In part two of our seasonal nature journal feature, Emine Kali Rushton offers ideas for fresh jottings, inspired by the abundance of summer flowers
At the start of this year, I had an idea. I wanted to find a way to recapture the wonder I so often felt as a child, while out in nature. Up a tree, hopping between puddles, rolling down a hill, making daisy chains, crushing petals for homemade perfume… and so I decided to reinstate another childhood project of mine: the nature journal.
I remember the Usborne Spotter’s Guide to Nature I received as a birthday gift and how I cherished it. It helped me to identify the trees, birds and bugs I loved so much. I relished the ability to trace a tree’s journey from nut or seed to fully-fledged being – sprawling, vital, regal. I adored picking out the differing calls of the crowing birds – from tut-tut-tut to hooa-hoaa-hooa – an entire orchestra at song in the branches and bushes of my humble back garden.
This year, I’ve felt a lot of circles and cycles beginning and completing. Steiner often talks of the seven-year cycle, and how each one marks a completion in the development of the human being. Well, this year I turn 6 x 7 – a summer birthday, almost always sunny, marked in my memory with picnics, seaside strolls and ice-cream cones. Good times.
Within the nature journal I began this spring (which we explored ideas for in the Spring issue of JUNO, issue 78), I am now moving very much into summer’s abundance and celebration. If you too are creating a nature journal alongside this feature (which will run for a year in JUNO, giving us all ample opportunity to play, create and explore alongside Mother Nature and her turning Wheel of the Year), summer is the most glorious season for really NOTICING. From the heavy drone of the bumbling bees to the shifting scents of a summer walk, there’s so much to experience and take in: a full-sense immersion.
My nature journal is nothing fancy – just a simple craft-paper book from a local stationery shop –but when I open it, I am drawn into another world… from flower pressings and seed collections to the watercolour paintings I dabble in and the herbal recipes I cut out and keep. It’s endlessly inspiring to gather up some of nature’s glorious seasonal wisdom and put it to salubrious, creative use in one’s own daily life and family home.
Our family home, a wee 250-year-old cottage in Kent, is blessed with a back garden – a small terrace garden, but no less wondrous for its diminutive size. We long ago let it go the way of nature. We never use pesticides or herbicides, we do not mow, we make our own rich, black compost from foodie scraps and our rabbit Pip’s recycled paper litter, and we just let things find their own way. You’d think we’d have a wild, impassable jungle on our hands, but actually, the garden has found its own middle ground – a place of balance, where fruit trees thrive alongside the herbs, veggies and flowers that we sow and grow each year; the ladybirds seeing off the aphids; the birds picking off the odd slug; the cabbage caterpillars feasting a while before metamorphosing into the beautiful butterflies that grace our garden throughout the summer and into autumn. All are most welcome here.
As I look around today, I can see the swathes of vibrant, sunny calendula – bright as a child’s smile – and sense the honeyed-grass scent of chamomile that has taken deeper root this year; there are tender herbs of mint, sage, chive and fennel filling in the gaps in the soil, where we aerated the earth and added in a winter feed of leaf mould and compost; there are sugar snap peas and French beans, sweet peas, chard, greens and rocket (so much rocket); there’s hyssop, verbena, plantain and nipplewort; Lego-like forget-me-not flowers, perfectly blue and symmetrical. It’s impossible not to goggle in awe and gratitude while taking in this rich scene… nothing fancy, just nature’s freely given bounty.
Two ways to celebrate calendula this summer
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is my favourite of all flowers, not only because of its incredibly vibrant colour – which is the deepest, egg-yolk orange – but because of its inherently helpful nature. Touch a calendula petal and you’ll immediately recognise its richness – there is a beautifully waxen, silky, supple quality. They feel incredibly soft, but also plump and resilient. The flower contains many flavonoids, carotenes, saponin, resin and volatile oils, which also make it a wonderful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory helper.
Good news: calendula is extremely easy to grow! All you need to do is scatter seeds into a patch of exposed soil (a large pot or container will do the job admirably too), and then simply pat them in gently. Then, a good water, and voilà – you’ll have budding blooms in just 6 to 8 weeks.
Enjoy a calendula and daisy soothing skin steam
- You’ll need one big pot, ideally cast iron, stainless steel or one without a non-stick coating.
- Fill the pot with filtered or natural spring water, and then add in your calendula and daisy flowers.
- Bring the water to the boil, letting the herbs infuse into the water
- Take off the boil, and allow to cool to a good temperature: you want lots of steam without it being too hot.
- Place a towel over your head and lean over the pot (being careful not to touch the pot if it still feels hot), and let the steam envelop you for 6 to 8 minutes. This is meant to feel wonderful, so if you need to come up for air, please do!
- Blot your face dry and mist with floral water or natural toner, then apply a facial moisturiser while the skin is still damp, stroking and massaging the skin until it’s absorbed.
Daisies are often dismissed as useless weeds, but that could not be less true! They contain a high level of saponins, alongside helpful resins, triterpenes and anthocyanin, and they are great for treating bruises and minor wounds. I add them to my facial steams for their anti-inflammatory and cleansing actions.
Make calendula all-over oil
- First, fill a clean, dry jar with your calendula and plantain. You can use dried or fresh herbs – the latter are the most potent, but the former are less likely to spoil since there’s no water content. (Bacteria will grow in water, but not in oil.)
- If you have cut your own calendula flower heads, you don’t need to remove the petals, you can just add the whole head. Likewise, with plantain, if you have cut your own (it grows everywhere, so is a great plant to forage!), you can chop the fresh leaves up, and add to the jar as they are.
- Pour olive oil over the plant material until it’s completely covered. You need to make sure that all the petals and leaves are fully submerged to prevent them from coming into contact with water or air, which will cause them to spoil.
- Pop the lid back on and rotate the jar a few times to ensure complete submersion.
- Leave the jar in a dark place for up to 6 weeks.
- Give the jar a gentle rotation once a day.
- Once the infusion is complete, strain the oil through some muslin or cheesecloth to remove the plant material and store the infused olive oil in a dark glass container.
- Use within a month. Ideal for sensitive skin on the face or body. You can also drizzle into a bath and use a massage oil for babies.
Emine Kali Rushton is a holistic therapist and wellness author of five books, including Natural Wellness Every Day: The Weleda Way. She is currently studying herbal medicine, and is co-creator of The Clearing: a nourishing, seasonal self-care membership course for women. thisconsciousbeing.com and on Instagram @eminekalirushton