Wednesday, September 24, 2008

the Autumn Dandelions are in the lawn

I was looking out at the overgrown lawn today, and noticed that there were at least 25 or 30 dandelions blooming in the grass! The fall roots have spent the full summer gathering energy and nutrition, and some of them will send out flowers. Get out your shovels, it's time to harvest the root veggies and herbs (is there a difference?).

We have a guest blogger today, offering this article on Dandelion. Thank you, Kelly!

Digging Deep into the Dandelion Root

There’s a wide range of herbal supplements, each of which acts as a natural aid to health. The dandelion is one such herb; available at hardly any cost and offering tremendous health benefits, this common garden weed holds a wealth of medicinal goodness in its roots and leaves, some of which are listed below:
· The leaves have strong diuretic properties and are sometimes better than allopathic drugs in treating kidney infections because they are a rich source of potassium as opposed to the latter which cause the mineral to be lost from the body.
· The roots help in purifying the blood and removing toxins from the liver (by increasing bile production) and the kidneys.
· It has mild laxative properties and helps relieve constipation.
· It aids in the process of digestion and boosts appetite.
· It is good for the complexion and helps prevent dry skin conditions and the occurrence of black spots.
· It is rich in potassium, iron and other vitamins that help in the treatment of anemia.
· It helps in relieving menstrual cramps and painful muscle spasms and offers relief from menopausal symptoms.
· The herb helps in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.
· It is rich in boron, calcium and silicon and so protects women from osteoporosis and rheumatism by boosting the production of estrogen.
· It helps weight reduction by regulating blood sugar and improving fat metabolism.
· It is rich in sodium and so helps balance the electrolytes and neutralize acids in the blood.
· The sap from the stem and root of the herb contains astringent properties and helps in the treatment of warts, blisters, corns and acne.
· It helps lower cholesterol and uric acid levels in the body.
· It’s a good substitute for coffee as it contains a similar taste but none of the harmful caffeine content.
A few words of caution while using the dandelion root:
· Avoid ingestion if you suffer from gallstones.
· It may increase acidity levels, so avoid if you are prone to ulcers.
· Avoid if you are allergic to plants like chamomile and yarrow.
· Consult your physician if you’re using antibiotics and/or other drugs that reduce blood sugar levels or act as diuretics.
This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of nursing schools online. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mount Joy Farmers Market - 3 more weeks

There aren't many weeks left for this season, but each week the bounty surprises me. Each week there is something new and exciting. This week J&J Growers brought in chestnuts from his own trees! They were a huge bargain, at only $3/quart. Grocery stores charge by the pound - usually something like 4 or 5 bucks, and a quart was way over a pound. They'll be roasting soon. You may notice in the picture below, a lone sweet potato off in the corner. There were two. I ate one for dinner. In fact, I took this picture while it was cooking. Figured it was best to hurry before everything disappeared.
Sam Nolt had this gorgeous green pumpkin (gourd?). On my screen the color comes through true. It looks like a cross between sage and jade green. I rarely want stuff to sit around and look pretty, but this color was just too incredible to pass up. Here's hoping that the seeds will grow next year. Sam always has nice stuff. Today I noticed he had peaches and concord grapes along with corn, tomatoes, beans, and other late summer crops.

My sister's jewelry is always a temptation to shoppers, and really... is it any wonder? Look at those beads! She does fairly well at market with her jewelry. It is a bit of a shame that market doesn't run closer to the holidays, because I think she'd clean up. Just to clarify, she creates each of the beads herself, using a torch and glass rods. They are then fired in a kiln (there are proper terms for these things, but just between us, we'll use the layman's terms, OK?). After she makes the main beads, she matches them up with findings and small finishing beads to create finished pieces of jewelry. Her latest "thing" is glass teapots that are about 1" in diameter, and they are pendants. Funky!
Our new neighbors at the market this year are Steve and Mary Prescott from Prescott's Patch. They are farming organically without the certification. To me, knowing the farmer and seeing how they feel about their produce is more important than the certification. Last week Mary told me this was Steve's mission in life - to grow these heirloom fruits and vegetables, and to do it in a sustainable way. Sometimes you can just tell about people, ya know? They have an easy way about them, and the customers just love them. Ask them about a variety, and chances are they can tell you how to cook it, what it goes well with, and maybe even a favorite recipe.

Their display is colorful and inviting, and every week I wind up trying something. Last year Kharren did that with her incredible variety of veggies, and I miss her. It's good to have someone here challenging my taste buds again. See those variegated eggplants? They actually taste a little creamier than the all-purple ones. Really! Every time a customer takes a bunch of basil, my sister and I sigh as the aroma reaches our booth, and the red raspberries seem to be every one's favorite. In case you read this, Mary, go ahead and try that new variety of sweet potato! It isn't too sweet. You might like it.
Then we have Bill and Lil from Grandma's Goodies. Most mornings we have to start off with a Rice Krispie Treat, and lately she's been bringing coffee. Those pumpkin whoopie pies are KILLER! Not too sweet, perfectly spiced (yes as a matter of fact, I AM a pumpkin bread aficionado)... oh, they're good all right. They make some mean pies (I'm partial to Shoo-fly), and today I brought home a carrot cake for the girls to eat when they get home from working at the renaissance faire tonight.
Of course we always have plenty of soap. We've got scrubs, salt bars, sniffing jars, lotion bars, lavender wands, books, magazines and all kinds of herbie stuff. But here's the soap.

All of this is works smoothly under the direction of Stacy Rutherford from Main Street Mount Joy. She makes it work. Everyone has a good time and comes out ahead. It can't be easy. I know that personally, at 7:15 in the morning, having had scarcely half of my minimum daily requirement of java, I have been a pain in the behind on more than one day. I know. Hard to believe - lol.

Anyway, be sure to stop down in the the next few weeks. October 11 is our last day, and after that it's internet or Frog Hollow Tree Farm for your Christmas Tree.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Elderberry tincture time

Yesterday I picked the last of the elderberries off the bush in the back yard. They are so beautiful that it is difficult to take them from the umbel. Currently, they are spread out on the counter of the island... deep dark pearls, perfect and round, heavy with juice and medicine.
I have often written about how important we feel it is to have plenty of elderberry in the house for the winter. At this point, it would be just about unthinkable not to. Just yesterday we stopped at an Amish roadside stand for something, and although I'm well stocked, I checked their supply of elderberry jelly. Now that is one instance where a spoon full of sugar really does help the medicine go down.
A few weeks ago a friend of mine who is very experienced with herbs (although not so much medicinally) asked me to explain how to make a tincture (aka extract) and it made me realize that lots of people might want to know. This method works for just about any herb you'd want to tincture. For home use, I don't worry too much about percentages and such. Some herbs require a higher amount of alcohol or more water to better extract the properties. We just plunk the herb in the alcohol and so far, we've been very happy with the results.
One of the benefits of making a tincture with alcohol (others can be made with vinegar or glycerine & water) is that it is preserved for years and a 1/2 teaspoon or so in a swallow of juice is an efficient way to take a dose that is quickly absorbed. If you prefer not to make your own, you can find it here.

So to begin....
Gather ripe elderberries. Around here that means that one must also turn over the umbels and flick off the stinkbugs that live among the berries.

Roll the berries off the tiny stems. This requires a gentle touch. I've tried a wide toothed comb, but that results in a lot of stem attached to the berries. Now it seems that sitting on the deck as the sun goes down is the perfect way to strip the berries. John Gallagher of suggests freezing the umbels prior to stripping to make it easier, but I haven't tried it myself. The berries in the picture below are much darker than they appear here. The flash, I think...
Choose a jar that will hold the berries that you've cleaned, and pour in the berries. We save jars during the year to make our tinctures in the fall and spring. If you like, you can muddle the berries at this point so that the juice will more easily release into the the menstruum (alcohol) when it is added.

Cover the berries with alcohol. What kind of alcohol? This preparation is to be taken internally, so that means the alcohol must be something that can also be for internal use. Most herbies use vodka, but not all. Brandy is used, whiskey, and sometimes whatever is in the house. I've been known to grab gin or rum if the herb was ready and that was all that was available. It is more about the alcohol, and the ability to preserve. If grain alcohol is used (not available in my state), add some water to the mix because most herbs need some water in order to extract well. Half and half is a good blend. Personally I use the cheap vodka because chances are I will go through a couple of gallons in the fall. This doesn't mean that I'll actually use all of that tinctured vodka over the winter, but I will have lots to share with my family and friends as the cold and flu season goes on. Elderberry - I make at least a quart! Holy Basil - that's another quart or more. And then there is Echinacea, Chamomile, Passion Flower, and Vitex. I could go on and on - but you get my drift. There are varying opinions on how long to allow tinctures to sit. Some people tell you to shake it daily, as well. So, I'll tell you my method, and you can come up with your own.
I put my jars in a out-of-the-way corner of the kitchen during this season to keep an eye on them. It is dimly lit in the corner. As things wind down, I'll be sure they are all well labeled and then as the frost hits, the jars will all go in the cupboard above the corner counter. I don't strain them, nor shake them. They are done until we need them. At that point we will strain them off and use them.
This year, if you haven't tried making a tincture before, just do one. You'll be successful, of that I am certain, and if you'd like to purchase them instead, visit our web shop.

If you've enjoyed this instruction, consider a subscription to
The Essential Herbal Magazine, where we discuss the simple, pleasant ways we can incorporate herbs into our lives everyday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A blast from the past

The title isn't really appropriate. Laura Daniel isn't really from the past because we communicate daily. The computer and especially IM's are an incredible means to stay in touch, and we have done so for many years now.
My sister and I met Laura and her beau Robbie at the renaissance faire in '93 or '94. They moved on to the Big Apple within a couple of years, but our friendship endured and they even hosted us during many trips to the wholesale shows while we had a shop to stock. In fact, we started attending shows like "the boutique show" at Javitz just so we could spend a weekend AND buy some cool clothes for the shop.

As the years pass, we find it harder and harder to snatch a pair of days to visit with one another. Her career is taking off, and she can scarcely fit all of her rehearsals, performances, and work into her days - much less a trip out of town.... (photo lifted from NYTimes, and credit goes to Dick Larson, photographer) Remember the name Laura Daniel, folks. If you saw her here first, remember that too - lol. She's flying, and you will soon see and hear her everywhere stage, movies, tv, music recordings, voice-overs... she is incredible!so it was a great surprise to hear that Robbie would be spending a week in a nearby town on business, and Laura would be able to zip over here during the day while she spent some time with him.

We had a great time. First some hugs, then (of course) down into the woods.
Later we went in to downtown Mount Joy for a bite to eat. Molly couldn't get off school that day because of a field trip, but fortunately she got back in time for a hug.

The food at the restaurant (the Tilted Kilt, on Main Street in Mount Joy) was really scrumptious, and the day was glorious, forcing us to choose the open deck along the street for our table. I must apologize to Toby Myers, proprietor of The Tilted Kilt. It's been over a week since we've been there and I can't remember what everyone ate. All I can say is that we ALL enjoyed the meal thoroughly and the dessert that we shared was delicious!

If you are in the vicinity of The Tilted Kilt, stop by and have a bite. Everything from Tartan Fries *YUM!!!* to Scotch Eggs, to Roasted Pepper soup that nephew Rob suggests should be eaten daily. I haven't had any of the alcoholic beverages, but it appears that the libations include a prodigious number of brews.

Very reasonable, not your everyday burgers, but not too different - if you know what I mean. Great pairings of different flavors, textures and tastes, that are just unusual enough to be a wonderful treat.

bloggerama - coming up!

There's been a lot going on around here, and I've been capturing it all on film but neglecting to transfer it to the blog!
Just to get caught up, it looks like a little bit of blog a day for the next week ought to do it. Hopefully it won't be obnoxious, but there are some really cool things that will be lost to the mists of time, and more coming up real soon. So....

Completely out of order, we'll begin with the past few days. I found myself away - just a couple hours north of home. Outside, was a wonderful little wooded area and we wandered around for a bit before dinner the first evening and wound up spending time there every time we went out. The growth was very "short", barely up to my ankles, and much of it was asters, ragweed, and baby sassafras trees, along with other things I didn't recognize. One bush looked like very small ragged wild blueberry bushes. Tasting a berry, it was quite bitter. Another bush had marble sized round green berries, and I couldn't compare it to anything. I don't believe I tasted that one.

But lower, closer to the ground we found some glossy leaves that bugged me. They looked like something familiar... that way that plants I've studied in field guides over the years do, when they've never actually turned up during any outtings. In other words, those I've yet to find.

Oh! Then there were berries! I reached down and crushed a leaf to sniff...Wintergreen! Ah!!! A Bazillion plants scattered over a few acres! And me without my camera. The berries taste just like wintergreen candy, but not quite as sweet. We dug a few plants, and I brought them home with the intent of getting a patch going here. I wish that I'd picked a lot of the leaves and saved them for tea, but it's not that far to return...

In that little woods, there were trees covered with chrysalises and sort of mud-pack combs. There were huge rock formations and incredible mats of mosses. There were bushes of a rhododendron appearing plant ready to bloom which I now suspect was Labrador tea, and so many really interesting plants. It is amazing to me that traveling 100 or 150 miles can make such a huge difference in the flora. Even the trees were different, with an abundance of birches and beeches compared to our oaks and maples. There were oaks, but different varieties than I am accustomed to. In any case, I want very much to return in the spring to see what emerges from that woods. It was so beautiful, and so full of life.

Not having a camera OR a field guide, I wanted to pinch off a piece of this plant to identify. Does anyone have any idea what it is? This pic is about lifesize. The leaves are about 2" long and then get smaller toward the top, or near the flower bud.As I pinched, the whole thing came up, and the roots are underground runners that were buried lightly under decayed leaves. I hope it survives, as it will be planted out first thing in the morning.
What a great getaway! Walking in the woods was just the icing on the cake - but yummy wintergreen icing :-).

Monday, September 08, 2008

A little bit out there...that was refreshing!

Yesterday was one of those gorgeous days that make you, make that need ... to get outside. Sunny sky, a breeze, temperatures that aren't like a blast furnace, and the vegetation at the very brink of toppling into fall made it an incredible adventure.

A few days earlier, Maryanne found herself at our bayberry source and picked about a quart. We figured we could go pick some more because we use it in the holiday bayberry soap that we only make at this time of year. In the same general direction is a park where I'll be setting up for a book signing next Saturday afternoon, and had offered to include a weedwalk. Always good to check that stuff out first ;-) . And I'm glad we did, because we may need to revise the plan a bit since it is more of a landscaped area than I thought - and WAY too much poison ivy back on the paths to be going off the path.

As we headed out the driveway, I looked at my sister and it struck me that it had been at least a year since we'd done anything together that we didn't *need* to do for some reason or another. Yesterday was just a fun ramble. Sure, both of our destinations were necessary, but not like our usual (lately) somewhat driven pace. Taking care of a desperately ill person is hard all the way around, but now he's quite a bit better. So we had a day.

As we left the park we noticed a stand of small trees that the birds were just fluttering around. They were having such a ball that the trees seemed almost to be in motion themselves. We pulled over to check it out and found 2 varieties of Silkie Dogwood with the most beautifully shaded blue berries.

Almost at the end of the drive we found these Winterberries. It took my sister and her husband quite a while to identify with field guides and computer because these just aren't that commonly used around here in landscaping - and don't occur too much as natives.

Next we went to the bayberry "secret site". Heh heh. Ours aren't quite producing yet, so for now our source is a secret location. We each filled a quart freezer bag. We boiled off a lot of the wax last night and will probably do the rest today. It will most likely result in less than a pound. Not a lot, but so worth it. I'll add a pic of the wax later.
As we sat looking through the fieldguides, I found a picture of hazelnut pods and exclaimed how cool they were. Yeah, yeah... I hear you asking, "what the heck was she doing in the nut tree section of the field guide when she was supposed to be looking at berries?" and I'll just say that this is all supposed to be FUN!
So it was pretty funny when Bob said, "I have 50 of those trees - just babies - out in the little nursery outside and today I SAW those things today. Come on, I'll show you."Life here can be so good.