Every spring I'm reminded how much living in this bio-region makes me feel rich. If you've never lived through an endless, nameless arctic winter, you might never know what it feels like to see trees bud in February, to hear the chorus of frogs at dusk in early March...
Being able to grow greens through the winter, to plant garlic in January, to be wildcrafting in February, sow seeds in March, feels like genuine magic to me. Eating new, light green fir-tips in spring, gathering fresh raspberry leaves, and digging my fingers into the dirt and feeling new roots emerge, while most of my home country is still waiting for the sea-ice to melt, will probably never seize to amaze me.
Lately, the plants have even been coming into my dreams. At night, I visit fields of Chickweed and mountainsides littered with Turkeytail covered logs. In those dreams, I lay down to rest next to them, instead of picking them, to marvel at the abundance. The dream-skies are often overcast, but have a luminosity, the glow of summer skies in California. When I wake up, it's hard to actually tell the difference. I mean, I know I was dreaming, but I also often go out only to discover that there is, in fact, a log erupting with Turkey tails right by our path.
The other day, Charlie pointed it out to me, smiling:
"Didn't you just say you would like some more of these guys? Well here they are." Magic indeed.
For a brief moment, the hundred-year-old plum trees bloom in our yard like fragrant, fluffy white clouds.Overhead, the eagles do aerial acrobatics in the heat of mating. Soon, the lambing season will start, dotting the hills with their own fast running cloud-puffs.
This year, these things are tugging my heart extra hard, because I'll be leaving for a whole month in the next few days, missing so much of this new growth, March magic. Am I excited to go to Finland? Of course I am. But before I actually get there, it's hard not to dwell on all the things I'll miss while I'm there.
Being rooted in a place, having an intimate knowledge of it, can make you feel that way. It's a good feeling, a wonderful one, but it's hard to always be missing something. Just as my hearth aches a little to think of missing the birth of our neighbor's next batch of baby goats, it also often aches for the endless light of the arctic summer, for the snowdrifts like hills, and the crackle of sea ice underfoot at Christmas time.
For a long time now, I have not been a huge fan of flying, of our ever-globalized way of moving around the planet, seeing only the biggest lines, and missing all the small, vital things in the undergrowth.
The best medicine, for this spring-longing, I figured, has been just immersing myself in gathering plants, planting a few seeds in the garden, and making medicine. This week, I happily pulled endless dandelion roots out, in the weak sunlight, picked nettles from my usual spots, and made a flower essence from our ancient plum trees.
I collected all of it into a little shop update, and made bottle, vial, and jar after another for my friend Callie's Apothecary shop she's opening in town (More about that later! Eeeep!).
Often, I like to make specific medicine for myself, at different times of the year, or for different occasions, like trips, Moon phases, or seasons. So, to take a little bit of spring with me, I decided to create and bottle up my favorite spring vinegar: "Dancing Green Woman".
You may remember that my hope for my herbal shoppe, Fireweed & Nettle, is not just to sell products, but to also do my part to keep alive the DIY-spirit of folk herbalism and hedgewithching by sharing recipes, so that instead of buying, you can just make your own, provided that you have the time, and ingredients.
Vinegars are the simplest, most delightful way to add herbs wild and garden-grown to your diet. A few spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar in your morning water will get you a long way. Herbal vinegars aid digestion, the lymph, and create a fertile environment for your body to soak up the nutrients of the plants in a different way. The medium of vinegar extracts minerals, and is a lovely addition of flavor to salad dressings, soups, stir-frys and any other dishes you can imagine. Kitchen medicine is my favorite.
I even have a custom vinegar concoction I like to take for my own specific needs, a little spoonful of flowers and leaves to set me on the right path in the morning.
For a spring vinegar you will need:
1. Apple cider vinegar (there are other vinegars, but ACV is alive with tummy-strengthening bacteria. Make sure you used the kind made with a vinegar mother <3 )
2. and any of these fresh herbs:
Chickweed/ Nettle/ Dandelion blossom, leaf, or root (I actually do a separate "Roots" vinegar, but dandelion roots are fun and vigorous in the spring)/Wild Mustard/ Cleavers/ Purple Dead Nettle/ Selfheal/ any other seasonal green that you know how to correctly identify and that grows in your neighborhood
1/2 in volume of you container, loosely packed. More herbs works too, as long as they can be submerged
3. Organic apple cider vinegar
4. A container
1. Clean your greens and roots well. Soaking overnight works good for me. Make sure to scrub any roots so that all dirt is removed.
2. Chop your ingredients small and put them in the jar. The better you chop, the more active constituents you'll be able to extract into your brew.
3. Cover with the acv. Store in a cool, dark place for about a month. Shake often and well.
4. Strain and enjoy. Keep refrigerated.
Additional thoughts and tips:
1. Make sure to learn identify the plants in your bio-region correctly. Please cross-reference your info, and don't just go by what some instrgrammer, or blogger on a different bio-region does. Use your wits and don't poison yourself, okay?
2. While the plants in this concoction are fresh, many other vinegars and tinctures work better with dried plant material. As a rule of thumb, mostly use dried friends.
3. All these ingredients make a lovely wild tea as well. I like to just bring a thermos of hot water with me and find tea fixings on my walks.
5. This is my version, of a simple, ancient recipe. You can add almost anything to it: calendula, rosehips, and rose petals, burdock root, turmeric root, yellow dock, oh my. I do love this one in this, it's simplest incarnation, but there are so many ways to play <3
Happy Spring, folks in similar regions! And the rest of you, I promise: it's coming <3