Goats, rabbits, chickens (pages)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Brown recluse...

Now there's a spider. They are common here in the Midwest and I know several folks who have been bitten, including myself. My niece (once removed) had a run-in with one and is having to go through the scary experience of dealing with a bite. The bites can be difficult to diagnose as the itching, then pain do not occur until long after the spider has gone on to greener pastures. They can be identified by the violin-like marking on the back, long skinny legs and if you care to look him in the eye(s), he will have six eyes not eight like any normal arachnid! I say "he" because unlike most spiders who keep to their web to catch their prey, the male brown recluse will go on the hunt; the female leaves the web occasionally, but likes to stay close to home. The recluse web is not a pretty cylindrical weaving; they prefer to make irregular patterns. They like to keep their victims guessing.

If you don't catch and treat it quickly, it may begin to form a necrotizing ulcer. The bite becomes hard in the center and turns an angry red-purple; the wound is inflamed, hot and is extremely painful. Imagine a pit bull clamped on and not turning loose. Most folks will get antibiotics at this stage; I did myself, but then at the time I didn't know what herbs would be helpful. The antibiotics nearly did me in as I went into anaphylactic shock; good thing I was only a block from the ER.
Once you realize you've been bitten look for plantain; also called ribwort or pigs ear. It's a very common "weed" and grows in yards everywhere. (Must be free from herbicides and pesticides). If you cannot recognize it may I invite you to a Green Blessings "weed walk". Or, second best, look it up on the web or in a good herbal. Plantain has tremendous drawing power and has been used for generations to draw out infection. Obviously, the quicker plantain is applied, the better. Chew the leaves then apply to the wound. Yes, I said chew. Your own saliva gives it a little boost. If this doesn't appeal to you, then crush the leaves to release the healing "juice", then apply to wound. Using whole leaves as bandages (hence the nickname "band aid plant") instead of gauze will prevent the bandage from adhering to the wound like a gauze pad does. Ever had to remove a bandage stuck to the wound?! OW! Plus, when a bandage opens up and pulls off skin, it traumatizes the wound and slows the healing process. Wrap and cover the wound with plantain leaves and secure with gauze. Burdock leaves are also WONDERFUL for this because they are so large. The plantain dressing will need to be changed every 2-3 hours.

Can't get wild plantain or burdock? No worries, both will grow nicely in a garden. I planted them from seeds and harvested a marvelous crop.

Skinny leaf plantain


If you cannot get fresh plantain, use a good plantain salve. Be sure to get one from an herbalist; it should contain no petroleum products, preservatives, colorings or any other chemical. There are several other drawing agents in the herbal world, but plantain is my first choice, burdock and yarrow being two other good choices.

Now, that takes care of external; let's go inside. I am partial to prairie plants; after all I live among them! The Native Americans called this plant the "Prairie Doctor" and later, folks like my grandparents situated in the heart of America referred to it as the "Farmer Remedy"; gardeners and landscapers call it the Coneflower, but it's well known by its true name: Echinacea. In fact it's so well known that we tend to overlook it as a powerful remedy. Yes, there are naysayers out there who cite scientific studies that negate the efficacy of Echinacea, but for the sake of space, let's save that debate for another time. Plain and simple, it works. I've seen it work its plant magic many times. And, yes, we have "studies" to prove our side as well.

It has been used historically as a remedy for spider bites very successfully. There are thousands of Echinacea preparations out there (this is one of the problems); some are effective, some are not. Look for Echinacea augustifola root tincture. Echinacea has several properties, but its primary use for spider bites is its diffusive action. Diffusive herbs impart a distinctive tingling sensation on the tongue, which indicates its powerful action on the nervous system. Echinacea acts on the blood and lymph which makes it perfect for venomous bites which have caused a septic situation.

Place a couple drops of tincture directly on the wound and take 2 or 3 DROPS under the tongue every three to four hours. (Yes, apply the Echinacea and the plantain to the wound.)

Everyone recognizes this beauty - here's one from my garden.

The herbal world is wonderfully complex and diverse so this is not the ONLY way to treat spider bites, but in my opinion, it's one of the best.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rooting out the good stuff...

What a made-to-order day we had yesterday. Gorgeous weather and stuning autumn leaves, it was sheer joy to work in the yard. I harvested my elecampane and it was so beautiful; I can't wait to make tinctures and teas.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Need It and It Will Come...

I have this idea that when you need or have a driving desire to have a particular plant, it will show up in your life. A well-known and well-respected herbalist I know told a story of wanting to put a particular plant in a certain place on her property. Every time she passed the spot she thought and/or said that some day she wanted to put that plant there. Over time she began to pile twigs and discarded vegetation as she passed by. One day she decided to clean up the spot; she removed the little brush pile and there was the plant she had always wanted to plant there.

This is not an isolated incident in the herbal world and was just one more anecdote to reinforce my belief. I have several such stories of herbs growing naturally in my own yard, but my focus today is on burdock. I wrote about it in this column several weeks ago and displayed a photo of the giant leaves in my garden. When I harvested the roots a couple days ago, I made the mistake of not handling the burrs prior to digging. I worked away cheerfully gathering my roots not paying any attention to what was going on over my head. Sophie began to run around like a loon because she had some burrs sticking to her; my big brave farm dog can't stand anything in her fur! I took a break to help her and while brushing a strand of hair out of my face I felt burrs on my own head. A crown of burrs. What do you call a bunch of burrs? A gaggle? A flock? I had not felt them latch onto me and although I was a little concerned, I had to finish my harvest before I tackled them. When I got into the house and looked in the mirror I was horrified. They were everywhere. It was like a burdock burr hat. As I combed and brushed and pulled and yanked and laughed and cried I thought I may actually have to cut my hair off to get out the burrs. Imagine a spool of thread off the spool wadded up and swirled with oversize velcro into a ball of tangle. It took me well over an hour but eventally the burrs were gone; I felt like I'd wrestled a bear.

One the next trip over to Rocky Creek Farm, it hit me. My barn lot is filled with burdock. Hundreds of burdock plants. Dead stalks topped with the infamous burrs (poor mans buttons) and fresh green HUGE leaves sprouting and the base. My point of this story is: I must need burdock! And, there is going to be a great need for burdock medicine! No worry, I have plenty.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wintering over...

Ahh...at last the herbs (including Johnny the overgrown ficus) are settled in their winter place. Since we are moving, we had to completely change the winter quarters for the plants so they would be ready "to go" at a moments notice! They are glowing with their wonderful greenness in the garage...just waiting for the word to go to the farm! All except the row of herbs along the kitchen window in front of the sink; they have to be there so we can snip them for winter eating.

Herbs do well indoors providing you don't forget about them. They thrive on snipping and must have light and water...a few words of encouragement don't hurt either! I use the kitchen sprayer to water and have a bottle mister that I use daily. Check the soil with your knuckle; if it's dry knuckle deep then water. Turn the herb pot occasionally to evenly distribute the sunlight. If you don't have enough sun, add a grow light. Full spectrum bulbs can be used in just about any kind of lamp. Use left over tea to water; we always use our mate' tea and leaves on our indoor plants.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rocky Creek Farm

You can see I haven't posted in a while. Summer takes its toll on my thyme (snicker-roll your eyes). Actually my thyme flourished this summer; the best crop I have ever had. I have already moved the herbs and flowers indoors for the year (except for Johnny, my huge ficus tree)...we are having unusually cold temps...the freeze will be here this week-end...three weeks early. I need help bringing Johnny in, so need to recruit someone....hmmm...

My BIG news is that we bought a farm. Oh how I love saying that. We have been lusting after a farm for years and this one is perfect for us...it has everything we had on our "want" list. So, Green Blessings Herbs will now be under the auspices of Rocky Creek Farm. I haven't quite figured out how the websites and blogs will be presented as my chief cook and webmaster hasn't completed his analysis of the situation. The Farm will have all of our endeavors under one forty acre"roof": herbs (growing, harvesting, culinary, medicine), mohair (spinning, dyeing, ), classes of all sorts, tours and retail (sale of produce, products and information), festivals, we'll even have a kiln. As you can see Rocky Creek Farm will be a happening place, so stay tuned.

My carrots did exceptionally well this year; my Mini-Auzzie, Sophie, helped me harvest them and discovered she loves them for treats as well! Here is a versatile receipe that incorprates herbs into your diet.

Herbed Glazed Carrots

2 cups sliced and diced carrots

1 cup of chicken stock (homade is better!) or

1 cup of herbal infusion

1 Tbls of honey (local is better!)

1 Tbls of butter (real butter, please)

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Cover and simmer for about 20-25 minutes until carrots are tender. The carrots will be "glazed"...the syrup should be thick. Watch out and don't burn!

Remove from heat, toss with about a tablespoon of your favorite herb, or try something new! I love tarragon. I grow Texas tarragon...yummm.
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