The Winter Solstice

Beautiful Paperwhites on January 29th.
Beautiful Papperwhites

It’s been awhile since I was here typing up a new post.  2015 was a year of great changes and new territory and I didn’t blog for a few months as I have been trying to keep up.  But here we are with the year drawing to a close and what a great year it has been.

I am, of course, looking forward to Christmas and seeing my family- but I am also looking forward to the winter solstice.  It holds no prominence in my religion or anything of that nature, but I love that solstice.  The longest night. For me and so many other farmers and gardeners, it is the day with the greatest opportunity for rest.

Working with the land is a hard job, so many things can go wrong, so many things are out of your control and winter is a time of rest.  More than New Years or the first day of school, the winter solstice resets the clock.  From this day forward the days will get longer, spring will be fast approaching and then the summer solstice- the longest day of the year.  I don’t notice that day quite as much because I am moving like crazy to keep up with the gardens, herb shows, and markets.  Grass grows faster than you can pull it and the weeds are formidable adversaries.  At that time, the slow pace of winter will be as distant a memory as the pretty little narcissus bulbs that were flowering when all else was grey and bleak.

But for now, the winter solstice is approaching giving us ample time to sit quietly and reflect- a new year is coming what will it hold?

A January Harvest

Not a bad harvest for January 5th!

Today was a very pretty day.  It was cool, but not at all unpleasant.  There was a very full list waiting on me, but it was all things I enjoy.  When you love what you do it just doesn’t feel like work.  Yesterday’s list was full as well, so much so that about half the list got bumped to today.

I spent the morning processing the herbs I had drying in the kitchen for a few weeks.  Once I had them stripped off the stems and chopped up, I made three different kinds of infused oils.  Once the oils are done in 10 days, I will strain the herbs out and turn the oil into massage oil, bath oils, and salt scrubs.  This is fun work and you get a huge session of aromatherapy to boot!  My girls have gotten spoiled to handmade bath products with organically grown herbs.  The benefit to your skin is huge, make growing herbs for this sole purpose worth it!  Of course, my herbs have many purposes.

Mint is going great.  Once you get mint started, you don’t have to give it much attention.  Unless, of course, it grows like mad and tries to take over your bed.  For this reason I only plant mint in a container or in an area of the yard I want it to take over.  Who wants to mow?  Dandelions are also flourishing.  In my garden these are NOT WEEDS!  If you want to be healthier, make a tincture of dandelions.  That is my go-to medicine around here.  Not only does it help with colds and such, for us it works great on allergies.  And unlike man-made medicines, there are no side effects.  Rosemary, of course, is doing great.  This plant actually doubled in size over the horrid summer with no extra water!

Surprisingly, I found Dill coming up in the garden boxes.  The freeze should have killed it, but it did not.  So I picked it!  There was a bit of lavender left to harvest and some parsley.  All in all, I was very pleased to find so much in the Garden.  Sage, Salad Burnett and Thyme are still doing fine, but they had not grown much since my last harvest  and I choose to leave them for another day.  So many of the herbs are evergreen and hardy through the winter, at least here in East Texas.

As you can see, herbs really pull their weight in the garden.  Everyone should have some.  Your food will taste better and you will be healthier.  Most all culinary herbs double as medicinal herbs.  The local library is a great resource for learning about herbs.  Then, if you find a book you like you can purchase it online or at a used book store.  This keeps you from buying books that are really not that helpful.  My favorite herb book of all time is Growing 101 Herbs That Heal, by Tammi Hartung.  101 herbs may be more than you are looking to grow, but this book is very good and you will learn how to grow the ones you want to use.