Homesteading Through the Seasons: To-Do List for August’s Elderberry Moon

Reader Contribution by Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt
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As we slip into August, we see that the elder blossoms have turned into berries. With the elderberry’s ripening, we acknowledge that colder seasons are coming, for now is the time to harvest our winter medicine. To ward off colds and to boost the immune system, the dark purple elderberries can be made into a potent decoction (simmering them in a little water for an hour, mixing with honey and kept in the fridge; or made into elderberry syrup, a shelf-stable elixir which mixes elderberry tincture, elderberry honey, and elderberry decoction see recipe below). Elderberries can also be mixed into meads or homemade wines, baked into pies, dried or preserved in jams.

Though the heat of summer rides upon our backs, August’s Elder Moon asks that we make preparations for the inevitable change of season. As we welcome August, we harvest summer’s bounty, and we plan for the year ahead by saving seeds for next year’s garden, and preserving the sweetness of late summer’s abundance. In the wheel of time August asks us to savor what we have, while planning for the turning of the tide.

To help make the most of this season, Natalie Bowalker, the founder and director of Wild Abundance, a permaculture and primitive skills school in Barnardsville, North Carolina, and the founder of North Carolina’s Firefly Gathering, has created this guide to living in harmony with the cycle of life, one month at a time. This guide includes contributions from Chloe Lieberman and Zev Friedman, and was created with the Southern Appalachian bioregion in mind (but can be translated, with some time shifts, to many parts of the country).

Wild and Woodland Harvest

1. Harvest elderberries, peaches, wild blueberries

2. Look for and collect wild mushrooms, including  chanterelles and oyster and lobster mushrooms

3. Harvest Kudzu leaves and black locust leaves, and dry for protein-rich winter fodder for livestock

Annual Garden

Remember to save seeds of the best tomatoes

Plant fall and winter crops: Turnips, Cabbage, Daikon, Carrots, Kale, Winter Spinach

Start seed for fall crops; transplant fall crops into gardens

Start planting winter cover crops (Austrian Winter Peas, Turnips, Rape, Winter Rye, etc)

Harvest last of onions during a sunny spell and cure

Pull out plants that are finished, tidy up garden, move into winterizing mode


Prune raspberries

Propagate brambles by layering or tip layering (depending on the variety, put a rock and some dirt over the middle of the cane or over the tip of the cane)

Feed fruit trees with diluted urine or manure

Food Preservation

Make elderberry syrup, mead/wine (see recipe below)

Can peaches, and/or make peach mead

Dry, freeze, make jam, make mead with wild blueberries

Press apple cider to drink, freeze and/or ferment

Dry apples

More pickling & fermenting of all the bounty

Process tomatoes: dry, freeze, can salsa, Italian tomato sauce, and enchilada sauce

Make and freeze gazpacho

For the Homestead

Make sure insulation is functional for water systems

Clean out, build, find, rodent-proof storage facility for winter crops

>Good time to wean babies of dairy animals

Be sure to fill your belly with fresh peaches, to bite into a fresh tomato like it’s a tomato, and make time to feast and share with those you love!

Making Elderberry Syrup

Written byNatalie Bogwalker

Ilearned this recipe from my friend and mentor, Juliet Blankespoor, who runs The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. I have made gallons of it for years, and used to sell quite a bit of it. Even though I no longer advertise my medicines, there are several folks who seek me out for their yearly supply of elderberry syrup each year.

What I like about this recipe is that it tastes phenomenal, like the finest port wine you might fine, is shelf stable because of the alcohol content, and that more of the medicinal constituents are extracted from the elderberries because of the three menstrums. I often add complementary herbal extractions for the similar part in the following syrup. For example,I might substitute osha honey, which is good for the lungs, for part or all of the elderberry honey: or echinacea tincture for enhanced immunity for some or all of the elderberry tincture or additional alcohol.

• 1 quart high quality honey
• 3 cups organic grain alcohol, grape alcohol, or everclear (use at least 90% alcohol)
• 1 quart water
• 10 cups fresh elderberries

>Elderberry syrup contains:

1 part elderberry honey

1 part elderberry tincture

1 part elderberry decoction

The first step in making this medicine is to make elderberry tincture, as it takes at least 2 weeks for alcohol to effectively extract medicinal constituents of an herb. I tend to do an early and a late elderberry harvest. With my first harvest, early in the season, if it is small, I just make tincture, if it is large, I make tincture and wine.

In order to make the tincture, I use the folkloric method. In order to create shelf stability, the alcoholic content of a given liquid must be 22%. Making elderberry tincture for syrup is a little tricky because the berries contain a large amount of juice, and therefore water. The final tincture must be at least 66% alcohol if it is to preserve the syrup as a whole, because the tincture is only 1/3 of the total content of the syrup. If making elderberry tincture that will not be the preservant component of a syrup this doesn’t matter. If making such a tincture for use on its own, I fill a quart jar with berries, and pour 95% alcohol atop, seal the jar, and shake occasionally, then strain. When making tincture for syrup, I put just 1 ½ cups berries to a jar, and fill to the top with 95% alcohol. I let it sit for a couple weeks, shaking every other day or so. At the end of this time, I pour off the liquid, then run solids through my tincture press (aka, potato ricer or cheesecloth). This is what I use as my tincture. Dried herbs, including dried elderberries, Oregon grape root, elencampagne, or what have you can also be added to the above mixture. The liquid in the elderberries will facilitate the extraction of medicinal constituents from dry matter.

Learn more about Natalie Bogwalker and her permaculture classes at Wild Upcoming weekend classes include

Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt is a student of the earth, a writer, beekeeper and mead maker.Read her other articles for Mother Earth News..

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