A long, long time ago I experimented with herbalism. It was 1998. Michael and I were newlyweds, living in our first apartment. One day he had a surprise for me - in a corner of our rented lot - he transformed a vacant patch of disused soil into a beautiful garden, complete with a wagon wheel-shaped herb garden.
Our little second floor apartment was filled with potted herbs, many of which I would learn were not successful as potted plants. For many winter months I had been reading about herbs and herb gardening and dreaming of one day having my own patch. Soon, the small porch that led into our apartment was filled with potted plants...and, the window box Michael built for me was also filled. Eventually the garden was brimming with color - a traditional cottage garden.
As I lost my sun-loving Mediterranean herbs as indoor potted plants, I gained plenty of healthy herbs outside. Even my African pygmy hedgehog enjoyed trundling along the brick paths that made up my wagon wheel-shaped border. I was eager to dip my hands into the healing waters of herbalism. As the holiday season neared I imagined all manner of herbal gift-giving: food, healing balms, sachets. I failed miserably!
The first herbal concoction I ever created was a lavender-oatmeal facial scrub. I followed all of the directions in my chosen book but failed (I am guessing) to research proper storage. When the day came for me to open my lavender-oatmeal scrub my innocent olfactory senses were assaulted by the pungent smell of...mold. A most hideous blue-black mold.
I swore off herbalism for a very long time. In 2008 I attempted it again...inspired by so many of my friends who made it look so easy. I made an oil infusion; an utterly useless one. I created a lovely infusion of French marigold flowers rather than the medicinally-used, pot-marigold (Calendula). As herbalists go...I was a failure. I had steeped non-medicinal annual border flowers in olive oil.
Well, since I like to experiment with herbalism every ten years it seems...I am at it again! I've made a dandelion tincture - successfully - and I am taking baby steps toward other concoctions. Having a small number of St. John's Wort blooms on hand (I know, I am late harvesting them...by about a month...don't judge) I am currently making a trial-size infusion on my windowsill. If it is a success I will use it on bumps and bruises...or, if I conjure enough, make it into a salve! ♥
Jessica Allen explores the fields and forests of Pennsylvania with her artist-husband, Michael Allen, and their son, Benjamin. She shares her observations through words and pictures of everyday magic and beauty she sees in her world.