My Basket’s in Storage (or “What’s an Herbalist to do in Winter?”)

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Yes, it’s true.  My herb drying basket is in storage for the winter, as are my pruning shears, my really cool Mexican weave over-the-shoulder wildcrafting bag, my hiking shoes, and the beloved dehydrator.  We’ve been in a deep freeze for weeks up here in the North, and there’s no January thaw in sight.  So what’s a forest-stomping wildcrafting herbalist to do?  Sit?  Twiddle her thumbs?  Sip chamomile?  Okay, I’ve done that – while staring out the window at the unforgiving white stuff.  But there’s preparations aplenty.  If you plan on getting onboard with some at-home herbalism this year, there are several things you can do to prepare for spring which will certainly arrive!

1.  Start collecting supplies – save all those rubber bands, twisties, and glass jars.  They’re perfect for bundling herbs to dry, and for storing them once they’re ready.

2.  Study Up – Check for websites that feature local plants and get to know them and when they’ll appear come spring and summer.  It’ll make walks in the woods an adventure.  Show your kids too so they can participate.

3.  Find a Field Guide – Get a good field guide for your area and get to know the book well.  It’ll make it easier to reference when you come across a plant you don’t know.  I recommend Peterson Field Guides.

4.  Bevvy of Baskets – Start collecting unwanted baskets from friends and relatives.  These are great for collecting and drying herbs.  I use a double pie basket myself, lined with an old fitted cradle sheet.  I’ve discovered many people have baskets taking up space in basements and attics.  You’ll be doing each other a favor by taking them off their hands!

5. Start a Family Herb Remedy Journal – For generations, it was common for families to have their own journals filled with family remedies.  Women would make notes, write out recipes, and pass down the books to the next generation who in turn would add their notes and recipes.  You can start your own, collecting ideas as a family of  things you’d like to try when the herbs of spring and summer arrive.

6.  Go to Herb School! Really want to “dig in” and learn?  Start a distance learning program and get a few months of learning under your belt before spring.  While most courses will take a lot more time than just a few months, there are some more basic courses available, and many communities offer evening classes that last for just a few weeks.  (Check your local Parks & Recreation department.)  For an in-depth look, try the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine.  That’s what I’m taking, and I couldn’t be happier with what I’m learning.

7.  Keep reading dkM!  I’ll be covering some of the above ideas in more detail, and I’m always posting natural and herbal remedies, so stick around.  We’ll get through the cold of winter together, and come spring we’ll be ready to go herbal!

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