We had a good, hard frost last night. As I saw Paul off to work it was still black-as-night and the stars were as glorious as autumn stars could be. Now the sun is up and I can see the frost is so thick it looks like we had snow. Perfect. This is the day.
The hard frost sends the signal to the plants that will survive winter to send all their energy down, down to their roots. Now is the time to dig for dandelion. I made root tincture and vinegar in the spring, now I'll dig some for drying. Later in the winter, as a treat, I'll combine dandelion with burdock and simmer the two a long time on the stove, til all the goodness is in the water. Then, I'll combine that with brown sugar and make toffee. I have never done so before, but I've lingered over the recipe for years. I can't wait. If I find (and manage to unearth) a first year burdock in my yard today, I'll make it with fresh root. Call me crazy, but I find it all terribly exciting!
It's been a couple of weeks since I harvested my potted burdock, and oh my, I am now deeply in love with burdock root. The leaves are probably the most bitter thing I've ever tasted, but the root is so sweet! Fresh or dried, the taste is amazing, and even more amazing is the colour. How can a root, black skinned, lily white on the inside, produce a tea of such glorious jewel green? I take a couple of inches of the dried root, break it up, and put it in a mason jar, pour in some boiling water and let it steep a few hours. (Which technically makes it an infusion I suppose). Then I have a few sips several times a day. It's very..grounding. The taste is not just sweet, it is of course more complex than that, there is a woodiness as well, and something of the essence of good dirt. I know that in the depths of winter I'll be in need of some essence of good dirt.
This is the beginning of a long term relationship, burdock is no one night stand. And it's a polygamous relationship, too, allowing, nay, longing for dandelion. For as burdock reaches down and gently loosens up your old, hard fears, all that stuff you've been needlessly hanging on to, dandelion comes along and gets it moving so you can finally let it go. All our "junk" after all, is both physical and mental/spiritual. The plants (if you let them) will show you the truth of that.
The carrots should all come out of the ground now, at least those that consent to. Some will refuse, wanting to stay and flower and set seed next year, and that's fine by me. Anything for the bees is fine by me. After the carrots come out I'll put in the crocus bulbs for my beloved bees, and the few tulips I surprised myself by buying. In fact I usually loathe tulips, but these seemed quite pretty in their photo on the bag, with pointy petals and stripes.
Gardeners do not live in the present, you see. We think forward, and backward, especially in fall and spring. As I remember my bliss at the first of the bees, big bumble queens out humming as they forage, I am duty bound to provide for them next year. And I need to attract them to the fruit trees, hence bright flowers at the feet of the plums to say "come this way, your majesties!". And so, of course, as I dig dandelions today, I will be secretly glad as roots break off in the soil, so that I get my bit of root, and the bees get their flowers, too, from the roots that stayed behind.
Roots, then, are not just there to hold plants in the ground, and pull up nutrients from the soil. Roots are, in winter, the very essence of that plant, holding within themselves the future leaves and flowers. So root medicines are not just about depth and grounding and nourishment (although they are certainly that), they are also about preparation for more. They are about knowing when to wait, and knowing how to feel the change of seasons and move out and up, reach for the sun, and bloom again.