Ward House

A move

After much thought and consideration, and since I have regained control of the original Ward House on blogger, I am moving back to that platform, cycling a new password every so often.  The lure of creative freedom is too much.  =)

Please follow me there!

July 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Little ‘black’ jewels

IMG_1814Yesterday eve my neighbor gifted us with 1/2 gal of blackberries.  Since it was late in the evening, and energy was waning,I smooshed then cooked these for about 30 minutes.  These smooshed goodies then spent the night in a cheese cloth lined sieve so all the juice would drain into the bowl and I could do something else with the seeds and such.

Did you know that a 1/2 gal of blackberries will yield about 3/4 pint of juice?  After work today I hope to pick more of these little purple/pink jewels.  Any suggestions on what to create with both the juice and the ‘leavings?  If the hens were already here, a ‘what to make with the leavings?’ would not have been asked; my ladies would have devoured them last night.

Our regular garden continues to struggle and produce, despite the high heat and low water.  The last few evenings have seen some rain, though not enough to make up for the deficit.  Some is better than none, eh?

I hope to be out in the garden this eve (unless it rains again).  Cross your fingers.  I’ll take rain any night, without complaint!

July 23, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, self sufficiency | | 2 Comments

Tincture & Salves

Wednesday night, before heading out to class, the plan was to harvest yarrow for a salve.  Instead I harvested plantain from the yard.  When my girls inquired, they commented on how odd it was that I was picking ‘bananas’.  Next came the explanation of which kind of plantain was being harvested.

These were cleaned and allowed to dry while I was away.  Ronnie is so good natured.  He was coming home from work as I was headed to class; I asked him to ignore the bag and colander of ‘weeds’ that were on the counter. Sadly, he is not susceptible to the Jedi hand wave thingy and instead I got the ‘omg, what have you brought into the kitchen now’ look.  I could just squeeze his cheeks!  (Sorry honey.  Had to say it!)

My original Yarrow salve idea came from two tutorials found here.  Currently plantain is brewing, perhaps tonite, along with blackberry picking, I’ll get some yarrow started.

How To Make An Herbal Tincture

Harvest the herb in its proper season (refer to herb-specific material for that time). Tear or chop herb parts into about one inch pieces. Pack very tightly into a glass jar to the top. Fill jar to the top again with 80 proof or higher alcohol, brandy or vodka. Fill again in a couple days, to the top. Let steep for 6 weeks or more. Decant into another jar by pouring off and squeezing liquid out of herb material through cheesecloth. Thank the plant for its uses and compost it. Label and date your jar of tincture.

How To Make An Herbal Oil and Salve

Harvest the herb just as in tincture-making but dry it for a day or so out of sunlight. Tear or cut the herb into one inch pieces and pack tightly into a jar, to the top. Fill the jar to the top with oil (cold pressed, organic olive, coconut or other oil). In a couple days, fill again to the top if some oil has soaked in. Keep a lid on the jar and let it sit on a plate in the sun for six weeks, no more. Some oil will seep out. Check for mold and scrape off as needed. After six weeks, decant the oil into a jar and squeeze any oil out of the herb material through cheesecloth. Thank the plant and compost it.
To make a salve, take a bit of beeswax (1/2 to 1 t.) and melt it on the stove. Take it off the heat, stir in the herbal oil and pour immediately into your salve container. It will set. Adjust beeswax amount to desired consistency and re-do if needed.

When I arrived home, Ronnie commented on how much his thumb was hurting; a box cutter slice to the nail line of his thumb.  I immediately went out, grabbed some yarrow leaves and band-aid’d these to his cut.  Have I mentioned how thankful I am to have such a patient, kind man?  So here he sits at the kitchen table, with a bandaged thumb that has leaves sticking out of the top and bottom of the band-aid.  Wish I had taken a picture.  He even put a piece in his nose to see if it would actually cause a nose bleed.  No blood, no pain relief.  Hmmm.  My theory is that the leaf is better used to create a salve which will coat the wound.  *giggles*

Previously I wrote about using lard to make a salve.  A discussion from first aid class had me rethink this.  Using butter or lard on, say, a burn is not a good idea as it helps to trap the heat and make the injury worse.  That burning feeling you get after a burn means that tissue damage is still occurring.  Lots of cold water first and then aid cream and a sterile bandage.  So I have to ask those that are familiar with using lard in salves, what have you seen heard about using animal fat in a first aid treatment; does it go rancid easily?  Beeswax would be good; around here, lard is easier to find.

What do you suggest?

July 22, 2010 Posted by | family, herbs, recipes, self sufficiency | , , , , | Leave a comment

Roving

Nope, not wandering; roving.  Crochet and knitting are what helps to keep me sane in my crazy scheduled, kids, world.  There is something meditative about the stitches and watching something useful and pretty emerge from the ball of twist.   When it is too wet to be in the garden, this is where you will find me.  Must be something tactile, yes?

I follow Phat Fiber and they have constant giveaways, many of which involve Rovings.  What is Roving?

a soft strand of fiber that has been twisted, attenuated, and freed of foreign matter preparatory to its conversion into yarn.

At Saturday’s farmers market, the local alpaca farm had different colored rovings for sale; the creamy white was $5 a bag.  I snatched up two in hopes of learning to make my own yarn to knit more socks.  They had yarn for sale but at $20 a ball I figured a little labor wouldn’t hurt me.  In case you are interested, the chocolate-brown was $7/bag and black $9/bag.

So back to the creamy white roving.  I do not have a spindle and have read several posts on how to make your own.   There is considerable debate on which is the preferred method to learn – a top or bottom drop spindle.  Since Ronnie was not in a wood working mood this weekend, I made a drop spindle crafted from two cds, a dowel, rubber grommet and a blind well nut.  Mine looks like the one in this picture (compliments of the link). 

One of the better videos I found to help teach spinning is this one:

Yes, this seems like a lot to fit into an already hectic schedule – welcome to my therapy!!  It does not travel as well as a project; however, the resulting product will.

Do any of you spin?  If so, any tips for a noob?

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Crafting, self sufficiency | , , | Leave a comment

Glorious raspberries

In my solitude, I have not been idol.  This evening, while Ronnie was bowling and the girls were out with friends, I went to pick raspberries with my neighbor, Pat; we each walked away with a bucket full.  Now I am back to IMG_1807 where I was a few days ago – what to do with all these raspberries.  Pat is going to use a freezer jam recipe.  I am conflicted on whether to make jam or syrup.

The recipe I decided to use is this one from Epicurious:

  • 4 cups (1 liter) granulated sugar
  • 4 cups (1 liter) raspberries

Now here I just used 2 cups of sugar to 4 cups of raspberries.  In the reviews, others found the 4 cups to be a bit much.

1. Place sugar in an ovenproof shallow pan and warm in a 250°F (120°C) oven for 15 minutes. (Warm sugar dissolves better.)

2. Place berries in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a full boil over high heat, mashing berries with a potato masher as they heat. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

3. Add warm sugar, return to a boil, and boil until mixture will form a gel (see tips, below), about 5 minutes.

4. Ladle into sterilized jars and process as directed for Shorter Time Processing Procedure .

What I found most interesting is what is next. . . IMG_1808

To determine when the mixture will form a gel, use the spoon test: Dip a cool metal spoon into the hot fruit. Immediately lift it out and away from the steam and turn it horizontally. At the beginning of the cooking process, the liquid will drip off in light, syrupy drops. Try again a minute or two later — the drops will be heavier. The jam is done when the drops are very thick and two run together before falling off the spoon.

“The intensity of this jam is due to the fact that it has no added fruit pectin,” says Topp. Adding pectin helps the jam jell, but necessitates more sugar, which dilutes the natural flavor of the fruit. Making jam without added pectin requires more careful cooking (see notes about the spoon test, above), but the extra effort pays off in a deliciously old-fashioned, fruity product.

It was in the comments where someone said that raspberries have natural pectin – in the seeds. That is a claim I’ll need to research.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

IMG_1813*UPDATE*  I believe this needs to boil longer and reduce down.  Mine is a syrup, which is fine ’cause that is what I was hoping for.  Using a sieve, some of the seeds were removed and, in hindsight, more will be removed next time.  No worries though – great stuff!

July 21, 2010 Posted by | Canning, recipes | , , , | 2 Comments

Cordials are brewing

Yesterday, Kathie inspired me with her cordial comments; so much so that before heading out to class I started two cordials, raspberry and one with lemon balm and lavender.  The lemon balm is only a half pint as the heat has caused the lavender blooms to turn brown (don’t think I’ve ever seen this happen before) and mint bugs have been munching on the lemon balm (planted next to).  No pix, sorry.  The recipes I am using can be found on the right side column under Must Remembers titled *Hic.

This morning, Ronnie harvested three cherry tomatoes from the garden – yippee!  This is a hybrid plant so there can be no seed saving – these little fruits are pretty.  And tasty.  Again, no pictures.  With classes consuming much of my time, garden time has been not as frequent as I would like.  The next semester, that begins the latter part of August, will have mostly at home studies thus allowing more time outside while the sun is shining and then study time inside when the sun sets.  Potatoes have not done much this year and we are not sure why – a load of manure, tilled under and allowed to sit over the winter, will correct many of our gardening challenges (or so I believe); dill is blooming, beans growing, grapes ripening, etc.

While on the cordial kick, JoyceAnn of Feather Spirits introduced this next website to me.  Her article about plantain reminded me that we have a slew of this herb growing in the yard and… I believe I can make some salve.  This recipe seems easy enough:

Healing salve: In large non-metallic pan place 1lb. of entire Plantain plant chopped, and 1 cup lard, cover, cook down on low heat till all is mushy and green. Strain while hot, cool and use for burns, insect bites, rashes, and all sores. Note: used as night cream for wrinkles.

Walmart carries lard; perhaps I can snag some this weekend.  Why not now, you ask?  Cause tomorrow we are headed out on the bike to ride; no particular destination, just ride and stop when we are ready.  Other bikes are joining us so it will not be quite as spontaneous as if Ronnie and I were going solo, still be a nice, cheap get-away.  We will return on Sunday, about the time when the girls are returning from spending a week with their dad.   I hope to have more soon, including my current knitting project.  Perhaps a delayed post for tomorrow or over the weekend.

July 15, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, Gardening, herbs, recipes | , , , , | 1 Comment

The hazards of berry picking

Nothing serious – just very damp.  Originally I was going to sit through the Board of Stupervisors meeting and realized that my patience was very thin and sitting through that circus would be hazardous to the health and well being of others. Remember, this was not the meeting to discuss Dollar General, just to set the meeting in which to discuss Dollar General. I snagged Odis and went berry picking.

IMG_1714 The first thicket had been picked over and I left the remaining berries for the birds and other critters.  I had left Odis in the truck with the windows down so he could hang out but not jump out; cows were pastured in this field (not always the case) and I was afraid that he would chase them and someone would end up hurt.  While perusing this thicket, a storm rolled up and sheets of rain began falling.  In my bolt for the car, I saw all the young cows hanging out by the truck, trying to figure out just what it was and who was inIMG_1715 there.  I think they thought I was hauling hay.  Odis was just sitting in the seat, no barking, waiting for my return.  On the way home I came across a thicket that was AMAZING!  Not wearing the right kind of clothes (boots, jeans, short sleeves, no gloves) to climb the side of this mini mountain, I had to snag what I could easily reach; the fruit just fell off the clusters into my bucket.  Four cups worth ought to be enough to make some fruit syrup, right?

There are several good looking recipes online; what I’d like to know is what works for you.  Is there a recipe that you just love?  If so, please post a link to your blog or just post the recipe.

I cannot wait to read what tasty treasures  you have to share!

July 14, 2010 Posted by | self sufficiency | , , , | 4 Comments

Crystal bowls and a repurposed jumper

Class last night was amazing.  Our instructor purchased a set of crystal singing bowls and brought them to class for us to check out.  One of my classmates was smitten; sound therapy is a modality he wants to pursue.  Amazing is all I can say.  My other classmate and I could feel the sound circling us – almost palpable; it definitely lifted the funk cloud that has surrounded me for these last few weeks.

Some excerpts from this site:

Everything that moves vibrates, from the smallest molecule to the universe itself. As long as it is vibrating, it is making some kind of sound. We may not perceive the sound, as it may be below or above the threshold of our hearing. The human ear can hear sound vibrations between 20 and 20,000 cycles per second, although we also perceive sound by skin and bone conduction, ingesting and consuming it with the whole body.

and

Scientific studies show that sound can produce changes in the autonomic, immune, endocrine and neuropeptide systems. Every atom, molecule, cell, gland, and organ of the human body absorbs and emits sound. The entire body, as well as our brain waves in a relaxed state, vibrates at a fundamental frequency of about 8 cycles per second, literally entraining and attuning us to the basic electromagnetic field of the earth itself!

There is much information online about sound therapy and, after class yesterday, I can say there is something to it.  Yes, this goes against conventional medicine and, the disclaimer is that it is not to replace consulting with a medical professional.   I’d love to have my own set of bowls – the sound and feel is just incredible.  I can only imagine the healing that can be done with these beauties!

Rain for the last two days has done immeasurable good for the garden.  It is unreal how a ‘natural’ rain benefits  in ways that a sprinkler cannot.  My boss says that tilling before watering is helpful; that and watering with non chlorinated water (which I have).  I’d love to use a pair of dowsing rods and see if there is a water source, within reasonable drilling distance, on the property.

The Dollar General battle continues with the Board of Stupervisors meeting tonite to set a meeting day to discuss the matter.  Umm.  Have a meeting to set a meeting?  Sounds redundant to me; just have the meeting already.  What gets me is that even if the Board approves the rezoning of this piece of property (which is in the development corridor as determined by said County) does not mean Dollar General can actually build there – ordinances need to be reviewed..  Seems to me that, if the Board is going to hold to their plan, the rezoning would be non issue.

July 13, 2010 Posted by | politics, self sufficiency | , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Burdock

Digging burdock root is very labor intensive or at least when the ground is extremely dry due to the drought.  *whew*  The root I managed to wrestle from the ground looks like those images I found on the web, though mine appears to be very fibrous.  I wonder if that is because the ground is so dry.

At the moment, precious moisture is falling from the sky – if I were at home, instead of work, I’d be out dancing in it –  and bringing in the garlic that I left to dry under the grape arbor!  Eek gads.  It should be alright, yes?

July 12, 2010 Posted by | self sufficiency | , | Leave a comment

Pickled Burdock

Who doesn’t have this weed herb growing in the side or back yard?  Yes, some have maticulous gardens/yards – I am not one of those.  Growing weeds herbs outside is easy, it is when I bring them inside that the challenge begins.

Anyway, I was looking for ways to take advantage of this prolific herb and found this recipe for pickled burdock!  Pickling things is easy, assuming you can wait to open the jar.

Instructionsburdock_leaves_spring

Things You’ll Need:
  • 3 lbs. burdock root
  • 3/4 cup salt
  • 7 1/2 cups water
  • Saucepan
  • 3 cups vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 slices of ginger
  • Canning jars
  1. Collect your fresh burdock root by foraging for it in the wild. The root can also be found in health food stores or Asian markets.
  2. Use a sharp knife to remove the rough skin from the burdock. Slice the root at an angle into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Set the root pieces aside.
  3. Mix the salt and water in your pan over low heat. Let the salt dissolve, and then pour it over the burdock until it is completely covered.
  4. Let the burdock sit in the salted water for 24 hours.
  5. Drain and rinse the burdock under cold water.
  6. Sterilize jars by filling them half full with water and microwaving them long enough for the water to boil for one minute.
  7. Fill your jars with the burdock root.
  8. In the pan, slowly bring the vinegar, garlic, and ginger to a boil over low heat.
  9. Fill the jars with the brine until the burdock root is completely covered.
  10. Cover and store your pickled burdock in a dark, cool place for a month before opening the jar. Your pickled burdock can be stored for up to a year.

There are many recipes online for cooking burdock root.  If I can dig some up, I’ll show you what it looks like.  Have you used burdock root before?

July 11, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, Gardening, herbs, recipes, self sufficiency | , , , | 4 Comments

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