Lemon Leaf Tea

Since I learned to feed my lemon tree three times a year, it gives me fruit! Right now the fruit is still green and camouflaged in the leafy canopy. I checked in with my tree yesterday and noticed that some of the “branches” were not woody or thorny; they were suckers that need to be pruned. Without the suckers, more energy can flow to the fruit-bearing branches.

I cut and bundled the suckers in my hands and as I did, a soft hint neroli tickled my nose! The tree is not flowering yet, but looks AND smells like it’s getting ready.

As I enjoyed the sensory experience of these prickly branches, I remembered being in the kitchen of a client and his wife. We were sitting at the island and she was heating up dinner for him and the contractors who were working out back. She had beautiful citrus trees and grape vines covering her yard. As I admired them, she told me that both lemon and grape leaves make a nutritive tea. She served me a cup with honey.

I’m going to make lemon leaf tea!

It was quite the epiphany. I removed leaves from the stems, then washed and dried them. I weighed 2 ounces of leaf into a 1/4 gallon mason jar, poured boiling water to the brim and sealed with a lid for 4-12 hours. When I popped the seal and strained the tea it was an amazing almost neon yellow color! And the flavor was just as inspiring- a harmony of light, lemon and leafiness. Next time I’m going to crush the leaves a bit before brewing.

It’s hard to find any information about lemon leaf and it’s preparations or beneficial qualities. If you have any stories or recipes, I’d be happy to hear them.

Mantis Returns

We were blessed by a beautiful green preying mantis this afternoon. I was pulling some marigolds that were crowding the dusty miller and disturbed this dude. He climbed up into the jasmine and watched me as he went.

This mantis is only a couple inches long, but dude is huge compared to my micro mantis friend from a few months ago. I’m flattered that he is hanging out at our house. He can stay as long as he likes!

The monsoon rains are in full swing. High temperatures are below 90 for a couple days and it stormed all through the night and today- not just 30 minutes of getting dumped on!

Compostables

I am debating what kind of compost pile I want to build. Cold compost is chill (and can be wormy.) But I think hot compost offers more of a thrill. Let me break it down for you. Add browns (paper stuff) and greens (plant stuff) like any pile. If the ratio is just right and holds moisture, the compost will cook itself! How delectable. So I plant and water a fresh pile of browns and greens. I tuck it in under a couple pieces of cardboard. When I have scraps, I dig a hole and bury them. And my fingers are crossed..

Who knew it was such a science to brew fresh dirt! Maybe I’ll take it’s temperature later… For now I’m letting it break itself down for me!

Death and decay fuel new life, whether it’s from your fresh compost, a mushroom or what’s for dinner. Life and death compete and cooperate. Life and death breed both chaos and order across the food web. Life and death build upon each other. Life and death create growth that spurs us onward, naturally.

Years ago our cat preyed upon a bunny that I tried unsuccessfully to save. It’s one of those uncomfortable things that happen. I buried it in a tin with a big golden beet. My fascination with death has led to creating images. I captured this moment of the end. It’s confronting yet peaceful. We can no longer avoid the conversation. Death needs to be embraced so that it can be understood with reverence. Look at it. Be curious about it. Toss the taboo. Get familiar with this natural process. I call it Bunnykins.

My grandmother always recited the poem, The Spider and the Fly. The opening lines are, “come into my parler, said the spider to the fly.” In a flower garden there are many spiders and many more flies.

My preying mantis friend got eaten. I wonder how many flies the little guy caught while it stood still on it’s leaf all week. I visited every day, tried to be quiet and made an image of it. I know it’s natural, but I was still sad when it got consumed. The preying mantis got preyed upon itself. On and on up the web it goes.

The predator kills it’s prey. We eat; we process the meat. I take a photo. I honor the animal. I appreciate the beauty of it’s sacrifice as it is transmuted into new life. This is the first animal I helped butcher. The photo shows reverence as we kneel to skin the deer.

Finding strength and inspiration in the natural cycles of death and decay is the reason regenerative agriculture appeals to me. It can save our planet, which is dying from the way we abuse our natural resources and wild lands. Our plants and animals and soil suffers from the way we practice industrial agriculture. Regenerative farming can literally bring back life and carbon and water to the soil and in turn the animals, plants and us who all depend upon it. It can resuscitate our ailing earth!

And so we make compost.

We also grew a cover crop (aka lawn) this year here in Phoenix, Arizona. Yes, we do irrigate, but as the root system grows deeper and deeper with the help of beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi and microorganisms, it also holds more water and let me tell you, we need to sequester as much water as possible! We can also sequester carbon. This can positively affect climate change and our regional water cycle. We over-seed with clover and let the dandelions and purslane live to encourage biodiversity. Pollinators appreciate the variety. So does my cat.

Spill the tea, not the infusion

I was recently introduced to the work of Susun Weed and her Wise Woman Way. She is a Green Witch and teaches about green blessings from her green heart!

She is a simpler- using only one herb at a time. She teaches people how to make nourishing herbal infusions from nettles, red clover, oatstraw, comfrey and linden. Infusions are different from just herbal tea in that they can provide richer benefits.

For tea you use a teaspoon of the herb per 8 oz and steep a few minutes. In contrast, an infusion uses 1 oz of your chosen herb per quart and steep 4-10hrs.

I had been making chilled unsweetened herbal tea on the daily since it’s been so hot. Now I’m drinking nourishing herbal infusions to impart greater benefits from our plant allies!

Susun offers free courses and videos on how to build your immune system so that you only have a mild case of the flu when you get it.

Check out her website at http://susunweed.com

Or this video where she makes a nettle infusion!

Nettle Infusion and nettle tea
Mullein infusion

Lawn Life

Blue Grama grass, dandelions and a mustard green

We have a happy habitat going in the grass. We are constantly weeding to keep crabgrass at bay while seeding this new lawn. I hunt runners that are reaching; I find the elbow where they drop into the ground and I pop em out. There’s a callous on the inside of my index finger and the outside of my pinky finger from yanking crabgrass.

We look for crabgrass seed heads in the afternoon sun and swift but gingerly collect them for the burn pile.

When I close my eyes at night I see the shape of crabgrass growing behind my eyelids like the flower of life- eternal.

We leave some mustard green for the birds and dandelion too. It’s an aesthetic: rich, luxurious biodiversity.

Piggles (AKA Biggie Smalls the cat) crouches and crawls in the tall tufts at dusk. He pounces on little white butterflies that are flitting all around.

Crabgrass elbow
I’ve had crabgrass up to here!
Biggie Smalls sniffing stuff
Crabgrass creeping
Crabgrass seed heads
Elvis our Zen master
Blue Grama Grass

Bye bye Birdie

Welp, the preying mantis has moved on- to where? I do not know.

An Aberts towhee landed on the fence, dropped down onto a nail in the fence, hopped down to the ground right next to the lambs ear and pecked it as he went by.

My heart dropped. In a moment everything changed. I went out there and confirmed that the mantis was nowhere to be found.

I do have an alternate theory. When I was looking for the mantis, I noticed that a sprinkler head nearby had popped off. It is evident that water was spraying the lambs ear. Perhaps it forced the mantis to move. Maybe it is happily meditating on another leaf somewhere nearby.

I thank the little white preying mantis for it’s visit to my corner of the world and the wisdom imparted for my life.

It is a creature with intense presence for it’s tiny size and it will be missed!