At the last festival in September, my arm was twisted to re-start the Springfield Sanctuary Apprenticeship. Eight people applied and we had our first workshop in my kitchen last Saturday. As always, it was great fun and the participants learned about five different barks, then went out into the garden, tasted chickweed and bittercress and dug up two mullein florets to make their own tinctures for straightening spines.
The wonderful thing about herbwifery is its intense
practicality. There are books to read and issues to discuss, but it is all
about getting out, digging and making herbal preparations from whatever it is
you have harvested.
Mullein florets are a perfect example. Their leaves are so
soft and beautifully coloured. It’s no wonder they were used as toilet paper in
ancient times. They also absorb a lot of moisture, so several tea towels were
used to dry them off.
The roots were scrubbed and chopped before being divided
into five parts so everyone could make a mixed root and leaf tincture. It will
be interesting to see what happens because, ordinarily, the leaves precipitate
too much mucilage when alcohol is added, but I suspect these will be fine
because of the amount of water they held which will dilute the vodka to a
I thought I would share one of the tasks I set new apprentices
each month. In January, they are asked to walk around their local area looking
for certain trees/bushes to map – hawthorn, elder, wild cherry and dog rose.
The aim of the exercise is to become aware of your
surroundings. Even in the middle of a city, there will still be plants and
trees growing on the roadside or in the pavement cracks. When I had to walk
through central Sheffield on a regular basis, I found an elder tree growing out
of a derelict building and would monitor its growth cycles for six years.
If you look hard enough there will be fragments of field
hedges and the odd ditch where hazel catkins are starting to wave in the breeze.
Maybe some of you reading this blog might like to map your
locality along with the apprentices. Take pictures of what you find and make
sure you know where the useful plants and trees can be found.
I have put the dates for all the monthly workshops on the relevant page and if anyone would like to join us, you'd be most welcome.