As I pick, the prominent creases in my palms fill with the deep purple, almost black, juice of the elderberries. The plastic fork I use to comb the berries from the stems, jabs and pokes the delicate skin, bursting the deepest flavored berries. I decide to use my fingers to coerce the berries from their stems. An effort to save as much of the precious juice as possible for the medicinal concoction I’ll be making. I relish the intimate hand labor to collect sustenance for my body. Ray Bradbury said it best when he described the art of doing things by hand as something that imbues actions with spirit and enduring significance.
Several years ago I discovered an enviable passion for the medicinal properties of Elderberries. Elderberry’s antioxidant capacity is one of the highest of all wild food sources. A tablespoon a day of elderberry syrup is enough to stave off the most arduous cold and flu season. As with many things, homemade is not only better but cheaper. So 15 years ago along a shallow ditch next to a wild space, I planted ten elderberry whips, a florescent ribbon marking their place in the wilderness. All I could do was let time pass.
The head-high bushes started producing at 10 years. Most harvests now produce enough to share with friends, family and a variety of bird species. The birds have spread the seeds by a method I lightheartedly refer to as “poop and plant”. Our property now has scatterings of elderberry bushes that are exclusively food for wildlife. The serendipitous way “passing it forward” occurred makes me wonder if nature had a plan for my relationship with the elderberry all along. The land has been waiting to welcome the elderberry. Evidenced by its proliferation into the hidden wild areas only a winged-one can reach.
With that thought, I would like to share my elderberry syrup recipe. I’m not really sure you can call it a recipe. It’s more of a creative adventure in food preservation. I hope during the process you feel the hand/heart connection … that your being is imbue with spirit, knowing the enduring significance this one action has on the health and well-being of all that surrounds you.
Ingredients: Elderberry juice (2-3 cups), 1 tsp Cinnamon, 3/4 tsp Ginger, Raw honey
Put clean elderberries into a pot with a good splash of water. Whatever you pick will be enough. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Crush berries in the pot. Let them cook at a simmer, crushing and mixing, for 5-10 minutes. A potato masher works well. Once you feel you have squeezed every last drop of juice from the berries, drain the liquid. I use a mesh strainer. To the liquid add the spices. Adjust amounts to your taste. The measurements I gave are a starting point. Add the raw honey at last, after the juice has cooled. Stir well. SYRUP MUST BE STORED IN THE REFRIGERATOR.
I take a tablespoon a day beginning in September. It’s yummy drizzled over yogurt or mixed into oatmeal.
Most days now begin before the warmth of the sun has a chance to drink up the dew clinging to smooth blades of grass. Nonetheless, I’ve taken precautionary measures. I know the sun will be high and mighty before I’m through harvesting the garden’s bounty. Stretched across my brow, a bandana folded over itself several times to secure hair and soak up sweat. We’re at the tail end of the dog days of summer here in Wisconsin but the sultry weather is hanging around like a bad case of fleas.
Basket in hand, I head to the peace of the berry patch to harvest abundance. The thing about abundance of any kind is seeing it through to the harvest. However you bring abundance into your life; grow it, attract it or visualize it. Know you will have to; pick it, preserve it and participate in distributing it. Prosperity is all around us rotting on the vine.
If there is one universal law everyone forgets it’s the Law of Action. To manifest anything in our lives we need to engage in actions that support what we have been visualizing or affirming. Take my gardens for example. The visualizing started back in January. Planning what crops to plant and where. Come spring the action shifted from my head to my hands. There was compost to move, soil to turn and seeds to plant. Nothing was guaranteed but without action the plan doesn’t get set into motion. It’s not so much finishing what I started as it is staying with it through the good(sunshine), bad(drought) and ugly(Japanese Beetles) parts. As my Mom used to say, “Don’t be afraid of a little hard work.” Nothing teaches that lesson better than a garden in my humble opinion!
Picking vegetables as soon as they are ripe often encourages the plant to keep producing. Nature might be hinting at something here. Maybe that’s how it works with abundance. You have to be willing to pick an action when the opportunity is ripe. If we make a practice of taking actions that support a thriving life, the Universe responds by bringing in even more prosperity. Ever action, no matter how small, lets the Universe know what you’re striving for and it produces big time!
This time of year I lack for nothing. The garden’s overflow is shared with family and friends. With the pantry shelves filling up fast the feeling of abundance will last for many months to come. Which brings me to another gift from the harvest of abundance—gratitude. Most mornings you can find me in the garden, pick’n peace and grin’n with gratitude— harvesting happy.
“What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action”. ~Meister Eckhart
I wasn’t sure if the cheeks facing me were on the smile end or the seat end of this caterpillar but it didn’t matter. Either way, she made me crack a smile. What a delight to see this amazing cecropia moth (Hyalophora cecropia) caterpillar in our apple orchard on this dewy fresh morning. She was nearly as big as my thumb!
With a wingspan of 5-6 inches, the cecropia moth is the largest North American moth. All winter will be spent in a 4-5 inch cocoon. In late May, the cercropia moths emerge from their cocoons. The female only lives about two weeks, just long enough to mate and lay eggs.
Because their skin doesn’t grow the cercropia caterpillar goes through several molting phases, each time attaching itself to a silken pad it has spun. When the new skin is fully developed it will literally walk out of its old skin. This cercropia caterpillar is in the fifth instar larvae stage.
If you have the good fortune to see an adult cercropia moth, I promise you will not be disappointed. Their spectacular color and size is something you will not soon forget. The cercropia moth is another example of nature’s marvelous metamorphosis; ever thing in sacred motion.
Moth medicine is that of inner knowing, determination, vulnerability and movement. I wish her well on her magnificent journey of transformation and hope we meet again in the May night, both of us with our wings.
Summer’s youth wanes,
each day riper with fullness,
Phlox’s bright eyes open wide.
A delightfully lovely fragrance,
once cradled in her bosomy blooms,
now billows gently in the breeze.
Hot pink petals aflame,
devour the green scenery,
burning off the heat’s heaviness.
A Sphinx Moth visits,
humming above nectar filled flowers,
long tongues dip into wells of sweetness.
The cool of the evening,
invites me back for a visit.
I sit enchanted by the tall aristocratic beauty.
Phlox, you are the queen of my garden empire.
I bow to you.