This week involved a lot of transplanting into the fields, deep hand weeding in the high tunnels, and harvesting hawthorn blossoms for medicine. I have also been researching in depth about seasonal medicinal herbs that are prolific in growth and considered pests on the farm.
Since the weather was so dry and sunny we continued to mix and apply soil amendments to the rest of the fields so they could be tilled in and prepped for crops. With the beds we shaped the week before, the youth and the interns worked together to plant three full beds of onions. We have multiple varieties some of which are sweet and some on the spicy side. The youth also pounded T-posts into the ground and built a metal trellis for cucumbers. The farm interns and I learned how to set up the overhead watering system and we have been using it for multiple areas to establish transplants. Once the remaining soil amendments were tilled in we shaped more beds; however, there are many more to build once the ground is dry again.
During the week GRuB hosted a program offered as The Institute. This program’s focus is to teach people how GRuB runs their education program. The farm interns had the opportunity to sit in on their workshop involving GRuB’s straight talk model. They are trying to lean away from the term straight talk, since it has some homophobia implications, and are now calling it Pros and Grows.
There has also been time set aside for hand weeding daily. I spoke with Heather, my field supervisor, and asked about other techniques that could be more time efficient. Some potential options are the stale bed method, solar mulch, and flame weeding. Heather’s opinion was that allowing a bed’s weeds to germinate before planting anything can only be effective when there isn’t so much rainfall. To scuffle a bed that has millions of baby weeds that have just surfaced can only kill them if it is hot and dry out. Otherwise the weeds have the potential to grow back or shuffling the soil will germinate other seeds that are dormant beneath the surface. Solar mulch is too expensive for the budget and so we are flame weeding some beds soon. A lot of volunteers help out at GRuB as well, so hand weeding can provide tasks for many people who want to work.
My time spent with The Red Thread Apothecary was mainly focused on the Hawthorn Blossom. This magical flower contains bioflavonoids, antioxidants, and helps with heart function. This is because Hawthorn is a vasodilator which means it opens up the veins and arteries for better blood circulation. This can help strengthen heart muscles and provide more oxygen to the body. It has also been known to help with asthma and breathing troubles stemming from anxiety. When the blossoms turn into berries at the end of fall they can also be harvested for the same purposes. We made an apple cider vinegar infusion with the blossoms and leaves. We also harvested cleavers, raspberry sprouts, sorrel leaves, lemon balm, nettle, and mint for a spring oxymel recipe. An oxymel is an herbal infusion with honey and apple cider vinegar. The main healing qualities of our spring oxymel contains uplifting, blood and lymph cleansing, and allergy relief.
Most spring herbs, which are now in full season, contain many of these cleansing and tonifying qualities. Dandelion, thistle, sorrel, raspberry leaves, nettles, cleavers, and hawthorn all compliment each other when consumed. They help the digestive system get balanced from harsh winter diets, they create sweat which cools the body and calms the mind, and they support our immune systems for spring allergies and having a breath of fresh air.