Mugwort and Ratsnake

I took a sick day today to try and head off an ear infection, or at least keep it from getting worse. Unfortunately, the decongestants to promote drainage make me restless and irritable, and all I can think about is everything that needs to get done. So I went out in the garden to soak up some sun and see if there was anything low-impact I could accomplish, and I happened to brush my hand through the mugwort.


Yep, those are flower buds. I grabbed the clippers and carefully started harvesting the mugwort, clipping the big branches close to the ground but not resting on the ground. I only want the fresh green leaves. The mugwort smells absolutely amazing, hopefully at the peak of its leaf energy. I’ve been reading about growing and harvesting mugwort to make moxa for months. I missed the traditional “high yang” time of harvest, but I’m not in China, so I just kept watching and smelling.

mugwort harvest

Growing mugwort for moxa is a long-term commitment. Drying the mugwort can take months, and then processing takes time, and then the processed floss has to age for a year or longer to be considered high-grade. There’s a huge loss of volume in moxa, too. I don’t expect this harvest to make more than 100 grams of finished moxa. Premium gold moxa from Japan costs $160 for 100 grams, but I cannot claim anywhere near that pedigree. I might also try making moxa sticks, which have less loss of volume but also are worth less as a finished product. I’ll probably experiment with both and see. I expect to get two crops a year from this patch, which I will definitely be expanding.

While I was standing along one of the rows, an exciting thing happened… a rather large yellow rat snake decided I was disturbing its nap.
ratsnake2I froze as it nonchalantly slithered out of the tall mugwort about six inches from my foot, but as soon as my brain registered “non-venomous” I leapt over the snake and dashed into the house for the camera. By the time I spotted it again it was heading straight for the brick platform under the rain barrel, a snug and cool spot for a snake. I am thrilled to pieces we have a large-ish snake in residence, especially since I saw a field mouse dash along the fence under the large orange tree and we definitely have a rat in the compost from time to time. Hopefully this lovely snake will have lots of babies and with the owls and hawks, help keep everything in balance.