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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Winter's Handiwork

More snow and more predicted tonight and tomorrow! Perhaps if I share another poem by my grandmother...we can see the beauty once more.

Winter's Handiwork

The snow has ceased to fall
And all the world is still,
Gray clouds are appliqued against the sky
Above the white-roofed hill.

The firs are richly clad
In ermine robes that gleam.
A frosting over hands the river's edge
Where it narrows to a stream.

The fence is trimmed with lace
And cotton candy fluff.
Each silhouetted rock is softened now
With a lamb's wool powder puff.

Oh, lovely is the scene
Where magic lends a glow;
Identities are lost in winter's charm
To the artistry of snow.

Maude G. Booth

Chook Haven Musings

My posts here, will be the fun happenings on and transformation of our little hobby farm. I no longer will share much in the way of informational or herbal teachings, but please visit my blog archives for what I have shared in the past.
 Please visit my other blog "Gaia Wise Ways". Gaia Wise Ways is my blog for continuing the venue of sustainable living, back to basics and heirloom skills.
I've changed the name of this blog to "Chook Haven Musings". What the heck does "chook" mean, you ask? It is an Australian word for chicken. I have a friend through the internet of many years from South Wales, Australia. The first time I heard Linda refer to a chook I fell in love with the sound of it.
I have about 22 chooks and we are getting about 9 to 11 eggs a day now. Last week when the weather was turning spring-like we opened the door to their little haven and they were so happy. They dusted themselves in the sand and pecked around all day.
We are back to winter again this week with about 9" more of snow! The chook's freedom was short lived.

The goats were out and about as well but now don't want to venture out into the new snow.

Chatty and Dee Dee, the two goats closest to their due date are in the barn permanently until they have their kids the first of May. I sure hope this weather turns around by then! Sydney the Emu has been inside all winter as well. We open the doors for him to get fresh air and get visits from the chooks when they are out.
Our neighbor continues to feed the deer. The highest count coming in to feed is 38!

When we moved onto this little farm, we put up quick temporary structures for the horses. We bought carpet from the Restore for the shelter sides. We are surprised at how well this works. Aside from the fact that it's ugly, it is cheap and efficient and the horses don't chew on it like they do wood.

 We made one permanent structure for the horses toward the entrance to the place. We wanted one that was not going to be an eye-sore for passing cars.
I'd like to put the name of our little farm, on the wall of this horse shelter that is facing the road. A name has not presented itself yet, as I posted on my other blog. It will come I'm sure.
Until my next post, may your day be blessed, and try to enjoy winter's last fair well snow!
I'll share one of my grandmother's poems.

The Last Snowflake

I was the last snowflake to leave;
I pondered reasons for reprieve.
I spoke with sunbeams in command,
Who said they really had it planned.
They taught me how the flowers grow
And showed me where the rivers flow.
I saw the birds come flying in
With songs above the bullfrogs din.
The sunbeams told how leaves unfurl
And how soft breezes made them twirl.
The blue of sky turned bluer still,
With anxious rain clouds primed for drill.
Now April challenged my delay;
Regretfully, I slipped away.
Maude G. Booth

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chamomile and Pineapple Weed: Herbal Wellness Workshop at Back To Basics 2010

German Chamomile
                                                              (Matricaria chamomile)
                                       Also known as; Mayweed, Scented Mayweed. 

                                  Pineapple Weed
                                                          (False Chamomile)

In 2010, on the homestead in Aitkin County, there was Pineapple Weed growing in abundance near the chicken coop! There had always been a bit growing, but the conditions were perfect for abundant growth. I was able to wild craft a couple of huge cuttings in spring and early summer. It did wintered over, and I was able to harvest it again in the spring of 2011.

Description: Chamomile is typically an annual herb originally from Europe. It has escaped and is now naturalized on almost every continent. The branched stem is somewhat erect, round, hollow, and grows to about 20 inches tall. The leaves are finely divided, light green and feathery. The flowers are daisy-like about 1 inch across and bloom from May to October. The entire plant has an apple scent. Planted in the garden is said to help sickly plants to grow. A close sister plant known as the Pineapple Weed grows abundantly and wild crafted. To wild craft look for it growing along fence rows, roadsides, and in sunny open fields. The entire wild plant has a pineapple scent.  
Propagation: Chamomile can be propagated by seed. Seeds germinate easily. The plant thrives in partial shade, but can be grown in full sun if kept moist. May winter over for another season, maybe two. Pineapple Weed is a wild perennial.
Constituents: The flowers contain various volatile oils including proazulenes. Upon steam distillation these proazulenes produce chamazulene, a remarkable anti-allergenic and is useful in the treatment of asthma and hay fever. 
Harvesting and Preservation: Gather the flowers each day as they bloom, in the morning and dry in a dehydrator. Infuse flowers and leaves with oil and then keep refrigerated. When collecting flowers for essence, do not touch but instead cut with scissors into a glass bowl. Preserve in dark glass with equal amounts of vodka or brandy.                                                          
Wellness Properties and Modalities: Both cultivated Chamomile and the wild sister Pineapple Weed have basically the same properties. Pineapple Weed tea is naturally sweeter tasting. Chamomile is one of the most widely used flowers for herbal tea. It is used as a mild sedative, and is good for insomnia as well as many other nervous conditions. It is especially suited to teething children and those who have been in a highly emotional state over a long period of time. The anti-inflammatory properties make it good for rheumatism, arthritis, and other painful swellings. Additional uses include an antispasmodic for intestinal and menstrual cramps, relieving gas pains, and a very mild but efficient laxative. Milder tea in large doses is given throughout the day for fevers, sore throats, the aches and pains due to colds, flu, and allergies.
Dried Flowers: Made into potpourri and herb pillows. Used as an insect repellent.                                                                                                                       Wash/Compress: Relieves skin inflammations, sunburn and burns.                                          
Infused Tea: Added to bath for relaxing tired, achy muscles.                                                       
Infused Oil: Flowers used in cosmetics as an anti-allergenic.                                                                                                                 Ointment/Salves: For use on hemorrhoids and wounds.                                                               
Flower Essence: Harmony/Higher Wisdom which stimulates the pineal gland which creates states applicable to meditation. Aligns the mental body and emotional tensions are released. Emotional stability and greater calm results from the use of chamomile elixir.                                                                                                                                                        Miscellaneous Uses: Chamomile tea is used as a liquid feed and plant tonic, effective against a number of plant diseases.
Cautions: Except for the small risk of allergy, Chamomile is also one of the safest herbs to use.
Culinary Uses: The flowers are edible and quite tasty in salads.
Folklore: The Blackfoot Indians called it mat-o-at-sin, using the dried plant as a perfume.

2010 Back to Basics: RED CLOVER Presentation Top Ten Herbals for Wellness

Red Clover
                                                                      (Trifolium praetens) 
Also known as; Meadow Honeysuckle, Meadow Trefoil, Purple Clover, Trefoil, Wild Clover, Cleaver Grass, Marl Grass, Cow Grass.

I pick Red Clover blossoms every year. On our homestead, we have one particular pasture that grows Red Clover in abundance. I get to harvest as much as I want, just before we begin our haying (cutting and baling for our cattle, horses and goats). I bring my cloth bags for harvesting, bring all the dogs with me for a walk and enjoy a few hours of wild crafting. I add this to most of my tea blends as it is an excellent blood purifier and overall health tonic.

Description: A perennial herb, with origins believed to be in Britain where it is abundant. Found world wide and naturalized in nearly every country, even the Arctic Circle and high up into mountains.
Cultivation and wild crafted it is an easily grown, from seed or root cuttings and requires little attention. The long root is rhizome, and sends out runners, producing several stems 1 to 2 feet high, slightly hairy; leaves ternate, leaflets ovate, slightly toothed, ending in long point often lighter colored V shape in center, flowers red to purple, fragrant, in dense terminal ovoid or round heads. Blooming from April thought out the summer months.
Constituents: Contains phenolic glycosides, flavonoids (Vitamin P and citrin), salicylates (known for its ability to ease aches and pains and reduce fevers. These medicinal properties, particularly fever relief, have been known since ancient times, and it was used as an anti-inflammatory drug. Some researchers believe that salicylate is an essential micronutrient in the human diet, potentially qualifying as a vitamin, namely Vitamin S), coumarins (sweet-smelling plant substance), cyanogenic glycosides, mineral acids.
A viable source of many nutrients including high protein content, calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. It is also considered to be one of the richest sources of isoflavones (water-soluble chemicals that act like estrogens and are found in many plants). Contains genestine which is known to inhibit cancer cell growth.

Wellness Properties and Modalities: Healing properties of the flower and young leaf alleviates the symptoms of female menopause, promotes general prostrate health, normal urinary tract function in males, support for normal cholesterol levels, lymph flow and supports the immune system function. It is suggested to provide a mild sedative effect that can relax and relieve muscle cramping and nervousness.
Known as a blood purifier, useful for improving the overall health of the liver. Acts as a digestive aid and stimulator of digestive fluids and bile production. It is a good expectorant and relieves bronchitis and coughs.

Crushed Fresh Flowers: applied to insect bites and stings.                                                        
Tincture: Taken internally for eczema and psoriasis.
Compress: Used for arthritic pains and gout.                                                                                      
Ointment: Applied topically to lymphatic swellings.
Eyewash: 5 to 10 drops tincture in 20 ml water (a full eyecup) or a well-strained infusion is used for conjunctivitis.
Douche: Infusion is used for vaginal itching.
Syrup: A syrup made from the infusion is used for stubborn, dry coughs.
Flower Essence: Self-awareness: Provides true self-awareness so that the individual can think in a calm and balanced way, and act from his/her concept of reality without the undue influence of the group consciousness. Used for centered awareness and clearing the heart chakra when it is in conflict. It allows new energies to be involved when overcoming a crisis and brings on new opportunities.                                                                                                                                    
Cautions: Use with caution if on anti-coagulants and anti-platelet agents or if using contraceptives. Do not use before or after surgeries because of blood thinning properties.

Culinary Uses: Harvest edible leaves for soup or salad before flowers fully bloom. The sprouted seeds are edible in salads and have a crisp texture and robust flavor. 

Folklore: In the middle ages this herb was considered a charm and worn to ward off evil spirits and witches. The four leaf plant was said to have even more power against evil, a five leaf plant was said to be worn by witches to give them evil powers, and a two leaf plant would give a maiden the power to see her future lover.

Monday, February 14, 2011

2010 Back to Basics Presentation: COMFREY Top Ten Herbals for Wellness

                                                                Symphytum officinale

Also known as Knitbone, Knitback, Consound, Blackwort, Bruisewort, Slippery Root, Boneset, Yalluc (Saxon), Gum Plant, Consolida, Ass Ear. 
This is one of my favorite herbs to grow. As the picture shows, it needs be kept contained or it will literally take over an area. I let my plant flower as I wanted to make Flower Essences.

Description: Comfrey is an herbaceous perennial. The large, hairy, lance-shaped leaves grow in clusters about 12 inches high. It sends up a central stem, which can reach three feet in height. The bell shaped flowers appear in clusters on this stem shortly before midsummer. The flowers of wild Comfrey vary in color, but are most often yellow. Prickly Comfrey may have blue or pink flowers, and Quaker Comfrey has purplish flowers. The root is black on the outside, white on the inside and tuberous, shaped like a turnip.

Propagation: A cultivated herb that prefers full sun, but might need some shade if you live in a very hot place. Soil should be rich, but it's not picky. It appreciates a bit of fertilizer once in awhile. It is most often propagated by root cuttings. It can become invasive if not kept contained. Comfrey likes it moist, so water regularly if it does not rain. Flowering stems should be removed in the first year, so that the plant's energy is focused on a sturdy root and leaf system After that, you can let the plant flower. Growth continues while the plant is in flower. 

Constituents: A great source of protein, potassium, calcium, and vitamins A, B12, and C. Most important is mucilage and Allantoin with a little tannin. (While Comfrey has finally gained some acceptance from the “official” medical community, there is also a quite a bit of fear surrounding the consumption. Recently, the FDA banned Comfrey from all commercially produced herbal supplements. Bear in mind that the FDA decided to ban the plant only after injecting unnaturally large amounts of the plant's inherent alkaloids into animal test subjects, which then died of liver failure, just as they would have had the alkaloids been extracted from a carrot, concentrated, and injected into their bloodstreams.) The highest percentage of the alkaloids are found in the root.

Harvesting and Preserving: The more you harvest this plant, the more it will grow. It should be harvested from early May and throughout the summer. Harvest before it blooms, for the greatest potency. Collect the leaves in the morning and immediately dry in a dehydrator as they break down easily. Dry at temperatures of 90 degrees or lower. Infuse leaves with oil and then keep refrigerated. Prepare a tincture/extract of the leaves with vodka, and bottle in colored glass. When collecting flowers for essence, do not touch but instead cut with scissors into a glass bowl. Use spring water to sun infuse for at least three hours. Preserve in dark glass with equal amounts of vodka or brandy.

 Wellness Properties and Modalities: Containing allantoin, which is found in the milk of nursing mothers, it encourages cell reproduction and thus stimulates healing and regeneration. No better ally can be found for the woman with thin bones. Contains special proteins used in the formation of short-term memory cells. Its soothing mucilage adds flexibility to joints, eyes, vagina, and lungs. This is another herbal that Susun Weed promotes for Menopausal Womyn's Infused Wellness Herbals.

 Infused Tea: A gentle remedy in cases of diarrhea and dysentery. Infused leaves are said to help speed the healing of broken bones and other internal injuries. Use as a soothing addition to baths. The root is used for persistent, painful coughs as well as hemorrhage and ulcers.                                                                                                                                                                         
Infused Oils: Add to salves for burns, acne, bruising, abrasions and other topical complaints. Add when making lotion to smooth and reduce wrinkles in the skin.                                                                                                                                                                        
Poultices: Use fresh leaves for sprains, swellings, bruises, severe cuts, boils, abscesses, and ulcers. The whole plant, is excellent for soothing pain and is useful in any kind of inflammatory swelling.                                                              

 Flower Essence: Telepathy/Yoga This elixir is a powerful tonic for the nervous system. It can enhance telepathic abilities and other seldom used parts of the brain. It is also useful for athletes and yoga practitioners for it may increase physical coordination. Deep healing, encourages feeling emotionally and physically safe.

Folk Lore: Saxons referred to the plant as “Yulluc” and utilized it in travel magic. Comfrey was apparently also given to bards and minstrels to protect them in their wanderings.

Cautions:  Do not use while pregnant or nursing. Never us Comfrey for very deep or puncture wounds, because it can actually make the surface heal faster than the lower part of the wound, causing abscesses. Make sure a wound has been thoroughly cleaned before applying Comfrey, so as not to seal dirt inside the wound. Comfrey should not be used internally or externally for longer than four to six consecutive weeks.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2010 Back to Basics Presentation: NETTLE Top Ten Herbals for Wellness

After the Back To Basics presentation that I gave on "Top Ten...slash....Fourteen Herbals and Botanicals For Wellness" I decided I would post each of the botanicals and their information on this blog. I had compiled all the information from numerous resources which I'll share. Any time you see italics, those are an indication of a personal note and experience from myself.

                                                             "NETTLE Urtica dioica"

Also known as; Bichu, Common Nettle, Grande Ortie, Great Stinging Nettle, Nettle, Nettle Leaf, Nettle Seed, Nettles, Ortie.
Here in Minnesota the Nettle will be popping up in early May...well, maybe even April sometime. I always start picking the new plants as soon as they are about 3-5" and continue to harvest through out the summer.

Description: Stinging nettle is found and wild crafted in nitrogen-rich soil. It blooms between June and September, and usually reaches 2 - 4 feet high. Stems are upright and rigid. The leaves are heart-shaped, finely toothed, and tapered at the ends, and flowers are yellow or pink. The entire plant is covered with tiny stiff hairs, mostly on the underside of the leaves and stem, that release stinging chemicals when touched.
Cultivation: Widely distributed as a weed. You can take cuttings or seeds from naturalized stands and plant them.
Constituents: Nettles are rich in iron, silicon, and potassium. They are very high in vitamins A, K and C. When dried, nettles are 40% protein.
Harvesting and Preservation: Best when gathered early in the season. Harvest all of the young plant, up to six inches tall. When picking older plants, use only the young, tender leaves. Nettles may be cut back to obtain a second harvest. NETTLES STING - USE GLOVES WHEN PICKING AND HANDLING THE FRESH PLANT. The volatile component is neutralized by heat (cooking or drying). Dry nettles at a low temperature. For even drying, separate leaves and stems.  Prime nettle season is short, 1 to 2 months. The sting may be relieved by rubbing the skin affected with Rosemary, Mint or Sage leaves. Prepare Extract/tincture with fresh, clean leaves in Vodka. Bottle in dark glass.
Culinary Uses: Add young fresh leaves that have been simmered to soups, stews. Use in quiche in place of spinach.
Medicinal Properties and Modalities: Stinging nettle has been used for hundreds of years. They have beneficial influence on various body systems including the lungs, kidneys, skin, and blood. It is used to treat painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, and anemia. Use it to treat urinary problems during the early stages of an enlarged prostate, for urinary tract infections, for hay fever, asthma, seasonal allergies, and hives. Recognized for its ability to stop bleeding, relieve mucous congestion and water retention, and improve skin irritations. Beneficial during pregnancy due to its rich mineral value and vitamin K, which guards against excessive bleeding.  It is used during labor to ease the pains, and will increase milk production in lactating women. Often recommended for pre-menstrual syndrome because of its toxin-ridding activity. It acts as a restorative remedy during menopause, and the astringency of the herb helps in excessive menstrual flow.
Dried Leaves: Stops nose bleeding.                                                      
Infusion: As a gargle, it is useful for mouth and throat infections. Nettle tea is an excellent nourishing herbal. Susun Weed has included Nettle as one of the main nourishing herbals for women's health. An infusion (below for instructions) of nettle builds energy, strengthens the adrenals and is said to restore youthful flexibility to blood vessels. A cup of nettle infusion contains 500 milligrams of calcium plus generous amounts of bone-building magnesium, potassium, silicon, boron, and zinc. An excellent source of Vit. A, D, E, and K, for flexible bones, a healthy heart, thick hair, beautiful skin, and lots of energy.                                    
Compress: The tea is said to help relieve acne and eczema.                   
Tincture/Extract: An excellent blood purifier. Preventative therapy for Gout and Urinary Tract Infections, Allergies, Asthma and Hay Fever.                                                
Creams/Salves: For treating joint pain, sprains and strains, tendonitis, and insect bites.                                                                                                   
Other Uses: Dried nettles have also been widely used for farm animals. Added to chicken feed, they will increase egg production. Used as fodder for cows, they will increase milk production. Nettles produces a healthier, glossier coat.
Folk Lore: Nettles in a pocket will keep a person safe from lightning and bestow courage. Kept in a room it will protect anyone inside (common knowledge of huge amounts of nutrients, making them a powerful plant in that sense).  Nettles are reputed to enhance fertility in men, and fever could be dispelled by plucking a nettle up by its roots while reciting the names of the sick man and his family. Arthritic joints were sometimes treated by whipping the joint with a branch of stinging nettles. The theory was that it stimulated the adrenal therefore reducing the swelling and pain in the joint. A 2000 controlled study supports the effectiveness of this treatment.

Nettle Pie (Quiche)
Pie crust
1 cup flour
1/3 cup plus 1 T. cold butter                                                          1/4 t. salt
2 T. cold water
Cut the butter into the flour and salt until the butter is well distributed and mixture is crumbly. I use a pastry cutter to start and then my fingers to finish the job. Add cold water and mix with your hands just until the pie crust holds together. Place on a floured surface and roll out the crust. Place into pie pan.
To the crust add in order:
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I use a combo of parmesan, cheddar and mozzarella).
1/3 cup chopped onions and garlic sauteed in either olive oil or butter
about 2 -3 cups chopped, fresh (or simmered and chopped) nettles
Beat together, then add to crust:
4eggs                                                                                                                                                           1 cup milk (goat milk)
1/4 t. dry mustard
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40-45 minutes. Enjoy the best quiche you have ever eaten!

Nettle Pudding
To 1 gallon of young Nettle tops, thoroughly washed, add 2 good-sized leeks or onions, 2 heads of broccoli or small cabbage, or Brussels sprouts, and 1/4 lb. of rice. Clean the vegetables well; chop the broccoli and leeks and mix with the Nettles. Place all together in a muslin bag, alternately with the rice, and tie tightly. Boil in salted water, long enough to cook the vegetables, the time varying according to the tenderness or other vise of the greens. Serve with gravy or melted butter. These quantities are sufficient for six persons.
Pepys refers to Nettle pudding in his Diary, February, 1661: 'We did eat some Nettle porridge, which was very good.'
Nettle Beer
The Nettle Beer made by cottagers is often given to their old folk as a remedy for gouty and rheumatic pains, but apart from this purpose it forms a pleasant drink. It may be made as follows:

Take 2 gallons of cold water and a good pailful of washed young Nettle tops, add 3 or 4 large hands-ful of Dandelion, the same of Clivers (Goosegrass) and 2 OZ. of bruised, whole ginger. Boil gently for 40 minutes, then strain and stir in 2 teacupsful of brown sugar. When lukewarm place on the top a slice of toasted bread, spread with 1 OZ. of compressed yeast, stirred till liquid with a teaspoonful of sugar. Keep it fairly warm for 6 or 7 hours, then remove the scum and stir in a tablespoonful of cream of tartar. Bottle and tie the corks securely. The result is a specially wholesome sort of ginger beer. The juice of 2 lemons may be substituted for the Dandelion and Clivers (known today as Cleavers). Other herbs are often added to Nettles in the making of Herb Beer, such as Burdock, Meadowsweet, Avens Horehound, the combination making a refreshing summer drink.

Nourishing Herbal Infusions: Vibrant elder years and an easier menopause! They provide protein, minerals phytoestrogens, and special fats needed by menopausal women. Many common menopausal problems can be connected to a lack of one or more of these nutrients.
To make a nourishing herbal infusion: Use a least one ounce of dry nettle leaf. Place the ounce of dried leaf in a quart jar. (Once ounce equals one full cup of dried herb.) Fill the jar to the top with boiling water. Cap tightly and allow to brew for at least four hours. Overnight is fine. Strain and drink 2-4 cups a day. Most menopausal women prefer their infusion iced, but hot or room temperature is fine. A little mint or sage may be added to change the flavor. Honey may be desired as well. Keep the infused tea in the refrigerator to store.