have our CSA, but will donate more food to the food pantry!
And of course some greens - I'm starting out with only a few and I add them all summer.
Last year I grew dahlias from seed, so we dug up over 125 tubers last fall and have them in the cold waiting for spring planting. We also managed to plant over 200 tulip/narcissus/hyacinth bulbs and I am very excited that we will have an early burst of color! With the fence will also come some fruit and shade trees which are much needed atop our windy sunny hill - and I will start planting those in early spring.
All of this makes me sounds like I have it all together. ;) My box system of dated folders counting back from last frost date really helps keep it simple. I can just load all the seeds into their starting week folder and pull them out every week as I start another round of trays.
So that is the basic list of what I'm growing this summer! I love that I can increase the varieties every year without really adding that much extra work. One step at a time. This still doesn't include any woodland plants I want to put in at the lake, but I am thinking things like goldenseal, black cohosh, oregon grape, woodruff, eyebright, elderberry, slippery elm, hawthorn, possibly some plants in desperate need of habitat and care. The lake lot is much bigger than our home yard here, and it is in an obscure and low traffic area. It seems perfect for that!
So really all I wanted to do was post a lot of photos of the garden to remind myself that YES the never-ending winter has an end in sight and spring and summer are coming. And of course I tucked in some seed lists and all that in between. See how I did that?
Did I forget anything? What are you growing this year that you are excited about?
Herbal Bath Salts combine the ease of fragrant bath salts with the healing benefits of herbs. I like bath salts for many reasons. I have one son who has eczema flares in the winter - and salt/herb/eo baths have helped keep those to minimum for the past few years (along with a rich body butter). My other son has mast cell issues and severe food allergies and we have found that the mineral rich epsom salts help keep him from having as many skin reactions. As he is older he prefers to shower now, but still has a soak when he has been having a rough week health-wise.
Herbal Bath Salts are easy to make and very customizable. Many places sell dried herbs - or you can use what you grew/dried from your own garden (bonus!). Here is a base recipe using herbs known for their calming and healing properties - plus a few ideas of how you can customize your own.
Sleepy Time Bath Blend
Approx. 4-6 baths
Mix the salts together in a large bowl with the dried herbs. In a small vial or cup mix your carrier oil with the essential oils. Drop a bit at a time into the salt/herb blend as you stir well.
Store in an airtight container. To use, scoop ¼ to ½ cup per bath into a re-usable muslin pouch, and steep in the tub as you fill it. Soak and enjoy!
Optional add-ins or substitutions: dried plantain, lemon balm, lemon verbena, coconut milk powder, dried orange peel, or rolled oats. If you collect your own garden herbs, just be sure to dry fully and remove from stems before weighing. Also, you can use just the salt & herbs and skip the essential oils.
Other essential oil and herb combos that are nice (just blend into the carrier oil and add to the salt mix) as alternates::
To make as a gift, put your blended batch into a nice glass jar and attach instructions and a muslin bag or scoop. Attach instructions - use 1/4 cup or more per bath - and gift away!
You can also make individual tub bags - measure 1/4 cup portions into unbleached biodegradable large empty tea bags. I really like the x-large natural iced tea bags because they strain finely so no bits end up in your bath and they are compostable. You can simply sew or sticker them shut at the top and put into a pretty box with instructions. Craft stores also sell wedding favor bags which are a good size - and they can be cleaned and re-used. The key is to store the pre-filled bags in an airtight container so that they don’t start to dissolve from the moisture in the bathroom.
The salts will sink to the bottom and settle if you use a single large jar, so be sure to stir or shake before scooping into the tub. Be sure to keep the lid on tight for a whole jar or store the pre-filled bags in an airtight container to keep from dissolving in the bathroom moisture.
Herbal Bath Salts
Instructions: Scoop 1/4 cup per bath.
Tip: Don't use bath salt blends for tiny ones. For toddler baths you can use a small pouch of only dried calendula or lavender – using 2 Tbsp of dried organic herb is enough for a shallow bath – and skip the salt and essential oils. Those gentle herbs will help sooth any bottom or skin rash, while remaining safe for wee ones. The easiest way to do this is pour 1 cup of almost boiling water over your herb pouch in a heat safe bowl, and let steep until room temperature. Remove the pouch and pour this *cooled* infused water in with your toddlers bath water. This way you have the full infusion added to a bath at a safe temperature.
I am a certified aromatherapist, herbalist, organic gardener, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.
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