Archive for the ‘herbs’ Category

Having one of those weeks where I feel like I am getting nothing done. 1) chard is going to seed 2) wormwood needs to be planted 3) front planting bed needs to be weeded 4) various other plants need to go into the ground 5) the hens need access to a dust bath that does not endanger plants 6) kale is going to seed 7) gooseberries are suddenly splitting and dropping to the ground 8) potato plants need to be hilled up and 9) clover needs to be worked into the garden beds… and this just covers the things I actually took pictures of ;0}

But then I am reminded that there is bounty in my garden as well – flowers for the bees and fruit and herbs for us ;0} Italian plums, lemon balm, raspberries, valerian, pears and lavender… and so much more that isn’t pictures here!

I had the day off from work today… which always seems to create a day of urgency, instead a day of accomplishment. It was a 1) rain-boot kind of day! so pulled them on and cuffed up my pants 2) I finally got around to installing the fairy pool and homes (from a local artist group at Kennedy Creek Pottery – they call them bird feeders =0}) 3) went and picked up a few things at the Olympia Farmers Market – had some market dollars burning a hole in my pocket 4) just couldn’t resist the Blondköpfchen (“little blonde head” in German) tomato plant – I grew up in Austria and was blonde back then :0} 5) picked up cherries for hubby and tossed in some garlic scapes 6) added a few more tomato plants, a couple of peppers and a tomatillo 7) in the afternoon, a movie date with my niece (did I mention that I got a picture-text around 3:30 am, from one of four – that’s right, FOUR pregnant sisters (okay! one is a sister-in-law ;0}) in Virginia, with the news that my newest nephew had arrived? James Stephen arrived three weeks early and weighed in at just over 8 lbs.!! The movie choice seemed appropriate – What to Expect When You are Expecting.) 8) met hubby and his work colleagues for dinner… almost stepped on this guy outside the restaurant… he seemed to be enjoying his meal ;0} 9) finally got around to some of my herbs… transferred the dried Calendula to some olive oil to infuse, bottled up dried violet leaves and lemon balm leaves. Then spent an hour collecting feverfew leaves and set them up in the dehydrator.

All in all, a good day… but still so many things to do!! Pulling double shifts the next two days, but then I’ll have a half-day and a day off again! Don’t worry… I’ll find time to take pictures… I always do ;0}


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I Did It

I did it – I made soap!!

I finally did it. I’ve been thinking about making soap, since December… longer, really. But December is when I started looking at recipes and collecting ingredients. Hubby even got me lye, for Christmas (never, in a million years, did I think I would ever write that and be excited about it ;0})

There are only pictures of the finished product. I was way too nervous about the whole lye-thing. I didn’t dare stop to take any pictures. I must say, I thought it was going to be far more dramatic, than it was. So much so, that I wonder if I didn’t do something wrong.

I relied heavily on Soap Making Essentials – she has some great recipes and tutorials. She also pointed me to SoapCalc… which, saved my butt, when I realized, that I only had about half the cocoa butter I needed, and the coconut oil was already in the crock pot, warming up.

I think I went a little overboard with the vinegar. I rinsed all the utensils/tools, I used in the lye mixing process, with vinegar, washed them with hot-soapy water, and then rinsed again, with vinegar. I wanted to be absolutely sure that the lye was neutralized. This coming from the woman who actually did the zap test… you know? When you put, what you hope to be, a fully processed product to your tongue, to see if it will zap you like a 9-volt battery. Luckily, the soap didn’t zap me =0}

This time I added Calendula flower petals and a Cascade Blend EO (think cedar and pine). The soap smells heavenly, and it seems to lather really well. The real test will be in the shower, tomorrow morning… will I feel clean after using it =0}

Next time (yes, I’m already thinking about next time), I want to try a soap with coconut milk and/or honey with oatmeal!! With the SoapCalc, the possibilities seem endless… at least for my lifetime ;0} And I want to try a shampoo bar…

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If you know me at all, you know that I love to be in my garden… and that I strive to provide for my family, through what I grow. I am new at this… but I seem to be getting better and better… at least I think so =D

I must confess, that in the past I allowed a lot of things to go to waste… feeding my compost pile, instead of my family. So this year, I intent to preserve more than I compost…

I had passed by my herb patch and noticed that the parsley was doing very well… a little too well for the benefit of the other herbs. I cut out a third of the plant. I wasn’t in the mood for tabouleh, so I had to come up with something else. Then I remembered the container of the store-bought dried parsley I had emptied a few weeks earlier. I was planning on buying more, but now I saw another way. I remembered reading about drying herbs in your oven… using the lowest heat and leaving the oven door cracked open to allow for moisture to escape. I warmed the oven and filled a cookie sheet with the parsley and placed it inside. It didn’t take long… less than an hour. And it filled the whole house with a wonderful aroma… it surprised me. I will definitely do this again.

If you recall a previous post, I also have an over abundance of dandelions (who doesn’t?). I was planning on making dandelion fritters, but haven’t gotten around to buying the oil I would need. Instead I decided to harvest some dandelion roots and make a tincture. I pulled several dandelions. I chose the best looking roots and cleaned them. Those were tossed in the food processor and chopped. I filled 2/3 of a mason jar with the roots and then covered it with apple cider vinegar… making sure the roots were completely covered. I put plastic wrap between the jar and the lid to prevent the vinegar from rusting the lid. I placed the jar in a cupboard with the others – I had several tinctures in process – Echinacea in vodka, burdock root in vodka and in apple cider vinegar, and dandelion in vodka. For the next 5 weeks I shook the jars every day… making sure that the roots weren’t clumping together and that they were still covered in liquid. Yesterday I separated the roots from the vinegar (or vodka). That created a whole different kind of smell in the house… I actually like it, Jeff not so much.

Now I have to figure out how I will store these tinctures… and how to incorporate them in my daily life. Especially the dandelion root tincture, that assists in clearing kidney stone obstructions… and we know about my experience with kidney stones. It also helps with metabolism and liver function – the list goes on… who would have thought that a weed could be so beneficial? What I have cursed for years may be the solution to health ailments I have struggled with for years… oh the irony…

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Our First Meal Out of Our Garden

This is the first meal that is 100% from my garden – fresh eggs, pea shoots and chives. It wasn’t planned. I was out doing my usual morning routine… letting out Goldie (obviously the gold one – a Buff Orpington) and Vandana (the black one – a Cochin… she has feathers on her feet) and then doing a once-a-round in the garden… checking on chicken damage… I let them free-range and sometimes the best treats are apparently around some of my plants. They are so happy scratching to get to the little critters that they don’t realize (or care) that they have uprooted the plant.  So I tuck the plants back into the soil and try to create barriers so that it doesn’t happen again. I also check on my veggie patch, which is safe from the chickens… that patch has been protected from the beginning. I was glad to see that the pea sprouts were doing great… there were several that seemed to have grown to over two inches tall overnight, but they were a bit crowded. So I thinned them out. Normally I would have tossed them into the compost bin. But then I remembered that a gardener had mentioned that you could eat the shoots… that they had a wonderful pea flavor to them (imagine that =D). So I thought’ “What the heck?” So on the way into the house, I grabbed a few chives as well.

Nothing better than fresh eggs with fresh greens from the garden! It was delicious! Although, next time I will wait longer to add the pea shoots… I liked the fresh crunch of the garnish more than the cooked pea shoots mixed in with the eggs. I will definitely be harvesting more shoots. In fact, I planted more peas in one of my planters just for the shoots… the wonderful pea flavor without the waiting for the pods! If you planted peas, you should try some. I hear they are also great in salads!

Olympia, WA – our backyard

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Backyard Herbs

herbs, beeswax, and olive oil

Before we even moved into this house, I was planning the herb garden. I wanted a garden filled with plants… useful plants. My dream was to care for my family with what grew in our garden… not just at the table, but in the medicine cabinet, as well. Today I took some steps towards filling our medicine cabinet (and first aid kit) with herbal concoctions. I made my first salve!

hot oil treatment

All these herbs grow in my garden… Calendula, Plantain, Comfrey and St. Johns Wort. I must confess, the herbs in these pictures are not from my garden… I bought a kit to learn how to make a few concoctions, but next time they will be =D

healing salve

I poured in the olive oil and added the dried herbs to a double boiler. I kept busy in the kitchen for the next hour so I could be near by. I needed to be stirring every once in a while. There was plenty to do though. I needed to get the containers ready, set up to drain the olive oil from the herbs and make a tincture out of Echinacea root – another concoction. After an hour I drained off the oil and composted the herbs… melted the beeswax and poured the oil back in… that was it. Then I just had to pour it into the containers… and add some drops of lavender essential oil. It was fun… I’ll have to try it with fresh herbs out of my garden this summer!

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Do you recognize these seeds? I picked them up at a seed exchange two summers ago. I figured they were free, so why not give them a try? And I always wanted some Calendula in my garden. Less than a week ago, I tucked some of these seeds into some seedling mix, warmed the soil, put on a cover and placed them under a grow light. And today I saw this:


There are three other types of seeds in the seedling tray. These were the first to send up their little cotyledons (leaves). I was so excited… I thought they might not even come up… and here they are, the first ones up! We’ll see what the next few days and weeks bring =D

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