I haven’t completed January’s apprentice practical task of mapping all the hawthorn, elder trees and wild rose bushes in a one mile radius of my home. I got as far as printing out a one mile radius map, but haven’t yet walked the whole way around it. The area includes a local public woodland, but, surprisingly, it does not seem contain elder, hawthorn or wild rose.
The elder I have found in my locality so far has all been on private land. Mark and I have been making elderflower champagne and elderberry wine and vodka for the past couple of years using the flowers and berries from a patch of elder on the canal where Mark walks in his lunchtime. Mark picked some elder bark for me from this patch, and I made a double infused bruise salve from this. I used the crockpot method from Sarah Head’s booklet “Herbal Oils”. I chose this method because I have used it successfully in making Rose Hip Oil from Rosa rugosa found at Salop Drive Market Garden, although I only made a single infusion oil on that occasion. (The market garden is beyond the one mile radius from home, so I can't count the rose bushes there!)
I heated each batch of bark in British rapeseed oil for around 6 hours on a low heat.
I then added beeswax, which I bought over the Internet, to make the salve.
I have some nice pieces of elder branch left which I will be using to make a bracelet.
I have to put my hands up and say I also haven't yet completed our apprentice theoretical task for January. I am still researching the structure and function of skin using “Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Illness” by Ross and Wilson.
My herbal ally, which I shall be studying in depth over the year, is Violet. There are various members of the Viola family, and I shall be looking at as many of them as possible, but my immediate ally is Viola Odorata, or Sweet Violet. It’s a hardy perennial, and several tiny plants have survived the winter in my garden. I didn’t want to risk damaging them by picking their leaves just yet, so I bought some tea from an organic herb company in Glastonbury. I shall compare this to my own tea later in the year.
In addition to these tasks, as I've been feeling a bit below par, I looked around for ideas for a restorative tea. I decided on herbalist Non Shaw’s suggestion of sage as I had a supply of the dried herb harvested from my garden. I added some of the dehydrated orange peel that fellow apprentice Anne Patterson kindly gave me, and a teaspoon of honey. This made a tasty and reviving brew, and I’ll report back on the longer term effects.
Anne has a lovely blog about her journey to a more sustainable life, which you can check out here http://wwootw.blogspot.co.uk/
On a seperate note, read Nyrees's post below for more on what we are planning for the Network's activities this coming year.