by Jess Bosscha
Staying in touch with the seasons…Winter musings from my garden and apothecary.
As we farewell winter, I’m sitting with a nourishing and grounding blend of Withania, Dandelion and Ginger, sweetened with a drizzle of local honey from just down the road at Yamba. The chooks are scratching in the garden and I’ve just picked a big basket of golden Calendula blooms ready for drying for another batch of my healing Calendula Balm. (A little bee has found my basket and is madly buzzing from bloom to bloom, gathering pollen on her heavy back legs).
My Calendula (Calendula officinalis) has been blooming madly for months now and is just starting to get a little leggy and reaching the end of her season. If you’ve never seen the flowers of a Calendula, picture a golden sun-like bloom in varying colours from pale yellow to deep orange. I’ve been able to increase the yield of these beautiful plants by picking flowers daily in the morning sun, to encourage more growth. I’ve also staggered my plantings this year and have a second patch that is a little behind the first, which I’m hoping will extend the season even further.
Once harvested, the blooms are left to dry on my sunny windowsill (sometimes they need to be finished off in the dehydrator at the lowest setting to prevent mould in our sub tropical climate) and then are infused in a blend of olive and apricot kernel oil for at least 4 full moons, before being blended with beeswax to create my signature Calendula balm. I poured my first batch using local beeswax from The Raw Bee Co, earlier this month and it felt so good to inject more local goodness into my product- bioregional herbalism at its finest.
I’ve found Calendula balm, to be such a lovely way to start my medicine making journey. Folks have loved this potent homemade plant medicine, because it’s such a cure all for all sorts of skin ailments, including:
healing minor wounds and scratches
soothing bites and stings
nourishing chapped lips and dry skin
healing and soothing eczema and dermatitis
soothing bubba’s nappy rash
preventing infection in slow healing wounds
If you’re new to medicine making, Calendula balm (or any balm really) is a lovely easy and rewarding place to start. Start with infusing your dried plant matter (and you need it to be very dry- I’ve lost many batches to mould and it’s still devastating) in a carrier oil. Once your oil is infused, it’s as simple as combining the infused oil with some beeswax over a double boiler on the stove and pouring into pots to set- I usually use the ratio of 1 cup of infused oil to 1 ounce of beeswax.
This year, I’ve been working on reducing waste by using leftover oil-soaked Calendula blooms blended with sea salt to make the most luscious salt scrub. I’ve also enjoyed experimenting with Calendula lotion bars- adding a little shea butter to the oil and beeswax mix and pouring into moulds. These are lovely for the cracked heels and rough hands and fingers that often beset us in the cooler months.
Alongside deepening my relationship with beautiful Calendula during the cooler months, some other seasonal musings include:
Star gazing before bed…the stars have been so bright on the clear winter’s nights. The kids and I love to step outside rugged up in PJ’s and dressing gowns and just look up…the recent super moon stopped us in our tracks.
Sourdough’s been on high rotation- I find it so much easier to manage fermentation during the cooler weather and we tend to crave bread alongside all the delicious seasonal soups and stews which have we all enjoy over the winter season.
Batches of kraut laid down with seasonal red and white cabbages, apple and fennel, with a sprinkle of caraway. The season for brassicas is short here in the Northern Rivers, so I find myself fermenting madly while the cabbages and fennel are fresh at the local farmers market, leaving us with a bounty for the warmer months.
Using up seasonal citrus in immune boosting gummies with elderberry syrup. We’ve been lucky enough to nab bags and bags and bags of sweet juicy mandarins from the local markets and from neighbours.
Harvesting armfuls of Chickweed from our garden (sharing some with the chooks, their favourite treat)- we’re just coming to the end of its bounty, but I’ve laid down a fresh plant tincture and have made many batches of Chickweed pesto, yum!
And just recently, noticing small hints of the warmer weather…buds on my Jasmine, fluffy baby Mulberries and new growth on our Mulberry tree; Plantain flowering on my morning walk…
I love how staying in touch with seasons helps us to slow down, connect more easily with nature and develop a deeper relationship with the plants…