Early Spring Herbal Musings… What can I play with in Feb??

So its early Feb up on the mountain here at Nemeton, we are about 6 hours away from a lovely snow storm and of course I am pondering what mischief I can get into in the woods in the thaw that should be coming around the bend here soon.  When the temperatures start to ascend into the 30’s and 40’s during the day then the sap in the trees here in the north east begin to run.  This year I want to spend some time harvesting and collecting pine, birch and witch hazel.    (maple syringing will have to wait another year… The trees need a little more girth and I need an outdoor boiling setup.)

Pinus spp.  (Pine)
I collect the sap or rather resin from this tree in the early spring as soon as the sap starts running – you can hear it crackling in the woods, its an amazing sound and one that I always associate with spring, growth and new beginnings.  I travel the woods in search of strong healthy pine trees in which to score.  Using a sharp knife I cut a diagonal incision approx 3 inches long and about 1/2 inch deep, then cut again approx 1/4 in. away from it but diagonally to it, so that I can remove about a quarter inch section, thus allowing the resin to collect and harden at the tip of the incision.  I note which trees I have treated in this manner and then go away and leave them alone, for about a month or so, checking on them during this time.  If I have use of the more liquid version then I frequent often and scrape with a knife that I keep for just such purpose (as its  pain to clean anything back to pre-pine sap state), if I am planning on collecting for future use, I wait until it has hardened some – about a month does it.  Then I use the same knife as noted above and scrape the now hardened, still super sticky stuff onto a leaf, fold it up and put it in my basket!  Harvesting (also known by some as wildcrafting) is now done!    See future post for Materia Medica on Pinus…

Betula spp. (Birch)  I will be collecting this trees sap in a manor similar to collecting maple sap for syruping.   This one I can begin harvesting anytime between late Feb and mid April, a few weeks before the leaves appear.  I plan on experimenting with using Birch sap as the base for making wine (used instead of water).  Now I’m talking about the liquid sap, almost clear liquid that comes from the cambium layer within the tree.    This sap will be collected, strained, boiled, cooled, with yeast added and other yummies, making for a lovely Spring into Awakening Wine.   More on sap collection and syrup making seen here… Tapping Birch
Once the wine is made, more details will be posted!  As well as my recipe once I make it.  =)

Raine’s Musings on Spring
In the spring she was often found rising up out of the dirt and shadows,
Up, up out of her dried shredded casings of her last year’s garb.
For it was only resting, not dead was she, lying deep beneath the layers of compost.
Only now, Now, now is the time she is rising up, stepping forth, ready to be cloaked in the beauty of spring.
For oh the joy to be found in the crackling of sap running in the trees
And the unfurling of the golden son-before-the-father;  Coltsfoot.
The deep ring of melted snow and ice surrounding the skunk cabbage as it rises with a purpose.
And so it is with a purpose that she rises forth, stronger, rested, ready for vibrancy.
This, this is the spring medicine for an herbalist.

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