Herbal Salves

We use our homemade herbal salves for so many things. Often our volunteers ask about them, so here goes!

They very simple to make and yield such wonderful goodies for us to use…most from our gardens here on Herbhome. Good herbs, grown on the homestead, can add a lot to your lifestyle. We cook with them, use them in our soaps and Dream Pillows and make many teas, tinctures and salves, all out of our gardens and the woods on our place.

We garden organically, so our herbs are grown in healthy soil, without pesticides and , being the crazy granny lady, they are talked to pretty much daily😇

The wild plants we use are harvested responsibly. Many of our native plant colonies have been devastated over the last decade or so, due to the current popularity of herbal cures. We try to promote responsible foraging, only taking small amounts , reseeding and protecting these wild treasures. I usually will only harvest every third year, alternating between colonies.If one of the colonies seems weak, it is left in peace.

Our old timers all knew where the herbs were, and would harvest for sale, but most of them left the “medicine patches ” be. Just like a lot of us know where to look for items in a grocery store they knew where the plants were.

The process is very basic, just changing up the oils and herbs to match your needs.  For instance, if I want a light, smooth salve, I will use something like grapeseed oil. I tend to use organic olive oil because it is so nice on my skin.

Most salves are made with certain proportions of oil to beeswax. I use all organics in ours. Just me bring pickey, but they are for my family 😁

I like to make mine with nine parts infused oil and one part beeswax, with one capsule of Vit E per cup as a preservative. Using a double boiling to prevent scorching, I melt the beeswax and slowly still in the oils. I add the vitamin E, and then pour into a sterilized jar or tin. Label, label, label!

To make the infused oil, I take freshly harvested herbs (you can use dried, if you need to) and macerate them (crush  or break) filling a quart jar.Then I cover them with the oil of choice…using a dinner knife or narrow spatula to remove air bubbles. I seal, label and set them back for six weeks . Shake the jar gently daily, and if the level of oil drops, top it off.

When you are ready to make your salve, strain the oil for use.

If you want a stronger infusion, replace the herbs with frsh and let infuse several weeks more.

I make Comfrey, for bruises, aches and pains, Arnica for sore muscles, Chickweed and Plantain, for bugbites, Rosemary and Lavender with Yarrow for infection and Lemon Balm and Lavender for soft skin..

There are many other great combinations, but this is a good, basic collection for your herb cabinet! As always, we make no medicinal claims, these are just things we use.

In Crafting Mode â˜ș

With the first of our Flux festivals coming up, I am getting really excited! What can I make that will spark someones Imagination ? Stir their Creative mind ? Create a sense of wonder, relaxation or boost their inner beauty ?

I have ideas for some funky corsets for our steampunk fans, and a couple of ladies top hats !

A new idea for adult fairy wings, some fabulous gypsy patchwork skirts and belly dance scarves….and of course our luscious herbal soaps..have some yummy new scents for this season!

Fun wings and crowns for the youngsters, ribbon twirlers…while a few crown beauties for the elves who wander through…mayhap even a crown or two to inspire a mermaid.

I’ve even made a couple of paper lanterns to light your way in our magic cosmic wood…

I made two elegant formal cloaks thus winter..pricey but stunning IMHO lol…plus a handful of robes and capes for the adventurers.

There are collections of herbs and salts for various alchemy in or out of the kitchen, haha!

So come to Cosmic Flux or Byrdfest 14 prepared to spend your coin! Not to mention, having the privelege of visiting with me…the Hawke!

If they do well , I will have some herb starts available as well…

Seasonal Almanac

I had a moment of awareness hit today. Much of what we do is seasonal. We live close to the earth  and the seasons have a great influence on what we are doing on the homestead.

I have always known this. Yet I am doing a lot of “When this happens then it is time to do this…” I think it is time to have a special section set up this way – follow the process for a year and see how it all begins to align.

Fall-October

This month is time to set out bulbs- Daffodils go into the ground, Amaryllis, Iris= it is time to set out and mulch all the wonderful Mums that we’ve been decorating with.. If you get them out now , they will establish deep enough roots to survive the winter freezes.

How do you like to use your Daffodils? I like to naturalize them – the effect suits me… Some people like more formal arrangements and they can be very stunning that way –

Narcissus  (Paper whites) are lovely- we always used to bring them in and force them for Christmas to go with the Poinsettia’s-

Now is the time to give your perennial herbs a haircut- harvesting about two thirds of the growth – I tend to make a lot of tinctures now- getting my home remedies ready for the winter. Made goldenrod, plantain, basil  and several others just the other day.

I prefer to use a tea or decoction over tincture, but a tincture is a safe and effective way to store many of the herbs. I dry and then store a lot of herbs – have a nice garden cabinet friend Sue gave me – it creates a nice dark shelf unit to store my harvested herbs. These beautiful fall days I carry a pocket full of wally world bags with me and my pocket knife and forage as I hike – the biggest issue is to be sure you clearly label you harvest- date gathered , where , what and the preparation- I also add other info – like the moons phase it was gathered in – important to me for research purposes.

Be sure to keep your herbs well watered unless it actually freezing – they are building a strong root system for the winter months- even though you may not see leaf growth.

Herbs tend to take longer to germinate than veggies- instead of two weeks they can take 5-6 weeks.

I plant seeds that need stratification  (several months of cold weather ) now and be sure to set up id markers – my old lady brain forgets where I planted things and we also have a lot of helpers come through with our volunteers 🙂

Now is a great time to id trees – the leaves make the ones like sugar maples easy to find- take the time to learn the bark and leaves of two or three you are interested in.

I like to advise that students follow three herbs throughout a whole year- what does it look like in  the winter months – how does it look when it first comes up in spring- what plants or trees does it grow nearby- what of type of soil does it like- how much sun hits it? How much water  does it use. does the color change as it grows larger?

Are there insects that live in it? Can you learn what the job insect does for that plant?

All these things help find the plant colony through different times of the year.

Livestock is coming into heat now as well- goaties are a good example- now folks who want to hit the Easter buckling market will breed earlier.. it just depends on what your need is. I like to dry up my does to be sure they are very healthy when it is time to kid. As a small farmer I have that advantage.. that intensive management is my market advantage.

Now is also the time to be planning for which plants to start from seed in last winter- what plants do you want ready to set out in the Spring- how long does it take them to be large enough to set out?

What plants are in bloom now?  Here are a few – White Snakeroot,  Heal-All, Wild Indigo,most of the Aster Family are still in bloom. My Spearmint, Peppermint , Catnip are all blooming still.

The Honeyoye Strawberries are sending out runners. My mouth is watering all over again !

Herbs and Instincts

“Follow your instincts”..

But isn’t that dangerous, when it comes to herbal medicine?

Begin by learning the herbs- from books, teachers , local folks that know them well. Be sure  of your knowledge base- then take it deeper. Connect your spirituality or instinct –

A deep part, in my opinion,  of working with herbs  is to connect with them spiritually.  I know – “Oh, man – this lady is crazy!”

So let’s talk a little about Belief. Many faiths teach that all things on this planet have life , right? Christ, Buddha, Mohammed…all mention plants and trees as responding to loving care . Science today has proven that plants respond to music, lunar tide cycles and other stimuli. Are we connecting with Spirit – or just processing information on a subconscious level, when we respond to them ?

I believe that we are part of  a whole living planet- from the tiniest electron to the planet herself. and beyond into space .. each thing interacts with the other parts in its surroundings. We are  Stewards of those around us. Whatever terminology you use – there is spiritual link from us to all life. If we can open up our hearts and Spirit to listen, then , I think we have  an innate ability to sense a clearer awareness of the essential use of each plant.

Haven’t you ever sat under a big old oak tree and almost heard it sing? Or heard a voice in a field of grass as the wind moves through it?  Practical response -It is just the wind! But listening with an open heart- possibly they are sharing with us. I happen to believe that if you are open and listen , each plant can teach you something about itself. One of the ladies I truly respect in the herbal world – BethAnne from Natures Wonder – always said that each plant can tell us what it is good for. We spent a lot time just touching and smelling and tasting – often times just sitting outside the store next to her small area of plants.It was a time of learning for me.

The summer I spent hiking the Appalachian Trail was a special learning time – there were still families living close to the trail at that time- and they would open their homes and hearts to us. One widow woman, Maggie Claggett,  was a yarb lady – she asked me to come stay a while-added over a month to my time on the Trail LOL- we spent some peaceful days wandering those high meadows and ridges- talking about herbs and how to use them-grubbing roots and snapping spice bush twigs – and she always said the herbs sang for her. I never forgot that. Part of what she shared was the oral history – I have since learned that was how families would pass history down – telling it over and over in a pattern- my family did it- and the clues for genealogy research have proven how accurate the oral traditions are.

A large part of gardening is listening  to your inner sense of right timing – for weeding, planting , harvesting.. you KNOW when it it right…

My weeding time in the garden is a time to listen . I will be pulling weeds, with the humble bumbles buzzing around –  and sit back to rest, when it all of  a sudden it  seems to be a right time to look at and smell a particular herb. I often come away with a stronger sense of how to use it- the head learning  part  seems more clear – and I seem to have deeper understanding . it makes sense in a new way …

I often forage like this as well. I  walk out with the intent to garner  plants to strengthen and heal my loved ones – and end up ambling along , finding unexpected treasures- which in turn meet current needs. I have often been asked  why I don’t make a map of where the wild herbs are- . I guess I do have a inner map, where the colonies of simples are and the seasons they need to be harvested .. but it tends to be more of a wandering – zigzagging here and there- as they present themselves. .

It is an inner knowing. The more we listen , the more we can learn.

 

 

Medicinal Garden Planning

Some years back , we had a large(16 acre) herb garden ,with many Natives and Medicinals. Here on the new place , our focus has been more on edibles – veggies and culinary herbs..

This year, we intend to begin to renew our love of the medicinal herbs . I have been gradually collecting starts and seeds and working on preparing beds for them . The early part of September the signs are right , so we will start prepping seeds  and our rooted cuttings to go out- Happy Dance!

Please do check back on this post as I will be adding to it as the seeds germinate and all!

Please remember that these are medicinal and almost all can be very dangerous or even deadly if used improperly! This site is intended for information and pleasure only- please research thoroughly, consult reliable sources and use caution.

I have a completely separate area where I process any medicinal herbs. This is just common sense safety!

Here is a list of some the starts we have- and basic tips on growing them 🙂

Let’s start with ones for full sun or partial shade:

BelladonnaAtropa belladonna

Likes partial shade best- and rich moist soil.

I usually soak the seeds in cool water , replacing daily for several weeks- frig if you have one- but be sure to keep isolated – highly poisonous!

Belladonna grows well from seed or root cuttings. Mulch it well and it will pop back up in the Spring. Seeds take 4-6 weeks to germinate

Belladonna’s medicinal properties are best after the third year. Be sure to us gloves when handling it for harvest-

Wiccan belief uses it in astral projection and healing, while the old yarb women use it for eye irritation. Women in Medieval times used the drops as a beauty aid to brighten their eyes. Planetary association is with Saturn

Wild BergamotMonarda fistuloa

We use this as a tea- love the orangey mint tang it gives when added to other blends.

Black Mandrakemandragora autumnalis(White mandrake is var. vernalis)

A plant of Saturn , these are tender perennials here in our area- I usually plant them in a protected corner. It propagates best by root division. I loe their flowers – purple-ey with whitish stripes.

Borage – Borago officinalis

One of my favorite companion plants- it is a wonderful companion for strawberries., tomatoes  and squash. They are usually tall, with striking blue blooms that are edible in salads and such.

Cardinal FlowerLobelia cardinalis

Grows wild along creek banks here- it was endangered at one point , but has made a nice recovery- perhaps due to it’s popularity in native gardens lately. It likes rich soil and sun and enjoys closeness to water.

ElfwortInula helenium

Elfwort is one I haven’t grown before , so it and I are on a new adventure. It is supposed to smell like violets and camphor.  and the flowers are supposedly a beautiful golden color. We’ll see 🙂

Purple FoxgloveDigitalis purpera

Deadly  poison! it has been used in the past to treat cardiac arrhythmias, but is extremely poisonous. The flowers are beautiful- tall spikes of small glove like flowers ranged wn the stalk – definitely NOT a plant to have around toddlers.

HyssopHyssopus officinalis

Often  used in potpourri or in the old days as a strewing herb to fresh the floor reeds, hyssop has a sweet camphor like min smell. The flowers are edible.

MonkshoodAconitum napellus

It’s blue flowers draw bumble bees. the plant is deadly poison- remember that all these plants are medicinals – grow and use them with an clear awareness of their dangers.

Stinging NettleVrtica dioica

Ah, Mother Nettle!- source of iron and vitamins, one of the first greens of Spring, source of wonderful soup and healing. I love the green dye she makes.

PennyroyalMentha pulegium 

It can produce sweating, aid against seasickness, and is an insect repellant. It also causes liver damage in too high of a dosage , so use with caution.

SweetgrassHierochole odorata

Very poor germinator for me… but grows well here once started. A native American standby- used for purification, woven baskets and rope making.

Woodland TobaccoNicotiana sylvestris

I use this is my moon gardens – the lovely white flowers have sweet scent -not a smoking tobacco in my book.

Wolfsbane Aconitum vulparia

Needs rich, moist soil. Humble bumbles ove it , but again , it is poisonous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July Thoughts 7/10

Another hot and humid day in the making – July weather in Arkansas, what can I say? The skies are truly glorious though!

Roosters and Mr. Cardinal had a singing competition this AM – verrry early, Bless their Hearts J  I got up    , drank my tea  out on the front deck – watched all the crazy squirrel teenagers start in playing in the trees across the driveway- they have a route they travel that actually ends up  going all the way around the house LOL- reminds me of the Tarzan movies-good old Jonny Weismuler  and Ron Eley
 Ahahahhh ah!!!

Watered the baby ducks and turkeys – letting them out for their first run, now they are all feathered out and we plan on being home all day- they know to come to the food call so shouldn’t get tooo lost in the garden. We have electric around it , so no varmints should attack -crossed fingers- one of the risks of living backed up to National forest- it is a stunningly beautiful back yard, but has it’s inherent risks for livestock and Poultry.

I am really excited today! Yesterday my fall herb seeds came in . Harold at Alchemy Works has been so reliable- over the years- I primarily use them and Horizon Herbs – now “Strictly Medicinal”– sorry.. have been my most successful seeds . I ordered the medicinals for fall- been moving slowly , rebuilding from what we had at the Erbie Place. Lamaya helped check the order- she is very interested in botany. So we kinda did a teaching session.

Thursday and Friday are good planting days , so I am getting ready to soak seeds today and refrigerate them til then. It’s not a true stratification , but will  help. I am sorting them out by soil and shade requirements- and plan on spending the next few days prepping the beds for them . It is also a really practical idea to create signage that will  last the winter, so you don’t forget what is planted where, when things start to come up in the Spring .. now , ask me how I know this 
 HAHA.

Neill is currently in the middle of his wood working project for the bees- he is building cedar boxes- nuc boxes and Warre top bar hives.. he also built two Langstroth style hives They keep getting more and more professional looking
We currently have five active, healthy hives- I can’t wait til fall for honey – the local honey is great for allergies , plus the taste is outstanding. We had goldenrod honey this spring – wow ! what a treat. I hope to Fall sow the old field down by grey rock to herbs that are bee friendly. Maybe try to add some clover , too, though I am not sure there will be enough sun- and we really don’t want to clear it , just utilize the sunny spots.

Our long term volunteer, Ben, heads to Missouri tomorrow- and we will really miss his smiling help. Ben is a reader and a  thinker.  He wants to travel the word – Africa, Europe the Middle East. How exciting!

Don’t forget if you are interested in learning Earth Plaster, come on out Friday and Saturday – we will be elbow deep in mud!

 

Creek Walk and Kittens !

 

Whoo-hooo! The Creek is up! Not out of her banks , but right at it – rolling , muddy and white water!  Part of our life style is living with , rather than battling , the Creek in all her moods-so after heavy rains I walk down the hill and check her out!

I took a lot of pictures of plants walking down to the creek – let’s do an id album- see what you can identify! This is one of the reasons I fell in love with the place the first day we set foot on it.

Other news of note- 6 bob tail kittens- so cute!