Ward House

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!

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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

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

Red Clover

July is almost half over and I feel as if life has picked up the pace and I am being swept away.  A big bottle of cheap vodka and grand plans for herb tinctures is still a plain bottle of vodka and, well, no tinctures.  *sighs*  I am trying to catch up on blog reading and found Joyce Ann’s post about  making red clover syrup.  I have read other bloggers ‘speak’ of the benefits of red clover and, since is it growing in the side yard, thought I’d try my hand at it.  Joyce Ann is having issues with Blogger so the link to her recipe can be found here.  There are several recipes available on the link page (red clover lemonade, red clover rice, etc); this is the one I want to try:

Red clover blossom syrup

This syrup can be a great Christmas present as it is canned so one can make lots of it. RedClover

Ingredients The main ingredient is 1 quart of red clover blossoms.

Other ingredients are:
1 quart (4 cups) water
4 cups sugar
½ lemon or orange (organic if possible) chopped, peel and all
1 Tbsp beet juice or berry juice (Optional)
Remember: The citrus is optional. Using the citrus will give the syrup an orangey or lemony flavor. In case you want the pure red clover flavor instead, don’t use the citrus. Both ways still make for a fantastic treat.
Preparation
1.) The blossoms and water are put in a pot
2.) They are then simmered gently for 15- 20 minutes and the heat subsequently turned off. Then cover and let sit overnight.
3.) The next day, strain and press liquid out of spent flowers.
4.) Sugar and sliced citrus are then added and heat slowly, stirring now and again for several hours or until reduced to thick syrup that looks like honey.
5.) One can add 1 Tbsp of beet juice or berry juice to help color the syrup as its brownish like maple syrup. (Optional)
6.) Can in ½ pint or 1 pint Jars.
This recipe makes a little more than 1 pint. One can triple or quadruple this and make more than one batch when they are in season to have enough for the whole year.

I am so excited!!

July 10, 2010 Posted by | Canning, herbs, recipes, self sufficiency | , , , | 2 Comments

Important papers

I am fearful that as we drift away, this will be forgotten.  Here is a copy, just in case.

The Constitution of the United States
The Declaration of Independence_ A Transcription

June 29, 2010 Posted by | politics, self sufficiency | , | Leave a comment

A mini rant with some useful information at the end.

Something good happened in our community last night; the planning & zoning committee approved a request to rezone a parcel of land (from R2-B2) on which to build a Dollar General (see picture).  The family of the overpriced grocery store objected, along with a few of the affluent.  Keep in mind that out here, you can pay the inflated prices of the local grocery, drive 30 minutes South to the Walmart and Food Lion or continue driving to Roanoke to Kroger, Ukrops, etc.

Now keep in mind, both the location in question and I live on Route 220, which, before I81, was the main road to states north.  While I81 has taken most of the traffic, it has not re-routed all and 220 is popular for logging tractor trailers headed to the paper mill.  Dollar General was jacked on a request to build this business in a community north of here (Mitchelltown) and I am thankful they are pursuing a different location.

My original draft included more detail from the meeting and, well, I believe it would bore you; small town egos and illogic go a long way to creating an unsustainable community.  Yes,  I live in a logic vacuum; we are doomed to repeat the past.  I am going to fight where I can to save my little corner (you too, Pat) and sadly watch the rest slip away.  Wow, reading this now, it appears so tame; all the fire and brimstone are gone!  Guess I’ll save that for the Board of I-believe-I-am-god Stupervisors meeting (dang, it crept in anyway).

Ok, mini rant is over.

In other, more sensible news, I found this two-part series, from the American Preppers Network about lactofermentation: parts 1 and 2.  Some great information for those Nourishing Tradition’s fans (including me).

June 29, 2010 Posted by | Canning, Cooking, economy, politics, self sufficiency | , , , | Leave a comment