How One Small Garden Can Change Your Life

summer-779385_960_720

You don’t have to own acres of farmland to enjoy the benefits of gardening. Growing your own food and enjoying some fresh flowers can be done even with just a few patio pots if need be, but even a small patch of dirt can change your life for the better. Gardening is the number one hobby in the country, and its popularity is growing as more people discover the joys of growing their own organic food.

vegetables-790022_960_720

Check out some of the biggest benefits of starting your own backyard garden patch: Continue reading

Everyone’s favorite WWOOFer is back!

 

IMG_20160523_122534854_HDRSince the last time I spent some much needed time at Light Footsteps (read about it here), I’ve finally realized that growing things, and teaching communities how to grow things, is actually really important to me. Because of that, I’ve recently started a journey to becoming an urban farmer. Over the past week, however, I’ve taken a break from stressing over the approaching school year to try out a different season at Light Footsteps. You’ll have to forgive me, because the August humidity has all my thoughts jumbled, so I’ll keep the words short and share some photos of this week with you.

IMG_20160804_115647

Most of my mornings were spent spreading wood chips on the paths in the Keyhole Garden

IMG_20160804_075838

I finally got to meet Pony. I would hate to make him insecure about his size, but in my mind he’s a horse.

IMG_20160809_110519

I spent the cooler afternoons picking herbs (peppermint, thyme, oregano, sage, and lemon balm pictured here)

IMG_20160809_093854625

or beans!

IMG_20160805_123455

luckily there were rainy days

IMG_20160806_200406

…and there were a lot of sunny days to share with our pollinator friends.

IMG_20160806_105357952_HDR

The bees really love the Rose of Sharon.

IMG_20160806_141043686

On a particularly sunny day we went to Red Beet Row to see their permaculture farm.

IMG_20160806_112813725 (1)

There was a lot of child-wrangling during the stay. Pictured is another WWOOFers son, Sebastian.

IMG_20160805_192525538_HDR

Cora has grown up so much since I last saw her! (Photo taken at Chardon’s farmers’ market)

IMG_20160810_191218932

I finished my week off helping Christine share her love of herbalism at a workshop for kids and adults about medicinal plants.

Like always, you can learn more about WWOOF here. Hope to be back soon, but until then, HAPPY GROWING!

New to permaculture? Start here.

primary-ethics-permaculture-001

What’s it like to fairly take care of people and the earth? It’s a concept called permaculture, and it can provide a guiding spirit to the creation and tending of your landscape.

primary-ethics-permaculture-001.jpg

Continue reading

Make Your Own Chive Blossom Vinegar

IMG_4518

Starting in late May and lasting through June, the garden is speckled with the vibrantly purple blossoms of chives.

Chives are a welcome addition to salads, vegetables, and eggs by adding their mild onion flavor.

Their blossoms are edible as well and can also be added to salads by pulling them apart into smaller bits.


Another simple way to use the flowers is to make a chive blossom vinegar.

Start by snipping the blossoms.  You’ll need a cup or two to fill a pint jar 3/4 full with the blossoms.

After collecting the blossoms, it’s a good idea to soak them for an hour or so in water.  This way any resident bugs can evacuate . We didn’t find any bugs in our freshly-opened blossoms, but if you do find them, consider changing the water another time to make sure they’re all out.

Towel dry the blossoms.

Lightly pack a sterilized pint jar with the blossoms and cover with vinegar.  I wanted the color of this vinegar to be lovely so I used white vinegar,  but generally I make my herb-infused vinegars with apple cider vinegar as if offers numerous health benefits on its own.

Place a piece of wax paper underneath the lid so that the vinegar doesn’t corrode the metal top.


For best flavor, infuse the chives into vinegar for 2-4 weeks before straining them out. After, keep the chive vinegar in a cool, dark location.

24 Hours Later

 

one week later

 

To recap, you’ll need:

  • 1-2 cups chive blossoms, soaked to remove any bugs and then towel dried
  • a sterilized pint jar
  • wax paper
  • enough white or apple cider vinegar to cover the blossoms

And then:

Add the chive blossoms to the pint jar and cover with the vinegar ensuring that all of the blossoms are completely submerged.  Place wax paper over the opening and screw on the lid. Wait 2 -4 weeks before straining out the chives. Store the vinegar in a cool, dark location.

This vinegar can be used wherever you might use vinegar, but I plan to use it mostly for salad dressings.

A simple Chive Blossom Vinaigrette could be made like this:

(for one cup)

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chive vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dried herbs and snips of fresh chives (optional)

Place all ingredients into an empty jar, make sure the lid is on, and shake away!

 

 

 

Prevent Colds & Flu with DIY Elderberry Syrup

elderberry syrup

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

Lately

IMG_6353

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.

IMG_1256 Continue reading

Homestead Update – The Beginning

IMG_0181

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!

IMG_0172 Continue reading

Our New Homestead!

IMG_9625

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.

IMG_9692 Continue reading

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

Zucchini Fritters

IMG_7615

It’s a fun challenge to continuously find new ways of preparing the abundance of produce that appears this time of year.

After trying zucchini fritters recently, I’ve realized that they’re nothing new to kitchen pros, but they were new to me and now we’ve already made them several times. They’re delicious and a great way to use up some of that extra zucchini.

Here’s how you can get started with your own Zucchini Fritters! Continue reading