Sunday, November 14, 2010

Formalizing the Apothecary

 I came to herbalism through my garden, woods and field walks, my bees, ancestral call, and our families children’s eyes:) Since I didn’t start with herbs, but accumulated bits and pieces through the last few years, I had been feeling rather disorganized and am enjoying getting more organized in my learning and the step by step progression of learning how to better support, nourish and comfort my small village. Today finds me formalizing my apothecary. Seems a good idea to do that before the alchemy, so I spend the entire day devoted to straightening up the apothecary and making a list of what I do have herb wise. I still need to tweak the list and then make labels for everything with both the common name and the botanical name.I have been meaning to for a long time, but you know how it is when you have a million irons in the fire… so now I have my list of herbs and new labels right next to me on the couch so tonight when I am visiting with my hubby I can still be doing homework at the same time;-) He is being a sweetie and supportive of my time spent on this:) I expected no less though, as he has thoroughly supported and helped me with my gardening and beekeeping endeavors, also. So Wednesday I spent the whole day inventorying just the herbs and getting their cabinets arranged. So many of these herbs I have either grown or wild crafted myself that you will see in these cabinets.
This cabinet was my original herb cabinet. Due to the fact it has a glass front and is in a bit of window light, I have changed its function. 
My darling daughter Michelle, gave me that sweet little pillow. My soul sister in Wales, Linda, made me the cute little Grandma’s Remedies sign. And my sweet Katee Bug gave me the little bee and heart window cling. I like to intersperse little gifts and memories throughout my apothecary. They fill me with joy and make me pause before I ever work with herbs, to focus on the love I want to put into making herbal preparations. Time is always of the essence for me, and to see little reminders of love, inspires me to become present and focus on what I am doing, rather than be thinking of a million things still beckoning for my time:) The drawer has some teas, labels and little muslin tea bags.
See those little tincture bottles in there? Those were quite a big deal for me when I got them! I think that is when I decided to quit being just a dabbler and get focused on learning!
The cabinet itself was a gift from my husband when my herbal love outgrew my countertop space! lol On top of it, you can see my honey bottling pail. Now that tall, thin white cabinet off in the corner by the window, became my second cabinet when things kept expanding. On top of it is a big pail full of lovely wax. Eric and I are hoping to make beeswax candles this winter and some will be used in salves, ointments, and for little decorations for presents:) The red cabinet is my newest cabinet. Those corner two are holding most of the dry herbs.
For now, I have kept some of the essential oils, salves, and extract tinctures with their corresponding dry herbs, if they have one.
There is one other cabinet in my kitchen. Now folks, this took some ingenuity to accomplish this as my husband is not tiny and has to fit through doorways, so figuring out a way to get all four of these cabinets in my eat in kitchen in my hobbit cottage, well…. let us just say I think it is a miracle! lol This other cabinet has the rest of the dried herbs (each cabinet is alphabetically arranged with the tall white one being first, the red cabinet second and this pinkish one (a gift from my daughter) the end of the alphabet plus tinctures, elixirs, and vinegars we have been making this year at Comfrey Cottages:) The bottom shelf has the pots and pans, funnels, cheesclothes, etc we use in making salves and melting beeswax.
This next picture shows that next to the cabinet is a five generation picture of my mom, grandma, daughter, granddaughter and I together. We have since lost mom and grandma, but they are still here in our hearts and in my work and intentions. With their help my intentions are to make wonderful preparations to keep myself, Michelle, Lily and the rest of our family and friends, nourished and healthy working with these herbs.
Luckily, we have a small bedroom right off the kitchen, that I have taken over as part of the apothecary. There are three more cabinets in there and a baker’s rack.
The green one is for books and extra small jars. The white one has herbal oils and honeys, as well as canned goods such as violet and wild plum jellies:) Some of the bigger supplies are on bottom shelf. What is the ammonia for you say? A mushroom identifying helper:) Too many interests right? LOL But they all blend together and need tools! lol Thus… lots of cabinets:)
I can’t grow inside plants easily or well. We just have too many large trees and cats! LOL But, when my daughter gave me the bakers rack I am trying to grow just a sage and an aloe plant on the top shelf. Hopefully the cats won’t figure that out! I TRY to put the current things I am studying on the shelf. The wooden shelf is nice for garbling herbs, while looking out at part of the garden:)
And underneath it holds some honey supers waiting to be processed.
While arranging, I took the time to check each jar for freshness, using taste, sight, and smell and ended up with quite a few rejects! I used them in the bee smoker, while working my friends apiary with Eric, and they made a nice sweet smoke the bees reacted well too!
There is one more cabinet in that bedroom/apothecary area, it is yellow and holds liquor, some spices, extra bottles, spoons, etc etc
Now I need to make the labels, inventory all my tools, such as funnels, strainers, etc. And determine what I would still like or need.
Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages, from me and Comfrey Fairy! Who by the way, is mightily pleased with this tidying up around here! LOL
Forgot to mention, Dylan is starting the potty training process again! Aunt Michelle comes and visits almost every lunch hour she has, and is seen here reading Dylan one of his potty training themed books:)


*Ulrike* said...

Oh Leslie, you are amazing. I really enjoyed reading about all of it, and how you are coming along with your studies. I believe that is a really good thing. I still need to start on my kit that I had order, but like you too many irons in the fire. I have been making a to do list every day which seems to help a lot. Must be this old age thing with me as I get distracted with all the irons!! I look forward to seeing what else you will be doing, and thanks for posting it!
Take Care,

Anke said...

Oh my you do have a lot of herbal goodness in your home. It's great how you have everything organized and were able to find a place for it all.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow Leslie! I recognise so much in this little tour - but you do it much more prettily than I did! Aspirational and inspirational blog - love it!


Comfrey Cottages said...

Oh Ulrike, the irons in the fire bit is sooooo me also:) That is why I am very grateful to have found a teacher who will step by step guide me into a more formalized way of growing, harvesting, storing and using the herbs! glad you enjoyed this post! :)
Anke,I hope my response to your drop spindle post came through. Darn internet went whacko when I hit post. I so enjoy all your crafty adventures:) I can't keep up with you! lol
Claire, thank you for stopping in! I love your blog also! Your photography is wonderful and lovely information that I refer to frequently! Appreciate all you share:)

ErikTyler said...

I'm so glad Leslie didn't open her liquor cabinet. So many empty vodka bottles! LOL ~ Erik
(Just kidding everyone)

Comfrey Cottages said...

Hey bro, if I had any empty liquor bottles that had been used for drinking instead of medicine making, I can bout bet you would have helped me empty them!! lol love ya

Sarah Head said...

Well done, Leslie! All my herbs are in our larder. I try to keep them on separate shelves, but since the bottles are often three thick and the jars of dried herbs and oils are often two layers high it is sometimes difficult to find everything!When I hold workshops at the house, I often have people asking shyly if they can "visit the larder". I bet you'll have people asking the same question about your cabinets!

Comfrey Cottages said...

I had a nice big larder in a different home I had, and really liked it, so do miss one:) I imagine your larder has many over the times of herbal goodness that my cabinets do! lol I would love to peak in them also! :) Please share a picture sometime!

Rita M said...

Thanks for sharing this beautiful and interesting post with us Leslie.
That are a lot herbs you have there :)

Comfrey Cottages said...

Glad you enjoyed it Rita! Yes, quite a lot! lol love you

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Love, love, love the cabinet. I'm getting a jelly cupboard from a friend. I was going to give it to The Herbal Husband for bird food, but maybe I should rethink that! LOL!

Comfrey Cottages said...

Oh Nancy, with all the herbal jellies and goodies you make, I think you NEED that jelly cabinet!

Brigitte said...

What lovely cabinets you have!
Since living in New Zealand I haven't had my herbal stuff at one spot but spread out over so many places...
A few months ago I finally bought a big chest for some stuff like tools and ingredients for tinctures and creams. It is amazing, but this chest has a constant cool temperature no matter what the room temperature is.
This is great for tinctures, oils, butters and I am now looking forward to find such a lovely cabinet like yours for all my dried herbs which are slumbering in paper bags in a huge basket (my kids sometimes use this enormous big basket as a play house!)
The basket it self is made of willow and was my cot when I was a baby :-)

Herbal hugs and thank you for inviting us into your lovely apothecary!

Comfrey Cottages said...

I was so fortunate with the cabinets, Brigitte. My husband gave me the glass fronted one, my daugher gave me the pinkish one, (she wasn't using it), the other ones I found for very reasonable prices ( around $20 each) used:)
Your cool chest sounds just perfect for all the oils, butters etc! Maybe share a picture sometime, please? ;0
Your willow cot/ herb basket/ playhouse, is the sort of thing that brings special medicine of its own into your apothecary:) The lovely family history and uses are magical! Thank you for sharing about it! I would love to see it also! There might be pictures already, on your blog, I will look around more:) I could get lost for hours enjoying all you have shared.
Big herbal hugs to you and thank you for visiting Comfrey Cottages xx

Katelin Mccaig said...

Oh wow, that is quite the expanse of herbs! It’s handy to have all your medicinal herbs ready and stored in charming cabinets like these. You never know when you might need them. A lot of people are wary of using herbs for medicine, but they’ve been proven to be reliable. Good luck with your apothecary. It looks like you’re off to a great start!

Comfrey Cottages said...

thanks Katelin! And thank you for visiting. xx