Wednesday 19 September 2018
Autumn is a-knocking
Windy? It’s blowing a gale, trees are bending and swaying through my bedroom window, leaves are fluttering frantically in the near distance and the tall alders in the upper canopies are bending and swaying with remarkable flexibility.
I am so happy. I feel peace and solitude descend like a warm blanket, wrapped around me, holding me.
The cats have settled in, finally, although ‘princely cat’ still spends the day hiding behind the sofa. By night it’s circus time in my bedroom; they fling themselves from every surface, scrambling up walls, launching from wardrobe to bed, purring, demanding attention.
I awake exhausted.
It’s been 3 years, 1 month and 6 days since my husband died. It’s taken that long to find my way back to the surface.
Finally, suddenly, I can breathe again, without pain and without conscious effort.
I can live and look forward to life without facing loss and fear with every step. Fear is debilitating; grabbing, constricting, like being held in a metal death grip, unyielding and hopeless. I’ve been aware of it’s vice but have had no control over it’s domination over our lives. My daughters have been living in fear and confusion, how can they know that their sore elbow, cough, cold and headache couldn’t end in sudden death? I’ve spent many hours in the waiting rooms of A&E, doctors and walk-in centres, seeing to various ailments, mostly fictitious and small but escalating to alarming heights in their young innocent imaginings.
But, as if out of a long dark tunnel, we have all emerged to view a beautiful new horizon. We are living snugly in a small cottage, occasionally a bit too snugly, still prone to outbursts of anger and frustration as compulsively tidy daughter has to cohabit with most outrageously messy and uncontained big sister. We are sandwiched between rich woodland and a field of cows with mountain views all round and the sea to the west.
We have circumvented fear, and inadvertently found our way to where we need to be. I am in my comfort zone, at last and am ready to explore my creative self and pick up on my plant journey, surrounded by the best teachers, human and natural, to revisit Pure Plant Power and return to my roots, of people, plants and deeply creative self.
The hedgerows are dripping with abundance. Where do I start, Blackberries, Sloe berries, Rosehips, Hawthorne. The Rosehips, Hawthorne and Sloe berries are better after a frost so we have feasted on blackberries, leaving plenty for all other creatures, including ‘happy dog’ who is a top forager and he loves blackberries.
I’ve made a tincture of rosehips and Hawthorne berries. Keen to avoid the sugar saturation of Rosehip syrup, as well as fiddling about with the troublesome little hairs inherent to Rosehips, I thought I’d try a tincture. Rosehips are one of the highest natural sources of vitamin C, and vitamin C is notoriously heat sensitive, so I though I’d experiment with a cold process alcohol extraction of the active ingredients. Heading toward winter, a good stash of this cold season remedy should come in handy for fighting winter colds and as a general tonic. Hawthorne berries are good for the heart, and we could all do with some good heart fortification. Actually a haw is an old name for a berry or the fruit of a plant, and Hawthorne has a tonifying and strengthening effect on the heart. There’s a whole host of medicinal and herbal information attached to these two plants, which I can divulge another time.
For now, suffice to say, I have used an unscientific, traditional method of making tinctures. Firstly pick the haws/berries; I like to graze a few from many different trees and bushes, always ensuring to leave enough for others, especially as they are good winter foods for birds. The active ingredients are more concentrated after a frost, so if possible, pick after the temperatures have dropped. Once the leaves start to change to autumn colours and eventually drop off, all the plants energy is channeled toward the fruit, making this the best time to harvest.
Leave the berries on some newspaper for a day or two, allowing time for mini beasties to find alternative habitation and give them a rinse in water if you feel inclined.
Crush them, cut them and/or bruise them to allow maximum penetration of the alcohol, put them in a clean, sterilized glass jar, and top up with the best vodka you can afford. I used a fine Russian variety, which has a slightly higher alcohol content. And then stand back, admire their beauty and shake them every day, watching the rich reds infuse from berry to liquid.
Watch this space to see the finished product; I’ll get back to you!