A few days away

Wolf RiverHas it truly been two full weeks since I’ve popped in to say hello? Good gracious. In almost a decade of holding this space, I think that’s unprecedented.

Perhaps it’s simply that life feels like a bit too much of a flurry these days, and something has to be set down now and then to leave more time for the very best bits.

Since housekeeping was long ago abandoned, it was only logical that the blog would be next.

But such pauses are often temporary. And here I am this morning, with more stories and photos from our messy, quiet world.

20180708-DSC_376820180706-DSC_357120180706-DSC_357020180706-DSC_354620180706-DSC_357620180706-DSC_3559KnittingIn that same spirit that caused me to step away from this space for a time–that of capturing this fleeing moment and holding it close while we can–Lupine, Sage, and I slipped away for nearly a week at my family’s cabin up north.

I’m feeling the need to savor these fading days, now more than ever. And our annual cabin trip is a summer tradition. One that I missed last year for the first time, on account of the book I was writing, when Pete and the kids went without me.

I was determined to not miss it this season.

20180706-DSC_357420180706-DSC_358920180706-DSC_363620180706-DSC_3596Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 7.27.06 AM20180709-DSC_377220180709-DSC_3809Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 7.27.22 AMPete stayed home to button up some loose ends and projects here on the farm, and the kids and I embarked last week.

There were wandering hikes to takes and raucous swims to have in the river. There were early morning foraging adventures balanced by a trip to our favorite up-north thrift shop. There were days bookended by iced coffee sipped on the dock with knitting after sunrise, and quiet evenings spent around the campfire, tired from a long day in the sunshine and fresh air. There were art projects and nature discoveries and read-alouds and long, deep nights of sleep.

There were all of the things that make this simple family tradition so very special to all of us.

20180709-DSC_3783

We rolled back home yesterday (after spontaneously extending our trip by a day, like we so often do). And home, complete with Pete and our pets and our cozy beds is every bit as delightful as our time away.

Travel is good like that, isn’t it?

With leaving home and coming back delicious in equal measure.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, we have some unpacking (and, indeed, some housekeeping) to attend to.

Love,
Rachel

Caterpillar to butterfly

20180609-DSC_2776

Remember my little friend, Buddy, the monarch caterpillar? He emerged from his chrysalis!

I found him on a walk a couple of weeks ago on a milkweed patch in the path of the country mower. So I brought him home and set up our butterfly house, and we’ve been obsessively watching him ever since.

He formed a chrysalis a week and a half ago, we’ve been watching closely for days, awaiting his emergence.

Lupine noticed on Wednesday morning that the wings could be clearly seen, folded tightly behind the transparent membrane. We marveled at him for a long while, then stepped outside for only a moment. When we returned, we found him fully emerged!

Needless to say, we were awestruck.

20180627-DSC_323220180627-DSC_326120180627-DSC_3276

We watched as he pumped and opened his wings, then rested and dried them, while hanging suspended from the ceiling of the cage.

Finally, it was time to set him free!

20180627-DSC_330320180627-DSC_330920180627-DSC_3311

My mom was visiting, so she gathered with the four of us to witness his maiden flight.

20180627-DSC_332120180627-DSC_331720180627-DSC_333020180627-DSC_332520180627-DSC_334320180627-DSC_335120180627-DSC_336320180627-DSC_3375

(Last photo courtesy of Lupine.)

I refer to Buddy as “he”, because a friend taught us how to determine gender on a monarch! See those two black spots above on the lower wing in the photo above? And the delicate (thin) black lines throughout? That told us that he was a male, and not a female as we had been guessing all along.

So “she” became “he” in an instant, just after emergence.

The things we learn, side-by-side with out kids! Next up we’re raising Luna moths. A friend gifted us a few luna babies that we’re raising with great excitement. Much to our delight, these amazing chrysalises jiggle and vibrate when you set them down.

They. Are. Incredible.

And a tiny bit creepy.

I shared a video on my Instagram highlights if you want to watch!

20180627-DSC_320220180627-DSC_3207

And after that? We have a Polyphemus colony that’s happily munching on oak leaves in our kitchen. Another gift; same friend. This bundle of big fat adorable caterpillars will turn into these beauties.

Needless to say, I’m geeking out on this as much (if not more) than my kids.

Sometimes people ask us when we have our last day of school; do we take the summer off from homeschooling?

Not really. I mean how could we? Life is learning, and our curiosity just won’t quit.

So we don’t have a “first day” or a “last day” of school–not this year, and not ever. Because honestly, we couldn’t stop learning if we tried. And why would we ever want to, with this magic in our kitchen?

20180627-DSC_3213

A few postscripts (and a couple of handy afflinks) follow:

1. We were dumbstruck by this podcast and, weeks later, still talk about what we learned from it often. I hope you enjoy!

2. The zippered butterfly tent that we’re using in the photos above we picked up a few years ago. It was a part of this butterfly kit that we really bought just for the house. (Though raising the butterflies that came with it were fun, too.) A friend had one and her butterflies seemed to do so much better than ours did when raised in a makeshift house or gallon jars. Maybe it’s just that I fret about them injuring themselves less in this soft-side tent.

3. And if you’re new to lepadoptera or just looking for a good field guide to caterpillars, this one is a good place to start.

Happy caterpillar hunting, friends!

Ice cream recipes for miles

Pete and I used to have this obsession with ice cream. I don’t recall when it started, but but for years we ate ice cream every night before bed. Every. Single. Night. A frightening amount, when I think about it. We were so addicted that if we discovered we were out just before bedtime, we would run to the store for more, possibly in our pajamas.

I know. We had a problem.

Finally, after stumbling upon an old hand-crank ice cream maker at a second hand store, we flipped our addiction to homemade.

6a010535f3a090970c019aff109018970b

And now? Well, store bought doesn’t hold the charm it once did. Our palates adjusted to the flavor of homemade – sans-refined sugar, and made with fresh raw cream. Even the kids reported (when tasting their once favorite store-bought ice cream after we switched to making our own) that the boughten kind was “way too sweet”.

Our kids deciding that less sweet = better? That’s a big win in my book.

Being able to control the type and amount of sweetener, the flavor combinations, and the quality of ingredients was a huge upgrade. And when we were off dairy we switched all of our recipes over to coconut milk (worked like a charm!) and kept our weekly churning dates going strong.

Plus the price of homemade is ridiculous. (Ridiculous meaning cheap.) We figured that even our brand new ice cream maker paid for itself after just one season of use; one summer of passing on the store bought organic ice cream we were so fond of. Find one second hand and it’ll pay for itself in a single batch! Add to that raising kids who have the knowledge of how to make a favorite treat from scratch (eventually without even a recipe) and the value keeps going up.

6a010535f3a090970c019104ec9a4e970c

Which ice cream maker do I suggest?

Because honestly, I’ve tried them all. I might as well lay it all out there! (A few afflinks follow.)

Whatever you can find! Thrift stores are overflowing with ice cream makers. (I can’t explain this phenomenon.) That makes it affordable to experiment. If you don’t love it, donate it back.

I’ve had the oak barrel type that you put salt and ice into. They are charming, but messy, and require some pre-planning to be sure you have enough ice on hand. And if you’re buying new they are insanely expensive. Mine was $5 at a tag sale, but I eventually passed it onto my Amish friend after theirs was lost in a house fire. I haven’t missed it.

I also went through a collection of hand-crank plastic models I picked up at the thrift store. They were fun, but the quality of ice cream they made was hit-or-miss, perhaps because of their age (or our technique). While they’ll run you under $6 at a second hand shop, this type is also pricey online. If you find one for a steal snatch it up. It’s fun to have kids churn their own – with muscle power – rather than grid power.

Sage was gifted one of the ball-type makers which was really fun for occasional use. But it would never be our every week go-to. On a camping trip? Yes. When I wanted to shag them out of the house for a few minutes after dinner? Definitely.

But what I really wanted was a workhorse of a machine that I could fill and walk away while it worked its magic. So with great trepidation, I finally upgraded to electric. Based on reviews and the advice of my wise big sister, I chose this model, and I couldn’t be happier with it! Seriously. I am in love with this machine. So much so that I bought a second one when I found it at the thrift store.

The texture of our ice cream improve right off the bat, and several years in I’m still loving it. With a second insert in the freezer (found at the thrift store, of course) we’re always ready to make some ice cream.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 7.04.47 AM

Below are some of the ice cream recipes I have shared through the years. Don’t hesitate to modify them to suit your bounty or your palate! Mulberry-buttermilk, anyone?) I also heard recently that when you cut the sugar back in a recipe, adding a small amount of dissolved gelatin to the milk when you heat it will help the ice cream stay softer in the freezer. Who knew?

If you’re in the market for a book, we have thoroughly enjoyed this one. When Lupine was egg-free/dairy-free this one was a major hit, and a new book just hit the shelves that also looks promising.

Happy summer, friends. And happy churning!

6a010535f3a090970c019aff1121f3970d (1)

Blueberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

6a010535f3a090970c013484140cf7970c (1)

Rhubarb Ice Cream (add strawberries!)

6a010535f3a090970c019104ec997b970c (1)

Raspberry-Ginger Ice Cream

6a010535f3a090970c01901ebc91ce970b (1)

Cherry-Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream (with vegan variation)

6a010535f3a090970c01348606bfc2970c (1)

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

6a010535f3a090970c019aff108c08970b (1)

Favorite Vanilla Ice Cream (with apple crisp recipe)

 

Originally published in 2017.

Ice Cream Recipe Round-up #icecream #recipes #summer #homemade #icecreamrecipes

Four recipes for homemade rose remedies

June is rose season. From the old cultivated roses that crowd our back walk, to the wild pink roses along our road, and the smaller white blooms in the neighbor’s pastures, they’re a sight–and a smell–to behold.

If ever there was a case for smell-o-vision, this would be it.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose remedies are (emotional) heart remedies. During times of grief, trauma, fear, and transitions they can be a soothing comfort. These remedies do not stand-alone, of course, but represent one more piece in your healing journey. Rose also provides an energetically protective space in which to process, grieve, and heal.

Rose remedies are a balm for those feeling alone, vulnerable, tender, or broken. Stephanie from Sweetbriar Farms sent me two bottle of rose glycerite when Charlie died last summer, one of which I subsequently passed on to a friend whose brother was dying. This act of kindness was healing in and of itself, all roses aside.

I like to keep rose remedies on hand to share with friends going through painful transitions or experiencing loss, as well as for soothing our own bumps in the road of life. Rose is also an ally for soothing inflammation and reducing pain.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

I spent much of the week making five different types of rose medicine. Sage also dried some petals for culinary use, and Lupine infused a jar of honey for a friend with her harvest.

I wanted to share some recipes and a quick how-to with you, incase your neighborhood, too, is overrun with these fleeting beauties.

Field ID

To identify roses in the wild, you will observe stem, leaf, habitat and flowers.

Wild roses bear curved thorns along their woody stems, and toothed, compound leaves. They grow in pastures, along country lanes, and at the edges of forests.

Blooms vary by species. I will focus on the two species found in my region. There are many wild rose species throughout the world, so ID yours, and use that instead if you don’t have the same type as me.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rosa carolina

Here in Wisconsin (and throughout much of the US) you will find mainly two species of wild rose. One is native and one is invasive.

The native wild rose in my region most commonly found (pictured with larger pink blooms, above) is Rosa carolina, or Carolina rose. Single blooms bear five petals each and the flower center is dominated by a large cluster of yellow stamens.

20180611-DSC_2931

Rosa multiflora

The second species is invasive Rosa multiflora, or multiflora rose.

Also bearing five petals (these white and frequently heart-shaped) around a center of yellow stamens.

Multiflora rose (along other fun transplants like house sparrows, wild parsnip, Asian beetles, and Japanese honeysuckle) is a distinctly human problems. Like so many invasive species, it was touted as a solution to our many problems and a pretty one at that. It was intentionally introduced, passionately promoted, and then promptly got out of our control.

There is a strip through the central US (from the Dakotas in the north, angling southward to Arizona) where this species has yet to gain ground; otherwise you can find it from coast to coast.

For so many reasons, I’ve always been partial to the native sort, and have had a bias against the invasive for as long as I can remember.

Because: it’s invasive. What could I possibly love about an invasive? (Remember, I was a naturalist before I was an herbalist.)

20180611-DSC_2904

But plants, of course, have so much to teach us.

And I realized at last that an invasive species is not an bad or evil plant; it is simply a plant out of place, doing it’s best to survive. And it’s doing it well.

So slowly, unconsciously, I began to shift my bias. Instead of seeing the multiflora as an invasive and rolling my eyes at these hillsides of delicate, fragrant blooms, I took a step back and viewed it–for the moment–as simply a rose.

And that, of course, changed everything.

And with that in mind, I spent the week making rose medicine from both our native and non-native roses. Because of the abundance of multiflora rose, I focused primarily on them, but we did two special projects with the native roses as well.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Making rose medicine

Below, I share how to make five of my favorite rose remedies (rose petal honey, rose elixir, rose tincture, rose oxymel). I also made wild rose flower essence, but that’s its own creature that I can go into in a separate post if you are interested. (If so, please let me know.) Choose one or more to make yourself to have on hand when you or your loved ones might need it.

The general process outlined below applies to all of the other remedies. Always work with roses that are free of surface moisture. 

1. Harvest roses

There are two different methods for harvest wild roses: picking flower clusters or picking petals. The method you choose will vary by the way you intend to use your roses.

Whichever method you use, always pick in the morning on a dry day, after the dew has dried on the flowers. (However tempting, wet flowers do not make good remedies, as the resulting medicine is prone to spoilage.) Only pick from areas free of car traffic (50 feet from roadways), pollution, chemical sprays, and pet waste. Never make remedies with purchased, conventional roses.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Flower clusters are chosen when you are infusing the medicinal qualities of the rose, then straining.

To forage flower clusters, use a hand-held pruner to gently clip the entire flower cluster (with a leaf or two now and then). Place the flowers, stems, leaves and all a tight-weave basket.

20180611-DSC_2874Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Flower petals are harvested when the rose itself will be consumed or when you want to avoid the woody qualities: say in baked goods, infused honey, or tea.

To harvest the petals, gently grasp the flower head (for the native rose) or flower cluster (for multiflora rose) and pull. The petals will easily slip off, leaving the center of the flower behind. Drop these into a very tightly woven basket to keep them from escaping.

2. Clean your harvest

Back home, pick through your harvest and gently remove and release any interlopers. Pick out and discard any dirt or debris or really questionable flowers or petals.

Never rinse or wash your harvest, as it will introduce too much moisture and your remedies will easily spoil. (Plus you will wash away much of the fragrant essence of the flowers.)

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

3. Make your remedies!

Now it’s time to make some medicine and treats. Below you will find basic instructions for rose petal honey, and three other rose remedies.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose Petal Honey

The flavor of this rose petal honey is ethereal. Make enough to last the year, to stir into warm milk or almond milk, or enjoy straight off of the spoon. Useful to treat first degree burns as well – apply the honey directly to the cooled burn.

Using: petals only.

Instructions

  1. Loosely fill a glass jar of your choice to the top with freshly foraged rose petals. Do not pack tightly, but fill it so it’s fluffy and loose.
  2. Cover with raw honey.
  3. Stir wit a knife to release air bubbles and top off with more honey.
  4. Allow to infuse for 4 days to one week, inverting or gently stirring daily, and enjoy by the spoonful, in tea or warm milk, or on toast (No need to strain, as the petals are very soft.)
  5. Store finished honey in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose Elixir

I love elixirs. One part tincture, and one part infused honey, the bring the best of both to the table. Tasty yet potent, elixirs are easy to love. Useful for healing conditions of the heart.

Using: whole blossoms with a few leaves.

Instructions

  1. Without removing the stems or leaves, coarsely chop your blossoms. (I have done this with both a sharp kitchen knife and a strong food processor, so choose your whichever method suits you.)
  2. Fill a clean, dry jar 3/4 full of the loosely packed chopped blossoms. Pour in brandy or other 80+ proof alcohol (a mild tasting alcohol is strongly preferred!) until the jar is 3/4 full. Add honey to fill to the shoulders.
  3. Lid with a nonreactive lid, or line your regular canning jar lid with a piece of waxed paper or a plastic bag. Label with remedy type and date and gently shake.
  4. Place in a cool, dark place, and shake daily (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks to 6 months.
  5. When ready to strain, pour through a fine mesh strainer, then press to extract as much goodness as you can from the roses.
  6. Transfer strained remedy to a clean, glass, labeled jar. Stored in a cool, dark place, elixirs will keep for at least 1 year.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose Tincture

Tinctures are powerful remedies. Take by the drop as needed when working through acute trauma, like you would rescue remedy.

Using: whole blossoms with a few leaves

Instructions

  1. Process your roses and fill jar as above. Pour in brandy or other 80+ proof alcohol (a mild tasting alcohol is strongly preferred!) until the jar is full to the shoulders.
  2. Lid with a nonreactive lid, or line your regular canning jar lid with a piece of waxed paper or a plastic bag. Label with remedy type and date and gently shake.
  3. Place in a cool, dark place, and shake daily (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks to 6 months.
  4. When ready to strain, pour through a fine mesh strainer, then press to extract as much goodness as you can from the roses.
  5. Transfer strained remedy to a clean, glass, labeled jar. Stored in a cool, dark place, tinctures will keep for at least 2 years, and in some cases indefinitely.

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Rose Oxymel

We love oxymels. This sweet-and-sour mixture of vinegar and honey infuses different properties of the plant than a tincture or honey, and we love having the variety on hand. It’s also a nice alternative to the elixir for those who prefer alcohol-free remedies. Take by the spoonful or stir into water or carbonated water.

Using: whole blossoms with a few leaves

Instructions

  1. Process your roses and fill jar as above. Pour in raw, organic apple cider vinegar until the jar is 3/4 full. Add honey to fill to the shoulders.
  2. Lid with a nonreactive lid, or line your regular canning jar lid with a piece of waxed paper or a plastic bag. Label with remedy type and date and gently shake.
  3. Place in a cool, dark place, and shake daily (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks.
  4. When ready to strain, pour through a fine mesh strainer, then press to extract as much goodness as you can from the roses.
  5. Transfer strained remedy to a clean, glass, labeled jar. Stored in the refrigerator, oxymels will keep for at least 1 year.

 

What is your favorite wild rose remedy?

 

Wild Rose Remedies: five simple recipes to make at home.

Tincturing Solomon’s seal, and questioning what we really know

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal alliesTincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies-DSC_2742

Looking upon Solomon’s seal as a naturalist I would tell you that yes, I “knew” this plant.

I knew Solomon’s seal by sight, it’s common name, Latin name, habitat, and range. I knew how to distinguish it from false Solomon’s seal, whose latin name I had also memorized.

(Sidebar: Because the educator and naturalist in me will not die and I know at least one of you are wondering: true Solomon’s seals bears understated clusters of flowers beneath it’s elliptical leaves, versus false Solomon’s seal’s single showy terminal cluster, above similar leaves.)

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

I  first learned Solomon’s seal in a college Plant Taxonomy class. This was my first favorite class since the high school art room, and I credit it (and my instructor there) for helping redirect my life’s path.

I spent hours after class in the herbarium, the city spilling out beyond our windows; me, thumbing through page after page of glorious dried plants, lost in the bliss of taxonomy and botany, amidst a sea of pavement and glass.

I ached for nature.

I remember my instructor looking up from his grading one day and asking thoughtfully, “Why are you here?”

I knew he didn’t mean in the lab, I was always there. But in that city; at that college. And I didn’t really have an answer. He told me then about the college that I ended up transferring to the very next year, one with a College of Natural Resources and an Environmental Education program; a college made for plant geeks like me.

But I digress.

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

Back to Solomon’s seal. And what it really means to know.

With plants, I am realizing, knowing comes with time, with experience, with history. Knowing means learning much more than what is offered in a basic botany class. It springs from curiosity, intuition, and an open heart. It is rooted in our honoring of the past, humility in our present, and curiosity and passion leading us into the future.

For me, it comes from sitting with the plants, and sitting with myself.

And so truly, I do not know Solomon’s seal, though I do hope to someday.

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

But let’s dig in anyway. Just to get us started, here a few more things that I do know, (about Solomon’s seal as a medicinal plant, that is):

Solomon’s seal has a long history of medicinal use, specially by First Nations peoples in the Eastern half of North America, dating back countless generations. These are the herbalists who knew and who know Solomon’s seal, deep within their very bones.

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

It’s an apt analogy, as bones are one place that Solomon’s seal is a powerful herbal ally.

The nodular, white rhizome even looks something like a bone. (This commonality between a plant’s appearance and it’s medical usefulness is known as the “doctrine of signatures”.)

Solomon’s seal is used to treat injuries and inflammation of ligaments, tendons, bones and joints.

I’ve felt pulled to dig some for many weeks, after noticing it more and more in my neighborhood while I simultaneously navigated my first (and hopefully last) bout of plantar fasciitis. I finally decided that now was the time (despite early spring or late fall being a more proper time for digging most roots).

I found a plant that felt willing to share a length of rhizome with me, then using what I learned from Jim McDonald’s work, I felt around in the soil with my bare hands to determine where last year’s plant had grown. This was the place to dig, to prevent damaging this year’s plant or next year’s growth.

Because, as it turns out, when we learn just a little more before racing out the door; when we pause before we dig, as it were, we can lessen our impact.

I like that notion very much.

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

After a profound amount of scratching about in the soil–and with earth clear up to my armpits–I came home with a small section of the largest Solomon’s seal rhizome I had ever seen. (They’re normally the size of a pinkie finger. This one was more like the meat on a chicken leg.) Within minutes of emerging from the earth, it was washed, grated, and ready to be tinctured.

This little mason jar will sit patiently in my herb cabinet for the next 3 to 6 months, and I will shake it gently every day that I remember it is there. Then it will be ready to strain and use.

I will make more Solomon’s seal tincture in the fall, when the time is more suitable for digging, but for me, right now, this is enough.

This exercise in listening and learning and getting my hands into the earth… that’s my path toward knowing.

A path I am grateful to be on.

Perhaps someday this is a plant that I, too, will know.

* * * This seems an appropriate place to mention that Jim McDonald, the herbalist mentioned above from whose work I first discovered Solomon’s seal has suffered a huge health crisis. If you have the means to support the Kickstarter set up for him and his family, please do so. Many thanks. You can find it here. * * * 

Tincturing Solomon's Seal, and digging deeper to truly KNOW our herbal allies

Too much of a good thing?

20180609-DSC_277320180609-DSC_276620180609-DSC_2731Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 2.07.42 PM20180609-DSC_280720180609-DSC_277620180609-DSC_2785

There is a distinct possibility that I pushed myself a tiny bit too hard this weekend.

But I woke on Saturday feeling good (really good!) for the first time in more than two weeks. No vertigo, scant dizziness, and a clearness in my head, heart, and limbs that I haven’t felt for a while.

I couldn’t stop myself.

There were adventures to have and plants to find and roots to dig and remedies to make and a caterpillar house to set up and… you get the idea. I was alone for the weekend as well, a rare event indeed, while Pete and the kids were off on an adventure and I was in charge of farm and pets and home.

Mostly, I stayed home to rest. Which promptly went out the window at 6:45 AM on Saturday, when I set out, foraging basket in hand.

And what a morning!

I made wild rose flower essence, Solomon’s seal root tincture, and so, so much more. Partway through the day, though, and after a flurry of activity, I had to pull the brake.

On account of my overzealous day, the dizziness and brain fog had returned with gusto. I felt much like I had in the weeks before, and took it easy for the rest of the weekend to further recuperate. Darn.

Or, to quote Lupine: “So you felt good and decided to overexert yourself?”

Something like that.

But the vibration of all that goodness on Saturday morning was enough to carry me right through until Sunday. A day that I spent, a mug of nettle tea in hand, finalizing the very last round of book edits! One step closer!

20180610-DSC_2823

Today? I’m still feeling ‘meh’ but that’s making me think die-off, which makes me thing this might have been the right path after all.

Or maybe it’s just my gut flora dying and my brain not knowing what to make of it.

Either way I’ll be back here later this week, sharing some of the projects I was working on this weekend. After the fog clears!

Until then, never mind my spelling (it always goes to heck when I have Lyme), and I’ll see you soon.

Love,

Rachel

10 tips for self-care during times of need

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Navigating Lyme once again has given me a wonderful opportunity to practice some good, old-fashioned self-care. (You can’t keep this Pollyanna down. Silver linings abound, I say.)

And whether you’re on a month-long course of antibiotics or just feeling a bit under-the-weather, the suggestions below will surely boost your health, energy, and general wellbeing.

But these tips don’t just serve us during a time of physical struggle. Many are helpful when your crisis is emotional or spiritual as well.

All herbal recipes mentioned below can be found at the bottom of the post. Won’t you join me by making some to nourish yourself or your dear ones?

(A few afflinks follow.)

20180212-DSC_7455

1. Slow down

During times of physical, emotional, or spiritual stress the first step in self-care is to slow down.

This pause allows us time to turn inward and restore ourselves in whatever way feels best.

Since beginning my Lyme treatment, I’m putting slowing down first. I’m doing only what I need to do and giving myself a pass on the big projects that were on my plate for this week and next. That wallpaper stripping project and planting out a few more garden starts, and drying another two gallons of nettle and horsetail and catnip? They can wait. And saying “no” to things that pop up on my calendar while I really need to heal? I give myself permission to take a pass.

Instead, I am making space for smaller, more nourishing projects that are a balm for body or heart. Harvesting some catnip here, making a motherwort tincture there, and spending a little extra time with my knitting. It’s soul medicine.

DSC_0264

More than just doing less, I’m also prioritizing sleep. A daily nap when my body begs for rest; going to bed earlier in the evening when my body asks for sleep once more. And while I am fortunate enough to never have to wake with an alarm, it feels that much more nourishing these days to sleep until I am rested. Make space however you can for better sleep.

2. Magnesium epsom soak

Soaking in a hot bath with 2 cups of epsom salts is a wonder for body and spirit. Some claim detoxifying properties of this simple soak. At the very least it dissolves muscle tension and deeply relaxes us to our very essence.

This is the kind that I buy, but honestly – epsom salts are epsom salts. Pro tip: If you pick yours up locally, be sure you’re getting unscented, as some are treated with synthetic fragrance oils, and that’s not going to help with anything.

20171111-DSC_2206

3. Stay hydrated

Whether with good, fresh water, herbal teas, or other deeply nourishing drinks, stay hydrated. Your body and mind will function and feel better. Keep a water bottle on your nightstand, and sip soothing herbs like tulsi, lemon balm, and elderflower throughout the day.

If you are experiencing grief, rose flower infusions with lemon balm can be very soothing. For agitation or anxiety, see how your body responds to catnip and chamomile. Limit caffeine and other stimulants which can exacerbate stress during illness or periods of unrest. 

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

4. Nourish with nettle

When I feel well and when I feel down, I make a habit of drinking a quart of nettle infusion per day. (My how-to/recipe is at the bottom of the post). Honestly, I can’t say enough about this deeply nourishing habit. Be sure to steep your nettle infusion overnight to extract the most goodness possible from your herbs.

I harvest and dry my own nettle, but if you don’t have a local source to forage, by all means purchase some.

Though often maligned, nettle is, perhaps, my very favorite herb. To know her is to love her, in my opinion.

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

5. Support your immune system

During times of physical or emotional stress, be sure to give your immune system some love. Elderberry is our family’s favorite immune supporting herb, and can be taken to prevent (ie: before) an illness, as well as during and after. Gummies (like those pictured above) are an easy way to enjoy them at any age, but a homemade tincture is even easier. (My tincture recipe is here.)

Another preventative we adore is astragalus, while echinacea is ideal during an acute sickness. Medicinal mushrooms like rishi and chaga, and the lichen usnea (old man’s beard) are also on our immune allies list.

Research these herbs to see if they are a match for you and your own family.

6. Herbal tonics

We make a habit of herbal tonics (or oxymels) over here. Oxymels are tasty medicine, made without alcohol by macerating herbs in vinegar and mixing with honey. Deeply nourishing, I find they are just what I need when my body feels taxed.

Customize your tonic to suit your family’s needs, your own herbal allies, or the plant medicine you can grow yourself or source locally. My recipe is below.

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

7. Liver support

Because I am taking antibiotics, I want to support my liver that it detoxing my body from all the Lyme die-off debris. My liver needs love! Yours probably does too, even if you’re not taking meds. Truly, our livers work hard and do such important work for our bodies. A little herbal support can go a long way toward overall health.

If you’ve never made a tincture before, this is a fine place to start. Made with just four herbs plus alcohol for extraction, it’s a cinch to put together. But plan ahead–tinctures need to steep for a minimum of 6 weeks, with 6 months being even better.

Make it now, so you’ll have it when you need it.

8. Probiotics supplements

My daughter asked me what “antibiotics” meant. I had her break the word down. “Anti-life?!” she asked, incredulous. Never fear! We’re adding plenty of probiotics to the mix as well.

Our integrated medical doctor strongly encourages us to take these probiotics while on doxy or other antibiotics. And so we do. They are insanely expensive, but the really seem to help. Ask for a probiotic recommendation at your local coop or natural foods store or from your holistic health care provider.

9. Feed your flora and soothe your gut

Find nourishment in satisfying, nutrient-dense, gut-soothing bone broth. Stir in a spoonful of miso for added nutrition and healthy bacteria. Homemade bone broth supports overall health, is easy to digest, and loaded with the nutrients your taxed system needs. For more gut-soothing, sip gentle herbal teas like licorice root, tulsi, and peppermint.

Gut flora take a beating when we take antibiotics and other prescriptions. And it takes a long time to recover what was lost. To feed your gut flora, homemade probiotic lacto-fermented vegetables are key. We eat them at every meal regardless of there being an acute healing opportunity at hand. And unlike the probiotics linked to above, they cost almost nothing to make. All you need is a cabbage and some salt to be on your way! (Here’s a recipe sharing how.) Currently I’m making a batch of gingered carrots and a cabbage-and-nettle kraut. I can’t wait to dig in on both batches!

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

10. Trust

Finally, find trust. Trust your body, your inner wisdom, your capacity for healing, and your path. Because therein lies the real magic of finding your center once more.

 

The Recipes

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Nourishing Nettle Infusion

As I mentioned above, I drink this nearly every day. Putting together a batch each evening is my nightly ritual, and I’m always disappointed when I forget. My body craves this, and my daughter loves to drink it too.

Yield: 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried nettle leaf
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger root, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 3 tbsp dried peppermint (optional)
  • 1 quart of water

Instructions

  1. Place nettle, ginger, and peppermint in a clean quart-sized mason jar.
  2. Bring water to a boil, then add a small amount to the jar to gently warm the glass and prevent breakage. Loosely cover and allow the steam to warm the jar to the top.
  3. When the jar is warmed, fill with freshly boiled water and loosely cover again.
  4. Allow to steep for 6 to 12 hours. I normally infuse mine overnight.
  5. After steeping, pour infusion through a fine mesh strainer. Compost solids and enjoy your infusion cold or at room temperature.

Drink one quart (or more) of nettle infusion daily for adults and up to a pint for children.

Storage

Nettle infusion will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Discard if it becomes sour, or better yet use to water your garden or houseplants. (It’s their ideal food, too!)

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Herbal Oxymel

Plants are eager to give up their minerals to vinegar, creating rich, nutrient-dense tonics for us to enjoy. We’ll make this tonic as an oxymel, or vinegar-and-honey extraction. Delicious and nourishing. The herbs used here are infinitely flexible. Anything mineral-rich will do!

Take daily as a mineral-rich tonic.

Yield: approximately 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup grated fresh beets
  • 2 cup wilted fresh nettle leaf, or 1 1/2 cups dried
  • 1 cup dried raspberry leaf
  • 1/2 cup dried oatstraw
  • 2 tbsp dried horsetail (optional)
  • Raw apple cider vinegar to cover
  • Raw honey

Instructions

  1. Place beets and herbs in a 1/2 gallon glass jar, or mix then divide between two quarts. Jars should be approximately 2/3 to 3/4 full.
  2. Fill jar with vinegar to the shoulders and gently stir.
  3. Cover with plastic lid or line metal lid with a piece of a plastic bag or waxed paper (as metal may corrode). Label jar with plant name and date.
  4. Place on a saucer in a dark cupboard for 3 to 4 weeks, shaking daily. (Add additional vinegar if needed to keep your plant material well submerged.)
  5. After 4 weeks strain your mixture by pouring through a fine mesh strainer. Squeeze or press with your hands to extract all the liquid that you can. Compost solids.
  6. Measure the volume of liquid extracted, and add 1/2 the amount of honey that you have vinegar extraction (1/2 cup of honey per cup of vinegar extraction). Stir gently to combine.
  7. Transfer your oxymel to a clean glass jar or bottle, lid and label. Store in the refrigerator for up to one year.

To use: Adults take 1 to 2 tbsp daily or as desired; children take 1 to 2 tsp. Stir into water, or–better yet–use as a salad dressing, drizzle on cooked greens, or try it as a simple sweet-and-sour soda syrup.

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Liver Support Tincture

This tincture has become a standard in my home apothecary. You will notice it is made with 100 proof alcohol, not my usual 80 proof. (The irony of making a liver support formula with such potent booze is not lost on me.) This is because milk thistle is particularly difficult to extract and requires a stronger solvent.

Yield: ½ pint

Take daily to support healthy liver function.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp (.3 oz.) milk thistle seed
  • 2 tbsp (.07 oz.) nettle leaf
  • 1 tbsp (.28 oz.) Dandelion root
  • 1 tbsp (.20 oz.) yellow dock root
  • Approximately ¾ cup 100 proof vodka to cover (do not substitute 80 proof alcohol unless omitting the milk thistle)

Instructions

  • Combine herbs in a half-pint jar.
  • Pour alcohol over herbs, being sure to fully submerge all plants. (Don’t fret if some float to the surface.)
  • Cover with plastic lid or line metal lid with a piece of a plastic bag or waxed paper (as metal may corrode). Label jar with plant tincture name and date.
  • Shake daily for at least one week, then shake weekly (or as often as you think of it) for 6 weeks to 6 months.
  • Strain tincture through a fine mesh sieve or through a piece of cheesecloth, carefully squeezing as much liquid as you can from the herbs.
  • Transfer tincture to a clean glass jar or amber dropper bottles. Label and store in a cool dry place.
  • Keeps indefinitely.

Dosage: Adults may take 1 dropperful, one to two times per day.

Contraindications: Milk thistle and yellow dock may affect the function of several prescriptions medications types, including some allergy medications, some antipsychotic and seizure medications, and Coumadin, as well as general anesthetics. If you take prescription medications, check with your doctor before taking milk thistle to ensure safety.  Check with your midwife or doctor before using if you are pregnant or nursing.

Herbal and holistic self-care during times of need. 10 tips to support better health and well-being. #herbal #wellness #immunity #lyme #liversupport

Health and happiness

Let’s begin here: thank you! So, so much.

Your delightful response to my big announcement last week was just what I had hoped for. Indeed, you seem as tickled as I feel about it! Honestly, it’s a dream come true and I can hardly wait to hold a copy in my hands come Winter Solstice time. Thank you for sharing in my joy.

20180528-DSC_2389

In other news, here are some pictures that Lupine took of me in my new(ish) dress that I took far too long to sew considering how simple and intuitive the construction is. I kept wandering off and getting distracted, but now that it’s done I might never take it off.

The pattern is the lovely Dotty Angel’s frock pattern. I stitched in a few mods because I couldn’t help myself.

You can buy the pattern here if you’d like (afflink) and make one for yourself, too. Then we could be twins.

But alas, this post is not about the book or sewing or even the delight of wearing something still called a “frock” for three days straight. This post (unfortunately) is about Lyme disease.

Yes, again. 

I know. Right?

20180528-DSC_2388

I was a little late to the tick-prevention protocol game this year (the one I outlined here), and foolishly ventured into to the woods one day early this spring without bug spray.

I knew better. Really I did. But sometimes life happens and we lose track of time and forget the things we should know better than forget. Lessons learned the hard way, again and again and again.

I ended up with a bite.

I removed the tick, took my herbs, and monitored for symptoms. I felt great though, and thought that perhaps I had dodged the bullet.

But then, a few weeks after the bite and quite out of the blue, I developed vertigo. I mentioned it on Instagram and some of you had some amazing and helpful suggestions (thank you!). I didn’t jump to Lyme as my first guess of what was going on, but got adjusted, and took some immune supporting herbs. My medical doctor suspected Lyme, however, so I reluctantly picked up a month-long supply of antibiotics.

I stalled on taking the first dose, hoping it was a dislodged crystal or an inner ear infection or a misaligned cervical vertebrae. But two weeks later I’m still too dizzy some days to walk straight or drive a car.

And the brain fog (and deep fatigue) happening here is real.

Other Lyme symptoms have begun cropping up as well, so yesterday morning, I held an antibiotic pill in my hand, thanked it for my healing, and swallowed that sucker down. It took me a week to give in and feel willing to head down this path, not having been convinced that it was truly Lyme or a Lyme co-infection, and wanting to extinguish my other options before willy-nilly obliterating my gut flora.

Is it Lyme? Maybe. The test isn’t accurate enough to bother with in my opinion (especially paying out of pocket). But the truth is, right now it feels right to go this route. To stop throwing the dice on whether or not it’s Lyme. Let’s try this, and see if it helps.

20180528-DSC_2393

And with that, we begin.

With gratitude for having a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor; gratitude for knowing my body and knowing when something isn’t right; gratitude and for the miracle of antibiotics in our lives on the rare occasions when we truly need them; gratitude for a light at the end of this very dizzy tunnel.

In related news, it’s time to make some sauerkraut. Gallons of the stuff. Because my gut flora is going to need all the love it can get.

Here’s to healing, friends. Both mine and yours… whether physical, spiritual, emotional, or otherwise.

Here’s to the beauty and courage of healing–of every sort.

Big, big news (It’s a book!)

I’ve had a big project tucked away since this time last year, and I’m so thrilled to finally share it with all of you! (It’s been terribly hard to keep under wraps for so long.)

Last spring, shortly after I announced Green Magic Summer Camp, I was contacted by a publisher who wanted me to write and photograph a children’s book about herbs and herbal remedies. A book about wonderful weeds, homemade remedies, edible and medicinal plants, and so much more.

Needless to say, I jumped at the chance!

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

I spent much of last year out and about in the countryside near my home – foraging, dreaming up new recipes, and photographing ten of my favorite common edible and medicinal plants. (And dragging willing friends and family out into the fields and forests for photo shoots all season long.) And what fun we had.

The result was this: my first ever book. Pinch me!

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Honestly, I couldn’t be more delighted. The concept, the process, the plants, the recipes–everything! This project brought together my lifelong long love of the natural world and passion for photography with my current love affair with herbs, and my my skills as a writer, naturalist, and educator. It’s the book 10 year old me would have done cartwheels over. (And, as it turns out, 45 year old me as well.)

Herbal Adventures begins by providing kids and their families with safe foraging basics. Then we dig deeper, exploring ten safe, common, backyard plants. Many of which you and your kids will already recognize!

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Children get to know the plants through first-person introductions, then head outside to safely gather their own herbs for the recipes that follow. Or if you prefer, most recipes will accommodate purchased herbs as well if you’d like to skip the foraging and just get making.

Then snacks and drinks, oils and balms, sodas and syrups, and so much more are crafted with easy-to-follow instructions and recipes. I’ve even thrown some whimsical herbal crafts like flower crowns and seed bombs!

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Herbal Adventures is the perfect first-step for beginners–or next-step for children and parents who have already dabbled in herbs, but want to take their knowledge further using safe, local plants.

In essence: this is the book that I wished I had for my own kids (and myself!) not so long ago.

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Herbal Adventures is available for pre-order now!  (Release date in early December.) Or add your name to the email sign-up form below, then I’ll be sure to drop you a note when the book is released.

What a year this has been! And what a joy to put together this book for you and your kids. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Which brings me to one more thing. One very important thing that needs to be said:

Thank you.

Thank you for coming here to read my words, week after week, year after year, some of you since the bumpy beginnings back in 2009. Through your feedback and having someone to write for, I have found my voice and further discovered my passion for sharing these things that I love with the world. Without you this book truly would not exist.

You did that. And I’m profoundly grateful.

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

Herbal Adventures includes:

  • Foraging safety and basics
  • Introduction to plant medicine
  • Field ID and uses for 10 common, safe, and easy-to-recognize backyard plants (chickweed, mullein, bee balm, plantain, nettle, catnip, dandelion, elder, yarrow, and pine)
  • Nearly 50 recipes for herbal snacks, syrups, teas, treats, balms, and more
  • 10 craft projects ranging from herbal seed bombs to fairy houses to natural dyes
  • Basic, adaptable recipes to use with other edible or medicinal herbs of your choosing

Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf - Backyard Excursions and Kitchen Creations for Kids and Their Families #herbs #herbal #herbalism

What fun I have had! And soon, so will you and your kids.

Big love,
Rachel

Spring foraging bounty

Click on any image to see a full-sized version.

As a forager, spring is something of a manic (yet magical) time. Each forage season is so fleeting, that you often have only a weekend–or even a single day–to gather all that you can. And then it’s over, and you must wait until another year has passed for another promising harvest day to come.

And so this weekend, day after day, we set out on one quest or another to gather a bit of spring’s fleeting bounty.

Spruce tips, wild mint, and catnip; nettle, cleavers, and chickweed. Infusing in vinegar or honey; tincturing in brandy; and filling the dehydrators to the brim (and hoping they dry quickly enough in this blanket of humidity that is Wisconsin in summer).

All this foraging (and the unseasonable heat) called us down to the creek again and again, to wander and harvest and escape the humidity by wading or swimming in these cold, spring-fed waters. (And no, we didn’t eat that frog!)

Oh, and the mushrooms!

We’re not much of a mushroom-hunting family (though my dad and sister are). Frankly, I’m too cautious to make it in this foraging sub-genre. But there are a few safe and easy to ID mushrooms that we’re thrilled to pick when we happen upon them: chaga, dryad saddles (pheasant backs), morels, puffballs, and oysters.

So when we came upon this motherlode of almost-oysters-but-not-quite, my naturalist brain kicked in and I had to figure out what they were.

They checked all of the boxes for oyster mushrooms, except the stems were far too long. I needed to solve this mystery. So I consulted with my dad and sister, my field guides, and my nearby mushroom hunting uncle. Still: nothing.

Finally I posted it to a mycology board online and the feedback was unanimous: golden oyster mushrooms! Because they are an escaped (non-native) cultivated mushroom, they don’t appear in any of my field guides, but the oyster mushroom characteristics plus a long stem are characteristic.

Lupine and I hustled back to where we found them, and though after our 24 hours of research they were already past their prime, we harvested three basketfuls (a small fraction of what we found) and headed home to slice, cook, and dehydrate them.

A day later, we have over a gallon of sliced, dried oyster mushrooms for winter soups and stews tucked away in the pantry; another 1/2 gallon of dehydrated stems and slightly overripe mushrooms for soup stocks, and the most delicious gluten-free/dairy-free mushroom stroganoff ever for dinner last night, made by Sage (15).

Today we’ll wander back to our mushroom patch and perhaps pick a few more that may have flushed after the weekend rain, and see if we can make room in the dehydrator for one more go.

Oh, spring. I adore you–and your bounty–so.

Interested in foraging? Be sure you sign up to receive my emails, as I have something special to share with you in the next few weeks! I’ll be sending a little announcement to those who are signed up for my Herbal Retreats emails list as well as my blog in general. I can’t wait to tell you more! 

20180518-DSC_1797.jpg

A book and tool list

A few of you have asked for resources for foraging books. A few afflinks follow for what we use and love around here:

My long-time favorite foraging book is Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants (in wild and not-so-wild places) by “Wildman” Steve Brill.

Sam Thayer’s newest book, Incredible Wild Edibles, promises to be a treasure trove for the beginning forager.

For mushrooms, we really like Edible Wild Mushrooms of Illinois and Surrounding States by Joe McFarland.

We also use our Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms a good amount.

As for other tools we love for foraging? Well, not much, really. We use whatever favorite tight-weave basket is our favorite for the week (nearly all of them picked up at the thrift store for a dollar or two). We bring a sheath knife (this one is our family favorite) or pocket knife if we need it, and that’s about all.

I’ve been contemplating picking up a hori hori but haven’t yet, because it’s more stuff and frankly I’m not certain that I need it. There are certainly times I wish I had brought along a digging tool, but usually I throw in a small shovel or trowel when I’m setting out for roots.

20180515-DSC_1677

For drying herbs, I’m full-on smitten by this hanging drying rack. It’s huge and sturdy and I load it with nettle and other leafy herbs to pre-dry before finishing them in my dehydrator or oven. I love that it zips closed so my herbs don’t blow away, and that I can simply unhook it and bring it in at night.

It’s too humid here in Wisconsin to air dry completely, so after the bulk has been reduced I transfer my herbs to my electric dehydrator. I splurged on a fancy one like this when I started hosting herbal retreats, but something so expensive is by no means necessary. Check rummage sales and thrift stores for a basic model like this one and you’ll be good to go for years to come, without blowing your budget.

What about you? What is your choice foraging quarry, or your family’s favorite foraging book or tool?