Friday, 24 July 2015

No such thing as a failed experiment

(Originally published 23 June 2014 here )

That's what my high school science teacher used to say. "You always learn something, even if it's not what you set out to learn." So it is with gardening, to be sure.

This year's experiments?

Well, there was the cold frame fiasco, wherein I gave the mice a little feast in early spring and learned that stinging nettles and dandelions hate growing under glass.

There was the "mix all the seeds of "greens" together and broadcast them" experiment, wherein it turned out I got almost nothing but turnips. As we are not huge turnip fans, I've ripped most of them out in favour of carrots. This land grows wonderful carrots. One thing the turnips did, though, is loosen the soil nicely so no tilling was required for the next crop. They're such hogs, though! Crowded out the collards, bok choy and broccoli!

The artemesia something-or-other that I've allowed to grow as a guard against cabbage moths is definitely earning its keep, and I like the smell and look of it, too. It's the plant used in dream pillows, so by way of another experiment, I tried a sprig under my pillow one night recently. Definitely had more vivid dreams (and that's saying something for me, I have IMAX dreams as a matter of course). Maybe I'll dry some and make little pillows with fancy material, add in some lavender and rose maybe, give them some lace trim - NOT. I might put sprigs here and there around the house as I hear it can keep mice away, though.

Currently, the husband and I are in the midst of (among other adventures) the Great Urtication Experiment. What is urtication, you might ask? Urticaria = stinging nettles, and urtication is the act of deliberately whacking oneself (or loved one) with sprigs of nettles.

No, it is not a kink. Well, it's a kink too (apparently, although the mind boggles) but that's not the point. We're doing this because we've long heard it can relieve aches and pains. He's had a crick in his neck coming from a pinched nerve that he's been seeing our beloved physio gal for, and the torture, er, I mean exercises she gave him to do are helping, but not fast enough for his liking. So when I told him I was going to try nettles on my aching foot (an old injury that flares during gardening season), he decided to join me.

Well, I'll be damned, it's working for both of us. Which is interesting, as they are different kinds of problems. The first time, we were sparing with the nettles. I mean, youch, right? But surprisingly, a deliberate nettle sting doesn't hurt in the same way as the accidental ones. There's the initial sting but it fades fast, then there's warmth in the area, then cool. Also real pain relief for both of us. The venerable Frank Cook says that nettles work by opening blocked energy. I believe him. My man's crick seems to be resolving well. My foot would be doing better if I could stay out of the garden and give it a rest ... (yeah, right). Great temporary relief though. I remember my grandmother's doctor used to do it for her knees as recently as the 1970's in Scotland.

I can't believe it took me this long to try it. Last year I infused some nettles in oil, as I'd read in one of my old, old herbals it makes a nice ointment for "benumbed limbs" ie poor circulation (I'm guessing). Well, it's still infusing in its jar, I've never had the courage to use it!. Now that I know deliberate nettle whacking is not so bad, I think I'll try it. That foot of mine needs all the help it can get.

I have, literally, an apothecary's worth of experiments. From the time I learned you can tincture herbs, I've tinctured everything I came across. I have a pint (at least) of eyebright from that first year. I have jars and jars of hawthorne berry tincture, too, and red clover and, well too many things to mention. Fact is, you never know when you'll need one of the above, and one must harvest when the plant offers itself. So when I come across a bumper crop of anything, I'm on it.

Speaking of bumper crops, that leads me to another experiment, although not a deliberate one. We have wild tomatoes coming up in three different beds, much to my delight. It's happened only once before and we ended up with the best cherry tomatoes ever from a plant that snaked its way through a potato patch. It was a tricky business to harvest those taters without disturbing it, believe me. Best tomatoes ever. No idea what sort we'll get this year. We also have volunteer potatoes, just one or two were coming up in the ill fated turnip bed. Naturally, I welcome them. I didn't plant any, and that made my husband sad, so this is a very good thing.

If you've read this far, you must be a garden nut, so here's Frank Cook on nettles. If you're not familiar with him, don't be put off by the dreads. This gentle giant was (sadly, he's gone now) the voice for the plants.

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