Sunday, July 22, 2012

After The Rain..

Now I am not complaining.
I wouldn't think of complaining.
How could I possibly complain about rain
when so many others need rain so badly?
In fact,
I feel kind of bad talking about rain
now that I have set down to do it.

But it rained.
And it rained quite a bit
over about a week's time.
I wasn't able to even think about the garden
because it is a bad thing to work in a wet garden.
I get disease enough without
inviting more.
And the weeds GREW!

It doesn't look it,
but some of those things are knee high!

So I attacked late this afternoon
with my handy-dandy,
old as sin.
literally held together with duct tape
electric weedeater
and 'made clean'.
That's better.
Much better.
I then went along and took
the pitiful chard down to
the ground that that it can re-grow.
Stupid pill bugs.
The rain was their open invitation to
devour my chard.

And you can see that my tomatoes
have the funk on the lower branches.
The rain just spread that stuff
right on up.
It won't be the best tomato harvest that I have ever had,
but I still have some tomatoes left from last year
so that's ok.

But the peppers are happy
and I took the opportunity
to whack back a lot of my herbs
that had bloomed and gone
so that they can bloom again.
Happy bees in the late summer with
fresh blooms to suckle.
They are going to need it.

And I think that does it for us
on the rain for a while;
maybe the rest of the summer.
Nothing but blue skies in the forecast!
(and heat)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Plantain Salve.. upon completion

You may remember the beginnings of my plantain salve..
Plantain Salve

And so I let the leaves,
stems and blossoms macerate
in my mix of oils for several weeks.
I even let it spend a night out on the railing
under a full moon.
I wasn't really sure what I was expecting..
Ok.. that's not true.
I didn't expect a darn thing to happen
at all, I just figured it couldn't
hurt to let it soak in some lunar
energy or whatever.
Well.. that evening out did change
the contents of the jar a bit.
In the morning, it was a much deeper, darker green
and the leaves of the softer plants, like the chickweed,
were almost skeletonized.
I see how it could make a difference.
I do know that the moon pulls on the water
and I know that it pulls on the earth
and I do actually plant by the moon phases,
so I suppose that it could also pull upon
the tender parts of a plant
sitting in oil.

Regretfully I do not have
any pictures of the deep dark green liquid
to share with you.
Of course, the camera needed to be charged.
Of course it did.
And once you start with salve, you can't just stop.

But I tell you it was so dark green that it
was almost black;
just stunning and rich.
I poured it off and strained the
plants and gave it a good squeeze
and warmed it slowly in a double boiler.
(a pyrex measuring cup in a pot..fancy)
I grated unfiltered, raw beeswax into the liquid
until I achieved a consistency that I liked.
I wanted it to be nice and firm, but not rock hard.
I don't like squishy, mushy salves.
Then I poured it into little 1.3 oz jars!

I love the way that it turned out.
The wax muted the green,
but it is still darker than most salves.

I didn't add any essential oils for fragrance.
This is medicine.
This is a serious salve.
Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, cooling and soothing,
anti-microbial, healing and cell regrowth,
anti-fungal and anti-biotic in nature;
this salves really packs a punch.
And the bee balm and the beeswax give it
a nice subtle scent that fades
off of the skin within moments.

I decided to go with 'Summer Salve'
as the name.
I just couldn't get 'Bite and Sting Salve'
to sound as sleek and awesome as this salve deserves.
And I have used it for things other than
bites or stings because I haven't managed
to get a bite or a sting since I made it.
I am ok with that..truly.

But it is also chock full of minerals and amino acids
and vitamins and nutrients and life,
so I have used it on my hands and put it on my face
in the evenings before bed.
It feels nice and anything put on the skin
absorbs right into the body.
I figure that it is feeding my skin
and that's a good thing.

And I made a lot of it.
More than I could use in many years.
If anyone is interested,
it can be yours for the
princely sum of $5 (+$3 s/h).

I am searching and searching
for a way to put a wee shopping cart
on the right over there.
A real cart with a Paypal button and everything,
but I haven't found one yet.
Butif you would like a bit of this salve,
please drop me a note and I will
hook you up with my Paypal and zip it out to
you straightaway.
I will have other salves available
as I make them.
I have run low on about everything
and will be making tinctures and salves
throughout the rest of the season.

And I have made a small change to
the blog.
All comments are 'submitted for moderation'.
Not because I have had any problems or spam,
but because folks have been commenting on
old posts and I have no idea and I don't want to miss anyone.
This way, I get notification of a new comment.
That's all it is.

Other than salves,
it has just been raining and cooler
and I am loving it!
However, the garden is in desperate need
of tending and it is a wild, wild place.
I popped in briefly to harvest some tomatoes and grab
some basil for pizza tonight (yay! cool enough to fire up the ovens!)
and was aghast at the weed growth!
It's bad.
But I can't do anything about it until it dries out a bit.
I am not one that will work
a garden in the wet.
I don't need bacterial wilt or any other
disease or fungus to entertain me.
So.. the weeds may flourish until it dries.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lord, Love A Duck..

And I do.
I really, really do.

Now, you know me.
You know that I am not given
to exclamations over cuteness.
I don't 'ooh' and 'awwwww' over critters.
I am not given to getting weepy eyes
when I see something precious cute.
I do over the stupid ducks.
I getting teary-eyed.
Honestly teary-eyed
over ducklings.
They have wittle flappy feet!
(hands waving up and down)
And they wittle 'wacker wackers'!
(hands mimicking a wee teeny duck bill)
I just wuv 'em to pieces!
It's disgusting, isn't it?
But I cannot help it.
And it is not getting any better..
at all.
Each new hatch tears me apart like the very first hatch
and when I see them toddling around the yard
on their wittle flappy feet
I just fall apart.
I am completely lost.

Well... this is Crack.
The name..
We are partial to unusual names around here
and her mother's name is Peruvian Flake.
Peruvian Flake is a solid white duck.
So, of course, we named her after a fine grade of cocaine.
She hatched very early in the Spring
and had two weaklings.

This is Crack and Smack.
Crack (cocaine) is the light one
and Smack (black tar heroin)is the dark one.
I told you we name oddly
and it is because I have an odd sense of humor.
All my fault.
Anyhoo.. I raised Crack and Smack.
Sadly Smack got consumed by a very large snake at some point.
It was a 'closed room' mystery.
We closed them up at night
and there were two ducks.
In the morning there was one duck.
The only possibility is a snake
was drawn to the heat lamp
and came in through a crack near the ceiling.
Poor Smack.
So, Crack became a singleton.
And Crack is spoiled.
She was rejected by the flock,
but was slowly re-integrated.
Then she became exalted
because she could communicate with
the 'food bringers'.
We would speak to the flock
and they would turn, en masse,
to Crack for translation.
It was hysterically funny.
Now, she is just a bitch.
She contains a greatly overblown
sense of entitlement
and is downright mean to ducklings.
Oh well.

So.. we are up to about 50 ducks now.
It doesn't take long.
And these are all Muscovies.
They are a red meat duck and at least a dozen
will go to butcher every 3 months or so.
They will be sold to local restaurants.
We WILL NOT butcher these ourselves.
We did it once or twice.
Never again.
Somethings are best left to professionals.
Too much down.
Too much.
Much too much.
And the professionals have a waxer.
Yep.. they can do it.

We have ducks.

This is Canada.
He will be one of the 2 'new' drakes
that will rise to the top after butcher.
Canada because he looks like a Canada goose.

And this is Limpy.
He will be going to butcher.
He is a great duck and is chief babysitter.
Duck hens are just slack mothers.
They 'just let the kids run around with their ass hanging out,
barefoot like they do in her dreams'.
(Donovan song reference..)
Limpy watches all the kids.
That is why he looks so haggard
and beat down.
I can butcher him at a little under a year
and have him be good eating.
Much later than that and he is
not worth anything monetarily at all.
So.. we raise up new drakes and
butcher the older ones.
Now.. if someduck really blows me away with their
style, flare and personality,
they can remain.
But, not poor old Limpy.

We have ducks.
Lots and lots and lots
and lots of ducks.
Just look at all the duckling in the pics..
and at least 2 hens setting.
We have ducks.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On The Evolving of a Garden...

In the beginning.....
It looked like this.
What a mess.
Goldenrod and Wild Asters
and more morning glories than you could count
and a myriad of other weeds that I couldn't name.
(though this is picture of the upper foundation
I don't have a clear shot of the lower foundation
in all of it's horror,but you get the idea)

It was a dark and dreary space.

And then we ran pot bellied pigs through it.

And chickens.

And we ended up with this.
Ok.. so that makes it sound simple and easy.
It wasn't! I can promise you that!
There were trees in there and honeysuckle rootballs
the size of watermelons in August.
It took pulling and yanking and digging and burning.
Then tilling and more digging and yanking and burning.
Then the raking and the dumping of the barn cleanings
and more tilling and raking.
Then woodstove ashes and more barn cleanings
and more tilling and raking.
But, at last, we had a smooth (ish) surface to work from.

Then came the laying of the beds
and more hauling of the poop and straw
and more digging.

But we had the beginnings of a new garden spot.
Which was the whole point.

And look how it has grown!
From this...

To this!

And this! may be thinking that in comparison
to the scraped clean paths of the earlier pic,
my garden looks just awful!
Well.. there is a method to my madness.

The Method To My Madness..

Ok.. so we left off with this picture.
It looks scraggly and overgrown.
Well.. I used to scrape down the paths
about once a week etc..
and found that I was creating a problem.
The paths were exposed clay and would leach
all of the water out of the beds.
So I began to let the grass and clover
(and weeds) stay.
Now I only have to hit it every once in a while
with my electric weedeater
instead of scraping and scraping with the hoe.

And I have found that my overall garden health has gone up!
I have more moisture in the soil
and more pollinators
and good bugs
and happier toads
and more earthworms.

And you may notice the mess
under my pepper plants.
It looks just dreadful and as if
I don't ever spend time cleaning
my garden.
I have let it do that on purpose, I swear.
That tangle has nasturtiums, petunias,
wood sorrel and French sorrel.
It has some of my dandelions that I let grow and spread
everywhere for medicinal uses.
There is also white clover and lots of
red clover.
The red clover I harvest and dry for
medicinal teas and tonics all winter
and both clovers are wonderful for the soil.
I have red and white clover growing wild everywhere
in the whole garden.
The tangled mess also helps to cool the soil from
the cooking sun, retain moisture under the plants
and they provide hiding places for my toads
and draw in more pollinators.
I swear! My peppers have never looked better.

And this is what is going on
with the end of each tomato row...
a riotous tangle of growth.
I have petunias and nasturtiums,
marigolds and basils.
My Lime Basil reseeded itself like nothing
I have ever seen before!
They are everywhere!
I must have pulled a million of them
before I bothered to take a sniff.
I promptly stopped pulling them up.

This is the end of one tomato row.
It is a massive catnip.
Is it in the way?
But it smells so divine
and draws so many happy pollinators
that I am more than happy to let it sprawl around.

And this is the whole point to the madness..
happy butterflies and honeybees
and bumblebees etc..
The world is becoming a deadly place for insects.
I want to give them as much haven as I can.
They can come here and eat and be safe
from pesticides and I can have ultimate pollination!

Because this is the end result!
About 10 days to go!!
I can't wait!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Plantain Salve

Plantain Salve
Isn't that just GORGEOUS!
Stunningly rich colors!

That jar holds the beginnings of my plantain salve
for soothing skin irritations.
Think bee stings and fire ant bites.
We have been plagued with both this year
and I have found my pantry lacking
any means to deal with them.
So... a salve is needed.

In that jar you see
plantain leaves and stems,
comfrey leaves and stems,
the very last of my garden's chickweed,
bee balm leaves and blossoms
and dried arnica flowers.

Plantain for its "mucilage acts as a demulcent and helps to balance the astringent actions and heals and soothes bee stings, bites, and poison ivy. The astringency also has a styptic effect when used topically and acts to stanch hemorrhage and ease wounds and bleeding cuts by contracting blood vessels."
Comfrey because comfrey is da bomb!! For healing, nothing beats it.
Chickweed draws out the venom and reduces the itching from bites and stings.
Bee balm contains large amounts of Thymol and is a wonderful antiseptic
and it has other properties that soothe and calm and reduce the heat of inflamed tissues.
And arnica is just about the best topical pain reliever I have ever found.
I have a jar that holds a very strong arnica oil that I made.
It is almost instant pain relief.
That finger I tried to cut off several years ago?
Well..I did more damage to it than I thought.
I cut some important things in there and it hurts me
quite often and very badly. A little of my arnica oil on it
and I am good to go again. It is magic!!

So.. all of these wonderful things are steeping all together
in some flax and sunflower oil.
Soon I will add fresh, raw and unfiltered
beeswax to it and a smidge of Vitamin E as a preservative
(added benefit with the anti-scrring properties)
and I will have a salve that should be perfect for easing the pain and itch of insect attacks.

This is plantain.
A wonderful plant for medicinal use.
It is great for just about everything,
but I use it mostly for bites and stings.
Though I hope to use them this winter,
along with my mullein, for lung issues.

I am very proud of my growing number of plantain plants
overtaking the garden.
You just don't see them much anymore
thanks to herbicide use.
I started with just one wee plant
and now I have about 20!
I love the lushness of the leaves.
They are thick and dark and deeply ribbed
and bring a sense of health and wellbeing to the garden.
The garden and it's soil must be healthy
and well balanced if my plantains look this good.
Or at least that is what I tell myself.

And this is how I am steeping the oil.
I don't want to heat up the kitchen,
and frankly it would be ridiculous
to not use the free sunlight and
all of it's energy for this purpose.

But just as you do not want to dry your herbs in direct sunlight,
you don't want to make an herbal oil in the direct sun either.
So.. I pulled out an old (and dusty..sheesh)canning pot
to keep the herbs out of the light
and heat them good and hot at the same time.
It gets very, very warm in there!!
But not so warm as to break apart the delicate herbal oils
and destroy the healing properties of the plants.
I will let them sit in the sun
until the oil is heated all the way through
and then pull it to the shade to let it sit and stew.
I think maybe 2 days of steeping...
I would like to do about a week, but the need for it is great
and immediate.
Poor Sweet Husband has been repeatedly stung
by these teeny tiny little yellow jacket unlike any I have seen before.
They pack one hell of a punch!
This is his second sting in as many weeks on the same spot on his arm.
It is so swollen he says he fear the skin will split. Ouch.
I have been making plantain poultices for it
and it has worked very well.(when I can get him to use them)
Last night's sting actually bled.
I have never seen a little insect draw that much blood.
So it had a huge hole where the sting actually was,
then a raised area around it.
A bit of plantain poultice and within an hour
you couldn't see the big hole and the raised welt was gone.
I'm telling you... plantain is the good stuff!!

Oh darn!! I forgot to put in some yarrow!
Oh well.. I guess it is not too late if I run right out and cut some
to toss into the jar...
Runs out the door!!!