Last year my sister Becky and her partner bought a 42 acre farm
in the hills of Wilno in Eastern Ontario, very close to where
our family homestead stands, where our Great Grandmother was born
and where the one room school house that she taught in still stands.
My sisters and I were raised in this community and much of my
family still lives close by. We all feel an attachment to the
Becky and John have spent the winter building, mostly on their
own (but with some help from family and friends! We are now window-framing-hardwood-floor-installing
experts!), a beautiful log home, and they live there with their
5 month old daughter, 2 dogs and 2 cats.
I was delighted when Becky asked me to help her identify some
of the herbs in her meadows (or back 40 as she calls it!) and
give her some ideas what to do with them
This is Becky and John's view from their porch.
St. John's Wort (Hypericum Perforatum)
St. John's Wort is distinctive because of it's small, star-like
yellow flowers. It grows about knee height and blooms in mid July.
To check to be sure you have St. John's Wort pluck a leaf and
hold it up to the light. You will be able to see many little dots
or pores that hold the St. John's Wort oil that we will be extracting.
Preparing the St. John's Wort Oil
||Becky and I decided to get our children involved
in the Harvest. This is a fast and easy project and my boys
just love this hands on stuff.
Here I am harvesting.
We harvest all of the aerial parts of the plant - that means
anything that grows above the ground. So don't pull the roots,
just leave them. I usually just cut the plant where the green
leaves start and if there is a woody stem below I just leave
Along with many other herbalists and in line with aboriginal
tradition I also either ask permission of each plant to cut
or as I'm cutting I let the plant know we are going to be
using it medicinally. This is simply respectful and thankful
for the role that the plant will play in our life.
||Here is Becky and Emily with a handful of St.
John's Wort - this is about how much we will need to make 1/2
L of St. John's Wort oil which is lots for both of our families
for a year.
||5 year old Alden cuts the St. John's
Wort into a Jar. We use all of the leaves and all of the flowers
but compost the woody stems.
||Here Alden is packing the herb tightly
into the jar while mommy watches.
||8 year old Jacob pours in the olive oil until
it reaches the top of the jar.
The St. John's Wort Oil should be left in a sunny window
for 2-6 weeks or until the oil from the pores in the leaves
of the plant is drawn into the olive oil and the olive oil
turns a reddish/brown colour - then it is ready to be strained
Because of the pain-relieving qualities of St. John's Wort
oil this is a nice gift for moms-to-be. It is wonderful to
put on a sore perineum for a few days after baby is born.
It's also nice to have in your first aid kit for any bumps
or bruises or scrapes for your wee ones.
Here we all are with our two small bottles of hypericum or
St. John's Wort oil. What a fun project for a summer's afternoon
- and what a lovely way for the children to learn about the
plants that surround them.
Now the next time I need to pull out the first aid kit -
everyone will understand where the "ouchy oil" came