Preserving Garden Herbs for Winter. 

Winter is coming. Anyone out there a Game of Throne-ers like us…? Yes? No? Well anyway…. winter is literally just round the corner here in the PNW, we'll not really since it's fire season here and fires are raging not far off. But with all these fresh herbs filling my house and garden I can't bear the idea of not having some around to lift up my stews and season our meals. Oh those long cold days. How wonderful that sounds right about now. So heres just a few ways I'm preserving my herbs:

  1. Drying
  2. Freezing in olive oil
  3. Infusing in olive oil & vinegar
  4. Pesto!
  5. Extracts and tinctures.

So most of you probably know how to dry herbs, but if not here's the short and sweet version. Bundle and tie herbs together and hang upside down, preferably somewhere away from dust and moisture. Once dry remove leaves from stems, crush or leave whole and store in an air tight container.

  • Currently hanging: Greek oregano, chives, lime and Thai basil. Today I plan to put up some pineapple sage to dry also.

  • Finished product: Greek oregano

Note: With all of the following recipes be sure to pick of any bugs and shake off any dirt hanging on so they/it won't end up in your finished product. I also rinsed all my herbs in cold water and patted them dry.

One of the best ways to preserve that fresh taste is to freeze an herb in olive oil. At the time I did this I had an over abundance of basil so that's what I did plus I love the flavor and olive oil is my chosen cooking oil other than the animals fats. So I simply cut up my basil with some herb shears, covered the bottom of my ice cube tray with the cut herbs and poured the oil over to cover.

  • After freezing overnight.

When it comes to infusing oils and vinegars it's as simple as stuffing a jar full of dried or fresh herbs and pouring the liquid over the top. Make sure all the plant matter is covered in the case of olive oil so as to avoid mold. I infused olive oil (any other oils work also; avocado, canola, etc.) with all kinds of basils and oregano. I infused vinegar with the basil also. These will both be used for salad dressings and cooking in the winter. Put them in a dark place to infuse for a couple months. If using fresh herbs you may encounter some cloudiness in your oils due to the water in the leaves. If so just leave off the lid for a day or so (if it's warm out) and the water particles will quickly evaporate. Below are a few of the infusions.

  • Vinegar left and olive oil right.

I don't know about you but I love pesto! And anyway I can get it cheaper than the store is right up my ally. Most of the ingredients are common stock for most kitchens, simply source yourself some pine nuts and you're on your way! I found a few great recipes on Pinterest.
Hint: fresh basil from the garden works best!

  • If you want this to last I suggest doing a double batch in order to freeze some and eat some fresh. As you can see mine is halfway gone… Can you say yum?!

Extracts and tinctures sound harder than they are and some recipes call for a little more measuring than I chose to do. I made it simple like Shaye from The Elliott Homestead with her echinacea tincture. I stuffed my jars full of these herbs and dumped vodka on them. My currents extractions and tinctures consist of echinacea tincture (recipe courtesy of The Elliott Homestead as I stated above) and chocolate mint extract. Very soon I'll be making my own homemade vanilla extract for which I might consult an actual recipe since it seems it needs to be a little more exact. As for the mint and echinacea I did as follows. Prepare clean jars. Clip fresh herbs. Leaves and stems (echinacea also the blossoms). Stuff in jars. Pour vodka completely over foliage so it is entirely submerged. Fasten with air tight lid. Boom.

  • Pow Wow Echinacea
  • Freshly stuffed jar of Echinacea.

  • After a few days the flowers will lose their bright color

  • Chocolate Mint extract

  • I highly suggest labeling everything you extract, tincturize, or infuse. Herbs lose their form and color slightly and it can be hard to tell what's what after a few days. Been there, done that. Labels are you friend!

Well there you have it! Many ways to save those fresh herbs. From freezing over night, drying for a weekish, or waiting those few months to use your yummy garden goodies you'll be set for winter. It's well worth it folks. Make sure you prune your herbs regularly so they stay around longer and don't bolt. Once they do save those seeds folks! Aaaaand don't forget to start more herbs for your fall garden, if you treat them right you may be able to keep them inside for the long haul!

Purple basil anyone?

Peace and Love,
Quincy

8 Free Seed-Starters

There’s no need to go break the bank on fancy seed trays. Up-cycle any of these for a quick and easy (and free) solution. Eventually I plan on buying a couple soil blockers in order to cut down on our waste and use of plastic, but until I can invest in that tool this is what we did this year. Check it out. 

  1. Milk cartons– these were empty epsom salt cartons we just cut the top off and filled with soil. 
  2. Toilet paper rolls– we save all our rolls for crafts or firestartes, and now see starters. Works great for peas since you can fill halfway and back fill as the sprouts grown taller. 
  3. Shallow boxes– this was my mother’s experiment and it worked amazing for sunflowers, and that’s just mulch from the chicken yard. 
  4. Shipping materials– fill with soil and plant. Boom. 
  5. Juice bottles– all did was cut off the top and added two drain holes. 
  6. Egg cartons— ever tried planting tomatoes in egg shells?And here’s a couple more options that I didn’t have the chance to try, though I have seen other folks find great success with also 
  7. Milk jugs– simply cut the jug in half and discard top half, poke some drain holes in the bottom and voila! 
  8. Coffee cans– coffee cans are great since they hold warmth quite well and can be reused many times. All you you need to do is take a hammer and a nail and add a few drain holes in the bottom. For an added effect only fill halfway with soil and cover it with plastic to retain temperature, sorta like a greenhouse.
  • One a side note: instead of buying more greenhouse seed trays I also started a great deal of our garden in paper cups and solo cups that we had lying around the house, saved a lot of money doing that folks!

As you can see, there’s no need to spend countless dollars year after year on expensive to buy cheaply made plastic seed trays. This is more sustainable and much more financially forgiving. Not to mention you will be cutting down on your household waste and reusing those paper/plastic/metal products. Most of the paper based ones can also be planted directly into the ground. Give it a try, what can you lose? And just keep planting seeds y’all!

Okra in the sunset.

Peace and Love

Q

    ESSENTIAL OILS FOR THE HOMESTEAD

    Looking for an all natural solution for many of your families health care needs? Look no further than essential oils!

    They are the bees knees and mother nature’s arsenal of weapons to fight off illness, disease, the common cold, and many other maladies you may be dealing with on your homestead everyday.

    Trust me, when I first heard essential oils I was a bit skeptical. Until I used peppermint oil one day from a friend I thought they were some placebo juju that weirdos came up with. Well my gastly assumptions are usually wrong as was this one. So I had a terrible headache and along came my good friend Natalie with her peppermint essential oil goodness.

    BAM! I was changed forever… with my head ache gone and a renewed energy from the brisk peppermint sensation I was determined to get involved with these magical oils.

    I’m not going to sugar coat it, some of these oils can get real pricey, real quick… And only for 10 ml?!?! GAHHHHH What are we to do??!

    Enroll in a wholesale membership folks! 25% off oils, PLUS opportunities to get free product monthly, AND there’s a chance I could make my own business with oils?

    Yes, Yes, and YES! I was sold and if you are to, then head on over to my business site here. You can sign up to be a whole sale member like me or shop the wonderful inventory offered by DoTerra.

    If you’re not so convinced let me take you through a day with the Gardner’s on the homestead and tell you how we use these 10 essential oils everyday.

    Disclaimer: If you have never used essential oils I highly suggest diluting with a carrier oil for your first few uses with every oil to ensure you know your sensitivity. Everyones body can absorb these differently. A little bit goes A LONG WAY  folks so take care not to over use or waste.

    1. Lime- This morning I threw some pork in the crockpot for carnitas… OH NO! I had no fresh limes… Instead I dropped 3-5 drops lime essential oil into the crockpot. Its amazing and sometimes I like the flavor better than fresh limes, the tangy sweetness is ever consistent in the oils versus lime to lime differences.
    2. Peppermint – I like to dab a little on the back of my neck in the morning, this wakes me up and feels so refreshing. Like stated above this oil does work in the headache department, give it a try, what can you lose? When dropped into a vegetable capsule the Homestud will take this like a normal pill. It helps with his digestion and heartburn. This is why this oil is also part of the Digestive blend (DigestZen).
    3. Lavender – Diffused in Ireland’s room every night and dropped onto pillows. Also dropped into baths just before she goes down for the night, it works like a charm.
    4. Wild Orange – This oil goes in my homemade deodorant and also into the hubby’s beard oil. It works wonders as a disinfectant, antibiotic and cleanser. And don’t even get me started on how amazing it smells… fuh-get-a-boud-id! I’ll even put it in my water bottle for flavor. 
    5. Melaleuca – I commonly drip this oil into stinky loads of laundry or whatever I want to get really really clean. This oil clean basically any home surface as well. It’s easily the best combatant against mold in our home. I dripped it into the window frames and all over the window sills and the mold never came back, SCORE! (we rent an older manufactured home, the windows leak, and we’ve had issues with mold in the past) Several sites out there who bolstered the same success with melaleuca, or I may never have tried it. Athletes foot or fungus? No more if  this oil is used daily. 
    6. Lemongrass – Ok this may be my favorite smell ever, other than its fantastic fragrance, this oil works wonder on my plantar fasciitis. A couple drops simply rubbed into the soles of my feet. I also combine it with a natural un-scented all surface cleaner to add a extra cleaning kick and the aroma left behind is great.
    7. Respiratory blend (Breathe) – This time of the year the farm fam always gets cough or cold, this oil helps to relieve sinus and chest congestion with ease. I will also diffuse this in the girls’ room at night if they are feeling stuffy. Diluted with carrier oil breathe is the best substitute for vapor rub.
    8. Helichrysum – There are days we don’t need to use this super power oil, and there are day when we use it 2, maybe even 3 times. Any woman who has had the misfortune of pregnancy induced hemorrhoids, heres your solution girlfriends. Sorry to get graphic like this folks, but this is real life, I don’t claim to be anything but human. Diluted down with a carrier oil, helichrysum made my postpartum days much more tolerable, in cooperation with my homemade postpartum peri-spray (more on than later). My favorite use for this oil is as a blood stop/clot. I cut the tip of my  middle finger off a few months, no joke, it was literally siting on the cutting board… ahem. Save to say, this little yellow labeled bottle wasn’t far from reach. I simply let one drop fall from the bottle onto the open wound, no pain, no muss no fuss. It stopped bleeding almost instantly forming an almost sticky protective coating much like that of a liquid bandage. Once it was dry I covered it with a dry bandaid and went about my business. It took the pain away efficiently, the wound was healed within 10 days, and no scarring. Convinced yet?
    9. Lemon – My most favorite scent for disinfecting the air and freshening up. Drinking a warm glass of water with a few drops of lemon right when you wake is said to have huge health benefits, and when I was pregnant this was my saving grace. It relieved nausea and helped me a great deal when I was squeamish with certain smells during both pregnancies. Lemon oil will flavor food and drinks. Want a lemon for your beer but you’ve run out? This also works with lime oil.
    10. Protective Blend (OnGuard) – I use this oil on the kids and myself before we go out to run errands, it boosts our immunities and helps fight off germs. Have a toothache or sore throat? This is nature’s Oragel. It will spot treat oral pain if applied right onto your gums or tooth, 1 or two drops at a time. When a sore throat hits add this to your warm salt water gargle and it will alleviate pain from your throat and cut through the mucous. Yes the taste is a bit intense with orange, clove, cinnamon, and eucalyptus oils all teaming up for the fight, but its way worth it folks.

    There you have it. And yes a whole other blog post is needed to explain the uses of more essential oils, and even the ones that are safe for your farm animals. More on that later 🙂

    Whats crazier? These are just the immediate affects, when used long term the oils can positively impact your health and change your life. They can be used only to alleviate symptoms, much like I was speaking about above in my list, or that can be used long term to help treat illnesses.

    I am not a doctor nor do I claim to be able to diagnose to treat anyone. I am simply a person looking for another way to treat my families minor health concerns. 

    Diffusing wild orange, cedar wood andlavender while  drooling over seed catalogues.

    Q

    What To Do When Your Dogs Get Skunked! 

    Might I take this chance to introduce you to a few of my fur babies…?

    This is Dixie Mae, culprit of the stink numbero uno. 

    She was skunked about a month, being her (our) first time we had no idea what that burning hair/plastic smell was. No joking, Spencer and I searched for the ‘electrical fire’ source for about two hours before deeming ourselves insane. 


    By routine the next morning Spencer gave Dixie her goodbye kisses before leaving for work, only to find out his face and beard would then be smelling of skunk for the days entirety… and then some.. 

    So yes, she stank up the house for a good 8 hours before we noticed… ufda. 

    Next on the rap sheet Mr. Kato… he was the antagonist of the satire which was the other night… he was so close to the skunk that half his face was yellow…. sigh. Save to say the swear words were a flyin’ around the middle of that night. 

    His side kick? That ever dependable and trouble-making sister Brodee Sue.


    So what do you do in these most stinky of circumstances?

    Take a deep breath (since you’ll not want to for three months) and try to laugh about it. Dogs will be dogs and skunks will happen from time to time. Like Forrest Gump said, “sh*t happens… sometimes…”

    In the one month since we moved all (three) of our dogs have been sprayed by a skunk. So you could say I’ve had some time to experiment with how to keep the smell at bay. 

    To keep things easiest I won’t talk about what didn’t work… (tomato juice/sauce bath) ahem….

    But what has WORKED for us:

    – Bath your dog (and yourself) in Dawn dish soap… since you’ll likely end up in the shower and wet anyway. Trust me the smell passes from family member to family with haste. 

    – After the shower wipe down your fur baby with a rag dampened with hydrogen peroxide. Let dry. 

    – Wipe down a second time with an apple cider vinegar dampened rag. Let dry.  

    – Keep diluted spray bottle (ACV + water) on hand for intermittently spritsing your dog and whatever bedding they’re using. We went so far as to spray this in the air once a day when the smell would come back up. 

    – Diffuse CPTG essential oils FOREVER — as you already should be ;)!!! Since we only have one diffuser I let my tea kettle steam with OnGuard EO on board. In the meantime I’ve had an assortment of Lemon, Lemongrass, Wild Orange, Lavendar, OnGuard, Grapefruit and Cedarwood hard at work, and boy does it take that stench away. 

    • Don’t have essential oils?? Visit my online store —-> HERE!

    – Double wash any garment/linen that has come into contact with said stinky pup. I usually use an environmentally friendly detergent but we went full out on Arm & Hammer with OxyClean. 

    Unfortunately there is no immediate quick fix to get rid of the smell completely. It’s all you can do to keep it at bay. The spray from the skunk attaches to hair follicles and gets into skin pores, worst part? It will not be totally gone for up to 3 months. So you’re in for the long haul folks. 

    Ok so not all of these are the most natural of remedies. But let’s just say being pregnant with three skunked out dogs has been no cup of tea.. But if these worked for me I’m sure they can help you to. 

    Anyone else’s dog ever been skunked? I would love to hear what y’all did to beat the stink. 

    Peace and Love,

    Q