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.

 

 

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Summer lovin’

Hi, I am back 🙂 Working on a new laptop that I hate, Windows 8 sucks by the way, for anybody thinking of buying a new computer! And for anybody waiting on an email reply from me please let me know because some of my emails are disappearing out into the net world never to be seen again I am discovering – I have replied to all! This has been an expensive month after having to replace a laptop, vacuum cleaner, cell phone and repairs to the truck – how glad I am now that I worked all those hours!

We are harvesting from the garden with some great successes this year but also disappointments. We lost all our tomatoes this year, I think my husband was to blame for that one though he is keeping quiet about what he possibly did to them. I have a feeling that the “foliage feed” he used was something else entirely that he knows I wouldn’t have liked him using but he did in error. Our self sewn beetroot that we transplanted out in great rows all failed, a terminator gene maybe? Our strawberries have not done well. But after a few years of failed potato crops because of a bug problem here this year we harvested over 70 kg of beautiful potatoes. The raspberries went crazy and we got over 40 kg with autumns berries already on their way, the beans and zucchini are always great cropping, the blackberries, cranberries, peaches, peppers and chilli will have very good harvests, silverbeet (chard) lettuce and broccoli have all self sewn everywhere for regular picking. The pumpkins are spreading out everywhere again with plenty on. We got heaps of onions, garlic and carrots and have stared replanting empty spaces for autumn. The herb garden is wonderful with another rock garden dug up and planted in herbs (another post!)

After saying I wouldn’t be freezing vegetables this year, I am 🙂 Old habits die hard and it seems stupid not to when you have it lol. Jams and chutneys and being made at the moment, last year I made around 35 jars of our favourite Zucchini Chutney and just used the last of it two weeks ago so will make the same this year. We still have heaps of bottled fruit left from last year and 14 jars of other chutneys Roger wont try so I will be sticking to just the one in future. We ran out of tomato sauce a month ago and the commercial stuff is disappointing in comparison so I will have to buy a mountain of tomatoes to make more.

I have made no liqueurs or wine so far this year, I just haven’t felt motivated to. I have gone back to work doing strictly one day a week plus m on-call shifts which are simply by phone if any issues and occasionally going in to help with something. Roger is still doing 5 days a week but the work is far less demanding physically – I have to say I didn’t realise how exhausted he was and how hard he pushed himself on the farm. He had little desire for the garden but now is back to his old self and out there for hours….it’s tidy again! 🙂

Me, most of what computer time I spend is on the Freeconomy page – we have grown from 130 at the beginning of December to nearly 500. It is working fabulously but there are occasional issues of greed, grabbing, rudeness, a couple of people selling stuff they got free on other pages! People are people and there are all sorts out there, after banning a few we are going great.

I am back to making my soaps and hope to do a market this weekend. I have been busy drying herbs and local weeds/wildflowers for use during the year. How to package them at reasonable cost is always a consideration but I have settled on this, brown paper with a band. Printing whole sheets for wrapping was too expensive.

Anyway, I think this is about as long as it needs to be. I hope others are enjoying their summer, or keeping warm through their winter.

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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The Spring garden and Roger’s new job!

It’s been two weeks since Roger left his job. The day after he handed in his notice of two week I was rung by a friend to ask if Roger would be interested in doing a job for her in his spare time, putting in a new hot water cupboard and a concrete base for her wood stove to be shifted onto in her kitchen. Yes, she could wait two weeks, so that’s what Roger did the first week.

When we decided he should give up his job we felt ok about it, trusted that everything would be ok and he would find something sooner or later, ideally 3 days a week so he would have time here to do what is needed. We trusted but we did have periods of anxiety because that’s not really the practical thing to do nowadays, job security is important. Anyway – while he was doing this work for my friend he wasn’t entirely sure of something so rung an old building workmate for some advice. The guy was off work after an op so called around and while there mentioned Roger’s old boss is always asking him “what’s Roger doing now?” and saying he was a damn good worker. So Roger rung him, they had a discussion and it’s turns out they are building a concrete precast yard in our little town, to build a new winery. Roger spent several years building concrete wineries, this guy said they could really use him, Roger told him he only wanted to work 3 days a week at present, the guy said that is fine and his hourly wage will be 50% higher than it was on the farm! He starts Monday. WE ARE OK, we are better than ok! Serendipidity 🙂

I found this on the net and it seems appropriate and I shall try to remember it.

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He has had a great week getting projects done but I can’t (won’t) show photos right now as he has also created a huge amount of mess everywhere and I have my pride! He has been using some of the scavenged timber to fence off the vegetable garden from the dog. It looks great but the whole back yard is a building site truly representative of Roger’s tendency to create chaos.

He has also been working on the fountain he started around 9 months ago. Done in stone aggregate and hardwood corner trims, he has put two stone hearts in the front. Problem is now though it weighs over 200 kg and he can’t lift it into place on his own.IMG_4068

A few pictures of the front garden

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The vegetable garden is all planted we have (in different stages of growth) potatoes, tomatoes, beans, lettuce, silver beet, spinach, pumpkins, apple cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, chilli, brocolli, cabbage, carrots, leeks, garlic, onions, red onion, beetroot all in. Roger doesn’t bother growing peas anymore because they take up too much room and you don’t get enough food from them according to him and we don’t grow corn because we have it given to us by friends.

Fruit we have growing are strawberries, red and black currants, peaches, cranberries, figs, feijoas, blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries plums (we hope we’ll get some this year along with the apricots) lemon, two newly planted passionfruit, new blueberry and gooseberry plants

Herbs we have are parsley, rosemary, chives, calendula, lemon balm, soapwort, mint, chamomile, peppermint, thyme, comfrey, oregano and basil, sage, feverfew, nasturtium, plantain.  Last year we dug out one of two remaining rock gardens to put in a bigger herb garden and the other one is about to be dug out for more.

Flowers: I have been planting some flowers in gaps around that I want for soaps creams etc. A friend has given me violets and lily of the valley plants, I have been splitting up geranium, planting marigolds and more calendula and a whole lot of sunflowers are going to be planted…somewhere!? It’s California Poppy time and I have been down the riverbed and beaches picking it – did you know it’s very good in wound salves? I made some this afternoon and will share the recipe during the week, along with some information about the uses of California Poppy’s I have found….it’s a handy plant for the medicine cupboard.

This morning we were out and about and I took a wrong turn down a street and ended up outside a scrap metal place that has junk and rubbish everywhere. Sitting in a pile of rubbish was this crate, it had one end broken but the two sides has this stamped on them. I gather it’s a wine crate…anyway, we snatched it and made a quick getaway lol

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I think one side will go on the dining room wall and the other ? Neat though.

I mentioned a while ago I had started a Freeconomy group for our area on Facebook and there is nearly 100 members now. It had been slow for the last month or so but people have started sharing seeds and plants which is great and I spent a good portion of a day last week running around delivering strawberry plants and vegetable seeds. It was nice and it was good to meet so many young people just starting out growing for their families. One person asked for anything spare so she could grow food for her kids and others joined in, it was great to see such alot of sharing happening. I was proud to see my son give away a near new mountain bike he wasn’t using, he thought someone could give it to a kid for Christmas but it was taken very appreciatively by a guy who needed it to get to work. I remember we had a discussion here about the fact some people will take advantage of other’s generosity but it’s proving to be a really worthwhile thing.

Sorry if this has ended up too long!

Rain, rain and more rain

The past 4 days it has just rained. After months of none at all we have quickly become a quagmire in the garden, it’s been cold and miserable.

Garden:

Roger made a feed tray for the chooks from an old paddling pool frame (from his “collection of useful junk”) The fence is really high and a bit awkward for me to undo so I generally tip food over it, ok when it’s dry but not when muddy.Image

Before any bale of peastraw gets to the garden the chooks get to enjoy it for a while, pecking insects out and whatever out.

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Roger has been repotting boysenberry plants that have rooted. Shoots self root and can be cut from the parent plantImage

He took this photo to show me his wonderful compost under his 2 yr old branches left in a pile down the back of the garden.

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This is a carrot he left to go to seed. He hasn’t done this before but instead of collecting them he prepared some earth then shook the large seedheads everywhere. He is hoping they grow this way….?Image

Kitchen:

Shameful bragging – look at the size of our figs this year!! This is a decent sized avocado next to this one.Image

I have been drying any excess as they come in, there is not enough yet to bottle. Figs really only last a day or two before they spoil, we had our first meal of buckwheat pancakes, bacon and honey grilled figs and it was good!!!!Image

Drying herbs at the same timeImage

Making more chutney and a large jar of onions.Image

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I keep a pail of wild bird seed on the porch and mix it with fat left in the roasting tin for the birds, the chooks also love it. This mix costs $7 for a large bag at the supermarket but a local seed and grain place sells it for only $3.30.  Apparently irresistible to a certain cat.Image

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Home:

A month or so ago I wrote a post about thoughts of leaving here. We have each decided we want to stay put 🙂 We’re too old to start over and we are rooted here when it comes down to it 🙂 We have thoughts of how we can earn some income from here but won’t mention those just now, a “one-day plan”. Next weekend, Easter, we are going to repaint the lounge after leaving it undercoated for rather a long time.

This bird’s nest is too tiny to catch a decent photo but we were amused to find it when Roger cut down the trees at the back. In the earthquakes last year our hot water cyclinder burst. We replaced it and Roger pulled the old one to bits to get a most lovely copper inner out. It was insulated with old wool that he put in a sack, this nest was made with some of it 🙂

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This has been sitting on our front porch for ages, my son was going to throw it out. I grabbed it but never did like the black of it and one piece of cane was missing from the front. Image

I got bored the other day and decided to repaint this. Roger plucked a piece of cane from the back of a cane bookcase to fill the gap. I am not doing a great job but it will be better I hope than before…maybe? maybe not 🙂

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Anyway, I think that’s all this week from Quarteracre. Keep warm those in the Southern Hemisphere and enjoy your Spring those in the Northern 🙂