It is November in the Village Wise Woman Garden. Samhain, the final harvest, has come and gone. Yet, some inhabitants of the garden apparently did not receive the memo. The tomato plants are still in flower and new fruit emerges every day. The nasturtiums and calendulas continue to unfurl bright green leaves and to send out a flower here and there. A lone coneflower plant has suddenly appeared with three buds of purple unfurling as we speak. All of the herbs - catmint, thyme, sage, and basil among them – are still abundant and fragrant. But it is time to set my mind to the tasks ahead to prepare the garden and my magical household for Winter.
November is my time to dry and store the herbs from my garden. I cut all of my herbs back, most by two-thirds, and tote them indoors in large wicker baskets. My kitchen then becomes a processing center. The herbs are all trimmed, bundled, and placed upside down in labeled paper lunch bags. The bags are then tied off at the top with a rubber band, have holes poked into them to allow for some air circulation and to prevent molding, and then hung from my kitchen ceiling. The kitchen becomes a fragrant haven over the next few weeks. A cool November breeze through an open window carries the various herbal scents through the house.
After about three weeks, the herbs are prepared for their assorted uses. Smudge sticks of sage, lavender, and rosemary are made for use throughout the year. The leaves and/or flowers of many herbs for use in teas, cooking and magical workings for the coming year are stored in jars or bags and placed on shelves in my kitchen in a colorful crowded display. I will make candles and soaps with some of these herbs come February. Some will be ground down and used in holiday meals while others will be used to help overcome Winter chills or colds. Any seeds are stored in small jars in the refrigerator for blessing at Ostara and later plantings.
There are some herb plants that I just cannot live without through the Winter months. Some basil from the garden is transplanted into a pot or two for indoors. My rosemary plants, more like shrubs now, are dug up, potted up and put on my enclosed sun porch to protect them from Winter storms. Both of these plants scent the air beautifully and uplift the spirits of all in the house. My geraniums are also brought in and continue to blossom through the darkest coldest days of the year, reminding me that soon the days will grow longer again and the garden will once again burst with life.
And the last of the tomatoes? Many are not ripe yet. There are many recipes for green tomatoes so, most likely, that is where they are headed. I am thinking a green tomato relish could work well and be used through the Winter. So it looks like I will be branching out into the world of canning in the next week or so. The ripened tomatoes will be used immediately for salads or tomato sauce, adding a little love magic to dinner.
The rest of the garden will be allowed to die back, the withered leaves and branches falling back to the soil to insulate what lies beneath to be reborn in Spring. A layer of compost followed by a layer of mulched Autumn leaves will be placed over every garden bed for extra protection. The coneflower seed heads will be left right where they are to reseed for Spring or for the birds to feast upon when the feeders are in need of replenishing. Watching my feathered friends from the kitchen window will bring me joy when the Winter weather keeps me indoors. The flowering shrubs and bushes will go dormant to await pruning right after Imbolc.
I have much to do out there in the garden and here, where I sit right now, in my kitchen in the coming days of November. By the time Thanksgiving arrives, the Village Wise Woman Garden will be protected and ready for the Winter’s onslaught of elements and I will leave an offering of thanks to the garden spirits and to Mother Earth. My garden has given me an entire year of gifts – delicious flavors, heady scents, breathtaking colorful sights, and bountiful magic.