Making Hay While the Sun Shines

1 Jul 2019 | 0 comments

As midsummer approached, our hay meadows were rich with diverse grasses and wildflowers.

The Sweet Vernal grass has been casting its vanilla-almond scent across the fields in the evening air since the spring.

After lambing at the end of May, we moved our Gotland flock out of their usual field to allow the grass to grow for hay. This is beneficial for the sheep too; they leave the ground where they have spent the winter for fresh pasture, where there is a lower worm load in the soil, protecting the more susceptible lambs.

The grass grows quickly with the sun’s energy and, mercifully, this June’s rain. Last year, the hay harvest was very low after the hot, dry spring and summer. We will cut the hay in July, after the grass and wildflowers have set their seed for next year. After a couple of days drying in the sun, it will be baled up and stored in the barn, ready to provide extra energy to our overwintering lambs and pregnant ewes come the winter, when the grass barely grows and has lower nutritional value in the short, cold days.

As we open up the bales after hefting them over the muddy fields, the hot scent of the Sweet Vernal grass will be released once more, reminding us of those heady days of summer and providing us, as well as the sheep, with energy to see us through the distant, dark days of winter.

Mariel looks after Romy’s flock of Gotland sheep, with the help and advice of Jake Hancock, our grazier. A background in ecology and conservation means that promoting biodiversity is high on her agenda. 

Summer Inspiration

1 Jul 2019 | 0 comments

Over the last few weeks, I've rejoined the team at Trill Farm and have been helping to prepare for upcoming courses.

I used to do this when I lived at the nearby Monkton Wyld Community. My favourite part remains picking the seasonal flowers to beautify the guest spaces and bring a little of what nature provides indoors.

My first experiences of Trill Farm were a few years ago, volunteering in the Herb Gardens. It was April, with regular showers even though it was warming up. The blossoms were opening and the wildlife was beginning to buzz. By the time June came around, harvesting flowers and herbs was as regular as the wet days had been in spring.

Just as then, the elderflower are now aplenty and ready for picking. In order to enjoy them a little longer, they can be dried for use as tea or made into elderflower cordial to enjoy throughout the summer months. Typically made with lemon juice, elderflower cordial reminds me of the glorious sunshine that we enjoy more and more as we approach midsummer.

If, like me, you enjoy a bit of food history, you might choose to look at Dorothy Hartley's 1954 work, 'Food in England', when searching for a traditional English recipe to follow. Her perspective on the kitchen being a 'warm friendly place, where one can come in any time and have a chat with the cook' is endearing.

Ms. Hartley's suggested use for elderflower is all about the flavour that the delicate lace imparts to food. One idea she writes about is to 'draw a bunch of flowers through any fine jam just before bottling it to scent it deliciously'. I love that there aren't any formal measurements; intuition and your senses were to be your guide.

Nature is full of inspiration. Hopefully you will find some in the great outdoors this summer whether you're picking flowers for the cook or the windowsill.

Mary works one day a week, preparing our course schedule for this year and next.

Interested in volunteering in the Herb Garden? Email post@trillfarm.co.uk

Yarrow Achillea Millefolium

1 Jul 2019 | 0 comments

Yarrow: Achillea millefolium 

Other Names: Carpenter’s weed, soldier’s woundwort, thousand weed, milfoil, herbe militaire, nose bleed, bloodwort, bad man’s plaything, staunchweed, noble yarrow, old man’s pepper, green arrow.

Family: Asteraceae/Compositae

Parts Used: Aerial parts

Taste: Bitter, pungent, astringent

Yarrow is an attractive perennial member of the Compositae family, cousin to dandelion and daisy, with numerous feathery aromatic leaves hence its Latin name millefolium, meaning a thousand leaves. It can be found all over the globe growing wild in hedgerows, lanes and meadows, on light sandy soils with minute white or pink flowers and is quite drought resistant. Because its superficial roots are extensive, they bind loose soil together preventing it from being eroded. 

Yarrow’s astringent effect is felt throughout the body, staunching bleeding from the nose, the digestive system and the uterus. It regulates the menstrual cycle, stems heavy menstrual bleeding and acts as a tonic to the nervous system. It helps clear toxins, heat and congestion by aiding elimination via the skin and the kidneys through its diuretic effect.

Yarrow is excellent internally and externally for stopping bleeding. It can be used for fevers, skin problems, eruptive infections, tonsillitis, allergies, colds and catarrh. With its bitter and astringent tastes, yarrow cools heat and inflammation; it soothes inflammatory gut problems, peptic ulcers, liver problems etc.

History and Traditional Uses: Yarrow is one of the finest and most versatile healing plants, and respected as such since at least the time of the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Dioscorides, the Greek physician, writing in the 1st century AD, referred to the healing properties of yarrow for battle wounds. The name Achillea commemorates the Greek hero Achilles, who used yarrow to heal the battle wounds of his friends and was renowned for his invulnerability. Throughout history until the First World War, yarrow has been used for treating wounds, hence its common names, soldiers’ woundwort and staunchweed.

The name yarrow is apparently derived from hieros which means sacred, because of the plant’s association with ceremonial magic. Yarrow was thought to be richly endowed with spiritual properties, so it was preserved in temples and treated with special reverence. Its healing effect upon the blood was seen as an ability to influence the ‘life-blood’, the essence or ego that is carried in the blood. It was used as an amulet, a charm to protect against negative energy and evil, capable of overcoming the forces of darkness and being a conductor of benevolent powers. It was also believed to be a love charm and to be ruled by the planet Venus. In folklore, a maiden who places yarrow under her pillow and repeats the rhyme below will dream of her future husband:

“Thou pretty herb of Venus Tree

Thy true name is Yarrow

Now who my bosom friend must be

Pray tell thou me tomorrow” - Halliwell

Cautions & Contra-Indications: Avoid in pregnancy, breastfeeding, or if you have a known allergy to Asteraceae family. Yarrow should not be used to treat large, deep, or infected wounds, all of which require medical attention. Yarrow may cause allergic skin rashes when harvesting the herb and when applied topically.

Herb/Drug Interactions:  None known

Growing & Harvesting: Propagate by sowing seeds in spring or autumn in well-drained soil and full sun. Alternatively, divide the plant in spring or autumn. Grows 6 - 24″ (15 – 60cm) and flowers from July – Sept. Harvest the aerial parts just as it is coming into flower and wear gloves for picking. The stems are very tough and so may require scissors or secateurs.

RECIPE

When young and tender in spring, the fresh young leaves can be finely chopped and added to salads, soups, bean and meat dishes and stir-fries.

Mint, elderflower and yarrow tea for colds, catarrh and fevers

1 tsp each of mint, elderflowers and yarrow.

Place in a teapot and pour over 500ml of boiling water. Leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink hot 3-6 times daily.

Anne McIntyre runs a one year course in experiential herbalism at Trill Farm, using the herb gardens and hedgerows to teach the practical side of using herbs.

Visit the course page to discover more about Herbal Medicine.

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