Its summer! It’s sunny! At last at last!.
For those of you who live, like me in the UK, it’s time to celebrate the return of the sun. I had genuinely forgotten what it was like to not take a raincoat, I had forgotten that it is in fact possible to hang clothes outside to dry, I had forgotten how it is to wriggle my toes in warm wriggles in dry hot earth. I had forgotten that feeling that prolonged hot sun gives you, which makes you think that sitting outside doing nothing is actually quite productive.
We’re harvesting flowers. Not my home grown produce which has gone the way of the slug this year with too many absences and busy times on my part to keep on top of them.The slugs I mean. My harvesting is all wild this year.
A few days ago we returned from a family retreat locally where I held sugar free baking workshops and Hugh led bushcraft activities. We felt nourished and energised by living in community and sharing our skills even for such a short time. (the sauna helped too!) Unfortunately we also brought an eye infection in the form of raging conjunctivitis back with us.
Tansy woke unable to open her eyes and when she did they were red and swollen. It took ten minutes of gentle bathing with warm herbal tea to unstick them.
I have some favourite herbs for eye infections and luckily, the only thing that is growing with any enthusiasm in my garden at the moment is one of them…..chickweed. Stellaria media, the little star. It’s one of my favourite weeds and I always have a hard time digging it out of my beds. I make chickweed pesto in spring and by this time of year its lush soft greeness is beginning to straggle and I’m starting to think about pulling it up. I’m so glad I didn’t.
Step number one in treating conjunctivitis.
Cut the soft tips of the chickweed and discard any stringy stems.
Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. I added some calendula petals too.
Leave until cool enough to lay the vegetable matter over the eyes without any risk of burns, although it should be as warm as possible
Lay on eyes and cover with a cloth if needed to prevent drips running into the ear!
Leave until cool or until patient leaps up shouting ‘that’s enough Mummy’, and races off to play.
Usually I have some shop bought eyebright on hand at all times but due to house moves etc, my herb jar was empty. I asked Hugh to pick me up some in town but it was on errand too many. Disgruntled, I stomped off for a walk onto our neighbour’s land, a steep hill which rises up on the opposite side of the valley from our land, grazed by several shire horses. Well I’d never noticed that the entire hill is practically covered in eyebright! It’s a tiny plant, so close to the ground and delicate it’s very easy to miss. It’s semi parasitic, so very hard to cultivate in the garden and seems to favour grass closely cropped by horses or sheep.
I made up an infusion with eyebright, elderflower, chamomile and plantain, and bathed her eyes in the warm solution as many times as I could in between chickweed poultices. I also used it to unglue her eyes each morning laying warm cotton wool soaked in the solution on her eyes for five minutes.
Internal immune boost.
Basically, I added a few drops of shop bought echinacea tincture (my plants are nowhere near being ready to use!) to the eyebright and elder mix and gave it to Tansy to drink throughout the day.
I also chopped lots of raw garlic to add to her food to fight the infection.
Finally, we are obviously paying good attention to hygiene and sleep.No touching eyes or sharing wash cloths, and early bedtimes
It feels nourishing to be helping her this way, searching out the herbs, taking the time to lie down in the day for the treatments…Tansy said this morning, ‘it’s quite nice to rest with my eyes closed and not be able to see anything.’
I really believe that sometimes illness has such teaching to offer us. Yesterday I had plans to dash off in the car in an effort to do ‘holiday stuff’ making the most of the hot weather. It would have involved hideously complicated juggling of the car with Hugh’s work needs, and after glancing at Tansy’s eyes I decided to stay at home.
We had a picnic by the stream, collected hay left by the farmer, found baby frogs at the pond and waded through the mud, collected some firewood, did some beeswax modelling, sewing, gardening and an early bed….
It was a challenge for me to let go of beach plans and relax into being at home, the kids showed me how, they don’t think further than the minute they’re in.
But we are off to the beach today!!