Think Like a Squirrel: Happy Harvest for a Healthy Winter

I must admit that I always involuntarily shudder as the first leaves begin to change in the fall, knowing it as a sign of what is to come. But this year after such a hot and powerful summer, the beauty of the fall feels just right. The gentle crisp cool mornings, mists rising over the lakes as I drive our daughter to the bus in the early AM and, of course, the magnificent fruit bowl of colors that paints the landscape surround us. I really do love fall, the fragrances, the vistas, the recipes! Visions of pumpkins in the fields and apples on the trees speaks of a bounty and giving from the earth that we could not have imagined making for ourselves if we tried. This year we had a wonderful harvest of Concord grapes and were able to make a good deal of concord grape jam, the deep rich color of which represents lots of powerful anti-oxidants, resveratrol etc. When maintaining your health by “eating the rainbow” there is hardly a better source of purples! Check out some of the recent research on Concord Grapes at:

Yesterday I sat at the bottom of our practice steps and harvested the Motherwort plants that have been proliferating in the edge of the garden (and, amazing to me, thrived, totally ignored, in the rough spots under the stairs). I clipped the leaves flowers and stems into a large mason jar and covered the leaves with organic vodka. In six weeks I will have a good amount of fresh motherwort tincture. As I clipped the plant, I talked out loud to her about her beautiful leaves and the generosity of her medicine, encouraging her to return in force next year! This is a plant that I originally dug out of a friend’s back yard several years ago. I planted her in the back dooryard garden, and she self-seeded nicely there until I transplanted one of her later generation plants to the front door yard garden and some to the herb bed in the big back circle garden. The old adage “bloom where you are planted” was apparently taken very seriously by this green lady.

Motherwort is in the Labiatiae or mint family and as such, she has a square shaped stem as do other mints such as peppermint, spearmint, catnip or catmint, all of which are very easy to grow in a home garden, and, in fact, must be watched that they don’t take over! Motherwort or Mother’s wort is also known in the Latin as Leonurus cardiaca or “Lion Hearted”. “As this name might indicate, it can be a helpful herb for women who are in times of power/vulnerability such as just after giving birth and also in menopausal years. For peri-menopausal insomnia, night sweats and heart palpitations, Leonurus can be used with hops and black cohosh to great effect. As both an anti-spasmodic and also a mild emmenogogue, it can be used to bring on a suppressed menses and to calm the spasmodic cramps that sometimes accompany the cycle.”1

These are just two examples of how we have brought in the harvest, but for the brassicas, carrots, beets and other hardy crops that withstand the early frosts well. We have canned, pickled, dried, frozen and tinctured this year. It is coming closer to a time for the garden to lay fallow and rest after the long and productive summer, as will we, to some extent. Fall is a busy time of reaping and once that work is done and the garlic is tucked into the earth to sleep over-winter and the garden is put to bed for its winter slumber, we are freed to turn inward as well, to our time of rest, rejuvenation, creativity, a sort of hibernation. As we look forward to what I love to call “hot tea, blanket, book and couch season” we revel in the richness of the harvest. How do you celebrate the harvest and prepare for winter? What nourishment, physical and spiritual, do you need to store for the wintery days ahead? Think like a squirrel, pile up your healthy stores, if not from your own gardens, from the wonderful farms stands and orchards that do the heavy lifting for us.

You might want to consider building up a collection of herbal allies to have on hand to prevent and treat those wintery bugs that get passed around in the enclosed spaces of winter. For example, elderberry syrup tastes great and has been shown to have immune boosting and anti-viral properties for kids and adults alike. You can make your own or find it here or over the counter in many locations. Homeopathic kits can give you lots of safe and effective options to choose from based on your individual symptoms. You still have time to plan for a healthy winter! Remember to let us at Centre Downe Health know how we may assist you in preparing.

1 Trickey Ruth, Women, Hormones & the Menstrual Cycle: Herbal and medical solutions from adolescence to menopause, 2003 Allen & Unwin, Australia p. 470.