Hal's Hat

Hal's Hat

Friday, November 16, 2012

New items: web links

I've been wanting to do this for awhile; weblinks to useful, helpful online sites and aritcles. I'm always running into article or info that I want to share directly, not reinterpreted by me into a blog post, but send you directly to the article.

Here are some from today:
Plant totems

Good article on Yarrow for kids- no tinctures, just a fever tea! 

Also- I've just completed the best Boo Boo salve around! (I know- lots of people make salve. I'm not judging, just giving myself a cheerleader rah-rah!). It includes infused calendula oil- handmade from my own calendula (organic from seed to flower). Infused comfrey oil- from Hal's famous stock of comfrey that grows all over our property. Infused rosemary oil- a unique oil that is often overlooked, made from my own home grown plant stock as well. St. John's wort oil- commercially made, organic. Olive oil, almond oil and coconut oil and local, lovingly gathered beeswax (from Richard Bean's bees). Minimal essential oil: clove and rosemary.
What sets this salve apart? Local wax from a local producer. Locally grown and hand gathered herbs. Rosemary oil- it's powerful and overlooked. Coconut oil- I cannot get over the anti-bacterial qualities of this oil that is GREAT FOR KIDS! Minimal essential oils. This is controversial but my opinion from my research and experience is that essential oils are really powerful and best used in very small doses. I have used a few drops, as listed above. But these are to ameliorate the stinky comfrey oil- ha ha!

Pictures to come....

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fall roots and shoots- burdock and dandelion

Disclaimer: Do not pick any plant that you cannot identify 100%. Ask an herbalist to help you. Never pick or dig any shoot or root that might have been sprayed with chemicals. Be careful where you dig roots, since roots can absorb any chemicals near the ground (like lead paint, motor oil or the like).

Sorry for the huge space between posts- it seems that I get caught up in online discussions of herbs/ herbal uses/ advice and then feel like I've expressed all that I wanted to say on a topic. However- this is what I've been cooking up, herbally speaking:

It's Burdock root time! I love cool fall because it's really time to dig roots. I get the yen to have burdock at the most awkward times of year- early spring (don't dig roots at this time), late summer (really don't dig roots now). Then- poof, it's Samhain and it's chilly and I take a break and find burdock. Or rather burdock finds me. Burdock is one of those allies of mine that my dad had no experience or calling towards. He knew about it but only ever offered it to anyone in pill form (nonononono). I asked about it, told him about my research and he found some (without me: I was in college and 23 or something). He made a tincture and I took it with me to Europe. My skin magically cleared up- burdock? or non-processed food? Or adventure?
When I found burdock for myself, I was in my '20s and living in semi-rural WyCo. It appeared in some fields around me and my dad identified it with me. I then found it in my trusty Susun Weed library and was energetically magnetized!
Myrna helping with the big bucket
Aside: my relationship with my herbal allies is a casual one. Some seasons, I pay no attention.They tolerate that and my body probably suffers the loss a bit. But when I tune back in to my needs psychically, physically, the herbal allies pop right back to the front of my mind. This is more a reflection of my state of being, rather than the herbs "power" or something. It's just "my trip" as Hal would say. 

In the past, I have been a very steady burdock tincture advocate. It has a deep brown, nutty flavor. When it is tinctured, the root gets chopped up and soaked in 100 proof vodka, just like all my other tincture. In order to get the slow-acting benefits, it needs to be taken orally once-twice a day (droppersful) for awhile.

Our friend "Sweetie Pie" in the background
Do you see an issue? I do. I don't want to take droppersful of vodka tincture every day for 6 weeks. The alcohol really isn't good for you in the long term (not in the tender tissues of your mouth or gums or tongue). As well, in aging, I've rediscovered how much I need vitamins/ minerals and green food daily and in much larger doses than I might normally eat. Susun Weed is adamant about the nutritive aspects of burdock. In China, it's Gobo root and is eaten. It is vastly healthy and affects the lymph system and liver directly. So, I've made the change this year: burdock vinegar. I'm doing it.... this Virgo is breaking from her plodding path. Burdock vinegar is made by thoroughly soaking the dug root in water. Don't really wash it- just let all the dirt soak away. The chop it up into small pieces and fill a quart jar. When you've filled it to the brim, then pour in your apple cider vinegar. I used to use only unpasteurized vinegar with the mother still in it. Now I use the pasteurized stuff since most of the vinegar I have is used in soups and hot liquids, thus pasteurizing it!

So I went out with my older girl to dig for burdock. A chilly and cool morning is perfect for it.... Burdock grows in the least friendly places to dig, as a rule. It likes shallow, rocky areas and loves to grow in between sidewalks and a rock wall. Sheeesh. But the roots we found on this trip were pretty accessible. We found both small and extra large. It was strange! Roots as big around as my wrist with very little green material. I suspect those are 2nd year, but were mown over and unable to work up to a bloom. Burdock is a biennial and only live 2 years. So its first year is supposed to be preferable to its 2nd year. I = not too picky.

And then Myrna says, "Mom, let's pick dandelion." She's big into the greens, above ground. Now, not really eating it, per se. She is not a green vegetable gal. But she likes to pick stuff outside and eat it. Spring is the best time to pick dandelion greens because, in cool weather, all the energy goes to the roots, leaving the greens mild. It also means that it's a good time for dandelion root. I've been meaning to dig dandelion root for years. I love the greens and fully recognize the huge benefit the root offers. It is a kidney healer, great for liver function, the greens are HIGH in vitamin C and it all helps bile production and stomach issues (ulcers, digestive upset, etc). This fall, I've actually completed my task!

I've decided to make a tincture of this. I anticipate the usage being more critical- you've decided to take hormones and want to support your renal system and liver while you do. Take dandelion tincture as needed or daily for 2 weeks. You are working to support your gall bladder because you fear you might have to have it removed. You eat too much processed food and your gall bladder, kidneys and liver are MAD. This will help, along with fresh, unprocessed food. Dandelion is great if you are transitioning, under going a sex change or doing HRT. Men taking testosterone are seriously taxing their systems for years at a time (women taking estrogen are too. See all the hoopla about why HRT is dangerous!). While I do not think there are seriously effective ways to naturally transition from MTF or FTM, I really encourage my friends who are transitioning to take care of their organs. We don't know the long term repercussions of taking hormones. Well, we do. They aren't great. But living with body dismorphism? Total hell. So the long term stress on your liver seems pretty-damn-worth-it. To any folks who want further information about herbs and natural ways to support yourself while transitioning, private message me. I'm a proud ally to the GLBTQ community and want to lend my support where I can.

Can we talk about gall bladders for a minute? Did you know that your gall bladder produces bile, which is required by your liver for processing and straining out all of the crap in our system? (That's the liver's function, BTW; to filter) When your gall bladder ceases producing bile, you will get massive pain when you try to digest greasy, fat rich and processed foods. It is at this point that many western doctors will recommend you get gall bladder surgery. You can guess that I might suggest some other options first, to stimulate your gall bladder.
Also, if you have chronic stomach pain, indigestion and take an antacid, you need to make friends with dandelion. Please. Get off the purple pill and talk to your lawn. I'll get back to you on this one- I don't want to lecture but I do want you to consider OTHER OPTIONS beyond pills. Why are folks with indigestion always the most stubborn? Riddle me this. 

I want to keep this blog going and not exhaust myself by talking too much online. I like my blog topics and conversations which arise. However, if you have questions, please let me know! I need more interaction about what you are interested in. Facebook is perfectly fine for that too! Ask away. If it's personal, send me a message. If you want a full consultation or a weed walk, I'll charge you. Not much or we can do trade! But I can't give all my own energy away for free. I hope you understand and will give me back some of your energy. :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fall container workshop... and plants, plants, plants!

Hello everyone who might visit occasionally! I have fallen down on updating- because the job I love keeps me busy running my mouth and fingers about plants...so much so that I don't have a lot left for this spot. 

But here is what's happening on the herbal front: turning comfrey oil into salve. 
Harvesting calendula blooms. I don't dry them as the lovely Mountain Rose Herb folks tell you to do.... we will see if they make good oil or if they are too wet/viscous. 
Taking all my own motherwort tincture because it helps stabilize my hormones! Really helps with the PMS. 
Coconut oil on all parts of the body. 
Echinacea to tincture.

On the plant front: I'm holding a container garden workshop. Here is the pdf for the function. The main question for most folk: what do I put in my containers in the fall that will look good until frost (or very cold)? I have a few season straddling suggestions... my favorite plants! 
I'm convening this through Lawrence Landscape- thanks, day job, for giving me room to be creative!

Jennifer Smith, our extension agent in Douglas County, wrote a fall container garden story about my suggestions for fall planting, etc! Thank you so much Jennifer. What a nice surprise! 

Please RSVP if you would like to come to my class... XOXO!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Colic! And Probiotics!

I am so excited to link to this post.... partially because I am right. Let me say this again: natural medicine wins  the day on this one, guys! The cause of colic (granted it's only in one study) has been linked to a bacteria or gut flora in a baby's gut. And the best way to deal with that???? PROBIOTICS! 
I am really excited because I've been linking to this stuff for ages; recommending it to strangers and generally trying to get all mamas to put this in themselves if they aren't doing any bottle feedings but need to get this into a tiny, screaming infant body. Also, this can be mixed with a little warm water and dropper fed into the baby's mouth. 
Here is the article! I understand it's tentative. But it also cannot hurt to start using probiotics in your own mouth before and after birth to balance your own gut flora. Birth is traumatic and C-sections/ hospital stays even more so....Here is my original post on the subject as well!

I wish you all very well and I hope your babe doesn't have colic. But it isn't your fault- it's just nature. Take some probiotics- for yourself and your little baby.  


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

big june, summer solstice, medicine making time....

I'm making Motherwort tincture this week (harvested on June 20). I'm making Yarrow tincture today or thereabouts. I'm cutting all the flowering comfrey for both infusions and infused oils. I'd love to make St. JOhn's Wort oil but have no medicinal SJW! Bah.

Motherwort: she is calming and easing on the nerves. Great for PMS, menstrual issues (PMDD, PMS both) of bleeding too much and postpartum/natal emotional and physical issues. She is really, really bitter as a tea. So tincture allows the energy/ medicinal stuff to come through without the volume of really bitter infusion!
Harvest while in bloom, like the picture. A bit pokey. Look for the pointed leaves. Likes partial sun and will be in the green areas; in the alley, by the pathways.
*Note: made tincture this weekend. I couldn't get much motherwort, just enough for a pint jar. This will make 8 oz of heavy tincture though. If it generates any interest from others, I will make more!

Yarrow: this is one my best buddies. I love this plant. It is native, beautiful in gardens and wonderful on the body. Helps nasty cuts stop bleeding immediately when applied as the crushed herb. (as in, "I cut myself!", grab some yarrow from the garden, roll it in your hand and press on your cut) Wonderful as a tincture because it fights serious flu viruses and brings my fever down quickly. I use the bloosom and leaves but leave the root. Interesting that many traditional herbalists call for digging the entire plant out.....I haven't ever done this for Yarrow. I also will be making salve (from infused oil) from Yarrow this year. I know that Comfrey (coming up next) and yarrow work so well together. With a beeswax and coconut oil base... should be a big skin eruption healer. (Also, the prettily colored yarrow is for garden use only, not for medicine. The white is the wild, medicinal stuff.)

Comfrey: You can spot comfrey by its big hairy, dark green leaves. They are wide and nearly prickly. They produce a big flower stalk (much like Borage, from the same family) with purple flowers, and comfrey doesn't take no for an answer! My dad had lots planted or migrate to areas of the yard that he frequently mowed over. And they just pop right back up again, invigorated. 
I harvest only the leaves and flowers, no roots. Years ago, scientists "proved" in a lab that the root had so much Allantoin in it that it was dangerous. That's mostly been disproven now. the herb is very healing to skin and I make infused oil from it, so it stays topic/ external anyway. But many other herbalists use it in infusions internally. I'm not there yet. (I use only the garden variety of comfrey with purple flowers. Yellow flowered is a different kind. Look online for more information.)
Also, I am adding to the mix with infused rosemary oil and calendula oil, when mine choose to bloom.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sage blossom honey....

One of the medicines I've been meaning to make for years is Sage Blossom Honey. It is remarkable in that it is extremely anti-viral and helps with staph, strep and any infections in the throat. Immediately after making this, I got an early spring laryngitis, throat/ chest cold. Though it is supposed to cure for 6 weeks or longer, I mixed it into hot elderberry tea. Lots, twice and it was very very helpful!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sunscreen... omg, natural, chemical, mineral.

I know I've been remiss.... it happens every spring. I run and run and then don't get the nice slow tasks completed. I have a lot of garden photos, writing, etc. piling up. But here is what I'm thinking about in May.

[Initial disclaimer: sunscreens are controversial. I am not a doctor but neither do I trust doctors in this regard. My dad, Hal, for whom this blog is named, died from a melanoma (which is skin cancer). He had his first skin cancer removed (basal cell carcinoma) at age 30. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT CAUSES SKIN CANCERS.  Yes, sun exposure can cause skin cancers in some people (but my dad was exposed to DDT too). Over-exposure to the sun causes age spots, wrinkles, etc. and can definitely cause cancers. But there is ample evidence that blocking all sun from our skin is terribly harmful, as it takes away our only natural reliable source of vitamin D. Also, there is evidence that chemical sunscreens are hormone interrupters and can exacerbate cancerous growth in lymph systems. I am relating what I use, how I approach sunscreens, sun exposure and skin cancer. Please, make informed decisions based on a doctor's advice (if you like), my information and many other sources.]

It's necessary to shield ourselves from the sun to reduce signs of skin aging and also skin cancers. But how do we approach this in a holistic and plant friendly way? And as a secondary question, is it wise to block all sun from our skin when this large organ absorbs sunlight and turns it into vitamin D?
There are two different kinds of sunscreen on the commercial market- Mineral and chemical. 
            The zinc oxide/ titanium dioxide, mineral type actively forms a barrier on the skin, keeping UVA and UVB rays from hitting the skin. It is the white stuff lifeguards put on their noses in Beach Blanket Bingo. These days, it's particles have been shrunken, nanoized, to blend into skin better.
          The chemical sort is what you find everywhere, in make up, moisturizers, etc. They go by the names octinoxate and avobenzone (I'm looking at all Neutrogena, Coppertone,etc. etc.), to name the most common. Wow- they are as dangerous as they sound. And I've got them on my face as we speak. (Didn't say I was perfect here folks.... I'm working on it. BareMinerals makeup will be investigated soon.)
First off, there is data out there that shows that tiny nano-particles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can progress into the healthy dermis and cause (through some process) cancer. Here is info from the Australian government about the background of all of this:

       Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been used as sunscreens for many years. They are particularly valuable because of their ability to filter UVA as well as UVB radiation, giving broader protection than other sunscreening agents. One disadvantage of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide is that they are visible, giving the skin a white colour. This effect can be reduced by decreasing the particle size of the material. When used in 'nanoparticle' form (less than 100 nanometers, with a nanometer being one millionth of a millimeter), they can't be seen on the skin but still retain the sunscreening properties of the coarser material. Nanosized Titanium dioxide particles have been used in sunscreens since at least 1990 and nanosized zinc oxide since 1999.  In January 2006 the TGA conducted a review of the scientific literature in relation to the use of nanoparticulate zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreens. That review concluded that:
    There is evidence from isolated cell experiments that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can 
induce free radical formation in the presence of light and that this may damage these cells 
(photo-mutagenicity with zinc oxide). However, this would only be of concern in people using 
sunscreens if the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide penetrated into viable skin cells. The weight 
of current evidence is that they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer dead layer 
(stratum corneum) of the skin. ( whole document here. Thank you Helen Harrison for finding this and posting on FB.)

Back and forth it went. But the final word is that in normal, unabraded skin, the nano-particles should not penetrate the skin and cause free radicalization. People speak highly of Badger Sunscreen- it is expensive but non-nano (so it probably turns skin white-ish) and non-chemical. I wold also try the Alba Botanica- careful, it has some chemical but they look less harmful. I think, since we've established that nano-particles are not that bad, the Alba mineral may be the way to go for both vanity and health. 

Another, much more controversial option is the au naturel way. I mean, I use both coconut oil and St. John's Wort oil. Basically, coconut oil is a natural, very low tech way of minimizing the free radical reactions that cause cancerous cell overgrowth. St. John's wort oil is the blossom of Hypericum perforatum (not the lovely landscape plants but the medicinal variety) soaked in oil. It is a bright red color and is very oily (duh). I use this on my legs, arms and chest. It is a subtle sunscreen- meaning, you need to aclimate yourself to the sun with this on. We cannot simply go to the beach for three hours with no mineral sun block and some oil on and expect no sunburn. But if you go out to garden for 15-30 minutes and wear this for a week, your skin will become accustomed to it. It works for me. I have olive skin, pale but olive. I have lots of moles and a propensity for skin cancer, thanks to my dad. So, I embrace a bit of sun. I believe that 15 minutes a day of unfiltered sun on the skin is imperative for vitamin D absorption. 

Here is the best non-sexy, very reliable way of helping with overexposure to the sun: wear a hat when you are outside. Walking to the park? Wear a hat. Gardening? Wear a hat and a long sleeve linen or loose weave cotton shirt to protect your shoulders and back. You will look like an old lady. But that lady has nice skin, no? 
Pictures to come....

Monday, April 9, 2012

Nettles! Again.... Fresh!

Lawrence Kansas: I'm excited to get into spring. We are finally rehabbing the yard and I'm feeling so optimistic about my gardens this year! I am also really excited about the wild foraging for herbs.... it is time to harvest and enjoy fresh Nettles.
I've written about nettles before, as I do every spring. I just cannot recommend them enough. They are a green, wild food that offers energy, replenishes vitamins and helps undo so much damage we do to ourselves! Nettles have a large natural supply of vitamin K (helps blood veins./ vessels et al and calcium (really accessible for the body). They have a special magic dance they do with your adrenal system- seeming to provide energy without depleting those precious adrenals. Don't get enough sleep? Stressed out? Have babies,nurse, work, don't eat enough? Eat too much white flour, sugar, coffee? Your adrenals need support! Ok, MY adrenals need support. Yours may be fine.....
Either way, tis the season to support yourself with wild food. I recommend a large mouth quart jar, put a lot of green stuff in the jar (half, all the way?) and sprinkle in mint as well. I use alternately fresh mint from the garden or dried spearmint. Pour boiling hot water on top and steep for 4 hours. This is what distinguishes an infusion from a pleasant tea. You are, in essence, pulling the essence from the plant with the hot water. It will be bright, vibrant green and will require refrigeration. Drink a quart a week- your stomach, kidneys and adrenals will thank you! This drink will not last more than 4 or 5 days. You can dilute it if the taste is too strong for you- go ahead. Add honey for a sweeter taste. Add hot water and make a hot infusion again for comfort. Really- take a shortcut, just drink it.
motherwort- not time to tincture yet!
wild strawberry
If you wish to get  some from me, just send an email. I hardly know what to charge you- it is free after all! Just message me if you want some..... I'll package the herb up for you. You make the infusions!

Here is a link to my post last year, pictures, more info, etc.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Miss Spring is throwing things at me!

In the past couple weeks, I have had a lot of "new" stuff coming at me. Is it just because it's spring? Is it that the pace of spring is so FAST this year? It feels like nearly May out there, not the end of March. I have herbs (herbal medicines, native healing weeds) growing from seed and just going nuts! I feel like I'm two-three weeks behind- rushing to plant them, find beds and perfect sites for them . But I'm not late- the mam Earth, Miss Spring herself is training this year. Probably because of some nasty planetary things- global warming, weather shifts- but regardless, the non-winter is gone. And Miss Spring is in the house, playing and prancing. Get on it, she yells with pom-poms waving!

This week I'm on Jeremy Taylor's 'About the House' radio show. We are doing a spring 'Outside' episode, devoted to the outdoors. It's got me thinking: what are the important parts of a garden? What should our outdoor environments offer us?
This is in the format of advice and also self-reflection. So....Here are the high points for me (so far)

Gardens should offer:

Individuality- even with my clients who are not gardeners, they want something that is their own, reflects their personal touch. Quirky, silly, cute, beautiful, dark, etc. I encourage you to think in terms of love and attraction: what attracts you? what do you love? Many people answer hydrangeas, containers, fountains, travelling. In each of those is a chance to make your garden uniquely your own. When you travel, pick up a figurine for a garden sculpture. For me, I always pick up intense rocks. I have them scattered around my garden and they came with me when I moved. I have the Lola Rock- from Petit Jean national forest, gotten me by my beau Josh!
If you love a specific plant or color for that matter, consult a good gardener or designer (like MOI) for help in siting and growing that specimen. Then commit to that plant. You are much more likely to care for a plant when you love it. Don't get three or five. Just get one and love it, learn about it and pay attention to it. You'll be glad you did!

Surprises- Great garden spaces offer surprises. Remember curves and mystery, great views and surprising plants. This can be a gorgeous container with a large agave in it, sitting amidst a rock garden. Ya don't have to be much of a gardener to keep that up- you do have to dare to surprise though. Stop fussing with all the individual plants and just give me one great, framed view. Please consult a garden professional or your neighbor who is a master gardener- these are the makings of a great neighborhood! Garden professionals LOVE to talk like this!! Really. We are nuts.


Comfort- This could also be called Respite. Your little space should be a respite from the crazy world of work, kids, technology, etc. One element of respite and comfort is a nice place to sit and enjoy your outside space. If colors are what put you in the mood, plant flowers directly next to your bench or patio. And take time, find a great seat. This is your throne- spend a fortune if you want or sit on a footstool. Just make it a personal invitation to YOURSELF. Enjoy your time outside. Don't worry and pick at the imperfections of your space, just take a breath, enjoy the neighbor's lilacs and feel that warm spring air on your face.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

visual aides...

Here is what I've seen and experienced this week in the green world.... very visual this week!

Hal's specialty: good luck clover
A four-leaf clover- happy St. Pat's!

Some of my favorite spring shrubs are in bloom. First the plum shrub. Sometimes I use a Cistena Plum- a purple leaf sandcherry. However, this is the alley version! I don't think it's as fancy as purple leaves!

The second group of two pics are the Royal Star Magnolia shrubs. They really can get the size of a small tree. They produce an entirely cold-hardy early spring white floppy flower. They are old fashioned, wild-seeming magnolia. Can't help but love this beauty!

Plum shrub
Star Magnolia Shrub

Early spring, late winter perennial flower. The foliage is almost evergreen, very waxy. Latin name is Hellebore.
Lenten Rose

And of course, the flowering quince! She is coral-red and an old fashioned favorite. She makes a good low ramblinghedge. She has a thorny look and even appeals to me in an Asian garden setting. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Weed walk...spring time in Kansas!

the girls picking henbit
To fully enjoy this crazy spring weather, I'm taking you on a weed walk this week. We will look close to the ground for blooming Stellaria or chickweed and blooming Henbit. This weed turns the fields and roadsides purple in early, early spring.... delicate little heads. Henbit (it has a proper Latin name... I'm looking: Lamium amplexicaule) is in the mint family, as you can tell by its square stem. Also, the smell and taste.

Another pervasive early spring ground cover is Gill or ground ivy.

 I also found, while on a quick walk, that we are too early for nettles. I found dandelion, curly dock being aggressive and all mint family relatives rockin it out. The tiny, tiny chickweed is in bloom- look very close to the ground. She doesn't even flinch when stepped on, she's so small! She is bright blue with a white eye... if you find some of the bigger foliage with the flower, pop it in your mouth. Apparently, chickweed is great for metabolizing fat. Susun Weed has a great chapter about it in her book "Healing Wise" (as always, a link to her publishing company and the bookshelves there!).

And also, on Sunday, we paid a visit to Grandpa Hals' grave... put some henbit on it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Herbal medicine cabinet?

This week's blog is going to be a bit of a ramble.... Ready?
I'm planning out my herbal market garden. I've found a lovely north Lawrence plot on which to grow a larger selection and quantity of herbs. And they will be for sale! I'm going to make my tinctures, herbal vinegars, cut herbs (both culinary and medicinal), teas/ infusions and infusion blends, salves/ infused oils available for sale.
  • I'll be growing more burdock, echinacea and yarrow for tincture. For the herbal vinegars, I'll grow nasturtium, dill, motherwort, lemon balm. 
  • I'm growing basil, dill, rosemary, lavender, lovage, cilantro/ parsley for culinary use (maybe thyme, sage too).
  • I'm growing st. john's wort- but it won't be available for use until next year. 
  • I'm growing calendula, rosemary and comfrey for infused oils as well. 
  • For herbal infusions, I'll cultivate some nettles, red clover and mint assortments... the rest TBD. 
  • Sage and garlic will be grown for honey syrup.
  • I'm also trying to locate some reliable elderberry- so that I can syrup it!! Leads? Who has leads on this?
So my question to those of you who read this blog: How important are these herbs to you? Are they part of the weekly/ monthly budget?
I'm really excited to bring this out finally. As most of you know, I grow lots of vegetables (usually), and lots of herbs for my own consumption. But to actually commit to growing herbs for other people... it's new for me! I have been giving away my bottle of tinctures and infusions for awhile. This is a new challenge that I feel totally up for.

Here are two herbs I'm studying and feeling called towards: Osha root and Elecampane. 

Parts used- Root
Recommended preparation: tincture or honey tincture (could do glycerin/ glycerite)

Many older herbalists or people who take herbs and make herbals know about this root. It is, right now, over harvested and under grown. It is hard to grow cultivate and only grows wild in the mountains. Osha root is also know as Bear root or by our native First Nations folks, Bear medicine. Bear apparently, in folk tales, love it like a cat loves catnip! They roll in it, rub it on their fur and before hibernation eat loads of it. I've read a story that purported that a male bear would offer this during "courtship"/ mating rituals to females. Whoa nelly- do you get that this is a powerful plant? I surely do. 
Long nosed herbalists, the crones and oldie-goldies among us caution us to NOT buy Osha. Or to buy a tiny bottle and use a tiny amount. It is a superb ally for the chest and coughs, the lungs and lung issues. It is also amazing, I've read, at acting as an anti-venom for stings and bites (the tincture). I have a bottle of Osha root in honey for my smalls. It is for rooting out the cough and includes mullein in there too. It is great to loosen the mucus and allow the cough to be more  fruitful.

Water hemlock/ poison hemlock
A wordy aside (and a word to the wise): Osha is grown only at high elevations (where bears would live, folks). But it is a relative of the carrot (Queen Anne's Lace is a wild carrot) and also the cooking herb lovage. It is also very close to poison hemlock or water hemlock. It's leaves, to my eye, are very very similar! Now, you may or may not be aware of this poisonous herbaceous weed. But it is everywhere, in parks, in alleys, by your car. It looks like parsley (feathery leaves) or wild carrot or common carrot. But it is taller and has a thick stalk that is tinged with purple. I absolutely loathe and stay away from this as if it was poison ivy. It can give a rash and transfer its poison when a curious person crushes the leaves to do a smell test. It smells rank, musky, weird. Osha smells fresh, herbaceous, spicy, deep. Here is a picture of water hemlock:

Parts used- Root
Preparation: make a honey of this root. Root can also be candied and eaten. Great substitute for Osha root. 
Now, I'm loving the elfish herb. She has a mini sunflower look (is a Helenium, related to sunflowers and ragweed), loves WET soil and has powerful herbal medicines for relieving congestion and bronchitis. Perfect for this season, no?
Elecampane can be cultivated on your well drained but moist garden soils, with partial shade accepted. How great is that?? Add her to your cottage garden in the shady areas. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Apple Cider Vinegar, Burdock and tinctures

Good morning to you all,
I've taken a long time to get to this next post. Why? It's complicated.
I'm working on this right now: anxiety. How to deal with this holistically? What can I do to minimize my anxiety and transferring to those around me? I will accept any advice on this whole anxiety matter. I'm trying very hard to veer away from pharmaceuticals. While I really believe that there are SO many people who are helped by these, I believe that my emotional state is situational (child induced) and changing. Therefore, a whole biological upheaval of SSRI is not my idea of a good time. Also, my kids are making me bonkers. Martini time anyone?

Apple Cider Vinegar
Well beyond that, you all have asked that I talk about Apple Cider Vinegar! I need to talk about Burdock and nourishing strategies for your winter body. Maybe you are dry, tired and overwrought? Oh, that's just me.
Firstly, let me say that I don't "take" cider vinegar. I don't want to down a spoonful with water. Just don't want to. Many of you do... good work. However, I use cider vinegar for herbal infusions or herbal tinctures. Many herbs that work well in vinegar include edible, culinary herbs. Do you see where I'm going with this? Vinegar is another substance that can act as a tincture medium. It sucks the juices and good stuff out of your magic plant and saves it for a nice bowl of beans! I use vinegars anytime I make beans, meat soups, veggies stir-fry, salads, etc. Apple cider vinegar is famous for releasing calcium in everything.... you heard that right. It makes calcium available. That is miraculous since calcium is a tricky thing to absorb from most foods. Though I love green food, I do not love cooked greens (mustard, chard, kale). I need it mixed and not as it's own dish. It's just... not for me. And it is the primo source for absorb-able calcium!! So I do vinegars instead.
I use culinary herbs- thyme, rosemary, dill with edible flowers for zing! I use calendula flowers and nasturtium most frequently.
Motherwort, wot.
I use motherwort in vinegar. Leonurus cardiaca...Ever use it? It is a superb mood ally for the stressed out mothers among us. It does not harm men to take it- it has no hormonal effect but is calming. I LOVE IT. It is a "weed" that grows in alleys. It has a toothed leaf and appeared in my alley in KCKS. [Miss you, 'Dotte! But not really.] It's another in the large, in charge mint family. Laminaceae. Seems to be annual- but self sows seriously and will just keep setting itself out. But the whole plant seems to do a Borage and bloom itself unto death.

I use echinacea vinegar. I don't want to belabor the benefits of echinacea but it is a tried-and-true immune booster. Not for daily use, but for instances where you feel compromised and about to get sick, it will help you out. Take a break after 7 days or so. Listen to it- put echinacea tincture on your countertop. When you feel it calling you, take it. If you're getting sick and you know it, a dropperful every hour for a day. See if it helps.
Other herbal vinegars I enjoy: Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm)- yummy and lifts the spirit! Pepper vinegar- lots of good capsicum for the internals. Dandelion- oh my yes. I eat the greens in the spring when tender, always making sure to pick from a totally unsprayed section of land. I dig and use the root and leaves in fall for vinegar. It is a stomach tonic- keeping your hydrochloric acid in good shape (this is digestive juice folks). [Note: If you're taking antacids, please stop! This kills your digestive juices.] So dandelion helps fix ulcers and other stomach owies. And is an incredible source of minerals- vitamin A, C, potassium, iron and more. Research it if you have a delicate stomach!

Please note that I found burdock leaf vinegar inedible. Too bitter for me! I really have a relationship with burdock root and am taking the tincture daily right now. I love it- it is a deep, dark healer or ally for the liver and kidneys. But I use the root only. The leaf is just... WOOF. I use it in floral arrangements. :)
So Burdock: It has huge, huge hairy coarse leaves and an enormously long taproot. It loves to grow near rocky ledges, walls and disturbed areas. It loves old foundations and will be very hard to dig out. I have a whole trip on getting burdock root out of the ground--- want to hear it?

To dig Burdock:
** I wait for the first few freezes in the fall.
** I go out on a nice sunny, frosty morning with my narrow shovel and choose big second year plants. (I think other burdock aficionados have a different take on this... I could be doin' it wrong!) Burdock has a two year life span. Second year plants are meatier and larger and produce more bang for your sweating, digging buck.
** I dig in a circle around the base, not too wide but three inches out from it.  Then I keep going deeper around, pushing soil up with my shovel. If you are too quick, you will just break the root and have nothing to show for it. If you are patient and listen to your plant charge, you will see what is happening. It will come loose. Points that you will not like: most Burdock grows in rocky places. It's gonna be a bit precarious. You'll need to dig up a few plants to get the right amount- I'm talking 5-8 plants. I want to gather a whole quart jar full of this root. It will be very muddy (don't dig when it's too dry- impossible). I soak them in a bucket outside- I've learned that mucking up the sink sucks. Scrub these roots- they hold dirt particles. I then cut up the roots into pieces and cover the whole jar in vodka. I tincture in a special way- it is the Hal Sears method!

Taking burdock:
To get the medicinal support from burdock root, choose your medium. Vinegar, if you don't want alcohol: tincture, if you don't mind the alcohol flavor or the root itself as a food. The Chinese use this in soups and stews (see Gobo root). I use tincture and I take it three times a day for 6 weeks. The I take a break. I usually switch to a root vinegar to continue to get the healing effects. Burdock works slowly and methodically. It will not bowl you over with quick changes. But my skin shows a noticeable improvement whenever I choose to holistically support my liver. I choose not to take a handful of pills to help my liver- the liver sees through this!! It knows you're wanting a fast fix and will probably give you the stink eye. Your liver is one of the most important organs in your body and, along with your kidneys, will let you know when it is exhausted from your bad lifestyle choices (or from whatever else, medication, children, career= stress). Yep I said bad. Judging!

To tincture:
How Hal tinctured: he didn't use grain alcohol and ratios to figure it out. He just used vodka- local cheap stuff from Weston, MO in plastic jug (McCormick, locavore). This produces a tincture that is strong but not too strong. Make sure your jar is packed full with plant material. He and I cover all the plant material with vodka, no open space at the top of the jar. Seal it with a jar lid (you may use wax paper to prevent corrosion; vinegar is the worst!) and let it sit for 6 weeks in a dark place. Shake it as often as you think of it. Label it with the date you harvested and made the tincture. Decant it when it is done; rinse and squeeze the plant material to get all the *stuff* out of it. Add the pummy back into the vodka tincture. Label accordingly.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Butterfly garden...

One of the things I do in the garden world is to talk to Jeremy, the Brit, on his show About the House. (It's AM radio folks. Listen live if you don't know how to do AM on your radio. ha.) Every couple of weeks, I'll talk about some seasonally appropriate gardening topics. This week I've decided to bring up an entirely over-used, but awesome, topic- the butterfly garden. Part of why everyone wants to talk about / plant them/ enjoy them is because they do so well here in the Midwest. It features annuals that can be grown from seed and re-seed themselves, perennials that (if not native exactly) will become very comfortable in your KS garden and a few shrubs for structure and year-round interest.
We have lots of sun and soil that is not overly fertile (it's usually perfectly fertile, just lots of clay). Butterfly plants love this setup.
Add wind protection for the butterflies. Never use chemicals or pesticides (a granular time-release fertilizer when you amend your soil is ok). Add a place for the b'flies to get water- either a hollowed rock that holds water or a place to put moist soil will do. 

-Low Maintenance (no fancy pruning required)
-Xeric or simple water requirements (would like regular water until established, please!)

A Simple Plant List

Shrubs to ground the bed:
Buddleia, ‘Black Knight’ (wonderful dark purple butterfly bush- 5-6’H) (from plant)
Not "Black Knight" buts still nice.
Rhus typhina (Sumac), ‘Tigers Eye’ (from plant)
Perennial Flowers from plant: I mark these as "from transplant" because they will bloom reliably the first year from a plant. A seed start may take two years
Achillea (Yarrow), ‘Paprika’ (plant)  
Coreopsis gradniflora, ‘Zegreb’, ‘Early Sunrise’ (plant)
Echinacea purpurea, ‘Magnus’ (seed or plant)
Lavendula, ‘Hidcote’ (plant)

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly weed) (plant) food source
Monarda (Bee Balm), ‘Raspberry Wine’ (plant)
Sedum, ‘Vera Jameson’ (shorter and less likely to topple over) (plant)

From Seed:
Bronze Fennel (direct sow) - food source
Echinacea purpurea, ‘Magnus’ (direct sow or plant)
Larkspur (direct sow) - nectar
Liatris (Gayfeather) (plant, from seed) – nectar
Sunflower, Mexican Sunflower (direct sow)

There are lots of other wildflowers (annuals, perennials) that you could plant if you want things that direct sow and reseed: bachelor buttons, cleome, cosmos, poppies, nicotiana, zinnia

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Seed Catalogs...

(this is a repost of my blog for Lawrence Landscape)
Seed Catalogs- January 5, 2012
It is seed catalog time folks! If you are like me, you will begin to be inundated with tons of catalogs, seducing you with pictures and tips and ideas for this next season’s garden. Be careful! Needless to say, my eyes are bigger than my “plate”. To save you money and frustration, let me give you some rules to follow.

  • How many seeds do you have left over from last year? If they have gotten too warm, wet or are really older than a year, they are probably not viable. Feel free to do a germination test!
  • Be honest about how many plants you can fit in your space! How many square feet do you really have in full sun where the soil drains well? BE HONEST.
    • All vegetables and many annual cutting flowers require the same full sun site. I include them with my seed buying (zinnias, marigolds, nasturtiums, bachelor buttons, cosmos, etc.).
    • All of that space has to be water accessible. It’s nice that you have a broad sunny strip of easement. But can your hose or drip system reach out there?? Vegetables require deep, regular soaking for highest yield.
    • Also, follow the spacing/ mature sizing listed for each plant you will put in. I mean, do not crowd your broccoli or your squash- it will wreck your yield and/ or promote fungal growth!  If the seed packet says it needs to be planted 36” apart, plan on that spacing. Base your spacing on the mature size of your plant. I often shove in some smaller annuals or herbs around larger vegetables to beautify my plot. But I do not crowd out my major producers.  (Example: I love summer squash and zucchini but it is a huge space hog. Do I have the space for it?)
  • What do you eat most of and is really expensive locally?? Tomatoes? Basil? Eggplant? Zucchini? For me, I must have and eat an enormous amount of greens (lettuce, spinach, chard), beets, tomatoes, basil (I pesto it up), zucchini. However, what of my favorites is very affordable locally? Squash and zucchini, regular bell peppers and green beans. Potatoes, onions are inexpensive for me locally.  I also love to grow all my own herbs because they are too, too much to buy- I use a bunch of herbs! THIS IS YOUR MASTER LIST.
Not all of this will you want to start from seed.
  • What grows best directly seeded (or needs repeat sowing)? Lettuce, greens, beans and peas, roots like carrots and beets, dill, basil, cilantro. For me: beans, lettuce, greens, beets, herbs.  Also, many old fashioned cutting flower varieties are only available from seed. If you are having a cutting garden, make sure you consult your MASTER PLAN! Do you have room?
  • What do I need LEAST of (that do great from transplant)? Examples include: cherry tomatoes, Thai hot peppers (amazing but who needs 18 plants of this??) or any exceptional “one off”, eggplant (for me personally). I also don’t need 18 thyme plants. I buy these from my favorite farmer’s market booths! 
Laurel’s Master list- based on four 4’ x 10’ raised beds (and a little cheating with some pots)
Tomatoes- paste tomatoes (8) (S), slicing tomatoes (4) (N)
Basil- one long row (8-16 plants) (S)
Beans- pole beans (Blue Lake or some other long bean) 1 long rows (DS)
Beets- 1 long row (DS)
Chard- 1 row (DS)
Lettuce- 2 rows Buttercrunch, 2 rows leaf (interplanted with Bean and Peppers) (DS)
Spinach-2 rows (DS)
Cilantro- interplanted with other hot season veg. (N)
Peppers- bell (4), jalapeno (4) (N)
Arugula- 2 rows (DS)
Zucchini- 1 long row on a trellis (DS)
(DS)- direct sow, (S)- from seed, plant start, (N)- buy start from nursery
What did I forget??? Herbs.
Thyme (S)
Basil (S) already mentioned: Purple Ruffles, Boxwood Basil and Genovese
Rosemary (N)
Lemon Balm (S)
Yarrow (S)
Italian Parsley and Cilantro (N)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Anti inflammatory

This is the beginning of a longer conversation about this topic: anti-inflammation food, supplements, herbs, etc.
First question (for many): why do we need anti-inflammatory anything?

Apropos of nothing: myrna, squash!
--Part of the answer is diet. Our diets consist of lots of processed food. Even unprocessed food can be grown in ways that add to inflammation in our bodies (pesticides, preservatives, GM seeds, etc.). Inflammation is linked to basically every single disease that shortens your life. So, strokes, heart disease are big ones- arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and blood that doesn't circulate well. Slower mental functioning, even learning disabilities, depression, and all age-related decline is linked to inflammation. Obesity, arthritis and diabetes (type 2) are affected by inflammation. Also, many skin issues are caused/ exacerbated by inflammation in the body (dermatitis, eczema sometimes). Basically, human decline is made worse by diets that inflame.

--Why does our diet inflame our bodies? One answer is an imbalance between Omega 6 oils and Omega 3 oils. Omegas 6 are very available to us with nut and bean oils (soybean oil is the most prominent in fast food and in our American diet). Also, highly refined and hydrogenated oils are used to preserve things and make boxed food. Omega 3 oils are unstable and scarce- coldwater fish, flaxseed. That seems simple... it can get so so so complex.

--These are essential fatty acids- our bodies do not make them and we must get them from an outside source. Omega 6 oils increase cell proliferation and blood clotting as well as complicated hormone creation. Omega 3's stop blood clotting. So we eat and get a ton of Omega 6 oils in everything we do. Our ratio really needs to be 1:1 for them or 1:2 (O6:O3). Get what the issue is? This is why people pop fish oil like it's going out of style. Here is a Dr. Weil bit of documentation on it.

dr. weil's creation. not mine. but good info.

 What do I do to limit inflammation in my body?
--I take a high quality fish oil supplement. Because of the risks of tainted fish (especially in coldwater oily fish), it is best to use a highly purified oil from a quality source. I take Mega EPA from Vitacost here. This is a good ratio for EPA to DHA. Higher EPA is reportedly being found to lower inflammation, cortisol and lower symptoms of depression more rapidly. Really, all the info I've found tells me there is NOT a definitive answer about how much EPA v DHA. But DHA is vital to brain development. EPA for lowering stress hormones and inflammation. My recommendation is 3:2. Widely available sources support this.
--[To further complicate matters, I need to bring up web information sources here. Many web sites that are vitamin based are trying to sell you supplements. Duh. But they often have good information on them. Often doctors and wellness practitioners are great sources and speak from experience in a holistic way. Sites that I take with a grain of salt include hippy, healer, fringe sites and weight lifting sites. Both of these can offer vital info for me but are often so highly charged that the information is more opinion than fact. Sybil, a good friend of mine, asked about a new inflammation fighter called FlameOut. The only info I could find was on weight lifting sites because the charge of this supplement is to offer a reversed ratio of EPA to DHA. Giving tons more DHA, which is supposedly more useful to men and folks with higher muscle tone. Interesting. That being said, if you are drawn to a supplement and feel like the recommendation is a good one (weight lifting or hippy healer), try it out.]
wki picture of turmeric plant!
--I also take Turmeric. Just like you add to the Indian dish you are making. Turmeric the spice. It is a wonder "blood pressure lowering" addition. It is an old fashioned anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory that has been shown to lower rates of Alzheimers and lower people's c-reactive protein (this is why you take NSAIDS like ibuprofen). Many people take this as Curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric)- a therapeutic preparation of turmeric from a lab. I just take turmeric because it helps lower all sorts of weird stuff that pops up (strange fungus, etc) and is supportive of the liver. This also has a good affect on my skin. Much of the reason I take anti-inflammatory supplements is because aging (you're not 17 anymore?) skin gets thrown out of whack by the smallest things- a night of too many drinks for instance! Turmeric is very skin friendly- it is even reported to impart some of its lovely color to your face. Not yellow but you get the point, no?!? It is good for joint pain and arthritis and abolishes free radicals in the body. Also, most of the information I've read suggest that not only is it a liver support but it supports BILE production. Any of you with gall bladder issues need to take note! You need to foster your liver and work on your bile production- bile is produced by the liver for the benefit of the gall bladder. (If you have non-critical gall bladder issues, get thee to a health food store and consult some good holistic sources. You can help yourself before you have to get an operation! No more processed food!)
anti-inflammatory- good fat, oolong tea, blackberries

Alright, that's a lot of words. I hope someone cares about this. I vacillate between feeling like I want to share this info and feeling like it is way way too much for anyone to care about or read. Not that it is emotional sharing but still, it's information and lots of it.
For my last act and chapter, I'd like to offer this: it is always a better idea to try to get your nutrition and support from food sources. Things made in a labs, isolates, are isolated (duh) from their context. That means that they can easily be sources of overdose or cause reactions in our bodies that we didn't expect. Eating/ drinking your herbs is simpler, cheaper usually and safer. It's not always possible (I just can't buy and eat enough cold water fish- I will always take fish oil supplements. And those are very whole anyway) but I try. Here is a great recipe using black eyed peas and turmeric (enjoy the website too. Rebecca Woolfe, mommy blogger and her mommy, the good cook).
xoxo- Laurel

Here is a P.S. I am not trying to be judgmental about food. Eat what you like. But it is a choice and I, personally, am trying to become NOT ADDICTED to processed crap. It is an addiction and a cycle. So I feel ya when you fall prey to the Taco Johns. Shut up- that is NOT a bag in my car. Gawd.

Next time: burdock and cod liver oil. My skin looks a lot better than it did 6 weeks ago. That ought to get your attention. Also on tap: healthy fats. I eat a lot of fat, always have. Fat doesn't make you fat. High cholesterol food does not cause high cholesterol. I eat fat cuz then I don't eat crap. I eat half an avocado, cheese, nuts and then don't crave ice cream. It's good. I also eat butter. It's pure. I trust that. Hearts!!