Saturday, December 27, 2014

Slow Simmered Turkey Bone Broth with Turkey Tail Fungi

As winter unfolds a soft, satisfying path here at RavenCroft Garden we turn to heart and hearth for sustenance. The dried fruits and herbs of summer find their way into delicious dishes, nourishing punches and vital healing infusions…

 Solstice after-glow
Solstice was a festive celebration of the sun's return and a day when a fresh flush of turkey tail fungi revealed their delicately ringed semi-circles with ruffled edges on a pollarded willow. A perfect herb for enriching the turkey bone broth with a boost of winter immune support.

Trametes versicolor, Turkey Tail fungi
Harvested turkey tails

After 22 years the gardens are entering a relaxed wild phase. Much like the phases in our lives, gardens take new shapes and forms over time. Letting in the wild edges and gently cultivating hedges allows for fungi and other wild, shall I dare say "weedy" guests to join the raucous caravan.  As rain pours its heart into new micro-ponds and rivulets find their way to the lower reaches of the orchard, a savory, deeply nourishing soup bubbles on the wood stove. When did you last enjoy the wonderful fragrance of a simmering pot of turkey soup?

Heirloom Turkey Noodle Soup with Garden Fresh Leek and Turkey Tail Fungi

1 Turkey carcass
1 onion chopped
1 carrot chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
1/2 cup turkey tail fungi fresh or dried
1/2 cup white wine (dandelion if you have it, come for a spring class and learn to make your own if you don't!) 
1/4 cup light flavored herbed vinegar 

Break down left over turkey bones and place in kettle which holds the bones and vegetables comfortably and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then turn to simmer and cook for 6-8 hours or overnight. This can be done on a wood stove, in a crock pot or on a stove top.

When done, remove bones, vegetables and turkey tails; save meat and broth.
Fresh garden leeks from sweet earth
1 cup fresh leeks
Sauté in turkey fat, butter or olive oil 
reserved broth, salt and pepper to taste and cook for 1/2 - 1 hour

Winter sustenance from the garden

Add: Cooked egg noodles
Turkey meat
Fresh or frozen greens, optional

Simmer until all ingredients are warm.  Serve with hardy bread and butter and a simple Waldorf Salad made with chopped apples, celery, walnuts and mayonnaise. 

One easy, delicious dish! 

Winter Blessings...

 (Bones go to chickens, then to garden, cats and I share the rest)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Herby Hedgerow Punch for Winter Health

Darkness and festiva are upon us! Music and gaiety, light and colors abound. Friends gather to sing, dance, share food and remember. For what is remembered lives! In this time of darkness, a sweet, earthy scent tickles my nose and I am enveloped in her arms once again. A scent anchored in dark, crumbly forest duff and humus rich soils of the river valleys where I live and which supports the revelry of the season.
Hedgerow Punch on a bed of cedar with Brandied Tart Cherries

Over the last dozen years or so, a distant memory living in hedges has slowly been taking root in my mind and body in delicious detail. This season of sharing, caring and reaching out in darkness has given rise to a new winter beverage here at RavenCroft Garden.

Herby Hedgerow Punch, was inspired by my friend, Blanca. She hails from Puebla, Mexico where they call a winter punch, Ponche. She offered me my first taste of Ponche one New Year's Eve. Ponche is a delicious, fruity warm beverage traditionally made and shared through the winter holiday season in Mexico Central and South America. Ponche can be made with guava, pineapple, fresh sugar cane, apples and oranges and always, tejocote, C. mexicana, a species of Hawthorn. All this prompted me to create a NW version using local fruits and herbs as a winter tonic. 

Anyone who has visited this blog knows the gnarly old hag, Hawthorn, has been one of the main characters showing up through every season. We've learned that there may be up to 2718 species of Crataegus around the globe in the temperate northern latitudes. Everywhere in the world Crataegus grows, people revere this small, hardy tree and use her as food, medicine and more.  In gardens, as street trees, in kitchens and in the wild hedges and edges, hawthorn is at home.

These days I can't go anywhere that hawthorn doesn't jump out from a hedge, city park or trailside to once more impress upon me the richness of diversity, adaptability and down right willingness to share her bounty and beauty in any season.

Crataegus mexicana with a smaller local hawthorn

This week that crafty Crataegus almost lept off the shelf of our local tienda. Betty, the gregarious, bilingual clerk caught me reading the label on the tejocote jar. "You know tejocote?"she asked. "I know many of her friends, cousins, and sisters. I'm just getting acquainted with this hawthorn", I responded. "Are you making ponche?" Betty inquired. "Yes, I am crafting a recipe for ponche!" "Oh, then let me show you the fresh tejocotes in back, people are brewing ponche now, so we have fresh ones, much different than processed!" She was so right. Large, yellow and buttery in their texture, like eating pudding or mayhaws.

And so, C. mexicana, has joined the merry caravan of Hawthorn traveling through this walk in beauty adventure…Here is a recipe for you to play with and enjoy! A little wild, a little store bought and a whole lot of fun to create and serve with your friends this holiday season.
A-boon-dance from hedges and edges

Herby Hedgerow Punch

1 cup dried hawthorn berries and/or
6-9  fruits of C. mexicana fresh or canned, if you have a tienda nearby...
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried wild plums 
1/2 cup rosehips
1/2 cup walnuts or hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 cup burdock, astragalus, elecampane or asparagus root or any other nourishing root you have on hand
1/2 cup reishi or devil's club root bark or any other tonic roots or fungi you have on hand
2-3  4" cinnamon sticks
6-8 oz Piloncillo cones chopped (dried sugar cane juice) You can use honey or other sweetener of choice. No added sweet is OK, too.
5 quarts water

Bring hawthorn, roots and/or fungi and cinnamon sticks to a slow boil in all the water, then turn down heat and simmer 3-4 hours. 
Strain decoction here as hawthorn berry has very hard seeds and fungi are inedible.

Return decoction to pan. Add piloncillo, dried fruits, roots and nuts. Bring to a soft boil, turn down heat and simmer for 1-2 hours. Your recipe can be as simple or extravagant as resources allow. I use the back of a wood stove to brew the punch, a crock pot works as well.

Once the punch is well blended in flavor and the dried fruits are soft, add fresh apples and pears and a small orange or lemon sliced thin…continue to simmer until the fresh fruit is soft but not mushy. 

Serve the brew in cups. For adults, a couple brandied tart cherries and their juice is a festive addition...

Eat the fruit in bowls alone or over yogurt or ice cream for a treat or on your cooked cereal for breakfast! I occasionally run the fruit through a sieve and enjoy the pulpy fruit drink expressed.

As the punch travels through my classes and people taste the fruity punch, a myriad of memories begin to surface…

"Oh, that tastes like the punch my grandma from Russia made when I was little, she called it compote." 

"I remember something like this that my grandmother made with rose hips and fruit" a voice from a friend whose family hails from Sweden concurs.

And yes, now a grandmother myself, amazing recipes are filtering through. With a few mischievous local flourishes they will live on, nourishing, tonifying and bringing cheer through the dark time. Rich and filled with laughter and story these Ponches bring people together in celebration and wonder!

Do you have a favorite winter punch using fruit and herbs to keep you and your family well through the winter months? Let me know if this recipe inspires you to carry it forward with your own flourishes! 
Be sure to bundle up and go outside and play! 
Be well, until next time...

Bright Blessings, my friends, 
may winter nourish the depths of our souls
in times such as these!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Looking Back, Walking Forward...

Welcome New Friends and Long Friends,

I'm headed to the Portland Medicine Plant Gathering this weekend and look forward to the rendezvous with new friends and long friends. It is a blessing to see the continued expansion of the herbal community over the years. One of the pleasures of this longer perspective I'm enjoying.

As 2014 begins weaving her ends together, there is much to celebrate. New gardens, new classes, new Hedge Medicine herbals and best of all the feeling of being home. When the gardens began 22 years ago, I could never have imagined all that would transpire in them! Now, they are "just right" and ready to once again open to the grace and beauty of shared intent. Perhaps, you'll find something here that speaks to you and we'll journey together for a while as the story continues to unfold...

And, 2015 is shaping up to be a great year!
  • Fedges and Podges are coming to the flumdiddley kitchen school
  • A wholly new Live-In Apprenticeship offering, LIA, will unfurl her wings in 2015 
  • A week of stove building with a master craftsman from Holland 
  • A guest presenter with cutting edge Women's Health from Europe
  • A wholly new Healing From the Ground Up Herbal Apprenticeship…awaits intrepid explorers, broader and deeper than in year's past
  • HerbWalks at the sea, in the mountains and along the rivers in our bio-region
  • Women's Moon Circles continue offering a place for women to gather 'round a fire once a month
  • And, twice each year, Wise Woman Labyrinth Infusions provide an experiential connection to women's ancient healing wisdom, earth medicine and the goddess within
  • Field trips and classes in the Snoqualmie Valley at farms, parks and wild places
  • More events, classes and opportunities lie ahead
  • The bi-monthly Walking Seeds Newsletter will be out this December filled with herbal information, recipes, garden tips, seed saving and much more...

Mark Your Calendars!

Pacific Women's Herbal Gathering 
Unleashing the Wisdom of Women and Plants 
September 24th ~ 27th

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Grapes, Vines & Dolmas, Cooling Fare

Do you grow grapes? Have you ever wondered how to make brined grape leaves? Did you know grape leaves have been used in herbal healing for millennia? Come along with me on a little excursion and find out why you might want to grow grapes for food and drink and enjoy the vines as well. Yes, there is the wine which goes without saying. And, then, there are the vines themselves. The twisting, turning entwining nature of their growth habit; their water seeking, mineral loving, deep rootedness. Dancing with them is a full on pleasure for this gardener. Today we're going to explore grape leaves and how to use them in daily life.

Okanagan Riesling grapevine
This season promises exceptional bounty for the Okanagan Riesling growing up and over one of many arbors at RavenCroft Garden. A few years back several arbors rose from the earth here. A phase of three dimensional gardening brought fragrant honeysuckles, grapes and roses to the garden. Plant life lifted from earth, a pleasure to walk beneath and beautiful points of transition from one room of the garden to another, a place to inhale a cool, plant infused breath before walking on. Much as we move from one stage of our life to another or one part of the day to another is augmented by creating a structure for life to move within.

Understanding how the vine grows and, as a gardener, how I can direct its life flow to embrace the essence of grape and create a bountiful harvest of fruit is a study in approach. This season there is such an abundance of fruit, thinning is necessary for grape ripening. Early spring rains and a warm start to summer boosted the fruiting and flowering bushes, trees and shrubs in the Snoqualmie Valley toward abundant yields.

What is so exciting about grapevines and leaves beyond observing their growth habit and patterns? In my experience and the tales of countlesss others, they are a proven platform on which food, drink and medicine dance. On a deep level, food is a strong thread in weaving a healthy life and cultivating health just makes sense. 
Green grapes forming
Grapes hold deep nutrition in their very essence. The leaves are cooling, mineral rich and tasty. They have a sour taste with a hint of bitter. Using taste as a guide, the tonic effect of grape leaves supports clearing congestion, reducing inflammation and clearing heat at the blood level. Grape leaves have been used to assuage fever, inflammations and infections for eons of time in areas where they naturally grow and, today, grapes are found around the globe. When Viking travelers visited this continent they described the land as Vinland, the land of vines, referring to the abundance of wild grapes they found. 

Along with an interesting history, science is investigating some of the constituents that have a dynamic effect on the body. Two of note are anthocyanidins, which tone tissue in veins and capillaries improving circulation, and quercetrin, a flavonoid and structural protein known to reduce inflammation and build a strong collagen matrix throughout the body, necessary for healthy skin and connective tissue. In other words, adding grape leaves to your diet helps hold you together, allows your blood to flow freely and cools excess heat in your body. As with all plants, there are too many constituents to unravel so embracing the practice of using whole plants allows body and plant to find the best way to dance together to support health.

Cool shade under the grape arbor
From a nourishing and tonifying perspective, the benefits are on-going and increase with regular ingestion! As an herbal food with minimal toxicity, you can  enjoy them as you would any other food.

Once blanched and brined, the flavor of the leaves shifts to tangy and bitterness softens. Grape leaves are perfect for wrapping grains, meat and combinations thereof,  to create hand food. I have a penchant for doing all kinds of activities with my hands and eating food is one of my favorite.

Here are two recipes to get you started with grape leaves as a contributing actor in your cast of thousands on your journey in a life filled with optimum nourishment.

Brined Grape Leaves
From vine to brine

If you are not growing a grapevine, walk around your neighborhood and see if anyone in your area has one. Grapes are vigorous growers and when I've been without vines, people have  shared their abundance willingly. By the time the vines have leaves large enough to brine, they are ready for pruning to encourage fruit production. A great way to meet your neighbors!

First, imagine how many grape leaves you will use in a 1 year cycle.  I like to brine at least 5 pints of leaves for later use. I pack the leaves in bundles of 5 with approximately 11 bundles per pint, yielding 275 brined leaves to use throughout the year.

Select leaves the size of your hand or a bit larger. Cut them from the stem right at the juncture of the leaf so no stem is left on the leaf. Little bits of stem cause tears during processing and rolling later.

4 qts water
4 oz kosher salt
100-200 grape leaves
3-4 pint canning jars with sealable lids

1.  Place water and salt in kettle bring to boil then turn to simmer
2.  Stack grape leaves, by size, in piles of 5 (more than 5 are difficult to work with when stuffing)
3.  Set piles in hot brine with a weight to hold under for 30-60 seconds (I use a potato masher as the weight use creative license here)
4.  Remove from hot brine, carefully place in pan with cold water keeping stacks together
5.  Remove from cold water and drain on rack. Next, roll stacks into cigar shaped tubes on a level surface and put into pint jars. The tubes will be too long for the jar so after jar is filled, bend them all over in one direction to fit.
6.  When all jars are filled, bring brine back to boil and pour into each jar to fill. Cap and screw bands on jars. Turn upside down to seal. When cool place in refrigerator or store in cool cellar. 

Fresh leaves, brined rolled leaves and dolmas
Tasty Dolma Recipe

3 c. cooked rice
1 c. cooked ground meat (I used a left over pork chop ground in a hand-crank  meat grinder)
3 T fresh mint, minced
3 T fresh chives, minced
1/3 c. fresh parsley, minced
1 T ground cinnamon
1/3 c. raisins soaked in 1/3 c. orange liquor
1/3 c. almonds, chopped
1 tsp salt
2 lemons, juiced
3/4 c. olive oil

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, add olive oil and lemon juice. Let rest while you drink a cup of refreshing herbal infusion. Then, stuff 1-T mixture onto each grape leaf at leaf junction with leaves vein side up. Tuck sides in and roll toward top of leaf. Place rolled dolmas in glass dish, pour more lemon juice over finished dolmas and refrigerate. Enjoy!

Wines, brines, brandied cherries, kim chi, beets, jams! 
It's summer time and the livn' is easy!
Sign up today! RavenCroft Garden's Out of the Box Food Camp is August 8th and 9th. Verjus, Ode to Joy Vass cheese, Audrey's Fermented Crock Dills and so much more await you. Your curiosity will reach new zeniths in the flumdiddley kitchen school, as EagleSong, folk herbalist and artisan food maker with 4 decades of practice takes you on a journey you'll want to remember!!!

Until next time, go outside and thank the sun, well, for everything! Then, cool off with a feast of dolmas! Enjoy!!!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dancing the Round in the Merry Month of May

An hawthorn hedge in the Snoqualmie Valley, WA

What a luscious May week. Rain and sun, hot and cold, perfect in every way, so reminiscent of maiden energy! Long underwear on one day, barefoot the next! 

This week, I followed blooming hawthorn up and down the Snoqualmie Valley. Seeing the persistence of remnant hedges brings to mind a once thriving agricultural activity that prospered people here. After years of agricultural decline, it is uplifting to see a return of vibrant young farmers and hungry eaters eagerly growing a new world from the ground up. This enthusiasm is a heartfelt match for the bounty and medicine of the many crataegus gowing in our valley. Although the week was filled with rainy days, one fine, sun filled day opened to the possibility of harvest. After morning rounds, I put my kit together and set off for a ramble in the hedge.

Over the years, I’ve found much medicine in visits and tendings of trees, shrubs and perennial wild herbs engaged in my rounds. Over time, I’ve found visiting plants as deeply nourishing, if not more so, as their constituents. These plants are friends, when we see one another after a long spell, there is mutual greeting and sweet remembrance of who we are. Some offer themselves in harvest, others offer solace and comfort just in their presence, some give shape and form, color and fragrance to life which feeds a deep place; a place reflecting the same beauty the plants offer in the practice of a lemniscate life. I’ve come to know this way of plants as the order and flow of an ever changing, growing universe and am reassured through these long term relationships, that, “all is well in this world”.

Local Diversity in Hawthorns
Haw Thorns, Serious!
This week I was amazed by the diversity in the hawthorn trees I met along the way. A wide range of leaf forms from serrate to deeply lobed, resembling mittens or paws. So many different flower clustering habits. And, unique thorn forms from short 1/2” piercing mechanisms to thorns over 1 1/2” in length. Thorns, those sharp, woody spines, modified branches, function mechanically as a deterrent to herbivory, which, I admit, I was wont to do! Even the shapes of hawthorn trees differed greatly. 

Many years ago I read about this in a book by Alan Watts. A sameness enough to recognize the trees as their genus, yet, seeing each tree’s individual difference referred to as li, ‘“the underlying reason and order of nature as reflected in its organic forms.” Zhu Xi, in the Neo-Confucian period in China “held that li, together with qi, or vital material force, depend on each other to create structures of nature and matter”.  It was during this period of history that Buddhism became more integrated into Confucianism. Some now embrace a further philosophical shifting as seen in a westernized version of tao, or watercourse way and recognize patterns of li as patterns of flowing water. I was so moved by the possibility this perspective offered, my youngest son carries the name Li.

What, you ask, does this have to do with hawthorn, medicine, or you? Given the engaging transitions our world is currently experiencing set me on a quest through space and time looking for patterns and morphologies of culture that may currently serve our personal and collective transitions.  

Hawthorn: Keynote Heart Remedy
Crataegus monogyna, Snoqualmie Valley, WA
Hawthorn stands out as a keynote medicine for strengthening heart and is a perfect tonic for the times. Crataegus spp. is a genus comprising some 200-300 species worldwide, being used in many cultures through centuries for a variety of therapeutic purposes. The World Heath Organization, WHO, lists cardiovascular disease as globally the number one cause of death and the American Heart Association cites heart disease as the number one killer of American adults. Personally, my father had 3 open heart surgeries in the last 30 years of his life. I have experienced the toll a troubled heart can have on a family’s well-being in many ways. I’m sure his experience spurred me toward a better understanding of natural health, herbal remedies and spirit healing in matters of the heart. 

We live in challenging times. In keeping with the wise tradition of using hands-on accessible medicine, I am delighted to see so many Hawthorn in our NW region, along with its global distribution and long term use. Various species of hawthorn are found locally on roadsides, in hedges, in public and private gardens and in the wild. You might find Crataegus monogyna, C. oxycantha, C. douglasii, C. laviegata and frisky as these trees are at calling in their allies, i.e. the birds and the bees, the squirrels and the breeze, you’ll find innumerable natural hybrids! Again, perfect medicine for our times and abundantly available.

Rambling with Hawthorn
"Enjoy the day a bit," they intoned.
While on my Hawthorn ramble, I had the good fortune to visit a dignified group of old trees in a remnant hedge. As I began to harvest, they encouraged me to pause and sit a spell. “Enjoy the day a bit”, they intoned! The cool, tall grass was a tad more than slightly damp and smelled fresh and green as I settled in under the trees. I felt tension held in my body give way, melting into earth. Simultaneously, I felt earth energy moving up into the empty space recharging my body with a refreshing vitality. 

So many connections weave a life
The clear blue sky marked with wispy, white clouds made a brilliant, saturated backdrop for the profuse white blossoms adorning the trees. An energetic hum filled my ears as honey bees busily burdened themselves with bluging saddle bags of pollen. A butterfly slowly opened her wings and then just as slowly closed them. A fragrance, somewhere between earthy and heavenly, rich and fertile, filled the air wafting into my nose and settling down into deep consciousness. It is easy to imagine why she is called Mayflower and how it happens that fertility rites are part of this season in the northern hemisphere. Birds flitted and darted around the trees, chasing one another in the reckless abandon of the season. Recharged from my dreamy, restful meander, I picked up the loppers and began the harvest. So many flowers, so few needed to abundantly fill the tea cupboard at home for a winter of nourishing infusions. 

Health Benefits
Knowing each leaf and flower is filled with antioxidants, bioflavonoids, vasorelaxants and vitamins which increase blood flow to the heart and brain, strengthen the contractions of the heart, tone the circulatory system by strengthening cell walls in arteries, normalize blood pressure, improve exercise capacity and duration and reduce the need for the body to create plaque on arteries brings great impetus to get to know this herb well. We are now beginning to recognize the health building value of bee-song, butterfly whispers and myriad unknown constituents that will be released into densely nutritive infusions brewed from the flowers and leaves of the simply amazing hawthorn as well.

Harvest by removing 3’ long pieces of branches with a pair of strong loppers. Remove crossed branches to open the canopy for air flow, ones hanging too low and, generally, use the pruning/harvest to improve the structure and health of the tree. Over time trees improve in vigor and health with careful tending. Heap onto a cloth for transport back to the car. 
Ready for transport
Occasionally, branches are still filled with the hum of a hitchhiking bee, enjoy! At home, flower and leaf clusters are deftly plucked by hand from the short spurs, mind the thorns or they’ll mind you! 

Plucked branches and drying baskets
Then, flowers and leaves are laid out on cloths and in baskets to air dry. Depending on humidity the herb may take from a few days to over a week to completely dry. Dried flowers and leaves are then placed in paper bags, put in the freezer 3-5 days to inhibit unwanted larva lingering in the material from hatching in storage and, finally, store bags in a dark, dry closet or cupboard.

Making Hawthorn Herbal Vinegar
Hawthorn vinegar basking in the sun

1. Fill any size jar with fresh hawthorn flowers and leaves lightly packed, you know, so a fairy jumping in neither bounces out or sinks to the bottom
2. Now, fill the jar again with apple cider vinegar, watch out for decoys labeled as apple cider flavored vinegar, which is distilled vinegar flavored like apple cider vinegar, no apples no health benefits!
3. Enjoy this earthy vinegar in any recipe calling for a sour taste, on salads, as a condiment on beans, greens or grains 
It delivers flavor and a stiff dose of heart health with a side of courage! 
Can You Find a Hawthorn Close to You?
Hawthorn tree alive with honey bees and a butterfly!
Now, go outside, take a look around. What kind of  trees are blooming in your neighborhood right now?  Find the nearest hawthorn to your home. If you miss leaf and flower harvest, watch for the berries, which are botanically pomes, like apples, both being in the grand family of Roses and prepare for another harvest come fall. Please note! A possible side effect of an increasing awareness of plant life around you is a condition known as 55 MPH botany. Bee warned! 

Stay Tuned...
There’s more coming on this delightful hedge medicine ally. More remedies and recipes, folklore, cultural uses, magick and crafts! 

And, if you will, comment with your natural discoveries, rambles and recipes in search of the ubiquitous hawthorn.

Until next time... Be Well, go outside often, enjoy the meander...
A hybrid cross between Hawthorn and Mtn. Ash in the S. hedge at RavenCroft

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Heart's Ease, Viola tricolor

New immigrants to the Eastern dooryard garden
It all started a few weeks ago when the Womb Garden, aka Herb Garden, aka Labyrinth Garden, House Garden, Garden of Many Names, etc. started niggling to get on with the transformation. I wandered through to assess who was still  on board and found at least 50 "herbs" still lingering in the space. More on this later!

Heads held high and colorful, the Heart's Ease, Viola tricolor, decided they would be happiest in the dooryard garden on the east side of the house. Great! It was time to renovate the collection of containers there which I told about back in April's Nature Contained blog entry. A perfect home for the sweet ally, Hearts Ease.

Hearts Ease moved from the well-loved RavenCroft Womb garden before tilling
Heart's Ease, wild pansy, Johnny Jump-Up, Love in Idleness (my favorite) Herbe de la Trinite, well loved and well traveled, this plant. After catching my attention last night whilst enjoying evensong and realizing I was sitting in the very center of Heart's Ease herself, I began to delight in the subtle flavors of each blossom as I nibbled my way through the bright colors. At first, reminding me of toothpaste, a pleasant, sweet almost minty flavor. And then, I noticed the sliminess that developed in my mouth as I chewed each blossom, soothing and calming to the mucous membranes in my mouth and I imagined all the way along their journey through my digestive system.
Heart's Ease dancing with daylily and strawberry
Dissolving, aperient, nourishing, soothing, rich in Vitamin C, these tiny flowers pack a big suitcase of support for all who delight in their company. 

This morning a swift harvest of flowers, immersion in apple cider vinegar and voila Vibrant Purple Viola Vinegar for summer salads, sunburns and general heart soothing action. Cooling, refreshing, pleasantly sweet with a happy fragrance, a delight to the senses. Next harvest syrup, then tincture, then oil, then ??? 

Voila! Vibrant Purple Viola Vinegar

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hawthorn in RavenCroft's East Hedge 
Hawthorn: The

Many species of Hawthorn (Crataegous monogyna, C. oxycantha, C. douglasii) can be found gracing hedgerows in rural farming areas of western Washington. During this merry month of May they are easier to find as they burst into bloom. Remnants of a bygone era, these hardy trees continue to offer fruits, flowers and branches to foragers of all kinds; beckoning us to again include them as a participatory part of the rural and urban scene.

Blooming in early May, the flowers make a delicious, nutritive herbal infusion used for centuries to strengthen and restore heart and improve the function of the circulatory system. Hawthorn’s mild pleasing flavor is delivered in a golden hue that inspires one to remember the lengthening days and bounty of summer. Gladdening the heart many ways!

Hawthorn Herbal Infusion Recipe
Place 1 oz dried Hawthorn leaves and flowers in a 1 qt canning jar
Pour over 1 qt boiling water and cap
Steep 4-8 hours, then enjoy warm or cold
Simply wonderful and you can drink as much as you like. The health value accumulates with regular use over time.

Hawthorn infusion steeping

On the Farm: In the Garden
Hawthorn is an excellent tree to improve habitat, creating homes for diverse insect and bird species. A versatile, contribution for many farmscapes or even urban gardens as a tree of small, compact stature which seems to enjoy heavy pruning, resiliently springing back after each harvest. As herbs again gain popularity for improving health, hawthorn trees will provide a source of income and habitat enhancement for local farms and an easy hands-on nutritive and tonic medicine for urban health enthusiasts.

Early blooming C. monogyna Snoqualmie Valley

Inspiration: Then and Now
Commonly known as Mayflower due to its habit of blooming the first part of May or the festive occasion of May Day, the hawthorn is the perfect tree to remind us how far the farm to table movement has come in the last 20 years. A new generation of farmers and eaters are changing our world bite by bite. The medicine of the Haw offers us a strong heart open to courage, hope and joy; qualities anyone might need to begin a journey into the new territory some call "the future". The Pilgrim’s trusted the Mayflower to bring them safely to their new world. Today, the cellular wisdom of this tree still offers a pathway to a strong, resilient heart carrying us forward in our ever-changing world! 

In the next 20 years, farm and food communities world-wide will bring earth back to our medicine, strengthening the health and restoration of what we value most. Hawthorn is willing to grow with us, how can we grow with her?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dandelion Wine Recipe

I love making country wines with flowers, fruits and even roots. Each one is so straight forward and a delightfully complex ferment at the same time. What a wonderful way to get outside and in the kitchen for some dandy fun!

Brightness Herself

Last Monday, I headed out to the Sno-Valley Tilth farmer's potluck to share food with valley farmers and listen to a talk on native pollinators. Getting to know this valley in so many different aspects.

On the way, I happened upon a bountiful field full of the harbingers of spring and realized there was just enough time to pick a basketful of flowers and get to the potluck. 

Dandelions, the sun come to earth…have you noticed how they hide their faces when the sun goes behind a cloud or begins its descent into the western horizon? I delight in the way the fine rayed petals (each a separate flower in a community of many) shine the light right back up at that golden sky orb…

Oregon Grape flowers, delicious and tangy

My mom was a knitter, always kept her hands busy when she went to meetings. I fell in with the roots and barks and flowers and keep these hands busy moving plants along in their journeys through time and place.

It never ceases to amaze me that when a woman sits down with a basket of herbs and starts doing something with them, any other women in the near vicinity mozey over and wonder what she's doing! Before you know it everyone is plucking and visiting and having a good time. And so, the basket of flowers became a basket of petals in no time at all.

A basket full of sunshine
Of course, that's what I love about country wines, they're a social thing. Like eating and dancing!

Here's the recipe for one gallon of Dandelion Wine for all to enjoy…

Dandelion Wine Recipe April 2014
Pick a basketful of dandelion blossoms. About 1 gallon for a gallon of wine. 

Pick petals from the calyx…this is the second picking! This year the Oregon Grape was blooming, so 2 big handfuls of their flowers went in and the Lungwort was not to be left out so a handful of lungwort was added as well. Sometimes, cowslips are abloom when the wine is coming together and they go in too!

Be daring, mix it up a little, see what happens! 

I like making one gallon of 3-4 different wines each summer. This quantity is easy to put down in an afternoon. Uncorking sunny flowers and fruits, vitamins and minerals in dark and rainy times sparks winter cheer.

Raw materials
  • Place petals into a stainless steel pan
  • Add 3/4 gallon boiling water  
  • Add 2 1/2 # sugar or honey, your choice
  • Stir to dissolve
  • Slice 1 organic orange and 1 organic grapefruit into thin slices toss them in the kettle
  • Stir and cover with a cotton dish towel
  • Cool down to blood heat
  • While the brew cools mix 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon yeast into warm water with a double pinch of sugar or small spoon of honey to make a nucleus, this quickens the yeast so it hits the tea ready to work on the sugars sparking an eager ferment
  • Pitch the yeast into the tea mix and cover again with the cotton dish towel
Pitching the yeast!
  • Now, the primary fermentation takes place, let the kettle bubble and spark until it settles down into a quiet state
  • Boil 32 ounces water with 16 oz sugar, remove from heat and add 2 black teabags, let cool
  • Strain out all plant material and rebottle liquid into a 1 gallon glass jug (apple cider jug)
  • Add as much of the simple tea syrup as needed to bring liquid to the shoulder of the jug, don't fill too full, ferment will be active to start
  • Close top with a fermentation lock or a balloon and watch the secondary fermentation begin
  • Let the ferment go until it stops, make sure the wine is in a place that stays the temperature that will allow a yeasted dough to rise
  • Once fermentation has ceased the wine is ready to bottle
The wine can be bottled once the sediment has settled and cleared to your liking. I often leave mine until the first freeze of fall. Something mysterious happens about this time which helps clear the wine a wee bit more.

A delicious finish to enjoy and share with friends!


This is just the tip of the iceberg…want more great ways to include Dandelion's wealth of health giving properties into your life? Her leaves and roots are nature's storehouse of nutrients and how she works in your garden will blow you away!

Be sure to check out this summer's classes, Rambles Around the Salish Sea and events on the 2016 Schedule...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Nature Contained?

Well, of course, nature is far too expansive to contain and, then, with a modern physics perspective, reminiscent of grandmother wisdom, one container holds many universes! Much time spent pondering these thoughts!

Womb Garden 2004

In the mean time, we garden. Actively engaged in growing from the heart, at RavenCroft a beautiful garden called by many names Womb Garden, Spiral Garden, Herb Garden continues to evoke life in her many forms. She is the heart of RavenCroft Garden and she is undergoing a radical metamorphosis this summer.

Womb Garden transforming

Working as nature's hands and feet, I follow her direction. The sun has pulled enough moisture from earth to begin the last tilling of the Womb Garden. When RavenCroft began 22 years ago this site was the recipient of 20 yards of manure from the dairy down the road. She has been a spiral garden, a teaching herb garden with over 240 different types of plants called herbs by some and she has lived her own quiet, beautiful way for the last several years not being required to "be" or "do" anything other than enjoy a sweet spot on earth filled with dance and song and the beauty of emergence…

Womb Garden on her way to a Labyrinth 2014

This a wee tangent, "a wild and wondrous journey through time and space and back again"…May you find something in this recipe to nourish your life and garden.

imagination, creation, wonder, may we enjoy the tangents

Since the soil was dry enough for the last tilling, a cascade of events began. Plants were moving to hedges and edges, where they will continue their "work" in free form style. Then, the collection of pots near the east dooryard started rattling and calling they wanted to be part of the "new" wave of activity…Okay, let's start here with pot renewal.

Motherwort to the South Hedge

empty space

Contained soil was emptied into a wheel barrow and mixed well with aged manure, decaying leaves, lime, worm castings and a handful of organic fertilizer. Then, of a sudden, a calling from behind the barn was heard and it turned out a small forgotten pile of firewood wanted to join the contained party.

Recomposition + dinner

Slow burning sponges

Heaven only knows it was well along in the cool fire of decomposing, or perhaps re-composing, if you will, and the slow burn of this material transforms to a perfect sponge in the bottom of each pot. And, there was a luscious stand of nettle wrapped around the pile helping it along in its transformation to earth. Voila, dinner!

 Containers revived and ready for plants

Violas, St. Joanswort, marshmallow, hairy bitter cress, lemon balm, feverfew, elecampane, roadside daisy, motherwort all clambering and rejoicing as they moved from the Womb Garden to the east dooryard garden. Delighted to be once again of service, greeting the sun each morning and reassuring the world that she is remembered.

Violas and lemon balm
Motherwort, St. Joanswort, violas, marshmallow

May your garden be fruitful and filled with life!