In the Winter months, with the cold winds blowing and snow on the ground, we would start in February to get the seeds sown and put under lights in the basement to make them germinate. We used all kinds of things from milk cartons cut in half to small plastic cups to sow our seeds in. Sue would make up a special potting mix of vermiculite, peat moss, sterilized soil (no weeds or other foreign materials in it in other words), cow manure, a little chicken manure (well rotted over a couple of Summers!), and other goodies to give the seeds the best possible start.
Then we would painstakingly take the seeds that we had harvested from the previous Fall's crops and begin the task of planting in the 'start' pots. We would plant the seeds and then use the popsicle sticks that we had saved and washed from our homemade popsicles to mark the names of the seeds on! I rememberwe always used a red pen because this lasted better on the wood, and did not fade with watering!
For the next few months untill Spring arrived, the tiny seeds would sprout, and sometimes - depending on the type of seeds - we would rinse them in warm water to keep the soil warm! I also learned that with some plants and herbs, you can make them bushier to produce more if you pinch out the second set of leaves every month or so.
Other tasks we did during the Winter months was to use some of the herbs we had harvested to make our own salves, tinctures, cough syrups, elixers, teas, soap, shampoo, conditioner - the list just goes on and on! We always had plenty of stock of those handmade items to use during the rest of the months until the next harvest; then in Winter, we would start the process over agian.
We also made our own gifts for giving throughout the year and even had a little roadside stand where we would sell some of our vegetables, fruit, and homegrown honey, as well as some of our handmade herbal concoctions. The tinctures were the easiest to make so we always did those first! We would take gallon jars and half gallon canning jars and fill them to the top with herbs; then cover the herbs with boiling water and then let them steep for hours to get every last ounce of goodness out! Once they had steeped, they were strained, and then the liquid was put back into the jars. We then mixed vodka with water at a 50:50 ratio and added that to the herbs before sealing the jars. We made tinctures using a vegetable glycerin in the same way for people that did not want the alcohol blend, and so that the mixture could also be given to children. When all the jars were sealed, we would store them down in the root cellar, where they could be kept cool and in the dark.
To be continued......