It’s that time of year again. Time to stuff a couple hundred-plus teas bags full of herbs and spices and leaves and blossoms and weeds and rose hips and chaga, etc., to give me a wide variety of teas to go through until next spring.

The best part? Except for the $10.99 spent for "300 tea filter bags, disposable unbleached paper tea bags with drawstring," it’s all free.

I’ve been collecting tea "stuffs," all the herbs, flowers, etc., for my bag-stuffing season starting in the spring with dandelion leaves. I deliberately wave and blow dandelion seed all over my yard each spring to ensure the following spring's crop. Since my yard isn’t visible from the road, I don’t worry about a manicured, "weed"-free lawn.

Indeed, I decided this summer to also seed part of my yard, along the path to my flower garden, with a mini-clover for two reasons. One, besides the red clover blossoms I gather in the fields this time of year, it will be handy to just get clover in my yard. Two, the mini-clover only grows about 4 inches high so it cuts down on some of the mowing.

So dandelion is the first “weed” I pick, put through a shredder, dry and pack in a jar. I air/sun dry first, then let set for a week and then, just to be certain, put in the oven on a low heat for 10-15 minutes. If they aren’t thoroughly dry, they can and will mold after being shut up in a jar.

Come fall, I’ll dig some dandelion root to dry, grind and jar up. The mighty dandelion is one of the most useful "weeds" on earth. Just research the constituents and the uses. It’s listed more, I think, than any other home remedy for just about everything, particularly the liver. Perhaps the first benefit is indicated in the French name for dandelion: Pissenlit. This translates to “pee in bed.” In other words, it’s an excellent diuretic.

Between my own flower garden, the fields and the great mint garden one of my sons has, I get dozens of different choices to use singly and a plethora of mixes. The most recent I gathered were my red Rosa rugosa rose petals. The tea tastes like the roses smell. (I like the rugosa as it’s a wild rose that takes care of itself and has done so since God planted it. Take my word for it.

I like things that are as near to its original self, un-dickered around with by man as much as possible. Golly, they’ve messed with most of the roses until they don’t even smell anymore. That’s like a cat without a purr. I’m thinking that most of the plants and flowers that have been tinkered with, changing them from the original, probably don’t have as much of the natural beneficial constituents in them that nature intended.

Now I have my rose hips, cut in half, drying, for my protection against this fall's onslaught of coughing, sneezing folk we encounter when out and about. Rose hips are chock full of Vitamin C, far better than a store-bought tablet.

I have dried calendula flowers and coneflower (echinacea), both immune-boosters. And July is St. John’s Wort month. Our fields are full of it. St. John’s Wort — "wort" means herb — is used for its calming effect but I don’t make tea with it as it carries the caution to stay out of the sun if you are taking it in tea or tincture. I’m a sun freak, so it’s not for me. I do, however, make an oil with it as it’s excellent for cuts and scrapes. You can buy the tincture for $8 or more for a tiny bottle or make your own by steeping in vodka for a couple weeks — for the cost of an ounce of vodka.

I grow bee balm for the hummingbirds but it also makes a nice tea. The colonists first learned that back when they put on war paint and dumped boat-fulls of the King’s English tea into Boston Harbor in protest to taxes from England. But there were no supermarkets down the road to get tea. An Englishman and his tea parted is a dreadful thing. They were saved by their Native Indian friends who taught them to use bee balm, aka Oswego Tea, leaves for a great tea. As soon as the flowers fade, I’ll gather some leaves.

I slip a teabag full of ground chaga, a mushroom that grows on birch trees in northern Maine, Canada and the forests of Siberia. It looks nothing like a mushroom. It’s an ugly black growth that grows like a huge wart on the tree. It's harder than wood and about the only way you can get it into chunks is with an ax. Grinding for tea can burn your coffee grinder motor up. It doesn't have much of a taste but it has a reputation as an immune supporting super-food. I drop one of these tea bags in with my coffee bags (I grind coffee beans and make my own coffee bags) and tea bags.

These are a few of the teas I make. Oh, and soon there’s the goldenrod. It will be all over the place and gets an undeserved reputation for causing allergies. It’s quite the opposite. It’s an antidote for the real culprit, ragweed, that blooms at the same time and looks similar. Goldenrod makes a sweet tea. I cut the stalks and hang upside down to dry.

One of my sons has, as I mentioned, a great mint patch. I raid his garden for spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm and such. I use these alone as well as for adding to teas that need a bit of a taste boost. I also add a bit of ginger or cinnamon for the same reason.

These self-gathered, natural teas are not just healthy for my body, but my pocketbook as well.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.