I always look forward to June. The threat of frost is behind us, honeysuckle and roses are in bloom, and if all that weren’t enough, my mother was named for this month of her birth. And it is my birth month too. My mother always joked that I came on the longest day of the year and for her it certainly was a long day.
June brings us a bounty of food, both from the garden and the wild. Raspberries and wild greens are there for the picking and some fresh vegetables are coming in.
Some herbs are ready for harvest. I hang my herbs in my kitchen and let them dry naturally. I prefer this method to a dehydrator both because it costs nothing and I like the look of the herbs swaying gently in the breeze from the ceiling fan. I just bundle them up, wrap the stems with a rubber band, and use a straightened paper clip or piece of wire as a hook for hanging. When we were building our house I found a drying rack made of oak at the demolition site of an old house. The man who owned the house said I could have it. It is a wall-mounted unit with four arms that swing out. We put it over a shaded window and it is perfect for herb-drying.
Superstitions and folklore about this queen of months abound. For example, “a calm June puts the farmer in tune,” meaning that a good June will produce good crops later on. A June that is “damp and warm, does the farmer no harm” either, since those are good growing conditions, even if it might make haying difficult.
Some people believe that summer doesn't start until the elder is in flower. My neighbor told me once that when the elderberries are in flower, the cow’s milk production will drop significantly. I watched and found that this was true, at least of my cows. I have wondered why ever since. Was it just a coincidence? Farmers also know that “a swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay, but a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon.” A swarm in July, however, isn’t worth a fly, because it is too late for them to build up their colony and make enough honey to survive the coming winter.
The rose is the flower of June, and we are fortunate in West Virginia to have many wild roses blooming along our roadsides. Did you know that there is a Greek myth about how the rose came to be? According to the story, the rose was created by Chloris, the Greek goddess of flowers. Chloris found the lifeless body of a nymph in the forest and asked the gods and goddesses for help. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, gave her beauty; Dionysus added nectar to give her a sweet scent, and the three Graces gave her charm, brightness and joy. Zephyr, the West Wind, blew the clouds away for Apollo to shine on her and make her bloom. Cupid, however, was shooting his arrows at some bees that had stung him and missed his mark. His arrows became the thorns. This, say the Greeks, is how the rose came to be.
Stories, folklore and superstitions aside, this is a blessed month of the year, one that truly abounds in gifts from heaven. Get out and enjoy this beautiful creation we call earth—smell the flowers, taste the berries, and rejoice that it is summer at last.
Adapted from my Two Lane Livin' article in June 2011 issue.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.