Fall fell with a thunk today, as the air turned from summer-fog-wet to winter-is-coming-cold. You have to live here for a couple years at least to feel the shift, but California does have four seasons, and they change roughly at the cross-quarter days: May 1 for Summer, Aug 1 for Fall, Nov 1 for Winter, and Feb 1 for Spring.
We have been socked-in all summer here, with only occasional glimpses of sun. This has been fine with me, since I find the quality of light under cloud cover to be extremely conducive to creativity, and besides, all you need to do is travel 10 miles inland to be in the hot sun again.
As weather anomalies go, I think the California coast got the better part of the deal compared to the rest of the country this summer. It has been a prolific season in the garden; all the flowers and herbs are going out of their way to celebrate the cool greenhouse-like conditions, and the colors have been extravagant. Here is just one bouquet I picked last month.
Everybody warned me that planting mugwort was akin to saying I wanted my entire property covered in mugwort. With some extreme pruning and digging up of runners over the winter months, I am happy to say that so far it is staying put in its bedâ€”but it has taken over the entire bed, crowding out the other artemisias planted there and providing me with a lifetime supply of mugwort in just one season.
Last summer I made the mistake of harvesting the mugwort too soon; only afterward did I read that you’re supposed to wait till it flowers to pick it. This year I have been much more patient, but even now, late in the summer, it is not quite ready to harvest. The cool weather has delayed its ripening, but it is the most amazing slow-motion transformation. As the buds develop, the stalks and leaves turn a burnished purple-red and the plant gets strongly fragrant, reminding me of another common psychoactive plant (one that is much more lucrative to grow, sadly for me).
My friend Corey came over and asked what I was going to do with all this bounty, but I haven’t quite gotten that far. After hanging it to dry, I will use some of it to make dream pillows, but that still leaves about 90% unspoken for.
Mugwort tincture seems excessive; it is such a strong plant already that putting it into tincture form could be more harmfulÂ than helpful. Mugwort oil sounds like a good choice, but I would love to hear from others on what works best.Â Are there any dreamers and/or herbalists out there with great suggestions to share? Meanwhile, here is another view of the garden, where Pacific mugwort, yarrow and rosemary all mingle and kvetch, overheard by a nosy strand of passion flower.