I awoke Sunday morning to the first snowfall in the Puget Sound lowlands. The mountains have been getting dusted and accumulating thier white winter robes for the past few months. But Sunday the rain finally turned solid and floated softly from the sky and coated the trees and grasses in stark white. It seemed appropriate for our Solstice gathering, even though it made driving out to Ellen’s peaceful cabin on Fidalgo Island a bit more challenging.
Seven of us braved the white roads but poor Michelle and Kelsie, who were coming the farthest, were forced to turn around after making it well over half way here 😦
In accordance with the season our gathering activities are relegated to indoor activities or nature communing as there is little to be harvested this time of year. We planned to gather to celebrate the season change and try our hands at percolated tinctures.
Last month when Carrie and I were scouting Devil’s club harvesting grounds I mentioned to her that I was interested in attempting a percolated tincture. I had researched the subject online and found very little information regarding how to make them. As it turned out Carrie had made a few while attending a class with Micheal Moore in AZ and she offered to lead a demonstration for our little group. I’m hoping she will update the site with a detailed post on the process but I’ll go over it briefly.
A percolation is a tincture that can be made fairly fast compared to an infused tincture. The process takes roughly 24-48 hours from start to finish. I was interested in trying it out for those occasions where a tincture is needed sooner rather than later and you do not want to buy a tincture from the store. It also seems like a good choice for when a herb is out of season as you use only dried herb for this process. If you are not familiar with percolations think coffee, dried coffee beans are ground to the consistentsy of sand and a menstrum is poured over it and the resulting liquid that drips through is rich and dark and coffee laden. In the case of a percolated tincture the process is very similar only the menstrum is high percentage alcohol instead of boiling water.
Carrie, a Montana native, drove fearlessly down the snowy highway hills from Bellingham with Shana and arrived with a large box of all the tools she had brought for the demonstration. The night before she prepared the herbs we were going to be using. She ground up dried roots of echinacea and burdock and then mixed them with alcohol until the ground herbs were as moist as sand for building sand castles. That herb sat overnight and was slightly rehydrated. She next brought out her Perc Cones which were San Pelligrino bottles with the bottoms cut off.
We proceeded to place a small bit of cotton in the neck of the bottle and then began lightly packing the herbs into the cone. After they were packed we placed a bit of a coffee filter on top and some clean stones and poured the rest of the alcohol over them and waited… after a few minutes a dark, potent medicine began to come out the bottom, drip by drip.
It was a really exciting skill to learn and we were all thankful for Carrie’s well worded teaching and effort she put into guiding us through the process. She is definately a skilled medicine maker.
After the demonstration we gathered around the table, food was layed out and then the really fun part began- Presents! Trading gifts with other herbal enthusiasts is certainly a treat. It was so amazing because not one item was duplicated and each was certainly given with love.
Shana gifted us each with special blend of tinctures and oils she has made, I ended up with a gorgeous styptic blend of calendula and yarrow.
Megan brought a lucious lemongrass cream made with aloe butter and clay masks made with French green clay, oatmeal, hibiscus flower and willow bark.
Ellen gave the group spray bottles of the awesome Hyrdosols that resulted from the essential oils she made this fall from geranium, cedar and rosemary. And of course many of us left with green, cottony bundles of her specially crafted Moxa.
Carrie brought a selection of lovely lip balms in peppermint, rosemary and lemon, each in colorful containers reminiscent of their contents . She also gifted us each with oat heads that she and harvested.
I arrived with a homemade soap made with cottonwood and lavender infused oil. I also brought an elderberry, rosehip, ginger and cinnamon syrup and dream pillows filled with lavender, pacific mugwort and desert sage.
We all got quite a take if you ask me 🙂
I watched happily as Coralie was passed from the arms of all of these wise, strong women. The gathering activities were to include time in the wood fired sauna in Ellen’s circle of cedars, but snow kept falling and we parted a bit early to avoid trecherous roads. But as always, we enjoyed a lovely early winter day in shared company, each of us working to build community and share our love of the plants with one another.
January Gathering- Reunion with Suzanne from Good Natured Earthing and Cedar Mountain Herb School