Saturday, July 21, 2007

Groundnut, Apios Americana

What a find! We were out picking berries when I discovered the most exquisite curling plant at my feet. It was twisting and twirling itself all around the berry bushes and stalky plants, donning these spikes of reddish purple nealrly orchid like blossoms. Who wouldn't be enraptured? They are something right out of a Shakespeare sonnet, or a faery otherworld.
Turns out that you can actually harvest the tubers for a very good food, or eat the seedpods (they are in the pea family like peanuts and clover) but I don't know that I would have the heart to pull any of it up. I'd rather have more of it growing!
Hmmm ..... I wonder how well it transplants!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Gold flower

Yes! It's finally time to harvest St. Johnswort! I'll be away for the weekend (Nt'l Crochet conference!) but when I get back - it's harvest time. But this little beauty above will not be touched .... she showed up right at my doorstep in my garden! I feel so lucky!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Moon Garden

I am so excited. My daughter and I started our Moon Garden. We dug out the outline and fed it with organic fertilizer ( we have very clay soil here). You can see the very weak start of the stone border-to-be. The circle will don a large homemade tipi, laden with climbing moonflowers and roses, and other pretty climbers we haven't thought of yet. The crescent moon will be filled with silver and white plants, like Datura, Artemisia's, Lobelia .... and I'm sure we will build it over time.
The coolest thing about this is that we can actually look over the top of it from our deck, admiring the design at it's fullest.
My daughter is ten, and making this garden with her is really special. She's a hard working gardener, and an impressive conversationalist. What could be more magical?

Fairy drops

One of my obsessions is to take pictures of water droplets in nature. I lost many of my previous moments in the last two computer crashes, though one still lives on I think on my website of a droplet coming off of a bright green Monarch chrysalis. So, I have begun again, collecting raindrops. There is something so perfect about a water tear on a flower. I always think a fairy might swoop by with a tiny little water bucket, to collect it, like a bee.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Garden remedies for skin care

This entry is a part of the wonderful Herbwifery Blog Party!

Summer Skin Care.....
is all about fresh herbs and delicious fun. Since the gardens and fields are full of surprises now, there are endless ways to treat and care for your skin.
I tend to focus on things that don't attract mosquito's and ticks, since I am outside so much. I don't use sweet stuff like Roses and Jasmine until nighttime when I'll be sleeping indoors.

But many flowers are lovely and do not attract hungry critters. Above, is the start of the explosive, magnificent Monarda flower (M. Didyma) which attracts hummingbirds and heals many ailments. For skin care, I like to make an infusion, cool it, and use it for a facial toner. In fact, most of the following plants, I use this way. I like to make a small jar, since every few days I'll return it to the garden before it turns, and make a fresh one.

Beautiful Basil. Fill a jar with Basil and cover with honey to make a potion to eat and smear on your face. Basil is great for oily, problematic skin, perfect for summer skin care. The basil honey takes only a week to steep, strain and add to tea to drink, or to cosmetic clay for a lovely mask.

This beautiful dark green leaf is of course, the famous Comfrey, full of soothing and mending qualities. I've been using it this past week for my daughter's wrist, which she badly sprained playing Goalie. I macerated it with tinctures of Yarrow, Meadowsweet, and St. Johnswort tincture and oil both. We keep the poultice on for as long as comfortable. The swelling and pain are greatly reduced, and the healing is expedited. By chance there is any hairline fracture, the Comfrey will mend this as well - and as a side note, there is no broken skin. Using comfrey on deep cuts can trap bacteria and lead to infection.

On the lighter side, Comfrey leaf is a super-soother. A cooled infusion is amazing on rashes, red itchy skin, dry skin, or baby's heat rash. A comfrey leaf vinegar is fabulous for moisturizing dry hair as well.

For Poison Ivy, make a big pouch of Comfrey leaf, mugwort leaf, and oats, and add to the bath while filling. The soothing and astringent combination will feel great.

To make a gloriously green healing oil, cut several leaves and place into a double boiler. Gently keep at warm for a couple of hours, being sure not to let it get too hot as to burn the oil. Alternate the stove on and off throughout the day. Let steep overnight, off. Strain in the morning. If you feel you have too much moisture, let stand for a day and pour the oil off, leaving the water behind. If you make the oil using a blender you will have more trouble with water content. If you use a crock pot, be sure to monitor the heat more carefully - they get very hot!

This lovely yellow flower will soon be a crunchy, cooling cucumber. Many garden veggies are great for the skin too! Sliced cukes on the eyes are cliche - but effective for reducing swelling or soothing sunburn. Tomato leaves gave a very pretty aroma, and make a nice toner. Infuse the leaves in part water and part vodka, and add any additional plants you like from the garden, such as Marigold petals, lettuce leaves, kale, strawberry leaves, or carrot tops.

Foot Flowers ...... Summer can be a time for troubled feet if you are hiking through hot sun, wet rivers, and itchy grass. My kayak shoes usually end up with poison ivy on them too, sneaking in through the side holes and making very pesky bumps between my toes.

End an adventurous day with an herbal foot soak. First, make a strong tea, steeping about 1/2 an hour, and make at least a quart of it, with fresh Oregano (shown above), Peppermint, Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, and Marigold or Calendula blossoms. Of course you can be creative with what plants you have available ... leaning towards aromatic and antiseptic herbs. Then, if you want it cold, refrigerate it. If you want it warm, go ahead and pour it into a basin and fill the rest with plain water. If you want, you can add witch hazel extract as well. Grab a good book, a cup of tea to drink, and soak away, as long as you like, but usually at least 20 minutes long.

For foot care on the trail, pack a combination of comfrey root powder, baking soda, kaolin clay or arrowroot powder, and essential oils mixed in if you like.

A salve of Sage and Yarrow are fantastic on the piggies too!

Eyes ..... Rose petals are so perfect for curing red hot eyes, whether from swimming, sun, or computer fatigue. An infusion or distillate applied a few times a day with a cotton ball is a real relief. A rose sitz bath is used also for staunching bleeding in postpartum women, so is helpful to constrict overheated varicose veins during the summer. Rose tinctures effective in helping to prevent spring nosebleeds if taken internally.

Every July, on or around my birthday, I honor this plant of gold and harvest her blossoms and buds. I put them all into jars and fill with olive oil. after 6 weeks I have a blood red oil that heals virtually everything. My son, who has sensitive skin, swears by it for every ailment he has, and won't use anything else because he claims it's the only thing that reliably does not sting. For nerve pain, sunburn, chapped skin, sore muscles, and anything else, St. Johnswort oil or salve is a first-grab remedy.

For days in the sun, I make a squeeze bottle with SJW oil and Lavender hydrosol (since the hydrosol won't go bad like water) and a tad of liquid chlorophyll to shake and apply frequently throughout the day. Since it's liquid and not a cream or salve, it won't melt at the beach. This also makes a perfect daily moisturizer. Add a little geranium essential oil for extra bug-repelling action if you will be gardening or hiking.

More lovely herbs that I like to use during the hot months ..........

Lemon Balm ..... Melissa Off.

Anise Hyssop ..... Agastache Foeniculum

And a few more Recipes :) ....................

Rose-Rosemary Toner:

1/2 pint each fresh rose petals and fresh rosemary sprigs

Add 1 tablespoon each:

Brandy, Honey, and Apple Cider Vinegar

Fill remainder with water or hydrosol of choice.

Let steep in the sun for one day and one night. strain and refrigerate. Use at night to restore moisture and elasticity to the skin, and just because it feels and smells good!

Poison Ivy spray:

2 oz Yarrow/Mugwort infusion

10 drops peppermint essential oil

5 drops German Chamomile essential oil

Shake and spray as often as needed.

Marigold Mask:

Steep fresh Calendula flowers in good honey for 1 week. Strain, and mix equal parts Calendula honey with Green, pink, or white clay, and apply as a mask for 20 minutes.

Herbs & Honey Liquid Soap Infusion:

Place a pint of fresh herbs into a blender. For example, Lemon balm, Peppermint, Sage, Rosemary, and Verbena.

Cover, barely, with liquid castille soap. Do not pour the whole thing in .... just enough to create a maceration. Turn the blender on low to blend.

Transfer to a wide mouth jar. Fill remainder with liquid castille soap and steep for three days.

Strain, and add about 1/3 cup honey and stir. Pour into a big squeeze bottle and enjoy!

Happy Summer!

I will not circumcise my plants

I have been reminded several times after my Blog entry: Song of the Salvia that the Labiatae family has been officially renamed the "Lamiaceae" Family.

So I am here to tell everyone that I won't do it. I won't circumcise myself, my children, nor will I circumcise an entire plant family. Just as Women are identified by their beautiful, life giving Vulva's and milk holding Breasts, the Labiatae family has been healing and nourishing Women and families for centuries. The flowers have lovely labias, an upper and lower lip, the whole flower being beautifully irregular just us humans, and the flowers are usually bisexual. That tells me that the flowers are generous in their healing and creativity for everyone ... a motherly trait indeed. There is no good reason in my eyes to take away it's namesake. I do not know, nor do I care, why they changed it.
To me, it has always been and always be, the LABIAtae family.