What is Comfrey.. And Why I Bought it Off Amazon.

You guys this was crazy but it worked! I was very skeptical when another homesteader over on IG recommended a great source for comfrey.. from Amazon! It wasn’t even expensive like I’d assumed it would be. Ill leave the link to the roots I purchased at the bottom of this post.

When the roots showed up I was in awe. I wasn’t sure if I’d get live plants or cuttings, but root sections wrapped in damp paper towel is what I found. Of course I planted right away. The seller even gave me some sprouted crowns!

The package came with a nice typed up set of instructions which said it can take up to 60 days for the cuttings to sprout. The roots I planted in horizontally came up in about a month but the crowns I planted vertically and they came up within 10 about days! I’m just totally blown away at the quality of these plants. They are not picky about their soil and grow quickly. Two things me likey.

So at this point you might be wondering what comfrey even is and why this crazy lady is raving about it. So here’s what I know from my research.. Comfrey is a biodynamic accumulating perennial. Lots of big words huh? Let’s brake it down.

Biodynamic accumulator: Sends down tap roots deep into soil and pulls vitamins & minerals up from deep and stores them in their foliage.

Perennial: plants that come back every year. So you only have to plant once.

Basically its a permaculture and organic gardening powerhouse. A must have for any homestead. Because, it can be used in so many ways for all the goods things stored in its leaves and roots and is extremely sustainable. From teas and salves to compost tea, it can even be used a green mulch, just chop and drop it around any plants you think need an extra boost. The amazing wound healing properties promote cell division and healing. A comfrey compress on a sprained ankle or even a poultice to draw out infection can do wonders.

One last fun fact about comfrey; it attracts and feeds beneficial insects earthworms. A++

There is just nothing this plant cannot help with. I’ve seen many examples of comfrey being planted in fruit tree guilds to help feed the tree. In future I’d love to have fruit trees on our homestead and with such barren dry soil comfrey will be a must.

Comfrey spreads by root division as well as seed so it can multiply very rapidly. It can become a nuisance if left to spread somewhere unwanted. Luckily I purchased the “Bocking 14” Russian Comfrey which was developed to be sterile. Meaning this variety is unable to be spread by seed. Making the spreading easier to manage. But honestly I’d be ok if it went crazy. And I can still take my own root cuttings. Plus chickens love to eat it so at this point I can’t have too much.

I stuck some in both gardens to help balance the nutrients in the soil naturally with the help of worms and compost. I hoping to give some comfrey salve a try this winter I hear it’s great for cuts and scrapes.

Most of what I’ve learned about comfrey has come from Paul Wheaton. Check out his webpage and YouTube channel for tons more info. I also find that Justin Rhodes of Abundant Permaculture has tons of great into about comfrey on his YouTube Channel (go check it out!)

Reach out if you have any questions about my comfrey and I’ll keep you updated!

Peace & Love

Q

Buy Comfrey Here!

Sources:

“Wonderful Multi-Purpose Comfrey Plant” Permaculture Research Institute

Permies.com- Paul Wheaton

5 Easy Seeds Anyone Can Save.

Saving my own seeds was an infatuation that turned true love. I never thought I’d stick it out or find so many plants that have such easy seed saving processes. I truly thought it would be so much work, and it just wasn’t. So I’m now fully obsessed and moving forward, I will always harvest my own seeds. The way seeds form truly fascinates me and I love watching them develop just as much as I do a fruit on the vine. Nothing says sustainability like not having to buy certain seeds from the store ever again.

There are tons of easy to save seeds out there but here’s the ones I started with and continue to save every year. You’ll be wowed at how simple it is and maybe chose a few to start saving yourself.

1. Marigolds

A must have for any garden for the two simple reasons that they provide for pollinators and bring that glorious golden glow to the garden. When the blooms get dry on the plant simply pluck them off and set somewhere to dry.

You’ll get hundreds of seeds per head, trust me you’ll be giving them away you’ll have so many. And you’ll have seeds to plant for years to come. I’ve stored them in paper bags over winter and my germination is always very high.

Marigolds are a wonderful companion plant to just about any fruit/vegetable plant. Currently I have them in my three sisters gardens (corn, beans, pumpkins), with raspberries, chives, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, they grow well just about anywhere.

2. Bachelor Buttons

Another must have. If you’re planting a food garden, flowers are a must. These tall airy plants self seed fantastically and the beneficial bugs love them. Will basically pop up and grow by itself almost anywhere. The flower heads should be left on the plant until they look like the one below.

They get a sort of straw flower feel after they lose their petals when ready, you’ll see the seeds are jammed in under that fluffy center. Be sure to keep an eye out because once they are ready they’ll be dropping seed with any light breeze. So get them off and set aside to finish drying out.

Like marigolds I usually leave the seed heads intact over winter up but you can totally separate the seeds out and store them anyway you’d like. The point is all these seeds are simple to save and store.

3. Basil

This herb is a given. If you garden, you have basil. If you don’t you are missing out friend. From it’s medicinal to culinary uses basil can be used all across the board and the bees will thank you.

Canning tomato sauce? Don’t forget to plant basil with your tomatoes. They love the shade the tomatoes provide and bush out like crazy if you continually harvest. Another self seeder these seeds will pop up anywhere with ample moisture. Keep a close eye once the flowers on the plants dry up since the tiny black seeds scatter easily.

4. Dill

I’ve only recently started growing dill and I’m blown away by the ease of it all. If you’ve ever made homemade pickles you know home grown or at least local dill is the way to go. Plus its gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous.

The seeds will form once the flowers die and you’ll be able to pick a beautiful seed head. I remove the seeds and store in seed packets so they take up less space.

5. Chives

These whimsical plants belong in all gardens in my opinion. Their little clumps spread easily and come back every year. Once the purple flowers fade you’ll know they are ready. Inside you’ll find dozens of little black seeds. Simply snap off the heads to collect and save.

The girls and I eat most of our chives while in the garden. They’re a perfect snack with a little spice and pair wonderfully with fresh picked spinach. But let’s be honest, they are best in a salad!

So there you have it. Seed saving isn’t as daunting as it might seem. As a tip, avoid hybrid varieties for seed saving. Sometimes the seeds you harvest won’t be true to the parent plant, so stick to heirlooms to be safe. If you’re feeling extra inspired here’s a few other varieties just as easy to save:

– zinnia

– cilantro

– parsley

– radish

– kale

– mustard

Now get seed saving!

Peace & Love,

Q

Elderberry Syrup

This is straight up nature in a bottle guys. Only 5 super ingredients make up this immunity boosting syrup. Once a quite expensive remedy, elderberry syrup can now be made, by you, in your own home.

This time of year it’s all we can do to keep our families protected from not only the elements but the dreaded flu season. Is it just me or is there something going on with this glorified “flu” vaccine? Call me crazy but it’s not working. Since my oldest daughter was 2 I’ve taken my family on a journey of natural solutions. From DoTERRA essential oils to this sickness kicking syrup.

I source all my ingredients carefully making sure I find the best ingredients for my family. All of them can be found on Amazon and most can also be found at your local health food stores.

It takes only a short time to throw together and the aroma it puts off is strong and beautiful. It can be taken once daily as an immune supplement or every 2-3 hours when you’re sick. If you do take it as a daily supplement I suggest taking the weekends off as to let your immune system regulate itself. Best part is you can literally put this on your waffles at breakfast, ooOo or maybe crepes?

So here it is y’all enjoy!

  • 2/3 C dry whole elderberries
  • 3 1/2 C water
  • 2 TBS ginger root
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 C raw honey
  1. Add berries, water, and spices to saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover.
  3. Simmer 45-90 minutes or until cooked down by almost half. Remove from heat.
  4. Strain berries from liquid squishing the juice out of the berries as you go.
  5. When cool enough to handle, but not yet cold, add honey and stir until dissolved.
  6. Pour into glass jar/bottle and store in refrigerator.
  7. Dosage: children 1-2 tsp, adults 1-2 TBS

Pretty easy, eh? Let me know what you think about it. My kids love it, but some other don’t, even if it’s an acquired taste for you or your family, just know this stuff does only good for your body and works wonders on a stubborn cold. And it looks pretty dang cute in a jar like this in the fridge. I can’t tell you how many conversations have been started from this bottle of purple beauty.

Gotta get back to seed inventorying. Happy garden dreaming y’all!

Peace and Love,

Q

Simply Delicious Homemade Pesto.

Hi y’all! If you love pesto you’ll love this recipe, if you also love preserving your herb harvest this post is for you.

Before this summer I never how simple and fun making homemade pesto was. Even better if you have your own right outside your back door, am I right?

All you need is a food processor/blender and cute jar to stuff it in and you’re set.

Ingredients:

  • 3 C fresh basil leaves (packed)
  • 1/4 C pine nuts
  • 1/2 C organic olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/3 C grated Parmesan (fresh if possible)

Directions:

  1. Clean off any bugs or dirt from basil and rinse under water if needed (pat dry)
  2. Add basil leaves, pine nuts, lemon zest & juice, garlic, and Parmesan cheese to food processor and blend until well incorporated.
  3. Drizzle in oil and let emulsify and blend in well.
  4. Voila! Pack your yummy pesto into a jar and store in your fridge.

Make this pesto with any and all varieties of basil you choose. So far I’ve done sweet, Thai, and cinnamon… lime and purple are next up. I even started more seeds and took a few cuttings for indoor winter basil. Add it pizza, pasta, toast or anything your heart desires.

Cheers y’all!

Peace and Love,

Q

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

Summer Snipets. And What I Learned About Me. 

We’ve been a little blog MIA lately enjoying all the sunshine! Here’s a little photo story of what’s been going on here on and off the Gardner Homestead. 

Our hen Margox hatched our first ever batch of   homegrown chicks. All 7 chicks are growing up fast. 

First time seeing those tiny feet!

Spencer and I lucked out on some KID-FREE time and went to see Smash Mouth. Save to say I was wayyy more excited than my hubs. 

Our little Murphy girl is a walking, running, babbling adorable toddler now. How did it happen so fast?!?

Oh Ireland, my Ireland. Please stop growing up so darn fast! Love, Mom

If we harvest nothing else, there’s always onions.

Thank you to whichever previous tenant planted the beauties. This our third summer here, is the first year they’ve had a full bloom. 

See that cute spud? Yeah he and his siblings froze to death in Mid-June. They’ve finally bounced back…

Happy 4th of July from these Gardner girls. 

What’s a homestead without a messy backyard full of chickens?

This baby is chore partner, she’s always by my side (or on my back!)

Kato’s first time packing. Deaf dogs need jobs to right?

Getting lost in my hop jungle, our third season with these Willamette Hops is sure to be a big producer.  Can you say home brewed IPA? 

Exploring the Metolius River trails with my tribe of toddlers and dogs. 

My little Irish earthlings

Symbiotic hiking partner, she’s a versatile baby. She gets a free ride, while providing never ending cuteness, drooly kisses, and keeps me in shape!

Some of that 4th madness! Shhhh…

I can’t survive a summer without these, my favorites!

Exploring our natural world close at hand.

Planting beans for nitrogen to feed the corn
1/2 Farm girl 1/2 daddy’s little princess
Giving some summer lovin’ to my favorites
Ireland saw her first play, The Little Mermaid

The peas, oh these lovely purple peas. 

Weekly harvests are almost over.
Ladder rack rabbit tractor? Oh, yeah!

One thing I’ll never do again is plant the hops so close to the house. They’re a harbor for bugs and insects, some good and some bad, but all of them right at my back door 🙁


Like I said, I knew there would be onions. So far we’ve harvested radishes, onions, lettuce, kale, zucchini, and shelling peas. 

That’s just a little of what’s happened this summer. Trust me there’s more but I won’t bore you with it here. Head on over to IG to see our full homestead photo diary @thegardnerhome. 

Oh yeah, and if I know anything about me it’s that I love summer, case and point for this short update. I’m spending more time with family, less time with technology, and that’s OK. Keep an eye out for some of our new projects and plans… YouTube Vlog? 

No spoilers yet!

What have you been up to on or off your homestead this season? 

Peace and Love,

Quincy

HOW I FEED OUR MEAT RABBITS FOR FREE

When I set out to raise meat rabbits last year I wasn’t worried about how I would afford to feed them. I simply thought, eh how expensive can they be? Granted they are quite small, but if you plan to pellet feed it will add up, and quick. 

Rabbits will fatten on grass or just about anything green they can get their mouths on so feeding them cheaply is easily done. 

I keep alfalfa pellets around for emergencies and winter months. But from February-March and on through September-October I can feed our rabbitry for free. 

Be patient folks I can be long winded and tend to side track… Like right now…

  
If you’re a returning reader then you know that my family and I rent 5 acres. Fortunately a little more than 75% of the property is irrigated with hand lines, unfortunately as of now we don’t possess the proper attachments for our tractor to mow and re-seed the field. 

What does this all mean you may ask? It means we have a real weed problem. Gallons of water covering the field whilst grass and weeds duke it out for dominance of the pasture… You see if a pasture isn’t maintained properly then weeds will encroach and fight the grass out for ground space and sun exposure.  

 

^^^ See how the grass is barely making a play for space under the dandelion and other weeds?

In many a folks eye this would be seen as a huge problem. Unjustly weed killer would be coating our property, that would be the end of weeds for good, and that’s ok for them. 

But me? I wanted to put my new found permaculture knowledge to the test. And I certainly don’t want weed killer all over the soil that feeds my family and my animals. Isn’t there anyway I can turn this problem into a solution?

And yes there was. There always is.

End side track…

Hey Q wanna feed your rabbits for free and supplement the flocks diet with some fresh greens? Heck yes I do! 

So I just simply note where large patches of weeds are growing in the pasture and around the house or gardens. Usually twice a day  the farm kids and I head outside to ‘pick weeds for the rabbits’ as miss Ireland refers to it. In about 5-10 minutes the rabbits have all they’ll need for day and I’ll even gather enough to please the homestead flock. I’ll do this again in the evening when I check water bottles and bedding.  
I make a point to grab variety for the rabbits so they have a little bit more of a natural choice. After all, they deserve it.  


Of course I always have hay on hand for their bedding and general munching needs. 

It may seem a little crazy to be out in the field twice a day pulling weeds for bunnies eh? But this time of year Im already outside filling water bottles for them twice a day as it is. So for me it doesn’t feel like a whole lot of extra work.

I simply give them enough weeds based on my personal observations of the rabbits individually.(if there’s no greens left the rabbit could still be hungry, if its wilting and going to waste then I could be feeding the rabbit too much) I also determine their rations  according to size and whethe or not the doe is pregnant and/or nursing.

When I do have a doe in one of these stages I will provide her with pellet food once a day while pregnant then free choice once nursing and weaning. The babies are fed both with mom from the time they can jump from the nestbox at will. This way they can be placed into rabbit tractors to fatten on the thicker parts of the pasture until butchering time. 

   

And since I’m weeding a little everyday it doesn’t feel like annoying labor. I enjoy getting something out of these “useless plants” and so do the farm animals. 

I’ve now exhausted all the weeds around the house and have moved to more distant zones. I love how much more aware of the ground we live on I am becoming. I’m getting to know it better everyday. Walking, looking for more weeds to feed the cavies, noticing the grass regrowth, the wildflowers, even the holes dug by the puppies, ahem. 

I don’t hate the weeds like I used to. I’m finding purpose in them now. The animal are getting nourished by them. Little by little the grass is retaking the pasture and backyard. We’re saving more money with the animals then ever before. 

Sunday lazy dayin’ around these parts. Peace and love y’all 

Quincy

OUR NEW PREMIER1 Poultry Fencing

Ever since our arrival to the property we rent, especially when I got my first batch of chicks… I have hated our coop. It was here when we moved in. Shelves along the western facing wall of our garage under a small eve; that’s all we had to work with. I’m grateful there was anything at all and it was a great place to start. 

We learned so much. That’s why I’m here to show you the new digs and how I’m spoiling my flock in 2016. 

  
Don’t get me wrong, we made due for the two years we used the old coop. Sometime around our wedding this last December I learned a great deal about raising chickens and about my specific chickens.

I knew we needed change. None of my 12 hens were laying, for maybe 5 months this lagged on. And that was a serious problem. 

Remember when I moved the older half of the hens to the garden? 

 

Moving the hens and changing their environment jump started their laying and it was the best thing I could have done.  

Well folks, I am happy to say that all the girls and the Roos are in their new digs! 

I was tired of them being drenched by the rain, chilled by the wind, and cooked by the sun, season in and season out, everyday. 

  
The old coop (pictured above) was always soupy, no joke, winter made it into shavings and poop soup. And I am so glad I’m done with that phase of chicken farming. Doing with only what you have, no allowance for change, well peeps, no longer! My birds work hard so our family may eat,  they deserve no less than we hard from us in return. This time in the form of a brand new coop and run. 

I took the advice of the one and only Jusrin Rhodes of abundantpermaculture.com 

You can follow Justin and his family on their YouTube channel for awesome vlogs, Instagram for daily inspiration and photographs, and even Periscope from time to time!

He suggests Premier1 and I jumped at a new challenge. But it’s just the opposite. This fencing is so awesome and easy to use ta boot!

  
 (This is not an advertisement, this is just the fencing we chose for our homestead flock.)

This way the ground will be able to breathe and there will be zero accumulation of water. The flock has so much space to roam, scratch, poop… And that’s ok with me. It’s as if they are free range and not all at once. Plus there’s no poo on the porch so we’re happy homesteaders!

   
   
The best part is we were able to reuse the coop from my mothers house, so the only expense was the mobile poultry net. Want a tour of the new coop? 

   
    

  
   
One day in the future when we hopefully move onto our own spread we can mobilize this coop to make it that much easier to rotate our flock, permaculture style baby! For now they will rotate back forth around the coop, being the fixed point, situated roughly in the southern corner of the mobile run. 

This will enable them to eat whilst tilling and fertilizing, spreading compost for me, and after I grow a crop they will be moved over it to eat or till it back into the ground. How cool is that? 

Ok ok maybe I’m a bit of a permaculture newbie nerd, but I’m so excited I could pee. Quite literally… Alright alright, Ahem…

Even the ducks are stoked, they muddied the water tub to show their approval. And now we’re getting two eggs from this waddling girls, now that I can find the eggs everyday that is.  

Peace and Love

Quincy