drying lavender

Lavender is deeply soothing, and tremendously functional stuff — not some frilly floral this! Lavender protects against wool moths and many other pests when used in sachets and potpourris in the house. Its properties are profoundly calming, so I make a room spray of its essential oils to gentle down my children when they cannot sleep, and rub it on my own wrists as a sleep remedy. In the garden, it conjures up the pathways of old gardens, with such quiet beauty in subdued greens, greys, and those hot bits of colour. Neither deer nor rabbits will touch the stuff, making it an excellent plant to line our front garden with. Preserving it for practical uses around the house takes very little trouble.

pruning lavender

Ideally, as in, hopefully next year, cut the flowers to dry them when they are just about to bloom. If you’ve missed this moment, as those of us who were busy putting a garden in in late summer (but caught lavender plants finishing, and on sale) there’s still great possibility. Lavender likes to be cut back hard in late summer, early autumn, taking off several inches of foliage along with the finished flower. Pruning lavender smells so glorious, I’m quite fond of it.

drying lavender flowers

Hang the flowers upside-down in a dim, dry place, til it is thoroughly dried out. Snapping dry. I’ve a design for a herb-drying rack in my head, another hopeful for drying lavender and other good things next year.

drying lavender foliage

I had so much lavender foliage, I pulled out my oven racks and leaned them up on a support, and laid it all out on that. After a few days in a dark corner it was all quite dry. I’ll be pulling off the green and using it in sachets in my little studio shop, and tossing anything else in baskets round the house. Oil infusions are another gorgeous possibility.

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p>Oh – do sign up for the postcards to hear when I’ll have open studio & shop days, drop-in crafting nights by the fire, and traditional workshops in the studio.

hair tonics

The other day I read a gorgeous description of using a rosemary infusion to dye fabric. It inspired me to try a recipe in my beloved copy of Sloe Gin and Beeswax, for making a hair rinse in Mid-Winter. For my little brunette child and my little blonde child, I’ve been infusing a pair of herbal hair tonics.

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Rosemary for dark hair, picked from the garden.

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Chamomile for light. I would have preferred whole flowers, but in a few months we can harvest some. Meanwhile organic Royal Chamomile tea is just fine.

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I made an infusion of each by pouring boiling water over the herbs; I covered them and let them infuse for a few hours.

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I’ve halved the recipe: 4 or 5 stems of rosemary, a litre of spring water, 75 ml of apple cider vinegar, and 3 drops of rosemary essential oil. A cup of chamomile flowers and lemon essential oil for the light version. I put the infusion through a strainer, mixed the cider and oils well in;

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Decanted them into bottles and corked them. Rosemary is said to darken hair over time, to stimulate the scalp and roots, and condition the hair. Chamomile is said to enhance highlights in light hair, strengthen it and restore shine. Cider vinegar is known to be excellent for removing excess products, conditioning and restoring ph balance. We’ll use a generous splash of the tonics after washing our hair, no need to rinse.

nettle infusions

Our little one has a cold. I’m pleased to have the rosehip cordial around for her, and some homeopathic pulsatilla, and it’s excellent timing for some very cosy organic cotton pajamas to have shown up in the post for her today. Tomorrow I hope to pick up a whole chicken to make a broth, but for now, I’m making nettle infusions. Luckily our children like them. This is a great way to get vitamins and minerals, and very inexpensive – free if you harvest the nettles yourself. I tend toward the anemic side, so nettles are an excellent herb for me.

We put on heavy gloves in the spring or early autumn to gather the fresh new leaves of the stinging nettle. I lay them out on a tray and pop them in a low oven after we’ve finished baking something else. They dry quickly and lose their sting. Then we crush them into a jar to keep for infusing later. I put a cupful of dry nettles in a jar, and pour a few cups of boiling water over them, cover with glass or ceramic, and leave to infuse at least twelve hours, usually twenty-four. The infusion should be a very dark green. I love how blood-strengthening foods announce themselves with their dark colours.

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Strain and drink it cool, or heat it up on a chilly day like this frosty one we’re having. It’s nice with lemon and a bit of sweetener, we use stevia. I sometimes use a french press for these kinds of infusions. My grandmother used to make nettle soup, and friends make nettle tortellini. Do you use nettles?

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