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Foraging through the Seasons – a focus on Winter Harvests

Winter is here, and this time of year can be a challenge for many of us.  Not only the tipping of our earth’s axis putting the sun further away.  This brings upon a seemingly never-ending period of darkness.  Cold weather ensues because of this.  Our bodies slow down, but we aren’t used to that at all.  Especially when we would like them to speed up so we keep warm. 

We tend to stay inside with our forced air, even with our fire places, instead of venturing out into the forest or mountains.  Fearful of the storms, wetness and cold.  All these factors seem to diminish our resiliency.  Along with our drive, frustrating the western mindset of go, go, go!  Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why can’t we just go with the flow of the seasons and accept a slow down…?

Nature’s Answers

Nature slows us down, and why not take that as silent words of wisdom to implement into our own lives? Harvesting plants is one of my greatest joys.  Growing them from seed, identifying them in the forest, sitting with them ingesting their medicine and spirit.  The spring, summer and into the early fall are full of days where I am full of energy.  Thriving along with vibrant plants, working and hiking from dawn to dusk.  Yet, winter is still a welcomed time of year for me.  

It is time to reflect, and meditate, plan and organize.  I have time to write and create with my hands something that is lovely and uplifting to look at.  Even though I miss my plants, I miss the smells of the sap running, and the flowers pollinating.  More than that, I miss dirt being in the rings of my finger prints, and staying there even after and washings, the smell of the greenhouse humidity.  These are what I especially love all of this about summer time.   

These glorious aspects of summer, truly, are long gone.   And to be returning in a future that seems so distant.  My heart sometimes aches in the fall.  Then I remember.  There are plenty of plants to play with in the forest covered in snow.  And choosing to focus on the here and now, even through dark winter months, is hard and difficult, but once you get in the flow, it can become another beloved season of the year. 

Get Outside Any Way!

I strap my skis on my feet, if I need to, and pick bows of pine, spruce, and cedar.  Making them into incense, tea or tinctures.  They bring the uplifting scents from the forest into my winter den.  Along with keeping me connected to them, knowing spring is right around the corner.

I clean my house with their needles mixed in vinegar, and soak in the tub with them.  Remembering the never-ending gifts of nature in the moments when I have them near. Though all these rituals are incredibly warming to my soul.  When January and February come around, my green heart is excited again.  For now, in the dead of winter time cold.  Along with the frost and snow, the resin is flowing in a certain genus of tree…  our beloved Cotton Woods. 

Balm Of Gilliad

The buds of the Poplar trees form in the fall.  When I first noticed this happening, I wondered what were they thinking?  Winter is just around the corner, and these buds are coming out now?!  I then I found Balm of Gilliad.  What that truly meant to the winter time medicine chest for humans and insects alike was another aspect of my beginning to love winter.

The buds form and ready themselves to survive the winter with a thick coating of resin.  We all know this resin very well.  Recently, it is at the forefront of new age medicine scene.  The resin of the Poplar trees is processed by the bees and is known to us as Propolis.  This resin that coats the young delicate buds of the poplar trees, is not only for protection of the young leaf to make it through the winter time, but for the health of the hibernating bee colonies also. 

They collect the resin and bring it to their hives where they make their protective layer of sap for their immune systems and added warmth in their own winter den. 

Remedies of Poplar Buds

Not only is it a gift to the bees, but for us as well.  Poplar Bud tincture, when harvested in the dead of winter time, when temperatures are at their coldest thus the layer of resin is at its thickest.  I harvest these buds whole, they are made into a tincture or an oil, and give us a similar protection as the bees give themselves.

Winter time immune support, to make it through the rest of the season sickness free and bringing a calm to spastic coughs.  Aspirin is derived from this genus of tree, so it is an excellent internal and topical pain reliever.  An oil made of the buds creates a very nice pain relief, and antimicrobial treatment to be added to any salve or topical remedy.  Not only the scent of the trees, but their anti-bacterial and pain relief is very beneficial to cuts, bruises and sore muscles. 

Are Poplars Near and Far?

Poplars, and their cousins, are found all over the Rocky Mountains in the valleys,and river beds.  Aspens are of this genus of tree as well, so they are a nice high elevation tree to harvest, though the resin and the buds are not as thick and juicy as those of the poplar.  Getting out in the afternoon sunshine of winter is a great way to get moving again and coming home with resinous fingers brings light back into the green heart of plant enthusiasts.