New Ideas for the Garden

With lots of time at home I have been able to focus attention on gardening. My neighbor and I have shared tips and little plants across the back fence. I am looking forward to garden produce.

This year I have added mushroom compost to the garden to help break up the heavy clay soil. In some places I have added earthworm castings as a fertilizer. 

In the past I have lost squash and pumpkin plants to vine borers—the caterpillars that eats the inside of the plant’s vine. So I did an internet search for ways to prevent this problem. One suggestion was to place aluminum foil around the base of the stem—I tried that before without success. Or wrap the stem with cheese cloth. My squash and pumpkin plants now have cheese cloth around their stems.

Another suggestion was to companion plant nasturtium, chives, calendula or tansy around the squash/pumpkin plants. I have tansy and calendula growing next to the pumpkin plants and nasturtium and chives next to the squash. I also planted the squash in a new area, because rotating location of plants is a good idea. We’ll see how this experiment works.

For the tomato plants I put a mix of banana peel, crushed egg shell and coffee grounds deep in a hole, covered with some soil, before placing the tomato plant in.

I am thrilled that some of my herbs wintered over. The sage and thyme were in sheltered areas outside. My rosemary plant did well in a sunny bay window during the winter and is now outside.

I am looking forward to the time our state opens up—our district of Illinois is still shut down. I am anxious to have time together with friends and family. In the meantime gardening gets me outside, into the sunshine. I look in wonder at endless variety of plants and flowers that God has created for our enjoyment.

Do you have gardening tips for growing healthy plants?

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: FORWARD

The Colors of Calendula

Calendula is a bright sunny flower and a herb. It has been called poor man’s saffron. The petals of the flower can be added to rice. The flowers can be dried for tea. I have enjoyed seeing the range of colors of that the flower displays from bright orange to yellow to mixed colors. Just a few of the many varieties are: Pacific Beauty, Pink Sunrise, Lemon Cream

Calendula
Lemon Yellow Calendula
Calendula

You can read more about growing and using calendula flowers in another post that I wrote. Click here.

The photo of the orange calendula was taken by my son a couple years ago. The other flowers are in bloom now.

Sharing this post with Sue’s photo link-up.

Personhood, Women’s Roles and Herbal Infusions

Most evenings I spend some time reading. Here are a few of the books I am enjoying.

A friend of mine loaned me the book, Love Thy Body, by Nancy Pearcey. Ms. Pearcey addresses many of the controversial issues in our culture. 

She begins by discussing personhood. Some view human beings as simply biological organisms until they display cognitive function which then allows them to be recognized as a person. The assumption is that body and soul are separate. The biblical perspective is that when human life begins it is body and soul united.

I am reading a chapter at a time and learning about some of the events in science history. Sometimes a couple sentences will cause me to pause. After referring to the theory proposed by Darwin (all life occurs in an evolving chain) she considers the impact that Darwin had on science. No special status is assigned to being human—because there is no human species. As a result, “life becomes a set of parts, commodities that can be shifted around” to suit some geneticists’ vision of progress. The floodgates have been flung open for unfettered refashioning of human nature itself. (p. 100)

Thoughts and questions came to mind. As we learn more about the human body are we attempting to redesign what God has created? When do the advances in medicine support health, and when does scientific experimentation cross moral and ethical boundaries? In our desire for control what are we overlooking? What are the longterm consequences?

Today I read a well researched article. I was startled to learn that the use of aborted fetal tissue for research began in the early 1900’s. The article notes research that took place after forced abortions that were allowed under the Eugenic Sterilization Act. Here is a portion of the article (to read more click on the quote):

In just one such research paper, Drs. Thicke, Duncan, Wood and Rhodes graphically describe their work: “Human embryos of two and one-half to five months gestation were obtained from the gynaecological department of the Toronto General Hospital. They were placed in a sterile container and promptly transported to the virus laboratory of the adjacent Hospital for Sick Children. No macerated specimens were used and in many of the embryos the heart was still beating at the time of receipt in the virus laboratory.” (15)

At the same time I am reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, a book from our local library. Elizabeth lived in the 19th century and wrote about women’s roles and their relationship to men in the social strata of the time. Her observation of human nature, description of the industrial age and society norms is fascinating. It is also a well-crafted story.

My daughter gave me Healing Herbal Infusions by Colleen Codekas. It is fun to browse through the pictures and recipes in this book. 

I love the springtime when I am adding herbs to my garden. Recipes throughout the book include a variety of herbs. The chapter titles are enticing: Infusions to Boost Your Immunity, Infusions to Relieve What Ails You, Infusions to Nourish Your Skin, Lips and Hair. I will try some of the recipes.

This post is joining the link-up at Literacy Musing Mondays.

Spring is Here : Looking Forward to Flowers and Herbs!

It is the first day of Spring and I am looking forward to the appearance of flowers and herbs. The snowdrops are up, and the robins have returned. The hyacinths are beginning to poke through the thawing soil.

Before long the violets will be blooming. I plan to gather these delicate flowers from an area of the yard that has not been sprayed with any chemicals to make candied violets. See a recipe here.

Every year I add another herb to my gardens. Herbs are a source of vitamins and minerals that support health. Rosemary, thyme and sage all grow easily. Here is a recipe for potatoes with rosemary and thyme.

I have planted some stinging nettle seeds in a container. I hope to plant them in a corner of the yard that has little traffic. The leaves of this plant sting—similar to stinging ants. The young leaves must be harvested carefully (gloves). When the leaves are boiled they lose their sting. The benefit of this herb is the rich mineral content. Nettle tea is sold in health food stores. I first noticed a recipe for nettle soup in a Swedish cook book. Here is an on-line recipe for nettle soup.

In a time period when many worry about infectious disease, it is a good idea to think about ways to improve the nutritional support of our immune system. Herbs are a source of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. At one time I thought the purpose of herbs was flavor, but now I know they enrich our food.

Sharing this post with Friendship Friday

Simple Measures for Family Health: Herbs and Nutrients

Moms make many health decisions for their children. When someone in the family gets a cold there is a wide array of over the counter treatments to choose from. The pills and elixirs treat the symptoms but don’t help the immune system overcome the virus.

Over the years I have discovered foods, herbs and vitamins that support the immune system. These include: elderberries, ginger, garlic, bone broth, vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc.

I have elderberry bushes in my back yard and I make elderberry juice to have on hand in the winter months. (If you don’t have access to fresh elderberries you can purchase dried elderberries from the Bulk Herb Store.) When colds are going around my husband and I have 2 tablespoons of elderberry juice with raw honey daily. (NOTE: Honey should not be given to a child under one year old.)

Most people are deficient in vitamin D, which helps in fighting infection. It is good to have a vitamin D supplement. 

Vitamin C  and zinc also help in fighting infection. 

If I cook an organic chicken or turkey I save all the bones and make a broth (adding vegetables and herbs while it simmers for 24 hours). The broth is a rich source of minerals that our bodies need. The broth can be canned or frozen.

When I develop a cold, ginger, lemon and garlic are helpful. Ginger tea helps to clear the sinuses. To make ginger tea: grate 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger and simmer in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Add raw honey to sweeten.

Garlic helps fight viruses and bacteria. I make garlic toast. I cut up 1 or 2 cloves of garlic into fine pieces. I butter the toast and top with the garlic. If this doesn’t appeal the garlic can be added to a spoon of raw honey or applesauce. (This works with children.)

At the same time there are foods that we should limit or avoid when we are ill. Foods with refined flour and sugar reduce vitamin availability; the vitamins are used up metabolizing the refined flour and sugar. Avoid sugar rich sodas, cookies and candies.

When a cold produces a lot of congestion it is wise to avoid dairy products. Dairy products increase the amount of mucous and phlegm. 

Finally, our bodies need rest when we are ill. We live is a busy world. I know that when I was working I sometimes went back to work too soon. We are in a hurry to get better and keep up with our responsibilities. Our bodies need rest to recover. 

The quick fix is appealing, but taking time to give the immune system support is good for improving health and well being.

Thoughts of Spring on a Cold Day

It’s cold outside. Our thermometer reads -5 degrees. We have almost a foot of snow on the ground and when I went outside to take a picture my fingers became stiff in minutes.

It is winter but spring will come. I have begun receiving seed catalogues. My thoughts turn to the garden. My favorite plants are the herbs.

Some will come back on their own. The perennials are mint, sage, chives, lemon balm and lavender. In the spring I will plant basil, calendula, dill, and thyme. I will buy a rosemary plant. 

It is so pleasant, so convenient to have fresh herbs on hand in the summer. 

I am linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing on the prompt: CONVENIENT. Visit Kate Motaung’s site to join the fun.

Rosemary and Tansy in the Herb Garden

Spring seems to be on hold as cold temperatures persist in Illinois. But I am beginning to think about my herb garden.

I recently read that Tansy is a deterrent for Japanese beetles. I have seeds to plant, hoping that it will help get rid of the throng of beetles I have seen the past couple years. I have also read that tansy is invasive–so I will have to plan carefully where I plant it.

Herb Garden
Tansy

My rosemary plant seems to have survived the winter in a sunny window, but it is looking somewhat listless. It needs more sunshine! I am hoping it will revive.

When we were in New Mexico in March the rosemary bushes were in full bloom. New Mexico has the perfect climate for this herb.

Rosemary Bush
Rosemary Bush

I have become particularly fond of rosemary and enjoy the legends about it. A story in Spain claims that the Virgin Mary was fleeing from soldiers on her way to Egypt. She spread her cloak on a rosemary bush and hid behind it. When she lifted her cloak the flowers had turned blue.

Rosemary flower
Rosemary flower

Fresh rosemary has many uses.   I  like to make  Rosemary & Thyme    potatoes. When ever I am adding fresh herbs to a recipe I mince them into little pieces. Here is my recipe:

Potatoes with Rosemary and Thyme

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

3 Tablespoons olive oil

5 medium size potatoes

Combine the thyme, rosemary, salt, lemon juice and olive oil.

Peel potatoes and steam them until fork tender. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and cut each potato into several pieces. Pour the herb & oil mixture over the potatoes and cover.  Allow the potatoes to marinade like this for 2 hours or even overnight.

Spread the potatoes on a jelly roll pan or a rimmed baking sheet. Bake uncovered at 425° for 30 minutes.

I came across this site with 39 ways to use rosemary.

Do you have a favorite recipe with rosemary? Have you had any experience with tansy?

Sharing this post with Tuesdays with a Twist and  Welcome Spring Link Party

Petite Purple Irises and Stinging Nettle

It is the last day of February and my dwarf irises are blooming. I was surprised to see their purple petals as I returned home from a weekend trip. Winter isn’t over, but my tulip and hyacinth bulbs are sprouting leaves.

Dwarf Iris

What will our spring be like? My thoughts turn to garden plans. Every year I like to introduce a new plant to my herb garden.

It is so convenient to have fresh herbs for the kitchen. I have thyme for chicken and broth, sage for turkey, rosemary for potatoes and soups, chocolate mint for coffee, tarragon for salad dressing and basil for pesto and tomato sauce.

This year I want to add stinging nettle. I am familiar with nettle tea, having read about it in the Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year.

The common stinging nettle is a uterine tonic and general nourisher with a special ability to strengthen kidneys and adrenals. Its high mineral and chorophyll content makes it an excellent food and tonic for the hormonal system.*

The New American Herbal has more information about this plant. It is called stinging nettle because the leaves have fine hairs that cause pain and inflammation when touched. It is important to wear rubber gloves when harvesting the leaves of this plant.

Properly handled with gloves and long sleeves the leaves can be easily gathered and then neutralized by the heat of cooking . . . Once you know how to respect them, you’ll find nettles deliciously mild with a deep nutty green taste and a slightly minty finish. **

I saw a recipe for nettle soup in a Swedish cookbook. I think the nettle leaves would be a good addition to broth—adding good mineral content as well as flavor.

And so I will order some stinging nettle seeds from Mary’s Heirloom Seeds. Then I have to decide on a safe place to grow them—perhaps in a container.

Do you have some garden plans?

*Susun Weed, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, Ash Tree Publishing: Woodstock, New York, 1986, p. 2

**Stephen Orr, The New American Herbal, Crown Publishing Group, New York, 2014, p. 330

Sharing this post with Garden Week at You’re the Star,  the Art of Homemaking,  the Homemaking Party, the Healthy Happy Green & Natural Party,  Tuesdays with a Twist and Sue’s Wordless Wednesday

Daffodils, Crocuses, Flowering Rosemary, Oh My!

Spring is coming to the southern states. I am enjoying the colors that are brightening the landscape. And I wish rosemary grew as abundantly at my home as it does in New Mexico! Flowering tree

Kansas_5174

 

Kansas_5175

Rosemary
Rosemary plant (bush)

 

Rosemary flower
Rosemary flower

Linking with Friendship Friday,  A Little R & R,  SeasonsTuesdays with a Twist , the Homemaking Party and Sue’s Wordless Wednesday

Preserving Herbs: Thyme Vinegar

The mild fall weather is so welcome! Yard work is pleasant and I have found some fall raspberries to savor while I work.

Preserving Herbs

Wilting vines
And a layer of leaves
Yard clean-up
Sweetened by fall raspberries

My calendula is still blooming and my rosemary and thyme are still growing.

Thyme Vinegar
Lemon Thyme

I plan to bring the rosemary and thyme inside for the winter. Last year they survived in a south bay window. But I have been also         preserving the thyme in vinegar.

The thyme vinegar is good for salad dressings. I also add one or two  tablespoons to vegetables and bones for broth that I prepare in my crockpot. The vinegar helps to leach out minerals from bones with the    additional benefit of thyme.

I found this recipe for thyme vinegar in Early American Herb Recipes*.

A very delicious flavour of thyme may be obtained, by gathering it while in full perfection; it must be picked from the stalks, a large handful of it put into a jar, and a quart of vinegar or brandy poured on it; cover it very close—next day, take all the thyme out, put in as much more; do this a third time; then strain it, bottle it and seal it securely. This is greatly preferable to the dried thyme commonly used, during the season when it cannot be obtained in a fresh state.*

I followed the recipe. I put 3 Tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves in a pint of white wine vinegar. The next day I strained it and added fresh thyme. The following day I repeated the straining and added more fresh thyme. While I was adding thyme leaves and straining the vinegar I used canning jars. Then I strained it a final time, returned it to the original bottle and capped it.

thyme vinegar

*Alice Cooke Brown, Early American Herb Recipes, Japan: The Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc., 1966. p. 114.

Linking with Healthy, Happy Green and Natural,  the Art of HomemakingFriendship Friday, the Homestead Blog Hop,  Healthy Living Link Party,  Wake-up WednesdayTuesdays with a Twist