Sunday, August 17, 2014

Healing Salve

First off, let me say that I am no doctor.  Please do your own research as to what you feel you can and cannot do for your family.

As some of you know, a few years ago, I began playing around with homemade non-petroleum jelly. (  It is simple.

Recently, I investigated a healing salve.  Calendula is always good for soothing and healing skin for example.  Plantain (the plant, not the relative of the banana) is one that is excellent for blocking the reactions of bug bites, and Jewel weed is excellent for poison ivy.

 Jewel Weed is a very tender plant with yellow to orange flowers, with a bit of a spottiness to it. It prefers the damp, shady (or at least partially shady) places.           

Plantain. Note the purple stem, and when you pick it you will find that it is very stringy,like very tough celery. It loves full sun and sandy places.    
I am one of those unfortunate people who even when surrounded by others will get eaten alive by the hordes of insects, while those next to me will say what a pleasant, insectless night it is.  I itch, I swell, and my daughter is the same, so this sounded like a good plan.

I first harvested the plantain and jewelweed.  Both are considered weeds, and were relatively easy to find.  I took them home and cleaned them and dried them (This step is important!), and then ran them through my food processor.

In a pint mason jar, I put the chopped up plants, along with the dried calendula I already had.  Next, cover the whole batch with olive oil until it is completely covered (preferably with about a half inch of just oil on top.)  Remember I said the drying stage was important? Well, does water and oil mix?  water in your product will not help your final salve, and water or plant material above the oil line will just encourage mold.

Keep this in a jar, shaking occasionally, for 4 weeks. When ready, strain it well and your oil is ready to use.

From this point, just follow the non-petroleum jelly recipe.  I have added a few drops of tea tree and a few drops of vitamin E oil.  The vitamin E extends the shelf life, while the tea tree adds a bit of anti bacterial properties, which makes it a bit more of an all purpose, excellent healing salve.  I have used it on cuts, bug bites and poison ivy, all with very good results.
 This is what it looks like just poured.

 you can see i have it in both small travel size balm 'tins', and both half cup and full cup mason jars.  A little goes a long way!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Drier balls

So, I had read about using drier balls instead of drier sheets. I don't really do a lot with fiber, but a quick trade got me some wool.

My first batch I admittedly wrapped a little too loose. They work, but will likely fall apart sooner. My next batch had them much tighter and therefore harder. Roll it just like you would a regular ball of yarn, only tight. Tuck in the end. The ball should be about the size of a tangerine. (I wouldn't make it bigger than a baseball).

When you have a number of balls, you will want to put them in an old nylon stocking, knotting it tightly between balls.

If you have ever had a favorite wool sweater go through the wash, you know you need 2 things to make wool shrink--water and heat.  Take your balls and soak them in water before you put them in the drier.

Because no matter how tightly you roll them, your balls are still going to be full of air.  This means, yup--they are going to float.  I used one of my bowls that fit into the pitcher to hold them under the water.

Next, pop your balls in the drier.  Now, I usually hang dry, unless it is raining for an extended time.   However, something to consider is it will likely take more than one cycle to dry. (this most recent batch took 3 times through, but I over soaked them.)

When they come out (and feel dry) you will need to cut them out of the nylon.

This is what they look like when they emerge. -->

The final product.  Now, I made several.  I made them different colors both because that is the yarn I had, but also to differentiate scents--put a few drops of essential oil on the ball prior to tossing in the drier. (This is not enough oil to cause an issue in your drier). I usually use cedarwood oil, but have also used lavender. I also make several because the kids tend to take them with their loads to their rooms, not to be returned for a decade or so.

Now for the amazing news.  On an average clothing load, these balls have managed to cut off about 20 minutes of drying time.  Think about that. 3 loads would be an HOUR saved--and we all know that the drier is one of the highest users of our electricity (right up there with electric water heater and stove!)

Totally worth the time!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Playing Catchup

I'm afraid I have been a horrible blogger.  started a new job, and it was more important that I actually DO the stuff, than blog about it.  I hope you will all forgive me!

Last summer, I moved my vegetable garden (all 20'x16' of it) to my parent's property, where I could spread out, grow some things I didn't have room for, and really get to growing. My mom wanted a garden again, but wanted so share.

My side of the garden? 100'x24'. There were some tricks to this garden however.  First, it used to be the 'family' garden--like my great grandparents.  It went fallow gosh, about 20 years ago. No water. No electric. Lots of varmints.

Some lessons learned?
  • We live in New England--it doesn't matter how many rocks you pick, you will always grow more.
  • Wild Turkeys like to take dustbaths in your dirt.
  • Organic gardening on THIS size takes a lot more work--8 tomato plants compared to 30 to squish bugs on a regular basis is hard, and it doesn't matter how much neem oil or dishsoap water you spray, you need to always keep on top of it.
  • Mexican bean beetles like squash and cucumber plants, but didn't eat the beans.  Who named these anyway?
  • feast or famine--like when all dozen of my canteloupe ripened with 2 days.
  • guarantee, it will be absolute hottest heat wave when it comes time to can your tomatoes.
  • mulch is your friend.
  • again MULCH IS YOUR FRIEND. No one actually ENJOYS weeding.
  • when the garden isn't home, make sure you bring plenty of baskets, bags, buckets for your harvest (and in one instance, I used a printer box for a whole load of swiss chard!)
  • little white butterflies are not your friend. They are not pretty on a hot lazy afternoon, they are out to get your perfectly lovely cabbage, broccoli and collard greens. Devils in disguise!
You get my point. I was very proud of the absolutely lovely spinach that seemed to last forever last year.  30 tomato plants kept me in canned tomatoes until March.  I had lovely pickles, and amazing broccoli.

So I tried to take my lessons into this year. Broccoli and spinach? Must have more of.  the 3 rows of broccoli seem to be behind where they were last year; the jury isn't in yet.  Spinach seeds were planted too deeply and too late to replant; will be aiming for a fall crop.  Been keeping a better lid on the insect infestations.

 Things that changed this year--
  • have a better idea of what I planted too much of (still in freezer)
  • better idea what my family will eat (wax beans did not go over well:( )
  • My mother moved her garden, so I know have the full 100'x50'--so we're doing lots of experimenting this year. (more on this in later posts)
  • The deer gave me a free pass last year--not so this year.  Had to break down and get an electric fence. Remember, I'm in the middle of a field; no electric--so the fence is solar powered.
  • No water. Not so bad last year, but it's been stop and go this season. My dad helped me out with a home made gravity fed rainwater bucket (yes, another post)
Which leads me to further plans.  I will be building a high dome to extend my season, and a cold frame at the house.

Other notes of interest that I hope to blog on soon--I recieved my national food handler's license, so will be starting to offer canning and cheesemaking classes on a more formal basis soon.

Currently working on:
  • Braided rug out of old T-shirts.
  • Liquid soap
  • Oatmeal Honey soap
  • healing salve
  • natural bug spray
Will be blogging more soon!