Catnip Cloths for Teething

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Catnip: it’s not just for driving your kitty a little crazy.

Although its use as a cat crazy-maker is probably the first thing that comes to mind for many, catnip (Nepeta cataria) is actually a useful medicinal plant.  Historically, it has been used for a variety of childhood ailments including cough, asthma, and colic. Indeed, research has found its chemical constituents to have spasmolytic and bronchodilatory properties which provide support for this traditional use (see resources below).  There’s also evidence for its use as a mosquito repellant which is why I include it in my homemade Bug-a-Bye.

Traditionally, catnip is also chosen to gently lower a fever, settle a tummy, and for its nervine (calming) properties that can help ease little teethers (and their mothers).  Catnip, along with chamomile, is an excellent choice to help get through the moodiness that comes along with teething.  Baby LF’s molars are coming in right now and she is certainly letting me know!

I’ve been making Baby LF these really easy catnip teethers by dipping washcloths in catnip tea and freezing them.  She loves gnawing on them!  Plus, they’re really easy to make. Continue reading

Prevent Colds & Flu with DIY Elderberry Syrup

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There are so many great ways to support your winter health with herbs.  Starting with simple dietary additions (like garlic!) and ending with soothing choices to make your cold or flu more tolerable and shorter, herbs are my go-to for prevention and treatment.

One of the tastiest herbal allies, however, is the elderberry.

This shrubby perennial plant has been used as medicine for centuries to support health and well-being.  I often see it growing naturally in moist soils, but it has also historically been planted at the edge of gardens as the protector of the garden.  Even its name, Elder, speaks to its wise and respected role in our collective medicine chest.

Elder’s lacy, delicate flowers, and bright purplish-black berries can both be used for their medicinal properties.  The flowers are diaphoretic meaning that they help to lower fevers by inducing sweating.  It is a common ingredient in many cold-care tea formulas.

The berries are rich in vitamins C & A, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, and phytosterols.  They are often used in prevention and treatment of colds because of their ability to boost the immune system.  As an antiviral, they are helpful in treating upper respiratory viruses including colds and flu, but have also been used in treatments for other viruses such as herpes and shingles.  Elderberry’s effectiveness is not just an “herban” legend, but its ability to reduce the duration of the flu and to fight viruses has been published in a number of scientific articles (links to abstracts in the resources below).

As a food, elderberry can be consumed as a jam, wine, or in pies, but it’s easiest to use as preventative medicine or for treating cold and flu when made into a tasty syrup.  Luckily, it’s really pretty easy to do, too!  I even made a handy graphic . . .

Elderberry syrup Continue reading

Sheet Mulching – Create New Gardens Without Digging!

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Fall is a great time to begin new garden beds so that things are primed and ready to be planted come Spring.

Starting a new bed can be intimidating if it involves digging up all the grass, tilling, and going through other heavy-duty preparations.

What’s the easier solution?  Sheet mulching!

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The best selfies are with new garden beds.

Also referred to as lasagna gardening, sheet mulching is basically composting in place.  Instead of digging up the ground and adding soil amendments, you create a new garden bed by layering soil-building materials right on top of the ground.

But what about the grass or weeds that are already there?  They get covered with a layer of newspaper or cardboard that acts as a weed protecting barrier that will kill the grass or weeds.  They will just turn into compost along with all of your other additions.

Sheet mulching is really very forgiving.  I think the two most important steps are to: 1) Make sure the ground is covered with newspaper or cardboard to kill the grass and prevent weeds, and 2) Pile on a lot of organic matter.  This will get you started with the essentials for a new bed.  The more amendments you add right away, the healthier the soil will be that you start out with, but don’t be afraid to start with whatever you’ve got. Continue reading

Herbal Hair Powder (Dry Shampoo)

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I’ve been procrastinating this post for some time because a) I only have a limited amount of time to write blogs, b) I’m not sure if I should admit that I don’t wash my hair everyday, and c) it’s hard to take good pictures of powder.

However, I am tired of seeing this post on my to-do list, and this project is too useful for me to pass up!  Plus, after making this I learned that some of the major beauty companies sell this for a hefty price!  You can make this on your own for a fraction of the price (and with healthier ingredients).

They tout the ability of hair powder to volumize and texturize, and this powder does do all that, but I will let you in on a little secret…..

It also allows you to skip a hair wash or two (or three). Maybe we should just say “prolong the time between washing” – whatever that means for you.

Sprinkle a little hair powder onto dry hair that has a little shine and POP! — the shine is whisked away leaving fluffy, textured hair for another day.

This homemade version is made with safe, food-like ingredients that you won’t have to worry about putting near your skin (or your face, or your family).  I’ve also added a few powdered herbs to give it my own herb-loving spin that can help improve the overall quality of hair health.

For these blends, I’ve included powdered horsetail (also called shavegrass) and chamomile.  Horsetail is known for its high silica content and is commonly used to help hair grow and stay strong.  Chamomile can help with dandruff and is lightening for hair.  It’s also a relaxing, nicely scented herb that I enjoy adding to my beauty products.

There is a formulation for both dark- and light-colored hair. Continue reading

A Visit to Quiet Creek Herb Farm

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A couple weekends ago we made a trek across Pennsylvania to attend the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Herbal Conference. It was inspiring to be in the company of so many like-minded women and I was especially grateful to finally meet one of my favorite herbal mentors, Rosemary Gladstar.  I’ve been an online student of hers for some time, but hearing her speak in person really reaffirmed how wonderful it is to call her one of my teachers.

She has an amazing way of synthesizing the big picture on the interrelatedness of herbs, health, happiness, and our connection with nature into an easily accessible and moving message.  I hope I can be like her when I grow up!

On our way home, we planned to spend several days in the Western part of Pennsylvania visiting old growth trees in Cook Forest.  Serendipitously, as we traveled along the road to our lodge we passed a sign for “Quiet Creek Herb Farm”. Continue reading

Celebrating Fall: Apple Spice Bread & Corn Necklaces

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The Fall Equinox occurred on Monday and we’ve been finding ways to celebrate this change in the season throughout the week.

Although Baby LF isn’t quite old enough to really engage in crafts too deeply, I don’t think it’s ever too early to begin new traditions (plus, I’d do these things even if I were just on my own!).  We tried out two new activities that were inspired by a really wonderful book about celebrating the Earth’s seasons: Celebrating the Great Mother.

The first activity was baking a delicious apple spice bread.  Mmm…fall in a loaf.

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Gratitude Sunday {9/21/14}

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I haven’t done a Gratitude Sunday for some time, but I think taking time to feel grateful is such an important practice.  As I was taking some photos this morning, I was inspired to share my recent gratitude list.

{Joining with Wooly Moss Roots}

Today I am grateful for…

~ Leaning in to the changing seasons and beginning to decorate in celebration of the Fall Equinox (Mabon)

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Homegrown Mushroom Tacos

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When I saw a Mushroom Mini Farm for sale nearby, I knew that it was something I needed to try. It’s made by Back to the Roots, a company that seems to be trying out forward-thinking indoor food production systems.  They also have a pretty neat mini fish farm that might end up as a holiday present for a few family members.

Growing these mushrooms was incredibly easy – I cut a hole and soaked the bag holding the spores for 8 hours, and then I gave them just a little water each day.  Within a day or so, I noticed the little bulbous beginnings of the mushrooms and then they grew immensely each day thereafter. Finally, they looked like the right size to eat and so I decided that it was oyster mushroom taco day! Continue reading

Lately

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I think we’re finally getting close to having a rhythm again.  We are settling in to this as our home.

As everything around us blossoms and comes into fullness, so do we.

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