Breezy Summer Day

This is the kind of day I remember having in August when I was a child. Its been so beautiful and I thought I’d share some of what we’ve been doing around here.

garden apples

 

 

 

 

We picked our apples and got a 5 gallon bucket from one tree, and there is at least another 5 gallons on that tree. We have Yellow Delicious and Granny Smith. The Granny smith will be big enough to produce next year, Lord willing.

garden sunflower

Then we had to pick our one really big sunflower. The birds were devouring the seeds before they were even ripe! Si we cut it and took out the remaining seeds. I’ll dry them and we’ll save some for planting next year and eat the rest.

 

garden sunflower seeds

 

 

 

 

We had a little homeschool lesson while we worked on the sunflower seed head. We cut it open and viewed the pithy part and how it soaked up so much water.

garden sunflower section

 

 

 

 

We found lots and lots of Passion Flower blooming….

garden passion flower

 

 

 

 

The Cayenne peppers need picking…..

garden peppers

 

 

 

 

Found some okra. This variety is called Eagle Pass. They are heat resistant and the big pods are tender. I found about 10 pods today, enough for supper.

garden 170

That’s what’s happening around here. I hope you are enjoying the last few weeks of summer!

Herbs You Should Plant This Year

I have a large herb collection in my garden and there are a few medicinal herbs in it that I think everyone should grow because they are so helpful. There are thousands of herbs that are helpful medicinally but these are just a few that I think every garden should have. I’ve included a few recipes to get you started.

coneflower

Echinacea purpurea ~ Purple Coneflower

To use some of these herbs medicinally you will need to plant quite a few seeds because you will need the roots. For example,  Echinacea. For the other herbs you will only need the leaves and flowers.  Most of these herbs can be used in teas that you can flavor with crushed peppermint herb and sweeten with honey.

The best way to use all of these herbs is to dry them and store them in labeled jars, then take out however much you need to make your tea. The recipes I give you in this post are what I use personally at home. Of course the standard disclaimer goes, I am not a Dr and don’t prescribe medicines or herbs, this is just what we have done here for generations with great results.

Echinacea is used to  boost the immune system at the first sign of a cold or virus. It won’t prevent a virus from attacking your body but it will help your body deal with the virus once you get it.   Both the leaves and roots are used so obviously, if you know you are going to be digging up the roots of a plant to use in teas, you should plant more so that you’ll have some plants left after harvesting. You’ll need both the leaves, flowers and roots of Echinacea but save some plants to make seeds for next year.

When you feel a cold or flu coming on, take a teaspoon of Echinacea root, flowers and leaves, dried and crushed, plus some peppermint and chamomile leaves. Place the herbs in a cup, add boiling water, cover with a saucer and allow to steep for about 5 minutes.  Most of the herb will sink to the bottom of the cup but you can strain it if you like.  Sweeten with honey and sip til its gone. Do this three times a day but not for more than 2 weeks at a time.  Echinacea can cause liver problems if you take it for longer than 2 weeks, that’s one reason why it isn’t used as a preventative herb.

chamomile

Chamaemelum nobile ~ Roman Chamomile

Another very helpful herb is Chamomile.  Chamomile has been used medicinally since at least ancient Egypt.  There are two types of medicinally used Chamomile; Roman Chamomile and German Chamomile.   Chamomile is a perennial, so you don’t have to plant it every year. Just plant it and at the end of the growing season, after you have harvested about 2/3 of the plant, give it some mulch and wait for it to come back in the spring.  You will harvest the leaves and flowers.  It is purported to be a treatment for asthma, colic, fevers, inflammations, nausea, nervous complaints and skin diseases just to mention a few.  Chamomile is generally thought to be safe for infants and adults alike. I have used Chamomile for my children when they had colic or upset stomach and when they were suffering with a cold or fever.  Chamomile is a lovely flower with an apple-y floral fragrance.   The upright plants get heavy and fall over to form a thick mat that covers the ground.  Usually, the flowers are used but I dry the leaves and flowers together and use both.

Chamomile is a calming herb. Its said to be safe for the smallest infant.  I always include some chamomile in flu and cold remedies because most of the time folks who suffer with those ailments need to rest and Chamomile will help. It can also help with fever and headache.

When making Chamomile tea or tea that contains Chamomile, always cover the tea to steep or you will lose the delicate oils that give Chamomile its medicinal properties.

feverfew

Tanacetum parthenium – Feverfew

Feverfew is an herb you will want to have on hand if anyone in your family suffers from migraines.  I pull a leaf off my Feverfew plant each day and bite it, holding it between my back teeth while I work in the garden. This prevents migraines for me.  Feverfew inhibits the release of two inflammatory substances, serotonin and prostaglandins, both believed to contribute to the onset of migraines.  By inhibiting these substances and by inhibiting the production of histamine, Feverfew helps to control the inflammation that constricts blood vessels and blood vessel spams which cause headaches, especially migraine headaches.  Ever since I learned about Feverfew I always have a plant growing in my garden. You will only need the leaves of feverfew.

You can chew a fresh leaf every day like I do for migraines or you can use the dried leaf in a tea with some peppermint and sweetened with homey to do the same thing for your headaches.

Horehound is one of my favorite herbs, even though it doesn’t have as many uses as an herb like Chamomile.  I probably like it so much because I make it into candy. Its indispensable in our house for colds, coughs and chest congestion. Horehound cough drops are an old-fashioned remedy that really works.  Horehound is a perennial in the mint family, you can tell by the shape of its stem; its square.  The leaves look like mint leaves too but they and the stems are covered with a whitish fuzz.  Although Horehound has many medicinal uses, the main ones I grow it for is its expectorant and cough suppressant uses. Harvest the fuzzy leaves of horehound for medicinal use.

Here is how to make horehound cough drops:

You’ll need a candy thermometer for this recipe, some butter or coconut oil to grease the cookie sheet, a heavy bottomed pan, a wooden spoon, cheese cloth and a cookie sheet.

horehound

Marrubium vulgare – Horehound

Here are the ingredients:

-1 cup dried horehound leaves
-1 cup water
-1 1/2 cup raw honey

First, grease a cookie sheet with coconut oil or butter and set it aside.

Put the dried horehound leaves and water in a heavy bottomed pan. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes.  Cool slightly, then strain the leaves out of the liquid using the cheese cloth. Clean out the pan.  Put the liquid back in the pan and bring to a boil. Add the honey, stir. Keep stirring and cook til the temperature of the horehound liquid and honey reaches 300*F.

Pour the liquid out onto the greased cookie sheet.  Let it cool enough to handle it. Then pinch off small bits and roll in buttered hands. Place each ball on parchment paper to dry and cool.   Or you can use buttered scissors to snip off pieces and allow those pieces to cool and dry on parchment paper.

OR you can just let the horehound syrup dry and harden on the parchment paper and then break it into irregular pieces. Store horehound drips in a glass jar with a lid.

peppermint

Mentha peperita – Peppermint

 Peppermint has that delicious aroma and flavor most everyone loves plus it has some great medicinal qualities all its own.  You will need only the leaves of peppermint in medicinal uses.  Peppermint improves digestion, helps irritable bowel syndrome and soothes the whole digestive tract.  All mints will take over your garden if you turn your head away one second. So if that might be a problem for your garden, leave the peppermint plants in large planters. You can even set the planters into the round and pull them out when needed.

How To Dry Herbs

The best time to harvest herbs is early in the morning. That’s when the plant oils are at their peak amount, the sun hasn’t dried it up and wind and rain hasn’t washed it away.  Use a pair of scissors to cut stems of the plant. Use some kitchen twine and tie the stems together with all the cut ends facing the same way. Hang these bundles up in your house where it is cool and shady.  If you are worried about leaves falling off and making a miss, put a brown paper bag around the herbs as they dry, and put a few holes in the bag to allow air circulation.

Once the leaves are so dry they crackle when you touch them, hold them over some paper or clean towels and crush them with your hands. Collect the crushed herb and store it in a glass jar with a lid. Be sure to label the herb.  Keep them out of the sun and as cool as possible.  Herbs will keep like this for many months.

If harvesting Echinacea roots, you’ll need to pull the plants up and gently wipe off the soil, then rinse the roots til they are completely clean (I sometimes soak the roots in water a while) then cut the roots into small pieces, about 1/4″. Allow the root pieces to dry completely. I think using a food dehydrator is the best way to go because you can be sure to get the roots totally dry, but if you leave the roots whole and hang the roots like you do the other herbs they will dry, it will just take much longer.

Once the roots are dry throughout, store them in a glass jar and a lid, labeled.   If you see moisture form in the jar later, it means the roots were not completely dry, take them as soon as  you see that moisture and dry them some more.  If they smell moldy, you should toss them and start over.

When using the roots with the leaves, use them in a 1:1 ratio.

 

Its September!

I know, its the 2nd already. I was so busy enjoying the 1st that I didn’t have time to post about it!

This is the first and true sign that Autumn is on its way:

When the Dogwood trees set their berries, Fall can’t be far behind. The leaves look bad, don’t they? Its because we have not had much rain.

I sure hope I can bring in most of my herbs this Autumn. It would be a shame to have to leave this beautiful thyme plant outdoors all winter!

I’ve got some basil, oregano and rosemary that I hope to bring in, too.

Yesterday I shelled a bunch of Purple Hull Peas and froze them. Purple Hull peas are a Cow Pea and taste a lot like Black-eyed Peas.  I blanch the peas for 3 minutes, immerse them in cold water and then put them in glass jars  with loose fitting lids. Then I place them in the freezer and come back later to tighten the lids.

Purple Hull Peas

One of my favorite parts about this time of year is all the tomatoes! I plan to make Bolognese Sauce from these beauties and can it.  I’ll post my recipe later on the blog.  The sweet potatoes are going in the potato box. I bake them and mash them all through the winter. Sometimes I roast them in a hot oven with herbs and olive oil.

 

Sweet Potatoes

 

 

September will be a busy month for me.  We’re taking a visit to my Uncle’s house, then the next week I will be speaking at the Self Reliant Expo in Hickory, North Carolina on Friday, September 14th.  Then the next week starts Choir season and I will have to have all the music ready for all my choir members.

I don’t think September has ever been as packed with busy-ness for me!  How about you? Can you tell its getting to be Autumn where you live?  Some of my readers live in the Southern Hemisphere, so you’re are looking at a completely different season and kind of busy-ness, aren’t you?

 

 

Apple Picking And Three Sisters

Well, its afternoon, the hottest part of the day. The cats have found a cool spot and the dogs are asleep. All the chores of the day are done and supper is made except for the biscuits. The Elderberries are ready to pick, I need to do that this weekend and make the syrup we use for coughs, colds, etc. 

I took a stroll out to the garden to see what was going on and what would need some water this evening. The children are picking apples. We’ve got enough now to do something with them. I am thinking of making canned apple pie filling… but then again we like dried apples really well. Why, you may ask, are the children picking apples in the hottest part of the day? Not because I made them, because they remembered that their DAD had told them to get it done today before he got home.

The varieties we have are Golden Delicious and Granny Smith. The Granny Smith tree isn’t big enough to have apples yet, though it did bloom.

Golden Delicious ready to pick

 

Sam and Lydia picking apples

 

Basket of apples

 

More apples

 

The Cushaw squash are about ready to pick too. I usually make pies out of them, but this time I will make puree and can it. I may dry some too. I placed my hand on one squash so you could see its size. Cushaw squash get pretty big. There are 4 or 5 squash altogether. They’ll get much bigger, but I don’t want to leave them til they are pithy. Another week or less ought to do it.

 

       

 

The corn is about ready. This is the popcorn we planted with beans and the Cushaws. Its a Three Sisters planting.  We’ll let the popcorn dry on the stalk as long as it doesn’t keep raining. If it stays wet, we’ll harvest it and then allow it to dry on the cob.

Popcorn

The other day, my husband was out in the yard and saw a squirrel running through the grass with an apple in his mouth. I think I found his apple. Yes, that is a Golden Delicious apple, when they’ve been exposed to the sun for a while, they do get red.

Squirrel’s apple

 

Here are some pics of flowers. Since we’ve been so dry, they don’t look just great but I thought these were nice.

Cosmos

 

Poor sunflower, the deer nearly got you

 

Zinnia

 

Foxglove

 

How does YOUR garden grow?

 

 

 

Asparagus!

 

This post is part of the Seasonal Recipe Roundup over at Gnowfglins…..  Go check out all the great Asparagus recipes!

Asparagus is a delicious spring-time vegetable that you can find nearly everywhere in groceries. I like to buy organic asparagus if possible since we don’t normally peel the spears but cook and eat the whole thing.  I have never grown asparagus but my Mother grew it and so I have some first-hand knowledge of how to cultivate it.

You can grow asparagus in your own garden with a little fore-thought and planning.  Your garden soil must be prepared before you buy the ‘crowns’. Be sure to buy plenty of crowns. Mother had 30 or so crowns and it produced enough to feed 2 people constantly, but when there was a crowd she had to cut and save the shoots over the course of several days.  Depending on how old the crowns you buy are and your growing season, it can take up to 2 years to get a big harvest of shoots.

Asparagus needs a well-drained soil in full sun and a soul pH of about 6.0. Set crowns in the spring when all danger of frost is past.

To prepare the garden for asparagus, till it well about 8-10 inches deep. Add a good amount of well-aged compost and check the pH of the soil, asparagus needs a pH of 6.0 which is slightly on the acid side of the pH scale. To lower the pH of the soil you can add sawdust, composted leaves, wood chips, cottonseed meal, leaf mold or peat moss.

Dig a trench or furrow 10 inches wide and 10 to 12 inches deep.  In the bottom of the trench, place a 2 to 4 inche tall mound of loose soil.  Now you can add your asparagus crowns.  Space the crowns in the trenches about 18 inches apart.  Spread the roots of the crowns out at the bottom of the trench. Now cover the crowns with 2 more inches of soil. As the spears grow in spring, gradually fill in the trench to the top with new soil.

Young, tender asparagus is best so cut asparagus every day when the shoots begin to appear. Allow the shoots to grow to about 1 inch or less in diameter before cutting. Some shoots will be tall and some short. Older shoots can be used as long as you cut off the woody ends before cooking. In the grocery, look for asparagus that is fleshy and bright green, not wilted. 

There are all kinds of contraptions made to cook asparagus. Most of them include a way for cooking the shoots large end down so that the big end of the shoots will cook longer than the tender tips.

My preferred way of cooking asparagus is to roast the shoots in a hot oven. Preheat the oven to 425*F. Place the asparagus shoots on a baking sheet, sprinkle with oil and sea salt, toss the shoots gently to coat. Add some fresh rosemary if desired. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast until the shoots are tinged with golden brow and slightly crispy on the edges.  Use a spatula to turn the shoots frequently while roasting. Serve immediately.   See the nutrition data on asparagus.

First Green Beans!

These are the first little bunch of green beans we’ve gotten this year.

They are destined to be fermented and made into a  spicy snack! 

 

Broccoli and Cabbage

This morning’s broccoli harvest

 

Fermenting Cabbage… aka kraut

 

Make Violet Syrup

We’ve been picking violets and making violet syrup.  Violet syrup is tasty and can be used with other medicine to mask bad flavors. You can also use it in cooking or over ice cream… hmmm, haven’t done that yet, may need to experiment. Its also supposed to help you sleep without making you drowsy, need to experiment with that as well. And its a good cough syrup for children. Violets grow all over our yard this time of year and since we don’t treat the yard in any way, they are abundant and chemical free.

To make the syrup you need about half a gallon of blossoms. We pick off all the green so that the color is perfectly purplish blue. A half gallon of blossoms weighs about 8-9 ounces.

Put the blossoms in a tall glass jar and pour 2 cups of boiling water over them. Push the blossoms back down under the water with a wooden spoon.

Let the blossoms sit in the water over night. Next morning strain the blossoms out of the beautiful water and discard the blossoms.

Now you have violet water. To make syrup, add 2 cups raw sugar (Or use honey) and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to simmer on low for about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool and pour into glass jars with tightly fitting lids to store. Store in the frig.  If you want to can the syrup you will water bath half pint jars of syrup for 15 minutes.