Friday, December 16, 2011

Making Herbal Salves

I have begun to make many various herbal salves. We particularly like the purslane salve! (Read more about purslane in a previous post "Purslane".) That stuff is fantastic at removing the itch and sting of insect bites! We have been continually amazed this summer at how well it works. I got several big fly bites on my face that just went away in an hour or so after using purslane. These bites usually result in a swollen and black eye for days. (I'm allergic to them. I don't know what kind of flies these are but they always go for my eyes!)

I have stopped using mosquito spray and just opt to pick a purslane leaf, crush and rub on a bite as soon as it starts to itch. Sometimes I have a sit outside and rub purslane on several at one time, then forget about them completely. No more itch!! It really is a necessity out here where we live!

I just let the purslane grow where it wants to grow. It comes up all over the garden and makes a great ground cover to keep the real weeds and grass down. It's good cooked or raw and is less bitter in the afternoon. It's one of my favourite herbs, so I made purslane salve this year.

I also made a healing salve that has a long list of healing, antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal herbs. It contains yarrow, thyme, oregano, comfrey, lavender, calendula, heal-all, St. John's wart and mullein flowers.

Basically a salve is oil (I use olive) that has been infused with herbs and strained. It is then heated gently and wax added to make it more solid. That's it, in a nutshell. I also add vit E as a healing agent and a preservative, although most of the herbs in the healing salve can take care of themselves.

Thus far, I have used beeswax but will soon be switching to soy. Vegans don't like beeswax and with good cause. The downward spiral of the bees is alarming and some less healthy, productive focused beekkeepers have not helped. The continued use of the old style Langstroth hive is not helping, either. Top Bar Hives produce less honey because the bees rebuild the entire things from scratch after it is harvested, which takes time, but it also allows no room or time for moths to lay eggs or other parasites to set up house. While there is less honey produced with the top bar hive, there is a lot more wax! The use of old hives and recycling materials and equipment by unscrupulous beekkeepers also leads to more disease and parasites in the bee population.

At any rate, we are switching to all natural and organic soy wax for making salves. Soy wax is also less expensive but cost is not the only issue. Soy wax is quite a bit more protective than beeswax, remaining in place and keeping out moisture longer and it is a more easily renewable resource.

The salves that I am making now are in little plastic pots (see above picture). I might switch to the thin metal tins, if these don't work out, but those tins are so hard to open with they have salve and wax in them or you have slippery hands. They are also more expensive, a cost we would have to pass on to the buyer.

In the mean time, I am going to put some of these little plastic salve pots on my farm site for sale. Each one holds 8g of salve and I am going to charge $2.50 plus shipping, for them. The salve goes a very long way and will last a long time. Purslane salve only takes a tiny bit on the bite to work well.

If you are interested in buying them from me, just send me an email:
providenceacres at

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Overwintering Plants

Well, it's that time again. Time to prepare the beds for winter. Last week I dug up the dahlias, cannas and glads. Some people have success keeping the glads in the ground here, but it's borderline. Since we never know how cold it will get (had -40c several years back) I dig them up too.

I am blessed with a stone cold cellar under my very old porch, that's the right temperature and damp enough to keep them fairly well over the winter. I do lose the little dahlias so I keep them in big clumps until spring. I split them in the spring, if possible. They have their "eyes" then so I can make sure each split has a growing piece.
The little pieces dry out, so this year I plan to bring them upstairs around Christmas and soak them all in water for a few days before putting them back into cold storage. I also planted a few small ones in pots of soil and watered them before putting some in the cellar and I put some on a sunny window to grow as houseplants for the winter.

Wintering them over as houseplants is an experiment and something I have not tried before. I cut them right back and let them dry out before potting them up and they have small sprouts now. We'll see how it goes. I have read that they don't do well indoors and are prone to spider mites. I have some tobacco handy to boil and make organic insecticide. I wouldn't spray it on food items but I don't plan to eat the dahlias. (Dahlias are edible, btw ;-)
I labelled the large clumps and put them in plastic bags full of cedar chips and put them on a stone shelf in the cellar. In the past I have wrapped them in newspaper and put into cardboard boxes but, as I said, the little ones have dried up in the past so too much moisture is not a problem. Last year I tossed them all in a heavy plastic storage container and the big ones survived and even sprouted before I got them potted in early spring.

I like the soaking in water at Christmas idea. I will soak the geraniums and
four o'clocks too.

I dug up the showy geraniums this year and am attempting to winter those roots over in the cellar. This is the first year for this also. I washed the soil off and hung them upside down in the cellar with the onions. Some I potted up to grow as houseplants. I do this every year with geraniums and it works great. They bloom their little heads off all winter long and get quite large. I usually make several cuttings in the early spring so I have a lot of them for the big pots outside in June.
Another item I am attempting to winter over for the first time this year is the rosemary. I have 5 large, beautiful plants and don't want to lose them over the winter. I potted them all up and put two in the house and three in the cellar. I plan to keep them on the dry side in both places. I have also read that rosemary doesn't do well indoors, but we'll see how it goes.

I have some flourescent lights I would like to install for an indoor winter garden. I'm just not sure how to do the wiring and I need to get bulbs for them, I think. I haven't really looked at it yet. I'm sure I'll figure it out. I have become quite adept at DIY scrounging, troubleshooting and puzzles! I like a challenge!

I want this indoor garden enough to spend some time on it soon. I'm hoping to grow some tomatoes, peppers and lettuce indoors all winter! I have a large patio door that faces south with no overhang and lots of space for shelving. I only need to supplement the lighting at both ends of the day during the cheap power hours and maybe all day on weekends when days are their shortest.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Our Seed Store

Here are a few samples of what we will be offering this year:

This year we are introducing seed from our

Hopi Black Squash!

See our blog post "The Perfect Squash!"

Seeds for this particular variety will be limited, due to a cold, wet start and extreme dry heat.

Our own
Portugal Beef-heart Tomatoes

Hopefully enough to fill all orders for them. We do apologize to those customers who were unable to purchase them last year when we sold out of seed.

We also carry other varieties of heirloom tomatoes, including San Marzano, the best paste tomatoes in the world!, Ailsa Craig and Reverend Morrow Long Keeper. We will have seed for the Manitoba tomato, developed to grow large and ripen in the short Manitoba season.

From seed to fruit in one season!
Ground Cherries and Chichiquelites!
Great for pies, jams and wine! We will have both of these seed for sale this year.

Medicinal Herb Seeds!Meadowsweet, Mullein, Feverfew, Self Heal, Goldenrod, Evening Primrose,Queen Anne's Lace, Echinacea, Motherwort, St. John's Wort...

TobaccoVirginia Gold Variety 100+ seeds per packet
Did you know that commercial cigarettes contain 599 additives, some poisonous carcinogens?
See the list here

Anyone can grow tobacco, anywhere. If you have a short growing season, you will need to start it early indoors. I am sure most northerners are used to starting seeds early indoors to grow tomatoes, peppers and many other common short season vegetables. Tobacco is no different and is no trickier or more demanding than your vegetables to start from seed. Isn’t having your own, home grown, organic and free tobacco worth a little time and effort?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Herb Garden Volunteers

Does your garden reseed itself? Mine does, all over the place, but I like that! It gives me a second crop of everything, naturally. It's not in neat little rows, of course, it's in patches. Larges patches of spinach, green onions, chives, cilantro, thyme, oregano and anything else I leave to go to seed. I let everything go to seed because I have a seed store.
A lot of it escapes before I harvest it and I always lose some in the harvesting anyway, so I get a lot of volunteers. I love them! I am still cutting from a large, reseeded patch of spinach resulting from just one plant left to go to seed. I have a lot of cilantro growing all over the garden. That stuff really grows wild! I have baby chives coming up all over, baby dandelions, baby purslane, baby thyme and baby oregano.

I'm sure I would also have baby catnip, mint and choc mint, if I let those go to seed too. I will probably let them go that long next year so I have seed for the seed store but this year I cut them back and dried them.
If you keep your garden spotlessly clean, weed regularly or mulch heavily you will never know the joy of harvesting volunteers. I like my garden the way it is. Everything grows well and is green and healthy, shown by the ability of the plants to reproduce themselves all over the place. I do pull some weeds, but the useful things get left to grow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Queen's Anne Lace - Useful Herb?

Well, I have been shocked a few times this year while researching the things that grow in our fields! Some of these things that I have always considered "weeds", are now being looked at in a new light. Queen Anne's lace is one of these.

I know it makes a great cut flower and is one of those things you can colour by putting food colouring in the water, but I had no idea it was such a useful medicinal herb!

According to the "Carrot Site" (the "Carrot Museum"), Queen Anne's lace leaves "contain significant amounts of porphyrins, which stimulate the pituitary gland and lead to the release of increased levels of sex hormones". Really? Really? Is this true? Hmmmm...interesting... What does this mean, exactly?

More from The Carrot Site:
"Queen Anne's lace (a wild carrot): "is an aromatic herb that acts as a diuretic, soothes the digestive tract and stimulates the uterus. (Pregnant women should definite NOT use it!) A wonderfully cleansing medicine, it supports the liver, stimulates the flow of urine and the removal of waste by the kidneys.

An infusion is used in the treatment of various complaints including digestive disorders, kidney and bladder diseases and in the treatment of dropsy. An infusion of the leaves has been used to counter cystitis and kidney stone formation, and to diminish stones that have already formed...A tea made from the roots is diuretic and has been used in the treatment of urinary stones.

An infusion is used in the treatment of oedema, flatulent indigestion and menstrual problems. The seed is a traditional 'morning after' contraceptive and there is some evidence to uphold this belief.
Ongoing studies are proving this to be a very valuable plant, useful in many areas of alternative medicine, a few are Alzheimer's, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, Infertility, Asthma-preventive, most types of cancer, Diabetes, Leukaemia, HIV, Spina-bifida, Migraine headache, obesity, and much more, even the common cold. Used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years as an abortifactint, anthelmintic, carminative, contraceptive, deobstruent, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactogogue, ophthalmic, and stimulant..."

Wow! According to these people, Queen Anne's lace will fix just about anything! I wonder how much of it is true...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Apple Picking

We picked apples today! It was such a beautiful day for it too! We are having a summer like week this week with warm temps and sun, all week long. It's a good time to get some fall work done outside!

My friend,
Janet, and I picked the apples this morning. Hubby worked on another job.
We have several apple trees but most don't produce usable apples or they have just little ones. There is only one really good apple tree that is worth picking. I have no idea what kind of apples they are. I haven't made an effort to become informed about apples. I know 'Delicious' apples, 'Cortlands' and my grocery store favourites, 'Royal Gala' which taste more like pears than apples, but I am sorely lacking in apple knowledge otherwise.

This is what we harvested this morning. It's a lovely bunch of apples, especially for an organic, never sprayed tree. That's it pictured at the top too. Beautiful apples! If you know what kind they are, please tell me.

The deer have already eaten all the apples within their reach, (which is also our reach). We didn't have a ladder so we had to climb. I climbed up into the tree and out on the branches to shake them, then we picked them up off the ground. The apples are the perfect ripeness now. Ripe enough to fall easily when the branches are shaken, but haven't fallen on the ground on their own yet. We didn't have a ladder so we had to do it this way. It worked well enough. We got lots of good apples!

I haven't climbed a tree in decades! I used to be good at it, once upon a time. I have become more careful in my older age. It was a humbling experience. I have lost some of my nerve, but I'm thinking maybe that's good thing...

The apples will sit in the kitchen for now, where I will work on them here and there. I had thought to leave them on the porch until I had time to work on them but, after remembering that we get racoon visits, moved them into the house. I must always remember the racoons!
These will be made into apple sauce, pie filling, baked apples and the good ones will go into the cold cellar for storage. We can keep apples in there, at least this year, because we don't have any other veggies in there with them. We didn't grow potatoes or carrots. (Ripening apples emit ethelene gas that makes other things ripen very fast and not keep very long.) The squash will be in there, but just for a short time, until they are ripe, then they go into the freezer. I need the squash seed for the seed store.

It was a lot of work but well worth the effort! We are looking forward to homemade applesauce and pies!

I am also planning on making apple wine, of course, and I can do that in the middle of the winter :-)

All in all it was a great endeavour and well worth doing, even though I would not have wanted to do it by myself. Big jobs always go much faster and are more fun with a friend! Don't you think so? Thank you Janet for your help!

Update next day: I graded the apples into three categories and put them all into the cellar. They are in shallow boxes with newspaper between each layer. I have read that they keep the best if individually wrapped in newspaper but I'm not doing that! lol! This is the next best thing. I will probably process the "eat me first" category within the next couple of weeks. Possibly into wine, definitely into apple sauce.

I love having our own organic apples!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Four O'Clocks

This is my pink four o'clock and this is the biggest one I have ever had! I wintered the root over in my cellar with my tender bulbs last winter. It's the first time I have tried it and I will be doing it every year from now on. It really makes a difference in the size! I have seen one house in town that has them 4' tall! I have always known that it could be done but just never bothered until last year.

I LOVE it! It blooms almost right away by the end of June and just keeps blooming until the frost takes it.
It is very easy to overwinter in the right conditions. If you already grow cannas, callas, dahlias, caladiums or other tender bulbs, you can overwinter four o'clock roots. I treated it exactly the same and it came back this year. I grew new ones this year, as well, a yellow and a white. I will be keeping those over the winter this year too.

Previously, I just grew them new ever year and was happy with them that way. I started them from seed early in the spring and planted them out after the last frost, with the peppers and tomatoes. I only need 3-4 of them so they didn't take up a lot of space growing that way, but this is so much better!
Mine are solid colours but they come in "broken" colours too. I would LOVE some of those! If you have seeds from broken coloured 4 o'clocks and want to trade seeds, let me know. They need to be all broken colours and not open pollinated with solids near by. It's been my experience that the solid colours are dominate. I have tried it before.

Each year they get bigger. I am hoping the pink one will be 4' tall next year! I don't know where I will put them. I'm rapidly running out of room in the new ornamental garden expansion. I'll have to expand again next year! lol! (It's not funny, really. I haven't finished this one yet.) I already don't have room for all my dahlias.
Do you grow four o'clocks? Do you keep them over the winter? As practical as I am, I still love my flowers!

I am going to have my four o'clock seed for sale in the seed store this year.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Milkweed as a Vegetable?

Below is part of an exerpt from Forager's Harvest. It fit in so well with the foraging post that I had to post it here.

I had no idea that milkweed was even edible! I am going to try them next spring, especially using the silks like cheese!
"Milkweed season begins in late spring, just about the time that leaves are coming out on the oak trees, when the shoots come up near the dead stalks of last year’s plants. These resemble asparagus spears but have tiny leaves, in opposing pairs, pressed up flat against the stem. Until they are about eight inches tall, milkweed shoots make a delicious boiled vegetable. Their texture and flavor suggests a cross between green beans and asparagus, but it is distinct from either. As the plant grows taller, the bottom of the shoot becomes tough. Until it attains a height of about two feet, however, you can break off the top few inches (remove any large leaves) and use this portion like the shoot.

Milkweed flower buds first appear in early summer and can be harvested for about seven weeks. They look like miniature heads of broccoli but have roughly the same flavor as the shoots. These flower buds are wonderful in stir-fry, soup, rice, casseroles, and many other dishes. Just make sure to wash the bugs out.

In late summer milkweed plants produce the familiar pointed, okra-like seedpods which are popular in dried flower arrangements. These range from three to five inches long when mature – but for eating you want the immature pods. Select those that are no more than two thirds of their full size. It takes a little experience to learn the knack of how to tell if the pods are still immature, so as a beginner you might want to stick to using pods less than 1 ¾ inches in length to be safe. If the pods are immature the silk and seeds inside will be soft and white without any hint of browning. It is good to occasionally use this test to verify that you are only choosing immature pods. If the pods are mature they will be tough and bitter. Milkweed pods are delicious in stew or just served as a boiled vegetable, perhaps with cheese or mixed with other veggies.
Silk refers to the immature milkweed floss, before it has become fibrous and cottony. This is perhaps the most unique food product that comes from the milkweed plant. When you consume the pod, you are eating the silk with it. At our house, we eat the smallest pods whole, but we pull the silk out of the larger (but still immature) pods. Open up the pod along the faint line that runs down the side, and the silk wad will pop out easily. If you pinch the silk hard, your thumbnail should go right through it, and you should be able to pull the wad of silk in half. The silk should be juicy; any toughness or dryness is an indicator that the pod is overmature. With time, you will be able to tell at a glance which pods are mature and which are not.

Milkweed silk is both delicious and amazing. It is slightly sweet with no overpowering flavor of any kind. Boil a large handful of these silk wads with a pot of rice or cous cous and the finished product will look like it contains melted mozzarella. The silk holds everything together, so it’s great in casseroles as well. It looks and acts so much like cheese, and tastes similar enough too, that people assume that it is cheese until I tell them otherwise. I have not yet run out of new ways to use milkweed silk in the kitchen – but I keep running out of the silk that I can for the winter!

With all of these uses, it is amazing that milkweed has not become a popular vegetable. The variety of products that it provides ensures a long season of harvest. It is easy to grow (or find) and a small patch can provide a substantial yield. Most importantly, milkweed is delicious. Unlike many foods that were widely eaten by Native Americans, European immigrants did not adopt milkweed into their household economy. We should correct that mistake.

You will find that some books on wild foods recommend boiling milkweed in multiple changes of water to eliminate the “bitterness.” This is not necessary for common milkweed Asclepias syriaca (which is the subject of this article, and the milkweed that most people are familiar with.) Common milkweed is not bitter. Read more on "Milkweed As a Vegetable"...

I will have these seeds for sale this fall.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


This year I began to forage over our property and the adjoining county forest. I am amazed at what I found growing here! We have been blessed with so much that we can use, right here at home, overlooked by most of society!

The medicinal herbs that grow here are astounding and are just growing wild in the fields! No one uses them, no one harvests them, many don't even realize what they are or how useful and effective they can be. I was one of these people until recently.
Now I look at everything with new eyes. I research every plant I find growing here, if I have the time. The medicinal uses of goldenrod alone have been a bit of a shock. We are over run with it and I truly thought it useless, until recently. Now I have armloads of it hanging to dry for winter tea.

There are fruits growing wild here that I have used and will use to make wine, such as the wild grapes, wild red and black raspberries, wild blackberries, choke cherries (top picture), and more.

There is a large colony of mushrooms here, shaggy manes, that are ranked very high on the list by professional cooks for their flavour. I am expecting these to make their yearly appearance any time now. I have the grass and weeds cut down to the ground in the area where they grow. I intend to cook and freeze them this year. I am also going to attempt to spread them to other areas, more accessible, on the property. They like disturbed ground and I have just the spot waiting for them.

Also, I believe I have found a few large colonies of ostrich ferns nearby! I know they are not cinnamon ferns, which also grow here. I will do some research to make sure, but if they are truly ostrich ferns, we will have plenty of fiddleheads in the spring!

There are cattails growing in the ditch and I know that their roots are very good baked, as a starch, although I think we will skip that one in favour of potatoes and rice or pasta, for now. They will still be there, if we should ever need them.

I know we could survive here, on our own, self sufficient, in a disaster or when society fails, and that is a comfort. We have emergency access to our well, and water is pentiful. We have our own source of firewood and a wood stove. There is meat here aplenty with deer, geese and ducks visiting us regularly and turkeys occasionally (even squirrel and racoon, me being from Tennessee and all! lol! maybe not...), medicine growing in the fields, room to grow our own food and plenty of wild food to harvest! We have a stone cold cellar and a natural freezer, just outside the door in the wintertime.

I don't know that anything will happen here anytime soon and I don't mean to sound like a doomsday prophet, I'm just saying...

We have been truly blessed!

Could you survive after a disaster or the fall of society?

(You know you have let go of material possessions when the thought of being self sufficient in a disaster is exciting. Is that a good thing? Hmmmmmm...don't know...perhaps not.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I picked these crabapples yesterday morning! I drove about 20 mins to a friends house and picked them in the park across the street from her house. There were tons of beautiful, ripe crabapples there! These are the big kind, 1" - 1.5" across! I only need about 15 to 20 lbs to make crabapple wine, which is about two buckets full. I knew there would be a lot of waste, so I picked more than I needed.

After sorting and cleaning, I had about the right amount. Some were still a bit too green to use for wine, although they would be great for jelly. There is more pectin in the slightly green ones.

The secret to making good jelly and wine from the very tart, wild things is to use only the clear juice, without any pulp in it. Use a very fine strainer or straining bag and do not squeeze it.

It takes about 15-18 lbs of the small, very tart, wild things to make about 5 gallons of wine. This includes, but is not limited to, rhubarb, wild grape, crabapple and choke cherry (which I fully intend to make next year). It probably also includes wild strawberries and a few other things as well.

These things usually have a lot of acid or tannin which is what makes them so tart. So I don't usually add acid to the recipe, although I will for the crabapple, I think. Raw apples, as a general rule, are low in acid. I have a new acid tester now, so I can test the finished juice after boiling and straining and add just the right amount of acid blend to it.

I have enough left to make some crabapple jelly too! (It's TIME that I don't have!) Maybe I will just put those in the freezer for now and make jelly later. No pectin is needed for apple jelly. Apples have a lot of their own pectin. As a matter of fact, you can make pectin for general use from apples and crabapples, if you have enough.

Crabapple Jelly Recipe

8 cups fresh crabapples
water as needed
3 cups white sugar

1.Remove stems and blossom ends from crabapples, and cut into quarters. Place them in a large stainless steel or other non-reactive pot or saucepan. Add enough water to be able to see, but no so much that the crabapples are floating. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. The apples should soften and change color.
2.Strain the apples and juice through 2 or 3 layers of cheese cloth. Do not squeeze. Use just the clear juice. You should have at least 4 cups of juice. Discard pulp, and pour the juice back into the rinsed pan. Bring to a simmer, and let cook for 10 minutes. Skim off any foam that comes to the top. Next, stir in the sugar until completely dissolved. Continue cooking at a low boil until the temperature reaches 220 to 222 degrees F (108 to 110 C). Remove from heat.
3.Pour the jelly into sterile jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a hot water bath to seal.

**NOTE: I will post the crabapple wine recipe when I make it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Making Herbal Salve

Since I have begun using medicinal herbs, I have learned to make salve. It is so handy! I grow a lot of herbs that are antiseptic, antifungal, antibiotic. Some are great healers, good for burns, good for bites and many other topical uses. The salve makes using them so easy! I can trake a small container of purslane salve for insect bites with me camping or doing anything outdoors. That stuff is amazing! Just a little and you can just forget about the bite from that point forward. It works much better than baking soda (After Bite).

I only use olive oil and beeswax as a base. Its all organic. The olive oil keeps much longer than other oils without going rancid. I also add vitamin E to heal and as a preservative. I don't add scent but could with essential oil, if I wanted to, but then I would have to take the properties of the essential oil into account, as well.
Today I made a healing salve for my friend, Janet, at her request. It's for her family member's acne and exzema. It contains a large variety of healing, antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal herbs. Normally, I would not put this much material in a salve, as sometimes herbs are more specific in their uses, but since this will be used by several family members for a variety of problems, I used a variety of herbs. I call this "Janet's Salve".
I plan to make more salve for insect bites and some for burns/sunburn. I usually like to put salve in those little thin metal tins, but these work perfect for gifts. Janet gave me these jars, anyway, (They are good for so many things!) so it's only fitting that I use them. I am out of the metal tins anyway. All herbal products should be stored away from the light or put into dark containers.

I just love using medicinal herbs and they work so well! I have been amazed several times at how effective some can be!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Goldenrod is one of those wild flowers that people take for granted and consider a weed. So did I, until this year. I have begun to do a lot of research into medicinal herbs, focusing on what I have growing here. We have been blessed with so much growing here in the way of medicinal herbs, right at our fingertips! Goldenrod is one of them!

Goldenrod (Solidago) flower tea is used to treat most urinary tract problems, as well as inflammation of the intestines and kidney problems, especially kidney stones.

It is antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antifungal making it useful for healing all kinds of sores and wounds externally.

The chemicals in goldenrod are specifically effective against infection from the Candida fungus, which causes all kinds of yeast infections and oral thrush in the human body. Goldenrod tea is also effective in the treatment of chronic sore throats, in alleviating chronic congestion in the nasal passages as well as in treating problems such as diarrhea and other digestive disorders.

Goldenrod tea can also be used as a mouthwash or as a douche for the treatment of yeast infections in the vaginal cavity.

Another "weed" that turns out to be a great herb. I have some drying now for tea and plan to cut and dry a lot more before winter comes. I am putting it in my immune boosting winter tea

Friday, September 9, 2011

Great Gluten Free Muffins!

These are fantastic muffins! They rise high and are tender, moist, delicious - and gluten free - without expensive xantham gum!
Some of these flours are hard to find. I got most of the ingredients at my local bulk food store. It is one of my favourite places to shop with so many varietes! I always come home with a bag full every time I go.

I gound my own sunflower seeds and the millet to make millet flour. I used what is basically my coffee bean grinder but will grind just about anything. It does a great job and is so quick and easy to use!

Gluten Free Carrot, Raisin, Banana, Nut Muffins

  • 1/2 cup ground almonds

  • 1/3 cup ground sunflower seeds

  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds

  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour

  • 1/4 cup corn flour (white or yellow)

  • 1/4 cup millet flour (I grind my own)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup white sugar

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • 1/2 cup grated carrot

  • 3 tablespoons oil

  • 1/2 cup whole milk (or 2% with a teaspoon butter or cream added)

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 small or 1 large banana

Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix all the wet ingreadients in another large bowl with mixer. Slowly and gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Be very gentle and only mix them until they are all combined. Do not over mix.

Fill muffin papers to the top. Makes 11 standard medium muffins.
Bake at 400 degrees F for approx 18 minutes.

This recipe is from "Mennonite Girls Can Cook".

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Herbal Ear Drops

I made herbal ear drops for the first time today, for hubby. These drops are made with dried herbs infused in olive oil. Many people say that this recipe works very well for earaches, infections, swimmer's ear and so forth.

I believe it! One of the ingredients is calendula oil. Calendula is an antibiotic, antiseptic, antifungal, so is the garlic. The other ingredients are also antiseptic healing agents.

This is the recipe:

Herbal Ear Drops

Using herb infused olive oil:

30ml calendula oil
25ml mullein flower oil
25ml St. John's Wort flower oil
20ml garlic oil

After infusing each herb in olive oil, I used a small shot glass with the measurements on it to measure out the amount in militres. As with anything else like this, make sure everything is sterile and rinsed well before using it.

The bottle is a travel size taquila bottle. I beg these glass bottles from anyone I know who travels. I have even been known to take bottles out of the recycling as I walk by. They are the handiest little bottles!

Update, next day:

I had planned to make this ear oil and so have been collecting the flowers and herbs to do so for awhile now, since I have had a recurring mild earache for months. It comes and goes, usually about the time I say I'm going to the doctor, it goes away.

Hubby's earache had been getting worse for a few days when he told me about it. I asked him why he didn't say anything sooner. He said it was because I had been mentioning that I was going to make some herbal ear drops and he was just waiting for that and how much longer was it going to take me? I felt a little guilty but, hey, he never said anything. How was I suppose to know this? So I made them right away, yesterday, when I posted this recipe.

I also recommended that he take a decongestant to help dry it up inside, which he did, as well. I put several drops in his ear, he left his head to the side and moved his ear around so at least some of it could get down inside his ear canal.

This morning he woke up and the earache was gone! Completely better! I have tried a few times today to get him to continue the drops for another day or two, just to completely clear up the infection. He won't go for it, says he doesn't like oil in his ear. (Men can be awfully stubborn sometimes...)

I grow all of these herbs and have seed for them all, as well, except for the calendula. I didn't get much seed this year from those. I only had two little plants come up. Next year I will have a large double row of them in the herb garden. It's an important herb. It's antifungal, in addition to everything else it does.

Not only is this oil good for earaches, It will help heal just about sore you may have. (Don't get it in your eyes. You will be sorry, if you do!)

We have become great believers in herbal remedies this year. The purslane for mosquito and fly bites is truly stunning in how well it works!!

Likewise for the feverfew for migraines and the sleepytime tea mix I make up for hubby.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Braiding Onions

I grew onions this year! Lots of big beautiful onions for the first time! It is not, however, the first time I have planted onions, just the first time they actually grew into onions. Those are my onions in the picture above! Next year I am planting a lot more. I didn't grow enough to last us a year because I wasn't sure they would grow well this time and I didn't want to waste the space.

Since I had the onions and the cold cellar with hooks in the ceiling, I learned to braid them. I love the look of hanging onions and garlic. I'd like to hang them in the kitchen, but they wouldn't keep long in that warmth. After they are cured and dried well, they have to be kept cold. The cellar might work. This year will be the test.

It took me awhile to get the hang of braiding onions. It's not something one can just sit down and do. I read a lot of sights online that had pictures and instructions, but I still couldn't get it to work. Then one day it just hit me, I had an Aha! moment. They are braided from the bottom up, not the top down! From that point on I had it. No one told me that! All those sights I looked at never said to start at the bottom of the braid and go up!
After that it went fast. I'm used to putting a French braid in my hair and this works the same way, going in the opposite direction. It has to be quite a bit tighter, however, to hold. I had to repeat it a few times to get it tight enough to hold the onions in place. If I braided my hair that tight, I'd have a headache in no time! This one on the left is too loose and came apart.

The top pic is a final tight braid but could be even tighter. I think that part takes some practice. I have to leave the tops longer next year too. I trimmed them back a bit and I shouldn't have.

I have learned a new skill! I will have to go back and read this post before starting next year. I will have forgotten the key elements by that time, I'm sure. Next year I will do better and have a lot more onions to braid, as well!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Unusual Garden Friend

This lady lives in my garden! I took this picture of her yesterday. She is a Garden Spider Argiope. They are also called "corn spiders".

Garden Spiders are not harmful to humans and eat mosquitoes and any other bugs in the garden, most of which eat your plants. I'd love to have one living in my rose bush next June when the rose chaffers make their appearance or in the hibiscus plants when the sawflys show up! I wonder if I can move one to the rose bush in the spring...

They are not at all aggressive and will usually only bite you if you handle a female with an egg cocoon in the web. Even then, the bite would be no different than a wasp or bee sting. They are not poisonous and reports of them biting humans are rare. They prefer not to leave their web unless absolutely necessary. They spin the most beautiful webs with a "Z" across the middle, which can sometimes get as big across as 2 feet! This dense center section is consumed every night and rebuilt in the morning.

The female builds the webs and lays the eggs around the edges of open sunny fields. They tend to stay in one place most of their lifetime, which is 1-2 years. They mate once a year, after which the male dies and is consumed by the female.

I have seen several of these around my field and back garden this year but this lady is the biggest I have seen so far. Isn't she beautiful! I leave them alone as much as possible, but come on, I have to pick the ground cherries!

I have a lot of garter snakes too, and love them! I just wish Shadow and Abby (the kitties) would leave them alone. Abby, in particular, seems determined to bring them home with her! Bring the mice home dead, leave the garter snakes, please.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

WIld Grapes

We have wild grapes! We have probably always had wild grapes and I just didn't know it. We have a large grapevine on our old TV antennae attached to the back of the house, but I have usually cut it down every year. Last year I left it alone, mostly due to a lack of time and energy to deal with it. (Last year was the "year of the dogs" and a lot of things got "left alone".)
This year I discovered grapes on it and the world of wild grapes opened up! It is covered with them, but there are even more growing and fruiting on a few back fence areas that I didn't know were there. At this time of year our back fence is unapproachable due to the goldenrod and blackberry bushes. With the hope of wild grapes in mind I blazed a path through the weeds to the fence and found several enormous vines filled with grapes!

Half are ready now and half still need to ripen another week or so. Next week on Monday morning I will go grape picking again. The grapes growing in sunny areas are all ripe now. It is the ones in the shade against the woods that need to ripen a bit longer.

The picture at the top is what I picked now. I will probably get at least half that again in another week! This is about 13 pounds of grapes. We weighed them at 11 pounds, then I found about 1/4 of a bucket more and added those. So I am estimating it at about 13 pounds. That's the minimum amount needed to make 5 gallons (23 litres) of wine. Since I know there are more coming next week, I am going to wait. I do have some older, extra large 6.5 gallon carbuoys that I can use for this and make even more wine. I will also make some wild grape jelly (recipe below) but we don't eat much of it so I won't be making a lot. Some wild grape jelly I will make in fancy jars and use for gifts.

We have truly been blessed with an abundance of wealth here on the land The Lord has given us! He continually amazes me with His gifts daily! There is just so much here in the way of herbs, fruits, mushrooms and wildcrafting abundance!
This is the rapsberry wine I just racked into the secondary fermenter yesterday! It's such a fabulous colour! I am collecting wine bottles and large, 100 bottle wine racks in the basement. When this summer's wine is all bottled, I will have 100's of bottles of wine aging!

What I like about the natural organic wines is that they still contain all the properties of the fruits and herbs, all the phytochemicals that make them so healthy.

Wild grape jelly recipe:

3 lbs wild grapes, stemmed
3 cups water
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 (85 ml) package liquid pectin

  • In large saucepan, crush grapes with potato masher; pour in water and bring to boil.

  • Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until fruit is very soft.

  • Transfer to jelly bag or colander lined with a double thickness of fine cheesecloth and let drip overnight.

  • Measure juice (you should have 3 cups/750 ml) into a large heavy saucepan; stir in sugar.

  • Bring to boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

  • Stir in pectin.

  • Return to full boil and boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.

  • Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon.

  • Pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/8 inch headspace.