Through the Year

Another year to celebrate and begin anew. Janus, the Roman god, was depicted with two faces, one looking to the past, the other to the future. He is often thought of as marking transition, between seasons, years, and  other portals. It is fitting that our first month of our year be named for him. This is the time we look back over the past year, and also to the coming one, reflecting on our pluses and minuses, and hopes for a better year ahead. I like this poem from Thomas Hood -

And ye, who have met with Adversity's blast,

Holiday decorations are springing up everywhere. It seems that it begins earlier and earlier each year. Most of us take pleasure in decorating our homes, especially with wonderfully scented evergreens. In doing so, we are keeping alive ancient traditions and ensuring that only good spirits will share our space.

A tingling, misty marvel

   Blew hither in the night,

And now the little peach trees

   Are clasped in frozen light.

Upon the apple branches

   An icy film is caught,

With trailing threads of gossamer

   In pearly patterns wrought.

The autumn sun, in wonder,

   Is gayly peering through

This silver-tissued network

   Across the frosty blue.

The weather vane is fire-tipped,

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere

  When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here-

Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,

  And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;

But the air's so appetizing'; and the landscape through the haze

  Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days

Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock-

  When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.


As a gardener, I spend a lot of time outside, all through the year. April through October, though, are the months when I am always out and about, planting, weeding, harvesting, weeding, tidying, weeding - you get the picture.So I am perhaps more in tune with the weather than I might be if I spent more time inside. I can't always say that I can accurately predict the weather, but sometimes I get it right. This is most likely due to watching the sky, and observing the plants and animals. For instance, if I am bothered by biting mosquitoes during the day, I know that rain is coming.


One day in the last week or so, I noticed, or more accurately, felt, a change in the air. It was a hint of fall weather, just a whisper, really, but it was there. The garden is growing and an abundant harvest is at hand. The cucumbers, beans and summer squash are numerous, and the tomatoes are starting to come in. the small crop of ornamental wheat I'm growing is showing its amber waves, and I am reminded of the passing of the year.

This year, the International Herb Association's Annual Meeting and Conference was held in Corning, NY. A mere six hour drive for me - for a change. This year's conference was, as usual, exciting, informative and most of all, fun. The conference started with a tour on Friday, and we began the day at Finger Lakes Distillery. This small distillery produces vodka, gin, grappa and liqueurs - all from grapes. They try to use as many local suppliers as possible, too. The tour of the distillery took us by vats of bubbling mash that gave off the warm, yeasty smell of fermentation.


Both for exercise and mental health, I have been walking faithfully in the woods near my home, almost every day. Perhaps it is because I went to Nature Training School as a child, but I want to know the names of all the plants I encounter as I traipse through the forest. Many names I know, from that long ago training, and I learn more each time I walk and notice a plant I hadn't really "seen" before. Upon returning home, I look to my various resources to try and identify the newest plants that have captured my attention.


Early May found me in Austin, Texas at the Annual Meeting and Educational Conference for The Herb Society of America. I had planned to write on May Baskets for this month's blog, but since it is now the middle of the month, I thought I would share some of the highlights of my trip.

Purple Flowers

April is a month of new beginnings, when spring generally arrives (for real) and when lots of people start to plant their gardens. April is also the month when Arbor Day is celebrated, and is a good time to consider planting trees for future generations.

Carolina Allspice