DIY Bloody Mary Kit

This Bloody Mary Kit is a perfect gift for the cocktail lover in your life. It’s easy to put together and makes several tasty & unique bloody marys.

Below is what I put in my Bloody Mary kits, but you can customize yours however you please.

Bloody Mary Kit

  • Black peppercorn infused vodka
  • Garlic & fennel infused vodka
  • Smoked paprika infused vodka
  • Horseradish infused vodka
  • Salt rimming mixture
  • Bloody Mary mix
  • Homemade pickles
  • Other additions: olives, skewers, hot sauce, lemons, or limes

 

Infused Vodkas

I like to make the infused vodkas a pint at a time so there some left over for more bloody mary kits or personal enjoyment, but you can easily scale these recipes up or down based on how much flavored vodka you want to end up with. Infused vodkas are shelf stable and will keep indefinitely.

Use good quality vodka, spices, and herbs. The vodka certainly doesn’t have to be top shelf, but you don’t want to buy the cheapest stuff at the liquor store either.

Black Peppercorn Infused Vodka

Garlic & Fennel Infused Vodka 

  • 1 pint vodka
  • 2-4 roughly chopped garlic cloves (this will depend on the size of the cloves and how much you like garlic)
  • 1 Tablespoon fennel seed

Smoked Paprika Infused Vodka 

Horseradish Infused Vodka 

  • 1 pint vodka
  • 1 Tablespoon of roughly chopped horseradish root

Directions: 

You will need one glass jar with a lid for each flavor of vodka you are infusing. For each flavor, add the herbs & spices to their separate jars and cover with vodka. Cap tightly and shake well. Label each jar. It helps to include the date on your label so you know how long your vodkas have been infusing.

Shake the jars daily, if you remember. After a week, taste each of your vodkas to test how the flavor is developing. If your vodka isn’t as flavorful as you’d like it to be, re-cap your infusion and let it go longer. Shake and taste it daily for up to a month until it tastes how you want it to. When the flavor is where you want it, strain out your herbs and re-bottle the infused vodka. When I give infused liquors as gifts, I like to put them in these pretty cork top bottles I get from Mountain Rose Herbs. As a finishing touch, label your vodkas.

 

Salt Rimming Mixture

A rimmed glass adds a little extra pizzaz to any cocktail. The herbs and spices in this mixture are well-suited to a bloody mary and are a tasty addition to the average salt rim. The below recipe makes roughly 1/4 cup of salt rimming mixture and can easily be scaled up or down depending on how much you want to end up with.

Ingredients: 

Directions: 

Powder celery seeds in a blender or in a spice grinder. A coffee grinder works great for powdering spices, but be sure to use one that has not been used to grind coffee beans as it will make your spices smell/taste like coffee, even if it’s clean. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Store in a labeled glass jar. If desired, add the below directions to your label.

To rim your glass when making a bloody mary, moisten the rim of the glass with a lemon or lime slice. Pour a small amount of salt rimming mixture onto a plate and dip the rim of the glass into the salt blend, twirling the glass to coat the rim.

 

Bloody Mary Mix

If you’re particularly ambitious, you can make your own bloody mary mix. Below are a few recipes to get you started:

If you don’t have the time to make your own mix, there are many options for bottled mixes available. Do take a peek at the ingredients list before buying as many pre-bottled bloody mary mixes are highly processed and can have some weird ingredients. Also, many mixes contain worcestershire sauce, which is made with anchovies, so this will be something to keep an eye out for if you have fish allergies or don’t want to eat fish.

 

Garnishes

There are endless ways to garnish a bloody mary. Pickles are a classic and tasty choice and still allow lots of room for creativity. I love making plenty of assorted pickled veggies when they are in season so I have extra cans to give away. Below are just a few ideas for veggies that can be pickled:

  • Cucumbers
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • Kohlrabi
  • Radishes
  • Carrots
  • Spicy peppers

If you’re in need of some pickling guidance, Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff has many unique and delicious pickle recipes that are really simple to follow or try these recipes from Jamie Oliver.

Refrigerator pickles are also a good option if you want homemade pickles, but don’t want to go through the hassle of canning. Try this recipe for quick & easy refrigerator pickles from Feasting at Home.

Other garnishes include, but are absolutely not limited to:

  • Olives – plain or stuffed with garlic, peppers, or cheese
  • Sprigs of fresh herbs – basil, parsley, or rosemary
  • Sliced lemon or lime
  • Fresh veggies – celery, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, sliced radishes, zucchini spears, sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, or cauliflower
  • Capers

 

Once you have gathered all of the components of your bloody mary kit, arrange everything in a small basket or box. Add a small card with instructions if desired. Your handcrafted bloody mary kit is finished. Cheers!

Natural Pet Care: Preventing Flea Infestations

While many of us love the warmer weather that spring and summer bring, those of us who own pets know that pests like fleas also enjoy these seasons’ milder temperatures. Aside from being highly annoying to your pet, flea infestations can also cause more serious health issues, such as excessive itching (some animals are more sensitive to flea bites than others), hair loss, secondary skin infections, and anemia.

Unfortunately, many commercial flea preventatives and treatments contain highly toxic chemicals. Though these collars, shampoos, pills, and sprays are certainly effective at killing fleas, they are highly unsafe for pets and their owners. Many of the chemicals in these treatments are also highly irritating to dogs and cats so they will lick and bite at them, which increases the amount of toxins that they take in. Herbalist, Juliette de Baïracli Levy, even states, “The modern flea collars, because they work on a chemical principle and carry health-precaution warnings, I suspect are more hazardous to health than the presence of fleas.”

There are, however, many natural options for preventing flea infestations. Essential oils can be used safely on animals to help prevent various pest problems. However, it is important to remember that animals are much more sensitive to scents than humans are. A little bit of essential oil will go a long way, so you don’t need to use very much. Dilute essential oils when using them directly on an animal’s skin and do not apply on the mucous membranes, near the eyes, to the genital area, or in the inner ear. Be cautious about using essential oils on cats, as they aren’t able to metabolize them in the same way humans and larger animals do. Always do your research or consult a holistic professional before using essential oils on pregnant animals.

To use essential oils to help prevent external pests on dogs, you can add a drop or two (depending on the size of your dog) of lemongrass or citronella essential oil to Dr. Bronner’s eucalyptus liquid castile soap and then bath them with this mixture every so often throughout the warmer months. This will deter fleas for a short time.

Making your own natural flea collar is a another way to utilize essential oils to help prevent pests problems. This natural alternative to commercial flea preventatives is effective and safe for both dogs and cats. The below tutorial is adapted from The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Wormwood.

Natural Flea Collar

Supplies:

  • A collar made from soft, absorbent material (An inexpensive cloth collar will work perfectly)
  • 1/2 tsp cheap vodka
  • 1 drop of cedarwood essential oil
  • 1 drop of lavender essential oil
  • 1 drop of citronella essential oil
  • 1 drop of thyme essential oil
  • A heaping 12 tsp of garlic powder or 4″0″ size garlic capsules

Directions:

Blend all ingredients together in a small bowl or measuring cup. If you are using garlic capsules, break them open and add the contents before combining. Pour mixture over the collar until it is fully absorbed. Let the collar dry then put it on your pet’s neck. It should be effective for 1 month.

 

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is another natural option for keeping fleas and other pests from infesting your pets. DE is a very fine powder made up of the crushed skeletons of the fossilized skeletons of diatoms (single-celled marine and freshwater organisms whose cell walls are made up of silica). These extremely tiny particles kill insects by lacerating their exoskeletons and then drying them up.

There are two main types of diatomaceous earth: food grade and industrial grade. Always use food grade DE. Industrial grade DE has been treated with heat and chemicals. It is not safe for use on humans or animals. Food grade diatomaceous earth is safe for internal and external use, but is dusty and can cause lung problems if large amounts are inhaled, so be aware of this when using it.

To use DE for pest control, simply sprinkle onto your pet’s fur. It can also be used on pets’ bedding, in their living quarters, and on carpet to aid in eliminating these pests from your home. Some people feed DE to their pets to help eliminate internal parasites. This is not something I have personally tried as I have had good results with herbal de-wormers.

There are many effective natural external treatments for preventing pest problems on your pets, however, one of the most important parts of treating and preventing flea infestations is to make sure that your pet is receiving a nutritious diet. A malnourished pet with a weak immune system will be more susceptible to parasite related problems (and other health issues in general). In addition to proper nutrition, herbs can be used to support your pet’s overall skin health and boost their immune system.

Echinacea in bloom

Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) is a particularly useful herb for boosting your pets’ immune function to help them fight off infections and pest infestations. Dr. Randy Kidd, D.V.M., Ph.D., advises to use this herb in an on/off way. He recommends using it once daily for three weeks, then taking a week off or using it once daily for 5 days, then taking 2 days off. Repeat either regimen as needed.

Herbs can also be used to help improve your pet’s overall skin health and thus, make them less susceptible to flea infestations and other related problems. The liver is a key organ for clearing out internal toxins that can lead to skin issues, so many of the herbs that are beneficial to the liver will also ultimately promote the health of the skin. The following are a few herbs that are particularly helpful for your pet’s skin.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glara)

This plant is a nutritive, soothing plant that aids the function of all body systems and helps it more readily adapt to and cope with stress. It aids the adrenal glands, and promotes natural cortisone production, thus helping to reduce inflammation and allergic reactions. Because of this licorice is indicated for a variety of skin issues. It also has a pleasant taste, that even many finicky felines will enjoy and can help to mask the taste of more bitter herbs.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Nettle is a wonderful herb that is rich in minerals, vitamins, and protein. It is good source of calcium and iron and is nourishing to the whole body. It also is a blood stimulator and has often been used to help clear up skin ailments.

Burdock (Arctium lappa) 

This plant promotes the elimination of wastes from the body, helping to improve the health of the skin, as well as many other body systems. Juliette de Baïracli Levy calls burdock roots “one of the finest blood cleansers known to the herbalist.” She recommends using this herb internally and externally to treat a variety of health issues, including skin irritations, dry, scaly skin, and external pests, such as ringworm and scabies.

Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

Yellow dock is a blood cleansing herb that is commonly used for the treatment of chronic skin problems. It is beneficial to the liver and helps to eliminate toxins that may contribute to skin issues. It combines well with herbs like licorice to remedy dry, itchy skin.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

This common weed is a favorite of many herbalists as it is very nutritious and medicinal. It is wonderful blood cleanser that is very beneficial to the liver. It is also helpful for healing and soothing inflamed, eruptive skin conditions. Check out my blog post on this wonderful little plant to learn more about its benefits and uses.

 

As you can see, there are many safe and effective options for keeping fleas from infesting your pets this summer. Avoiding the chemicals in commercial flea treatments will not only keep your pet healthier, it is also much safer for you and your family. And it’s nice to know that you can keep pesky pests away from your pets without the use of toxic chemicals.

Have a favorite natural flea preventative that I didn’t mention? Leave a comment and let me know!

 
Resources:

The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Wormwood.

The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Baïracli Levy.

Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Cat Care by Randy Kidd, D.V.M.

Natural Flea Control.” Christine Makowski, D.V.M. Mother Earth News. May/June 1985.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE).” Molly Nolte. Fias Co Farm.

The Dirt on Diatomaceous Earth.” Danielle from It’s a Love Love Thing blog.  The Prairie Homestead. 

 

Black Currant, Blueberry & Wild Bergamot Syrup

Summer is in full swing in Michigan, which means fresh berries and herbs are available in abundance. I love to make various preserves throughout the season so that I have a few jars to give as gifts to friends & family and some wonderful treats to enjoy myself during the long winter months when nothing is growing.

This delicious, unique simple syrup combines some of my favorite flavors of these lovely summer months. Blueberries are a familiar favorite and the addition of black currants and wild bergamot gives this syrup a tasty twist.

Black currants are not extremely popular, at least in this area, and can be a bit tricky to find. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get them at a farmer’s market or find a fruit farm that will let you pick them yourself. We are fortunate enough to have a great orchard nearby where we can pick these tasty berries. If possible, growing your own is a great option. If you can’t find black currants and still want to make this recipe, just substitute an equal amount of blueberries. The currants add a lovely flavor, but blueberry-bergamot syrup is also wonderful.

Freshly picked black currants

When eaten fresh, black currants have a sweet, earthy flavor that some people don’t enjoy. I personally think they’re wonderful, but they are definitely different. Most people do like black currants when they are added to syrups, jellies, and wines as they have a delicious flavor that is similar blackberries, though it is a bit richer and more concentrated.

Wild Bergamot is a lovely plant that can be found flowering in the fields, meadows, and roadsides in our area right now. I love its strong, spicy, oregano-like flavor. It’s definitely not what you would expect from such a delicate and pretty flower! It is wonderful as a cooking spice, garnish for salads, and to flavor syrups and jellies. The below graphic – excerpted from Dina Falconi’s book, Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook – provides lots of wonderful information about how to wildcraft and use wild bergamot. This is one of my favorite books on foraging wild edibles as it has very thorough plant profiles, amazing recipes, and is beautifully illustrated. Click here to get a copy of your own.  Continue reading

100+ Natural Gift Ideas for New Moms 

If you’ve looked for a baby shower gift lately, you know that there are tons of baby clothes, body care products, and toys on the market these days. But, while many of these items are created for babies, not all of these items are necessarily safe for them. Unfortunately, many conventional baby products are made with toxic materials and ingredients that can cause a variety of health issues, including allergies, developmental problems, and cancer. Selecting the right gift for new moms and their little ones can be a difficult task if you are trying to find natural alternatives to these commercial products. Fortunately, this massive round up offers over 100 baby-safe gift ideas for the new mom in your life.

 

The following gift ideas are for the crafty folks. For those of you who prefer to buy a gift, keep reading, there’s lots of ideas for you too.

DIY Baby & Mama Personal Care Products:

  1. Bottoms-Up Salve adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health – This salve is great for healing and soothing diaper rash, cuts, scrapes, and irritated skin making it a great addition to any new mom’s diaper bag or changing table.

new-mother-balm-3-300x300

Photo Credit: The Nerdy Farmwife

Ingredients:

  • 1 part calendula flowers
  • 1 part comfrey leaf
  • 1 part comfrey root
  • 1 part St. John’s wort
  • Olive oil
  • Beeswax pastilles

Directions:

Combine 2 ounces of herb mixture with one pint of oil and let steep in a double boiler over very low heat for several hours. Check often to make sure that the oil isn’t overheating and burning the herbs. This will make about 2 cups of herb infused oil.

Strain the herbs from the oil and compost the spent herbs. Return the herbal oil to the double boiler and 1/4 cup grated beeswax per cup of herbal oil.

When the beeswax has melted, place a tablespoon of the mixture in the refrigerator for a few minutes until cooled. This will allow you to check the consistency. If the salve is too hard, add a little more oil. If it is too soft, add a little more beeswax.

When the salve is finished, pour it into a glass jar or tin. Spruce up your container with a label or other decorative touches. The salve does not need to be refrigerated, but should be stored in a cool place, as it will melt if overheated.

baby-massage-oil-blog

Photo Credit: Mountain Rose Herbs

2. Cloth Baby Wipes from Evergrowing Farm – These cloth wipes are easy to make and are safe for baby and the environment.

 

3. Mama & Baby’s Massage Oil from Mountain Rose Herb – This gentle massage oil is perfect for soothing baby’s delicate skin and is also the perfect gift to pamper a new mama.

Photo credit: The Herbal Academy

 

 

 

4. Child’s Herbal Bath Sock from The Herbal Academy – Herbal baths are a great way to nourish and heal baby’s skin. These cute bath socks are easy to make and allow baby to benefit from an herbal bath without any extra clean up for mom.

 

 

 

5. Three Nursing Balms for New Moms from the Nerdy Farmwife – These three nursing balm recipes vary in complexity and are all wonderful, safe options for sore, dry nipples.

 

 

 

6. For more DIY gift ideas, check out these 5 Calming DIY Gifts for Moms from Mountain Rose Herbs

 

 

 

 

The following gift ideas include some lovely natural body care products that you can buy for baby & mom if you’re short on time or if DIY just isn’t your thing.

Natural Baby & Mama Personal Care Products:

7.  Natural Baby Powder from Wild Blossom Herbals – Conventional baby powders can contain ingredients that are toxic and potentially cancer causing. This baby powder is a wonderful alternative as it is made with only natural, baby safe ingredients.

Photo credit: Wild Blossom Herbals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Baby Massage Oil from Wild Carrot Herbals – This massage oil is made with gentle ingredients that are safe for baby’s delicate skin.

9. Mother Lovin’ Tea from Herbal Revolution – Help nourish and uplift a new mama with this lovely tea blend that is specifically formulated to provide extra nutrients and minerals, balance hormones, and support the nervous system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Mountain Rose Herbs

10. Baby’s Balm from Mountain Rose Herbs – A soothing salve that’s perfect for baby’s skin and bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading

The Many Benefits of Red Clover 

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a lovely little plant that grows abundantly in meadows and along roadsides here in Southwest Michigan and in temperate regions across the world. It is a favorite among farmers, foragers, and herbalists.  In his book, Back to Eden, herbalist, Jethro Kloss, called red clover “one of God’s greatest blessings to man.” And for good reason! This wonderful legume is edible, medicinal, and extremely useful in the garden.

We planted red clover heavily our first year at the Augusta Creek Permaculture site to aid in the transition from lawn to forest garden as it helps to force out unwanted weeds and grass. It also loosens poor, rocky, or clay soil and fixes nitrogen. We chop and drop it throughout the season to prepare areas for planting and feed other plants. It is a low-maintence, easy to grow perennial and is a favorite cover crop among farmers because it easily adapts to a variety of climates, grows quickly, and has few issues with diseases and pests.


Red clover has many medicinal uses. It is blood purifying and improves liver function. It also has antispasmodic and expectorant properties, making it helpful for coughs and other bronchial issues. 

It is helpful in aiding the healing of skin problems, such as skin eruptions, eczema, psoriasis, skin growths, and fresh wounds. It is also a great herb for treating skin problems in children, as it is very gentle. Because of these properties, it is a wonderful addition to healing salves.

Red clover and nettle combine well for treatment of skin problems. This lovely clay mask is simple to make and naturally purifies oily, acne prone skin types. The clay draws out toxins and gently exfoliates. Red clover and nettle cleanse and heal problem skin. 

Red Clover & Nettle Exfoliating Face Scrub

  • 1 cup betonite clay
  • 1/4 cup finely ground dry red clover blossoms
  • 1/4 cup finely ground nettle leaf

Combine ingredients and mix well. Store in a glass container with a lid.

To use: mix a small amount (1-2 teaspoons) of the clay & herb blend with water to form a paste. Apply mixture to face and massage gently into skin. Rinse with warm water. If desired, follow with an astringent facial spray (click here to learn how to make your own dandelion, cleaver & violet toner!) then a little bit of a natural moisturizer. 

Red clover blossoms are pleasant tasting and make a wonderful, healing tea. They can also be enjoyed in a variety of foods and other beverages.

During these wonderful summer months, I love to stroll through the forest garden and pick fresh herbs for teas. This simple blend is one of my favorites and is perfect to unwind with after a busy day. 


Red Clover, Yarrow & Lemon Balm Tea

  • 1 part fresh red clover blossoms
  • 1 part fresh lemon balm leaves
  • 1/2 part fresh yarrow leaves 
  • Boiling water
  • Honey (optional)

Place herbs in a cup or pot and. Pour boiling water over them. Cover tightly and let infuse for 15-20 minutes. Sweeten with honey if desired. Serve hot or cold. 

If you’re looking for more ways to utilize red clover, try these recipes from Wild Roots Homestead or one of the recipes below:

Enjoy using red clover in your food, medicine cabinet, beauty routine, and garden this season.

 What are your favorite ways to use red clover? Let us know! 


References:

Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss. 172.

The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman. 174.

The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra. 185.

A Modern Herbal: Volume I by M. Grieve. 207-208.

“Clover, medium red.” Stirictly Medincal Seeds. strictlymedicinalseeds.com 

“Red Clover.” Oregon Clover Commission. http://www.oregonclover.org/clovers/redclover/

 
 

Curry Ketchup Recipe

This homemade ketchup is quick and easy to make and is definitely worth the effort. Whip up a batch before your next cookout to impress your friends. After all, nothing screams gourmet like handcrafted condiments.

The best homemade ketchup is made by cooking down ripe, fresh tomatoes for 10-12 hours until they turn into a thick sauce. But, most of time tomatoes aren’t in season (at least here in Michigan!) and sometimes you don’t have half a day to make ketchup. So, in those cases, you cheat a little and use organic tomato paste. The flavor will be just as rich and tomatoey and this little trick will definitely save you a lot of time!

Because you don’t have to wait for this ketchup to cook down, you can make a batch in about 15 minutes, meaning you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the wonderful summer weather.

The curry in this recipe compliments the tomatoes in delightful way and lends some interesting flavor to a classic condiment.

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz organic tomato paste
  • 4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 5 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • A pinch of chipotle powder, I use just the tip of a spoon
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Directions:

Combine tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, water, and molasses in a sauce pan and whisk together til well combined. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk well to get rid of clumps.

Simmer on low for about 10 minutes to let the flavors meld. Add more water if needed as the sauce is cooking and before serving if the ketchup is too thick.

Serve with hot dogs, burgers, or potatoes.

Making your own condiments is a wonderful way to reduce your intake of highly processed foods and honestly, they just taste better! Enjoy making this handcrafted ketchup for your next cook out this summer. This tasty twist on an old favorite is sure to be a hit!

Natural Goat Care: Soothing Herbal Tea

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Herbal teas are wonderful for goats and my girls love them. This particular blend is one of their favorites and is a good all-purpose tea to help tone and strengthen their systems. I like to make up a batch for them periodically, especially during more stressful times- like heat, baths, hoof trimming, or transport- or during the changing of seasons to help give their bodies a boost during wet or cold periods.

The ingredients in this tea are naturally soothing and nourishing. Chamomile is a gentle sedative and anti-spasmodic. It also tones the digestive system and helps to relieve constipation and expel gas and worms.  It is a natural pain reliever, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory and helps to heal wounds (making it great for external use too!). While it is a very mild, safe herb its use should be limited with pregnant goats.

Lemon balm is an uplifting, tonic herb that helps to soothe anxiety, depression, heart palpitations, and insomnia. It is also beneficial to the digestion system and relieves gas and cramping. It makes a lovely tea and can be fed fresh by the handful.

Nettle is a very nutritive, toning herb that helps to cleanse the blood. It is rich in iron and other important minerals. Herbalist, Juliette de Baïracli Levy, used this herb for her animals to help prevent contagious diseases and worms. She says that nettle makes animals more spirited and gives them shinier, fuller coats. It can also be used to treat poor appetite and arthritis, making it a good herb for older animals.

Oats are very nutritious and are rich in vitamins and minerals. They are important for strong bones, teeth, hooves, horns, and hair. They are soothing and toning to the nervous system. Oat tea is a good tonic for sick animals.

Honey boosts energy, soothes coughs, and reduces stomach and throat inflammation. Goats also love the taste so it makes a great addition to herbal teas to help make them more enticing.

As an added bonus, this tea is great for humans too! It’ll often enjoy a cup myself when I make up a batch for the girls.


To make this tea, you will need –

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon chamomile blossoms
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon balm leaf
  • 1 Tablespoon nettle leaf
  • 1 Tablespoon milky oats
  • 1/2 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 1/2 to 1 quart water, room temperature

This makes enough tea for two adult Nigerian dwarf goats (a small breed). If you have big goats or more goats you will want to double (triple, quadruple, …!) this recipe. You can also make a bigger batch and keep some in the fridge for a day or so. It won’t keep for very long though, so don’t make too much at once. 

To save time, combine equal parts of each of the dried herbs in a clean glass jar with a lid and just add 4 tablespoons of the tea blend per quart of boiling water when making tea. 


Directions:

Add herbs and to a glass quart jar. Pour boiling water over them, cover, and let steep till tea is warm, but the jar is not to hot to hold. Strain out the herbs using cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer, pouring the tea into another jar. Press out all the liquid from the herbs and compost them. Add honey to the tea, cap the jar and shake well. Let cool to room temperature.

Once the tea has cooled, dilute tea with 1/2 to 1 quart water. See what your goats like and adjust it to their tastes. You may have dilute it with a bit more water if your goats aren’t keen on trying new things, but once they get a taste for teas, they will likely drink them down happily. Mine sure do!

Teas are just one great way your goats can benefit from herbs. Our girls also love fresh herbs and homemade herbal treats. To learn how to make your own natural goat treats, click here.

Have fun crafting your own herbal teas and treats to keep the goats in your life happy and healthy!


Resources:

The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Baïracli Levy

Molly’s Herbals: Natural Care for Animals. www.fiascofarm.com 

Dandelion: More than a Weed

The dandelion (Taraxacum officiale) has a bad reputation for being a nuisance and is often considered an undesirable plant in lawns. But, this common weed is edible, medicinal, and a valuable source of food for insects in the early spring.

Dandelions are truly one of my favorite plants and I get so excited when I see them starting to come up each year. I love our dandelion packed yard and I cringe when I see people mowing down or spraying big patches of dandelions. They are so useful! All parts of the plant can be utilized in making food and medicine.

Dandelion leaves are a delicious bitter green that are delicious in salads, soups, pizzas, pastas, stir fries, and more. They can also be used in teas and salves for medicinal purposes.

The roots of this plant are also edible and medicinal. They are best collected between June and August when they are the most bitter. Cut them in half before drying to speed the process. The leaves can be collected anytime. The roots also can be used to make tea. They are often roasted and then simmered to make a strong decoction that tastes a lot like coffee (but doesn’t have the same effect). I also enjoy adding fresh, chopped root to stir fries and soups.


The blossoms are my favorite part of the plant to use in the spring as they are plentiful and very cheery. They make lovely infused syrups and jellies. I also like using them in a unique veggie patty. Each year when the dandelions are in bloom, I harvest tons of flowers for different projects. This spring, I made dandelion blossom wine, fermented dandelion blossom relish, dandelion blossom kombucha, and dandelion blossom syrup.  I infused witch hazel extract with dandelions blossoms and other spring herbs for a lovely soothing, facial toner.

I have really enjoyed adding dandelion root and leaf to many different tea blends this season, including a wonderful kidney tonic tea.

Below are a few of the recipes I just mentioned:

 

Fermented Dandelion Blossom Relish

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups dandelion blossoms, packed
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly ground coriander
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 Tbsp salt (use a salt without additives like iodine, or anti-caking agents, like calcium silicate)

Equipment: 

  • 1 wide mouth pint jar with lid
  • 1 fermentation weight – we like these ones from Tamarack Stoneware. They’re very well made, pretty, and they work like a charm.

 

Directions:

Add the dandelion blossoms, garlic, and spices to a large bowl. Mix everything together roughly with your hands, shredding and smushing the dandelion blossoms.

Add salt and water and continue to scrunch and mush everything together with your hands until the blossoms are all broken up and the mixture is well blended.

Pack the blossom blend and brine into a quart jar (you may have a little brine left over). Push the solids down firmly so everything is well covered by brine. Place your fermentation weight on top to keep everything submerged (if things aren’t covered in brine they will get moldy). Cover jar with lid, but do not tighten down more than a half turn. You want the gases to be able to escape or it may bubble over (not that I would know…).

Set jar on a warm shelf out of direct sunlight and check it periodically. Give it a taste every so often to check how much it has fermented and once it has reached your desired level of tanginess, store it in the refrigerator to slow further fermentation. I let mine ferment for a month, but your taste might be a little bit different, so give it a taste sooner than that.

Enjoy this tasty fermented relish on veggie hot dogs, tempeh burgers, or with grilled pita. It’s a tangy, garlicky condiment that is as unique as it is delicious.

 

Dandelion Wine

I made an adapted version of this dandelion wine recipe that was published in Mother Earth News in 1978. I used honey instead of sugar and added grapefruit. This season was my first go at dandelion wine so it will be interesting to see how it turns out. This beverage takes about 2-3 weeks to ferment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hungry for more ways to enjoy this plant? Below are a lot more fantastic dandelion recipes for you to try this season:

Breakfast:

Dinner – Main Dishes & Sides:

Dressings & Condiments:

Dandelion Kombucha

Beverages:

Desserts:

 

In addition to being edible, dandelion is also has a variety of medicinal applications. It can be taken internally or used externally to treat many different conditions. It has been used traditionally to help treat liver & kidney problems, UTI’s, skin eruptions, eczema, anemia, and more. Dandelion tea can be drunk to help ease stomach aches. It is a nutritious herb that can be helpful for anemia. This plant helps to purify the blood. Dandelion also aids the heart and can decrease blood pressure. Dandelion leaf tea is a diuretic that can be helpful for fluid retention, weight loss, and cystitis.

Dandelion is great for your skin too! It is healing, soothing, and helps reduce inflammation. This makes it a  wonderful addition to salves, lip balms, and facial toners.

Dandelion, Violet & Cleaver Facial Toner

This facial toner is simple to make and is beneficial for all skin types. Witch hazel extract is produced from the leaves and bark of the Witch Hazel shrub  and is naturally astringent and anti-microbial. It helps to reduce bags and puffiness around the eyes. It can also shrink pores and help to heal blemishes. Infusing witch hazel extract with these skin soothing, spring herbs makes it a perfect cleansing, facial toner that can also be used to relieve skin irritations.

Ingredients:

Directions: 

Add herbs to a glass jar with a lid. You will want to fill the jar roughly 3/4 full (you want enough room for at least 1-2 inches of witch hazel on top of the herbs.) Don’t pack the herbs down in the jar too tightly as you want everything to be evenly submerged in liquid.

Pour the witch hazel extract over the herbs and put the lid on your jar. Place in a cool, dark place and let infuse for 2-4 weeks. Shake your jar daily (if you remember). The witch hazel will start to take on the color and scent of the herbs.

When your concoction has finished infusing, strain out the herbs with a cheese cloth. Store in a clean bottle or jar (be sure to label your jar!).

Pour a few drops of aloe vera gel into a 4 oz spray bottle, fill to the top with your infused witch hazel. Shake well and spritz on your face to tone and cleanse skin.
Below are some more delightful dandelion body care recipes to enjoy:

13310558_1729956513940045_5088574184601419208_nAs you can see, there’s no need to spray or mow your dandelions this year. Instead, you’ll surely have lots of ways you’ll want to use this cheery little plant for food, medicine, and skincare.
Do you have any favorite dandelion recipes? Let us know!
Other fun DIY dandelions ideas:

 

 

 

 

Resources:

A Modern Herbal: Volume I. M. Grieve. 249-254.

The Way of Herbs. Michael Tierra. 127-128.

The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. David Hoffman. 69-70.

Back to Eden. Jethro Kloss. 123-124.

“Dandelion: The Dandiest Weed of All.” Herbal Adcademy. https://theherbalacademy.com/dandelion-the-dandiest-weed-of-all/

“A Family Herb: Dandelion.” Herbal Academy. March 9, 2016. https://theherbalacademy.com/a-family-herb-dandelion/

Grilled Tempeh Sliders

Summer is just around the corner, which means it’s a perfect time for some outdoor cooking. We love spending warm evenings on the deck or by the fire pit cooking our dinner and enjoying the weather. Not heating up the house with the oven or stove is an added bonus!

When many people think of grilling, they think meat – hog dogs, hamburgers, steak, chicken, etc – but there are many tasty meatless ways to enjoy cooking on the grill this summer. Tempeh, tofu, and many fruits and veggies are delicious grilled. There are also some very tasty  veggie “hot dogs” available at the natural food stores near us that are made from real vegetable not weird “meat like” ingredients. They are worth trying if you can find them.

This easy tempeh burger recipe is a favorite warm weather recipe around our house. Grilled veggies make a simple, delicious side dish. We use whatever’s in season. Asparagus, corn, zucchini, sweet potatoes, leeks, beets, and peppers are just a few tasty options. Be creative!

This recipe makes enough for 4 slider size tempeh burgers. This is enough to feed 2-4 people, depending on how hungry people are and what your side dish options are like. You could easily double the recipe to make more burgers if you are feeding more people.

 

Ingredients:

Sliders –

  • 8 oz tempeh patty
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 cup liquid aminos
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 small, “dinner roll” sized buns, sliced in half

Toppings –

  • 2 slices onion, diced
  • A handful of fresh arugula leaves
  • Condiments of your choosing. Some great options are: homemade pickles, slaw, ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce (click here to find out how to make your own!), or mayo

Directions:

Cut tempeh patty into 4 equal pieces.

Combine liquid aminos, molasses, and diced garlic together in a wide dish. The dish does not need to be very deep, but ideally will be wide enough for the 4 tempeh pieces to sit in the bottom next to each other.

Add tempeh to liquid and spoon marinade over the pieces so they are drenched. Let marinate for about 30 minutes, occasionally flipping the tempeh so that each side has soaked for a bit in the liquid.

Start your grill. Once it is hot, add your tempeh patties. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until both sides look nice and brown. As the tempeh cooks, spoon some marinade over it occasionally to keep it from drying out and to add more flavor.

When the patties are nearly done, add your buns to the grill, sliced side down and cook them just a few minutes, until toasted. Then take everything off the grill and assemble your sliders using the arugula greens, onions, and condiments of your choosing. We like topping our sliders with things like ketchup, mustard, diced olives, assorted veggie pickles, and barbeque sauce.

We make our own super tasty pickles and condiments. It’s a lot easier than you think and it’s more than worth the effort. Some of the best condiment and assorted veggie pickle recipes come from my favorite canning cookbook, Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff. We especially love her recipes for zucchini pickles and ketchup. So tasty! I would definitely recommend picking up this book if you like preserving your own food.

 

Enjoy crafting your own tasty tempeh sliders this summer. We’d love to hear about any awesome variations you come up with!

Purple Dead Nettle: Not Just A Weed

Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium Purpureum) is a lovely and useful herbaceous plant. It grows abundantly around our site in Southwest, Michigan and I see it popping up all over this area. It can be found throughout the US, Canada, and many other parts of the world. This hardy weed thrives in lawns, roadsides, and can grow in a variety of conditions. It is also frost tolerant. It is most commonly found growing in loamy or sandy soils, but will also do well in clay soils. It is an self-seeding annual. Each plant produces lots of seeds (it’s estimated to be several hundred to several thousand) and those seeds can germinate year round.

Purple dead nettle is considered to be an “invasive species” due to its ability to thrive and reproduce in many environments. In fact, much of the literature available on this plant is geared towards methods of eradication, including pulling up the herb to control its population. It is interesting to note that purple dead nettle seeds germinate better when the soil is disturbed. “Invasive” plants like purple dead nettle often grow in places where humans have disrupted the natural balance.  These plants are simply trying to restore equilibrium to their environment. When we pull and spray these plants we are further disturbing the areas where they grow and actually increasing their ability to return and spread.

If we care about the environment, should be be attempting to eradicate these species, like purple dead nettle, that have been determined to be invasive? Research shows that meddling with nature isn’t necessary and could cause more harm than good. Tomás Carlo, assistant professor of biology at Penn State, states that “Invasive species could fill niches in degraded ecosystems and help restore native biodiversity in an inexpensive and self-organized way that requires little or no human intervention.”In 2011, he conducted a study on how invasive species affect their ecosystems.  He found that some invasive plants actually helped improve natural areas that had deteriorated due to human use. He stated that attempting to get rid of invasive species could actually harm the newly found balance in these ecosystems. In fact, the areas he studied, for example,have actually had an increase in the native migratory bird population because the invasive plants that grow abundantly there provide an important food source that had previously been displaced by human development. Carlo also stated that trying to eliminate invasive species on a large scale could also be a waste of time and money. He explained that when organizations try to rid an ecosystem of a particular invasive plant, it often ends up growing back despite all of their efforts.

Instead of pulling and spraying these weeds, we can appreciate and utilize them. Invasive plants often play important roles in their ecosystem. For example, purple dead nettle blooms in the early spring and is an valuable food source for insects when not much else is is flowering.  Many invasive plants are also useful to humans and make wonderful food and medicine. They require little to no care as they often occur and thrive naturally in our gardens and yards. These wild edibles can be a great low-maintenance, free food source. Foraging wild greens like purple dead nettle is easier than tending to more fickle commercially grown greens and is certainly cheaper than buying organic greens at the store. If you aren’t sure how to forage purple dead nettles, visit the Edible Wild Food site for more tips on finding and identifying this plant so you too can enjoy this spring green.Always be sure you properly identify a plant before eating it! For more foraging tips, check out our post on foraging spring edibles.

Purple dead nettle can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves have tiny little hairs that some may find strange texturally, but I have found that they aren’t bothersome when the plant is cooked. The leaves taste similar to spinach. When bruised, the plant has a noticeable green, earthy scent. Purple dead nettle leaves are great source of fiber, iron, and other important nutrients. They can be used in recipes much as one would use more conventional greens like kale or spinach.

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