Would’st Thy Fortune Like To Read?  

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This is my newest, fun antique store find.  It is called a Nelros cup of fortune, and was made in England. I couldn’t resist it, as a conversation piece in my kitchen hutch if nothing else!  It was probably manufactured in the seventies, as many more delicate, bone china examples still survive from earlier times.

Notice the Astrology symbols circling the plate, and many unrelated, cool symbols circling the interior of the cup.  I enjoy divination via natal Astrology charts, Tarot and Runes, but have never tried reading tea leaves.   My elderly aunt often read tea leaves for fun, but she used a plain, china cup.

You can probably find everything you ever wanted to know about reading tea leaves, or the art of Tasseomancy, by following the link below.

http://divinationbytealeaves.com/introduction-to-divination-by-tealeaves.htm

Make Your Own Eco Food Wrap

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Happy spring!

I don’t know about you, but I am increasingly wary of plastic wrap and increased illness from the chemicals in much of our allegedly “food safe” equipment. Foil is supposed to be a good alternative, however it is getting very expensive, and I am not a big fan of aluminum, either. Waxed paper works well for short-term storage, until it gets damp. While researching the topic, I discovered Eco food wrap made with cotton and bee’s wax for sale, online. It is fabulous, but pricey, at $18.00+ a sheet.Then I discovered simple instructions for making your own!  I will credit the process with a link to the original how-to instructions at the very bottom of this blog post.

A few hardy souls were making these waxed sheets several years ago, by dipping cloth in bee’s wax or brushing it on.  Both sounded like overly messy adventures.  This new method is easy, and can be accomplished quickly with an electric iron or in the oven.  This must be similar to old-fashioned oil cloth, though they probably used paraffin, rather than bee’s wax, I’m guessing.

I made the above sheet this morning in less than 15 minutes.  It is obviously not suitable for every food storage use, but great for brown bag lunch sandwiches, cheese, butter, and probably other applications I have not yet discovered.  I am very happy with the results, and plan to make several more.

12″ x 12″ plain, washed cotton fabric
Once the fabric shape and size is determined and cut out, trim the edges with pinking shears to prevent future unravelling of the unfinished edges of fabric.

You’ll need an old bread board or another surface that can take the heat from the iron.  I used an oversized,  3/4″ thick HDPE cutting board.  Secure the parchment to the board with tape because it will slide around quite a bit if you don’t. Position the fabric on the parchment right side down. Plug in an iron and allow to heat on high/cotton setting, no steam.

Sprinkle bee’s wax pastilles over fabric surface. I may have used a bit too much, as I had to blot some excess bee’s wax that oozed out of the edges.  Plan to use almost this much, as you want it to melt evenly into fabric with no bare spots. If you end up with areas not saturated enough, simply put a few more pastilles on the area, cover with parchment and re-iron.

Now that the iron is hot, place it on the parchment paper over the bee’s wax.  Before you use a normal ironing motion, anchor the parchment by flat pressing the iron in the center and corners.   Then the parchment won’t slide off the bee’s wax pellets.

As you press the parchment with the iron you will notice areas of the parchment        darkening. Keep going, until the edges are as uniformly dark as the center is.

When you can see the pattern on the fabric clearly through the top layer of parchment it is nearly done.

  If bee’s wax oozes from the edges, use the edge of the iron to press it out evenly beyond the edges of the fabric.

Keep pressing until all the ooze is on the outside edges of the fabric.  If there still seems to be too much wax laying on the fabric, place an old towel over the fabric and cover with the top parchment paper. Re-press with the iron and the towel will absorb the excess wax. Better yet, make several eco-sheets at once, and use the next planned eco wrap sheet, instead of an old towel, to absorb some of that bee’s wax. Then none will be wasted.

  

As you can see by the dark areas in the towel above, a lot of excess wax was absorbed by the old dish towel.

Next, while still warm, pull the parchment and dishcloth off of the waxed fabric.  Hang on a hanger or clothesline till dry.  Enjoy!

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Dubliner Cheese, wrapped like a gift package.

The idea for this project came from diynatural.com/reusablefoodwraps

  

Welcome Fall

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Happy fall, everyone!  My favorite season of the year has begun just as I am frantically trying to process the last of the rewards of summer.  The shorter days seem to sneak up on me every year.  But oh, I so adore the cool nights.

We just finished restoring this little built in kitchen hutch on the kitchen side of our walk-in pantry.  It has a fresh coat of paint and new glass doors my husband built to look old.  I am so happy to have my little cupboard back.  It holds many of my favorite herbal remedies, cordials, and seasonal decorations.

Look on the second shelf down from the top.  See that little amber colored jar just to the right of the center?  It belonged to my Grandmother, who was one of my all time favorite people.  The jar was always on her kitchen counter, and usually held jelly beans or other little sweets.  She had a healing, nurturing way of interacting with everyone, and especially her grandchildren.  The jar now holds Throat Coat tea bags, which I am certain will pick up some extra healing vibes from storage in my Grandmother’s candy jar.

I dried orange and apple slices this past summer, and was recently gifted with fresh Bay leaves.  Once the Cayenne peppers were ready to harvest, I had to try making a garland for my kitchen.

After I finished stringing most of it, a friend told me she adds cinnamon sticks to her garlands, also.  I wish I had thought of that!  Cinnamon sticks soften when soaked in water, and are easily pierced with a needle while soft.  The edges curl up again once the cinnamon dries.  I may restring this garland to include cinnamon, but other than that I am pretty happy with it.

We had a good crop of Hops this year.  I combine them with other herbs in sleep or dream pillows and bath teas, so I am happy to have a plentiful supply.

This was a good year for peppers in our garden!  We made Cajun stuffed green peppers for the freezer, and canned a lot of jars of pickled peppers, too.

 

Pickled cherry peppers and Jalapeno nacho rings

 

We live in a little Ag community in Washington, surrounded by pear and apple orchards.    Apples and pears were ready early this year, right about the time the tomatoes and peppers came on.  Ack!  It has been a super busy autumn.

 

Golden Delicious Applesauce

It is a good feeling to have frozen apple pie filling in our freezer, ready to make a pie for Thanksgiving, and home canned favorites in our pantry.

 

Who has gift-worthy holiday food recipes or craft ideas they want to share?  Wouldn’t it be cool if we all blogged them during the same week in November?   Sounds like fun to me.  Let me know what you think?

 

 

Happy Lughnasadh

Elderberries!

July was a hot blur of summer herb and garden crafts, canning and distillation.  Oh, and trying to keep up with crabgrass from outer space.  They have to be as they were three feet in diameter!

I know it is autumn at last,  because the Elderberries are finally ripe.  I’ll make syrup and hard candy lozenges from the berries as they help my family stay healthier.

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Distillation for Mosquito Repellent

 

The distillation above was lemon balm, elder leaf, clary sage, lavender, holy basil and peppermint.  It only produced a little bit of essential oil, which I added back in to the hydrosol.

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The bug spray seems to work rather well!  I added a few drops of Eucalyptus Citridora essential oil to the distillation. Scientific studies recently tested it in comparison to Deet and other leading bug sprays.  They found it as effective against mosquitoes as Deet.  We don’t normally even have a mosquito problem in our area, but this year they are a frequent annoyance.

 

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Crazy Patch Lavender Sachet

I recently planted a flag in one of our spare bedrooms and claimed it for my sewing room.   After years of collecting fat quarters or more of yardage I liked, I have a decent fabric stash, so I plan to dive into it to make coasters, sachets, dream pillows, etc., for upcoming holiday gifts. With just my husband and I at home now, I have discovered being an empty nester does have an advantage or two.

 

An unbelievably big Walla Walla Sweet Onion we grew!

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Homemade diaper balm is a lovely gift for new babies.  If you are familiar with salve making you can easily make it yourself.  It is made of gentle herb infused oil of Calendula, Chamomile, Plantain, Lavender and Rosa Rugosa.  I don’t add any essential oils of any kind, but the scent is of Rose petals, Chamomile and Lavender and bee’s wax.  I will happily share my recipe if anyone wants it!

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This is the first soap I ever made that contains all my own distilled essential oil and hydrosol, and Lavender bud I grew myself.  It smells incredible.  Now, to wait six weeks for it to cure!

 

White Sage and Floral smudge sticks
Sweet Basil

I am so thankful for all of our green friends.  They are adaptable and helpful, no matter what.  (even if you forget to weed around them!)  Calendula, Echinacea,  Hyssop, Horehound, Sage, Lemon Balm, Peppermint and Catnip seem to be growing to a double beat this year.  I just made a second batch of Basil Pesto, and will hang further bundles to dry.  Next up, all kinds of peppers and canning.  What kind of harvest activities are you doing?

Candied Ginger Root Nirvana

Have you ever made candied Ginger root?  It is so worth the trouble.  I promise it is just like the sugared ginger root found on the health food aisle for $5.99 in that very small package.  Only, think way cheaper, fresher, better and more of it.

About 1 1/4 lbs. fresh Ginger root

This is a great time of the year to buy Ginger root as you will most likely still find the spring root, which is tender, juicier and has fewer “hairs” in it.  But I make this treat for holiday neighbor gifts, too, in the dead of winter, with wrinkly ginger root.  It is always good, no matter what.  The roots you select will ideally be very firm, with tight, smooth skins, because they will yield more.  This recipe calls for a pound of root, approximately three large “hands.”   I always hope there is extra root just because this recipe makes enough syrup to handle a little bit more.  🙂

The first step is to peel the ginger root.  I use a standard (but very sharp) potato peeler.  I do not have enough time to peel this much ginger root “correctly” with the edge of a teaspoon.  Sorry for whomever came up with that tedious idea!  But a sharp peeler works great and quickly, and the edge will even clean the crevices where little knobs protrude.
Slice the root thinly, then place in a deep sided, stainless saucepan and cover with water.  (Some people prefer smaller, diced chunks) Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Do that twice.  Drain and place ginger back in the saucepan.

Ginger root drained after cooking in water 2x

Now to make the syrup part of the recipe.  Add the following right on top of the drained ginger in the saucepan:

3 cups granulated sugar

2 1/2 cups of water

1/4 tsp. of salt

I use Distilled water because we have a well and fairly hard water.  If you have access to soft tap water, just use that.

Allow sugar to dissolve into water over low heat, stirring to evenly distribute it.

Turn heat to medium high and bring syrup to a boil.  Once syrup begins to boil, reduce heat to low or medium-low, and do not stir it again!  Just let it bubble away until candy thermometer reads 225 degrees.  The process takes about 40 minutes on my stove.

 

Ginger slices in finished syrup

Cool ginger in the syrup to room temperature.  Put a lid on it, and allow ginger to soak in the syrup overnight.  Reheat the syrup and ginger in the morning, right before you coat the slices with sugar.  It must be hot to hold on to the granulated sugar! 

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Drain hot syrup using tight mesh colander over large measuring cup or bowl. Save and set aside the strained syrup!  Immediately pour 2-3 cups of granulated sugar in a bowl.  Throw a few slices of hot ginger into the sugar, and toss with a spoon or fork to coat.  Remove sugared slices to cookie cooling rack and repeat until done. 

 

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Look how much candied ginger this recipe makes!

Place the syrup in a bail wire bottle or canning jar and refrigerate till needed. Ginger syrup is great on ice cream, nice in tea, and a wonderful remedy syrup for sore throats, especially for adults.  You can add a few lemon slices or a little fresh juice to the bottle of syrup, too, if you like.  I often do.   Be aware, this syrup is  a tad hot and spicy, so most small children don’t care for it.

 

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Delicious ginger syrup!

Enjoy!

Solstice Lavender Swoon!

Grosso Lavender

Wishing you all a happy Solstice and first day of summer!  I celebrated the day completely immersed in Lavender harvesting, distillation and garbling the bundles of Lavender I dried last week.

Harvesting different stages of Lavender stems

 These Lavender plants are 5 feet across, and the flowers are in different stages of bloom, depending on how much sun, wind, etc., affect that plant in that area.  So, since some of the areas of each plant are in full bloom, and others have only 3-4 flowers, the stems are purposed differently.

If you watch the bees, and notice which areas of the plants they are active on, it is easy.  They will show you which parts of the Lavender have the most flowers open!  That is another reason I like to cut Lavender with a sickle.  I wave the sickle over the plant just above the flowers before reaching in to grab a handful of stems.  It warns the bees I am coming in to their area, and I talk to them, too, reminding them there is plenty for us to share.  So far, so good. If using the buds dried, i.e., for sachets or in soap, I like to cut the stem when about 3 flowers have opened and the rest remain closed.  The reason for that is that the scent is fully developed, but the buds will hold on to the stems pretty well even while hanging in a bunch.  Once many flowers are open, the buds are great for Lavender Wands, and with all the buds open, it is perfect for distillation.  So though the whole plants look patchy today, there honestly is a reason for my madness.  🙂  I’m not just a bad barber.

Flower end cuttings of Stems for distillation – see all the tiny flowers that are open?

 The stems of fresh Lavender in the bowl were wilted overnight.  I can fit more wilted plants into the biomass sphere for distillation than I can when they are stiff and fresh cut.

First Lavender distillation!


Wow!  I got 3-5x as much Lavender essential oil over the amounts achieved with the other plants I have distilled.  And my kitchen smells like waving Lavender fields.

I cut this Lavender and hung the bundles to dry a few days ago

Hoping it is warm and sunny today in your corner of the world!

Alchemy

Clary Sage blossoms

I just finished my first fresh distillation!  The difference between fresh and dried distillations is like night and day.  Clary Sage was the first plant ready in the herb garden.  It  does not flower until the 2nd year, so I have been waiting for a very long time.  The distillation turned out great, but there were definitely some teaching moments.  Clary Sage is a highly aromatic plant, historically used in perfuming,  love potions, added to cordials or special liquors, and used as a hops substitute in specialty beers.

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Biomass sphere

I learned the hard way to chop this plant outdoors, rather than in my kitchen.  The entire first floor of our home was filled with a cloying, sweet, balsamic scent.  It was a study of too much-ness!  Once I stuffed the biomass sphere with the plant material, the scent became very mild, and almost unnoticeable.

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Clary Sage, at early stage of bloom

Clary Sage has a beautiful presence in the herb garden.  My plants are 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide.  I have heard some plants reach heights of 6 feet!   The flowers first appear as pinkish gray pine cones hanging between the leaves.    Some of the leaves are as big as your hand, and they are aromatic as well.


Steam Distillation equipment heating up

 

Separator

The essential oil and the hydrosol are absolutely wonderful!  The white area in the glass tube above is the essential oil, about 1/3 oz.  It is lighter than water, so it floats at the top.  It is actually a crystal clear oil, but the condenser is cold, so it appears more solid than it will be at room temperature later.  I have two or three more distillations of Clary Sage coming up, and in the end, I should have a little more than an ounce of essential oil and about 5 pints of hydrosol, or flower water.

Hydrosol

Hydrosols are the sweetly aromatic echos of essential plant oil, the life force of the plant.  They can be used instead of plain, distilled water in soaps, creams and lotions, to add scent and healing qualities to the product.   Hydrosol made with healing plants can be used as a wound wash, a healing tub tea, to rinse hair, to hydrate skin, and so much more.  I cannot wait to learn more about it and use it in every way possible.