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.

 

 

Soooo busy, a short post….

The last few weeks have been way too busy! I am a casual at work, with twelve on the staff we have been managing on 6 of us the past few weeks at a workplace that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week there has just been way too much of it for this young lady 😦 But it’s nearly at an end I hope as I haven’t been able to get back to the markets with my soaps until today. Roger came with me, I think he got sick of my moaning about being too tired to do it 🙂 🙂 I spent 9 hours yesterday packaging for pressies – I finally gave in and bought a cheap printer to make my own papers bought as digital from Etsy (very cheap!)IMG_4249 I got Happy Mail 2 weeks ago and haven’t had time to share but here tis 🙂 A most beautiful Christmas Bunting from the lovely TeddyandTottie who ran a giveaway and then decided everyone should have one!

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And here on my wall where it is the only thing of Christmas I have managed to do so far… and it’s beautiful. Thank you T&T xxx

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Other than that we have been attempting to catch up on the garden, weeding and watering and picking a sack of Broad Beans for freezing. IMG_4239

Did anyone else’s mother used to cook these till they were hard, dark grey and utterly revolting? Does anyone else have memories of sitting at the table till they finished their dinner….of hours spent looking at hard grey lumps on their plate? Once traumatised by these things I now love them.

Other than that the onions are harvested, the raspberry glut has started with a vengeance and we borrowed a still today to make more vodka for berry liqueurs – considering how quickly I drank them last year I am going to need ALOT more this time around!

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I hope you are all enjoying the start of the festive season 🙂

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!

Times are a’changing at Quarteracre!

All the best laid plans! We had a 3 year plan for what we wanted to do here but they have just become 3 month plans as Roger quit his job today, he finishes at the end of next week. No, he didn’t get the job he went for but he sorely needed to because he has had well and truly enough of his present one. I could go into the ins-and-outs but no need or desire to.

So our three year plan was 1) Wendy wants to make her soaps and stuff and sell them – she is on plan for this. 2) Within 3 – 6 months have the property set up for private precious pup boarding – we can have 3 at a time but only want two. 3) We ideally would like to earn an income from funked up junk but never get time to actually settle to this – the plan was for Roger to go down to part-time work in a year or so to help achieve this and hopefully open a cottage shop in 3 years at our home. Well…….!

Roger will be unemployed next week and I will continue to work part time, he will advertise to get contact work locally, just part-time AND h-o-p-e-f-u-l-l-y between us we can earn enough to pay the bills 🙂 We have food and are pretty skilled at living on little! Roger is well known in the area for his ability to kill gorse which I hate because it’s spraying chemical all day but it’s needed here, it’s the right season and we are hoping he can get enough odd farm work to get us through. He could go out and look for full time work but we have decided maybe we should just back ourselves and have confidence our plans will work for us. I shall keep you posted! lol I know it seems crazy in today’s climate but at the end of the day we want to make our place work for us and be our own bosses…that’s what we want.

A website will be set up for us and off we go, into the wide open… and unknown!

This is what I have been doing recently and what our home is starting to look like 🙂

Dandelions, kowhai flowers picked for infusing and forget-me-nots for pressing for packaging

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There are always petals drying in the front window and jars of somethings sitting in the sunlight

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Pansies and forget- me- nots being pressed into a jeweelery making book but how pretty the picture turned out!

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A corner of the hall I just spied

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Trialing Lotion Bars made with beeswax and the Camelia petal infused oil

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Lemon and Poppy Seed Soap, Rose-hip soap and Rosemary, Lavender and Sweet Orange Shampoo Bars

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Mark 11 trial of Rose and Frankincense Moisturiser which is gorgeous 🙂 (Excuse photo quality)IMG_3983

So, within a month or so I hope to be up and running. I have so many ideas I am nearly popping with brilliance lol. But for a girl who actually just likes making these things quietly enjoying her own company and hates being “out there” this is a brave move, one which involves much courage and confidence and feels rather scary, So WISH ME LUCK PLEASE!!!! lol

This Spring…we are scaling back the garden

I love Spring! It’s well and truly here and some of the days have been beautiful.

Roger and I have made a decision that we are going to scale back the garden this Summer and try and grow more year round. I spent much of last Summer and Autumn in the kitchen and fitting in gardening when I could but honestly….I would rather do other things than spend my time in the kitchen and at the end of Autumn I was really weary and grumpy. We grow enough food to feed half the neighbourhood, which is nice but it’s hard work for these fifty-somethings! I don’t want to do so much preserving this summer.

Roger is putting up the other glasshouse soon and we will use both through the late autumn and winter. The garden will remain the same size but we won’t be racing to succession plant this year. Every summer and autumn we grow up to three harvests from the same space, it makes for alot of work and long growing seasons.

He has planted the potatoes, beetroot, carrots, onions, broccolli, cabbage and lettuce. The beans will go in soon. In the glasshouse I have planted seeds for tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and we have a few spinach and lettuce in there and a chilli plant from last summer that is still producing.

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We have been picking chillies throughout winter.

The Strawberries are just being split up and planted everywhere, like the cattle feeder we salvaged 🙂

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I am still working quite alot and this looks set to be the way till at least Christmas at this stage.

I have still been making soap, thinking soap 🙂 Last weekend I went and scrounged Camelia petals and have dried some and the rest is infusing in oil.IMG_3933

I have been looking at different ways of just using natural ingredients for both colour and benefits. On the windowsill is Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Geranium Leaf, Camelia and Calendula petals.IMG_3953

Two batches I have made this week are Chamomile and Calendula. And note…Wendy is practising her photography for if and when she starts selling it 🙂

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Soap making seems to me to be the ideal hobby for gardeners to use some of their herbs and flowers in other ways but food….and maybe, just maybe, a small cottage industry can be created! For all the years I took to eventually try soap making I now think I was mad for being so fearful of it….it’s simple. Just like driving, I didn’t learn how to drive until I met Roger at 9 years ago at 46.

We still have heaps of preserves left to last out till summer, still have heaps of frozen berries and fruit. Last summer I dried some cranberries and used the last of them today (along with some walnuts we still have heaps of)

Cranberry and Walnut Muesli

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Tonight I am going to make dog biscuits using this recipe that Syd likes so much but I will be using pumpkin instead of carrots.

Roger is looking for another job at present and has an interview next week for a building job….he goes between building and farming. This means though if he gets it we will have to give up Syd, he’s a farm dog who belongs to the owner. Gosh we will miss him terribly 😦 We will be left with Mittens, who just loves this huge old bowl I pulled out of the spare room.IMG_3928

Anyway, that’s all my news. I hope Spring is being lovely for you all in NZ and Oz! I have seen photos of gentle snow falling in America, ugh!

DIY Beeswax Food Wraps

Sometimes you see an idea that is so brilliant, so simple, so economical and you have to try it… this is one and gleaned from My Healthy green Family. Her post is so much more colourful than mine with alot more info and also some good comments so I urge you, if you are interested in making these, to check our her post 🙂

My husband is a big user of clingfilm for his lunches and other options have not proved successful. He will take his food packages out on the farm to eat through the day putting the wrap in his pocket when finished, it’s easy for him. I don’t know how many containers he has lost over the years (or lids) when I have tried to get him to use other things. Paper “doesn’t keep bread fresh enough” apparently and rips.

I was rapt to see these and made them today. Simple. The beeswax is cheap to buy from bee owners (I bought these for 50c a block and used 2 1/2) but now we have our own if hubby is happy with these it will be very good. When I started making them and told him he could trial them tomorrow he spoke in that lovely tone men use when humouring their ladies but he had to admit when I was finished they look a good, practical, healthier option.

Preheat oven to 150 deg C. Cut clean cotton cloth (old sheeting is fine) into desired sizes. I had 6 old cotton serviettes I used to trial them – the same colour as the beeswax which was an unfortunate choice to photograph.IMG_3842

Place on baking tray and grate the beeswax onto it, sprinkling it to fully cover.IMG_3843

Place tray in cover for just a few minutes, the beeswax will melt into a fine liquid that will seep down into fabric.

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Use a pastry brush to spread onto areas not quite covered enough if it bubbles. Hang to cool and dry on a clothes airer (just takes few minutes)

Done!

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 Wipeable, waterproof, airtight cloths that can be cleaned in hot soapy water by hand and will last a few months.

Footnote: These got a big thumbs up from my husband who declared “They work brilliant!”