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The Earth Shall Blossom: Shaker Herbs and Gardening Paperback – May 17, 1999
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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About the Author
Galen Beale and Mary Rose Boswell both worked for many years at the Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire, Beale as the herbalist and Boswell as the curator of Shaker collections.
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The Shaker physicians were excellent botanists to select the correct plants, understand soil types, weather, pests and when to harvest. To avoid mixing, they collected only one variety of plant at a time, at the peak of its growth, and only the part that was needed. Flowers were taken at their first opening after the dew had evaporated but before the day grew too hot. Great vigilance was required as the gardeners were competing with birds and other wild life. As the demand for their products increased, sales expanded beyond the local area, capitalizing on the need for large quantities of pure, conveniently packaged herbs for the pharmaceutical trade. To meet demand they planted gardens, growing plants under carefully controlled conditions. "For vegetables such as squash, cucumbers and melons, the Shakers cut the pulp out of the skins and put the meat into barrels to ferment. They stirred the mixture for about five days. When the seeds sank to the bottom of the barrels, they rinsed them in sieves. After the seeds dried, the Shakers packaged them for sale." Early in the year hot beds were filled with dung ready for spring planting. By the 1830s they had published their first catalogue offering 137 herbs for sale, followed in 1843 with the Gardeners' Manual with instructions to purchasers for growing their seeds. It is from these records that we have been provided with a book of great knowledge and accumulated wisdom.
Chapter 5 is "Persevering Faithfulness: Creating Your Shaker Herb Garden" with details of a herb tea garden with 18 teas, a culinary herb garden with 23 herbs, a medical herb garden with 25 herbs, a flowering herb garden with 20 herbs, and a fragrant herb garden with 21 herbs. There is information on preparing the soil, starting seed indoors, dividing plants, hot beds, transplanting, starting seed outdoors, cultivation, mulches, pest control, harvesting, storing and preparing the garden for winter. Other chapters tell us about the Shakers' medical practices, cosmetics, dyes and other household uses for herbs. The Shakers' agrarian lifestyle supported their large communities and fitted well with their belief in "hands to work, and hearts to God". Throughout the Shakers' history, their lands supported a variety of profitable enterprises. Today, the benefits of creating a well-kept, healthy garden are still as numerous as they were 100 years ago.
This book is an excellent gift for the avid gardener, a useful guide for those not making full use of the garden space and an excellent reference for those who are considering using their surplus ground to start a small business. The Shakers developed a tremendous amount of valuable expertise that is contained in this book. Their business declined as the big seed companies moved in with more sophisticated advertising and promotion. Today, when our choice of seed varieties is much reduced, when the big seed companies have wrested too much power and impose upon us genetically modified crops, the Shakers would undoubtedly have provided a welcome alternative today. This book is a great help in taking back some of that power into our own hands.