Garden Lifestyle

Springtime: on the road again

Well I departed from the frigid temps in Maryland with over 12-inches of snow on the ground to head south to begin another series of springtime herbal events.

Daffodils are just ready to pop here--springtime in the Ozarks!
Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger

Well I departed from the frigid temps in Maryland with over 12-inches of snow on the ground to head south to begin another series of springtime herbal events. While still chilly here in Arkansas, the snow has melted, the precipitation is rain with temps in the 50s and the daffodils are up three or four inches and budded, though not yet open. The first night I arrived the peepers were peepin’ around the pond and in the ditches-a sure sign of spring.

The trees are budded and today I watched a roadrunner running up and down the driveway and alongside the pasture, just twitching its tail up and down and peckin’ at this and that. Since we don’t have roadrunners up north, I don’t know their habits-they sure are big birds-with tail feathers at least 10-inches long, maybe more. It certainly is a pleasure to travel and get to view the fauna and flora of other locales (not to mention the merriweather).

Across the nation, gardeners are readying for spring. While some in southern climes might already have some early cold-weather crops planted and are enjoying the first harbingers in bloom, those in the north are awaiting the thaw and have ordered their seeds, starting some indoors for a jumpstart on extending the growing season. First crops to be seeded are onions and leeks, greens and lettuces, and the brassicas. Some prefer to buy onion plants and cole crops like broccoli, cabbage and collards. However, I like to sow seed for salad greens, mixes like mesclun and misticanza, kale, chard, mustard and hardy herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill, chervil, nasturtium, calendula and arugula directly into the garden. In my zone 7 garden this is usually done, as early as the ground can be worked in the latter half of March to mid April. This could be later this year due to the snow cover and frozen earth. Many folks practice planting potatoes on Saint Patrick’s Day, and some plant peas and/or onions too.

My herbal colleague and gardening/traveling cohort Tina Marie Wilcox, lives here in Leslie, Arkansas. We are getting prepared for a number of upcoming events. Next week, we pack up the pickup and head for Texas.

The first event is at the American Botanical Council in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, March 17 from 2 to 4 p.m. We will be teaching a hands-on workshop on “Shrub, Switchel, or Beveridge: The Art of Healthy Fruit Vinegars”. Not only will participants get to learn the health benefits and fascinating lore regarding these age-old beverages and taste some of our traditional and more exotic shrubs, each person gets to make and take an elderberry shrub home with them.

From Austin, we head to Round Top, Texas for the 20th Annual Herbal Forum at Round Top on Saturday, March 20 and 21. We have been to this event numerous times before and it is a popular gathering for Texas herbies, as well as others who travel from around the country to attend. On Friday, we will teach an optional participation workshop on “Spa Herbs: the creative herbal home”. Besides learning about essential oils and their virtues, each attendee will get to make a sugar scrub, an aromatherapeutic spritzer, a massage, bath or insect repellent oil and an herb-scented, natural hand sanitizer. You need to sign up in advance for this workshop as space is limited.

Saturday’s program is chock-a-block full with the following programs:

Savory, Herb of the Year 2015--Henry Flowers
Seasoning with Savory--Susan Belsinger
The Female Ring-Tailed Roarer--Tina Marie Wilcox
Blessing of the Garden--Lucia Bettler
Gatherin’ and Cooking with Edible Wild Weeds and Seasonal Greens--Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox
Wonderful Ways with Herbs--various demonstrators

From there, we head back to Arkansas to teach at the Ozark Folk Center annual springtime Folk School from March 25 to 27. Tina Marie will be teaching “Herbs in the Greenhouse, Coldframe and Garden” and I will be teaching “Herbs, Hands-on” on Wednesday and Thursday, the 25th and 26th and “Medicinal Herbs, Hands-on” on Friday, the 27th.

Just a week later, April 3 and 4, is the annual Medicinal Herb Field Trip and Workshop at the Ozark Folk Center. This is a favorite event with a hike on Friday walking about the Ozarks looking at plants with like-mined people and then a seminar all day Saturday with great programs. This year’s speakers are a great line-up of knowledgeable naturalists and herbalists. One of our favorite outdoorsmen who will be speaking, leading and entertaining is Doug Elliott from the hills of North Carolina–if you haven’t seen or heard Doug–you better show up for some good fun. Another fav wildwoodsman is Bo Brown, who will be returning to share his knowledge and musical talents, as well as herbalists Sasha Daucus, Tina Marie and myself. We are looking forward to a new speaker from Louisiana, John Michael Kelley, who is a nature lover and specializes in primitive survival skills. I am going to do my Saturday program on “Fermented Foods”; find out why they are so good for us and get to taste a few natural ferments, which I have been working on for some time now.

So, y’all better look at these upcoming springtime events and figure out which ones you might want to attend-or at least get inspired! If you can’t make it to any of these events down South–check out what is happening in your neighborhood–since springtime herbal events will be popping up across the nation this time of year. I’ll keep you posted with photos of all of the fun from on the road…

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