Monday, March 28, 2011

His Endless Gifts....

As we count His gifts, we begin to see Him in the everyday...in the ordinary! Our life becomes extraordinary! We become aware of His presence in our lives, His provision and His crazy, amazing love for us, who are so unlovable...


#607 - #635


transitioning out of "the boot"


classes almost done


open book tests


the first blue jay


cotton tailed bunnies enjoying spring in our yard


new fruit trees from last year making it through the winter


certified potatoes


green shoots popping up all over the greenhouse


home made pizza with our favorite toppings


new ideas


the counsel of elders


recording studios


rain...lots of rain (trying to be thankful!)


a warm, dry place to live


that He is all that I need


deaf Sunday School class


new friends


spicy food


essential oils and all of their uses


new books


watching aerial antics of our colony of hawks


electric fences


the mountain beginning to turn green again


a friend's health improving...at last


a new class beginning


killdeer nests in the driveway


wild turkeys in full fan - so beautiful!


a happily married son


the woman who makes him happy!


Everywhere I look I see His hand...gently guiding, always constant, showering down gifts from above...a continual love note to let me know that He is faithful and full of love. Will you count His gifts with me?  You will discover that He is your source...He is your healer...He is your provider...He never fails...He never forsakes...


He leaves me breathless...




Friday, March 25, 2011

Our Crazy Garden Experiment!

We've gone garden crazy here! Our garden is divided into 8 sections. Seven sections have 5 raised beds in them. One narrow section has two smaller raised beds. We have never planted all 8 sections in one year. This year we are attempting to do just that. I'm really excited. I'm also a little nervous. We are also planning a fall garden this year...a big fall garden! (If we survive the summer garden!) I have visions of canning peas while fall breezes waft through my kitchen!

Josiah and I sat down and put everything on paper - what we are planting, how much we are planting and where everything is going.  We used my favorite gardening book.
The Vegetable Gardener's Bible (10th Anniversary Edition): Discover Ed's High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide rows, Organic methods, Raised beds, Deep soil
We "lost" that book last year and I was in a panic - so I purchased another used one. It happened to be the new "anniversary" edition.  I liked the older one better.  We found our original book within a week of the new one arriving (doesn't that have something to do with a guy named Murphy?) so now we each have our own copy!

Of course we used this too - it keeps me on track each month.  It tells me what to do each month...in a very non-bossy, loving and quiet way of course!  I use it every month...every year!

















This is the perfect tool for a beginning gardener who doesn't quite know what to plant and when, or even what to plant at all! It takes them by the hand and walks them through the entire year.  It's also great for a seasoned gardener...after 12 years of gardening, I still need it. I use it every year...I like someone to hold my hand and help me figure things out!

I keep a copy in our fire-proof safe.  Seriously. The pdf version is on sale until the end of the month.

Once we thought we had everything in place, we double checked with one other book. We always try to interplant varieties that are helpful to each other.  Sometimes they improve flavor, sometimes it is to control pests.  We also check to make sure that we aren't putting things next to each other that are detrimental for each other.  We want happy plants! This book is the "be all - end all" for companion planting.
Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening

I'm excited this year to be trying some new things.  We are going to try growing some of our own grains - just a small stand - we'll see how it goes and share what we learn. We are also going to try sweet potatoes for the first time!  I look forward to planting those in a couple of months.

And then my mouth watered as we worked on our favorites - new potatoes, regular potatoes, sweet corn, popcorn, many heirloom tomatoes, lots of herbs and flowers, pole beans, bush beans, dry beans, snow peas, onions, tomatillas, paste tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, strawberries, squash, zucchini, cantaloupes, watermelons, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, mache, and lots of lettuces (red, green speckled, ruffled, straight, tender and crunchy!).

I'll hate myself during canning season.  I'll love it next winter.  We've been watching the price of foods going up and have decided to be very ambitious this year.  The more food we can produce ourselves, the more we can reduce our food budget.  We've all agreed that this will be our main summer project this year.  Each morning we will work in the garden as a family.  Afternoons and evenings will be available for canning and fun.  With all of us pitching in, I hope we can pull it off.  At least we will know we tried and we will learn from both the successes and failures.

This will be a huge experiment on our part - we've never taken on quite so much. You'll get to watch.  Can we raise it all?  I promise to post our progress, or lack of it, with pictures.  Hopefully we can all learn something.  You'll see the successes and the failures - and believe me...there are always failures.  We are concocting ways to keep the coons out of our corn.  They  usually get most of it.

I've been taking some classes for the last couple of months that I think will improve our odds - next week is my test.  I'll blog about it after I've finished.  I'll let you know if I passed.

Do you have your garden planned out?

Monday, March 21, 2011

His Endless Gifts....

As we count His gifts, we begin to see Him in the everyday...in the ordinary! We become aware of His presence in our lives, His provision and His crazy, amazing love for us, who are so unlovable...


#575 - #606


an amazing unexpected gift...all the way from Texas!


Shabbat


from crutches to cane


new possibilities


a special friend in Germany


the Megillah - the Scroll of Esther


 projects completed


birdsong - their continual praise


a greenhouse filling up


answered prayer


celebration of Purim


my brother & his family


the Psalms of Ascent


classes almost finished


new friends


family gathered 'round my supper table


fresh bread


spring breezes


chickweed


homeschooling


another hour of light at the end of the day


menu plans all laid out


potatoes that come in the mail


clean clothes


buds on the trees


olive leaf tincture


dishwashers


work


a good book to read


candlelight


family game night


new adventures




Everywhere I look I see His hand...gently guiding, always constant, showering down gifts from above...a continual love note to let me know that He is faithful and full of love. Will you count His gifts with me?  You will discover that He is your source...He is your healer...He is your provider...He never fails...He never forsakes...


He leaves me breathless...




Sunday, March 20, 2011

Are you crazy enough?



Worship Him with a crazy love today!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

God's Gift of Chickweed!

Chickweed (stellaria media)- is one of my favorite herbs - it begins to emerge in early spring. It is a very common "weed" and is found all over the world. It probably received its name because its seeds were used to feed birds. Traditionally it was harvested as a vegetable and is wonderful in a salad or as a cooked green. It is high in protein and minerals. God gave us a great blessing when He gave us Chickweed. It is amazing to me when I study herbs....they point so much to the loving, caring Creator God who because of His love for us gave us these plants to help us to stay healthy or to heal ourselves when we are not!



Chickweed has a mild diuretic action and has been used for weight loss. This makes it a good tea to help with a urinary tract infection. (Prepare as a decoction). You can tincture chickweed to help with rheumatism but my favorite uses are as a poultice, compress or salve. A poultice of chickweed is effective for rheumatic joints, and to draw boils and abscesses. You can use chickweed in a compress for painful and aching joints.

A cream or salve made with chickweed is effective on eczema, especially if it is itching. The cream or salve is also good to draw insect stings or splinters and on burns or scalds. Make an infused oil with chickweed and add a spoonful to your bath to help with eczema.

Chickweed is considered a vulnerary...this is an herb that promotes the healing of fractures, cuts, wounds and burns by protecting against infection and by helping to stimulate cellular renewal. Because of this, Chickweed is a very important component in my healing salve. I gather it fresh in the spring and infuse the oil. I also dry chickweed for use during the winter months. It is best to hang it by the stems, tops down, where it will get good air circulation. It can be purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs (see the link on the right) if you can't find it growing near you or are not sure what to pick.




Chickweed is also considered an alterative. An alterative cleanses (alters) the blood. Most herbs that cleanse the blood support the functions of the liver, spleen, kidneys and bowels. It takes time to do this work so they need to be used consistently over time. This will lead to the gradual detoxification of the entire blood stream. This then helps to balance digestion, assimilation and glandular secretions. Just remember, drinking a cup of chickweed tea once a week is not going to make great changes...it needs to be used consistently over time :)

Chickweed is an anti-inflammatory. This is why it is effective on painful joints. It helps to relieve the swelling and pain when applied externally to the painful area. It is also considered a demulcent...this is an herb that helps to soften, relieve and protected irritated tissue, especially mucus membranes. Chickweed is often found in throat lozenges (at least herbally based ones...which is all you should be using )

As you can see, Chickweed has many wonderful uses. So, if you are used to plucking it out of the garden bed and tossing it onto the compost heap...don't! Use it fresh in a salad, make an oil with it...or a tea, compress or poultice. Dry some so you will have it on hand for the winter months! No longer look at it as a useless weed - look forward to spring and the chickweed making its appearance and remember to thank God and praise Him for such a wonderful gift!

Hopefully these pictures will help you to discover it growing on your own land or close by. Remember, always use herbs that have NOT been sprayed or fertilized with chemicals!!

Blessings,



A post from the archives as I spend a very busy day in the greenhouse.

Flower picture courtesy of Michigan State University

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Recipes!

I'm not sure what to call this recipe - Roasted Pepper & Chicken Pasta?  It is quick easy, healthy and delicious.

I'm not big on measurements so adjust accordingly.  This dish made enough to feed me and 3 hungry boys.  We had enough left to easily serve 3 or 4 other people.  Let's say it serves 6 for sure.

Cook a package of penne pasta.  I used whole wheat.  Here's a tip for perfect pasta. Bring your water to a boil with a sprinkle of olive oil in it.  Add your pasta, give it a stir and turn off the heat.  The residual heat will cook your pasta to perfection every time!

Take 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut into bite size pieces - about 1 inch cubes. Place in bowl and cover with 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar.  Give it a stir every once in awhile.  Next time I would put this in a zip lock and let it marinate for several hours.

While the pasta is cooking put some olive oil (2 tblsp.) in a cast iron skillet.  Cut up a medium onion and toss into the olive oil.  Add 5 large cloves of minced garlic. (We love garlic - feel free to adjust to your own tastes. Drain the chicken and add to the skillet. Cook until the chicken is done.

I then added about 4 tomatoes from my freezer - from last year's garden.  You could use canned tomatoes  but don't use tomatoes from the store since they have no flavor. If you make this in the summer, use fresh tomatoes from your garden - 4 or 5 of them!  Add 1/2 jar of roasted sweet red peppers sliced thin. During the summer, roast some red peppers on the grill over low heat until the skins get black.  Then slip the skins and slice the peppers. I did this often last summer.  Slip them into zip lock bags and freeze them for delicious eating all winter long! Add 1/2 cup chicken broth.  I used some I had canned myself.

Add about 2 tblsp. Italian seasoning - home made or store bought and salt to taste.

Drain your perfectly cooked pasta and top with the chicken mixture.  Sprinkle with freshly ground parmesan cheese.

Serve with a salad and home made bread sticks.....yummy!

Happy eating!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Busy as the bees

It appears that our bees came through this cold winter in good shape.  Each time my son has peeked at them they appear healthy and strong.  He and a friend are hoping to split their hives and swap the splits.  This will allow each of them to start a new hive without laying out the money to buy bees.  Bees are expensive. We were sitting around the table last night figuring the income that could be made off of 10 hives.  I think that is the new goal!

I've been busy at lip balms again.  Just finished cappuccino, chia (clove, cinnamon and a hint of ginger and vanilla!) lemon, tangerine and vanilla.  I'm getting pictures taken and labels ready and hope to have them on my website by this weekend.

I've parked my wheelchair!  I'm moving around on crutches pretty easily and hope to park those before too long.  I got to my greenhouse for the first time and love having my hands back in the dirt!  I imagined each harvest as I planted the seeds.  I still marvel at His system.  Plant a small seed - perhaps as small as a speck of pepper and in return you get pounds and pounds of food! I still see it as a miracle each time. I hope to go back again this afternoon - so much to get done and I'm a bit behind!

On my way to the greenhouse, I saw that my comfrey is poking up through the earth.  My favorite herb! If you don't have comfrey planted, please consider planting it.  It is a wonderful medicinal herb - promotes healing and cell re-generation.  All you need is a small piece of root from a friend.  Comfrey is also an activator for your compost pile (no need to buy those expensive products!)  and wonderful to feed to your chickens.

Doodle says that his worm bins are getting full!  Guess we need to divide again to start another.  We'll be adding their droppings to the garden this year.  I also learned something yesterday that I found very interesting.  Do you ever have trouble with disease in your tomato plants? I was told by an Extension Agent that almost all disease has a basis of a lack of copper, in tomatoes that is....and to prevent disease you could run a thin copper wire through the base of your tomato plant.  Clip off the side that it protrudes from and that it should prevent disease.  This is an alternative to spreading all that nasty chemical stuff for tomatoes.  Of course, you need to wait till you have a stem at least as big around as your thumb. I don't know if this really works but will keep this in the back of my mind if we have problems.  I'd like to do a "test" section this year to try it out just in case problems show up.

Tried a new recipe last night and will post it later today.  It was delicious!  Light, healthy and very Italian.

I hope you are enjoying beautiful spring weather...warm sunshine, cool breezes and the glorious smell of spring!

Blessings,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What he said...



Isn't siding with a foreign government against your own citizens, while breaking federal law, an impeachable offense?

Just sayin'...


Monday, March 14, 2011

His Endless Gifts....

Healing is taking place and the pace of life is picking up just a bit. I am thankful for the amazing healing ability of our bodies. To see is to give thanks and worship. May He help me remember to slow and enjoy the quiet with Him.

Counting in the quiet...


#546 - #574


wheelchair ramps


cushions




















my new mode of transportation


standing for worship


the warmth of my greenhouse as the winds howl outside


the smell of spring


flats of veggies planted


how our bodies were created to heal themselves


counsel of elders


a mountain to climb


lunch with friends


driving again


robins


















prepared for work


long distance friends


bloom @ incourage


videos - so we can all be together


strawberries growing


roses beginning to bud


the season of lent


songs of ascent


motherhood....what a gift!


daylight savings time


spring rains


shades of green everywhere I look


willow trees all dressed in green


bright yellow forsythia


a spring and summer filled with projects!


my aunt in colorado


May we count blessings together as we worship the King? He is your source, He is your healer, He is your provider...He never fails...He never forsakes....


He leaves me breathless.....




Sunday, March 13, 2011

These are the days..



May we worship Him today...together?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Recipes!

I've been doing "quiet" projects since my accident. One of the projects I've worked on has to do with recipes. Wonderful recipes, inspiring recipes...recipes that make the mouth water, recipes that spark memories....

"Hello, my name is Cheri and I am a recipe addict". 

Anyone relate? It doesn't help that my mama also loves cooking magazines and sends them all to me when she is done.  I had a large stack of newspapers, family recipes and magazines to get organized.  I worked on these using my method of organizing recipes. I wrote a tutorial  on this. You can read - part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 if you have a need to get your recipes organized and need a little help.

I haven't been able to cook for a month!  That was nice for about 4 or 5 days.  My boys say I was complaining about not being able to cook in less than three days.  You and I both know they exaggerate. So..I drooled over recipes and planned menus instead.  The first round of new things to try are safely organized in my menu-planning book.  I hope to have an e-book finished on menu planning soon! Anyone struggle with this?

I decided that my plan of action was going to be trying many of these new recipes that I've been collecting. Then my boys would rate them - keeper or not a keeper.  I thought you might like to see a few of these recipes.  I'll post some after we've eaten them and let you know our findings.  I often "tweak' a recipe that I see in a book - I like to make them my own.  I will also take two or three recipes for the same thing and pull from each to create something entirely new. I'll let you know if I do either of those.

If you aren't a cook and don't have a recipe addiction, feel free to skip the posts entitled "Recipes". If you love to cook, then perhaps this can be another avenue to feed your addiction help you collect some new recipes.

My friend Julie and I have talked for a long time about putting together a cookbook. She and I both love to cook and do a lot of it....rare these days it seems.  Just think - two southern women sharing all of their secrets...maybe one day!

So to start this off I'm going to share something completely decadent!

Y'all know how I usually post about eating healthy, organic, natural  foods?  Today, if you are looking for that, run....leave now while you can....trust me on this - you don't want to stay around for the pictures!

Birthday cakes are a really big deal in my family - I've made cakes with mountains, clouds floating above mountains, farms with fields full of crops, rivers, pirate ships battling on the open seas in fog, jungles filled with dinos, waterfalls and more.  I've done it since the boys were little and don't even remember how it started. But this year Doodle came to me asking for something different for his birthday - he wanted an ice cream cake.  It went something like this...."Mom, I'd really like to have a Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Cake for my birthday ....like Dairy Queen makes...but if you'd make it, it would taste a lot better and be healthier!"  Imagine big brown eyes with very long lashes at this point.  Big, brown, pleading eyes...I am such a wimp!

So, I did some research to see what DQ sold...wasn't too impressed.  Looked around for some recipes - and began to pull together an idea of what I wanted to do.  I knew I couldn't make a "healthy" ice cream cake but at least I could avoid some of the chemicals! Warning: This "cake" has to be made in stages.


Here's what I ended up with - what do you think?

Here's what I did.  I used my springform pan.  I whipped up some brownies (avoid the box mixes for a healthier choice!) and warmed some crunchy, all natural peanut butter on the stove until soft.  Then I swirled it into my brownie batter (this is something I do at times to create a chocolate/peanut butter brownie). I baked a half batch of brownies in the bottom of the springform pan.  (You could bake the rest in a small square pan). After it is completely cool, stick it in the freezer in the springform pan.  

Next, I took some vanilla ice cream (home churned if you have it - if not buy a high-quality brand) and let it get just a little soft.  I took some crunchy, all natural peanut butter and used my stick blender to blend it into the ice cream.  I don't know how much - just keep adding peanut butter till you get the taste you want.(I suppose you could use smooth peanut butter too).  Then I chopped peanut butter cups and folded them into the ice cream mixture.  If I hadn't been in this wheelchair,  I would have made my own peanut butter cups (something I do during the holidays) to avoid the yucky stuff in the store bought cups.  

I placed 1/2 of the ice cream mixture on top of the brownie crust (still in the springform pan) and stuck the cake and the extra ice cream mixture back in the freezer.  While it was getting good and hard, I whipped up some caramel sauce - I left it a little on the runny side since it was going to be frozen. (You can always melt some caramels with a little milk in a double boiler but home made is way better!)  I let the carmel sauce cool to room temperature.

When the cake is frozen solid - pour the carmel over the ice cream layer.  Reserve some caramel for decoration.  Stick the cake back in the freezer - this time it won't take long to get the carmel cold.  Then top the carmel with the rest of the peanut butter cup ice cream you've made.  And...back in the freezer.

I pulled the cake back out before it was really firm and pressed more chopped peanut butter cups all over the top of the cake.  Then I took the remaining caramel sauce and drizzled it over the surface.  Back in the freezer - this time overnight.

About an hour before serving, I piped whip cream around the base of the cake and sprinkled chopped peanut butter cups on top of that whipped cream. 

I also piped 13 circles of whip cream on top of the cake and placed a whole miniature peanut butter cup on each circle.  Back into the freezer for about an hour.  

I purchased a can of "whipped cream" to do this.  I picked the one with the least chemicals and the most ingredients that were real food.  I've never used a can of whipped cream before - didn't even know how to operate the can!  I  probably won't purchase that again - tasted like sweet air - yuck! It went in the trash as soon as I was done.  I wonder if I could take my own cream and whip it to such a consistency that I could pipe it?  Anyone ever done this?

We took a metal nut pick and hollowed a small hole next to each  of the 13 peanut butter cups on top and stuck a candle into each hole. Slice very thin - it's extremely rich!


Done!

It wasn't hard to make but it was time consuming - all that in and out of the freezer and all.  It was worth it to me when I saw Doodle's reaction when he saw it for the first time...


He has said that this might become a new tradition - he has other "flavors" he'd like to try.  Oh.my.

Happy eating!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The children have left the building....

My Doodle :)

It's true...all of the babies are gone.

My youngest just turned 13! Oh.my.goodness! What happened? Yesterday he still liked to snuggle in my lap - now he wouldn't even FIT in my lap!

We surprised Doodle at home group with the help of many friends.  We ate wonderful food, had great fellowship and a mini "bar mitzvah ceremony".  Elijah was "called out" as a man by the men in our home group.  He was encouraged to put away childish things and to continue to develop a servant's heart. There is a wonderful study on godly manhood that my boys have gone through with the men of our church. I highly recommend it!


The men prayed over Elijah and then all of these very special friends had an opportunity to speak into his life.  They shared memories of him growing up, they encouraged him and spoke of the things they see in his life that honor Yahweh! It was the most amazing evening!

We also planned a special time on his actual birthday! All of our family came for a special lunch with a decadent ice cream cake for dessert.

We played games together that afternoon and had such fun!  Just a few hours later, friends began to arrive for an evening of fellowship.  Wonderful food, amazing fellowship and one happy, very new, teenager! How blessed we are to be in this body of believers!


Doodle as a Civil War re-enactor singing with others in the lobby of a local inn.

Happy Birthday Doodle - your mama loves you!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why don't I like Genetically Modified foods?

Am I incredibly behind the times?  Set in my ways? Anti-science? Do I lack understanding?

Or perhaps have I read enough to know that these are some of the reasons we don't want to eat GM food....



(You will want to turn off the music at the bottom of the page)

This is long but it's worth watching.  There are many books available to learn more about GM foods. Educate yourself.  There are reasons that many countries have banned GM foods - and the USA is highly pressuring them to accept the import of our GM crops.

Call your state and federal representatives and tell them you have a right to know what is in your food - demand that GM foods be labeled.

And, of course, Monsanto is behind it all...and y'all know how I feel about them.

Grow your own food - shop carefully - buy organic - visit the organic farmer at your local farmer's market. Educate yourself and your family.

Blessings,

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New winners...New Soaps!

If you've been following along, we had a little contest and now we have winners! Four of them to be exact!

Our first winner is Melanie for her suggestion of Tangerine!

Next up is Julie for her suggestion of a Chai Tea blend - cinnamon, cloves, ginger & vanilla... yummy! Keep it away from the twins :)

Becky is our third winner for her suggestion of plain chocolate - I have a chocolate-mint lip balm and a chocolate orange...but I never thought of plain chocolate - what a great idea!

Our fourth winner is Kikkert - for the suggestion of Almond Honey - this intrigues me.  I'm not sure if I can pull it off but I'm doing some research and I'll let you know. I think the whole sunscreen part requires non-natural ingredients but if y'all know of a "natural" (and I really do mean natural!) suncreen, let me know!

If each of you would contact me with your mailing address and which lip balm you'd like to have, I'll get those in the mail to you asap.  You can email me at the address listed under the Contact Us tab up above.

Thank you all for participating and for the wonderful suggestions - I'll be busy tomorrow afternoon putting together more lip balms and hope to have them online by the end of the week.

A few days ago, the boys and I spent some time making soap. Normally they aren't involved but they have been real troopers since my little fashion change....um....accident! Twice now we have made 4 or 5 batches in an afternoon - with all hands helping it only takes about 4 hours to make 5 batches of soap.  Wow! It would take me 8 to 10 hours working alone to accomplish the same thing.

We made 4 new soaps. The first one will be called Lavender Twist - a combination of Lavender and Grapefruit - yummy smell!  Not masculine or feminine - just a clean fresh scent!  It's an almost white bar - just lovely.


This next soap I'm really excited about.  I'm going to call it Bottoms Up! and it was created for babies and especially for baby bottoms that suffer from diaper rash!  I had a son get married last year so I am planning on lots of grandbabies (lots and lots and lots and lots...oops!....no pressure kids!). I wanted to create something especially for diapered bottoms.  This soap will also be very good for chapped skin, sensitive skin, eczema and psoriasis!  It is close to a Castille and just jam-packed with healing herbs! I've given it just a touch of scent with a little Lavender essential oil. The hint of green color is simply from the herbs used in this soap. I can't wait to try it!



Are you into camping...hiking...outdoor activities?  My next new soap is for y'all!  I'm calling it Bug Off! It's a pretty creamy yellow in color - just from all the essential oils!  I've picked a combination of essential oils that repel mosquitos and other flying, stinging, biting insects (no more deer flies in the garden!).  My family will be ready for evening fireworks in July this year!  This soap will have twice the amount of essential oils that I normally use in my soaps - I just wanted to get a large variety of insect repelling scents in this soap.


My last soap will need some help with a name.  This is a facial bar good for combination skin.  The essential oils and fine oils used will help moisturize the dry places and take care of that pesky T-zone at the same time.  The smell is heavenly - my own blend of Rosemary and Egyptian Rose Geranium!  It has a bit of ground organic rosemary to act as a gentle exfoliant - I thought that would be gentler than pumice, poppy seeds or some other more abrasive choice.  I'll be putting a contest up soon to see if y'all have any good ideas.

Here it is in the mold...


And sliced...


Isn't she just the prettiest thing?  Wish these were scratch and sniff photos :)


Blessings!

Monday, March 7, 2011

His Endless Gifts....

In this time of imposed quiet, I have been blessed to slow and see Him more.  To see is to give thanks and worship. The quiet has become a blessing!

Counting in the quiet...


#523 - #545


the land all covered in white...again!


young men preaching at church


fervent prayers...they avail much


birthday celebrations


boys turning into men


cameras...to capture it all


spring buds on trees


daffodils


February thunderstorms


a greenhouse waiting for me


baskets of love


early morning light


windows open


March snowflakes - large and lazy


wool coats


home made bread


warm gloves


old pictures


glasses filled with ice water


ice cream cakes


men praying 


cotton


knitting needles


Won't you quiet with me and worship the King?  May we count blessings together? He is your source, He is your healer, He is your provider...He never fails...He never forsakes....


He leaves me breathless.....




Sunday, March 6, 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Survival" Seeds or Scams?

A reader recently emailed me about a promotion they received for a "survival" pack of medicinal herbs. This reader was asking if I thought this was a "good buy". I visited the link and I believe that these are the same people who pushed a "survival vegetable seed bank" last year.  You can read my review on that here.

Here are my thoughts on their new scam...um...offer. This "survival" pack includes 20 different herbs. Here is the list of herbs included in the purchase: arnica, black cohosh, boneset, calendula, catnip, cayenne pepper, chamomile, chicory root, comfrey, purple coneflower, evening primrose, fennel, feverfew, hyssop, lavender, lemon balm, marshmallow, valerian, yarrow and rosemary.

These are all wonderful herbs with tremendous healing powers and I would encourage you to grow any or all of them.  Almost all of these herbs are either growing wild on my farm or in my garden. However, they are not necessarily the 20 I would recommend you to pick if you were just starting a medicinal garden.

It also takes much more than dropping a seed in the dirt and voila you have a medicinal power house. Some of these are very hard to start from seed - rosemary and lavender for instance.  You will have a much easier time if you get a cutting from a friend. They make things sound much simpler than they really are for a new gardener.

I also have a problem with the presentation...and the price.  I agree with their premise but for the most part I felt like there was exaggeration, some misleading claims and a wee bit of fear-mongering... such as their claim "Get Ready for Shortages of ALL Medical Services!" as a paragraph header in a large, bold type.

Do I think learning to create your own medicine from the herbs you grow is important? Yes. I teach classes on it, wrote a small book on it and speak and teach all over our state and at our local community college on the importance of herbal medicine and how to do it easily and simply in your own home!  Do I believe that there might come a time that this knowledge and ability will become a necessity. Yes. They talk about socialized medicine and the quality of care that means.  I agree. I think this is one more reason to gain the knowledge and skills now.

Difficult times are here and I don't see any quick solutions in our immediate future.  I strongly believe you should be growing at least some of your own food and herbs. It tastes better, saves money and gives you very valuable life skills. I agree that you need to choose heirloom seeds so that you can save your seed year after year. If you are diligent in this, you won't need to purchase seeds again unless you want to try something new.

However, they blew it when they began to talk about hybrids and GMOs. I can't recall, off-hand, any hybrid medicinal herbs.  There just isn't any money in it so no one has bothered with it - thank goodness!  It irritates me that there is an implication that if you aren't careful (or..perhaps if you buy elsewhere?) you might get those nasty hybrid seeds.  If I've missed a hybrid herb possibility on their list- please let me know!

Their talk about their seed being a "special type that is GMO free" really burned my toast!  To my knowledge, there are no GMO plants at this point in time in the herb kingdom. Misleading? In my opinion, YES!

Then they started with terminator seeds.  They said "Many herb seed companies are now selling only "terminator" seeds which have been genetically modified and will not reproduce themselves". I don't know if "many" seed companies are doing this but some are.  What has that got to do with the seed bank they are selling?  It is a "general truth" not specific to this situation, that insinuated that if you weren't careful you might end up with terminator seeds.  Again, to my knowledge there are no terminator plants that are herbs. In my opinion, it was sneaky and fear-mongering.  Sort of a "my seeds are safer and better than anyone else". Not true in my opinion.

They completely lost me with the talk about global vegetable seed shortages and that "current herb seed supplies are tight". This is the type of sales pitch that plays on fear and aims it at people who don't have a clue about gardening.  If you have any experience in gardening or purchasing seed you wouldn't fall for this "deal".  Just think about the plethora of gardening catalogs that start arriving in November and don't stop until late spring!  Most contain at least some heirloom seeds, many contain only heirloom seeds!  For goodness sakes, you can purchase heirloom seeds at all the big box stores each spring. In fact, at least 12 out of their list of 20 were in my local Walmart store!

They pack their seeds in a "costly bank" that is water tight and insinuate that plastic or paper containers are inferior and those seeds will have a poor germination rate. Which leads you to believe that anything you buy anywhere else will be inferior because who else uses a "special bank"? I've been buying seeds for 12 years and almost all come in paper seed envelopes.  They generally have good germination rates - if they don't, I don't purchase from that company again.  At the end of the season, they go into a zip lock and into the freezer! Germination will drop from year to year but just sow a little thicker.  There is a "how-to" on testing germination rates in my Perpetual Garden Calendar and I am sure you can find it easily online or in a good gardening book.

They throw in an ebook on growing and using medicinal herbs - normal cost $39.00! Who knows what quality and depth of instruction you will get in that book? As an alternative, come take my class here on the farm.  You get my book, 5 hours of intensive training AND consume in class or go home with what you make.  We have fun, eat yummy herbal snacks and a little bit of chocolate and learn a lot - all for $1 more than the value of their ebook!

Hold onto your hats now...the price on this package...for the "general public" will be a whopping $220.00. For "special customers", if you purchase now, it is $99.97 (plus $15.00 shipping and handling) "until supplies run out". Wow! Did the phrase "highway robbery" come to your mind as quickly as it came to mine? There was never even a mention as to the amount of seed you received in this promotion - that is important information.  Are you getting 50 seeds in each packet or 5?

As I said in my other review...keep on walking...take a look at a Fedco catalog, Seed Savers Exchange, or Richters Herbs to name a few. You can get most of these seeds at your local garden centers. In fact, I think you could get each and every one of these packets for less than $25.00 total. Many packets of heirloom herb seed start at 90 cents each at Fedco. I always encourage you to buy a wee bit more than you need so that if there was a shortage in something next year or if you didn't save seed, you would still be able to plant.

If you need help picking tried and true heirloom varieties of herbs and veggies, let me recommend my Perpetual Garden Calendar.  It is filled with gardening advice for every month of the year and you keep and use it every year - no need to purchase it ever again!  I still diligently use mine from many years ago. Both the printed copy and the downloadable pdf are on sale right now!

Here's what a customer had to say after receiving her Perpetual Garden Calendar in the mail:
Cheri...I LOVE the garden calendar.  I was sooo overwhelmed by what to plant, when to plant, if to plant seeds or buy sets.  The calendar is a life-saver! I'm sure there will be lots of questions as I go along, but, at least, I'll know WHAT to ask the nursery people and my friends who garden.  Thanks sooo much for passing along your wealth of knowledge.  Your calendar will bless our table, our canned goods shelf, our budget, and our family!  The best $20 ever spent on "food."  Christy D.


If you grow herbs but don't know how to use them medicinally, may I recommend my course Herbal Medicine Made Simple? This course walks you through the simple steps to make every form of herbal medicine at home.  I've placed it on sale for a short time. It contains the 10 herbs I would recommend a new gardener start with because they are easy to grow, harvest and use for many common ailments.

If you are local, or even if you aren't, think about taking the class with me here on my farm! I hope to be out of the wheelchair and back to teaching in May and I'd love to welcome you into my kitchen for a day of learning and fun!

Happy Herb Gardening!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Doesn't this look interesting?



I think I'll be purchasing my copy today!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Garden Plans

It's time!  At least it is here in NE Tennessee. I normally start seeds in my greenhouse March 1.  I think I am going to be about a week late this year....that pesky broken foot and all...

So...let's talk gardens.  Do you have one?  I seriously encourage you to think about growing some of your own food this year.  Produce prices are sky-rocketing and then there is that whole "need to know how" issue.  There have been times in the history of this country that people survived because they knew how to grow their own food. I believe those times could be coming again unless you are financially independant! You do NOT want to learn how to grow your own food when your pantry is bare and you are under great stress.  Even if you just put a few pots on your patio this year...a little lettuce, a tomato plant and maybe a pepper or potato...you will be taking the first steps.  My first "garden" was three feet x three feet. Seriously.  I planted something different in each square foot just to see if I could do it.  What really surprised me was the taste factor - oh, my goodness!

Y'all know that plants today are not bred for taste like they used to be.  They are bred for shipping ability, storage and shelf life.  This is why tomatoes from the store are hard and tasteless...but they sure look pretty!

Case in point....here is a picture of some tomatoes that I purchased a few days before I broke my foot.  My intention was to make salsa.  I keep a 5 gallon bucket in my chest freezer filled with whole tomatoes from my garden.  During the winter, I thaw and chop these while adding some of my canned jalapenos, garlic, cilantro and other ingredients. I usually put in a few "store" tomatoes just for texture.  This salsa tastes like it came straight from the garden!


I broke my foot on January 28th.  These were probably purchased on the 26th.  Count it out dear readers..these tomatoes have been sitting on my windowsill for 36 days! They still don't look too bad. I wonder...how long were they on the truck from California?  (I don't buy produce from other countries)  If I had taken some of my tomatoes from the garden and put them on the windowsill for 36 days they would be a  moldy, fermented mess.  But my tomatoes were bred for taste...get the picture?

What you could grow on your patio will far surpass what you find in the grocery store!  If you have room for a garden then think about putting in a small garden this year.  If you have been gardening for awhile, think about expanding, trying new varieties, growing something you've never grown before!

Let's talk about variety...in the back of my Perpetual Garden Calendar, I have listed my favorite varieties of veggies and flowers. Herbs are listed under the page for January.  These are varieties I have grown successfully here on the farm.  Here are some of my favorites that you might enjoy growing this year:

Lettuce: Salad Bowl, Red Salad Bowl, Freckles, Buttercrunch, Green Deer Tongue, Paris Island COS, and Red Sails
Pole Beans: Rattlesnake
Bush Beans: Blue Lake and Provider
Dry Beans: King of the Early, Black Turtle, Hutterite
Squash: Seneca Prolific, Starship
Radishes: Cherry Bell, Easter Egg
Spinach: Tyee, Space
Broccoli: Green King
Kale: Lacinto
Cabbage: Early Jersey Wakefield
Sweet Peppers: Jimmy Nardello, King of the North
Hot Peppers: Jalapeno, Habanero, Cayenne
Tomatoes (I'll try to contain myself!): Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, Brandywine, Arkansas Traveler, Bloody Butcher, Mortgage Lifter, Amish Paste, Orange Banana, Sungold, Black Cherry
Flowers: Cosmos, Zinnia, Sunflowers, Verbena Bonsaries, Nasturtium, Hollyhocks, Veronica,
Culinary Herbs: Basil, French Tarragon, Cilantro, Dill, Sage, Stevia,Thyme, Rosemary Lavender, Lemongrass, Mints, Greek Oregano, Chives, and Parsley.
Medicinal Herbs: Basil, Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Sorrel, Comfrey, Mullein, Echinacea, Feverfew, Calendula, St. Johns' Wort, Horehound, and Lemon Balm.

I think, from this list, you can see where my passion lies!  The difference in taste between home grown herbs and what you find in jars in the grocery store is amazing! Throw a few herbs in some pots...put them on your windowsill, your patio, outside your kitchen door.  You won't be sorry!  Air dry (don't use an oven or dehydrator!) the extra each time you cut them back and store them for winter use.  You won't want to use the store bought ones again!

My Garden Calendar is different from other calendars.  There are no little blocks for dates - this is a planting calendar that you keep and use from year to year.  It is laser-printed on 80 lb. card stock to give it a long life. Each month it tells you what you should be doing in your garden...what to direct sow, what seeds to start for transplanting at a later date, what to transplant and what you could be harvesting if you followed the previous months suggestions!  It is filled with tips, recipes and "how-to's".  

You will find a Crop Rotation Plan, a list of Seed and Garden Suppliers that we use and trust, a much longer list of Varieties of Vegetables and Flowers, a chart giving you the Life Expectancy of Seeds, a list of my favorite Gardening and Canning Books and a conversion chart so that you can use this calendar no matter what state you live in!  I even include the planting sheet I use to keep track of my garden each year - what I planted and when, germination times and notes.  I tried to put all the information about "how to/when to" in one place to make things easier.  There is a place each month for you to take notes specific to your own garden.  

The hope is that you can use this perpetual calendar every year to fine tune your garden skills and increase your harvest.  I still use this calendar every year!

In celebration of garden season, I have put the Perpetual Garden Calendar on sale! The printed version is on sale for $15.00 instead of $20.00.  

If you'd like to download this calendar instead, so you can reprint it whenever you'd like, it is on sale for $10.00 instead of $16.00!

You can read more about the calendars here and see some pictures of the different pages. If you use my calendar, please let us know what you like the most about it.

I'm always looking for new varieties to try, preferably heirlooms so I can save the seeds.  If y'all have a favorite you are just crazy about, please leave a comment and let me know!

Next post, I'll do a review on a "survival" medicinal herb pack that a reader asked me about.

Happy Gardening!


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