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.
After ceremony, I fly in a bigger sky, on a higher vibe.
It’s a spiritually induced, clean connection.
Intentional attention to the presence of Creator.
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
……that walk through the woods sure did me good.
An excerpt from Sweet Wisdoms….
Tractor fumes mingle with the sweet scent of freshly turned hay. The sickle cut close to the earth. Tall proud stems and blades laid and dried by the breath of the sun. A steady parade of bulging squares marched out of the baler to be stacked in an orderly fashion on the hayrack, and following each, a cough of fine chafe that stuck to beads of sweat draped across my brow. Bald fields void of lush green begin again.
When the daylight is extinguished I’ll rest, my forearms speckled with tiny cuts from the stems of hay, my fingers swollen from plucking taut twine. To know that this labor keeps hunger from winter’s long reach and squeezes the throat of drought gives my soul temporary satisfaction.
Next summer, I’ll begin again like green fields.
My summer dream is here! The air is heavy with heat, the sun high and still. Endless ribbons of golden light flow through the cloudless sky. In the garden, the green promise of this season’s abundance dangles from every vine and stem. An early morning surprise greeted me in the blueberry patch. I popped the plumb blue nuggets in my mouth, bursting the sweet pleasure between my tongue and cheek. Maybe tomorrow a few will make it beyond the patch boundaries to the house—maybe.
Having the first crop of hay tucked away in a quiet corner of the shed is the crowning achievement of my hot weather farm duties. Summer’s green fills the pockets of my heart with gratitude and contentment. It’s a priceless feeling of freedom, knowing you have enough.
This time of sun feeds more than the body. I’ll stow away the memories of these soft days to warm my spirit when the landscape turns hard and cold. Summer unfolds life before us, constantly and gracefully, each day a birth of possibility. The dream she has for us is to release our unlimited potential and prosper. May summer’s dream awaken and grow within you.
I’ve been off the grid in Montana the last 10 days. This beauty was growing through the I90 pavement. She took her one crack at life and made it enough.
By the shift in the winds direction and speed I can tell the weather is about to change abruptly. The sky’s sunny disposition is no match for the clouds angry demeanor. As Wally and I make a bee line for the shelter of the shed they come, sweet drops of rest.
I take a seat on an overturned pail near the open shed door, peering through the curtain of rain. Wally waltzes over for a scratch behind the ear then lies on my feet. The distinct odor of wet lab cuts through the scent of fresh rain. I breathe in both deeply. There we sit, work waiting, listening to the peaceful rhythm of the rain. Peaceful because there is no hay cut or seed to put in the ground. Rain and I have a fluid relationship. To a farmer rain can be a curse and a blessing. Weather is a master at teaching acceptance. Over the years, I’ve learned to move with the rhythm of the rain.
While thoughts tossing and turning in my mind are put to sleep by the rain’s song, I feel content. We control uncontrollable circumstances by choosing how we cope with them. Today, I’m choosing to sit and listen to the sweet drops of wisdom coming to rest in my soul.
Not everything can live in the sunshine. On my early morning walk with Wally through our little woods, I noticed how happy the trillium and violets were blooming in the shade. Even the fanned-out ferns, which don’t really bloom, were content with their place in this world dappled with light. They made me think of the shady people in my life. How, in the presence of other people’s brightness, they burn. But in the shadows they shine. Their living light a reflection of this calm… cool…collected energy.
I appreciate the different sensitivities in our personalities. It’s not so much that their beauty is hidden but unseen. We have to enter the shadows to fully understand them. Something not all of us are willing to do. Most shady people I know are introverted and extremely creative. I can only imagine the brilliance of the inner light that sources their visions. Sadly, it is a light some can struggle to find. Sunshine and darkness can be equally blinding. That’s when the compass of our higher self gives us direction. Points us to that feeling of home within us. The place that keeps the light on.
We all thrive where we feel alive. I love my shady friends. Not everyone can live in the sunshine. Some people are made for the shade.