Apricot Abundance

Valais, the canton where I live, is the third largest canton of Switzerland and the sunniest part of the country. It is the country’s most important wine producer and famous
for its apricots.
Apricots originally came from China and arrived in Europe via Persia and Armenia – that’s why they’re called prunus armeniaca in Latin. In Switzerland they were first mentioned in documents from 1851. Since then they have been extensively cultivated in the Rhône valley. For a long time the variety luizet was the most common one, but nowadays there are at least 30 different varieties that can be harvested all through the summer, which is long and sunny here!
However, apricots don’t just grow down in the Rhône valley, but also up in my mountain village at 1.350m. My neighbours have a big and beautiful apricot tree and thanks to them I can enjoy this wonderfully zesty but still sweet fruit in abundance.
I’ve made apricot jam, two different kinds of apricot chutney and recently I composed a really nice lunch salad with apricots by the Swedish motto “man tager vad man haver” (use what you have at home).

Rice Salad with Apricots
For 1 person
2 dl of cooked rice, or couscous, bulgur etc.
3 ripe apricots (or one big peach/nectarine)
1 dl fresh basil leaves
½ dl fresh peppermint leaves
½ dl roughly chopped walnuts
1 Tsp. grated lemon zest
Salt & pepper
A dash of some good organic oil, I used walnut oil

• Cook whatever you like as a base. I used wholegrain rice.
• Dice the apricots and add them to the rice.
• Chop basil and mint leaves finely and add them as well.
• Stir in the lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
• Sprinkle over the oil of your choice

This salad combines tangy and sweet elements, herbal freshness, has a spicy note and is just perfect on hot summer days.

Lunch pleasure in my garden 🍑

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Golden Marigold II

During three weeks the little jar with marigold petals in sesame oil held its sunny space in my bookshelf. Then I carefully poured its contents through a small-meshed sieve to eliminate the petals. My calendula oil was ready!
This herbal oil has a wonderful, fresh and lemony scent and rich, warm yellow colour. I save most of it in a dark glass bottle for the winter to come. You can read about the qualities of calendula oil in my Golden Marigold I blog post.

Some of the oil, however, went into a calendula cream. I love using home made and local ingredients and the beeswax stems from my friend Sylviane’s beehive, beautifully placed above our village church.

Here’s the recipe for the calendula cream:

• 20 g beeswax
• 20 g shea butter
• 40 g calendula oil
• 5 drops of essential oil of your choice (I used rosemary, since it works as a natural preservative)

How to proceed:
• Melt the beeswax and shea butter in a water-bath.
• When they’ve melted, add the differenet oils and mix well
• Fill the liquid into in a small, well-cleaned glass jar, and let it cool off/harden.

Since there is no preserving agent in this cream, it should be kept in the refrigerator, and only handled with perfectly clean hands or a spatula.
The calendula cream has a rich and fatty texture and is very nourishing. Calendula is especially beneficial for dry or damaged skin and also promotes the fast healing and regeneration of the skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
I feel that this yellow goodness also holds a part of my summer and every time I use it I spread some sunshine on my skin!

All that yellow makes me happy!💛

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Barelegged Summer Bliss

During my childhood in Småland, Sweden, there were two sure indicators that summer had arrived (since weather in Sweden was not always a reliable one): strawberries were ripe and us children would run around with bare legs. Never mind if it was 10 or 30 C outside; we really enjoyed the freedom feeling of wearing shorts and skirts without stockings, always having the fresh air on our legs and naked feet in our clogs or sandals.
As an adult living in the countryside I enjoy the same thing: from May until September – summer is longer here – it’s Bare Leg Time. In shorts, skirts or dresses I enjoy the warmth of the sun and sometimes a cooler summer breeze on my legs. It makes me feel just as free and unconcerned, energized and curious as way back during my childhood summer vacations when I had an eternity to fill with play and laughter, mosquito bites
and dripping ice cream.
Today I fill that eternity with other things. Thank goodness we have no mosquitos up here, but lots of crickets making that very special summer sound (especially at night). I play a little less, instead I enjoy going on endless hikes on higher altitudes or spending whole days in my garden. I eat less ice cream, but more fruit: fresh apricots from the Rhône plain, or raspberries and wild strawberries from my garden. This summer fruit is growing abundantly and I discovered how utterly delicious the wild cherries are! They don’t have much pulp so you have to fill your mouth with a whole handful of them to get the taste. Then you must chew carefully not to bite off bits of your teeth with the pits and afterwards you can make a competition on who spits his pits the farthest!
Sometimes I get nostalgic, buy an ice cream cone (no longer with strawberry, but mocha flavour), sit down on a sun drenched wooden bench and close my eyes. I lick my ice cream, get some of it dripping on my bare legs, and feel like eight years again…
What brings out that special (childhood) summer feelings for you?

Endless summer hikes…💚

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Days & Nights in Nature

During summer I’d like to spend my whole life outdoors. Due to electricity and water some things have to be handled in the house, though, like cooking and washing. However, almost any other activity be moved outdoors! Even ironing: with a long extension cord I’m now happily ironing shirts & tablecloths with a view over the mountaintops.
The one thing I still had not tried out was sleeping outdoors. In the beginning of this summer weather up here was a bit unstable, so I had to wait quite a while until I could test-sleep in my garden. The moon had to be in its declining phase, too, but finally I
found a suitable night.
On the little balcony of my garden shed I rolled out a self-inflatable camping mat and my sleeping bag, but got my normal cushion to rest my head on. Next to me I placed my watch and a little battery torch, “just in case”.
At eleven I adjusted in the sleeping bag, on my back to watch the stars. Unfortunately it’s not pitch dark around the house (street lights), but I could still see hundreds of them looking down at me. A fresh evening breeze caressed my face and made the leaves rustle. Birds were flying above me and some of them sang softly. I dozed off…
… waking up from a hoarse sound close to me. The incredible Mr. Fox! Nothing to be afraid of, but still an odd feeling to have him sneaking around just a few inches away.
I dozed off again…
… waking up from scratching sounds nearby. There’s some firewood piled up underneath the balcony, and I guess there was a mouse, a marten or a badger, all of them being regular visitors here. Before I fell asleep again I smiled to the night: despite the interruptions it felt grand to sleep outside, being surrounded by bewitching night sounds and
fresh mountain air.
When I woke up again it was 5 o’clock in the morning. I had actually slept for a few hours on a row, not bad for the first time outside! Even if it was a bit hard on my back and even if I woke up more often than usual I loved the experience. With the freshness of the night air, the stars above, the sounds of animals I really perceived myself as a part of nature. Next time I will sleep in a more remote corner of the garden, directly on the grass, without the shelter of a wall next to me. Let’s see how that feels… ☺

Days in nature – ironing with a view

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Golden Marigold I

Where I live, marigold is almost seen as a weed: it grows easily all over the place. However, unfortunately not everywhere: it didn’t use to grow in my garden, so I threw out some seeds and now it thrives here as well. I wanted this flower because of its bright yellow/orange colour, which fills me with sunshine and happiness, but then I learned that it’s actually also a medicinal herb. Calendula officinalis, the plant’s Latin name, indicates that it used to be sold in pharmacies; the specific epithet officinalis means ‘of the dispensary’ in Latin. Among other healing elements, it contains:
Allantoin – moisturising effect, promotes wound healing
Carotinoide – supports eye health, protects skin from environmental toxins
Saponine – enhances the immune system and lowers cholesterol.

Internally, prepared as marigold infusion, these flowers are helpful if you have digestion problems or infections. Proceed as follows:
• Cut off flower heads in the late morning, when the sun has dried the morning dew and the amount of essential oil is the highest.
• Let the flower heads dry on an old newspaper in a dark place
• When dry, put two to three flower heads in a cup
• Add 2,5 dl of boiling water, cover with a lid and let it steep for 10 min.

Lots of little suns in a bowl

The marigold’s main area of use is, however, external. It has germicidal and anti-inflammatory properties, softens and protects the skin and helps healing wounds. Here’s how I make calendula oil for external use:
• Cut off the flower heads from 30 marigolds (as described above)
• Remove petals, put them in a glass jar.
• Warm up 2 dl ecological oil (I used sesame) and pour it over the petals.
• Shake the jar for petals to sink down, and see to it that the oil covers them completely.
• Lid on and put it in a sunny place for 3-6 weeks.

Steeps in a sunny place (but indoors)

That’s all for this time: in around a month I will sieve off the petals and use parts of the oil for skin cream. If you want to know how that’s made, stay tuned! ☺

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Aging Well

The question about my age has never bothered me (except during my teenager teenage years, when people always thought I was much younger…). When I turned 60, however, I suddenly realized that “old age” was quickly approaching. This realisation made me sit down and ponder on how I wanted to grow old. I made a small list, and saved it for the years to come 😉
I intend to do my best to age well and not to give up on a fulfilled life because my health grows weak. Obviously I will have to renounce on some things, but my main point is that I don’t want to “give in to old age”, to stop taking well care of myself, on the inside and the outside, and turn into an invisible, tired, negative old lady…
Some old age goals:
• Keep moving! Long walks every day and my back exercise program three times a week.
• Remain socially engaged: volunteer work as hiking guide (if possible), with children or refugees.
• Keep up with what happens in the world. Find a source that suits you on the Internet.
• Never stop being curious! Learn something new each week: a poem, a fact, a foreign word, the name of a flower…
• Continue to explore music. It’s such a source of joy and there is always something new & exciting to discover.
• Meditate every day, even when the half lotus position is not physically possible anymore.
• Ban invisible colours like grey and beige from my wardrobe and dress in classical dark blue or fresh, happy colours.
• Adjust food intake, in order not to put on too much weight (the older you get, the less calories you need). Light, nourishing, fresh & home made food. Regular meals,
no snacking.
• Not give up on a little makeup around the eyes or a little lipstick, which always raises the mood 😉

Nobody knows what’s in store for us in the future. Physical aging might make it difficult to follow these goals, but I resolve to do my very best to still be an addition to humankind when I grow old – and not a burden. Aging Well is the motto.

My children’s beloved Oma, a role model for aging well

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Fresh Herbal Teas

Herbal teas made with dried herbs can be enjoyed all year round, but nothing beats fresh herbs in summer! It’s a completely different experience using the herbs fresh from your balcony or garden, both for the eye – I love serving it in a see through glass pot – and it’s just as pleasurable for the taste buds.
Herbal teas are not only light and refreshing, but they also have many health benefits. The herbs and flowers mentioned below all contain lots of healthy ingredients: essential oils, and flavonoids, to mention some. The following are my favourites right now.

Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)
Elderflower syrup is lovely, but too sweet for my taste. Instead I pour boiling water over 5 to 6 flower heads, add some lemon juice and make an infusion. Elderflowers (and berries) contain vitamin C and are good against cough and colds. NB: This infusion tastes better well chilled than warm.

Delicate and fragrant elderflowers

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
I love the fresh taste of lemon balm tea, and it’s nice to combine with e.g. peppermint. Besides the standard ingredients of medicinal herbs lemon balm contains saponin and thymol. This herbal infusion has a calming effect, so a cup an hour before bedtime is a good idea.

If only the snails didn’t love the lemon balm, too…!

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint is refreshing and cooling, calms an upset stomach and is antibacterial. During summer I love making Moroccan mint tea!

One of five mint plants in my garden

Rose geranium
(Pelargonium graveolens)
This plant does not support cold winters. I grow it in a big pot, which I move outside when the risk of night frost is over. The rose geranium leaves make a flowery fresh infusion, which has a calming and antibacterial effect.

The rose geranium on summer camp

Sage (Salvia officinalis)
You either hate or love the taste of sage. I love it! ☺ Sage is one of the most versatile medicinal herbs, working well against menopause, thyroid problems and a sore throat, among other things.

As all medicinal herbs, sage should be picked at midday when the sun is out

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Face Your Fears

During a long train trip that I recently took, I pondered the question “What is my greatest fear?”. In order to live a peaceful life I feel it’s important to do these kind of reflections from time to time. My answer to the question was “Losing what I believe is mine:
my loved ones, my health, or my home” (in that order).
The follow-up question had to be: How do I deal with these fears?
It doesn’t help to know that nothing, in fact, is mine. As the saying goes: “You possess only what will not be lost in a shipwreck”. I still cling to the ones I love, to my healthy
body and mind, and to my home.
Sometimes at night when I cannot sleep, or on days when my mood is low, these fears start circling in my head. “What if….?” It’s totally meaningless, useless and very scary. So what can I do to respond to these states of fear? I work on Equanimity.
Within Buddhism equanimity is an essential virtue. It could be defined as remaining centred when you are surrounded by turmoil, or as Pema Chödrön put it: “To cultivate equanimity we practice catching ourselves when we feel attraction or aversion before it hardens into grasping or negativity.” That may sound easy but the challenge is twofold: 1. Catching yourself when you’re getting stuck and 2. Not giving in to the temptation to dwell on your desires and fears “just a little bit…”. Not at all is key. I know,
having so often tried and failed.
With this particular fear of mine, however, the strongest antidote is to cherish what I love while it is still there. The power of habit makes it so easy to take what you have for granted and not really paying attention.
Everything you love can be lost at any moment. Don’t waste your time: show and tell your beloved ones how much they mean to you. Enjoy your healthy body and take good care of it. Be happy in your home, keeping it fresh and beautiful.

Two of my most beloved persons 💕

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The Happy Amateur Hiking Guide

In my youth I always saw myself as a Lone Wolf and didn’t want to conform to any “group activities” or groups. When I moved up to the Alps, however, I realised that it was not the best way to make new friends. First, I joined in the local church choir, not the best fit since I’m not even Christian, and then I found a hiking group. That was spot on!

After a while, one of the guides in the group asked me if I didn’t want to become a guide too. Well, why not? A week-long course, an exam, and today I am one of six people looking for appropriate hikes, preparing them thoroughly and guiding our group through the paths of the Val d’Hérens and the Valais.

There is much to be thought of when preparing these hikes. Since our group mainly consists of older persons, the altitude difference should be less than 500m (difficult to find around here!) and the hike should not be longer than 4h30. You also have to consider the season and the weather – obviously no hikes in thunderstorms! We visit areas exposed to the sun and at lower altitudes in the beginning of the hiking season (March – April); trails higher up have to wait until July – September.

When my family and friends come to visit, I love to prepare suitable hikes for them too and most of all I enjoy making guided “Botanical Hikes”.

During spring and early summer, rare wildflowers grow abundantly here (see my blog post “Wonderful Wildflowers”) and thanks to knowledgeable friends and the Flora Helvetica I’ve learned the names of most of them. It’s a great feeling to show these little gems to others! Many of the plants are medicinal herbs and this is my favourite area of knowledge to pass on. All those useful plants, that many see mainly as weeds!

Since my region is not very touristic, I don’t offer guided tours to strangers, but that would be nice too. So, if you know a group of people interested in a guided hiking experience in the beautiful Val d’Hérens and its flora, let me know at sabina.sdp@gmail.com!

The Amateur Hiking Guide

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Wonderful Wildflowers

Spring is the season for wildflower abundance in the Alps and every flower lover’s paradise! The variety seems endless; flowers come in all shapes and colours and here’s just a small selection.

This pink flower is surely found in other areas than the Alps, but it’s a good example of how beautiful seemingly insignificant flowers are if we just make the effort to look a bit closer.

Onobrychis viciifolia – Common sainfoin

Purple flowers make a bold statement – they show off, even if they’re fragile and delicate like the tassel hyacinth.

Muscari comosum – Tassel hyacinth

The blue flower is a symbol of Romanticism, for longing and love. The Alpine gentian has also become a symbol for the Alps themselves.

Gentiana Alpina – Alpine gentian

White flowers always have this extra feeling of purity. Some of them are favourite food of my neighbours, the Herens cows.

Trifolium montanum – Mountain clover

There is nothing like yellow flowers to spread sunshine even on a grey day! This one somehow brings out a lot of tenderness too…

Lotus alpinus – Alpine bird’s-foot trefoil

Apart from poppies, red wildflowers are quite rare. One of the rarest in Switzerland is this one; and I’ve even got one in my garden!

Adonis aestivalis – Summer pheasant’s-eye

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