Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Twenty six...

That's how many plants we identified in the Maple Tribe eco-system we visited while foraging nettle last weekend!
Maple Grove with ephemeral ground cover 4/15/17

The scent of fall leaves slowly becoming humus in the warming earth was intoxicating!

Gathering nettle for the winter store is an uplifting spring excursion. Fresh air, sunlight, all makes for an innervating experience that shakes winter from our bones...

Going outside and playing...
Every chance you can nourishes heart and soul!
The gathering basket...

Bleeding Heart

Twenty-six Maple Tribe plants by common name:

1. Waterleaf
2. Shotweed
3. Jewelweed
4. Huechera
5. Dandelion
6. Bleeding Heart
7. Corydalis
8. Wild Cucumber
9. Big Leaf Maple
10. Salmonberry
11. Snowberry
12. Nipplewort
13. Nettle
14. Red elder
15. Cleavers
16. Indian Plum
17. Sword Fern
18. Licorice Fern
Maple Grove looking east 
19. Vine maple
20. Himalayan Blackberry
21. Thistle
22. Lady fern
23. Buttercup
24. Conk
25. Burdock remnants
26. Sedge

Did you make it out nettling this spring?
What did you see/find in your quest?

Stay tuned...Hawthorn flowers and leaves are coming soon!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Solving the "Problem" with Lemon Balm!

Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis
Wow! Equinox, the mid-point between winter and summer solstices has come and gone! Now, nature's full expansive force is an energy to reckon in the course forward...I love this time of year! The generative potency is palpable, especially for those who garden!

Yesterday, I was in the garden and found so many allies emerging. We are headlong into the season of divide and multiply...the garden being the one place that this type of math is exponentially enjoyed!

One plant in particular in the dooryard garden was ready to jump the container...

Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis. A frisky garden grower if there ever was one. A plant that garners the rage of many gardeners for her so-called promiscuity. You see, this plant incites the bees to ecstasy and while they dive deep into her open blooms they contribute to the abundance of seed that can and, I might add from personal experience, become a problem in many a garden! Melissa means "bee" in Greek. And, to this day, there remains a strong affinity between plant and insect!

Like most "problems" when one has more information different behavior can eliminate or at least manage the severity of the "problem"! Well, lemon balm proliferates primarily through seed unlike other mints that run. That is, some mints' habit is to push growth in the form of stolons, creeping horizontal plant stems or runners that take root at points along its length to form new plants. While Melissa has stolons of sorts, they are not wont to extend from the mother plant at a very fast rate.

Lemon Balm lifted and ready for dividing
Melissa prefers the bee aspect of the birds and bees pollination ritual. A clumping perennial, her roots stay closer to home. She prefers to scatter her progeny far and wide by seed, overtaking many an innocent's garden!

This can be a nightmare, as many of you may know from experience. Myself, being driven from more than one garden by unruly residents, I am happy to say, years ago I found the "perfect solution", "fix" "cure" to this mundane gardening inconvenience.

It goes like this...When your lemon balm is about to set seed, that is when in full flower, cut the plant to the ground. Not one or two inches from the ground. Cut the lemon balm all the way to the ground*. Bundle the stalks up, this may be an armful for an older plant and head for the shower! Yup, take that leafy green armload of herb into the shower with you. The delight in having a garden is the abundance of plant material one has and the extravagance in how many ways you have to engage the energies of those plants!

Now, turn on the hot water, get in there and STOMP! As the heat lifts the scent out of the crushed leaves into the air, be prepared to engage a mind altering, heart lifting experience! Upon performing this nuanced ritual of early summer garden control, a friend described his experience as psychotropic! This is natural scent therapy at its finest...Once this ritual was revealed to me in the grip of a wild moment of frustration with an unruly, innocuous appreciation for Melissa exploded exponentially.

A sleeper of sorts, neither flamboyant nor showy in any way in the garden. Almost invisible in her demeanor. You know, one of those plants that make every one else look good as the green foil but alone is quite invisible! This hot water ritual broke Melissa's secret chamber wide open.

After the lemony shower, I felt refreshed, mentally alert but not on edge. Upon further investigation, I found lemon balm is a favored herb for gently opening the surface of the body relieving heat. Mild enough for use with children and the infirm for cooling relief in fever. When my son had measles, we gently swabbed his skin with Melissa made as a short infusion. A short infusion can be drunk or used as a soothing wash. The scent alone brightens the countenance of one who is not feeling their best.

Melissa is known for improving immune function, calming distress, strengthening the nerves. A favored quote regarding Melissa's attributes: "Melissa officinalis dispels melancholy and uplifts the spirit". This language invites use. A short infusion, is an infusion made in a covered pot that only steeps 5-10 minutes before use. Remember, the essential oils in plants are intended to safe guard the plant from ingestion by other creatures. With this in mind, a short infusion serves to extract a small amount of volatile oil. By pouring the tea and allowing it to rest a bit before sipping or swabbing, the oils dissipate leaving a pleasant beverage or wash through which one can enjoy the health benefits the herb possesses.

This is an herb for every garden! Especially those with afternoon shade. We'll explore Melissa officinalis in more depth as we grow on...

Melissa divisions in their new home in the East Hedge
amidst black currant, elderberry and Josta berry

Lemon Balm: Melissa officinalis
Plant Class: Herbaceous perennial
Etymology: Balm or balsam -with sweet smelling oils, Melissa, bees
Propagation: by seed, summer cuttings and spring and fall division
Flowers/Fruit/Seeds: Clusters of small pale yellow flowers in the axils of the leaves
Parts used: Leaves and flowers
Leaves: Opposite, heart shaped leaves with serrated edges, give off a heady lemon scent when bruised and have a delicate lemon flavor
Flowering Season: June to August, can be harvested up to 3 times in long growing seasons
Distribution: widely grown in the Mediterranean and France and over much of North America. Prefers warm climates.

* When cutting mint family plants, the stubble left behind (by those refusing to cut to the ground) are sharp needle-like stalks which inflict painful, penetrating wounds! Trust me on this! Cut your mints at ground level...they will grow back!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

2017 Hedge Medicine Workshop

West Hedge at RavenCroft Garden

March 18-19, 2017
Saturday-Sunday 10am - 4pm
$150.  includes: all instruction, 2 local foods lunches, Hedges of the World slideshow, hands-on practicum using traditional hedge crafting tools.
Payment options:
Send $150. check or money order to:

EagleSong E Gardener
PO Box 837, Monroe, WA 98272
PayPal $150. to EagleSong E Gardener

What is a hedge? What benefits do hedges bring to landscapes, large and small. Is this ancient tradtition applicable in our modern world? Whether you are a farmer, gardener or forager; an herbalist or ethnobotanist or aspire to be...this weekend course is for you. Feel the tools in your own hands while crafting hedges, fedges & podges. Walk hedges at a 1 acre site and a 10 acre site and see your own possibilities. Hear how hedges improve diversity and habitat for everything from birds & mammals to cattle & salmon. Practicing herballist, EagleSong Gardener and land steward, Mel Denham will be your guides through the weekend looking at hedge medicine, planted hedges, tools and tending, magic and medicine of the hedge... 
This is an experiential weekend engaging the whole person whilst listening to the the language of the land!

Hedge row management,...resources transforming!
The biomass created in hedgerow management, pruning of fruit trees and berry bushes, normal deadfall are all part of an integrated land use practice, I call social gardening or integrated earth medicine.

When living elements of a place move in a cyclic manner with nourishment as the prime objective, a sense of abundance begins to pervade the landscape.

Many hands...
In this fun engaging weekend you will learn how microbes and fungi transform wood and debris into nourishment for land and plants, when and how to use what kind of mulch, which plants, shrubs and trees will help you achieve your goal with the most efficient use of your effort...You'll see the "lazy bed" method of gardening at work, stacking functions and funneling your activity into an abundant, verdant garden for your health and pleasure. 

Gardens, like life, are in a constant state of emergence when allowed to move through the natural rhythm of succession. Creating property boundaries that define edges while remaining permeable and productive is the province of great hedges.
Here in that odd place "between", fruits, berries, perennial herbs and the great weeds take up residence!  

Visit the Facebook Event Page to learn more...
Mulch for garden beds this season! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

2017 Workshops, Apprenticeships, Plant Medicine Rambles are taking shape...Check It Out!

New beginnings!

Healing From the Ground Up 

Herbal Apprenticeship 
returns to RavenCroft Garden
Monroe, WA

After a long sojourn...(more about that in the weeks and months to come)

The Barn at RavenCroft

Healing From the Ground Up

was the first Community~Centered Herbal apprenticeship offered in America! Beginning in 1996 as a CSH - Community Supported Herbal apprenticeship, the realization that Culture Rises From the Earth, morphed the apprenticeship into a CCH - Community~Centered Herbal apprenticeship. Today, perhaps, more than ever, an earth centered, woman-honoring tradition of herbal practice is finding her way home...

Apprentices in the Living Labyrinth

"After a long journey, I am very excited to be breathing life back into this much needed wise woman herbal apprenticeship in the Northwest." EagleSong Evans Gardener

Stay tuned for updates, recipes and remedies as winter unfurls toward spring...

The flumdiddley kitchen at RavenCroft Garden

The gardens, outdoor kitchen and living Labyrinth create the container for hands-on learning ala RavenCroft Garden. Come visit for an Moon Circle, a day workshop or a year apprenticeship. Join us for a journey through time as we remember who we are and what we're here for...

Joy, Hazel, and Handsome enjoying the nettle patch...

You’ll find more 2017 Herb classes, Workshops, Plant Medicine Rambles, Moon Circles in the sidebar to the right...take a meander and enjoy the blog posts...

May our green paths cross in the year ahead...
For now, breathe deep and enjoy the season where ever you are...

Green Blessings

Smokey Rascal aka The Shadow

Monday, April 4, 2016

Springing into Blue Podded Pea Soup

The beautiful blue podded peas are just 4-5" tall in the garden, now! We've been growing the Capucijner peas for several years. Hardy, beautiful, productive and edible as shoots, blossoms and dried peas, what is not to love?

Well, the reason I have them, is that my friend, Alison, another inveterate gardener, did not find them to her liking..."tough, too little return for the space and I plant peas to eat peas", she said, "not soup months later!"

I was more than happy to receive the small handful, that was Alison's entire harvest, some 5 years ago! The bi-color, tasty edible flowers and the blue pods fascinate me. The bonus...being an open-pollinated heirloom this pea is easy to grow and fun to save from year to year. I jumped at this opportunity to travel with the blue podded pea for a spell...

Blue pea shoots moving to earth...

Leeks, lovage and sorrel with Blue Pea seed from Ed Hume

Ready to learn more about the flavor and eating qualities of this Pisum sativa cv, I set a cup of peas to soak for cooking into soup. The dried peas are really hard and need an overnight soak to thoroughly soften while cooking. It took a few tries as we were getting acquainted. At first, I did not care for the toughness either. Now, I appreciate how coaxing tenderness out with long soaking really helps.

Lots of food fun in here!

After a visit to a fun French cookbook by Ginette Mathiot on loan from my friend, Johnnie; I headed out with basket in hand. Ginette's recommended leeks, lovage and sorrel are robust in their spring vigor in the dooryard garden and ready to join the peas simmering in the pot with onion...

Let's take a quick look at the herbs growing in the garden close to the house filled with quick and tasty fruits and vegetables and fragrant, colorful flowers.

Tiny leeks ready to plant
Leeks ready for soup!

Leek, in the allium cultivar group Allium ampeloprasum, can be easily grown from seed or you might find seedlings at your local nursery in pots. To plant seedling leeks, cut roots and tops back by half and then plant out in a nurse bed 2" apart in each direction. There, they grow until the size of a fat pencil. Next, transplant out 6-8" apart in their final site, dust with a thin top dressing of compost, water in, mulch and let grow on through fall and winter for spring eating. Leeks are hardy plants and a renowned symbol of the tenacity of the Welsh people, those folks from whence my ancestors came!

Lovage early spring growth
Lovage, Levisticum officinale, a member of the edible branch of the Apiaceae family,  an old-fashioned herb rarely seen in gardens today. Lovage is a reliable, hardy perennial with a flavor reminiscent of celery but more intense. At 6'-8' with interesting, textured foliage, lovage is a structural element for the back of the garden as well as a tasty addition to soups and stews. Lovage leaf, stalk, root and seed have been used in many cuisines throughout North America, Europe and Asia for centuries. While an interesting taste to brighten spring cooking after winter's heavy foods, remember, lovage's aromatic character reminds us to use a light hand in recipes...

Sorrel, Rumex acetosa

Sorrel, Rumex acetosa or her dainty wild cousin, Rumex acetosella carry the refreshing, sour taste raw or cooked to spring meals. An easy, carefree perennial, sorrel is a reliable addition to the table come spring. Fresh and light in flavor, this plant is a steadfast member of the dooryard. The sour taste has a cooling, moistening effect in the body making sorrels tasty, fare for encouraging the spring rhythms of clearing and lightening winter from our bodies as we prepare for the warm, movement filled season ahead!

Sorrel turned out to be the secret ingredient in the adventure of finding a Springing into Blue Podded Pea Soup recipe!

While I'm enjoying this conversation, a goat hoof needs tending. It won't be long, come back and sit a spell for the recipe and the next episode of Springing Into Blue Pea Soup...

Until can read more about peas and, in particular,
Capucijner Blue Podded Peas here...

Make time to go outside and play! If play doesn't cause Spring Fever, then it's a sure cure!!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

2016 Cultivating Hedges and Edges at Jubilee Farm, Carnation, WA

Join farmer, Wendy Haakenson and herbalist, EagleSong Evans Gardener for a day of hands-on learning in the Hedge on a working bio-dynamic farm. The day will include:

  • A walking tour of 3 different actively growing hedges serving to contain livestock, preserve salmon habitat and provide nuts...a broken remnant hedge will also be explored reminding us of a time gone by when hedges were part of many Snoqualmie Valley Farms. With farm host: Wendy Haakenson
  • A slide show of different types of hedges and coppice woods in 4 different countries and their impact in local environments over time taken by EagleSong Gardener on her quest to understand the Gnarly Old Hag Hawthorn...
  • A sampling of Hedge Medicine made with local plants found in hedges and edges
  • A hands-on, experiential opportunity to work with hedging tools while laying a hazel hedge at Jubilee Farm
  • Hot beverages and snacks provided...bring a sack lunch for your enjoyment
  • Tuition: $65.00 for the day
To Register send a $25. non-refundable deposit by check or money order to:

EagleSong Gardener
PO Box 837
Monroe, WA 98272

Be sure to include:

Your name
Email address
Phone number

Have PayPal?
You can make your payment via PayPal by sending funds to:

Questions? Email them to: 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Aronia Berry: A Perfect Fit for Your Kitchen Garden?

Blooming Aronia melanocarpa in RavenCroft's West Hedge

This morning found me and Joy in the west hedge gathering aronia berry. The A. melanocarpa, Viking, has been in the hedge about 15 years now. A prolific bearer and versatile in the kitchen, this berry is a delightful addition for most gardens and would benefit many a hedgerow.

Bioflavinoid rich aronia berries

The purple-black astringent berry is not a snack fruit for out of hand eating. It is best simply processed into juice, syrups, jams, wines and sauces. As an herbalist interested in optimum nourishment, it makes sense to include as many nutrient dense foods in garden and diet as possible and aronia has earned her keep in my garden...

Native to North America, aronia has found world wide acceptance as a food with deeply nourishing properties. Rich in bioflavinoids, aronia has the highest concentration of the antioxidant, anthocyanin, of any fruit, with elderberry running a close second. Improving circulation and strength of blood vessels, the berry may reduce blood pressure with regular consumption. Along with reducing general inflammation and specifically inflammation of the urinary tract adding aronia berry to your diet is a simple, delicious way to improve health.

Fresh harvested aronia berries

As a gardener, I enjoy the tenacity and vigor of the plant itself. Aronias are hardy, unfussy as to soil and will grow in sun and part shade. At RavenCroft the shrub holds a place in the damp, clay soil of the west hedge. Every year, even with wide variances in weather, the 6’ x 6’ bush consistently yields 25-35 pounds of fruit. 

Beautiful spring blossoms, aronia is in the rose family

A deciduous shrub, aronia begins unfurling her year round beauty with the arrival of deep green glossy leaves in spring. Having a leathery texture and somewhat fuzzy appearance, the leaves provide a great backdrop for the beautiful white flowers tinged with pink and  born in clusters on the branches. After the blossoms fade the dense green holds a steady place in the garden or hedge for the summer. Toward late summer the abundant green berries begin turning black. This is a bush that offers color and interest for months on end. 

As fall approaches myriads of deep dark purple black berries literally drip off the limbs. Easy to harvest in their tidy clusters, I picked 15 pounds in just under 30 minutes this morning. It was a fun morning to be gathering the berries, as the annual bike event riders were pedaling by and beyond the hedge I heard a steady stream of “thank-yous’ offered to the police officer guiding traffic around the tight corner...

 IronMan bike race and a stream of Thank-you's bless the harvest

Once the fruit is gone and the weather turns toward its cold and wet wintery self; the leaves turn a vibrant red signalling the dark days scented with wood smoke will soon settle upon the croft. 
Red leaves of fall

With Aronia wine, Aronia-Fennel Oxymel, Aronia syrup and vinegar in the cellar all is well and the weather just keeps life interesting!

See you at market!

If you’re already growing aronia or can find some at your local farmer’s market, give this delicious Aronia Chutney recipe a try and let me know what happens!

Tastes as delicious as the picture looks!

Aronia Chutney

2.5 # aronia berries
2 # apples any variety, chopped
1 onion, diced
3 yellow banan peppers, any variety will work
3 small pilloncillo towers of raw sugar (find at local tienda)
1 cup dark brown sugar, 2 if no pilloncillo is found
1 cup fennel flower vinegar
1.5 oz minced garlic
1 T ceylon cinnamon punded fine in mortar
2 lemons juice and zest
2 oranges juice and zest

Put all ingredients in kettle, bring to boil, simmer until thick. Enjoy fresh for up to one month refrigerated. Freeze or can what won't be eaten for later...Enjoy!

Aronia Fennel Oxymel 
yield 1 gallon 

4# Aronia
4# apple cider vinegar (4 pints)
4# honey (2 qts)
fresh fennel blossoms to taste

Simmer aronia with vinegar until berries pop, crush with a potato masher, let sit until cool, press mixture through a mesh sack, return juice/vinegar to pan, heat with honey and fennel just long enough to dissolve honey. Strain and bottle. Store in cool, dark place.

Tangy oxymels are an easy way to preserve the harvest and can be enjoyed many ways. Enjoy with sparkling water for a thirst quenching, nutrient dense beverage, add to fruit salad to brighten flavor or to a vinagrette for a green salad dressing, enjoy off the spoon or drizzle over pancakes! Have fun imagining more ways to include this nourishing food in your daily diet.  Let us know what you come up with!

Until next time!
Be well, make time to go outside and play...