A Shivery November 13…Blustery and Snow

We’re on the edge of getting some snow headed our way, but in the meantime, Michigan weather cannot decide exactly what it wants to do. While on my daily constitutional, the weather flipped from frigid and blustery (but no snow) to sunny and bright with no wind, to finally blustery and snow.  It has kept this up all day…wind-clouds/sun/no wind/snow-wind.

However, when the sun does shine on the woodland path, it was quite magically beautiful, with a pinkish-tan layer of fallen leaves carpeting the ground, with squirrels scampering madly around trying to get the last few Acorns for addition to their nest or to bury (because Of Course it will remember where all of the 100s of nuts it buried are, right?) In any event, the first 1/2 mile was brutal but things started perking along a little after that.

I’m almost done with my November homework for my Herbal Studies Class. No real rest for the wicked as all that does is give me a bit more space to work on December (and I believe I will need it, what with 2 holidays landing in there).

The Vanilla bitters are coming along wonderfully, and the Cherry bitters smell so good. I can’t wait till Thanksgiving (can I hold out that long…maybe?) I need to  bottle some up but still waiting on Amazon to get it in gear and get me my new Kindle and the glassware I ordered.

Almost time to head out for Master Gardener class – we’re getting one of those pale winter sunsets that Michigan is so memorable for – pale pink at the horizon and soft blue deepening into a rich, well, in this case, a stark sterling gray cloud cover. Oh well.

November 11, cloudy, cold and RAIN! ARGH!

My walk today was truncated courtesy of the very inclement weather. Of course once I got out there it was fine but I was decidedly happy to turn back and head into the warm house.

Then off to ferry Miss Daisy to Jo-Ann’s, where I followed her around and wished I’d remembered a book before I purchased some complementing yarn to make a combination hoodie/cowl for the forthcoming winter months. We ended up on the Aisle of Heinous Synthetic Candle Smells – which is as bad as it sounds. Every synthetic ‘aroma’ in the book. I absolutely cannot stand, abhor, despise most of the ‘white’ scents like Jasmine, Gardenia, and so on. In the synthetic version they are, if possible, worse. My sister says she can’t stand the ‘smell of vanilla’, but I think she has smelled enough real vanilla to know that the difference between real vanilla and the fake crap is worlds apart. I have some 8x Vanilla extract and some Vanilla bitters currently macerating and I think I’ll show her the difference at Thanksgiving.

The temperature was dropping by the time we came out so I think snow soon. The Oaks and Norway Maples were all tossing their leaves off with mad abandon in the wind so Autumn is definitely in its middle period. Ground is still soft, though, so any snow we get won’t stick.

Saturday Starting Out

42 and windy – cold, and gray. Typical November weather in Michigan, in other words.

I love looking at the bones of the land at this season. You can see where the water sources run and the full extent of the trees or where the wetlands begin. Our wetlands are completely sere and shades of tan and gold. Most of the wild grasses have been blown over by the grass, disguising the deer trails.

The bittersweet nightshade’s (Solanum dulcamara) berries are really lush and very visible in this landscape, glowing red and looking so lush and tasty. This Eurasia native was introduced to the US and quickly became a weed, so that it is quite common to see along roadways and paths.  The characteristic dark purple bloom and small oval, translucent red fruit are characteristic of this solanaceous plant and differentiate them from our native annual nightshade, that has white flowers and blue-black fruit.  All parts of the plant are moderately to extremely toxic, and that leads me to an interesting ethnobotany supposition.

When tomatoes (also a solanaceous species) were first brought to Europe, they were regarded as an ornamental plant, and people didn’t dare to eat them. The tomato species likely to have been imported to Europe would have been wild, un-improved species with small berry-like fruit and typical star-shaped yellow or white flowers, very similar to the flowers and fruit of the bittersweet and deadly nightshades, which were known toxins.  It makes sense that people in the Old World would think that the edible tomato would have toxic fruit like the nightshades: same family, similar flowers, similar fruit. I don’t recall ever reading anything about why tomatoes weren’t immediately clasped to the cooks’ bosoms and hailed as wonderful new addition to their repertory, but this certainly makes sense to me that they look too much alike.

Nightshades are used for herbal medicines, because they contain many active pharmaceuticals. But avoid eating this plant as it contains solanine, the same toxin found in green potatoes and other members of the nightshade family, as well as a glycoside called dulcamarine.

Hectic Friday, Partially Sunny

It started out very nice, sunny and bright, but the clouds rolled in by noon. Thankfully, by the time I headed out for my 4 miles, the sun was peeking through here and there. I got so completely wet Thursday that I was grateful for the sun. It was a quite brisk 44 degrees with a northerly wind, which blew down a few more leaves here and there. Dad’s carefully raked lawn was covered with Norway Maple leaves, so they are (finally!) coming down.

I have a bunch of cough syrups and immune support recipes to make this weekend: horehound syrup, elderberry syrup and drops, and herbal cough drops with slippery elm – and some lip balm for my sister. It’s exciting that my family members now ask me for herbal remedies (since I haven’t poisoned anyone yet and I have actually helped them with the ailments they’re asking for help with).  I will also need to decant the vanilla bitters and add the next set of ingredients to the cherry bitters. then all done with making bitters for this year. Maybe.

The Michigan Autumn textile collection is coming along. I have photographed all my references and dropped out the backgrounds. Now to figure out what sort of manipulation I want to do with the references and put the collection together. I think it will be very pretty when its all done.

We need more apples. I’m going through those things like water. Apples are so good for you and the Michigan apples just taste so great it’s hard to stop.

November 6th..so cold drear and rainy

A cold, rainy November day – my heavy winter coat actually got soaked through which doesn’t hold out great hope for th ewinter, does it. 40 degrees and blustery.

I scared up a doe in the woods because absolutely no one was out. I’m sure she thought she had a nice warm nest all made up, because she sure didn’t run far.

I actually like the woods in the rainy weather. It’s quiet and uncrowded, and the tree bark becomes dark and mysterious.  The Norway Maples are clinging gamely to their leaves, and our Apples are finally dropping their leaves. I pulled annuals yesterday – oddly they had held up remarkably well to our hard frosts. We just haven’t really had a deep killing freeze yet, so all of the ‘weed species’ are still going crazy.

A Perfect Autumn Day, Nov 2

Some days have that clarion Autumn perfection, with a crisp snap to the air despuite a relatively balmy 50 degrees, and a clarity to the sky that makes you think you can see forever. Mine was enhanced by the sight of a huge pale gibbous moon rising in the east while the sun was sliding towards the west.  Perfect.

The Canadian geese in the area have all congregated in Sharp park, along with a very few mallards and some seagulls.  The pond there seldom freezes solid in Winter because of the aeration pump so the water birds tend to overwinter there, those that don’t head south that is.

The Black Walnut leaf rachises (Rachii?) have fallen so now the Black Walnut trees are totally bare.  A few trees stubbornly hold onto their still colorful leaves – some Oaks with their bronze, red/brown/green leaves, a few very late Sugar Maples, and of course, the Norway Maple.  Our Japanese Maple still has its leaves, but while beautiful and red, they are also completely sere and dead.

The Fox Grapes are completely leafless but the rich little clusters of grapes are just hanging there waiting to be someone’s meal. Fox Grapes make amazing grape jelly. They leave the Concord in the dust as far as sheer flavor goes.  Their juice is extremely acid however and you must wear gloves or you’ll discover the true meaning of the word ‘fruit acid peel’. After about 20 minutes, if you aren’t wearing gloves, your hands will start stinging and burning if you are wringing out the juice.  Easier to use an expression colander.

Walking along, I found a few last leaves that interested me for my new textile collection so I brought them back to the studio and snapped a few pictures.  That’s shaping up to be a nice collection, lots of pretty leaves to use as inspiration.

The Kyphi incense is coming along. The wine/raisin mixture smells heavenly. Hopefully it smells equally great when it’s all done.

First Day of November…Sunny & bright and oh so cold

Gorgeous first day of November, brilliant blue skies, a few golden leaves left on some of the later Sugar and Norway Maples. The wetlands are still green and many small forbes still out there – surprisingly when I checked the front (south-facing) annual beds we still had blooms. Clearly our ‘killing frosts’ haven’t, except the stuff in colder micro-climates.  It was still damned cold, about 37 or so and windy, I wore my polar explorer costume on my daily walk and was still rather chilled. I think I need a big knit hood and a cowl to keep it warm this winter.

I managed to start my Kyphi incense today, the smell of the red wine with the juniper berries was intoxicating, and my new mortar and pestle worked great with the resins.  The wine and raisins will macerate over night and then tomorrow I’ll grind those up and get it started.

I had time to start putting together some teas for friends who have some specific needs, and I finished the tea to improve the sense of smell.  I have a bunch of projects that I need to tackle to get done for Unit 2 of my aromatherapy class, like some syrups and the like.