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Through the Year
One day in the last week or so, I noticed, or more accurately, felt, a change in the air. It was a hint of fall weather, just a whisper, really, but it was there. The garden is growing and an abundant harvest is at hand. The cucumbers, beans and summer squash are numerous, and the tomatoes are starting to come in. the small crop of ornamental wheat I'm growing is showing its amber waves, and I am reminded of the passing of the year.
This year, the International Herb Association's Annual Meeting and Conference was held in Corning, NY. A mere six hour drive for me - for a change. This year's conference was, as usual, exciting, informative and most of all, fun. The conference started with a tour on Friday, and we began the day at Finger Lakes Distillery. This small distillery produces vodka, gin, grappa and liqueurs - all from grapes. They try to use as many local suppliers as possible, too. The tour of the distillery took us by vats of bubbling mash that gave off the warm, yeasty smell of fermentation.
Both for exercise and mental health, I have been walking faithfully in the woods near my home, almost every day. Perhaps it is because I went to Nature Training School as a child, but I want to know the names of all the plants I encounter as I traipse through the forest. Many names I know, from that long ago training, and I learn more each time I walk and notice a plant I hadn't really "seen" before. Upon returning home, I look to my various resources to try and identify the newest plants that have captured my attention.
Early May found me in Austin, Texas at the Annual Meeting and Educational Conference for The Herb Society of America. I had planned to write on May Baskets for this month's blog, but since it is now the middle of the month, I thought I would share some of the highlights of my trip.
April is a month of new beginnings, when spring generally arrives (for real) and when lots of people start to plant their gardens. April is also the month when Arbor Day is celebrated, and is a good time to consider planting trees for future generations.
March is often a curious month, with changes in weather and days of sun and rain. Our unusual winter is holding true as we march into spring. red-winged blackbirds arrived at the feeders the third week in February, and the spring peepers started their chorus the earliest I have ever heard them - March 13.
Perhpas we have not seen the last of winter here in Massachusetts, but the days are growing longer. Last year at this time, we had over 80" of snow. The lack of snow cover this year is startling to any gardener, who prefers that a nice blanket of snow covers all important perennials and protects them from drying winds. It also provides a good measure of moisture, seeping into the ground at the first thaw. We are now experiencing signs of spring, besides the almost freakish warm temperatures.
"And ye, who have met with Adversity's blast,
And been bow'd to the earth by its fury;
To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently pass'd
Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury -
Still, fill to the Future! and join in our chime,
The regrets of remembrance to cozen,
And having obtained a New Trial of Time,
Shout in hopes of a kindlier dozen'"
"The trees are bare, wild flies the snow,
Hearths are glowing, hearts are merry -
High in the air is the Mistletoe,
Over the door is the Holly Berry.
Never have care how the winds may blow,
Never confess the revel grows weary -
Yule is the time of the Mistletoe,
Yule is the time of the Holly Berry."
William Stanley Braithwaite
"I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its tone is mellower, its colors are richer, and it is tinged with a little sorrow, Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor the power of summer, but the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and its content."