Be Your Own Doctor (How to make your own medicine)

If you knew how many times I have uttered the words, “It’s a good thing I am an herbalist!”  We were the parents that made regular visits to the ER on weekends with everything from pink eye to a broken wrist.  For the past eleven years, there is little I have been unable to handle myself.  I can get rid of pink eye in two hours, sinus and kidney infections, and oncoming colds over night, as well as chronic issues.

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My home apothecary is filled with dried herbs from my gardens, a few that are purchased due to not growing here, and many jars of brewing extracts so that I am always ready to anything.  My medicine gardens are drinking up all of this spring rain and are ready to burst into blooms.

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Living amongst animals means that inevitably you will be treating a bite.  Emily read from her phone as I tried to stop the bleeding and keep myself calm, “One in three people end up in the hospital after a cat bite.”

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“It’s a good thing I am an herbalist.”  We were so far from my house though that we drove an hour to the town of Elizabeth instead to get to my daughter, Shyanne’s home apothecary.  I wasn’t going to be home for another six hours and I knew it would be too late by then.  Infection would surely set in.  We stopped at a grocery store so that I could at least wash it with soap and water.  I walked like a shocked crime victim to the far bathrooms.

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Shyanne gave us the code to her house.  I applied our Wound Healer and then drenched a paper towel in straight Goldenseal alcohol extract and slapped it on my arm.  Emily heard a scream from the lower floor.  Yikes, cat bites hurt.  But the medicine took away much of the pain and opened the wounds to bleed freely.

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Second day

Yesterday I cleaned the wounds again in the shower and applied Wound Healer and then our Pain Salve.  I bandaged it and went about my day.  Today the wounds are sealed, bruising is gone.  It hurts because it is in the crease of my arm, but there is no infection.  I started taking our own Antibiotic the day of the bite (2 days ago).  The medical system did not gain a penny from me.

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It is just wise to at least know basic herbal first aid.  It could save your life.  Know what herbs stop bleeding, kill infection, set bones, heal torn muscles, and help with pain.  Then move on to internal antibiotics, allergy medicines, pain medicines, and digestive help.  Heart, eye, brain, kidney, and thyroid medicines inevitably follow.  It is addictive and empowering and an important lost skill on a homestead.  I know not everyone has the same passion I do, so if you don’t want to make all of your own medicines, please seek out a qualified, talented herbalist.  (Not just someone that sells essential oils or grows pot.)

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If you are local, I have a 12 week intensive Master Herbalist Program starting August 25th on my farm.  It takes place every Sunday afternoon.  If you are not local, I have a Correspondence Course as well.  Or you can check out my books, The Herbalist Will See You Now and The Homesteader’s Pharmacy to teach yourself.  They make great homestead references. Http://AuthorKatieSanders.com

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Don’t forget the power of plants.  With a good grasp of herbalism, your homestead will be filled with healthy animals and humans!

If you live in Pueblo, or surrounding areas, I still make folks medicine.  My number is 303-617-3370.  You can also visit Shyanne or order from her website at http://WhiteWolfHerbs.com 

Become a Certified Herbalist with my Online Course

Do you have the same love for herbs as I do?  Do you imagine an apothecary within your home filled with jars of beautiful dried herbs that you grew yourself and vats of brewing medicines to heal anything and everything?  Do you wish to know how to heal?  Do you imagine your own apothecary on the main street?  Greeting customers with a cup of tea and a smile and a ready cure for their dog’s arthritis or maybe their own lingering cough?  If you are tired of doling out money to others for things that you can heal yourself, maybe it is time to consider becoming a certified herbalist!

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I have been an herbalist for a long time.  I have seen nearly every ailment you can think of.  I have successfully helped heal thousands of people and animals.  I grow dozens and dozens of medicinal herbs and can identify many more.  I know Native American herbs like the back of my hand.  It is a part of my very heart.

I remember the fear of holding my newborn son, his fever raging, his lungs tired from screaming.  I remember not knowing what to do.  I remember.

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I don’t want any mother (or father) or farmgirl to not know what to do when your chicken sneezes, or your horse colics, or your baby has a fever.  Knowing how to work with herbs takes away so much fear in life.  So much worry is dispelled with knowledge.  I am not talking about essential oils here, I am talking about the whole herbs and what to do with them.  The plants are our medicine.  Let me teach you.

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My online certified herbalism study course is back and better than ever.  I have purposely set my price considerably lower than any other school because this is knowledge that is so very important.  $250 includes your text book, my recipe book, and ongoing study with me.  Take all the time you need.  We will keep in touch through email.  You can call or text me if you have questions.  Even after you complete the course.  Now is the time.  Spring is a great time to embark on a new hobby, career, lifestyle.

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Email me to register.  Katie@Pumpkinhollowfarm.net

Starting Seeds in Salad Containers

Over the years I have written about many ways to start seeds and they all have one thing in common, a simulated greenhouse.

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Now, every year I think I will have a real greenhouse.  Surely by the time I need to start seeds I will have one built or put together or otherwise exist, but then the same issue comes up every season (no funds), and so I am once again left with my own creativity.  This year I saved salad containers all year.  The kind with the lids.  You see, the key to seed starting is lots of sun and continuous moisture in a warm space.  It is so dry and cold here that I would be watering all the time and probably cause the seeds to mold.  No, I need a mother-nature-way of watering, softly and simply, with evaporation and condensation.

Many seeds should be direct planted.  Even though I added six weeks to my growing season by moving to Pueblo, I still need more time for peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant.  I found last year that when I direct planted them, they almost made it before frost.  This year I am holding back half of the seeds to direct plant and half I will transplant.  Transplanting is not always successful so we figure that one of the ways will succeed!  (And so goes the life of a farmer.)

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Fill your salad container 2/3 of the way full with organic, potting soil.  You want room for the plants to grow.  Water the soil so that it is evenly damp.  We don’t want any marshes settled at the bottom, but you might be surprised how much water the potting soil can hold.

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When it is evenly damp, sprinkle the seeds over the soil somewhat spread apart.  Barely sprinkle on more soil to cover and use a spray bottle of water to really dampen.  Until they are established, a water bottle prevents water pressure from dislodging the seed or drowning the poor fellas.

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Close lid tightly and mark with a sharpie.  Because you will forget the varietal and date you planted!  Just trust me on this.

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Let’s see, now to find a place with at least six hours of sun where the cats won’t step on or eat said seedlings.  (A more difficult dilemma than one might think.)  The guest room has a nice sunny spot on the bed from the south facing window a good part of the day and the door closes.

Now over the next week or two, keep an eye on your seeds.  There should be consistent “rainfall” in the box.  If it slows (every other day or so) spray thoroughly with water and reclose.  When plants are 1 inch tall, open the top and water as needed making sure not to let them dry out nor drown.  (You can still use the spray bottle.)  Once they get to be about two or three inches, transplant into another container separately.  (A blog post on that will be in a few weeks.)

I don’t know about you but I am darn near stir crazy not being able to be outside doing something.  At least starting seeds makes me feel like spring has begun.

How to Treat Parasites and Infections in Chickens (and other animals)

The chicks that we brought home were rescued by brave volunteers that worked parallel to the killing crew that came in and snapped thousands of necks by hand.  It is amazing that these chickens have lived this long.  And it might be amazing if all of them make it another month.  Some are stronger than others.  One of our girls has beautiful, sleek outer feathers and a sweet filled-in face while another is smaller than the others with a deformed shoulder and a terrible cold.

The easiest way to treat chickens is with tea in their water.  They all love their water and don’t mind the taste of the herbs.  The infusion works quickly, so I expect whoever is going to survive is going to be well by the end of the week.  No more parasites, E coli, viruses, or infections.  You can use this same technique to treat other animals as well.

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In a saucepan combine 1 Tablespoon of each loose herb-

pine needles

mint

rosemary

eucalyptus

goldenseal and

3 cloves of garlic

You could also use/sub in:

Walnut shells

Oregon grape root

echinacea

mugwort

juniper berries

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We are using a blend of herbs that are anti-parasitic and antibacterial.  Bring to a boil with 4 cups of water and simmer (decoct) for 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and let continue to infuse.  Pour 1/2 cup of infusion into small water bowl if chicks are in your guest room or the whole thing (herbs and all) into a large waterer if you are treating a whole flock.

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I cut up a pumpkin and placed it in their little pen.  They also get a tablespoon of cinnamon mixed into their feed twice a day.

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Right now we have seven chickens taking up the guest room.  I don’t want them to freeze, nor do I want them to get the other chickens sick.  In their infirmary, they are snuggled together, eating, drinking, or singing.  We take turns holding each one each day so that they get used to contact.  My cat, Frankie, loves to snuggle on my lap when I am holding the chicks.  We have a fun, little farm here.

How to Make a Rich Skin Salve for Super Dry Skin

I have told you before; it is dry here.  Not just dry, like you might need some lotion and lip balm, it’s eczema, skin itching, nose bleed dry here in Colorado.  I love to travel places with humidity.  But, my home is here.  In the winter, lotion doesn’t cut it, even though I make the most fabulous lotion, I need something stronger in the cold, dry months of furnace and wood stove and zero percent humidity.  Last year I showed you how to heat infuse herb oils in the crock pot to keep in the bathroom for after you shower.  This year I want to show you how to make a really great thick skin salve that can be used on cracked heels, finger tips, dry patches, or if you live in the desert, all over your body!

It’s quite simple, really.  In a wide mouth quart jar add 2 Tablespoons each of calendula flowers and comfrey leaves and 1 Tablespoon of lavender and/or roses. (Try online at mountainroseherbs.com or at your local health food store.  Next year grow them!)

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Now pour in 2 cups of olive or sunflower oil.

Put jar in saucepan and pour water in pan to half way up jar.  Bring to boil.  Make sure no water jumps in the quart jar.  Double boil the jar of oil for 45 minutes.  (You could place it in a sauce pan directly and heat on medium low for 20 minutes, stirring often,  but you really risk burning it.)  I like to use a chop stick to stir every five minutes or so.  Keep an eye on your water level!

When the oil is infused, strain the herbs out through a fine sieve and put oil in a clean, dry, wide mouth pint jar.  Add 1.5 ounces of beeswax, emulsifying, or candelilla wax to oil.  Heat in double boiler again until wax is melted.  Stir with a chop stick often.

When completely melted, you can add 30 drops of lavender essential oil, or leave it as is.  Stir with chop stick once more and let cool on a towel on the counter until set.  Do not cover until set.

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The salve lasts for years but you will use it up in a month if you live in Colorado!  Wishing you warm cups of tea and perfectly moisturized skin this holiday season, my Friends.

You can find many recipes for salves and herbal medicines in my book, The Homesteader’s Pharmacy. 

Or just make it easy on yourself and order from our family apothecary, WhiteWolfHerbs.com

 

How to Grow, Use, and Keep Fresh Herbs

Herbs are so heavenly.  Not only are they filled with nutrition to lower cholesterol and improve circulation and immunity, they give everything a taste of fresh summer.  A bite of excitement.  A perk to the senses.

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If you aren’t used to having fresh herbs in your food, it may take a little bit to get used to.  One might be more accustomed to mint in their tea than mint in their salad!  Just start small and add more as you go.

Try cilantro on top of Asian, Indian, or Mexican food.

Parsley is nice atop savory dishes.

Basil and Oregano, of course, are the king and queen of Italian food.

Thyme is delightful baked on top of squash halves and potatoes.  Same with rosemary.

Soups adore to be simmered with dried herbs then topped with croutons and fresh herbs.

Rice with mint or couscous or in salad is refreshing.  A mixture of herbs even better.

How to Grow

In the summer, herbs grow wonderfully in the garden.  In the winter, one might want to start some in a window sill.  The plastic containers used to hold washed salad from the store are great for starting plants.  Fill 3/4 of the way with potting oil and dampen.  Sprinkle seeds on top.  Sprinkle a light amount of soil on top.  Spray with a water bottle and put lid on.  Set in sunny spot.  Use water bottle to keep seeds from drying out.  The lid does create a greenhouse effect.  Don’t overwater or the seeds will mold!  If the top soil is getting dry, give it a good spritz.  When seedlings are an inch or so tall, remove lid and continue to grow delicious herbs!

How to Chiffonade

This is the best way to chop herbs.  For leafy herbs, roll several leaves together into a small log then starting at the end slice them into small ribbons.  Smaller herbs can be minced.

How to Store

The best way to keep fresh herbs, whether harvested or store bought, is to keep them in water like a nice bouquet of flowers.  My basil actually grew roots after four weeks!  But usually fresh herbs will last about a week to ten days.  Cilantro likes to be in water in the refrigerator.  They lose their oils over time so do attempt to use them as soon as you can.

Making Rosehip Meade- part 1

Meade, which is honey wine, is one of the oldest beverages noted in history.  It’s beginnings simply a way to preserve the harvest.  A way to make medicine.  When the water wasn’t safe to drink, alcohol was a safe drink.  Beer and wine are simply fermentations, preserving techniques.

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The number one task for a homesteader is to get everything done timely.  One can’t wait too long or we miss the opportunity.  Rosehips should be harvested just before frost.  However a few days after frost is when I gathered my basket and began to harvest the delicious fruits.  Rose hips are the bulb left after the rose is gone.  It is ready when it turns red.  The fruit is one of the highest sources of vitamin c.  Their medicinal quality is that they are an effective anti-inflammatory and really nice for joints and arthritis in the winter months.

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As it would happen, I missed my chance by a bit but did manage to harvest a cup and half of rosehips.  As I passed the fragrant lavender hiding beneath a pile of leaves, I couldn’t help but snip a bit of that too.  The intention was to make rosehip wine.

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As I decocted the rosehips, I tried to figure out the ratio to make a smaller batch of wine with my humble two cups of herbs when I thought of honey.  That would be delicious with it.  Then I realized I could make Meade and the herbs will just make it better.

Rosehip Meade

In a saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of rosehips and 1/2 cup of lavender stems and leaves.  (You can use any herb or berry) with 4 cups of water.

Boil for 10 minutes.  Smash with a potato masher a few times during the process and at the end.  Put lid on and let sit for 8 hours.

Meanwhile, dissolve 4 cups of honey in 11 cups of very warm water.

You can get a jug and lid with a carboy (the nifty aerator thing) at a beer and wine making supply shop or online.

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Strain herbs through a sieve lined with cheesecloth.  Pour juice and honey mixture into a gallon wine making jar.  Leave a little space from the top (see picture) to allow air flow and bubbling.  Add 1/5 of a package of white wine yeast and stir well.

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Replace lid and add carboy.  Pour enough vodka or rum into the carboy to the lines as a disinfectant.  (Leave it in there.  The air bubbles through it.  Most recipes call for a chemical but I’d rather use alcohol.)  Set on counter out of the sun for 4-6 weeks until bubbling stops.

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I have noticed that red wine yeast really puts on a show, and the white wine yeast is a bit more subtle.  As long as everything goes well, we will meet back here to bottle it!  We will be enjoying it by our Midsummer party!

This Year’s Secrets of the Garden

Already I can feel the air shifting, changing.  I had been watching the birds and animals a month before the Farmer’s Almanac predicted a hard winter.  My crops are finishing up weeks early, ready to be placed asleep beneath layers of heady compost and blankets of straw.

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This year’s lessons were plentiful.

#1 I sought to use up all the seeds that I had collected over the many years of gardening and not purchase any this year.  Most were not viable and I had to do mad dashes to the store to get seeds/seedlings in order to have a garden!  I grew tomatoes from seed.  One large vine was struggling to turn ripe so I pulled the whole thing out and hung it in the kitchen.  It is now producing luscious, red tomatoes.

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#2 I did not purchase expensive potato starts.  Instead I filled my apron with potatoes from the kitchen.  Organic and growing eyes, fingerlings, reds, and a few yukons from a friend’s nursery.  They took off better than any potato start I have ever had.  I filled baskets and had three huge harvests of delicious potatoes.

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#3 I discovered a little nemesis to my farm’s name.  The Squash Bug.  Few pumpkins were found last year and this because of that wretched little bug and his army.  I shall be spending this winter’s reading time perusing garden books for organic methods to killing said enemy.

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#4 If it doesn’t grow well over here, then plant some more over there.  I never plant in rows.  I plant everything together.  This year the weather soared above a hundred degrees way too early and I did not have any spring crops.  Almost all of my new herb seedlings were toasted quickly beneath the scorching May sun.  I planted many things on the east side of the house and they thrived.

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#5 Mother Nature grows best.  The squirrel that hid a pumpkin seed in front of the porch is my hero.  The vine is up on the porch and produced the only pie pumpkin because the squash bugs didn’t know where to look.  The ristras hanging from my porch had their seeds scattered in an April wind and I will have New Mexican red chilies soon.  A rogue head of popcorn I didn’t know was there planted itself and grew in the herbs gardens.

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#6 Let things go to seed.  I had prolific basil and arugula.  The radishes and carrots reseeded, as did lettuce and spinach.

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#7 My perma/straw beds that I created this spring were genius (I say so modestly) and I had little work this year to keep them weeded.  I will add three more next month.

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#8 Some things cannot be tricked.  I grew ginseng and gingko until they realized they were in Colorado and promptly died.  Peppers, which have always been impossible to grow up north, grow plentiful and flavorful in Pueblo.  (The eucalyptus and ginger were tricked successfully, I must add.)

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#9 Water and compost are all you need.  The sun does the rest.  Plants want to grow.

#10 I love gardening.

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My porch and many gardens were taken over by morning glories, which effectively shielded many herbs and young trees from the record-high temperatures.  I enjoy feeding the birds and watching the wildlife.  I let the rogue “weed” trees grow and ended up with a lovely privacy fence.  We ate well.  Every year is different.  Even when some things don’t work, something else always does.  A good lesson for life from this Farmgirl’s perspective.

The Spiritual Tea Garden (and letting go)

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The community came together and helped save our shop.  An interest free loan from a customer helped smooth out stress.  The beautiful shop in Elizabeth will remain nurtured and cared for as Shyanne’s.  I am trying to release the need to control and know every outcome.  Maybe we will make it until the lease is up, maybe for many years to come, I must release what I cannot see.  For now, it is a lovely testament to a community who came together and helped us remain open.

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I am not sure when it began but what started as divine inspiration turned into stalking the bottom line.  Ideas became web domains and joy became stress.  I am trying to quiet my mind and listen and not plan out every detail of my next chapter.  I am letting it fall together in pieces of timely thoughts and guiding purpose.  I am not rushing to choose a name.  I am not getting the website. I am not plotting every detail as I have in the past.  The idea of jumping back into a full blown business defeats me at present.  Farmer’s markets, shows, promotion, packaging…it all exhausts me to think of it.  I want to serve and to be more generous.  I want to extend my wisdom and my heart to those around me and that gets lost when I am trying to reach a financial goal.  I don’t want a business, I want a purpose.

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Three years ago sitting in the prairie grasses beneath ancient cottonwoods with five owls perched around me, the names of herbs popped in my head that I had not heard of and I jotted them down.  I researched them and was astonished to learn their spiritual uses and properties.  My love affair with herbs as spiritual medicine ignited.

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As I worked with Native American elders I learned the uses of cedar, sage, tobacco, sweetgrass, lobelia, and others to help purify and bless spaces and people.  I found that I innately knew what herbs healed what spiritually.

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I am a medical intuitive and I see physical illnesses like tumors and breaks but I also see spiritual wounds and heartbreak.  The herbs that are used to heal physical ailments also work on the same system of the body for spiritual health.  Heartbreak, rejection, trauma, dementia, stress can all be healed by herbs, as well as manifesting love, clarity, inspiration, grounding, or connection with the divine to increase joy and purpose in every day.  I am fascinated by the medicinal and soul empowering aspect of herbs.

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I am listening.  I am not moving quickly.  I have a dream of many gardens filled with herbs and flowers.  I grew dozens of varieties last year and this year I hope to double that.  I had a feeling that I should purchase some organic base teas to blend with my spirit teas.  Organic Assam, Yerba Mate, Rooibos, smoky Lapsang Souchong, along with the Jasmine I grow will act as carriers for my herbal blends.  There is sacredness in tea.

I had a dream last night of raised garden beds of herbs with fairy lights around them.  I hadn’t thought of that. I always put the herbs along fence lines or along the house.  To designate space for specific herbs is a beautiful idea.

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The universe is my marketing director and those that need me will find me.  I can give back and heal and be generous and trust.  I stay quiet and listen to the plant spirits.  There is nothing to do right now but learn and be grateful.  And maybe have a cup of tea.

Growing and Blending Seasonings

rosemaryI shall grow basil in plots

I shall grow oregano lots

The chives shall come up fine

along rows of heady thyme

I shall grow rosemary too

And red chile for New Mexican stew

I shall grow sumac if I can find

and lavender to breathe and unwind

Could I grow caraway too?

for rye bread to eat with a good brew?

The onions and garlic are growing now

I can make them dried somehow

I use all these herbs in dishes galore.

I will grow so many herbs you can’t see the earth floor.

Along with herbs for medicine and herbs for aroma and more

I will grow herbs to blend instead of spending money at the store!

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I admit it, I spend hundreds of dollars on culinary seasonings.  I have a large basket and two full cupboards of seasonings that we use all of the time.  Many are the very same herbs that I grow for medicine and to use fresh.  I spend hundreds on infused oils.  You know how it is at the end of summer, you are already pushing time to get all of the harvest in, preserved, garden beds cleaned, and trying to catch some of the glorious last warmth.  Blending herbs for the kitchen just seemed like one more thing I didn’t have time for when a nice store already did it for me.  Because I am an herbalist I also get bulk herbs that are going to be a lot cheaper than the specialty stores.  If I just use bulk herbs for what I cannot grow, and grow and blend the rest, I will save SO much money!  I can infuse my own oils.  Dry, dehydrate, and blend my own seasonings.  It will be worth the time!  Another DIY for this homesteader.  We are going to be busy this summer on Farmgirl School!