Spring Gifts From The Garden

Happy Ostara!

Today I am enjoying the bursting of spring and the return of many plant friends.  Chickweed is a gift, especially turned into an oil infusion that will make healing salves.


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Patches of Chickweed cover almost every garden bed in our yard. It is one of the first plants of spring. It was actually a good reminder when I started to weed those garden beds, because I had to see it. I noticed a few little star flowers open, and Chickweed is the most tender if you can catch it while the buds are still closed. So, my plans changed! Today I’m making Chickweed infused olive oil. Oh, and I will set a little aside to throw in our salad at dinner time, too. A friend of mine even makes Chickweed pesto!

Chickweed might be a lowly weed, but it is a powerhouse of nutrition. It is delicious, crunchy and a little peppery. Try a little in your salad, and you will want more.

Chickweed is wonderful for the skin, soothing and cooling for hot/dry conditions such as diaper rash (any itchy or irritating rash), bug bites, etc. I make a fresh crock-pot infused oil with it., then turn that into a salve.

It is easy to harvest Chickweed by grabbing clumps of it and pulling lightly with your hands. Because the stems are so tangled in the garden, it holds on to quite a bit of silt, soil and other plant parts.

I generally soak it three separate times in a deep sink of tepid water to thoroughly clean it well enough to use in a salad. Drain and spray it off after each soak. I add two Tablespoons of white vinegar to the water as well, just because that’s what I do with any produce from our garden.

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Soak it about 5 minutes, swishing it around in the sink now and then.

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Drain all the water, spray down the sink, spray down the Chickweed, and then fill it again. Repeat till you don’t see sediment, generally 2 or 3 times for a big batch like mine. Then drain it, air drying it until the dripping stops, and either spin it in a salad spinner or roll gently in a clean dish towel.

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Now that the Chickweed is washed, chop clumps of it into (roughly) one-inch clumps and spread onto baskets or cookie sheets to lose some of its moisture overnight.

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After it sits overnight, place the Chickweed in a blender and add olive or sunflower oil to the same depth as the Chickweed. The proportions should be as equal as possible. Blender-chop on pulse until the pieces are quite small and the olive oil has taken on some of the green of the Chickweed.  Pour into a crockpot.


Turn the crockpot heat setting onto the low setting and check it in 30 minutes. Turn the heat OFF at 140 degrees. Allow it to cool, then heat it again to 140. Repeat this process several times over the next day or two to evaporate all the water content out of the oil.


Strain through a cheesecloth, and pour it into mason jars. Label clearly, so you know what it is in 3 months! Store in the refrigerator for the longest shelf life. This infused oil will be the base of many wonderful salves!

I will do a second post about this in the next week, which shows you how to turn this infused oil into a healing salve.



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Meet Vinny. He has the sweetest, most playful disposition of any cat I’ve ever had the privilege to be chosen by. He’s a good little friend. He is also quite a big boy, with a long, 17-pound frame and thick, shaggy fur.

Late last night Vinny met up with a skunk and the skunk unloaded on him. I opened the back door to let him in for the night, and a cloud of stench trailed behind him as he raced through the house. I followed him, herding him towards the back door again. Thankfully, he ran outside.

I looked to our bookshelves for help, from a book that I’d seen a modern skunk remedy in. (Under The Sun, by Tina Sams of The Essential Herbal) I had marked the page years ago because I’ve been expecting this might happen ever since we moved to a rural area. I mixed up the solution but Vinny was hiding somewhere outdoors, in the shadows, and it was past midnight-thirty. I finally went to bed.

This morning Vinny was peering soulfully through the French door on the patio, wanting to come in. I mixed up a fresh batch of the skunk remedy, crossing my fingers it would work as well as I’d heard it did.

Tom and I went outside to apply the magic mixture to Vinny’s fur.  Tom held onto Vinny tightly while I mopped his body thoroughly with a rag dripping with the warmed solution. The poor guy looked and smelled absolutely miserable, but he was pretty well-behaved, all things considered. We carried him inside and (still holding him) plopped him into a deep laundry sink full of warm water and organic Lavender shampoo. It felt important to get as much of the solution off as possible so it didn’t irritate his skin.

It was an instant miracle! Vinny’s dignity was bruised, but the stench was completely gone. We blotted him with a towel to get rid of most of the dripping, and then let him go out in the sunshine to finish drying off. Within minutes I could see we were forgiven for the bathing trauma and Vinny was his old self. Vinny did his signature, undulating jump-up greeting, then let me brush and towel dry him in the sun.

If you have critters, write down this stellar recipe and keep it somewhere safe so you can find it in a hurry. Forget the old tomato juice solution. It helps a little, but it really only masks the scent. The following solution actually gets rid of it! You can double or triple it if you need to. This was plenty for our large cat.



1-quart peroxide
1/4 cup baking soda
1 Tablespoon Dawn dish liquid

I warmed the combined ingredients for 30 seconds in the microwave to try to make the ordeal a little less shocking to Vinny.

May you never have to find out how well it works!

On Dowsing or Water-Witching

T1200 Tom demonstrates proper method of holding dowsing stick

Dowsing has always been on my list of things to do. It has been practiced for thousands of years, so I was pretty certain it was for real. By some stroke of luck, I met a dowser/water witch named Kris at an outdoor barbecue event a few years ago. We were exchanging information about what we did for a living, and after I handed her my Realtor business card, she handed me her business card. It had a hand illustrated, forked branch on it, with the quote, “The wish to discover what the earth would keep covered”. Kris was the person the drilling and pump contractors called to find water in the area. She was often called to travel to other communities for a fee plus mileage and per diem. It was a viable business for her.

We visited all evening, and really liked each other. I asked her if I could tag along with her on a job one day to either watch or try it myself. She took my number and said she’d call me to join her on the next residential job.

Kris called 2 weeks later and we set the time. She told me we’d have a short hike into a wooded area near the foot of Stevens Pass, and advised I wear a long-sleeved shirt and hiking boots. She also advised I bring a sharp, sturdy pocket knife. Being a novice, I had no idea why, but I brought a sturdy Swiss army knife with me.

Kris showed me how to select the forked branch. She said she preferred Willow, Alder, Apple or Cherry tree wood, though she felt it was better juju to cut the Y-Rod from a tree near the site, whatever was available. Some dowsers swear by Hazel or Rowan, but those aren’t native to our area.

During the selection process I learned that the forked tree branch should be about 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick, with each fork equal in size, and the base of the “Y” should be cut about 6-8 inches below the fork, for balance, to form a perfect “Y”. Kris had a handy little 6″ gardening saw hanging from her belt to remove the base of the rod from the tree without having to break it off. The forked portion was about 2 to 2 1/2 feet long, so the entire length of the branch was just shy of 3 feet.

Following her lead, I stripped/peeled off most of the fresh, rough bark on the forks, where our hands would be placed. We cut off any little branch nubs also. (I evidently didn’t remove as much of the rough stuff as I should have!) She pulled a folded plat map from the title company out of her pocket, and the preferred home and well locations were marked. The property was for sale, and had a current offer that was contingent upon locating potable water.

With the physical requirements for the Y-rod completed, Kris explained that the mental attitude of the dowser was every bit as important as choosing the right dowsing rod. The best mental attitude is to be relaxed and focused, with no mental chatter. Strive for a mindset similar to meditation, where you clear the mind. Visualization in your minds eye of the specifics you are dowsing for is also advised. To simply dowse for water might turn up plenty of water that is too shallow and polluted to drink! Take some time to consider and plan your query for the outcome you desire.  Be specific! In this case, we wanted a deep vein of fresh, potable water that would be suitable for a 80 – 120 ft. deep well and provide for a flow of at least 4-5 gal. per minute (gpm)for four hours straight. We focused mentally and visually on those objectives. By the way, the long sleeved shirt was recommended because the mosquitos were legion!

The first challenge was to hold each branch of the fork overhand, initially, towards the tips of the branches. Once I was holding it, she told me to invert my wrists inward and flip the Y-Rod so my hands holding each fork were now facing up, with my thumbs pointed up, and the 6-8 inch base of the branch pointing straight out. Note: Keep your arms extended and your head out of the way until you’ve flipped the rod! The base of the Y-rod bonked me in the forehead the first time.

Once the rod was correctly flipped, Kris said I should pull outward slightly with each hand to put a little tension on the fork.   She cautioned  I should keep my elbows in close to my sides and grasp the handles of the fork firmly, with the rod pointing straight out. She told me if we located water, the action might be strong enough to make me lose my balance. We began to walk slowly forward, focusing our minds on potable water. We probably only walked 15-20 feet when suddenly the Y-rods came alive!

The branch literally threw itself down, with me holding it so tightly it stripped some skin off the palm of my hand as it lurched downward. It is not a gentle motion. I had anticipated the branch might jiggle a little or something. Oh, no. It was a powerful force, and I literally couldn’t hold it back.

Kris used the side of her boot to drag a line in the dirt where the rods had dipped. Then she marked the scuff line at each end with a small twig pointing up. We then moved forward, slowly. We walked about 12 feet when the rod reacted again. To double-check, we walked a few feet further and then doubled back. The rod threw down again about 12 feet from the first throw. Kris marked another line in the dirt with her boot, and marked that line with twigs, also.

We walked to the center of the two lines, and Kris asked out loud, “Tell me how many feet deep?” The rod bobbed up and down as she counted by 10’s. Then she asked, “How many gallons per minute?” The rod bobbed up and down again like it was spring-loaded. Kris was satisfied. She said confidently,”They can put a well here.’

Dowsing works best on a need to know basis, like most psychic and intuitive information. It is not limited to finding water, either. It is useful to archaeologists, orchardists, homeowners and virtually everyone. If you are open to it working and can focus your thoughts, chances are you’ll be able to dowse anything, sooner or later. Kris told me the energy from her dowsing would probably transfer to me, and it sure did, big time. If you can find a dowser to work with you the first time, that might be a shortcut to success.

Some people dowse successfully with bent copper rods, or even their hands. Kris said the energy was stronger for her when using a Y-rod, cut fresh from a tree. Like any other intuitive skill, every one experiences it differently.

If you want to learn to be a really good dowser, so you can depend on it when you need it, it is crucial to practice often when it doesn’t matter. Dowse for lost things, for bones your dog buried, whatever you can think of. You will learn by doing. Go forth and dowse!

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