Monday, September 6, 2010

A Shout Out to

Check out their FREE online courses!
Ya know, when something is that good and it's FREE, you just have to tell everyone about it!  Well, really is that good and their awesome online courses truly are FREE!  And when you sign up for one of their courses, they automatically add you to their monthly herbal lessons delivered directly to your email - for FREE (of course you can unsubscribe any time - but who would want to!?)  Plus, they give you access to all of the past issues to browse through too - kewl!

Today, I completed the Home Remedy Secrets course which includes a free eBook, free on-line videos for each lesson and a free herb chart to print as a reference for what you learned.  In all, it took less than 45 minutes!!  How great is that!?  The lessons are super basic, easy to follow and provide you with loads of ideas to get you started using herbs and thinking about other ways to use them.

Don't wait! Take a look now!
What a great way to start a holiday!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Finally Time to Strain and Bottle!

I'm finally back to the blog!  Hurricane Earl passed through Halifax yesterday leaving us without power for the better part of the day.  I'm very thankful to report that we are all safe and sound; however, I am sad to report that a few tree friends on our property were uprooted by Earl.

During my time sequestered in my home, I decided to strain and bottle some of my tinctures, oils and vinegars that have been brewing for at least 6 weeks now (much more in some cases!).  Our stove runs on propane so, even thought the power was out, I was able to boil some water and clean my jars before filling them with deliciousness!  I put a wide-mouth funnel in the bottle and open my jelly bag to "line" it and then dump my herbs in to strain ( you can also use cheese cloth).  Once the bulk of the liquid is strained, I gather up my jelly bag (or the corners of the cheese cloth) and I squeeze the heck out of it to get every last drop of goodness!  Proven - this is great for relieving anger, stress and tension! LOL!  Here's the beautiful result...
My St. John's Wort Oil and Chive Flower Vinegar

I was thrilled to find that the St. John's Wort oil worked perfectly this year after following the suggestions found in this article by Laurel Vukovic where she suggests covering the bottle of steeping oil with cheesecloth (secured with a rubber band) to keep moisture from causing the oil to spoil - worked like a charm!  I was also careful to use only the biggest, plumpest buds just ready to open and let them wilt overnight.  My earliest bottles turned red right away; my later oils took nearly 6 weeks to turn a nice deep red - but they did turn red!  The chive vinegar also turned a gorgeous pink color from all of the chive blossoms I tucked into the mix!

This is definitely the most rewarding part of the whole process!  If you still have your harvests steeping and they're ready to strain, take a few minutes to strain them - it's soooo exciting!

  • Just make the amount of product you will be able to consume this year and make fresh next summer.  If you have extra, it makes a wonderful gift in a pretty bottle!  
  • Label and date all of your products.  Include proportions and ingredients; saves time next time and also makes adjustments easy.
  • The suggested life of a medicinal oil is about a year when stored in the fridge or about 6 months when stored on a cool, dark cupboard shelf.  The olive oil base hardens somewhat in the fridge but melts instantly when touched by fingers or slightly slower when set on the counter to warm a bit. 
  • Plain oil will eventually go rancid, thus, so will your oil products.  You will know by smell if the oil has gone rancid - it will have a sharp smell.  However, I have some older than a year and they are still fine (although less potent medicinally).
  • Vinegar is a natural preservative but it does not keep indefinitely.  To extend the life of your vinegars, keep them in the fridge or on a cool, dark cupboard shelf.  I'm a rebel - they're lined up on my dining room windowsill as a reminder to use them at every meal; this window does not get direct sunlight.
  • Experiment!  Use your vinegars to make interesting salad dressings, flavourful marinades, tasty soups and interesting drizzles - don't forget those beauty products too!  Use your oils alone or in combination with other oils (and essential oils) to make salves, lotions, massage oils - don't forget to incorporate the edible oils into your cooking with your vinegars!
Now that we have some delightful oils to work with, we can explore those even further in upcoming posts - stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Herbal Aftershave

Photo by David Wright on Flickr
I just had to share this fun project that I did tonight (yes, I was gathering herbs in the dark again!)  I love the magazine called The Herb Quarterly and I found a recipe by Janice Cox and Maggie Howe for herbal aftershave in the Summer 2010 edition on page 16.

Essentially, this recipe makes a herbal tincture with the addition of some citrus peeling and some spices - too simple!

Here is the combination of herbs that decided to I use based on input from my DH:
1 cup of chopped herb (roughly 3/4 chocolate mint, 1/8 plantain, 1/8 thyme)
6 dried cloves
1 star anise

I placed it all in a 1 cup mason jar and covered it with 40% (80 proof) vodka.
I'll put it in a cool dark place to steep for 3 to 4 weeks (more or less depending on scent strength) and I'll shake it now and then.  Then I'll strain it into a clean bottle that's a convenient shape for aftershave.  Voila!  Since this is tinctured, it will last indefinitely.

The authors also suggest these herbs and spices in a combination of your choice:

  • zest of one citrus (lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange)
  • basil
  • lemongrass
  • lavender
  • mint
  • anise hyssop
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • sage
  • lemon balm
  • lemon verbena
  • bay leaves
  • fennel
  • 2-3 peppercorns
  • 2-3 dried cloves
  • 2-3 dried allspice berries
  • 3-5 juniper berries
  • gin (for a fresh, bracing herbal scent)
  • rum (for a sweeter note)
  • vodka (for no additional scent)
I have three books authored by Janice Cox and they all contain quick, fun recipes to try.  Here are links to each of them on
Val :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Interview With A Goddess

Art by nixjim13 at Deviant Art
"What's the one thing that surprises you most about mankind?"

She answered: "That they get bored of being children, are in a rush to grow up, and then long to be children again.  That they lose their health to make money and then  lose their money to restore their health. That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live neither for the present nor the future. That they live as if they will never die, and they die as if they never had
never lived..."

Her hands took mine and we were silent. After a long period, I said, "May I ask you another question?"

She replied with a smile.

"As a Mother, what would you ask your children to do for the new year?"

"To learn that what is most valuable is not what they have in their lives, but who they have in their lives.

To learn that a rich person is not one who has the most, but is one who needs the least.

To learn that they should control their attitudes, otherwise their attitudes will control them.

To learn that it only takes a few seconds to open profound wounds in persons we love, and that it takes many years to heal them.

To learn to forgive by practicing forgiveness.

To learn that there are persons that love them dearly, but simply do not know how to show their feelings.

To learn that money can buy everything but happiness.

To learn that while at times they may be entitled to be upset, that does not give them the right to upset those around them.

To learn that great dreams do not require great wings, but a landing gear to achieve.

To learn that true friends are scarce, he/she who has found one has found a true treasure.

To learn that it is not always enough that they be forgiven by others, but that they forgive themselves.

To learn that they are masters of what they keep to themselves and slaves of what they say.

To learn that they shall reap what they plant; if they plant gossip they will harvest intrigues, if they plant love they will harvest happiness.

To learn that true happiness is not to achieve their goals but to learn to be satisfied with what they already achieved.

To learn that happiness is a decision.  They decide to be happy with what they are and have, or die from envy and jealousy of what they lack.

To learn that two people can look at the same thing and see something totally different.

To learn that those who are honest with themselves without considering the consequences go far in life.

To learn that even though they may think they have nothing to give, when a friend cries with them, they find the strength to appease the pain.

To learn that by trying to hold on to love ones, they very quickly push them away; and by letting go of those they love, they will be side by side forever.

To learn that even though the word "love" has many different meanings, it loses value when it is overstated.

To learn that they can never do something extraordinary for Me to love them;  I simply do.

To learn that the shortest distance they could be from Me is the distance of a prayer."


~Author Unknown~

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Yellow Harvest Festival

Yellow Sweet Clover by dowcet on Flickr
This time of summer is so exciting!  Everything is blooming and it's hard to keep up with posting about it all.  I noticed today that nearly everything I harvested today is yellow or creamy white!!

New to my herb basket this year is sweet clover.  Both yellow and white varieties are blooming here right now.  For this herb, you harvest the ariel parts of the plant (flowers, stems and leaves).  This plant grows nearly 7 feet tall right into my driveway!  Needless to say, those plants are getting harvested first so they are out of the way! (no, of course I wouldn't let DH chop em down before they bloomed! LOL!)  Not only does this plant have medicinal value for increasing circulation, reducing varicose veins and healing hemorrhoids but it is also a suitable cover crop for increasing nitrogen in the soil.

St. John's Wort by gmayfield10 on Flickr
Just coming into bloom is the ever delicate and fabulously yellow Saint John's Wort.  Take the time to hold one of the leaves up to the light and discover why its latin name is Hypericum Perforatum - a fun discover for the whole family!  Included in this great article, is a blurb about making Saint John's Wort oil (great for sunburns, shingles flareups and other skin disorders).  Saint John's Wort has been heavily studied and there is a lot of information available about its benefits as a naturally uplifting herbal supplement.  It is important to read a few resources about this herb and make sure that you have current information - and be aware of drug interactions if you are already on medications.

Linden Blossom
by American College of Healthcare Sciences on Flickr
Another naturally uplifting herb comes to us from another blossom - the Linden Tree blossom.  It was a treat just to stand under these majestic trees today and inhale deeply.  Their sweet scent is intoxicating - uplifting all on its own!  Use a tea that includes these incredible blossoms to bring a lift to any dull day.  These blossoms reduce inflammation and are astringent and  have been used to help break fevers and treat colds, coughs and stuffy noses.  Truly one of my favorite to harvest and add to any tea for a hint of sweetness and a beautiful aroma.

Linden Tree
by American College of Healthcare Sciences on Flickr
Be sure to keep an eye out for other beautiful yellow blossoms!  In my yard there is also Hop Clover and Evening Primrose... what else do you have in your area?

Yellow blessings,
Val :)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Awesome Book!!

Photo from
Today, I would like to share one of my favorite herbal references with you.

The Herbal Medicine-Maker's Handbook is written by James Green who I had the sincere pleasure of meeting last summer when I attended one of his seminars on quantum physics and plants (enthralling stuff!)

James Green has a wonderful and somewhat humorous way of delivering detailed instructions for making various herbal concoctions (often giving a choice of methods).  I love having a bit of background about what I'm making as well as the 1-2-3 how to make it; this book provides both perfectly.

I'm a big fan of ordering on-line as it is typically 25% - 40% cheaper than in the store, it's free shipping on orders of $39 or more and new items often arrive within a week!  Here are links to this book on and  Check it out! :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

In My Herb Basket

Photo by Grant MacDonald on Flickr
It's pouring buckets here so I thought I would write a little post about what's been going into my harvest basket in the past week.

Roses, roses, roses and more roses!  So beautiful in every shape, size and color.  I even enjoyed a fresh rose petal bath on the weekend - so decadent!!  They smell heavenly in the dehydrator and they are still just as beautiful in their shrivelled form!

Photo by Grant MacDonald on Flickr

I will be adding them to tea blends, epsom salts, milk baths, oils and lotions throughout the coming year so it is nice to replenish my harvest.

Be sure to collect them away from pollution and traffic and don't forget to add a few petals to your next salad!  Yes!  They are edible!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fresh Lavender Sorbet by Jennifer

Fresh Lavender Sorbet by Jennifer
Jennifer at Thimbles, Bobbins, Paper and Ink is sharing how to make a delicious seasonal treat - fresh lavender sorbet!  Here is her picture of it!  Hop on over, check it out and leave her some love!

Thank you, Jennifer!
It's beautiful!
Val :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Got Poppies?

Poppies are in their glory right now! If you have an abundance of poppies, try making this superb simple "lotion" that will leave your skin as soft as silk! The way poppies grow, you'll easily have enough of this beautiful elixer to share with all of your friends - stock up on gift bottles!

Photo by Valerie H. Wilson

Poppy Lotion
1/2 cup fresh poppy flower petals (washed)
1 cup boiling water
1/8 tsp vitamin E oil (e.g. 1 capsule drained)

Place the flower petals in a glass or ceramic bowl. Pour the boiling water over them and stir in the vitamin E oil. Let the mixture cool completely. Strain and pour the liquid into a clean (sterile is best) container. To use: Splash or spritz the lotion on your face and body and gently massage into your skin. Do not rince. Yield: 8 ounces

Notes: This simple lotion will be very watery and would be close to what you would consider a toner or a body splash. The Vitamin E oil is added as a preservative and is excellent for your skin.  You could substitute a bit of glycerine as a preservative if you don't have Vitamin E on hand.

The Herb Quarterly Magazine
Summer 2010 Issue
Wildflower Beauty, p18
by Janice Cox

Original posting: June 2, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bountiful Yards!

A special treat in my harvest basket this week: gorgeous wild rose buds and blossoms!!!
Such a stunning addition to any herb tea or body product!

In my tea today: fresh clover blossoms (so sweet!!)
Just pour boiling water over the blossoms and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and serve!

Vinegars I put up today:
  • fresh stinging nettles (shown left)
  • fresh comfrey leaves
  • fresh chives
Just chop the fresh leaves into glass jars and cover with apple cider vinegar. Fold a larger piece of waxed paper into quarters and pace on top of the jar before putting on the lid to keep the lid from rusting. Shake daily for two weeks then strain and bottle. Serve on veggies, use in salad dressings or make delicious mayo with a twist!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More Than Just Berries

Astringent red raspberry and blackberry leaves are prime candidates for harvesting right now. They are bright green and full of vitality. The weather and insects have not yet degraded their lush quality.

How to tell them apart.

Red raspberry leaves have a matt finish and grow on "furry" looking stems. Red raspberry leaves are often a lighter shade of green than blackberry leaves.
Red Raspberry Leaf by jessicasays on Flickr

Blackberry leaves have a shiny finish and grow on darker stems with bigger thorns.
Blackberry Leaf by photographphil on Flickr

Why Harvest Them?

Red Raspberry leaves contain beneficial flavonoids (quercetin glycosides), minerals (calcium, magnesium, manganese and potassium) and tannins (gallotannin). As a tea, it is a toning tonic for the digestive system, it is useful in the stomach complaints of children and it is definitely a very good/quick remedy for diarrhea... (read more). It also contains fragrine, an alkaloid which gives tone to the muscles of the pelvic region, including the uterus itself....(read more).

Blackberry root and leaves contain tannin and act as an astringent and tonic, proving a valuable remedy for dysentery and diarrhoea, etc. The root is the more astringent but I find that chewing on a leaf provides almost instant relief in a pinch. Half a teacupful of leaf infusion should be taken every hour or two for diarrhoea...(read more).

Friday, May 28, 2010

First Hummer Sighting!

I'm thrilled that the little lady doing fly-bys has finally landed at the feeder!! She wasn't there long enough for me to get a shot of her, but I found a beautiful picture of a lady just like her on by Jhonnywalk.
This is a picture of the beautiful feeder my mom gave me last year for my birthday... I just love it :) More importantly, the hummers love it too! :)

O My Harvest Time!

There are so many delicious things in our yards right now that I thought I would share what was filling our harvesting baskets Wednesday! And what were we doing with all these herbs you ask? Wendy and I were blending some wonderful fresh teas for our garden club social. We just had a blast! We took all of the fresh herbs with us and chopped them all up into a bunch of different teapots to make some fun different blends... and they were soooooo yummy! :)

Bee balm
Blackberry leaf
Chive stalks and flowers
Oregano (golden)
Peppermint (chocolate)
Raspberry leaf
Sage (garden)
St. John's Wort
Thyme (creeping)

If you'd like tips on their medicinal benefits, check each of them out at
I think there might have been more, but that's what I can recall right now!
Try your own fresh blend from your yard with whatever you have on hand!
Happy sampling!
Val :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Beautiful Blossoms

Julie over at Mutch To Stamp has us posting pics of our flowers. Here are a few of mine from last year!

Do you have garden pics too?

Friday, May 21, 2010

One of Nature's Miracles

Yesterday was recycling day and DH took the green bin up to the curb but not the plastics, paper, or cans. I got them all bundled up and out to the curb before I noticed this special surprise by the back door!

This is not the first luna moth to perch itself on the siding under one of the outdoor lights, but it is the first time I have been able to get really good pictures! It stuck around long enough to pose for its photo shoot and then it quietly flitted off into the sun.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Heathers Planted

After our garden club hosted a great presentation on Heaths and Heathers by Mr. Dawson in March, I stumbled across a huge display of gorgeous Erica Heathers at the grocery store (of all places!) They are early spring bloomers and are still holding their blooms after sitting in the pots for almost 8 weeks by the back door (poor things!).

They are finally in the ground and will be receiving some water again this afternoon! If you haven't considered Heathers before, check them out! They are very hearty, thrive in poor soil, provide long-lived color, and require very little maintenance.

Flowers as Medicine

I'm finally getting back to the herbs I suggested for trying in your herbal beverages. Let's start with the flowers. I thought I'd try to provide one well known medicinal use for each one, but as it turns out, each herb has so many uses that I couldn't choose just one!.


Linden - treatment of colds, cough, bronchitis, infectious diseases, and headache (particularly migraine); linden is diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces spasm), and sedative

Red clover - blood purifier, improves circulation, promotes the production of mucus, stimulates the secretion of bile, alleviates symptoms of menopause, slows down bone loss, encourages bone density, increases levels of good cholesterol

Calendula - The flavenoids present in the calendula flower and its inherent anti-inflammatory, astringent, antifungal, and antiseptic properties result in an ideal topical agent; poultices: bruises, impetigo, vericose veins, minor burns; ointments: chapped lips, bedsores, shingles; tea: gently promotes perspiration (good for fevers).

Chamomile - bitter properties make it a good aperitif to promote good digestion or a good after dinner tea to settle the stomach and reduce gas; commonly know for its gentle sedative qualities

If you would like more information any of these herbs and other ways of using them, please feel free to comment on this post.

Val :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Seeds Planted

I thought I'd start posting what I put in the ground and when I put it there... a bit of a garden journal if you will. Perhaps this will help me keep track of what grows and what doesn't. I have back-dated this post to Friday, May 14 as that's when the seeds actually went in the ground.

Sown directly outdoors in the gardens at the top of the driveway:

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Basics of Making Herbal Beverages


For the purposes of this blog, the term "tea" will refer to hot or cold beverages created using the leaves and flowers of various herbs. These teas may or may not contain tea leaves (such as green tea leaves).

Let's keep it simple. Here is the most basic method for preparing herbal tea in a saucepan:

Dried Herbal Tea
1 teaspoon dried flowers/leaves (single herb or blend of herbs)
1 cup boiling water

Fresh Herbal Tea
1 tablespoon fresh flowers/leaves (single herb or blend of herbs)
1 cup boiling water

Always cover tea to keep in the herbal goodness.
Steep at least 10 minutes (or longer for stronger tea).
Strain and serve.


When preparing a herbal "tea" that contains seeds and roots, the decoction method is used. This method is slightly more aggressive in order extract the medicinal benefits of the seeds and roots - but it's still super simple!

The same proportions apply, but the method differs:

Dried Herbal Decoction
1 teaspoon dried seeds/roots (single herb or blend of herbs)
1 cup boiling water

Fresh Herbal Decoction
1 tablespoon fresh seeds/roots (single herb or blend of herbs)
1 cup boiling water

Always cover decoction to keep in the herbal goodness.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for at least 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, strain and serve.
Add any flowers/leaves and steep for 10 more minutes.
Strain and serve.


Here are just a few of my favorite herbs divided into their respective flower, leaf, seed or root categories. We'll talk about the medicinal benefits of them in my next post. For now, you can try them for flavor!

red clover

lemon balm



Happy sampling!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tips For Gathering and Drying Herbs

These tips have been gathered from both herbal elders and personal experience. They outline optimal conditions for producing both an enriched gathering experience and high-quality herbs.


  • collect herbs on a dry clear day after the dew has lifted and before the sun has drained them of energy (i.e. earlier in the day is optimal)
  • paper bags are excellent for collecting herbs; they don't take up much room, they help absorb moisture and they are not air tight
  • gather herbs in areas away from pesticides, herbicides and other pollutants; avoid roadsides, train tracks and lawns treated with 'weed and feed' (or any other chemicals)
  • take your time; be respectful of nature and all of its creatures
  • harvest from the center of the plant colony instead of harvesting at the edge of a plant colony where it is trying to expand its territory
  • do not over-harvest an herb patch; be mindful of the size of an herb patch and the general availability of the herb
  • harvest only as much as you need for this year; dried herbs for medicinal use only have a one-year shelf life
  • in your own way, give thanks to the earth for the bounty of your harvest


  • dehydrate herbs in an airy dry spot out of the sun; be sure plant material is not clumped and has enough space to dry properly
  • dehydrators are excellent for drying heavier materials like flower buds and organic fruit peelings
  • be sure herbs are bone dry before storing them or they will develop mold and spoil


  • once herbs are bone dry, package them in airtight containers (like mason jars) and store them in a cool spot away from sunlight
  • be sure to label containers with the harvest date and location
  • herbs loose their vitality after one year so it is best to replace them each growing season


  • please feel free to post questions in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them

Friday, April 30, 2010

Coltsfoot has an unexpected bonus!

While I was making breakfast this morning, I was greeted by an exciting scene in the garden! Several goldfinches were perched delicately on a few of the coltsfoot blossoms that have gone to seed - they were having breakfast too!

Since I was too far away to get good photos, I have borrowed these beautiful shots from Nature Tails and Camera Trails. If you like these photos, check out these similar images.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mayflower Sighting!

If you have never had the blessing of experiencing the unforgettable aroma of the Mayflower (Trailing Arbutus), now is your chance! This adorable little flower does an excellent job of hiding its blooms under its large leaves so you really have to look for it, but we have had local sightings!!!

Mayflower is a member of the Ericaceae or heath family, its botanical name is Epigaea repens, and it's related to such popular plants as blueberries and cranberries (Vaccinium, various species), rhododendrons and azaleas (Rhododendron), Bog rosemary (Andromeda), and wintergreen (Gaultheria), not to mention of course heaths and heathers (Erica & Calluna). You'll typically find it in mossy woodland areas that are dappled with sun at this time of year.

Medicinally, the leaves of the trailing arbutus specifically influence the urinary organs. They are diuretic and astringent. Visit Henriette's Herbal Homepage for a more detailed overview.

Be sure to pick a couple and pop them in a little vase on the windowsill - the sweet aroma will scent the whole kitchen! (Remember not to over-harvest the small patches.) Below are a few pictures of this little gem and here is an article with more information about Nova Scotia's provincial flower, the Mayflower.

Enjoy your time outdoors!