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Harvesting Fall Medicine and Ink

art current events DIY fall harvesting making your own ink medicinal herbs other artists seasonal

Hey Folks!

I'm so excited to be writing in the public sphere again. I have enjoyed writing since I was a wee lad and recently realized that there are a lot of things I'd like to talk more about. It seems everyone around me is doing amazing things that should be shared, so here it is - the first of many great things going on around us!

The week before last I went to Taylors Riverside Farm on the Delaware river where I used to live. It's a beautiful organic farm and 140 acre wildlife refuge tucked away unknowingly on the edge of Cinnaminson, NJ. There is a small farm stand there where you can buy delicious fresh produce and walking trails that are open to the public. My friend Jenna lives there and we took a walk together to harvest what's in season now.
If you've never harvested anything from the wild, I would encourage you to do so. It feels like one of the most natural things a human being could ever do (because we've been doing it FOREVER!). It is an old tradition not so prevalent in our present, but there are plenty of herbalists and wild food foragers out there you can spot on the road side, in a field, or in the woods gathering "weeds".
  1. First rule of harvesting: do not over harvest anything. These plants are here yes, to help us, nourish us, feed us, and heal us, but if we take them all then we've got nothing! Never take more than 1/3 of a plant at a time. Invasive plants are more forgiving and will flourish from a hair cut.
  2. My second rule of harvesting: ask permission to take the plant, and offer thanks. Gratitude for an offering the Earth has presented us with is immensely important. It reminds us not to take things for granted and allows us to establish a great relationship with the plants and the Earth. Trust me, they appreciate it.
  3. Also, don't harvest from polluted areas. No one wants gross toxic medicine.
This is Jenna. There are many ways to harvest things - there are traditional harvesting baskets I've found in thrift stores for a few bucks. You can use anything really: a bag, a bucket, a basket, your shirt/skirt, or you can be really creative like Jenna and make a cool harvesting and drying set up like this. She used a retractable window screen (which I love for drying things on), and hung it from 2 scarves that crisscrossed around her body. 
I borrowed this wide, flat basket of hers (and practiced balancing it on my head). The other thing you need is scissors or a good pair of pruners.
What do we harvest now? There is practically something to harvest every week between March-November. Things are starting to go to sleep for the colder season now, but we found some good friends.
This day I gathered: golden rod, evening primrose, plantain, queen anne's lace seeds, and black walnuts.
Truth be told, I didn't actually know these were black walnuts until I picked up a green seed pod and opened it and saw this (and then looked up to see the walnut tree). Black walnuts are really awesome because besides being edible, they have this amazing pigment in their hulls that can be made into ink (and yes, my hands were stained this color for 2 weeks!). My friend Jackie Maloney loves to make her own black walnut ink to use in her art. Jackie and I went to Moore College of Art and Design together and she has been a traveling wonderment of creativity, spreading her art work through the communities in and around Asheville, NC. Jackie also makes herbal medicine and did a series of medicinal herb mandalas in black walnut ink which I was just gaga over! Here is one of them. See the amazing color the walnuts make?!
You can find her beautiful prints for sale right here.
Welcome to fall. Blessed Mabon, everyone! Happy Harvesting.
<3, Brit

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