Monday, 28 May 2007

Our New Pet

Well, all of our butterflies hatched, apart from one, which appeared to be a late developer! We observed them for a day or two, then came the momment to set them free. Off they all went, apart from one, which was born with a slightly crumpled wing. The poor thing cannot fly. So...we have ourselves a new pet! LOL! She (E says she is surely a girl) is brought fresh flowers daily & is fed sugar water, plus she has daily walks in the garden, where E pops her on the flowers so she can drink the nectar. Quite the life!
When the last butterfly was born, for some unknown reason, she would not leave, either! Despite being taken out to a beautiful local meadow, she would not leave...untill this morning. Both butterlies were enjoying the daily treat of sunning themselves in the garden. e came into the house, & when she got back out to them, only our damaged wing friend remained. I do hope late bloomer has finally taken to the wing...& not some pesky bird decided to make her breakfast...who knows?
E took it very well...she does seem to deal with the reality of the natural world in a non-sentimental way.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Comfrey Salve

Our comfrey is growing very nicely in a big pot on the stone steps leading down to our garden. I have picked some leaves to make some Comfrey salve.
As I write, the leaves are Macerating in Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, ready to make the salve. To begin with I plan to make plain Comfrey salve, then, later in the year when my Calendula plants flower, I will be making a salve from Comfrey, Lavender & Calendula.
Comfey is very healing (it is known as 'Knitbone') & the salve will be useful to keep in the first aid kit for scrapes & small cuts. Deeper cuts & puncture wounds should not be treated with comfrey-it is so very healing that it could cause the surface of the wound to close over too quickley, possibley trapping infection inside. Tincture of Echinacea is useful to have around to first apply to injuries for it's antibacrerial qualities.
Here are the recipies...

Macerating Herbs:

Either fresh or dried herbs can be macerated (dried being more potent) I wilted my Comfrey leaves in the oven with the oven light on overnight.
Pack them into a jar, cover with your oil of choice (I am using Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
Make sure there are no trapped air bubbles.
Leave on a sunny window sill for 2-6 weeks, shaking the jar daily.

Comfrey salve

This makes a small amount (great for those little lip balm pots)

1 oz Beeswax
2 3/4 oz macerated comfey oil

Simpley heat the oil & beeswax in a double boiler, very gentley.
When melted together, pour into sterilised pots.

Comfery, Lavender & Calendula Balm

2 cups olive oil
1 ounce (about two tablespoons) fresh comfrey leaves*
1 ounce (about two tablespoons) fresh lavender flowers*
1 ounce (about two tablespoons) fresh calendula flowers*
1/2 cup beeswax
*or 1/2 ounce dried

Put the olive oil and the herbs in the top of a double boiler. Gently cook for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring frequently—little bubbles around the edges of the oil are okay; bubbling throughout the mixture means it's too hot. Pour the mixture through a strainer to remove the herbs; discard the herbs and set the oil aside. Melt the beeswax in the top of the double boiler. When the beeswax is melted, add the strained oil and stir until completely blended. Pour the mixture into jars or salve tins. When it is cool, label and date it. The salve lasts about a year, more if it's kept refrigerated.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Improving One's Health

For about the last month or so, I have been taking supplements, & using herbs to improve my immune system. Since the birth of R, who is now 20 months old, I have been repeatedly suffering with coughs, colds, ear, throat & chest infections.

I began with a general multi-vitamin, plus a vitamin B complex (good for boosting energy & balancing the mood) I then added as a short-term course, Vit C & zinc, plus an echinacea tincture, to really strengthen my poor immune system. E came down with a cold 5 days ago, so i increased my vit C to 2000mg per day. R then came down with a weak version of the cold (she is nursing...that helps a lot!) & I still dont have it! Praise God! I will continue with the increased Vit C, till the threat of cold has passed(!) then return to my daily 500mg.

I intend to do more research on boosting the immune system & treating ailments with herbs & supplements, as time permits.

Making Lemon Barley water

E & R have both come down with colds, to one degree or another. Hence, my kitchen has turned into a prodution line for Lemon Barley water. It is wonderfully soothing, &, of course, full of Vitamin C.

Lemon Barley Water

3 Pints of water

3 Lemons (Pref. Organic, unwaxed)

3oz Pearl Barley

3oz Castor Sugar

Gently heat the water & sugar, stirring untill sugar disolves. Peel the lemons, taking care not to have any pith on the rind. Juice the lemons. Add the rind & the barley to the heated sugar water mix. Simmer for 30 minutes. Leave to cool & stir in the lemon juice. Enjoy!

Saturday, 5 May 2007

God Is Good....

The next time you feel like God can't use you, just remember . . . .
NOAH was a drunk.
ABRAHAM was too old.
ISAAC was a daydreamer.
JACOB was a liar.
JOSEPH was abused.
MOSES had a stuttering problem.
GIDEON was afraid.
SAMSON had long hair and was a womanizer.
RAHAB was a prostitute.
JEREMIAH and TIMOTHY were too young.
DAVID had an affair and was a murderer.
ELIJAH was suicidal.
ISAIAH preached naked.
JONAH ran from God.
NAOMI was a widow.
JOB went bankrupt.
JOHN the Baptist ate bugs.
PETER denied Christ.
The DISCIPLES fell asleep while praying.
MARTHA worried about everything.
The SAMARITAN WOMAN was divorced...more than once!
ZACCHEUS was too small.
PAUL was too religious.
TIMOTHY had an ulcer
No more excuses now.
God's waiting to use your full potential.

More Herbs!

We have done more planting today! Angelica, Liquorice & Comfrey. Plus repotting some Sunflowers, Tomatoes, & Lavender.
Here is a great article from Red Moon Herbs about the healing properties of Comfrey:

Comfrey: Learning to Love Her
by Corinna Wood

When I first met her, we were on no uncertain terms: comfrey was not my friend.
I was in college, my first year, and one thing I was determined to have was a garden. This was The Evergreen State College, in Washington State, the dawn of my granola years. I biked down to the community garden and found my personal plot. It was buried in a sea of comfrey.
I didn't know what comfrey was at the time. All I knew was that it wasn't corn, and was not tomatoes. And it was in the way. But whatever I tried to pull out simply broke off. I finally sat back to wipe the sweat off, and looked around. This weed was all over the garden!
The garden coordinator laughed. "Careful where you toss that stuff," she said. "You're looking at a new patch of comfrey wherever it hits the ground." It turned out that someone a few years ago had the bright idea of tilling through the comfrey patch, and then proceeded on to till through the rest of the garden. Within three seasons, comfrey had sprung up across the entire acre.
Like a mythical monster, the smallest bit of comfrey root can sprout a whole new plant. It's the plant that keeps on giving. You can chop comfrey to the ground and it will come back, enough to be harvested three or four times a year. But excuse me, did I say harvest?
They say if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and it was in trying to get rid of comfrey that I learned to appreciate it. Comfrey's Latin name is Symphytum officinale, and symphytum actually means to join or unite--in essence, to heal. Whether it's cuts, burns, scars, wrinkles, or even broken bones (comfrey is aka "knitbone"), the same properties that enable comfrey to regrow a whole new plant from a bit of root can also help the body heal from some of the most devastating injuries. Internally, comfrey also supports the respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems.
During my college years, a family living nearby befriended me, and they helped me come to appreciate comfrey. I was especially impressed the time I witnessed the dad, Todd, using comfrey to speed the healing when he broke his foot.
His doctor put Todd's foot in a removable cast and told him to come back in six weeks to check on how the healing was progressing.
For years, their whole family had been drinking herbal infusions--strong, medicinal teas. Comfrey had been an old favorites for coughs, but this was their first opportunity to try it out for broken bones.
That night, Todd put a cup of the dried leaf in a quart-size canning jar, filled the jar with boiling water, and put a lid on it. In the morning, he strained out the plant material and packed it on his foot as a poultice. He drank the liquid over the day, either reheated or at room temperature, sometimes sweetened with honey.
Todd did this every day for two weeks, and he was amazed how quickly the pain and swelling decreased. In fact, he called in to see the doctor a month early. After a prolonged argument with the receptionist, he finally managed to get an appointment the following week. When the doctor took new x-rays, he was amazed to discover that the bone had fully mended. He said he had never before seen such a quick recovery. Rather than credit it to comfrey, the doctor insisted that it could only be called a miracle.
In Europe, for generations, comfrey was one of the plants that almost everyone kept right outside their doorstep, and this revered medicine plant followed us to the new world. More of a domesticated plant than a weed, comfrey has been long been an essential part of the traditional herbal medicine chest to treat a wide array of ailments.
That's how it earned the other part of its name, officinale. Until recently, comfrey was an official medicine, one of a handful of the most respected medicine plants that merited "officinale" in their Latin names. Those fond of manicured lawns might recognize another member of the royal dispensary, dandelion (Taraxicum officinale).
Making your own Comfrey Oil 1. Harvest the comfrey leaves in the afternoon, after the sun has dried off the morning dew. Wet plant materials will make moldy oils, so it is best to wait at least 36 hours after the last rain before harvesting.2. In a warm, dry, well-ventilated place (such as an attic, an oven with a pilot light, or even your car!), wilt the whole fresh leaves for 12 hours or until the edges are crispy. 3. Stuff your jar completely full of the whole wilted leaves, leaving a little headroom. Add olive oil until the jar is full to the brim. 4. Tightly seal the jar. Label it with the plant name and date harvested. Put it in a dish on the counter (herbal oils always leak). 5. Tend it a few times a week by poking the plant material down to release air bubbles and topping it off so the level of the oil is above the level of the leaves. 6. After six weeks, strain out the plant material, and your infused oil is ready to use!
Today, most doctors don't just discount comfrey, they warn against using it. Comfrey has been declared unsafe by the FDA for internal use. If comfrey has been used for centuries, why is it now considered toxic and too dangerous to be used medicinally?
The FDA's declaration was based on a study in which the pyrrolizidine alkaloids were extracted from the roots of comfrey and injected in large doses into rats. Researchers found that this caused pre-cancerous liver changes in the rats, which somehow became translated as "comfrey causes cancer."
Now, injecting oneself with a drug made in a lab from the roots is very different than drinking a cup of tea. Many herbalists have called this study into question for several reasons: (1) It makes a big difference when one compound is isolated from the rest of the constituents that make up the chemistry and magic of the plant. (2) One would have to drink dozens if not hundreds of cups of comfrey to consume the amount of alkaloids each rat was given. (3) Humans and rats don't necessarily respond to alkaloids the same way, and there have been no clinical studies done with humans.
In fact, as herbalists Mary L. Wulff-Tilford and Gregory L. Tilford state, "In thousands of years of use by millions of people, only two reports of hepatotoxicity (liver cell toxicity) have been documented in humans." And in both these cases, poor nutrition, pre-existing illness, and use of liver-toxic drugs were contributing factors.
Nevertheless, this article focuses primarily on using comfrey externally. Of course, the safety issues only apply to taking comfrey internally; for many ailments comfrey can be used externally instead. In addition, the leaves, which have much lower concentrations of these alkaloids, can be used instead of the roots.
One way to get the benefits of comfrey for external use is by making comfrey oil (see sidebar). This oil and the salve made from it (by melting in beeswax for a firmer consistency), is soothing and moisturizing. Comfrey oil and salve are used for people with dry skin, chapped lips, excema, cuts, scrapes, and burns (in the later stages, after the initial hot sensation has subsided). I use comfrey salve every time after I bathe--as a moisturizer, it nourishes the skin and prevents wrinkles.
I got a call a few weeks ago from an elderly woman who was suffering so badly from eczema that the skin on her hands was cracking open. She had used a variety of creams and lotions that doctors had prescribed over the years, all to no avail. After using comfrey salve for just two days, not only was the pain gone, but also the skin had actually closed over her knuckles.
Comfrey is so effective as a wound-healer that one actually has to be careful using it. If only the tissues close to the surface are in contact with the comfrey, it can actually cause the skin to close over, trapping infection inside. For deep wounds, a plant such as Plantain (Plantago lanceolata or P. major) would be more appropriate (see Corinna's "Plantain: First Aid in Your Backyard" article).
Comfrey also has specific uses for women, and many of my women friends swear by it. During pregnancy, comfrey oil is a favorite for belly massage, promoting elasticity and preventing stretch marks. Many new moms rely on comfrey salve for diaper rash and for quick relief and speedy healing from sore and cracked nipples (apply after breastfeeding, and wipe the area gently before the next feeding). And comfrey oil makes an excellent vaginal lubricant, helping both to moisturize and strengthen the vaginal tissues without any added fragrances or preservatives. However, oil degrades condoms, so with condoms only water-based lubricants should be used.
Over the years, as I came to appreciate comfrey's many virtues, I asked her to be my friend after all. Now comfrey is one of my favorites that I keep in the kitchen garden close at hand. Comfrey doesn't ask for much special attention--this prolific plant will grow almost anywhere, but it is happiest in rich, moist soil in full sun to partial shade. And it will behave itself if left alone--as long as the roots are left undisturbed, comfrey will stay in its place.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Catching Up & Butterflies!

Well, i really got behind! LOL!
Our computer went down, the weekend of my last post, then a lot of things have been happening here.

Anyhow, garden wise, we have been busy busy busy!
E has helped me to plant out our peas, garlic, red onions, carrots (2 varieties) sweetcorn, various salad leaves & lots of strawberries. We also have lots of herbs growing...peppermint, spearmint, orange mint (to attract the butterfies) parsley, sage, rosemary (no thyme! LOL!) regular mint, melissa, camomile. And then the flowers! We have four o'clocks in pots, sweetpeas & echinacea where sown yesterday, & a general butterfly arracting mix was sown a few days ago.

Now, any particular reason for the butterfly mix????? Well, we have purchased a butterfly 'growing' kit! It came with a little 'house' for them, plus a feeding pipette & a certificate to send of for our caterpillars....which have arrived today & are sitting downstairs waiting for E to come home from pre-school. Can you sense my excitement!!!!????

Here is a good article from the NWF with ideas to attract butterflies to your garden:
Attracting Butterflies
Brightly colored butterflies can be a welcome addition to your Backyard Wildlife Habitat landscape. To attract the greatest number of butterflies and have them as residents in your yard you will need to have plants that serve the needs of all life stages of the butterfly. They need a place to lay eggs, food plants for the larva (caterpillar), a place to form a chrysalis, and nectar sources for the adult.
Most adult butterflies live 10-20 days. Some, however, are believed to live no longer than three or four days, while others, such as overwintering monarchs, may live six months.
More than 700 species of butterflies are found in North America. Very few are agricultural pests. Adult butterflies range in size from the half-inch pigmy blue found in southern California to the giant female Queen Alexandra's birdwing of New Guinea, which measures about 10 inches from wing tip to wing tip. Butterfly tarsi or "feet" possess a sense similar to taste. Contact with sweet liquids such as nectar causes the proboscis to uncoil. Millions of shinglelike, overlapping scales give butterfly wings their color and patterns. Metallic, irridescent hues come from faceted scales that refract light; solid colors are from pigmented scales. During the time from hatching to pupating (forming the pupa or chrysalis), the caterpillar may increase its body size more than 30,000 times. The chrysalises or pupae of many common gossamer wings - a group of butterflies which includes the blues, hairstreaks and elfins - are capable of producing weak sounds. By flexing and rubbing together body segment membranes, sounds are generated that may frighten off small predators and parasites.
Plants That Attract Butterflies
Adults searching for nectar are attracted to:
red, yellow, orange, pink, or purple blossoms
flat-topped or clustered flowers
short flower tubes
Short flower tubes allow the butterflies to reach the nectar with their proboscis. Nectar-producing plants should be grown in open, sunny areas, as adults of most species rarely feed on plants in the shade.
Many caterpillars are picky eaters. They rely on only one or two species of plants. The caterpillar of the giant swallowtail butterfly in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states feeds on just two native plant foods - northern prickly ash and hop tree. Others, such as the red-spotted purple, will feed on a variety of deciduous trees.