Category Archives: Herbs

Yoda Tea (for lung inflammation and congestion)

Back in the spring when I was sick with pleurisy I tried just about everything to ease the pain, reduce coughing and try to get back on the path towards wellness.  This strong brew, named ‘Yoda‘ by my children for it’s characteristic sickly green color, was the single thing that I felt benefited me the most.  With cold and flu season upon us, I’ve had regular requests to share this recipe.

Yoda Tea

1 large fistful of fresh thyme*
2 T. of matcha green tea
1 T. of turmeric
1 T. of whole cloves
orange peel- around 1 orange worth
Around 1/2 Cup of lemon juice
Honey to taste

*Whenever we have made this we have used the fresh thyme growing in our garden.  We grow an heirloom variety of “sweet” thyme, which has a very pleasant and rather milder flavor than regular thyme.  Some people have found that amounts need to be adjusted according.

Place the thyme, the matcha tea, turmeric, cloves, and orange peel in a quart jar.  Cover with boiling water.  Steep for at least 5 minutes, strain.  Add in the honey and lemon juice and drink it as warm as you can tolerate it. I suggest regular stirring or shaking to keep the powdered ingredients evenly distributed.
When I was at my worst I was actually drinking it a quart at a time, but obviously it could also be drunk a cup at a time, which may be more appropriate for a more minor illness.

 

obligatory disclaimer: I’m a random mother on the internet posting a tea recipe that she found helpful, not a doctor, so use your discretion and due consideration when making your own healthcare decisions.   
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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Off Track

My heart isn’t really in a true Handcrafted Wardrobe post tonight.  My mind it too full of other things, flitting about, unable to settle.  I do have some finished projects, but no pictures, getting photos of myself being rather a bother and a chore at times.  I have been pondering cold weather needs and adding to my cool weather capsule wardrobe mood board.  I’ve been comparing what I’ve made so far to what I’ve dreamed up with that board to see if I’m keeping on track, and I don’t believe I am.  I’ve been teasing out silhouettes in my mind of a Thanksgiving dress in vintage floral print on a deep wine ground.  Then I think, oh slippers for the baby!  And is there enough of that crimson wool for a bonnet as well? Is that costume plan foolhardy or does it truly stand a chance?   And when will I find the time to make it?  Is my lesson plan for the week full enough??  And off I go again…

This weekend was supposed to be devoted to sewing for children, but ended up being all about cooking instead.  We had our first little snow squall, the fire burned without end and the wind howled and howled.  Even now it continues to whip around the eaves and thrash the trees about.

Both our pork and beef arrived this week.  A whole pig and whole cow respectively, except for the bits of pork that are still being smoked.  As a former long time vegetarian, I am still not entirely comfortable with eating meat, though I make a good show of it.  This, I at least believe, is the best way of going about it.  Local, free-range, grass-fed meat from a small family farm.  The price per pound works out to be around the equivalent of inexpensive cuts of conventional meat, only we get all of the cuts down to expensive roasts and porterhouse steaks, along with the reassurance of a good, healthy life for the animal involved and nutritionally superior food for our family.  But it does require freezer space!  Which was on the tricky side and lead to a frozen harvest cook-a-thon.  I made a huge pot of beef stew with all sorts of autumnal root veggies, turned some summer squash puree into a dairy-free cheese and baked a strawberry crisp, using home-made coconut butter as the topping, as per this recipe.  We had the fresh pork chops Saturday night, cooked with onions and pineapple sage and served with orange and yellow chard.  I grew pineapple sage for the first time this year and I find the scent intoxicating.  It has somehow managed to escape harm despite all of our recent frosts and brilliant scarlet flowers are just beginning to peep out of their buds.  I have delusions of somehow finding a way to winter it over in the garden, though I know the thing is impossible.  Perhaps I’ll dig it up and see how it fares inside.

I still have some thawed chard that I think I’ll turn into creamed chard and a couple of jars of shredded zucchini that I haven’t decided what to do with. We also spent almost an entire day rendering lard, which was a first for me.  Eight whole quarts full! I’ve never even cooked with lard before. And maybe, just maybe I’ll finally sew up that skirt full of pins by my side.

Has the season scattered your focus as well?  Do you find a discrepancy between what you like and the items that you make, buy and wear?  This has always been true for me and I’ve been trying to correct it, but apparently without much success.

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Around the Garden~ Summer 2016

We are having a crazy year from a wildlife perspective.  Not that we don’t usually have our fair share of wildlife, but for the most part is hasn’t interfered with our gardening.  Not so this year!  I feel like something must have been thrown out of balance with our local Eco-system.  There is some kind of work going on in the woods up the road, that seems a likely cause.

The grey foxes came every evening at dusk for a while.  And now the male of the pair comes alone, presumably seeking food for his mate and kits.

We had a porcupine coming every night for a while as well.  We blamed it for an entire bed of strawberries, razed to the ground, the disappearance of all of our Swiss chard and many of our beet tops, as well as the nibbling down of our newly planted gooseberries and currents.  But the morning after one such incident we spotted a deer family around fifteen feet from the garden, so who knows?

One morning we were hearing strange sounds and discovered a young bear throwing rocks at the house!  He broke a chunk of board off the storage area under the deck.  That was the same morning that all of my daffodils disappeared.  Every last one, back yard and front.  We found nothing but large holes and a few scattered leaves.  My family is sick of me walking around mournfully, repeating the phrase, “every single daffodil…” in disbelief, again and again.  So I have tried to stop, but I am terribly sad about that one.

The following week we found most of our straw paths burrowed under, turned about and generally topsy-turvy.  We suspected a skunk, until the next morning dawned to reveal the remaining paths in disarray and the true culprits: 5 mischievous raccoons.

For the first year ever my parsley and basil did absolutely nothing.  Nothing!  And what is a summer without fresh basil I ask you?!?  Most of our sunflowers disappeared in the night, like so many other plants, and the few that survived are rounding up to knee high.  The chipmunks stole all the fruit from our fruit trees.

Most of our garden is suffering from extreme neglect.  Apart from a few optimistic bursts of productivity, we’ve really done very little with it this year.  And I think all that is happening is the same thing that always happens any time a patch of earth is left unattended; nature reclaims it.  Sometimes very rapidly!

Still there are some garden highlights; it’s been a great year for brassicas.  Our kale and collard beds are overflowing.  I wish I had planted more broccoli.  It did very well.  Our winter squash are thriving and starting to set fruit.  We’ll be pulling up our garlic this week and I’m anticipating our usual hearty harvest.  A few of our cranberry plants are completely covered in little pale green berries.  Others- the ones being shaded and starved out by weeds- less so.

Most of the front flower garden is lovely and a great comfort to me.  The peonies were magnificent this year, but you will never know it.  I was waiting until they were at their absolute peak to photograph them and that very morning Mairi Rose and Galen decided to surprise me by filling like eight jars and vases near to bursting with them!  Hence the rather bare and patchy specimens you see pictured here.

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Summer Solstice

The children found a fallen and abandoned nest in the woods, nothing very out of the ordinary about that, but this one happens to be lined with a lock of Mairi Rose’s hair!

Breakfast fixin’s from the garden: garlic scapes, onion tops, sweet thyme, mint, pineapple sage and regular sage to season our sausage patties.  Lemon balm for tea.  Once the sausages were cooked I tossed all the greens from the bottom of the basket; collards, kale and the last of the bolting spinach, in the pan with the juices, added a bit of broth, then covered them and steamed.

 

We usually have a Solstice celebration.  Last week I was thinking about how I wanted to do something special, but I never really got beyond that thought.  The day of, on my way up to put the baby down for a nap, I told them all to come up with a plan while I was away.

This is what they came up with: A picnic dinner in the garden.  Burning the Swedish Torch that Iain made a few months back.  Baking and eating strawberry-rhubarb pie (as we are not currently eating any sweetener or grains and they made up the recipe themselves, this part was kind of gross, but they seemed happy with it anyway!).  And launching rockets.  I added a sun inspired craft and our celebration was complete.

 

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odds and ends

“The worst thing you can do is to wear a sloppy sweat suit.  I occasionally meet people who dress like this all the time, whether waking or sleeping.  If sweatpants are your everyday attire, you’ll end up looking like you belong in them, which is not very attractive” ~ Maire Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (read while wearing a pair of sweatpants handed down to me by one of my children and looking every bit as though I belong in them)

Galen knitted a hat for my uncle, which I found totally adorable.  And actually there is a really cute story behind it, but probably a bit long to share in this space.  It made me feel really good about the kids being able to have a heart connection with our extended family, even though they are all far away.

I’m trying to get life back on track now that the holidays have passed, including getting back to regular posting here, and failing miserably.  I’m reading The Life Changing Magic when I’m feeling motivated and inspired and a young adult adventure series when I couldn’t care less and just want to pretend everything away!

I am excited about being in this space in the coming year though.  I have a feeling that this year is going to be a pivotal one in my life.  It will be interesting to see what develops.  I have several fresh ideas and exciting projects to share.

Iain and Elijah spent huge chunks of the holiday break trying to figure out how to solve rubiks cubes.  Now that they’ve mastered the 3×3, they’re moving on to more complicated configurations.I’ve spent the last week banishing Christmas from the house and still I’m finding rogue ornaments in the dress-ups basket or amongst books on shelves.  I think…I think, I may finally have gotten it all.

Winter has finally arrived. I made fire cider with our Christmas horseradish and other garden goodies, to help keep our family warm and well through the winter, along with several jars to share with friends.  It’s really fabulous over roasted cauliflower.

Our house is many things to many people, including a concert hall, as needed.

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just the two of us

For months now, Galen has been wanting to take me to see all of the special places they visited during the nature program he attended last year.  We started talking about it in winter and decided it would be best to wait until spring.  Time after time, something came up; illness, weather, scheduling conflicts.  Finally one night I told Steve, “That’s it, tomorrow we are going.  This is the most important thing I can do with this day.”  And go we did, albeit four full hours later than I intended, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves at home.

I’ve been jokingly referring to it as our immune boosting trip.  We stopped at a friends garden on our way to munch on some rose hips (very high in vitamin C).  Once in the woods we gathered ripe elderberries to snack on (general immune support) and Galen built a little fire on which to prepare us some hemlock needle tea (also high in vitamin C).  Between that, the fresh air and all that good ole’ vitamin D, I figure we were pretty thoroughly bolstered up.  The pleasant company and laughter probably didn’t hurt either.

I have to say, it took every last bit of everything I had in me to make that trek, but it was worth it.  I know it meant so very much to him, and being there with him, just glowing with happiness, meant the world to me as well.

Fact: the start of the (home) school year along with our various commitments and new schedules is kind of kicking my backside all over town at the moment.  I want to be posting here with more regularity, but as with our hike, other things keep cropping up to prevent me.  Things are going well, except I’m not sleeping nearly enough.  I read something the other day (I have no idea where!) about how if you find yourself up at 12:30 trying to put together lesson plans, then something is out of whack with life and it’s time to address it.  It’s not that I don’t see the wisdom in this, it’s just that, well, when else is everything going to get done?

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abundant plants

Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination.  You are always living three, or indeed six, months hence.  I believe that people entirely devoid of imagination never can be really good gardeners.  To be content with the present, and not striving about the future, is fatal. ~Alice Morse Earle, 1897

I’ve just started a pair of horse-themed fingerless mitts for Elijah’s birthday next month.  My knitting time has been very limited lately.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to finish this and the two other small projects I have planned for him by the middle of next month.

Sugaring season has officially ended.  We made just shy of 9.5 gallons of pure maple syrup this year.  Time to look forward to the garden.  I’m currently reading The Writer in the Garden, an anthology edited by Jane Garmey, as well as the twenty or so other gardening books that are currently scattered around my house.

Iain says I take all of the fun out of gardening and growing things.  His style would be to plant whatever he wants, whenever he wants, where ever he wants, with little regard for the likely outcome.  He’s all about the experience.  Part of me wishes I could be more in the moment like that.  Elijah however, will hunker down with me, and indeed greatly enjoys pouring through seed catalogs, making notes and plans.  Many plans.  Far more plans then we can ever set into motion.  With the two of us together it’s twice as bad.  It’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, to dream with.  No one else tolerates my blather.  I now willingly share creative control with him.  I think he has almost as much invested in it as I do.

In an effort to cut expenses this year we’re growing almost everything from seed.  There are tiny plants on every south facing window sill and the homeschooling table has been entirely given over to a makeshift vegetable nursery.

Does anyone know what this plant is?  It’s a tropical house plant of some sort.  Our neighbor sent it over thinking it would do better at our house.  I think it’s odds would be greatly improved by my being able to positively identify it.

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Christmas Cowls

Mairi kept sewing up little packets of herbs and spices; orange peel, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, star anise, what ever seemed Christmas-y and pleasing to her.  There was a lot of wood block card and wrapping paper making and pretty little wood slice ornaments.  I made three cowls.  Apparently this was the year of the cowl.  This crimson one was for my mother-in-law.  The blue one peaking out now belongs to my sister.  I don’t have any other pictures of it yet.  She’s still here visiting, so perhaps I’ll get a chance yet.

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kindergarten in the garden

Honestly I sometimes resent the amount of time and energy it takes to homeschool the older boys.  We now have one at middle school level and one high school.  That is a lot of work, not just for them, but for me as their teacher.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy teaching them, very much (well, most of the time!  There are days…).  Add in a third grader and baby and my days are full, full, full.  I’m sometimes nostalgic for the quiet, slower paced days when we could just “do kindergarten” all day long.

Mairi Rose had a challenging summer.  I spent a lot of time meditating on how to approach the coming school year with her, trying to figure out what would nourish her soul, ease her troubles and hopefully nurture her into a calmer phase of development.  It didn’t come all at once, but eventually, what became clear to me was that this girl needed a deeper connection to the natural world around her.  I set about planning ways to immerse her in the magic of the ever changing seasons, to give her the chance to be grounded by the earth.

After much frustration last year, I decided it was better to do one thing in a day well and with great care and attention then to be frazzled and frantically trying to create a “full day” for her.  We now have one yoga day (I’ll try to post more on that at a later point), one project day, a nature walk day, baking day and story day where I try to do something a little special with, say, props or puppets.  I do wish we were getting out for walks every day, but right now that is just not happening.  I try to make our one day as unhurried as possible.  Even if we do make it out other days, this is the day where we don’t have to rush back home, in theory anyway.  Even with this simplified arrangement there are days and even the better part of weeks that we miss.

In the notes section of my calendar I jot down the planned projects and baking items assigned to each week.  I’m working from a general theme that everything is related to.  We started off with “herbs” and have moved on to include both herbs and the harvest.  We made dream pillows full of sweet herbs from the garden.  Rosebud has been enjoying mixing her own herbal tea blends and takes great pride in serving them.  Together we made lavender-chamomile lotion for the girls bedtime massages.  Actually Elijah swears by it for sore muscles after riding!  We’ve planted garlic and daffodils.  I’ve been sharing stories about herbs with her.  After learning that chamomile is good for teething, she began bringing in bunches from the garden for her sister, whenever she thought her uncomfortable.

Together we made a garden loom.  I was going to make it myself and just show her how to weave with it, but we had the gift of time together, apart from the others and I thought I’d give her the chance to do some building herself.  She really got into it and again showed a lot of pride in her work.  These are her special things.  They are dear to her heart.

A Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages by Leslie Tierra has been a wonderful resource.  I have two minor criticisms regarding this book.  I wish they used more natural sweeteners in the recipes and maybe less sweets in general.  I also feel like occasionally they ruin the magic of the stories by over-explaining at the end, stating exactly what you were supposed to have learned, instead of just letting the lesson sink in through the power of the tale.  But both of those things can be altered for personal preference and otherwise I find it invaluable.

I try to keep a list of ideas on hand to give our life and lessons some continuity while kind of rounding things out for her, so if I have a spare moment I can implement them.  Little things like harvesting some herbs to go with dinner, playing a game of Wildcraft, turning her normal bath into an herbal bath or simply brewing a pot of tea together.  At the moment we have one day a week where all three boys are at their own nature program for a full morning and afternoon and I take advantage of that time together trying to channel that laid back all day kindergarten mindset of yesteryear.  It’s rapidly becoming my favorite day of the week.

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Feeding Our Families ~ Summer

Breakfast sausages made with garlic scapes, mint, basil, cilantro and red pepper flakes, served with steamed greens and roasted onions.

Two months worth of a belated post!  Right now I’m trying to eat from the garden as much as possible.  Simple is best – steamed broccoli topped with garlic scapes sauteed in ghee.  Proponents of the kitchen garden always like to go on and on about the ease of eating fresh picked.  But the fact is, it’s just a big old lie!  Is it tastier?  No doubt about it.  More nutritious?  Absolutely.  Easier then cracking open a plastic bin of triple wash spinach?  ennnt. nope. sorry.    I’ve been trying to make lunches almost exclusively from the garden.  It’s a balancing act.  I want to make the most of it, but I also can’t devote what sometimes turns into hours for a single meal, every day.

If I’m being perfectly honest there have been times when growing a garden has actually caused us to eat worse.  Busy times where it was just too much trouble to harvest, wash and prep.  Instead we would end up eating whatever was available inside, which obviously wouldn’t be fresh produce, because why would I buy fresh produce when there was so much already growing outside?  So far this year we’ve managed to avoid that.

Cobb Salad

A summer slaw; finely sliced collard greens, tender young broccoli shoots, fresh mint, basil and cilantro, with a sweet and tangy lime dressing.

I’ve started season specific pinterest boards to help with meal planning inspiration: Summer Meal Planning, Autumn Meal Planning and Winter Meal Planning – spring is still far enough off that I’m not really thinking about it yet.  Because clearly the 5 different food specific boards I already had: Putting Food By, Sweet Stuff, For Baking Day, the Whole30 Compliant Recipes board I was invited to join and just plain Food, not to mention my food heavy travel board: On the Road Again, were not enough.  On these boards I’m gathering ideas that I’d like to use for our seasonal dinner meal plan, but also season specific treats and recipes for special events occurring in that season.  Party food, birthday food, holiday food, everyday food, recipes for anticipated garden surplus…anything that I come across and think I might need is right there.

Pesto sweet potato noddles with chicken and broccoli from the garden, eaten on the porch.  Pure summer.

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