Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mullein Oil

"The day you decide to appreciate yourself is the day you begin to dance."
-T. Elder Sachs

mullein ears
Back in July when we created the medicine wheel, I knew I wanted to plant mullein.  I love this plant not just for its wonderful uses and properties but because it is so beautiful.  There is something majestic about the large, even huge, silvery leaves that feel fuzzy to the touch and the tall stalk with it's delicate yellow flowers. 

Since I planted these plants late in the season they have not flowered, so about a month ago when we were getting all the heavy rain I decided to harvest some of the leaves in case the plants got drowned in too much mud.  We strung them to dry in our kitchen and watched them shrink and transform. 

Mullein is well known as an herb for resperatory support.  The Native Americans used it as a tea, as well as, smoked the dry leaves to relieve lung congestion.  Many wise woman Mamas use mullein and garlic ear oil to naturally treat ear infections in their children.  We decided to make a mullein oil infusion to use in a salve later on. 
First the dried leaves are crumpled and broken up or cut into small pieces with scissors. 

Next you loosely fill a clean glass jar with the broken herb being careful to leave enough air spaces and then fill with an organic oil of your choice, we used extra virgin olive.  Save the remaining dry herb to make tea next time there is a cold or cough in your household.  Seal your jar tightly and place on a sunny windowsill for few weeks to a month.  When ready strain and use in a salve with calendula or just decant into a bottle and use topically for burns, ulcers, skin infections, and wounds. 

stored dry mullein leaf and oil

We are very happy to be featured on this wonderfully useful website,  Check it out!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reflection and Gratitude for Busy Days

Keep knocking
and the joy inside
will eventually
 open a window and look
  out to see who's there.

silent moment to relax

These last two weeks have been busy and jam packed with activity.  The farm is coming along.  With the change in weather we have been spending more time on our outside projects, specifically, building a mini greenhouse and getting our garden beds ready for planting.  This will be our first growing season here and we are super excited to put as much in the ground as we can manage.  Inspired by this informative site,, we decided to try and stick with the biodynamic approach to gardening/farming instead of dabbling here and there with different philosophies.  (So since we already started sheet mulching some beds we will finish them and then double dig the rest.)

This week we had two truck loads of steaming horse manure from the local stable dropped off in our driveway which will become the base for our compost heaps, mulch for my kitchen garden, and the last ingredient for our sheet mulching experiment.  

future pole bean tepee

potato patch is almost ready to plant

Our weeks have also been filled with creative endeavers like repainting the old, empty bee hives, making mexican hot chocolate...

and sculpting mud men!

Now that the rain has nourished the earth and all of the new greeness is emerging, I find myself compelled to give more time to my passion for collecting and studying plants. The mullein I harvested from the medicine wheel is now dry and ready to be stored in glass jars.  The Amaranth hanging in the kitchen is releasing it's seeds for us to file away for spring planting.   The medicine wheel has been mulched and as I meditate on more medicinal plants to add to the wheel I am reminded of a great woman who I wish I could have met, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, my favorite herbalist and wild woman.  You can view a clip from this amazing documentary about her life filmed a couple of years back.

Juliette wrote many herbals but right now I am particlarly interested in her book, The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable.

Also, check out our upcoming classes and calendar of events.  If you are interested in more information on any class or would like to register, email us at

Friday, January 7, 2011

DIY Friday

'Tis an old deserted homestead
On the outskirts of the town,
Where the roof is all moss-covered,
And the walls are tumbling down;
But around that little cottage
Do my brightest mem'ries cling,
For 'twas there I spent the moments
Of my youth, life's happy spring.
 -Paul Lawrence Dunbar

homemade citrus soap

Due to the need for frugality around here and of course my non-stop need to be making something, I decided to try my hand at homemade laundy soap.  I already have a whole lot of bar soap from the soapmaking extravagana a few months ago so I found this recipe online.  If you think you don't have time to do this you are wrong.  It's ridiculously easy, you just have to aqcuire something called washing soda, which I bought at my local conventional supermarket. 

All Natural Homemade Laundry Soap
hot h2o
1 bar soap
1 cup washing soda
essential oil

-grate the soap and add to a large sauce pan, cover with hot h2o and whisk until dissolved
-fill a bucket or very large bowl with 2.5 gallons of hot h20, add disolved soap and stir well
-add washing soda, stir well until disolved
-cool and add 15-20 drops essential oil of your choice
(* the recipe says that the detergent will gel up after it cools)
I made 1.5 x the recipe and it filled 2 of my extra large Ecos laundry soap containers (6.21 liters each), all for around $2.00 and a half an hour of my time. 
Not bad at all.  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Few Green Allies

In morning mist
a frenzy of drops
from the tree

One of the majestic Eucalyptus trees lining the farm
Yesterday's hike around the farm and the adjoining empty land with my son was amazing.  I love seeing everything through his 7 year old eyes, he is one of the keenest observers (and avid collectors) I know.  After all the rain the woodland floor is teeming with new growth.  We both felt like we were inside a huge salad bowl, surrounded by edible greens.  I want to share a few things I have learned about some of these common and useful plants most people either overlook or call weeds. 

Plantain leaf (cooling and drying)
Recently we had quite a severe bought of poison oak run through our household.  Our youngest had it the worst and after a little more than 2 weeks it is finally on its way out.  The saving grace seemed to be washing with Technu lotion over and over, even days after exposure to help contain the rash from spreading and then applying fresh aloe leaf to cool it down and sooth.  I was kicking myself after walking down the hill and noticing plantain popping up everywhere.  This plant is really good for poison oak (and ivy), bites, stings, diaper rash, and any itchy skin irritations, especially with burning or prickling sensations.  As a kid I learned you can chew up the leaf and spit it out onto your skin if you have a bug bite or bee sting.  You can also use it as an eye wash  for sore eyes or conjunctivitis.  Just make an infusion with the fresh leaves and use the tea as a wash topically.  Another great plant for poison oak is jewelweed.  

Cleavers (cooling and drying)

Cleavers is out in all of her glory.  Another cooling and drying plant that can be useful in psoroasis, eczema, dandruff, and other dry skin conditions.  This is a good one topically as a compress for fever, sunburns, and bleeding wounds.  Here is one of my favorite naturalists talking about cleavers as a wild edible food.
 I will be going back to harvest a bunch to juice in the next couple of days. 

Mallow (cooling and moistening)
This mallow plant is flouishing under our black walnut tree.  The leaves and flowers of common mallow can be applied as poultices to wounds or drunk as an infusion to soothe coughs.  It is yummy cooked as a vegetable when young and tender. The original marshmallows were made from a plant called marshmallow, (related to common mallow) by boiling pieces of the root of the plant in water, adding sugar and whipping. Then, the thick, white confection was dropped in spoon fulls onto waxed paper to dry into candy.

New growth on a wild artichoke plant

Old wild artichoke head long gone to seed
I think it is beautiful when you can see the different cycles of the seasons on the same plant.  One old seed head that survived the rains and a new baby artichoke growing from the plant.  These plants are extremely sharp and hard to get to without poking yourself but if you can manage it, you can get a free and abundant supply of artichoke hearts that are similar to the domesticated variety, not to mention the leaves make a good digestive aid.   

Sorry for the blurry you know about this book?  It is one of my all time favorites!  An excellent read and knowledge passed down that we just may need sometime in the near future. 

*Just have to make sure that you all know not to pick or eat any plant that you are not familiar with.  Lots of plants look alike and some are poisonous.  Please go out and learn from an experienced naturalist or herbalist!

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Beginnings

Just as the heart becomes carefree
in a place of green, growing plants,
goodwill and kindness are born
when our souls enter happiness.

Steaming manure and hay

Our January 1st work party was wet and muddy, but very producive.  The objective was to begin preparing a large area of 5' x 20' beds for spring planting.  Mission almost acomplished...we worked hard, got wet, ate some good veggie food, and had alot of fun. Big thanks to all of you who came out in the wet weather to help out!

We started by covering the area we want to plant with cardboard boxes (to suppress weed growh and draw the worms up from the ground), then added grass clippings from the mower.

We covered the grass and cardboard with hay from the goat stalls and old molded hay that we have been saving.  

Next we spread out the thick layer of hay that will break down becoming spongy and eventually turning to compost.  After the beds are covered with hay, a layer of manure will be added, the beds will be lined with wood to define the borders, and they will be left to break down for a couple of months.  Before planting in the spring we will turn the beds, add a layer of topsoil or compost and start planting.  

Herbal candy making

 This is a fun and extremely easy recipe to make for gifts or to stash away for when you need some herbal cough drops.  Way more sugar than I am used to but everthing in moderation, right?

Herbs from the kitchen garden
Lemon and ginger geranium, peppermint, and echinacia tea bags

 Here is a recipe from Herbal Sweets, by Ruth Bass.  (A very cute little cookbook by the way.) 
4 cups boiling water
2 cups herbs
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups brown sugar
1/2 tbls. butter
(You can also add peppermint essential oil for more kick!)

-Pour boiling water over leaves and steep at least 10 minutes.  Butter a shallow pan.
-Strain leaves, add butter and sugar to tea and bring to boil over medium heat.  Continue boiling until syrup hardens when a small amount is dropped into cold water. 

-Pour into the buttered pan and score the candy into squares before it sets.  Wrap each hardened piece in wax paper.  Store in airtight container.  

A Little the Chickens Didn't Get

Our first harvest of beets from the kitchen garden.  Small but sweet.  

Without the proper fencing up yet, we managed to grow some artichokes, beets, snap peas, and lots of herbs. 

Also...check out Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 2011 catalog at Amazing color photographs, tons of varieties of organic, non-GMO, open pollenated seeds.  If you are anything like I am, it's worth ordering the catalog to have a copy on your coffee table.