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 . . .

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First Cob of the Season

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There’s nothing quite like sinking your toes into cob for the first time in the summer (or the first time in your life!).

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There’s something about cob that draws people to it like insects to glowing lamp lights.  We hover around it, watch it with amazement, and can’t help ourselves but to dive right in. Continue reading

Ban Busy / Savor Slow

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Recently, I signed up for The Abundant Mama’s #BanBusyChallenge.

ban busyIt has been a good reminder for me to reaffirm what I know to be true — deliberate, intentional, and slow living allow us to savor and enjoy life instead of rushing through it.  As the Abundant Mama reminds us, we are often obsessed with “busyness” because we are afraid of failing.  We want to prove ourselves over and over again by filling our time with more, more, more.

When we slow down someone might see us as lazy, we might have to face our own imperfections, and we feel that we might miss something.  Ironically, we miss out on life’s sweet moments by becoming overly busy.  And also, we are our own worst critics – no one else is judging us as harshly as we judge ourselves for what we are or are not doing. Continue reading

Homestead Update – The Beginning

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We’re still in the process of getting our house move-in ready, but it’s always a treat to go visit the land we’ll soon be living with.

Without any input at all there are many strawberry blossoms!

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Our New Homestead!

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After at least 10 years of dreaming, 2 years looking at properties, and 7 months working on closing on this particular piece of land, we finally have our permaculture homestead.  These 23 acres are the land that will sustain us into the future, where we hope our dreams will blossom into fruition, and where we will grow together as a family and into our community.

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Back to the Garden (+ the Littlest Permaculturist)

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Today was the first day I really dug my hands into the soil for quite some time.  I’ve been putting it off for a few reasons — mostly because of the weather, but also because I’ve felt conflicted about whether or not I should invest the time when we will hopefully be moving in the next couple of months.

However, the soil still calls asking me to dip my hands in, refresh my immune system, and connect with the Earthly energies.  I couldn’t resist.

A lot of today was just clean-up.  I was very pregnant last fall and didn’t get the beds taken care of the way that I should have.

There were also little surprise tasks like baby garlic plants ready to be separated and begin life anew.  Hopefully somebody will be able to harvest these culinary delights in the fall!

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Permaculture for Urban Homes and Small Spaces

Image source: permaculturesunshinecoast.com

One of the best things about blogging is discovering a new community of people with shared interests and goals.  One such kindred spirit is Mari of the blog Gather and Grow.  She is a fellow lover of permaculture and has graciously shared some great tips and inspiration for many of us who are interested in being more self-sufficient but feel limited by the space constraints of the urban environment.

Whether you live in an urban environment, or on many acres of land – I think you’ll find something useful here!

Permaculture Strategies for Urban Homes and Small Spaces

Permaculture designers love challenges. After all, permaculture is not just a set of organic gardening techniques, but a toolkit, a decision-making process, for designing sustainable human settlements. And one of its fundamental principles is: “The problem is the solution.”

What if we apply this principle to a challenge that many of us are all too familiar with: living in small urban spaces with little or no access to actual soil on which to grow food? Permaculture and gardening books present pictures of lovely, lush farm landscapes and large suburban lots overflowing with greenery, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens, perhaps even with small livestock. But what do you do if you live in an apartment, or have only a postage-stamp-sized bit of yard by your front door?

The permaculture answer: you can still do a lot. In this case, seeing the problem as the solution means turning the seeming constraints of an urban environment – the density of buildings, people, and resources – to your advantage, and doing things like intensive planting, vertical growing, and maximizing solar exposure in- and outdoors. Here I present ideas and strategies first for the apartment dweller, and then for those who do have yard space but it’s limited. Continue reading

Forest Farming, Inoculating Mushroom Logs, and a Surprise

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Recently I attended a weekend workshop focused on forest farming.

I can hear you ask, “What’s forest farming?”

Well, it’s the process of growing non-timber forest crops beneath the canopy of an established forest. In this way, forest farming is a form of “productive conservation” – you’re reaping benefits of crops grown in the forest while protecting the land from destruction. Examples of non-timber forest farmed products include: maple syrup, medicinal plants, mushrooms, nuts, ornamental woodland species, and fruit. (Learn more here.)

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Simple Summer Living

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Summer is in full swing.

My breakfasts are full of local berries,

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and my little urban yard brings a plethora of goodies. It’s pretty amazing what can fit in a small space when you fill it to the brim!   It’s certainly not a garden of perfect little rows, but it is producing a lot and no space is lost.

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Where do your strawberries come from? Plus: How to Freeze

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So now that you’ve made a delicious strawberry crumble from your fresh berries, what will you do with all the rest?

Make ‘em last the year!

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Why is it important to do this?  There are a couple of reasons… Continue reading