The feel of Fall is definitely in the air. For me, Fall is a time to gather herbs, weeds, nuts, pods, and any other interesting botanical I can find for preservation. I have always appreciated nature and have practiced the art of ‘gathering’ for many years. ( I guess it is in my blood as other family members have also been known to do the same : ) I am always fascinated to watch the gathering by the squirrels who hide their nuts in preparation for the upcoming winter. It is amazing to me that they can locate their individual nuts throughout the winter. Anyway, this year, my focus is on those treasures that can be transformed into simple pleasures for others to enjoy as well. This includes wreathes, kitchen simmers, herbs for vinegar, herbs for bathing, etc. Many beautiful and useful things can be created from what Mother Nature has provided.
Look around and you can’t help but notice the Goldenrod in full bloom. This beauty can provide golden color and texture to many types of wreathes and home decorations. Another Fall favorite is Sweet Annie. I was pleasantly surprised by a stand of wild Sweet Annie growing across the road this year. Especially since the Sweet Annie plants in our back yard are pretty much finished for the year and are suffering from the dry weather conditions. Wild grapevines can be used to create fabulous wreath bases onto which any number of botanicals can be fastened. This is a traditional wreath base that never seems to go out of style. A new base for me this year is morning glory vines. Some of these vines are as thick as an older grapevine and already have a base decoration of white frilly flowers. They are easy to form into wreathes or swags as long as you form them when they are still pliable. An added bonus for using morning glory vines is the farmer in the family is always glad to get rid of them as the vines have a reputation for wrapping themselves around farming equipment or anything else sitting outside.
Fall is a great time to think about seasonal colors and scents. In central Illinois, Fall color drives and festivals are a favorite weekend pastime. Many of these celebrations center around the colorful turning of the Fall leaves. For some of us, however, it is also a time when we notice the other changes of the season. Farmers are in the fields, the air is crisp in the early morning and evening hours and changes are occurring in the gardens and along the roadways. Fall is a time for hayrides, weiner roasts, Halloween pumpkins, baking apple pies and creating dried blends to prolong the season. Potpourri can be created by combining favorite botanicals, spices and oils with a fixative (i.e. orris root, calamus root, dried citrus peels, corn cobs, etc.) to retain the scent. Even though potpourri is usually associated with the Victorian era, it has in fact been utilized for centuries to freshen living areas and help get rid of offensive odors. Kitchen simmers are simply potpourri blends or roots that can be slowly simmered on the stove in a small amount of water. This method releases the scent gradually. They are simple to make, yet are very effective. A long-time favorite, yet simple simmer that can be utilized as a tea is Sassafras . Sassafras tree roots can be simmered in a small amount of water and smell heavenly. After simmering for a while, the liquid can be sweetened and savored as a tea. Controversy does exist around sassafras tea as some scientists believe the roots can cause cancer. For me, however, the connection to the past and the enjoyment of the tea is worth the risk and is definitely a simple pleasure of my life!
If you are interested in learning more about making potpourri or the preservation of scents of the season, The Simple Heart of Life will be holding a hands-on workshop this Saturday, October 3rd, beginning at 2:00 pm, at our herb shop, 1482 Turkey Farm Road, Bluffs, Illinois. Participants will have an opportunity to learn about the helpful properties of various herbs and botanicals and will create their own Fall potpourri sachet. Just send a reply below for additional details or to register.