Hope in Chicago and at Home

For Chicago baseball fans, the Cubs are symbolic of hope. The excitement over the National league playoffs was vibrant this fall. Then four straight losses to the Mets.  Once again the refrain is wait till next year.

Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field: Wikimedia Commons

In my garden I have many opportunities for hope. I have been      struggling with brown rot in my cherry tree. This year showed some improvement. With additional treatment will my cherries ripen      without rot? I’m looking forward to next June with hope.

Hope in the Garden

I transplanted some peonies and raspberries. Will they take well? The bulbs for three purple prince lily trees and some guinevere pink tulips went in the ground this fall. I will wait with anticipation for them to grow, looking forward to the spring.

Tulips for the Garden

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.     Hebrews 11:1

Family circumstances are a challenge. (Perhaps not more of a challenge than hoping the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series! lol)     Illness and problems that we lift in prayer through the years require trust in the Lord to sustain hope.  Maybe God gave us the seasons of the year and the seasons of life to teach us to trust Him, to illustrate hope. God has given us guidance in the Bible.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our      instruction, that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.     Romans 15: 4, 13

Linking with Words with WinterSunday StillnessWeekend WhispersGrace & Truth and Faith Filled Friday

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.

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Lovely Aroma in a World of Conflict

A Sweet Aroma
Last rose in my garden

Are you discouraged by the conflicts and moray decay all around us? I am. The study of the book of Acts is giving me hope. I am glad that this book was chosen for the fall Precept Bible study.

Sometimes political issues stir my emotions. Can political action groups solve the problems? They may have a place, but the problems in our country are spiritual.

It is not wrong to stand up for a point of view—in fact we must pursue truth.  Every life is valuable.  God designed marriage as one man and one woman. This truth comes from the word of God.

As I spend time studying the Bible, I realize that God’s plan of            salvation is woven through the scriptures and this message is most important. The gospel changes hearts. The apostles spoke about Jesus:

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.      Acts 4:12

The apostles and early church were focused on the message of the gospel. Even when persecution began they prayed for boldness.

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.       Act 4:29

Followers of Jesus, the church, have a specific role for this time. We are called to be a witness for Jesus Christ. Through our words, our    attitudes and actions we have a responsibility to have a message that points to Jesus and salvation. Sometimes we fall short. We need to be in the Word, in prayer and dependent on the Holy Spirit. Jesus has     given the Holy Spirit to be our helper.

I know that I am more sensitive to the Holy Spirit when I am studying my Bible, spending time in prayer and joining in fellowship in my home church. These are necessary activities. I encourage you to       embrace these practices.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the        knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God, among those who are being saved, and among those who are     perishing. 2 Corinthians 2: 14-15

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank-you for completing the plan of salvation. Thank-you for forgiving my sins and giving us your Word. Guide me by the Holy Spirit to be a witness for you.

Linking with Thought Provoking ThursdayWholeHearted Wednesday,  A Little R & R,  Titus 2sday,  Hope in Every SeasonWords with Winter,  Sharing His Beauty,  Sunday Stillness,  Grace & Truth and Faith Filled Friday

Beauty in His Grip Button

Apple-Sage-Cheddar Muffins

The sage in my garden is thriving. This summer it flowered.

Sage in Flower

The beautiful weather this fall has extended our growing season. I have plenty of sage. The texture of the leaves has an artistic appearance, lovely to the touch.

 

Sage leaves

Sage in the Sun_edited-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am going to use it in some in apple-sage-cheddar muffins. The muffins can be gluten  free  by       using brown rice flour instead of unbleached white flour.

1 cup flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
½ cup plain yogurt

Heat the oven to 375°. Lightly grease a muffin tin with twelve muffin cups. (I like to preheat the muffin pan by putting it in the oven 5 minutes before I am going to put the batter in the pan.)

Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sage and salt in a large bowl. Add the grated apple and grated cheese, mixing them with the dry ingredients.

In a medium size bowl combine the eggs, honey, melted butter and milk with lemon juice. Add the egg mixture to the flour & apple mixture. Mix until just combined.

Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Leave the muffins in the tin to cool and then turn out and enjoy!!

sage & tulip_3090

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Gardens of Hope

Phlox

During the past week I returned to Detroit. (The first 12 years of my life I lived in Detroit.) I was shocked to drive though a community with abandoned and burned out houses. And yet there is hope and a passion for life here.

I visited Brightmoor and I was treated to a walking tour of the community gardens. Amid abandoned homes the gardens are a vibrant sign of hope. As I talked with people that work on the gardens, I learned a little more. I tasted the salad herb, purslane, and ground cherries.

One family was putting in a rain garden in their front yard. The plants and flowers have deep roots that can absorb a lot of water from saturated soil, preventing overflow in the sewage system. The people of Brightmoor are enthusiastic about protecting and restoring the neighborhood. Perseverence. Passion. Hope.

I had much to think about on my way home. It was a nice break in driving to  stop at a farm market. I bought some blueberries, peaches and tomatoes. (Michigan is a great place to get blueberries!)

At home I have flowers, berry bushes, herbs and a few vegetables—and weeds. We have had a lot of rain this year which has been great for my plants and also for the weeds. When I go out to work on my garden patches I lose track of time. As I work I have time to sort out my thoughts. I have been thinking about gardens.

We have a deep place in our heart that receives refreshment from a garden. God has created us that way.

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. Genesis 2: 8 -9a

Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still enjoy the refreshment of one. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Take a walk at a botanical garden. It provides a great opportunity to learn about plants. When I visit a city on vacation I look for their botanical garden. Chicago, Phoenix AZ and Albuquerque NM have wonderful gardens.
  2. Spend a morning at a local farmer’s market, seeing all the produce. Sometimes they have flowers, too. Talk with the farmers. You never know what you might learn.
  3. Plan a garden for next year.

Pink PhloxLinking with Thought Provoking ThursdayA Little R & R,  Wildcrafting WednesdayWords with Winter, Roses of Inspiration,  Sunday Stillness,  Friendship Friday and Grace & Truth

 

Calendula: A Healing Flower

Art Shades Calendula

In recent years I have been charmed by the benefits of a flower that has a long history. According to the Complete Herbal Book: This sunny little flower—the “merrybuds” of Shakespeare—was first used in Indian and Arabic cultures, before being “discovered” by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.*

The medicinal qualities of calendula are listed: Calendula flowers contain antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial properties that promote healing.*

This year I bought some heirloom seeds from Select Seeds—Art Shades Calendula and Orange King Calendula. Both are growing in my garden.

Calendula Flower
Art Shades Calendula
Calendula Flower
Orange King Calendula

Calendula is an edible flower, and the dried the petals of this flower have been called poor man’s saffron. I dry my calendula flowers by placing them on cheesecloth or a paper towel over a drying rack.

Drying Calendula Flowers

It takes approximately 2 weeks for the flowers to dry in room air. Then I place them in an airtight canning jar for use throughout the year.

Calendula flowers make a healthy tea. Tips for a variety of ways to benefit from calendula tea are posted at thenerdyfarmwife.com. Be sure to note the caution mentioned for use during pregnancy.  Calendula salve is another way to make use of the flowers. It is fairly easy to make. You can find my process here.

Update: My flowers have continued to bloom well into the fall of 2017. More recipes for this special flower  are  appearing  on-line.   Vintage Remedies has a simple recipe for calendula & coconut oil salve.

Every couple days I pick the blossoms, but when I am not fast enough they go to seed. The seeds can be saved for next year’s flowers.

Calendula Seed

 

The curved seeds with a bumpy surface are released from the dried flower head. It is possible for the plant to self-seed for the following year, but that hasn’t worked well in my garden. I plant the seeds outside in the early spring.

Mary’s Heirloom Seeds has an article about the benefits of calendula. 

Another source for calendula seeds is  Pinetree Garden Seeds.

If you don’t have calendula in your garden but would like to add it to your stock of helpful herbs, you can order a package of dried calendula from The Bulk Herb Store.

Great selection of bulk herbs, books, and remedies. Articles, Research Aids and much more.

*McVicar, Jessica, The Complete Herb Book, Kyle Cathie Limited: London, 1994.   p. 56-57.

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Linking with the Happy, Healthy, Green & Natural Party,  Whole Hearted Home,    Friendship Friday, the Homemaking Party, So Much at Home,  Roses of Inspiration, and  Wordless Wednesday .

Star Flowers

When the grandchildren come to my home they like to pick berries and flowers. I name the various berries and tell them a little about them. We talk about which berries are safe to eat.

The flowers have names too. The granddaughters have enjoyed picking stalks of flowers— tiny white stars covering a stem that is shaped like a shepherd’s crook—from the front of my yard. This plant has a funny name, gooseneck loosestrife. I bought this plant as a perennial and had no idea how aggressively it would spread. I have to set boundaries and uproot it when it wanders, kind of like a shepherd managing his sheep.

Gooseneck loosestrife
Gooseneck loosestrife

I encourage the girls to look at the herbs in my herb garden. A few days ago we all munched on a leaf from chocolate mint, giving opinions about the flavor.

This is my opportunity to share a love of nature, enjoying the world God has created. Together we delight in the bright flavor of a currant berry or raspberry. We see a new flower with wonder. As a grandparent (and retired nurse) I feel blessed in having this time–finding it easier to pause to see than when my children were little.

What a desolate place would be a world without flowers? It would be a face without a smile; a feast without welcome.—Are not flowers the stars of earth?—And are not our stars the flowers of heaven?                                                                    Clara Lucas Balfour (1808 – 1878)

Forest wildflower
Forest wildflower

 

Yellow Columbine
Yellow Columbine

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; Praise him in the heights! Praise him sun and moon, Praise him all you shining stars! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created.
Psalm 148: 1, 3, 5

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Elderberries in the Garden

I look upon the pleasure which we take in a garden, as one of the most innocent delights in human life. Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

Elderberry flower buds

This year the branches on my elderberry bushes are laden with abundant berries. The dainty flowers came first, adding a lovely lace among the green.

Elderberry flower 5

 

Flowers of the common elderberry can be steeped to make a tea, which is often recommended to relieve headaches. The flower cluster can also be battered and fried to make interesting fritters. *

Ripening Elderberries

I have three elderberry bushes at different stages of ripeness. It is true that having different varieties of elderberry—like Johns, Adams & York—encourages a good harvest for each bush. I will be picking berries all the way through August. When I pick the berries I cut the cluster of berries and remove the berries from the little stems. The stems and unripe berries can cause a digestive upset. I am freezing my ripe berries until I have enough to make a batch of elderberry syrup.

Harvested Elderberries

Elderberries have many benefits. In Israel, Hadassah’s Oncology Lab has determined that elderberry stimulates the body’s immune system and they are treating cancer and AIDS patients with it. The wide range of medical benefits (from flu and colds to debilitating asthma, diabetes, and weight loss) is probably due to the enhancement of each individual’s immune system.   For more information click here.

Click here for a recipe for elderberry syrup.

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