#Elderberry Harvest Time in Western North Carolina #Medicinal #Herb #Permaculture


One really needs to keep a close eye on his elderberry bushes at this time of year. The flowers turn into green and then ripe black berries in a short time.

I’ve now harvested most of my elderberries over the past two weekends. (See photograph to the left.) I could have easily missed the harvest if I didn’t check.

Missing the elderberry harvest would have been disappointing. Last winter, my wife and I used the tincture of elderberry to completely avoid any colds and flu. The elderberry is an amazing medicinal herb. I cannot believe I lived half my life before I discovered the medicinal benefit of elderberries. Nearly free too.

Watch this blog for an update on the progress of my elderberry tincture production.

How I Made My St. John’s Wort Tincture

The St. John’s Wort plant has been medicinal for human beings for thousands of years. I blogged about the mythology of this wonderfully beneficial, friendly perennial plant here.

It is remarkably easy to extract medicinal benefits from herbaceous plants like St. John’s Wort into a tincture.To produce the tincture, all one needs is spirits, a canning bottle or two, and the recently harvested flower blooms. Here are the steps I followed to produce the St. John’s Wort tincture:

  • Fill a jar with recently harvested flowers;

  • Cover the flowers with spirits, such as a 100-proof, flavorless vodka;

  • Depress flowers below the surface of the spirits with a weight (e.g., a small rock);

  • Steep the flowers for about eight weeks. (Agitate the container once per week or so);

  • After eight weeks, strain the vegetable matter from the fluid retaining the spirits (tincture);

  • Store tincture in a dark cool location until needed.

The tincture produced here displayed a bright, sunny quality. The plant itself represents light so this is not surprising. It is a plant designed to lift human spirits.

Tincture of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

We planted the hypericum perforatum about four years ago. It began blooming in the late spring around this time two years ago. 

The plant is named after St. John the Baptist of the Bible. However, it predates him by centuries and was used by the ancient Greeks for treating a variety of maladies, including insanity and venomous bites.

Folklore attributes mystical qualities to the hypericum perforatum plant. It is a positive spiritual force, connected to the sun and light. Christians say the flowers resemble a halo. Pagans say it has the power to ward off evil spirits. Indeed, the Latin name from ancient Greece is derived from something like “away apparition.” Way way back, thousands of years ago, the Romans and Greeks used the plant in spiritual ceremonies.

Modern scientific man questions and is skeptical of the old beliefs of our ancestors, particularly as they relate to the woo woo. But I am not a person who easily discards the wisdom of many generations. Who is to say that we modern people are wiser than our ancestors? In my opinion, we moderns don’t behave much like we have an overly generous quantity of wisdom.

Nevertheless, recent scientific studies have shown that the hypericum perforatum plant is efficacious in treatment of mild depression. Herbalists still use it for treatment of traumatic injury and other health problems. 

With all these things going for the plant, we have been harvesting the yellow flowers this spring and producing a tincture. The process of making a tincture is simple. Just harvest and macerate the flowers and place them into a jar with alcohol for about a month. The alcohol draws out the medicinal qualities of the plant, and stores them in the alcohol until the medicine is needed. 

I love my St. Johns Wort bush. I would like more of these in my garden. I cannot confirm the woo woo qualities of my hypericum perforatum plant. But when I sit down near my St. John’s plant, and look at the pretty yellow flowers growing across the bush, I am happy to be near it. 

Ditching Beer and Loving Wine

Last year I went on an anti-grain and anti-gluten kick. Until then, I was a big pale ale enthusiast. Sadly, beer is loaded with gluten and made from grain. So with a tear in my eye, I kicked it and switched to wine.

After a year, I can say I am feeling great health-wise and am completely happy substituting a nice glass of red wine instead of drinking beer. In fact, I look forward to exploring more delightful varietals. The scope of wine is immense.

On that score, my wife, Katrina, and I both love the Costco Kirkland Russian River Valley pinot noir (pictured above). A bottle sells for $12.99. The wine is a smooth, flavorful delight. It is worth the membership in Costco just to periodically stock up on this wine.

I have long been partial to pinot noir grown in the Russian River Valley region. RRV is located in Sonoma County, California, just north of San Francisco. It is rare that a pinot noir from Russian River Valley disappoints me. I recommend this wine. At $12.99, it comes at a great price point too.

Working on the Mastery of Compost–Also, a Poor Man’s Kettleball Swings

I’ve audited Geoff Lawton‘s online course on soil pores and crumb structure. Geoff joked that he is a master of compost piles. He has worked compost in excess of the required 10,000 hours. I don’t have that many hours . . . yet. I put in 1.5 more this weekend.

I have twelve compost piles. Four piles are finished and ready for the garden this spring. The remaining eight are still cooking. They require human intervention to heat up the decomposition process.

Making a hot compost pile involves finding the proper mixture of air, water, brown material (carbon), and green material (food scraps, manure, etc.). Although animal poop is usually brownish, it is considered a green. Chicken manure has the highest level of green components. Chickens are followed on a sliding poop scale by pigs, horses, cattle, goats, and sheep. The latter animals are ruminants. Their poop is already in process of becoming compost as it ruminates in 3 to 4 stomachs before exiting. Such poop is lower in green content. Therefore, you need more of it with fewer carbons to optimally balance your greens and browns. This is the expertise of a compost artist.

One reason I like building compost piles is because it’s a form of function stacking. Function stacking agrees with me. I see building compost as a way to simultaneously complete at least three tasks:

  1. Eliminating an over-abundance and accumulation of manure in animal pens;

  2. Creating a spring soil supplement for gardens, trees, and bushes; and

  3. Exercise.

I need exercise. I’m considering Tim Ferriss’ kettleball swings. But I haven’t invested in the actual kettleballs. In the meantime, my pitchfork wielded properly for mixing greens and browns into compost piles advances my conditioning regimen.

Soreness. Ahhhhh.