Autumn and the Herb Garden

I cannot believe it’s the first week of Autumn here, summer seems to gone so fast! We have had a very dry summer, officially reaching drought conditions a month ago and there have been fires in our area this summer for the first time in quite a few years. With Autumn comes the dying off of the garden and I have been busy preserving all the herbs as they also reach their end. This year we extended the herb garden with our last ornamental garden pulled out and planted. I LOVE the herb gardens and learning more about their uses – love cooking with them, using them in soaps and herbal creams and skincare….I still have much to learn but I really enjoy it! This year we have had Mint, Soapwort, Parsley, Feverfew, Nasturtiums, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Peppermint, Comfrey, Basil, Lemon Verbena, Echinacea, Rosemary, Tarragon, Calendula, Thymes, Oregano, Don Quai, Sage and Chives and I have also been collecting wild plants and weeds like Borage, Dandelion, California Poppy, Plantain etc. I don’t grow Lavender yet but I will next year. With a friend down the road with a lavender hedge and a sister with a lavender farm there seems little need right now to grow it.

French Tarragon

French Tarragon

I love using these fresh but need them throughout the year so I have been drying them all, the kitchen herbs are in jars in the pantry, the ones I use for soaps etc stored in many paper bags and boxes.

Chamomile

Chamomile

Last week while out picking Sage and Rosemary I had the great? idea of trying smudge sticks (I am all fingers and thumbs so found these a little fiddly to begin with) A quick look on-line gave me the instructions and these are my first attempts. One thing worth noting if you ever decide to try them – they shrink ALOT. Don’t tie off your ends of string as you will probably need to re-tie them but these are lovely to make and smell gorgeous.

Smudge

Smudge

What can be made from the herb garden excites me and if you have ever thought you would like to grow and experiment with them I urge you to do it – I read about them for years but never really did much about it, they are beautiful to use.

Herbal toner

Herbal toner

 

Dandelion & Calendula

Dandelion & Calendula

I am sorry to see the end of the herb growing season and have been rushing to dry everything….the poor garden is looking rather empty now….tomorrow I will be taking all the basil and making pesto to freeze. I also like to freeze fresh herbs in olive oil in ice cube trays, rosemary, basil and oregano are nice done this way. I had plans to make some seasoned salts too but they are at least dried and I can do this later in the season when not so busy. It’s also a time of seed saving though early days yet.

The front porch seat where things are put to dry

The front porch seat where things are put to dry

Mid January we went away for the weekend and passed through the city where the lovely Gallivanta lives (a fellow blogger) She had told me to drop in if we were down that way as she had a book for me. She had two as it happened and they are lovely ones too 🙂 I very much appreciated them and though I haven’t had time to sit and read too much I know through Autumn and winter I will have my nose stuck in these!

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AND, though I really didn’t need the extra work and had to think long and hard about it I started another blog two days ago to be added to my shop site when I can figure out how to do that. On this blog I have always kept to more frugal ideas and recipes but this new one has the recipes for what I sell. Two reasons for doing this…they are nice! and they also show the work and expense that goes into making nice products for sale. Though not exactly cheap to make many use flowers, herbs, weeds and wildflowers so if you are interested in making your own skincare and home products I invite you to follow me here https://www.tumbleweedsnaturals.wordpress.com/  – It is VERY new and you will recognise a couple of recipes I have shared here at quarteracre.

 

 

A Herbal/Floral Facial Toner

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This recipe is adapted from The Queen of Hungary’s Water recipe I found in a book of herbal beauty recipes Earthly Bodies, Heavenly Hair written by Dina Falconi. It has the most gorgeous herbal recipes in and I can recommend it, I downloaded it from The Kindle service at Amazon.

Doing a search on this tells me the water was firstly created for Queen Elizabeth of Hungary in the 1300’s, other sources believe it to have been created by gypsies but whatever the folklore surrounding it, it is a most beautiful thing to use. There are many variations on-line so it’s easy to actually just adapt using whatever grows in the garden. Though Dina Falconi suggests it’s use for Normal/Oily Skin I have Dry/Mature skin and I really like using this. It leaves skin feeling fresh, dewy and soft.

You will need Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, Witch Hazel, Lavender Essential Oil (optional) and your selected herbs and florals. This quantity makes around 6 x 100 gram bottles which may be too much for the average woman to use but you get the idea of the technique.

Basically you infuse your herbs and petals in raw organic cider vinegar and leave to sit for up to two months. Other recipes have suggested 2 weeks…I left mine for 6 weeks. I used around 2 handfuls of Lavender flowers and leaf, Calendula petals, Rose petals, Violet leaf and flowers, Sage, Comfrey, Chamomile, Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Peppermint and a little lemon zest.

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Pack into a preserving jar and pour vinegar over, seal and leave to sit. After 6 weeks you have some faded herbs and a very astringent smell.

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Strain the liquid through fine muslin (or similar) squeezing to get all the liquid out. Measure and add an equal quantity of Witch Hazel. Add some Lavender Essential oil to suit, I only added around 15 drops to this quanity of liquid. Bottle, it will keep for “many” months though I am not sure how many that means. (Don’t pour it into a jar that previously contained Pickled Garlic as I did with the amount I put aside for me!) Use a cotton wool ball to apply.

I love this recipe, nice to make and lovely to use.

 

California Poppy and a Salve Recipe

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As each new plant springs back to life in the garden, or our surrounding area, I have been researching it to check it’s possible use in soaps….my latest one in California Poppy and I have found some interesting information I thought I would share here plus a recipe I have used it in, a wound balm. I have been using it on a skin irritation I have had for ages and it’s very soothing and gentle, far more so than the lemon balm one which is quite rich.

I am not a herbalist so any info comes from the knowledge of others, this I found on ChineseHerbs.org  “The chemical structure of California poppy allows the plant to influence neurotransmitters in the human brain without depressing the central nervous system. The plant is a mild sedative, and although it is a relative of Opium poppy, it is not an opiate; thus, it does not cause dependence. Such action of the plant makes it safe to be used even in children. Along with the improvements in the physical and psychological state of a patient, California poppy has also antimicrobial properties, which explains its use as a topical remedy in the treatment of various skin conditions. It is said to be very helpful in cases of mild muscle spasms, cramps, pain of different origin, headaches, anxiety, irritability, nervousness and insomnia, may improve intellectual capacity, memory, and concentration, especially in the elderly. Topical poultices of the plant’s leaves serve as effective means to heal cuts and scrapes. The fresh root applied directly to the tooth soothes toothache”

I also found this on drschwaderer.wordpress.com which has some really nice information on it including ” ….California poppy stabilizes the golden light of the heart, encouraging more self-responsibility and quiet inner development”

Now this sounds like something I could use so I am going to start drinking it as tea (in fact I added some to my smoothie this morning)….who knows I could just end up with a lighter heart, better memory and concentration, be less irritable and have improved intellectual capacity!! I need all those things. I haven’t found any contraindications for myself but anyone who does want to try this needs to research for themselves.

I find it useful to know what different herbs and flowers do, it makes sense to me to try what Nature has provided, rather than over the counter drug and I always get a sense of wellbeing when preparing and using herbs, flowers and weeds for different ailments.

Wound healing Balm:

Last year I made a Lemon Balm and Calendula Balm from a recipe I found At Ecocrazymum but her site no longer exists so I can’t give a link of source. I adapted it and used Comfrey, California Poppy and Calendula. Any 1 of these is a wound healing plant and would be fine on it’s own but I had all 3 on hand. Comfrey promotes fast healing, California Poppy is an analgesic and the lovely Calendula soothes, calms and heals.

First the olive oil needs to be infused with the qualities of the plants and this can either been done by heating gently in a double boiler or slow cooker for an hour  then leaving to cool, or by combining both in a jar and leaving on a windowsill in the sun for two weeks…I already had the oils made up. Strain through a strainer then once again through fine cloth to filter any finer particles.

2 cups of plant infused oil (made from 2 cups olive oil, 3/4 cup dried plant)

1/2 cup of beeswax

3 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbspn shea butter

5 drops tea tree oil

5 drops lavender oil

Melt the oils and beeswax together gently until just melted. Add the essential oils and pour into clean tins/jars to set. This will last up to 2 years and make around 3 cups.

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Feverfew… a powerful anti-inflammatory

At the beginning of the year I did a post about making Feverfew Tincture for my migraines. I hadn’t had any all year and after I had made it I put it in the bathroom cupboard and never brought it out again until 3 days ago. I was having a most awful day with my Fibromyalgia, sore shoulder, jaw, hip, elbow – all my right side ached. I happened across an article about Feverfew being a good anti-inflammatory, especially good for not only migraines (it’s great!) but also for arthritis etc. I tried it, it’s not nice but certainly not revolting and it worked better than anything on the market I have ever taken. Within an hour after taking 2 tsp alot of my pain had subsided and it hasn’t come back nearly so badly after taking 6 tsp of the tincture a day (double the recommended) So, I thought I would share this again today with the instructions and find a bit more information to go with it.

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Method: Take 300 grams of feverfew plant and cover with vodka. Leave for two weeks shaking daily. After 2 weeks remove the Feverfew squeezing all the liquid out, cap and store in dark place. Take 3 tsp a day.

Feverfew can also be drunk as a tea of boiling water over fresh leaves or as I used to have it, in a salad sandwich. Feverfew capsules can be purchased from health stores but the plants are cheap to buy and self seed with abandon, our grows in all sorts of nooks and crannies. I used to take in for the terribles migraines I used to get every few days but they disappeared completely after many years.

Feverfew

More can be found about Feverfew and it’s uses as a tonic for nervous complaints, migraines, arthritis, sore feet and as a pyrethrum rich insect repellent in this article at Altnature. Also here at Natural News. Feverfew should not be used by pregnant woman and I am not a qualified herbalist – and it nearly goes without saying of course any herb should be researched before use!

Golden Yogini Milk

I love Chai Lattes, there is a place I go once a week for the best ever Spicy Chai Latte and I had decided to try making them for myself. I have been experimenting with recipes online but none of them come close to it for flavour.

When I saw this recipe I thought I would try because of the turmeric, it’s very good for the pain of fibromyalgia. Apparently this drink is great for a peaceful sleep but I have been having it mid-morning. I added ginger and a small amount of honey and THIS is well and truly as good as satisfying as my special chai lattes.

Turmeric is a great anti-inflammatory, it also is good for lifting spirits and calming anxiety. Don’t let the turmeric put you off trying this, it doesn’t taste at all like curry in this drink 🙂 I altered the recipe a little the second time around to make a bit spicier….to suit my tastes. I also raised the amount of coconut oil in this as I have been trying to incorporate more in my diet in small ways.

The original recipe comes from Katie Silcox and she calls this her Guardian Angel Medicine. She also discusses the merits of drinking this, Ayurvedic medicine and plant allies. Check out her lovely blog, her post and comments on this soothing, very moreish hot drink. I would probably suggest making her version first and seeing if this is spicy enough for you.

Any option to dairy milk will work with this.

Golden Yogini Milk:

1 tsp coconut oil

1 1/2 tsp turmeric

1/3 tsp ground cardamom

1/3 tsp cinnamon

1/3 tsp ground ginger

pinch nutmeg

1 cup milk

1/2 tsp honey (optional, to taste)

Melt the oil gently in a pan. Once melted add the spices and stir through. Once you can smell the spices add the milk and stir well. Bring to the boil. Remove from heat and pour into a blender. Blend for 20 seconds. NOTE: You will not want to leave the vent covered because of the steam (I had a nasty burn years ago from doing this) Cover loosely with a cloth instead. The resulting drink is rich, frothy and deliciously fragrant and spicy.

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Growing Chamomile from a Teabag

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I have been reading a fantastic book on home remedies written by James Wong. He has a wonderful blog and I found this which I thought was great (the picture above is stolen from there!)

” ….all you need to get started is a fresh (i.e. unused) chamomile tea bag, which – if you are a fan of chamomile – may well already be sitting in your kitchen cupboard. You don’t need to use the fancy ones in the picture either, really any brand of chamomile tea still within its use-by date should still work” Read more

Growing our own food – frugal food, self reliance and the learning of new/old skills.

Things are so tough for many out there right now and it heartens me to see so many young ones returning to the habits of older generations, growing some of their own food. This may end up a long post for regular readers who have heard it all before but this is for those who are thinking maybe they would like to try for a garden, or grow on what they are already doing.

When we moved here there was just lawn and we shopped like everyone else. This was 3 months after we moved in, a wee vegetable garden had been put in (bottom corner) Excuse the dead branches by the house, this was Roger thinning out a dead vine!

IMG_0033 Our garden has grown over the years but it was only last summer we decided to really go for it and see how far we could go with “eating from our section”. This has been a journey of learning self reliance….one thing leads to another and formally frugal habits have been replaced by simple living, making our own cleaning mixtures, less chemical exposure, an appreciation for nature and our environment, searching for more free foods, the trading and sharing of our excesses and helping others.last summer

So, here where we are now (actually taken last summer).

We are fortunate that Roger works on a farm and can get meat – for those of you who can’t work in farming though it’s all relative, he earns a low wage, the meat is counted in with it. I don’t eat alot of meat and basically no-one needs to eat alot of it. Much of our diet can be grown at home with eggs, vegetable, fruits and berries….nuts if you are lucky enough to have a large section. Our diet comes from a garden that’s probably 1/8 acre. This is why we do it, this was my shopping last week for two people.

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I already had 2 bottles of milk in the fridge bought the week before on special. The avocados were cheap so I got 10. The spices and seals were for preserving. The wee tins of fish are for me. We can’t grow bananas. Roger prefers this brand of softened butter opposed to the butter/olive oil blend I make sometimes. Dates, raisins and raw peanuts are healthy additions to our diet. Basics like sugar, flour, vinegar etc are bought in bulk. The bread is Rogers favourite. Few of these things are necessities, but desires. I also had cheese already, and a little coffee I bought up on special. Just about everything I buy is bought in bigger quantities when on special eg the avocados here. I also don’t show the pet food here.

Seeds and buckwheat are bought from the bulk store and I will go every week or two and stock up on stuff like this…coconut, brown rice, dried beans, baking soda etc.

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This is basically our shopping for the week…things like toilet paper and soap are purchased in bulk when cheap. We spend on average around $40 – $60 per week on our food and some weeks all we buy is milk. A few years ago our Health Dept put our a brochure for shopping on a low income and it was estimated $70 per person is the least a person could live on foodwise in NZ and this would be for a very basic diet, nowhere near as healthy as we eat.

Garden produce is either frozen, pickled, bottled or made into sauces, jams, chutneys…or boozy drinks! An old disused laundry has been crudely converted into a store room, a would be larder…(note the earthquake proof shelving as last year alot of bottles and jars just slid off shelves)

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I still have a couple of months preserving to go then the majority of our food is stored for the remainder of the year. In fact, we could survive from our food stores and garden etc until next summer (9 months) if need be…and still be healthy.

I sometimes also make white bread for Roger and freeze some, three loaves can be made for $1.80.Image

Every few weeks I am tempted to buy something like this – a deli pack the supermarket sells cheap. This all cost $7.95 and their are foods we don’t get…salami, ham, quiches so I don’t have to cook tea a couple of nights. All of this can be frozen. Served with salad they all make a good meal for those nights Wendy doesn’t  be bothered  cooking / making her own quiche or Roger would just like toasted sandwiches for a change.

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 Again these are just desires.

Truly we could survive from our garden if need be. We preserve summer fruits and vegetables to eat through winter. We preserve nice things to eat because we can, because they add variety, nutrition, a taste of summer through the cold months. If we wanted we could just freeze everything but we make our preserves because we appreciate the flavours on what could otherwise be quite a limited winter diet.

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 Sharing food with others means they share in return. These pears and oranges came from friend, lemons we pick from an unowned tree down the street. These apples came from a wild tree by the farm.Image

At present I am doing a juice, salad and soup detox so am living on vegetables from the garden, along with dried beans/legumes and feeling good for it on the third week. I am not starving to death and am surviving well 🙂

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Eggs supply alot of nutrition and with eggs and vegetables you always have a meal.

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We also just got bees to get our own honey….this lasts forever, is a healthier alternative to sugar and the bees will help pollinate the fruit etc.

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To put food, our shopping habits and what we really need to survive into perspective, I like this. The healthiest and happiest looking people I think are those from Mali who have (by comparison to western diets) a very basic diet sitting in front of them.

What people eat in different countries around the world

We grow herbs in the garden too, these can be used fresh, dried, used for skincare or remedies. I am still learning about the use of herbs and do not get enough time to really get into it but herbalism really interests me, I have a whole lot of learning to do in this area!

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Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

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I recently bought a book on foraging in NZ and what wild weeds, herbs, fruits etc can be used and the making of medicines etc. This I found at a secondhand book store for $2.50, a quick flick through tells me I will be reading this avidly over autumn and winter to learn from. Besides personal interest in this sort of thing I have to say this – I am not convinced the economy will pick up any time soon, things could get alot harsher for everyone, us included. We believe it is our responsibility to be able to fend for ourselves if need be. Basic necessities in life are food, warmth and shelter…you have to add water. Many are living now on social security and benefits because of the high unemployment rates and existing poverty by the new working poor, so many in fact it is not sustainable.

Another depression or war would force so many to find food where they can. W want to learn how to survive if the need be. Sounds terribly pessimistic but I’d rather be knowledgeable than naive or ignorant if the “shit should ever hit the fan”.

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This month I have been doing an e-course I won through another blogger, Lois, at Living Simply Free . The course has been really interesting and was offered through Handcrafted Travellers. This young couple are very inspiring and have a great ethos, that of living off the land. I am ashamed to say I have not finished the reading but have it all stored to do so, I have just simply been too busy but I feast off their site!

In this course we have learned about embracing simplicity, experiencing quality v quantity, resistance and learning to say “No”, chemical free cleaning, getting rid of plastics, herbal beauty, handcrafted and natural clothing, learning new skills, earthing, the importance of Vit D, limiting technology for your health and wellbeing…in general self reliance and living in harmony with nature. They have a beautiful site and have much of interest to say, they also run many courses.

Another blogger I follow and whose post I recommend here is Rohan from Whole Larder Love. Read here how he jackhammered through concrete slabs to start his garden and honestly, this guy has a lovely blog…he lives off the land, fishes, hunts, runs classes and sells his vegetables. Also very inspiring.

We also practice self reliance in other areas too, which will be the subject of another post to come, this is already too long!

And so, after 15 – 18 months, this is where we are at 🙂 I will stress here, we are not feeling we deprive ourselves of anything. If we want it we will buy it, we enjoy the food we eat, I cook really nice meals and we like the fact it costs us so  little.