Showing posts with label jobs for January. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jobs for January. Show all posts

26 Jan 2022

Herbs, the Wolf Moon, and the first snowdrop

Last week, at half past four in the afternoon, I realised that it was still daylight ... and I spotted my first snowdrop. Now that doesn’t seem much to get excited about does it,  but daylight has lengthened by almost a full hour since new year; spring is on its way.  

Little flower, huge significance

In the past week, clear night skies have settled a good crusting of frost on rooftops, plants in the garden have gently iced over and I’ve seen a bright full moon in the dawn sky. That was the start of the waning as the moon gradually reflects less of the sun’s light ... the phase when it’s allegedly beneficial to start off crops that grow below ground. That’ll be the garlic then. 

These days most people pay little attention to the moon unless its something really spectacular but, in folk lore, each monthly cycle is named to reflect what’s happening in nature. The January moon is known as the Wolf Moon as this is the month when wolves would call to each other by, literally, howling at the moon. (The upward trajectory allows their voices to travel over greater distances. Fascinating.) While the name is wildly romantic, I’d guess it’s less relevant in the UK today but other Celtic and Old English names for January include Stay Home Moon and Quiet Moon. Given that the Covid pandemic rumbles on, that’s definitely a moon for these times.

I’ve been thinking a lot about herbs this week, mainly because of Alys Fowler; I’m reading her book, A Modern Herbal. I’ve already got several books on the subject, mostly for reference rather than a good read.  But Alys’s book is that good read - quite the page turner for a herb geek like me. It’s made me rethink some of the herbs that I’ve grown in the past and got rid of or moved - lovage, for one. I might have to reinstate my thuggish Lovage plant back into the herb garden ... when I can find it, which will be when it starts growing again.

Lovage is an enormous plant so I relegated it to a spot behind the fruit trees a few years ago where it’s no longer in the way but usefully ornamental. Which also means that I can’t easily reach it.  I’ve now read what a useful herb it can be. It’s supposed to be helpful for digestive problems (including, ahem, wind) as well as gout, arthritis and kidney stones. Luckily, I don’t need it for those reasons. But, on a brighter note, the stems and leaves make a great addition to a Bloody Mary cocktail. Good to know.

As Alys says, ‘it’s the giant cousin of parsley and celery’ ... giant being the operative word here! I used to use a few leaves to flavour soups, stews and stocks but the smell would linger for hours. Not bad if you like the smell of celery spiced with cumin but a bit much when it dominates for the rest of the day! 

Woundwort, as she shall henceforth be known.

Another novelty inspired by the book was to discover how useful my Ajuga reptans can be. She’s been left alone to quietly colonise a patch between the cherry and plum trees for several years for the sole purpose of reducing weeds. But now her hidden qualities have come to light; apparently she not only excels as ground cover but, made into a poultice, will speed up healing of surface cuts and grazes! Very, very useful as I’m forever scraping my arms in the garden. Ajuga’s folk name is, aptly, woundwort. Obviously I need to be nicer to her (them? for she has been very prolific) and will move a few of her offspring into the herb garden. This is easily done as Ajuga spreads by putting out runners (like strawberries) that will root into any damp spot.

So, this week I’ll be ...

  • planting garlic
  • cutting down last year’s autumn fruiting raspberry canes
  • clearing the last of the leeks
  • starting a new Ajuga/woundwort patch
  • ... and watching the hellebores flowering. 

Spring is on its way ...

Stay warm, stay safe x 
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