Friday, October 30, 2009

My Morning Ritual

this is my post for the november blog party. be sure to check out all the great posts as there are quite a lot of delicious and eye opening recipes!

during the late spring, summer and fall, my breakfast beverage generally consists of wandering around in the garden and picking a handful of whatever speaks to me. but once winter takes over, i must turn to my shelves for that morning cup. generally, i will do a combination of dried herbs or grab some mate or green tea. but when i want a real treat, i reach for the roasted root chai.

i can never make enough of this ahead of time to store for the winter! seems i'm always searching out more roots to keep myself stocked so i can blend a quart at a time...i should probably blend a half gallon! kids and adults alike gulp it down and request more, every time! this recipe will make about a quart of pre-mixed chai. this chai is caffeine free but you could add some green tea if you'd like a blast of caffeine.

roasted root chai
2 cups mixture: roasted dandelion roots, roasted chicory roots
6 Tbsp. fennel seeds
6 Tbsp. anise seeds
6 Tbsp. cardamom pods, gently broken up
6 Tbsp. whole cloves
4 Tbsp. dried ginger root
2 Tbsp. largely grated nutmeg (i buy it whole and use a cheese grater to grate it for this project instead of using the finer holed nutmeg grater)
3 - 4 tsp. black peppercorns
24 bay leaves, broken up
14 cinnamon sticks, broken up (a mortar and pestle works well for this)

blend the mixture in a bowl and pour into a quart jar to store.
to use, add 1 Tbsp. chai mix per cup water. simmer for 5 minutes then let steep for another 15 minutes.
add 1 Tbsp honey per cup and 2 Tbsp per cup of water. Stir, pour and serve!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

dreams come true...

i had a dream a few weeks back about catching a rabbit and butchering it...well, it sort of came true today (warning, graphic photos ahead....don't say i didn't warn you!)

i was minding my own business, working at the computer today on the next issue of herbal roots when i realized it was getting dark. it was only about 9:30am so i knew a storm was coming. i ran outside to load up the wood cart to bring inside so i'd have a supply of wood to keep us warm and to cook our meals with.

as i was coming back in, i noticed the dog walk over to the side of the house right off the porch. i looked down and saw a dead rabbit. upon inspection, i realized it was freshly killed, most likely by my dog so i seized the opportunity and brought it inside to butcher.

first, i had to clear it with my daughter who gets upset about butchering. she knows it's our way of life but she's still unsure about the whole killing to live process that we go through. i talked to her about how the rabbit was already dead and the dog was about to eat it, or worse yet, eat a bite or two and then leave it to rot. i talked to her about skinning the rabbit and tanning the hide so we would have a soft rabbit pelt. she asked if i could make her something with the pelt, like a dress or something. i pointed out the size of the rabbit was much smaller than her so a dress most likely wouldn't work out but perhaps some trim on a dress or something...with that, she was agreeable to me butchering it.

she chose to leave the room but sage stayed by my side the entire time watching and playing. this is the first time i've butchered anything other than a chicken but i'd heard it is rather easy to butcher a rabbit so i dug out my carla emery book and flipped to the rabbit section. first, i had to cut off its head and drain the blood (note the bottom of the bucket is muddy water, not blood, i grabbed the closest thing which was a harvest bucket that had some roots in it).

after draining, i tied string to the hind legs to hang him by off the basement doorknob. not the ideal site but it was cold and raining outside.

next, i cut a slit from one hindleg to the other...

then pulled the fur down the length of his body. this was fairly easy to do although i did get hasty and rip it twice. i'll know better next time.

inside out fur.

naked rabbit, ready for gutting.

my gut hook knife sure came in handy, it cut through the rabbit like butter.

all gutted...the hardest part was trying to cut around the vent hole to remove the instestines in their entirety...there was bone all around it so i did a real hack job of it. but, it was successful, no torn or cut intestines!

fresh rabbit skin, waiting to be stretched and dried.

salted and tacked up on the side of the garage (interior). once it dries i'll work on the next step. i'm debating if i want to use the brains to brain tan the hide...or save the skull for a friend who collects skulls....decisions, decisions...

i forgot to photograph when i deboned and pan fried the rabbit. anyway, after browning, i made a gravy and added cooked potatoes and carrots and chopped up the rabbit into bite sized pieces. i would have added herbs but i was side tracked with phone calls, hide stretching and kids so i forgot to. next time, herbs will be added!

anyway, the gift from my dog turned into our lovely dinner, along with some cornbread and a salad.

dig in!
the kids loved it! well, all except jaden who ate a bite, said she liked it and then wouldn't touch it again.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

rainiest october on record

all this rain is really trying for my moods. i need sun!

today i went grocery shopping. did a huge run: trader joe's, shop-n-save and aldi. phew! thank goodness greg's bonus came through as we were out of a lot of things. although i spent quite a bit, i don't plan on going for another 5-6 weeks, hopefully longer, so i tried to purchase accordingly. i did buy a couple bags of dove chocolate (which i will hoard and enjoy 2 or 3 pieces at a time) and a half dozen bottles of wine but other than that, everything was bare bones:

milk (our goats are dried off now and suddenly, my kids WANT milk!)
half and half (for greg's coffee) i buy several small containers and they will last a month or longer
10# butter
4 cream cheese
8# coffee beans (greg's habit, not mine)
2 packages mate (my habit, used sparingly when i need a kick start)
8# popcorn (our replacement for the nighttime ice cream snack...much healthier!)
2 large bottles ketchup (i miss my homemade, better luck next year with tomatoes)
6 bottles wine (trader joe's has some awesome chilean wine for $4/bottle!)
2 bags each: frozen tuna, frozen salmon, frozen broccoli, frozen green beans
6 - 1# packages block cheese: 2 sharp, 2 mild, 1 mozza, 1 colby jack
6 bags apples (stored 4 in basement and will ration them out)
2 bunches bananas (hide and hoard method again)
4 bags all natural beef jerky (quick snack when we have to run out the door to pick up the older kids)
8 containers of frozen juice (to be mixed with kombucha for a healthy drink)
3 portabello mushrooms
1 box organic salad/spinach mix (i'm craving fresh salad lately)
3 bags frozen shrimp
10# bacon (tj' nitrates/nitrites)
8 bags choc. chips
1 pkg dried apricots
1 pkg candied ginger
3 pkg cheese sticks

things i wanted but dutifully passed by: miss meringue cookies, cereal for the kids, avocadoes, cinnamon scones, salami, lunch meat...

i'd love to be able to stay away from the grocery store until dec 28, which would be 8 weeks. butter and cream probably won't last that long though.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

the man is keepin' us down

rhonda has a great post over at down to earth today about keeping the guvment out of our backyards and keeping clotheslines and chickens in!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

handmade holidays

sharon hit the nail on the head with her post about the extravagance of everyday living. i really enjoy her writing and today's entry is no exception. as much as i loathe to think about the holidays, i need to at least get my idea list written out so i can make room in my busy schedule to start making gifts.

and, i'd like to squeeze in time to make myself a gift...wrist warmers. i found a nifty calculator that will generate a pattern for my skinny little wrists to i need to dig out my measuring tape and get measuring!

for those interested in starting their own handmade holiday, crunchy's got a little challenge going on.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

creative feeding update 2

it's been 1 month since i've started my personal creative feeding challenge. overall, we've done pretty well, with the exception of greg going out and buying steak and pork chops. agh! (he's on a low carb diet to try to lose weight).

our winter larder holds red skinned potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and still to harvest are turnips and sunchokes which we harvest as we use.

i'm craving red meat like crazy, i've never been a big chicken fan and all these chicken meals are not that appealing, especially since the chickens are old and have to be stewed to be any good. i'm hoping greg is able to get a deer this would make me very happy. :)

i'll be needing to place a bulk order soon, mostly for flour but possibly some oats and beans too. i need to check my stocks.

i'm heartened to see others are challenging themselves to not buying as well. kathie at two frog home has issued a challenge for herself to not shop for 6 months!! i think that's terrific. her exceptions are similar to ours: milk/cream, butter, coffee and eggs. while we have an endless supply of eggs, my dairy goats are drying off so that's the last we'll see of the milk until my does start freshening in late february, early march. next year, i hope to have them staggered enough that i can milk year round. we don't drink a lot of milk, but the kids love yogurt and cheese. greg's the coffee drinker and i buy it in bulk from trader joe's. i think we have about 1-2 weeks left and then i'll need to go to tj's to get some more. i'll probably break down and buy bacon there too since they are the only ones in the area that sell nitrate/nitrite free bacon and a bit of bacon can flavor so many things, including the dreaded chicken dish! greg's been trying turnip greens and i think a bit of bacon in there will make them taste even better.

trader joe's is about 40 minutes away from us and i only go there about once every 2 months. it's been 3 since i've been so i need to plan accordingly. i generally buy good things there that i can't get around here: preservative free jerky (great for taking in the truck when we have to drive to pick up the older kids from their dad's house for a snack), butter, yogurt (for culture...this i freeze and use as needed), bacon, coffee, a few bottles of $5 chilean red wine which is delish!, cashews and almonds, cream cheese, chocolate goal on my next shopping trip is to avoid buying all the 'junk' foods we enjoy as well: pirate booty type corn puffs, miss meringue cookies (my addiction), cinnamon scones...

the worst part of the no shopping rule has been not getting fruit for the kids. we got some free pears from a friend and they devoured them. i have to say, those were the best pears i've ever tasted in my life...they were from an old pear tree on her land and they were crisp and sweet, almost like an asian pear but shaped like a bosch/bartlett mix. interesting. she has no idea what kind they were but says they stay crisp until they go bad and then they immediately turn to mush. i'm hoping to get back down to her place soon to pick a bucket or two to bring home. there just may be some pear jelly in my future!

this necessary no shopping month has been great and i hope to continue it as much as possible. besides the upcoming tj trip and bulk food order, i plan to stay away from the grocer except to go and ask for the thrown out produce. i'm still working on that one!

eta: i forgot to add, although this has nothing to do with food, it has nothing to do with money: we sold a friend our extra buck and although we initially set a price and they paid it, while they were here visiting, i mentioned i was going to have to buy a new washer because mine is literally falling apart (our basement is moist and the washer has rusted through...the frame has come off from the insides and it's going to fall into a pile at any moment). they happened to have an extra washer so i suggested we trade our goat for the washer. sweet! they got their $$ back and we got a washer. we all agreed we'd rather barter than use money anyway. i'm happy that it was a win-win situation for all of us.

ayla's herbs

anyone a fan of the earth's children series by jean m. auel? someone has compiled a list of all the herbs used in this series. pretty cool!

Monday, October 19, 2009

a new leaf

this fall finds me starting feel interested in homesteading again. after a summer of feeling burnt out, i'm now sad to see the garden going to sleep. today i moved our cold frame next to the back porch steps, dumped a 5 gallon bucket of compost into into, spread it around and planted some chard, kale and my 3 rosemary plants. later i'll go back out and plant some herbs, possibly bergamot and spearmint and any other small plants i can find. i also have a few sprouting onions i'd like to stick in there as well.the sweet potatoes are lying on the porch of the barn drying. in a week or less, depending on the weather, i'll individually wrap them in newspaper and box them up for storage up in our bedroom (cool and dry) for the winter. a few are sprouting so i'll bring them into the kitchen and let them go for the next few months to get a jump on next year's plants since this year i was way behind and dug up a bunch of undeveloped roots when i harvested them.
the luffas are hanging on the vine, recently touched by the first freeze of the year. i'm waiting for them to dry up a bit then i'll harvest and bring in to make into luffa sponges. i have about 20 or so. they will make great solstice gifts along with some soap and other herbal goodies.i've started craving wild food lately too. i dreamed of catching and killing some cotton tails and cooking them up for dinner. now i'm craving rabbit! i need to get to my dad's house to harvest some hazelnuts...hazelnut butter sounds delicious! i'd like to harvest some acorns but i don't know where the big ones grow that would be worthwhile for harvesting. i think part of my craving wild foods is from reading the delicious meal posts kiva and darcey have been making on facebook...they make me drool! i keep begging greg to go hunting this year so we can fill our freezer with venison. with the advent of the realization that i've taken on more than i can chew with our homesteading dreams, i feel turning to the wild for some of our food would help to relieve that burden...scrounging for food instead of having to spend several months cultivating it sounds marvelous right now. eating venison for breakfast every day sounds wonderful.

i'm hoping to find some autumn olive berries to make jelly with. the only jellies we have on hand are herb jellies and i'm craving some berry jelly. go figure. i broke open the last apricot jam i had today for an almond butter and jelly sandwich. delicious!

on the food front, i still haven't gone to the grocery store. greg has though. he tends to throw a monkey wrench into my plans and about the same time i put a ban on the grocery store, he decided to go back on the south beach diet. i'm happy that he's finally wanting to slim down to a healthier size but darn, it's hard to work around that diet given the food we have on hand! so, he's gone to the store a few times and purchased steak and pork chops, onions (even though we have onions here, he's enamoured by large red onions) and zucchini. i did kindly point out that him running his credit card up further with these purchases does not help out our current financial situation.

sharon has got me wanting to ditch my no spending mantra and join in on the pantry stocking. this is one thing i'm nervous about is whittling down the pantry while not spending money. i do so love the weekly suggestions of what to put by. oh, the torment!

i've started a batch of ginger beer using honey instead of sugar. we'll see if it works. it sounds divine and although we generally don't buy soda to have on hand, the kids would enjoy a treat occasionally!
i'm dreading this holiday season for more reasons than one. family issues, money issues, time issues are the main ones...although we don't buy a lot of gifts, i'm not sure we'll even be able to afford gifts for the kids this year. generally they each get just 1 so hopefully, we can squeeze something out. i'll just have to get more creative with the stocking stuffers. i tend to go overboard with those!

herbally, i'm hoping to focus on regional plants and plants that i can grow so i'm compiling a list of 100 herbs that i know grow around here to start studying in the next year. i started doing something similar a year or so go back but then got sidetracked. this is my way of picking back up on it. i'll be posting on this soon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

November Blog Party Call For Submissions: Coffee/Stimulants/Morning Ritual Beverages

i'll be hosting november's herbal blog party! the subject is morning it coffee, mate, or some herbal concoction, we want to know all about your early (or late) morning beverage ritual. want to join in and share with us what gets you going in the morning? here's how:

~write a post on your blog (or if you don't have one, write a post up anyway and ask someone else to post it on your behalf)
~link to this post in that post
~submit a link to me by nov 1 (in the comments here or to me on facebook)
~come back nov 1 or later and read what everyone's written!

ready?! grab your cuppa' and get writing!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

columbia bottom conservation area

today i took jaden and sage to the columbia bottom conservation area which hosts the confluence of the mississippi and missouri rivers. i'm so glad we went and we will be going back soon!the visitor's center is amazing. it was reconstructed from an old barn that was on the site before it was turned into a conservation area.

tons of handouts to take including a deck of cards that tell about animals and plants, various booklets on subjects such as missouri frogs and toads, raptors, lizards, native plants and more. too numerous to remember and list here! i also grabbed about 5 more brochures of more local conservation areas that i never knew existed. sweet!

the visitor's center hosts many stuffed animals and birds, tracks and leaf imprints on the floor and the history of the making of the visitor center.after touring the center, viewing the fish display, the stuffed animals (trumpet swans, various ducks, raccoons and more) we got to pet a king snake and then headed out to the confluence.along the 4 mile drive, there are various stopping points which we skipped for today. we'll be back with our 'passports' that we were given to visit the rest another time. we went straight to the end, the confluence.once we were there, we headed to the observation deck and viewed the actual confluence and discussed what a confluence was. then, we took a little hike up the river bank.

on the way back, the kids got tired so we sat down to rest and jaden noticed the dirt path was sparkling from sand that had washed onto the path when the riverbanks flooded (most likely every spring). we pulled out spoons, magnifying glasses and containers from our back packs and got busy exploring. sage and i found 2 different types of snail shells that we brought home with us and jaden brought home a container of sandy dirt.

after digging awhile, we watched a tugboat come down the missouri river, drift/push themselves to the mississippi and head back upstream on the mississippi. pretty cool! then, we looked down and noticed turtles rising to the surface and disappearing back into the murky water. we saw 4 or 5 of them.

we headed back to the observation deck, got out our water colors and jaden and i painted our scene while sage ran around playing with caterpillars and leaves.
it was a great day and i hope we can return again soon to explore the slough where the turtles are and much more!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

creative feeding update 1

it's been a little over two weeks since i originally wrote about making do with the food we have available. since then, we've gone to the grocery store once and i bought 1# butter, 3 pints of cream and greg loaded up the cart with some whiskey and rum for medicinal purposes. (we each have our own ideas on how to treat colds). other than that, it's been food in our pantry and garden.

i've butchered 3 times for a total of 12 chickens/roosters. we are now out of broilers and i'm working on the layers although there are quite a few roos to cull as well still. the layers are tiny compared to the broilers. 2-3 layers equal one of them. sunday after butchering 5, i threw 4 hens into the stock pot (the 5th was the final broiler, he went in the freezer for later this week) and stewed them down. i deboned them yesterday and today i'll can the broth for this winter's use.

we've had chicken pot pie, chicken stir fry (with onions, peppers, kale and carrots), chicken and turnips, chicken caccitori, garlic chicken and chicken salad. for all the chicken we've had (i've repeated some of these a few times), no one seems to be sick of chicken yet.

sweet potatoes are about ready to be harvested so that will give us some more variety. i've gotten broccoli from the farmer's market by swapping goat's milk. we have lots of potatoes and butternuts and sunchokes will be ready to dig soon too. we are almost out of red meat, i think we are down to 2 chuck roasts and 3# ground beef. i'm hoping we can get a deer this fall. a friend of ours like to hunt and in exchange for letting him use our land, we get one. i hope that happens soon as i am an avid red meat eater!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Blog Party: Bio-regional Herbs for the Cold and Flu Season

a literal medicine chest in a basket...i just harvested these today from the top going clockwise: honeysuckle flowers, wild cherry twigs, self heal, goldenrod and rosehips in the center.

this month's blog party is being hosted by rosalee of methow valley herbs. head on over there and check out everyone's postings that are participating!

it's so easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest new exotic herbs that are being promoted that it's hard to remember that sometimes, the best medicine is growing right in our own backyards! this blog party is a great reminder to run to our backyard instead of the nearest health food store to find our remedies. i am located in the midwest, near st. louis but most of these herbs can be found across the country.

first, remember the golden rule of health: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! i've written a post about what can be done to prevent the flu at not dabbling in normal.

beautiful solidago

one of my new favorite herbs that i've been dancing with this year is goldenrod (solidago spp.). i've tinctured him and admired him for several years but i've never tried him out until this late summer. and boy, am i glad i did! i was experiencing a headache that was created from sinus pressure and a voice kept whispering to me 'goldenrod.' after trying to ignore both the headache, sinuses and voice for 2 days, i decided to break out goldenrod and give him a try. and kicked myself for being a stubborn taurus herbalist and waited so long to try him out. the headache disappeared within a few hours of dosing (1 dropperful about every 30 minutes or so) and though it came back, it was less intense and as i continued taking goldenrod, the stuffy sinuses were gone and with them, the headache, all by the end of the day. goldenrod is astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, making him an excellent choice for colds and flus. taken as a hot infusion, he will help you sweat out a fever. taken as a cold infusion (meaning after infusing the herb in hot water, let the infusion cool down) he acts as a diuretic and will flush out the kidneys and liver. to test any goldenrod found growing in your landscape, break a leaf off and chew. if he's bitter and drying, you've got an excellent medicinal herb growing in your backyard! harvest his flowering tops and leaves when the flowers just start to bloom and tincture immediately. you can also dry goldenrod. make sure that the flowers have not opened yet or he'll set seed in your drying room!


another terrific flu time herb is elderberry! i cannot rave enough about this wonderful elder of ours. both sambucus nigra and sambucus canadensis are found in my area and both are equally useful. elderberry is prophylactic against flus and colds which means if you take her daily, she can help prevent you from getting sick. she also has antiviral properties which will be helpful for lessening the duration and severity of the flu. she's also full of vitamin c! elderberry is the first thing i reach for when my kids are getting the sniffles. richo cech's making plant medicine book is an excellent resource for making herbal remedies and he suggests making a glycerin tincture of dried elderberries to be the best choice for tincturing elderberries. this makes a delicious tincture that kids will readily take. don't forget elderberry syrup though. this medicine is easy to make and delicious to take. she can be taken daily by the teaspoonful or even used to flavor french toast, pancakes and waffles or even drizzled over some homemade vanilla ice cream! yum!!

to make a syrup, gently heat 2 cups of fresh elderberries with 2 cups of water. when it hits boiling, turn off the heat and mash the berries. cover and allow to infuse for about an hour. strain off the berries and add 2 cups of honey to the liquid and warm on the stove until the honey is thin enough to mix together. stir and pour into a bottle. label and keep refrigerated. to help preserve longer, you can add a bit of brandy (about 1/4 c.) and shake.

elderberry also contains diaphoretic and diuretic qualities. elderberry is also an expectorant, helping to relieve lung congestion.

elderflower is also a wonderful cold and flu herb to have on hand. the flowers of elder contain most of the same properties as the berries.

for treating coughs, i like to make a cough syrup or cough drop from our wild cherry bark. he is delicious and relaxing, helping to ease coughing spasms. among other things, wild cherry bark is analgesic and antibacterial which can help ease the painful chest congestion and help prevent a secondary bacterial infection from setting in. if i'm out of the syrup, i will often snip a few twigs from the tree and decoct them for about 10-20 minutes to make a quick cherry bark drink. sweetened with a dab of our raw honey, they will drink it down fairly quickly!

other herbs that grow around us that are helpful for treating colds and flus are bergamot (monarda fistulosa), st. john's wort and lobelia. lobelia i tend to be cautious with as it is a low dose botanical but bergamot makes a delightful tea that i enjoy immensely as a beverage and has great carminative, diaphoretic, diurectic and antibacterial actions. use of bergamot dates back to native americans who used her for treating bronchial ailments, sore throats, fever and headaches. any of the monarda species can be used but i prefer to use my wild bergamot that grows in my garden. i collected 1 seed head several years back and i now have three beautiful stands in my garden!

st. john's wort is most often known for his use in treating depression but he has antiviral abilities as well. he is also astringent and expectorant making him great to treat lung congestion. i have not had much experience in using him but i have lots tinctured up and will be trying him out this winter if needed. while st. john's wort grows wild around here, my tiny wild patch was choked out by honeysuckle last year and is slowly reemerging in another part of the woods so i'm using my cultivated st. john's wort which makes a lovely blood red oil and tincture. in the future, i hope to be able to use the wild st. john's wort since i truly believe wild is stronger than cultivated.

honeysuckle, the bane of master naturalists everywhere, is used a lot in chinese medicine and is great for stimulating circulation and removing inflammation. in traditional chinese medicine, she is used for clearing heat and removing toxicity. she is excellent for treating 'hot' sore throats and modern laboratory research has proven she has antibacterial qualities. it's best to harvest the flowers before they open and are great dried (for teas), tinctured or even honeyed or made into a syrup.

rose hips are high in vitamin c which is great to take to help fight off colds and flus and they are also antiviral. a rose hip elixir is a great way to get kids to take their medicine! a great preventative and a great curative as well.


and finally, self heal/all heal, prunella. i wrote all about her on a previous blog party (see my list of resources below for the link)so i won't go into much detail here. she has an amazingly long list of actions: alterative, antimicrobial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, febrifuge, hypotensive, stomachic, styptic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary! as a preventative or treatment, she will work great. make her into a tea or use in tincture form.

some resources and more information:
for more information on goldenrod:

for a great list of all the elders available around the world try this link:

trying to identify elderberry? read my recent post on herbal roots zine:

want to teach your kids more about elderberry? last month's issue of herbal roots zine was on elderberry:

for more about honeysuckle:

more information on wild rose petals and hips elixir:

my blog party post on self heal:
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