Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Free is Green - Get Your Free On

In our fragile 2011/2012 economy, free is quickly becoming king. Despite all the holiday hoopla and Black Friday hype, Americans aren’t spending as freely as we used to. Major retailers that we were used to seeing have gone poof, with more following suit every month. Prices are rising for groceries, services and gas, people are losing their jobs and their homes, and financial and economic experts are predicting doomsday. What’s an average, hard-working American supposed to do?

Get your free on, of course! When I was growing up, the free stuff consisted of hand-me-downs from neighbors and relatives with kids a little older than me and my brothers and sister, and maybe the occasional garbage-day, side-of-the-road treasure.  Where once searching for free stuff was the domain of the down-on-their-luck, now the free economy is vast and varied. It’s almost chic. Find free stuff on Craig’s List, sign up for Free Cycle and get free stuff in your neighborhood, and find free stores at ReallyReallyFree.org.  If you’re brave and bold, join the freeganism movement and forage for food discarded by grocery and restaurant retailers.  Dumpster diving is a frequent activity of the moneyless, including students, homeless and newly graduated newlyweds, and yields furniture, appliances, and varied home goods such as cooking utensils, lamps and artwork. Clothing exchange parties are great opportunities to score “new” clothes while cleaning out your closets, a win-win for everyone.

Participating in the free economy allows you to get things you and your family need while saving your hard-earned money, and encourages everyone to waste less, reuse and share. Free is good. Free is fun. Free is green.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Green Reading - LOVE This Book!

I LOVE "The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques That Save You Money!" Folk wisdom for keeping your home clean, green and homey is just the ticket for busy modern home managers like me to connect with folk wisdom for natural and inexpensive ways to take care of your home, yard, garden and family. This book is chock full of recipes for natural, chemical-free cleaning solutions, herbal insect repellents, ways to maintain your home without expensive equipment or toxic materials, and ideas and instructions for a multitude of homemade and handmade items. This is a book for the kitchen shelf or the workbench in the garage, a handy reference book you'll use all year long. It's also a great book to use with kids. They'll love helping mom or dad make nontoxic paint, collect and use rainwater, and make sandals from rubber tires. This is a great book to have on hand and it would make a fabulous stocking stuffer or Christmas present. Read a lot of this penny but priceless wisdom with Look Inside at Amazon.com.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Finally Friday - Green Your Weekend

The work week is over for most of us, but now the weekend starts. Sometimes weekends are busier and more stressful than the five days that come before them. Try to carve out a little "green" time for yourself in these two and a half days. Check out your favorite houseplant and give it some tender loving care by repotting it in a new container with some fresh potting soil and misting it. Or try green crafting and clip a few boughs from your evergreens, tie them together with wire and add a red bow and jingle bells for a front door holiday decoration.  You could check out your local forest preserve or botanical garden for a weekend adventurette. Plan a little green this weekend, take three deep breaths and recharge yourself. You'll be greener before you know it!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Healthy Shots - Boost and Strengthen Your Biosystems

I recently did some research for an article about herbs for runners. Since my two sons are both runners, competing in track and field and cross country running at their high school, and my husband has just started running, I was interested in finding natural substances that would help them during this strenuous physical activity. One piece of information I came across was a blurb from a runner about cayenne pepper. This runner takes a teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a glass of water every day.

Cayenne has some amazing health benefits, and I was surprised to learn that it can stop a heart attack in 30 seconds. It has also been shown in clinical studies to kill cancer cells. Wow! The University of Cincinnati is studying cayenne's effects on cardiovascular health and healing. Cayenne clears and opens blood vessels and veins, ridding them of plaques and build up that can cause strokes and heart problems. It clears bad cholesterol. It stimulates the circulation and breathing systems, promoting clearer, deeper breathing which in turn provides oxygenation of all your bodily systems, a very important benefit while running. This kind of health benefit is not only valuable to runners though. As a female who has three close female relatives with a history of heart problems, I need to be doing things now to protect and strengthen my heart to avoid problems later that my mother and aunts are facing. I do not want to have strokes, heart attacks, arteriosclerosis or congestive heart failure in my future.

Wheat grass juice is another healthy resource that provides concentrated nutrients including iron, magnesium, selenium, calcium, amino acids, chlorophyll and vitamins A, C and E. Although the Mayo Clinic says that there aren't any studies to support claims that wheat grass juice protects against cancer, boosts immunity, improves digestion or rids the body of toxins, the Clinic acknowledges wheat grass's nutritional benefits as a green food. Chlorophyll's molecular structure is similar to the hemoglobin in human blood which may make it compatible with blood processes. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center reports that small studies of wheat grass juice indicate that it may alleviate colitis and reduce toxic effects of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients.

With such powerful natural health attributes, I looked at how I could incorporate cayenne and wheat grass juice into my family's health and nutrition. We start every day with a small glass of orange juice with breakfast for a little extra vitamin C and fiber, so it's a natural extension of that to add a wheat grass juice shot and a cayenne shot. Now we each drink 3 ounces of wheat grass juice and 6 ounces of water with 1 teaspoon of ground cayenne along with our orange juice for an extra boost. I add a few ounces of mango nectar to the wheat grass juice to make it more palatable, although it doesn't taste bad taken straight. The cayenne has to be blended in the water with a fork or it just sits on the surface of the water. We down the cayenne water first, not that it tastes bad, but it does have a slight burn to it, so drinking the other juices after the cayenne really minimizes that.

My husband and sons needed a little convincing that drinking green juice and water with hot pepper powder was a good idea. When I explained the health benefits, they agreed to try it, and the first time we all took the shots together, they were surprised and pleased that the taste wasn't bad at all. It's a small addition to our daily health and nutrition routine that will pay big dividends now and in the future.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Finally Friday – Make Some Sleep Sachets

photo courtesy of off2riorob/wikimedia commons

Another week is done. What challenges and stresses did you face in the past five days? Are you looking forward to the next couple of days or are they as overscheduled as the week you just survived? Do you worry about getting to sleep tonight? Have you had problems sleeping before? If you are restless at bedtime or just can’t get the restorative sleep you need, consider making some sleep sachets.

If you grow lavender, you have a fresh, organic source for a natural sleep aid. If you don’t grow lavender, you can get it from growers like River Oak Lavender and  Local Harvest. The scent of lavender’s essential oil increases slow-wave sleep, the deep sleep that slows the heartbeat and muscles, helping the brain organize memory.

Research shows that lavender also relieves anxiety, depression and fatigue, and has antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and antiviral properties. Freshly cut or chopped lavender flowers and leaves release the plant’s essential oils. Lavender essential oil contains camphor, eucalyptol (also known as cineole) and pinenes. It has sedative and antidepressant properties that act on the brain when inhaled, its molecules absorbed by nasal mucus and scent receptors and affecting the olfactory area of the brain and acting on the limbic and endocrine systems that control memory and emotion. 

With basic sewing skills, a few simple supplies and fresh lavender, you can make lavender sleep sachets to help you sleep better naturally, calm you down and help you think clearly.

Fresh lavender
Organic cotton, muslin or cheesecloth
Needle and thread
Silk ribbon
Dry rice or buckwheat hulls

Make sure the fresh lavender is not wet, damp or moldy before using it. Cut it into small one-inch pieces.

Cut the cloth into 15-inch by 5-inch sections. To make a sachet, fold a section of cloth in half on the long side, fold down 1 inch of each open edge, and sew the 6 ½ inch sides, leaving the open 5-inch side unsewn.  You will have a little cloth bag. Turn it inside out so the stitches are on the inside.

Fill the bag half way with lavender pieces and rice or buckwheat hulls.

Use a long length of ribbon to tie the bag closed.

Place the sleep sachet inside your pillowcase before you go to sleep.  

You can use sprigs of fresh lavender without making sachets. Slightly crush leaves and flowers before putting a sprig in your pillowcase before sleep.

Make a lavender spray to spritz sheets and pillowcases before sleep by adding chopped fresh lavender to boiling water and steeping it for 15 minutes. Strain the plant material and put the lavender water into a spray bottle.

Use lavender essential oil in a diffuser in your bedroom a few minutes before sleep to scent the area.

Did you know fresh lavender repels stinging insects and animals such as bees, ants and scorpions? A traditional use for lavender was as a strewing herb, strewn in corners and on windowsills, to rid homes of pests.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What to Eat Now - Be Winter-Ready Before the Snow Flies!

Winter is in the air. Snow will be on us soon, with ice and freezing temperatures as well. Cold temperatures can be invigorating but they can also be stressful, and dangerous. Stoke up your immune system now to be strong and ready to deal with all of winter’s woes when they hit with full force.

Eat wild salmon for the Omega 3 fats that increase the activity of white blood cells. It’s not that exotic; it’s available in the freezer section at Target and most grocers. If you’re not big on salmon, fish oil capsules or a couple of teaspoons of flax oil will give a similar immunity boost. And there’s always good old cod liver oil. It tastes awful but works great.        

Add some green power to your menu. Drink green tea every day, up to 4 cups for the best immunity-boost. The phytonutrients and antioxidant properties of green tea help lower cholesterol, protect the heart, lower blood pressure, help with weight loss and may even fight cancer. For turbo-charged immunity boosting, drink matcha, a concentrated form of green tea with even more green power than regular green teas. Juice fresh wheatgrass and add shots to your smoothies, green teas and fruit juice drinks. Try growing your own wheatgrass this winter for a really fresh, on-hand supply. Seeds are available from many sources such as Handy Pantry.

Eat fresh fruits, including blueberries, papayas, oranges, melons, mangos, guavas and pink grapefruit, and green and yellow veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach and broccoli. Get your vitamin C, antioxidants to boost and support the immune system, and delicious flavor from fruits and vegetables. Eat to strengthen and support your body’s immunity and fend off colds, influenzas, sinus infections and other cold-season maladies. No time to prepare these kinds of foods? Go shopping, and dump them into the sink when you bring in your groceries. Wash them, cut them up, and put the prepped foods into food storage containers in the refrigerator for easy access. No extra money in your grocery budget for fresh fruits and vegetables? Audit your kitchen and your eating habits and don’t buy processed food on your next grocery trip. Use that money to buy fresh foods instead.

Try This Super Immune Boosting Pre-Winter Smoothie

3 large chunks of fresh pineapple
3 large chunks of fresh mango
1 banana
3 large leaves of fresh curly spinach
1 large fresh broccoli floret
1 large fresh carrot
5 ice cubes

Crush the ice cubes on the ice crush setting of your blender and remove. Add fruits and veggies and blend on high speed until thoroughly liquefied and creamy. Add crushed ice to blended fruit in blender and blend for a few seconds until thoroughly mixed. Pour into juice glasses for a morning alternative to orange juice, an afternoon boost, or a pre-workout energy drink. Customize your smoothies by adding other immune-boosters such as crushed flax seed, Greek yogurt or a dash of fresh grated ginger.

To use it as a daily super drink taken with your vitamins and supplements, it requires adding a few things to your weekly grocery list at a cost of $12 to $18: 1 fresh pineapple, 2 fresh mangoes, 7 bananas, 1 large bunch of fresh broccoli, a bag of curly spinach and a bag of fresh carrots.

Add fresh immune supporting foods to your menu now. You’ll be happy you did when the temperatures have dropped and the snow is knee-deep and everyone around you is coughing and blowing their noses.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

3 Easy Ways to Green Your Life Now

Kris Carr, wellness warrior and author of “Crazy Sexy Cancer” and “Crazy Sexy Diet,” urges us to “make juice not war and remember, you are the change you’ve been waiting for.”  Change happened to her big time when she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, turning her world upside down and setting her on a quest for health. She promotes eating your veggies, minimizing animal products and educating yourself about food, nutrition and health. That’s a lot of change for those of us used to eating on the run, depending on convenience and fast foods, without an unlimited budget for fresh produce. But thankfully, there are a lot of easy (and cheap) things you can do right now to green your diet and your life.

Drink 1 Cup of Green Tea Daily
Many people are die-hard coffee drinkers. I get that. I was a coffee fiend for many years too, and one of my favorite treats is a caramel machiatto. Mmmmmmm. But I don’t drink coffee every day all day long anymore. I do drink a cup of green tea though. I either drink it in the morning to start my day, or have it with lunch or dinner, iced and garnished with something yummy like a juicy orange slice or fresh mint leaves. The health benefits of green tea are many and generous, including powerful antioxidants from polyphenols that protect cellular health and may protect against cancer, cholesterol-lowering properties, inflammation-reducing properties and blood sugar control. If you don’t make any other health or lifestyle changes in your life, get your green on and drink a cup of green tea every day starting right now.

Add 1 Green Veggie to Your Week
Many people claim they don’t like green veggies, and many have at least one they absolutely HATE, such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Don’t eat the one veggie you really, really hate, the one that makes you gag just touching it to your lips, the one that turns your stomach just thinking about. Don’t eat that one! Add a different one, maybe one that you like, or one that you’ve always wanted to try. Maybe buy half a pound of fresh green beans with groceries this week. Lightly sear them in olive oil with half a clove of minced garlic, or if you love onions, a finely chopped sweet onion. Or buy a large bunch of curly spinach, and prepare it two or three times this week. You can steam it lightly with sweet red onion slices and carrot coins, or toss it with a few ounces of shaved carrot, chopped tomato and a teaspoon of your favorite salad dressing. Veggies, especially the leafy green ones, boost your health and immunity with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. So don’t eat the veggies you hate, but add one to your week and green your nutrition now.

Eliminate 1 Plastic Item from Your Life
Contrary to what the plastics industry wants us to believe, plastic is scary. Most plastic containers leach bisphenol A, a chemical that mimics estrogens when in the body, promoting cancer cell growth and affecting reproductive health. The Ocean Conservancy reports that plastic bags are one of the top pollutants in our oceans, second to cigarette butts. There are almost 50,000 pieces of plastic floating in every square mile of ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also called the Pacific Trash Vortex, floats between San Diego and Hawaii, a huge collection of pollutants, mostly plastics, breaking down into toxic sludge and tiny plastic particles that enter our food chain when eaten by marine life. Experts report that 80 percent of ocean plastic is from land-based pollutants. Stop adding to this floating toxic island today. Look around your home, take inventory of all the plastic and eliminate one plastic item from your life. You could stop using plastic bags and carry your own reusable shopping bags, or stop buying bottled water and fill stainless steel canteens with filtered water instead.  Or stop buying plastic, recycle all your plastic food containers and use glass and metal instead.

Sometimes, it seems like a big, overwhelming commitment to change is necessary to “go green.” But in reality, any change for the green is good change, no matter how small. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Start walking toward the green today.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Finally Friday – Calming Tea to Wind Down Your Week

German Chamomile in my Garden - summer 2011

At the end of the week, especially a busy or challenging week, transitioning from a busy schedule to a more relaxed, anxiety-free weekend can be difficult. Give yourself a little natural advantage with calming tea. If you grow German chamomile and English lavender, you have two main ingredients for a gentle, natural tea. Fresh or dried chamomile, lavender, lemon grass and licorice steeped in boiling water and strained, mixed with a teaspoon of pure organic honey, makes a wonderful afternoon or bedtime tea. Blend your own calming tea from herbs you grow yourself, or get herbs from sources such as Bulk Herb Store or an herb farm like Pacific Botanicals.

Chamomile calms anxiety, eases stress, improves focus and attention and aids sleep. Lavender slows the activity of the nervous system, improves sleep quality, relaxes the body and elevates moods.  Lemongrass aids sleep, calms nervous and upset stomach and relieves headaches. Licorice is a sleep aid and is considered an adrenal tonic that stimulates the adrenal glands and helps the body recover from stress and anxiety.

Essential oils of chamomile and lavender have many constituents in common, including sedating phytochemicals, coumarins and flavonoids. Chamomile, lavender, lemongrass and licorice all contain flavonoids that are considered to be responsible for sedative effects on the gastrointestinal system, olfactory system, circulatory system including the heart, and the brain.

A Few Cautions
Chamomile is a member of the aster family, related to chrysanthemums, sunflowers, marigolds, celery and ragweed. Those allergic to chrysanthemums  and ragweed should not use chamomile. Those taking coumarin or  recovering from recent surgery should not use chamomile or lavender because they both contain coumarin, a blood-thinning agent. Large quantities of licorice should be avoided, using only small amounts occasionally, to avoid overstimulation of adrenals.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cosmos - Great in the Garden

Cosmos is an annual daisy-like flower that's related to asters. It produces plants with delicate green foliage that create an airy green backdrop for numerous flowers. The plants get tall on this wildflower native to desert areas of Mexico, between 3 and 6 feet high, although there are dwarf varieties. They grow well in many conditions in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 10 in full sun. Cosmos bipinnatus has pink, maroon and white flowers, and cosmos sulphureus has yellow and orange flowers.

Cosmos is very easy to plant and grow. Just scatter seeds on the soil in spring after the last frost in the area you want to grow them, water lightly and watch the seedlings grow. Cosmos produces flowers mid-summer through the very end of fall, until hard frost kills the plants.

The multitudes of flowers produce unique seedheads of long, spiky brown seeds that are easy to pull off the plants and save for the following spring planting. Seeds should be removed as the flowers wither if you want to plant again in spring, otherwise they may sprout as they fall to the ground in the autumn and the tender seedlings will die over the winter. Or package them and give them to friends in greeting cards, as part of  eco-gifts with gardening tools or as part of flower kits with a pot, potting soil, seeds and watering can. I collected 2 full gallon-size ziplock bags full of cosmos seeds from my garden this fall, pulling them from plants each time I arrived home from going out.

While cosmos doesn't have any culinary or medicinal properties, this lovely flowering plant is perfect for naturalizing large sunny areas or as an anchor planting at the back of a flower bed. It is also a great plant for screening undesireable views such as compost bins or utility areas, or for spectacular patio and deck displays in large containers. Try growing cosmos next spring and you won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Easy Natural Lip Balm

Do you like putting petrolium by-products, benzyl benzoate and red dye #5 on your lips? You don't have to with this quick recipe using natural ingredients.

- 1/2 cup beeswax
- 3 vitamin E gel capsules
- 1 teaspoon of 100 proof vodka
- 1/4 cup organic sunflower or sesame oil
- organic, food-grade essential oil of peppermint (or vanilla or other favorite essence)

Melt the beeswax in a double boiler or stainless steel pot over very low heat.

Warm the oil in a separate stainless steel pot over very low heat; do not let it boil or burn.

While the wax and oil are still warm, just after removing them from the heat source, pierce the vitamin E capsules and squeeze their contents into the warmed oil. Add the vodka and a few drops of the essential oil to the warmed oil.

Pour the warm oil mixture into the melted beeswax and blend thoroughly, using a wire whisk or a frother.

Pour the blended mixture into lip balm tubes or cosmetic tins and let them cool and set before putting on caps or lids.

This recipe makes 6 tubes or tins of lip balm, 1 ounce each.


Use the best quality organic ingredients you can find for the best results.

You can use essential oil of spearmint, organic vanilla, or tangerine instead of peppermint. Or, alternatively, if you grow mint in your garden, you can use it to make an infused herbal oil instead of using essential oil. Just add mashed or chopped peppermint leaves to the oil while it's warming, keep it over low heat for an hour or so, then strain out the herbs.

If you want tinted lip balm, add a drop of red food coloring. Or experiment with natural mineral powders. If you grow raspberries, squeeze the juice from one into your warmed mixture for a pink tint.

Make a double recipe to have lip balms to give as gifts.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

  Thanks to Angry Julie Monday for this great idea!

German chamomile in my garden this summer, with a white sage seedling mixed in for good measure.
(Look closely in the back left.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why Make Your Own Salve?

Why take the time to source the ingredients and supplies to make your own salve when you can stop by any drug store or discount store and pick up a commercially prepared remedy for almost any ailment? The same reason you'd make a cake from scratch instead of buying one at the bakery, or grow your own basil to add to your homemade spaghetti sauce. Quality. Freshness. Personal satisfaction. Natural preparations. Knowing exactly where the ingredients originated. Although you may choose to add glycerin or other preservatives, you will have a mixture without cetyl alcohol, socium lauryl sulfate, methylparaben and other chemical ingredients you can't pronounce.

High quality, natural beeswax, pure oils and organic herbs combine to create unique lip balms, skin salves and natural remedies for many conditions. When you use fresh, natural ingredients, whether it's for cooking or personal care preparations, you become more closely connected to the natural world, mitigating many stresses of modern life. You also create something natural and useful for yourself, your family and friends, and contribute to their wellbeing as much as your own. And if you grow the ingredients yourself, you know exactly where they come from, how they look, smell and feel and the environmental conditions that produce them.

Why not try making your own herbal muscle rub instead of buying products like Bengay or IcyHot Patch? Why not add natural, organic vanilla to a small batch of melted beeswax and almond oil to use on your lips this winter? Why not distill 8 ounces of that peppermint in your garden (or from a fresh herb supplier) into a marvelous essential oil to use in your own refreshing foot cream? This autumn season, I'll share simple recipes for these and other easy, useful recipes for natural salves, rubs, creams and lotions that are perfect for your first aid supply, medicine cabinet, personal toiletries and gift giving. They are a perfect way to get your green on and add some natural ingredients to your life!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Garden Regrets

What I grew this year: sweet corn, chocolate tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, yellow squash, lemon balm, cucumbers, potatoes, raspberries, sunflowers, cilantro, horseradish, green beans, white onions, chives, asparagus, jalapeno peppers, green bell peppers, habanero peppers, rue, German chamomile, white sage, kiwi seedlings, cosmos, marigolds, mesclun lettuce, aaaaaaaaaaaaand spinach.

What I wanted to/tried to grow but didn't get to plant or didn't work out: pumpkins, epazote, valerian, soapwort, comfrey, jicama, dill, carrots, motherwort, money plant, indigo, mignonette, eucalyptus, St. John's wort, angelica, parsley, paw paw seedlings, strawberries, shallots, ginger, bronze fennel, snap peas, wheat, millet, Indian corn, big, beautiful, fragrant roses, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand lavender.

I really, really, really want to grow lavender and roses that smell wonderful. I am beginning to realize that I have to prepare a special garden bed for lavender that is dug down at least 3 feet, lined with gravel, and filled with rich loam that has a lot of sand mixed into it to grow lavender successfully in my yard. And roses? I am going to have to spend more than $18 per plant and prepare a special bed  for the kind of roses I want to grow.  Will I make the necessary commitment to do the work and prepare the right growing environment for these 2 special, wonderfully aromatic flowers? Yes! Spring 2012 is in my head right now, mentally making lists of "things to do" for the garden. First up, location, location, location! Where will I prepare the lavender bed and the rose garden? Both need full sun and dedicated space that won't get overgrown by garden neighbors and special bed preparation and the roses need mulch. Oh, so many kinds of mulch...which to use for the special, expensive, beautiful and fragrant roses I will buy next spring? Decisions, decisions.

Autumn is the time of year for garden regrets, wishful thinking about next spring's garden and garden "housework." Harvesting, pulling out browned plants, composting, cleaning out vegetable garden beds, bringing in houseplants from the patio and gazebo, fixing borders, etc., etc., etc. Enjoy the last sunshine and mild temperatures before colder temperatures set in, and keep on gardening, even if it's only in your head!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Natural Eye Cream

 Photo by H. Zell/Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, is an herbaceous perennial that is easy to grow in the garden and landscape. It is an attractive green plant with fuzzy leaves and pretty, drooping purple flowers. Comfrey is a useful herb for topical treatments for bruises, sore muscles, achy joints and broken bones. Grow it or get it from a grower, and use it as a natural treatment for aches and pains and bruises.

Make your own natural eye cream to treat dark under-eye circles. It's easy and effective, doesn't involve chemicals that you can't pronounce, and is cheaper than commercial eye creams. You'll need beeswax, oil of your choice, such as olive oil, sunflower oil or almond oil, and fresh comfrey. The best fresh comfrey comes from your own garden or landscape, but you can get it from herbal growers such as Zach Woods Herbs http://www.zackwoodsherbs.com/, or Healing Spirits Herb Farm http://www.healingspiritsherbfarm.com/.

Warm 1 1/2 cups of oil (do not boil) and add 1 cup of fresh comfrey leaves and shaved roots. Gently stir the combination over low to medium heat for an hour. Remove from heat, strain out herbs and set aside. Melt 3 cups of grated beeswax or beeswax beads over medium heat. When melted, remove from heat and add the herbal oil you made earlier. Mix the oil and melted beeswax with a few drops of 100 proof vodka and a few drops of essential oil by whipping them together in a food processor or with a frother until creamy and smooth. The vodka is a natural preservative and the essential oil lightly scents your natural eye cream. Orange, spearmint, lemon and almond essences all work well.

Store your freshly-made eye cream in small cosmetic tins and label them with the date and ingredients. Store the excess herbal oil in a glass bottle or jar and label it. Use it to rub on bruises, dry skin and sore muscles.  Double the recipe to make eye cream for gifts for friends and family.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Love Lemon Balm

Lemon balm has sprung up in my back yard. Its cheery green leaves have opened up to soak up the sun and they are bigger evey day. I've made my first pot of fresh lemon balm tea and can't wait to make iced green tea and with lemon balm and orange slices on the next hot day. The next sunny, warm Sunday, I plan to make a sweet, crunchy fruit salad with chunks of pineapple, red delicious apples, fresh chopped lemon balm, chopped walnuts and vanilla yogurt.

Hmmm, maybe I'll pot up some lemon balm to take to the farmer's market in town this June...I love lemon balm!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

God is Green

I saw a small, round bumper sticker on a van in the library parking lot this afternoon that said "God is Green". That struck a chord with me, it was like a little whisper of fresh green truth. I wanted to stop and take a picture of it with my phone but I was on my bike and there were people and moving vehicles around so it was awkward. I kept pedalling, but thought about how God is Green all the way home.

God is Green in the spring, when all the plants and flowers and trees awaken from their winter rest and start to grow again, sending new leaves and shoots and freshness into the rainy, sunny springtime. God is Green when you see deer from within your car on the way to somewhere you forget for a moment in the awe of seeing those creatures. God is Green because we keep getting another chance to stop polluting our earth, to clean up our acts, to do something worthwhile and good and - green.

Recycle, donate, reuse, repurpose, or just clean up a small part of our shared world and remember: God is Green.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Moneyless? Really?

I like to browse the new books section at the library and this book caught my eye, "The Moneyless Man" by Mark Boyle. For whatever reason, Mr. Boyle became disillusioned or dissatisfied with his life and decided to tryo to live without money for a year, and start a movement along the way. So he sold his houseboat, closed his bank accounts and figured out how to run his laptop by cranking it instead of plugging it in to an electrical outlet and paying an electric bill...  Long story short: he is single, no mortgage, spouse, kids, or dogs to worry about so it was probably relatively easy for him to chuck his way of life and embark on this interesting experiment. And while he did get a mobile home for free he had to go without indoor plumbing and write about going to the bathroom outdoors in the middle of winter, so apparently living without money involves considerable sacrifice. I'm not done reading the book yet but I think the point he's trying to make is that money gets  in the way and ruins things and if we take money out of the deal we can interact on a different, better level, a level of kindness, caring, understanding, cooperation and sharing that doesn't happen when money is involved.  

I've been as preoccupied with money as the next person I guess. Saving it, not spending it, how to generate more of it, the best ways to use it, teaching my kids about the value of it, and trying to figure out how to use/get/make things I and my family need without spending it. I've been trying to figure out how to generate solar and wind power for our home without spending thousands and thousands (or even hundreds for that matter) of dollars, if and how we should try to raise some chickens in the back yard for eggs, recycling and garden control, and how to grow most if not all of our own fruits and vegetables in our little corner of the world without it taking 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

But money is not the real problem. It's time. Will I really be able to incorporate 3 chickens into our lives along with everything else? Can I ever truly get to the point that I and my family recycle everything and work really really hard not to pay for unnecessary packaging that we will just recycle? Can we really keep adding more and more fruits and vegetables to our garden every year along with taking more time and effort to cultivate and harvest them? Even if I love those things, what about real life? What about the other people in my family, the dogs, work, movies, track meets, vacations, school, etc., etc., etc.? How much more time and effort can I squeeze out of every day to do things for my family instead of taking advantage of things that are taken care of with the convenience of money? Do I really have to give up the convenience of money to be able to enjoy and participate in truly important things like growing food for my family and not polluting the earth?  Those are the big questions that I'm trying to find answers for, and I suspect Mark Boyle is too.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Greenery On the Bathroom Shelf

Here are some of my winter green growing things catching the morning light on the shelf in the bathroom. I can't resist planting big fat lemon seeds, or anything with a green shoot that's trying to grow. The garlic was stretching for light so I had to plant it. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Future is Green

I just read two very interesting items, one a book and one a magazine article: "The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century" by Dr. Dickson Despommier and "Population 7 Billion" in the January 2011 National Geographic. Both talk about the world's population in different ways, and environmental and food production challenges.

In "The Vertical Farm," Dr. Despommie proposes that growing food plants and producing clean water locally in multistory greenhouse buildings, and even in portable verticle farm units, is the solution to the world's food production challenges. Dr. Despommier envisions the vertical farms as ultra clean units where workers would shower and change into sterile clothing to work inside to protect the food and water produced there from contamination by things like e. coli, salmonella and insect infestations.

In "Population 7 Billion," author Robert Kunzig explores the impact of population growth, poverty, and increasing consumption on the earth's resources. He discusses solutions to poverty, overpopulation and changes and ideas that will be required in the future.

I would love to be able to grow all the food for my family at our home, although we don't live on a farm. I'd love to have a home that can take advantage of solar energy and wind power and not have to pay the gas and electric company.We live in town on less than half an acre, with neighbors on all sides. We are very happy to be within walking distance from a CVS pharmacy, a Dominick's grocery store, local banks, a very good family medical practice, a veterinary hospital, our library and the high school and grade schools. But even so, I'd much rather grow the tomatoes and lettuce for our salads, and a whole year's worth of produce and other food. While it might be possible, it would take a lot more time and effort than we'd be able to give it to make it happen while working full time and taking care of a family.

I spend a lot of time wondering about it, how to make it happen, what it would take to be fully self-sufficient in the midst of modern life. The flip-side of that is that we are all inter-connected, dependent on each other in a myriad of complex ways, so where does self-sufficiency fit into that? "The Vertical Farm" and "Population 7 Billion" offer a lot of ideas about how we will all meet the future, together.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

As much as I love my houseplants, I miss the summer garden...