Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 4, Number 7
June 20, 2006
- My Season: Bloggers Remorse
- When Is Summer Solstice?
- Living in Season: Lure of Lavender by Denise Bell
- Flower of the Day
- Summer Correspondence Course
- Lavender Ice Cream
- Online Links: Lavender
- Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
- Signs of Summer
- Subscribe - Unsubscribe
Welcome to my semi-monthly newsletter featuring ideas for bringing the beauty of the current season into your life. Please forward this newsletter if you enjoy it.
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My Season: Bloggers Remorse
It's been an exhilarating and yet exhausting experience: blogging. I researched and wrote about a flower a day every day since June 4. I've covered Jasmine, Peony, Buttercup (aka St Anthony's Turnip), St John's Wort (aka Columba's Armpit Package), Honeysuckle, Bedstraw. Linden blossoms, Elder blossoms, Moneywort, Poppy, Camomile and Lemon Verbena. You can see the results at:
One of the delightful benefits of this practice, besides writing every day, is that I've developed a new relationship to the plant world. In fact, you could say it's transformed. I am more observant, more curious and more connected'as I try to incorporate the plant of the day into my life. In the past ten days, I bought a verbena and some jasmine oil, made schnapps with linden blossoms and tea with chamomile and suckled on a honeysuckle. I discovered many new plants in my neighborhood: a number of linden trees, a chamomile in my garden plot and what I think is an elder tree hanging over the fence.
Sometimes you have to try something to find out what it is. I started blogging with great enthusiasm, thinking that it was just the right format for the Flower of the Day almanac I've been wanting to create for years. But I realized after only about two weeks, that I'm not really writing a blog, I'm writing a calendar.
And to tell you the truth, exactly what I feared has happened. I'm overwhelmed with fabulous contacts from readers who offer links, resources and suggestions to which I don't have time to respond because I'm too busy blogging.
So I've decided to convert the Flower A Day into a monthly subscription, somewhat similar to the Calendar Companion. If you sign up for a Flower a Day, you will get an email every day providing some interesting facts about the flowers (plants, trees) of the month. You can renew on a monthly basis and if I get burned out, I simply will take a month off. I will continue to blog but my blog will become what I think a blog should be: shorter, more personal and with lots of links, while the Flower a Day subscription will contain the results of my research into the mythology, magical and medicinal uses of each plant.
I'm choosing my flowers from several lists: one the list of associations with the days created by the French Revolutionaries when they sought to replace the old calendar (and its religious and political associations) with a calendar that was more practical and down-to-earth. I'm also using the flowers listed in Flora's Dial by J Wesley Hanson, published in 1853. I made a copy of this list back in 1971 but forgot to credit the author. I found it online while doing my blog here. I love the Internet and the world it opens up.
May your passions lead you to wonderful discoveries,
Readers Want to Know: When is the Shortest Night?
A reader recently sent me an email asking: "When exactly is the longest day and the shortest night?" It's a good question and one that has puzzled me in previous years when choosing a night for my annual Summer Solstice bonfire at Golden Gardens. The answer is complicated.
The Summer Solstice, from an astronomical point of view, happens when the Sun moves into the sign of Cancer (and don't ask me how they figure this out as I understand that the zodiac signs have shifted slightly over the centuries (from our perspective) due to the precession of the equinoxes). This event shifts slightly from year to year and can occur on June 20, 21 or 22. This year it happens at 5:26 AM on June 21. So from an astronomical point of view, I suppose you could say that June 21 is the longest day and the night that begins June 20 the shortest night.
Or you might look instead at the fixed date on which the Solstice came to be celebrated. Known as Midsummer's Day, it falls on the feast of St John the Baptist, June 24. Which means Midsummer's Night's Eve is June 23. (Unless you think the Midsummer's Night is the night before Midsummer's Day, which would make Midsummer's Night's Eve, June 22nd. I don't opt for this interpretation myself.) So from a folkloric point of view, you could celebrate the longest day on June 24 and the shortest night on the night beginning June 23.
That would seem to be enough choices but there's an even more accurate way to determine this. I referred my reader to this web site:
Click on the World Clock and find your city. Then print the list of sunrise and sunset times for the month of June. You may find, as I did, that there are several days when the sun rises and sets at the same time, meaning there are the same number of minutes in each day. Thus each of those might qualify as the longest day. But now look for the first day when the time shifts so there is one less minute in the day. The evening preceding it will be the shortest night.
My reader discovered that in her area sunrise and sunset were at the same time from June 19 through June 22 and, though the sun rises a minute later on June 23, it also sets a minute later so the day length is the same for that day and the following two days. Here in Seattle the times for sunrise and sunset are:
June 19 5:11 AM sunrise 9:10 PM sunset
June 20 5:11 AM sunrise 9:11 PM sunset
June 21 5:11 AM sunrise 9:11 PM sunset
June 22 5:12 AM sunrise 9:11 PM sunset
So I would say that the night of June 20th is the shortest night (by one minute) but both June 20 and June 21 qualify as the longest day.
Living in Season: Lure of Lavender
In keeping with my eventual goal of creating a magazine/ezine, I'm happy to present an article by guest writer, Denise Bell of Clear Creek Lavender Farm near Lost City, Oklahoma.
Lavender's scent is one you instantly recognize, whether as the base fragrance for perfumes or from the memory of your favorite aunt's sheets. Few people men and women alike are immune to the beauty and scent of lavender. When customers stop at our booth at the Cherry Street Farmer's Market in Tulsa, I invite them to feel the plants and inhale the scent, which results in oohs, ahs, sighs and relaxed smiles. When they discover that lavender thrives in many regions of the United States, they are surprised and eager to try their hand at growing some themselves.
My partner, Christopher and I have been growing lavender for four years. We planted our first field, over 800 lavender plants, in rural Cherokee County, Oklahoma, just an hour from Tulsa, thus beginning Clear Creek Lavender Farm. A second field, with five new cultivars, was added in 2005. In what was once a cow pasture, we now enjoy a bit of France. But you don't need pasture to grow lavender just the knowledge of a few basics and a willingness to try something new.
- Lavender requires a minimum of six hours of sunlight. In our fields, a few plants have a smattering of morning shade, causing them to be smaller and have fewer blooms than the plants that bask in the sun all day.
- Lavender prefers a moderately alkaline, somewhat rocky soil. Adding lime pellets is sometimes necessary to help your soil's alkalinity. The local home improvement center will sell you fifty pounds for about four dollars you'll only need about a tablespoon. If your soil has a lot of clay, consider adding sand or pea gravel.
- Spacing between plants varies from 2' to 3' depending on the cultivar.
- Lavender dislikes 'wet feet,' so good drainage is imperative. During the plant's first year, regular watering is suggested, but it's fine to let the soil dry out a bit before watering. A two to three year old plant is mature and will need little additional water beyond what nature provides.
- We pinch off any 'spikes' with buds that appear during the first spring. This devotes the plant's energy to growing so it will be strong and healthy above and below the soil. In the fall, well before frost, give your plant a gentle pruning with scissors, without cutting into the woody growth, leaving a nice mounded shape.
- Hardy lavender such as Grosso (also called Fat Spike), Dutch, Provence, White Provence, Hidcote or Munstead, should survive during the winter up to Zone 5 and will keep a gray/green color and strong scent. They are quite resilient. One fall, a renegade cow stepped on one plant and we thought it was a goner, but the following spring it started showing new growth, and survived without any indication of the previous trampling.
- To harvest and preserve lavender, cut stems in the morning after the dew has dried. To dry, grab a handful of stems and wrap a rubber band around the base before hanging the bundle upside down in a dry dark place. Your bedroom closet is ideal, as the scent will keep your clothes smelling great and deter moths. Once dried, the much-loved scent of lavender will last for several years. The plant you harvested it from will continue to bloom for many years.
The next time you are lured by lavender, remember the basics and maybe you'll plant a pasture full as well!
Lavender in the Kitchen
At our local farmer's market we sell lavender buds from a large bucket by the Heaping Scoopful. It's truly a sensory experience to scoop lavender. Many people enjoy fiddling with the scoop and letting their mind wander, then want to know what to do with it once they've bought a scoopful. I suggest putting a bowl beside your bed to help you rest at night or strewing some on your carpet and vacuuming it up to freshen the room. But when I suggest cooking with lavender, most people are surprised.
It's easy to find recipes on the Internet or in magazines for lavender lemonade, lavender sugar cookies and lavender in white cakes but I prefer to use lavender as a savory herb. Below are two of my favorite dishes that use lavender buds.
Lavender Rubbed Salmon
Purchase two salmon fillets at your local market. Finger each fillet with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and place on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. (The skin of the fish will adhere to the foil when you remove the fillet.) In a mortar and pestle grind a scant teaspoon of dried lavender buds (remember these are lavender buds grown from your plant and invariably fresher than what you'll find in the spice section of the grocery store.) with sea salt. Sometimes I add either rosemary or coriander. Sprinkle your lavender salt on the fillets and cook for ten minutes or until the center is no longer translucent.
Lavender Roasted Potatoes
Select six small golden potatoes. Finger the potatoes with extra virgin olive oil. Slice them, almost cutting completely through the potato but leaving enough attached on the bottom to allow the potato to splay open a little. Place them cut side up in a baking dish. In a mortar and pestle combine and grind dried lavender buds, sea salt, coarse pepper, and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle these over the potatoes and bake until golden.
About the Author:
Denise Bell divides her time between Tulsa and Lost City, Oklahoma. During the growing season she spends most of her time in the fields with dirt under her nails, a hoe in her hands, and a smile on her face.
Flower of the Day for July
Sign up for a month of flower lore featuring the flowers of July from the French Republican calendar. For each flower, you'll learn about how it grows, its medicinal and magical uses, its meaning in the language of the flowers and any other folklore I can dig up. Each entry will be beautifully illustrated and delivered to your email inbox each morning. Sure to make you more aware of the plant world around you and suggest ways you can get in touch with these flowers and herbs. Only $9 a month, less than the cost of three lattes.
For a preview, see my blog which shows the plants I covered in June at www.livinginseason.blogspot.com
Visit our store to order.
Summer Correspondence Course
I'm creating a new version of the Summer Correspondence course (very similar to the old one, but updated and illustrated) for my summer online class. You can receive the new packets as they are being created, rather than ordering the old Summer packets (which are only available in a print version). If you order this option, you will receive an email with an attached Word document containing the week's topic each week for nine weeks. The cost for this option is $66.00.
Click here to order the Summer Correspondence Course.
If you would prefer the print version of the Summer packets, you can order them as well. $30 for three topics or $66 for all seven. It takes us about 14 days to get them photocopies and into the mail.
Click here to order the Summer Correspondence Course.
A reader sent me this recipe for a lavender cocktail:
1 shot each:
Fresh Lemon Juice (use Meyer lemons if possible)
Cranberry juice (pink or red; don't use white or yellow)
Lavender sugar: Put lavender flowers in a sugar bowl with superfine sugar. Once the sugar has picked up the flavor, pick or sift out the flowers.
Candied lavender flowers: Put lavender sprigs in simple sugar syrup. Infuse overnight. Take out the lavender heads and let dry on waxed paper.
Wet the rim of a martini glass with Parfait Amor, then dip in Lavender Sugar.
Shake the vodka, lemon juice and cranberry juice with ice and strain into the glass. Top with a candied lavender bud and a sliver of lemon zest.
While searching for the source for this recipe online (I didn't find it), I found this great article, "Garden in a Glass," By T. Susan Chang which includes recipes for Longest Day Tea, a Lemon Balm Martini and a Lavender Vodka Tonic:
My friend Kathy Gehrt has created a web site called Discover Lavender which is devoted to lavender:
She also has a blog, which features wonderful lavender recipes. Just this month she provided recipes for lavender nougat, lavender poached pears and bleu cheese and lavender honey on crackers. Her blog is at:
Denise recommends the following references for lavender growers:
The Genus Lavendula by Tim Upson and Susyn Andrews.
And the National Sustainable Agriculture website:
The Lavender Festival in Sequim Washington, July 14-16 is the largest lavender festival in the world. For more information go to:
The two days following the festival are devoted to a lavender conference:
For a small, home-town festival, try the Lummi Island Lavender Festival near Bellingham, Washington, July 8-9. Park your car, walk on the ferry and take a shuttle to the festival site.
Holiday Packet: Midsummer
It?s a good time to think about ordering your Midsummer packet if you want to get it in time to use the ideas in your Midsummer celebrations.
This illustrated portfolio contains over 40 pages of ideas for celebrating Summer Solstice, also known as Midsummer, Herb Evening, St. John?s Day and Litha. It tells you how to
- gather and use magical Midsummer herbs like St John's Wort
- prepare a picnic of traditional Midsummer foods
- use the petals of roses to make conserves, butter and rosaries
- create Gardens of Adonis
- and much more
You can read an excerpt from the packet on making wreaths (a traditional way to celebrate Midsummer) here.
The print version is $14; please allow 10 days for delivery. An email version is also available for $9. It will be sent to you as an attached Word file within 24 hours. Order in our Store.
Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
This is a graceful way to incorporate spirit and seasons into your life. Use it along with your usual planning tools and calendar to help you:
- Slow time down
- Consult your soul while creating your schedule
- Make time for what's truly important in your life
- Move in rhythm with the seasons and the moon
Every week for 52 weeks you will receive a brief email with a reflection on the qualities of the present time period and one suggestion, task or question that you can savor throughout the week.
Start whenever you like. When you order the Calendar Companion, you will receive the next week's calendar companion, along with an introductory email.
$20 for a year's worth of gentle reminders to help you stay aligned with natural rhythms. To order or to see a sample reflection, click here.
Signs of Summer
Mary from Sour Lake, Texas sent me her signs of summer on June 12 and reminded me again about why it's so important to honor the season as it manifests where you live, rather than in some ideal world:
Temperatures are in the high 90s with matching humidity here in the extreme southeast corner of Texas, for a heat index of 105 to 110. [I know it's summer] when I go for my walk at 5:30 a.m., to the mega-mart at 7, and hope to be back home in my air conditioned house by 10. The rest of the day we stay indoors if at all possible. Any yard work is done between 6 and 9 a.m.
Years ago I invented a useful little mind game: from May thru September I pretend I live in Chicago and a blizzard is raging outside. This helps me feel cozy indoors and puts things into perspective. Personally, I'd rather sweat than freeze obviously, or I would not live where I do! Air conditioning definitely tops my daily gratitude list. We save all those outdoor summer traditions, like pool parties, barbecues, and outdoor sports for spring and fall.
Where ever you live, send me your news of the season and I will post it on my web site under Signs of the Season.
Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2006
All rights reserved. You may reprint material from Living in Season in other electronic or print publications as long as you credit me and provide a link to: http://www.schooloftheseasons.com. Please send me a copy of the publication.
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