Monday, April 21, 2014

Planting an herb garden

Before we moved I had planted herbs here and there around our old property. They were somewhat scattered and few. Some Chamomile here, some Comfrey there, a dinner buffet of Echinacea for the slugs, some Lemon Balm, Calendula, and Sweet Leaf. That was mostly the extent of it.
Plus we had the Raspberry leaves off our plants and the Plantain and Dandelion that grew wild in our yard.
Since my husband decided to build a temporary garden spot for me to use this summer (I wasn't planning on even gardening at all this summer) and then started terracing some of the area, I began to think more and more about actually having an herbal garden.
Some of the starts, and seeds that are making their way into our herb garden this spring are:
Sweet Leaf (above)
Yarrow (above)
Lemon Balm
Anise Hyssop
Echinacea (above)
Chamomile (above)
St. John's Wort
Valerian (above)
Trees being planted:
Chaste Tree
Herbs that were natively (for the most part) already here:
Oregon Grape (above)
While most of this is going directly into the herb garden, I am also planting some around the property to hopefully encourage wild growth.
I'll be planting some elderberry trees, St John's wort, and nettle down by the creek. I've already seeded some chamomile around the hills.
I tried to think about where I have seen these plants growing wild, what type of conditions they were thriving in and then plant them in similar situations.
I'm excited to see how these plants do here. Success or failure. I'll let you now how it turns out.
What herbs do you have planted around your place?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Spring Treat~ Dandelion Cookies

It's spring and the dandelions are popping up everywhere! Timber Ann and I found this recipe last week. And she couldn't wait to make them.
So we did.
The recipe comes from here.
The first thing you'll need is some dandelions. Pick them from your yard or anyplace you find them, with the exception of the roadside. (Plants easily soak up the toxins put out by vehicles and who wants to consume that? Not to mention, if your county sprays the roadsides, you surely wouldn't want that either.)
You're going to need a little more than a 1/2c full. Maybe about 20 -30 dandelions depending on their size.
Take your dandelions and remove any stems.
Then separate the yellow petals from the green base of the flower. All of  the green parts of the plant are bitter, but the petals are not. And "bitter" isn't really something we're going for in our cookies.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a bowl, combine:
1/2 c sunflower oil (or the oil of your choosing) you can also use butter
1/2 c honey or sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Mix well.
Then add:
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c oats
1/2 c fresh picked dandelion flowers
Spoon cookie dough into a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for apx.12 minutes. You can keep an eye on them and when the edges start to brown, they are done.
Allow to cool and enjoy!
Oh, and let your kids lick the bowl and spoons too. It's more fun that way.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale):
Parts Used: Leaves, roots, and flowers
Benefits: Dandelion is, I'm convinced, one of the great tonic herbs of all times. The entire plant is restorative and rejuvenating. The root is a prized digestive bitter. It is particularly stimulating to the liver, inducing the flow of bile and cleaning the hepatic system. Dandelion root is also considered one of the safest and most effective diuretics. It tones the kidneys and aids in proper water elimination while maintaining proper potassium levels. The jagged leaves are high in vitamins and minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A and C, and the flowers make a delicious wine.
~Rosemary Gladstar from "Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health"

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Hand Quilting Finish

I finished this little quilt last week.
Once I really got going on quilting this, it actually went faster than I thought it would.
Choosing what designs to use took a little longer.
I'm fairly happy with how it turned out, being my first hand quilting project and all.
 Timber has this hanging on the wall next to her bed.
I'm certainly sold on hand quilting for little quilts, I'm not quite sure that I'm ready to give up the long-arm machine though for big ones!
Have you ever hand quilted a large quilt? What was your experience?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Elderberry Tincture ~ Your Questions

Bobbi posed a great question on my last blog post...
"what would you use the elderberry tincture for and how exactly would you use it?"
Well, thanks for asking Bobbi. Here we go...
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra, S. canadensis)
is a flowering shrub/tree that grows throughout Europe and N. America.
You want to use the varieties that produce blue berries. (Some are more on the black side- just not the red variety as the berries are toxic.)
What can you do with elderberry?
-You can pick the white flowered clusters and fry them as flower fritters or make a tea or tincture from them.
-You can pick the berries and turn them into syrup for pancakes, jams, and jellies.
-You can eat the berries fresh, but I wouldn't recommend eating bunch of them that way.
-You can make tinctures and cough syrups with the berries.
-You can dry the berries for future use.
To say what Elderberry is good for is to write a chapter of a book! It is commonly used for the respiratory tract, the digestive tract, the kidneys, the female system, the pores of the skin, fevers, ulcers, wounds....

Regarding the doctrine of signatures with Elder, Matthew Wood has this to say:
"The hollow tubes of the young branches not only point to the use of this plant in journeying, but show affinities with the tubes of the body, especially the blood vessels and pores of the skin and membranes. Elder has a powerful influence on the blood, to remove stagnation found in bruises and boils. It also decongests heat and stirs up the blood in the interior, bringing it to the surface to remove heat and toxins.....Elder has a deep action on other tubular structures of the body, including the respiratory tract, digestive organs, and pores of the skin. It is an ancient remedy for opening the lungs and bringing up mucus."
As far as usage, the dosage depends on who you talk to. Different herbalist have different recommendations. I tend to use anywhere from a few drops to a half a dropperful in water. It all depends on the tincture and what you're taking it for.
The idea of "if a little is good, more is better" is not the best thought process when it comes to herbs.
 If you're interested in learning more about the plants that God has provided here for us as medicine, I'd strongly suggest picking up a few herb books at your library or on Amazon, utilizing sites like,,,, or finding an herbalist in your area that can help.
Tricia also asked where I got my dried elderberries from?
Up until now I have purchased them from Mountain Rose Herbs. But this past fall I finally invested in an Elderberry tree from here. And this spring, invested in another one from here. This one is on my list, but the sale is prohibited to California. (Dont'cha just LOVE the government??!!)
Hopefully the purchasing of dried berries is now in my past!
You can wildcraft them. I haven't found any locally here but have seen them up at higher elevations, deep into the mountains near streams. 
I hope I answered your questions as well as you'd hoped and that the information is useful!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tincturing Herbs

Tincturing herbs is so incredibly simple that it hardly needs a post all it's own.
Yet I continue to see all those little bottles at the health food store on the shelves with a price tag on them in upwards of $15 for two little ounces.
"People must just not know" I tell myself.
You can tincture your own herbs at home for much less than the price you'd pay at the store. Especially if you grow, or wildcraft your own.
But even if you don't, you can always buy your herbs from an herb store such as Mountain Rose Herbs or the Bulk Herb Store.
So, you've got your herbs. Now all you need is some vodka and a glass jar with a lid. That's it. Really.
Here I am making Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) tincture.
My supplies?
Dried elderberries
vodka (any will do)
a 4oz mason jar with lid
Fill your jar 1/2 way with dried elderberries and pour in vodka to the top. Place the lid on the jar and give it a good shake.

Allow the herb to sit in the vodka for a minimum of two weeks, four is better, shaking every few days.
After that time, strain it out, squeezing out all the extra tincture, and pour into dropper bottles. I get mine from here.
Add the leftover herb to your compost bin.
Label and date the bottle so you remember what's inside and when it was made. The self life of tinctures is quite long. Up to 5 years!
You can tincture any herb. If you're using fresh herbs, allow them to wilt a day or so before adding them into your jar to remove extra water.
If you're just getting started with herbs and want to learn more may I suggest two great resources? is always helpful for reference and information. They even have tutorials!
And my all time favorite herb book (so far as I haven't read them ALL) is Matthew Wood's Book of Herbal Wisdom.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Starting Over

Starting something from scratch is one thing. But starting things completely over seems to be another.


The good Lord and my husband saw fit to move us to the most beautiful mountains. And I was so excited to come. So excited for the new adventure, the new life that lay ahead. I didn't even pause to think of what was being left behind.
No more would we have the wonderful chicken coop and run my husband had built. No more bountiful gardens. No more fruit trees. No more greenhouse. No more pig barn. No fences, no easy water supply, no easily tilled ground.
This is starting over. This is hard work. This is leaving all of the former behind in the hopes and prayers of a new life, apart from the world (yet still in it).
This is starting everything over again but doing it in a more deliberate way now. A more conscience way.
 So, the temporary location of a garden is chosen. Rock handwork is started.

Firewood is spilt and stored up for next winter. 8 cords and counting...

 The chickens live in a temporary coop.
 And don't really seem to mind it all that much.

 Seeds are started and the hopes of providing more than just food for my family has come to be.
And from the depths of my heart comes thankfulness, peace, and a blessed assurance that this is the place He wants us to be.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Handmade Herbal Cream

It's a long story on how this cream recipe came into my use but let's just say that I have it, in 2 different books, so that it will never be lost. The first one is, "Tasha Tudor's Heirloom Crafts". The second is Rosemary Gladstar's, "Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health".
The recipe is that of Rosemary's and my, oh, my folks. This recipe is a keeper. I only changed one thing in the recipe.
This cream is wonderful, non-greasy and so easy to make. Not to mention all of the goodness it has in it. Toss that yucky bottle of "chemical this" and "who could pronounce that?" that is in your cupboard and set aside an hour of your day to put a batch of this together.

Here's what you'll need:
First we'll start with some calendula. Fresh if you have it, but dried will work too.
Steep a small handful of calendula in 1 cup of water. (Bring the cup of water to a boil, turn off heat, add calendula, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes.)
The former is where I deviated from the recipe. The original calls for rose water. But it's early April here and I have no roses on any bushes as of yet to make my own.   So, a calendula infusion is what I used instead.
Calendula ~ Calendula officinalis: "This sunny little flower brightens most gardens. It is a powerful vulnerary, healing the body by promoting cell repair, and acts as an antiseptic, keeping infection from occurring in injuries." - Rosemary Gladstar

Next you'll need:
3/4 c Sweet Almond Oil
1/3 c Coconut Oil
1/3 c Aloe Vera gel
1/4 tsp. Lanolin
5-10 drops Vitamin E oil
 1/2 oz Beeswax
1-2 drops of an essential oil of your choosing
2/3 c calendula infusion (from above) or 2/3 c rose water
In a double broiler, melt beeswax. Add coconut, sweet almond and lanolin. Melt together and then remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature. The mixture will become thick and cream colored. You can hasten this process by putting it in the fridge for a few minutes.
In a cup, mix together calendula infusion, aloe vera gel, vitamin E oil, and essential oil.

Rosemary's directions were to use a blender but I don't have one. So I used my immersion blender instead. (I actually think this would make for easier clean up too.)
If you've ever made homemade mayonnaise then this process is essentially the same.
Take your cooled, creamy oil mixture and pour into a quart sized mason jar. Using your immersion blender on the highest setting, start mixing while slowly drizzling the liquid mixture into the oils.
Continue to mix all liquid in until the cream looks thick and white.
Pour into jars and store in cool location. The cream will thicken as it sets.

The finished result? Two 8oz jars of the most wonderful cream you've ever used!
I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On the Pantry Shelves ~ A Quilt

I don't think that I ever got around to sharing this finished quilt!
My friend, Christa, from Cotton Berry Quilts quilted it for me and did such a great job on it. I wish I could take a picture of every single jar to share.
Here are a few pictures though...they will have to do.
{This is hanging in our bedroom}

I am so happy to have this quilt bound and hanging up.
Thanks Christa, for such a great job. I love this quilt!
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