Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Comfrey, Couchgrass, Time and Rose Marie’


(Rose on her cushion in my den overlooking the back gardens. This is her special spot and I discourage the other kitties from taking over here.)

Well my apologies again for being so absent. Another kitty cat drama:( Rose Marie, my oldest kitty, is lame in the back end. I woke up Saturday the sixth, about 4 A.M., with a hot flash. On to the couch I went to cool down a moment and was immediately joined by Violet Joy and some other kitty I couldn’t see in the dark, on my feet. Suddenly, my companions shot off toward the kitchen, and I could hear a commotion under my kitchen table chairs. I dashed in and found Rose surrounded by the other cats. When I got her untangled from the chairs and shoved the other kitties back, I could see Rose was wild eyed and her back end was dragging uselessly! I first thought, oh no, she has had a stroke! I whisked her carefully in to the bathroom and closed the door so not to add to her fright by having such an audience surrounding her. I spoke softly and caressed her and started to make a careful assessment. Her eyes, while looking uncustomarily wild, did not have any bulging, or obvious differences in her pupils, and while her back end was lame, everything else looked fine! No blood anywhere, a gentle feel everywhere and I could feel no broken bones and she really didn’t act in pain! Carefully I felt for her pulses in her different arteries and felt her pads for warmth. Hmmm her circulation seemed fine. Well, I had seen this sort of thing before with two other cats. I was suspecting a broken pelvic. The first kitty, Lola, I ever had who had a broken pelvic, happened to be pregnant also. This was back in the day when I allowed my kitties to go in and out. I never knew what happened, but suspected she was sideswiped by a car. Here she came, dragging her back legs, and off I dashed 45 minute drive to the vet. I watched him carefully assess her and could understand how he came to the diagnosis of broken pelvic without doing  xrays. He said just bring her home and time should heal her, and it did rather quickly with her giving successful birth to her kittens within a few weeks. The second time I saw a cat with these symptoms was with our Rumbley cat. This is how my husband ended up adopting Rumbley, he came dragging up to the door lame. Well, with Rumbley I assessed him as my vet did and was confident that he had also had a mishap and broke his pelvic. Again, he made a good recovery although he always had a slight weakness on one of his hind sides and a bit of droop to one eye, no doubt a car mishap again. Now Lola was a fairly young cat and Rumbley, mature but not old. Now Rosie…. I don’t know but when I first found her and adopted her 4 years ago, my vet said she was an old cat, probably over 10 then, so things are going slower for Rose. She is requiring alot of bodily care as she hasn’t been able to use her litter box, but she has at no time acted in pain or done anything but act overjoyed to see me. I am keeping her contained to a closet I emptied for her. I have the floor first covered with plastic and then with towels for easy clean up. And I daily have been giving her gentle baths by just pouring the water over her privates and gently washing and rinsing before giving her clean plastic and towels. Yesterday she actually tried to stand up! Only for a moment, but that was encouraging so I have put a small box with one side cut out and a bit of litter in case she gets froggy. We have had to fight constipation and I am uncertain if it is because it hurts to have a bowl movement, or she just doesn’t want to mess herself so holds it.  Either way, she did have a bm the day after her accident,( I suspect she was being chased by young Dandelion and either slid into or fell off the kitchen table or one of its chairs). But then she didn’t have another for 3 days so I did run her to the vet probably for more her sake than mine, and she suggested adding a bit of pumpkin to her diet. Well, I had just added wet food to her diet that day and the very next day she had a HUGE bm so I felt pretty confident maybe just the wet food would help in that dept, but she hasn’t gone again for a few days so I am adding some pureed pumpkin I had in the freezer to tonights meal.  I have a heating pad covered in a soft cloth up against the side of the closet that Rose seems to favor sleeping in as she is my cold blooded kitty and was usually found sleeping on the floor directly over our furnace in the basement. This additional warmth seems to keep her cozy and as comfy as can be. I am helping to forestall any urinary tract disorders with couch grass and cleavers and comfrey for the broken bone. I am making an infusion of all three and giving her about two teaspoons in a dropper once a day. I don’t have children to mind tomorrow (maybe!) so am hoping to get out and see if I can find her any fresh grass in between the snow piles. Cats appear sturdy but their inside working are really quite delicate so trusting in Mother Nature and Father time also. So hoping Rose will be able to make a full recovery and will simply dwell on the fact she could have an undetectable tumor pressing on things. She and I are doing daily physical therapy whenever I get a chance. Just gently stroking her pads to make her flex her toes and gently massaging and flexing her back legs. Her right back leg seems to be doing very good and the left one has had some improvement, but is def the dodgy one. I will keep you all posted on how she does. So….. between kids and cats I haven’t been around the internet world much lately, but will visit with you all as I can! Thank you, as always, for visiting Comfrey Cottages:) And just to make things clear, I AM NOT a VET and don’t claim to be. I am just sharing with you all what has been going on in my household and how I am choosing to deal with it:)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

making homemade vinegar and mothers

have you ever wondered about making your own vinegars? we all know about apple cider vinegar, but did you know you can make it from many others things? i have never made any sort of vinegar from scratch so i was excited to find this link for making homemade vinegar.  how about vinegar from wine? well, here is another site. now i haven’t done these things folks, just passing the info on. i will let you know when i do try though:) if any of you are already making your own vinegars, please share through the comment section with either a link to your blog post, or other site, or just by telling us:) i couldn’t wait to share this in case someone other than me was wondering just how to get around buying vinegar:) oxymels are one of my fav ways to use herbs so making my own vinegar would be handy. i need to get brave enough to learn to make my own alcohol for tinctures. not sure whether mead would have a high enough alcohol content. anyone know?


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

of new herb study group and kitchen alchemy

Well I have some exciting news! One of the things that I am missing in self studying herbs, is i have rather longed for others to discuss them, face to face. while i am so very grateful for the internet and to have networked with so many great herbalist worldwide, i wanted to kind of focus my direction and get some local networking started also.

so our first meeting was at the home of one of local amish families home. there were just five adults but the hosting families children sat through our whole discussion group with nary a peep, except to offer us some lovely applemint tea and homemade molasses cookies:) our host is when of his churches elders and has been self studying, mainly the identification aspect, but using some herbals also, for the last 15 years. my bee mentor ron was in attendance. ron hasn’t used herbals much but as another country person, is able to identify some and wants to learn. he and i are discussing possible ventures together of an economic nature. our hosts lovely wife sat with us but really more as an observer. then there was my brother eric and i. eric is more into the gardening and culinary aspects of herbs and as he has had the nursing course he is interested in the medicinal aspects and is a wonderful asset in helping explain biological process, anatomy etc.

now my own course, so far has progressed rather in a set course. i have always had an attraction to our natural world. i grew up on a farm surrounded by the beauty of our county. i knew enough to catch and clean a fish, gather gooseberries and morel mushrooms, but really nothing at all about wildgathering  and foraging besides those things. but i was a little wild thing, more comfortable rambling our woods, streams and ponds than in town amongst the townies with their gossips, gadgets, and adornments. frogs, crawdads, sunfish, horses, cats, and my brother rob were all i needed to keep me thoroughly entertained! we even tried to rob a bee tree, but i will save that one for another day! so i grew up with no one really taking me under their wing and teaching me the ways my soul so craves.

six years ago was the start of my herbal studies. and with a new husband who loved his yard grass to be from fence to fence, for ease of mowing, it started out as a battle. i asked his advise on where i might start a little herb garden. he miserly cut out a precise foot around the back patio fence all around.  well that year i put in chocolate mint (just smells good and have to have it), lemon balm, peppermint, spearmint, applemint, horehound, chives, and a few other things.  i felt comfortable with the knowledge i had about herbs to start growing and using mostly in a culinary/ tea sort of way and regularly used different sorts. the next year i was able to get foot or so out from the south side fence and this spot ran about 30 feet. so i added some veggies, beebalms, echinaceas, phlox, rue, lovage, etc etc and got to know a bit about these things again in a mostly culinary/tea sort of way. while all this time i am gathering books. so the first four years progressed like that. just every year taking more of the yard for my own till i have most of the spots that get sun covered with a nice variety of fruit bushes, herbs, grape vines etc. two years ago i started to really get into our native herbs and plants. and folks, native to me also includes the plants that have been brought here by our ancestors from other countries. not necessarily indigenous to this country, but those that have found it to their liking and now reside here also. so i started  adding chicory, vervain, primroses, joe pye weed, boneset, st. john’s wort, etc, etc to my gardens. and my focus with my books changed also where i started buying more and more about the folk medicinal ways of using herbs and then that progressed further when i discovered blogger and facebook and was able to tap into the vast wealth of information wonderful herbalist worldwide have chosen to share. now sometimes my books included not only folk traditions but more medical minded tomes. now you might think i am digressing here from the original subject of the herb group, but just hold tight. i wanted to fill you in on a bit of my journey so you would know, i am just a grandma self studying herbs. i am not an herbalist and don’t know if i will ever feel comfortable calling myself that know matter how many years i study! but, i know what direction i am going. my goal is to learn to identify the food/medicinal plants in my county and to regularly use them. while at the same time, adding more herbs, and plants to my gardens, my daughters, and two of my brothers gardens. when you garden in town you have to be inventive;-) also, ron and i are discussing adding things to his rural property we both can utilize.

so that is our group so far. our host had the goal of our group to be lots of field work identifying herbals. i suggested that we might all gather books for local identification purposes and to learn the different neighborhoods and neighbors each plant might prefer. i couldn’t see running to the woods thinking to find goldenrod,  nor into a meadow to find bloodroot, if you know what i mean. we also kind of shared a bit about our own experiences with herbs and sources of them. our host brought out a bag of pennyroyal he had got from an herb company i wouldn’t buy from myself. luckily my brother tactfully brought up the subject of being careful of the source and explained the problems with that particular source. i had to bite my tongue though when i asked him how they used it, and was told primarily for teas. my own experience with pennyroyal, which was later substantiated through readings, is that pennyroyal, used continually by women can play hell with your moon time! one of my newbie herb mistakes the very first year i planted all the mints and things! i loved the taste of the pennyroyal and finally figured out that my excessive bleeding and erratic moon times were caused by using too much pennyroyal. i was lucky to learn a valuable lesson so easily and with no real harm. the lesson is this, to learn thoroughly all the indication, contradictions, special warnings, uses etc of using ANY herb before you use it! that is when the first more medically focused herbals started appearing in my library!

so our next meeting is the 18th of feb and i have some ideas to bring and hopefully the other folks do to. this should be fun and hopefully help me keep focused on expanding my knowledge of my natural environment and how it can help myself and my family.

now on to the kitchen alchemy!

if you remember from a post if the fall, we have a local event called spoon river drive in this county. well while on that adventure i was able to purchase a package of local hickory nuts that someone had for sale. one of the many local trees i hope to meet and get to know this year. this weekend i decided to make some hickory nut syrup with this small purchase. i wish i would have bought all the bags he had now as this syrup is so lovely. one of my favorite wild woman herbalists, ananda wilson, had this lovely post about her experience with her local hickory and i followed her recipe she shared there. her insight and information there was so inspiring i had been saving this small bag of hickory for when i had a moment to try this!

first i put my smashed up hickory nuts, shells in oil in a pot with some water to cover to simmer for an hour and then strained.


i then followed ananda’s directions for adding brown sugar and a bit of cornstarch and water mix to the hickory brew and this is how it turned out!


i only had about 6 ounces of hickory brew, so i added a bit less than 4 ounces of the brown sugar to mine. i will be trying this recipe with other local nuts throughout the year and also making up some of the hickory brew that the recipe for is also shared on ananda’s post. i did infuse my drained nuts one more time and made my own version of a wild woman brew and it rocked! then so as not to waste the leftover nuts from that brewing, i went ahead and sprinkled them out in the yard and my local squirrel colony then enjoyed them!



also on saturday i decanted the rosemary oil i had just infusing for a couple of months, and decided to reinfuse it with some more rosemary as it wasn’t as strong smelling or tasting as i wanted it. it probably would have been stronger smelling the first time if i had a sunny spot to let it infuse in, but with 7 kitties vying for any sunny window spots, i just had it in a cabinet. i think i will do the double boiler method of infusing my oils during the winter in the future. i might even rework this one the same way. i wanted rosemary oil for culinary purposes plus in my november issue of herbal roots zine, i learned this oil was good for the scalp to stimulate the hair and to help with dandruff, which my husband gets sometimes.  there is also a recipe for rosemary shampoo in that issue which is simply lovely:)

next up was gathering some pine needles from my white pine tree outside my bedroom window, to start some pine vinegar. if you will remember i was inspired to make a wonderful pine sap salve by kristine browns december issue of herbal roots zine. well in it she also talked about this wonderful pine needle vinegar that susun weeds highly suggests in place of balsamic vinegar. here is a link to what susun has to share about pine and to learn about this vinegar:)





so those things were all i really had time for saturday, as those rare days i have without children to tend must be devoted to my readings and note taking also:) besides the usual household things:( lol

so today is another free day so decide while i have some ginger and olive oil in one double burner infusing and in another melting beeswax i would bring you up to date with the herbal news of this last week.

the ginger issue of herbal roots zine inspired me to try the ginger salve making as it will help a circulation restorer and arthritis rub. when the salve is finished i usually embellish my salves with a little beeswax cut out bee, but in the ginger one i am cutting out little candied ginger bees!



a brief update on the bees. i have seen some dead bees outside of the yellow hive, which is a good sign that they are still alive, and doing a bit of housecleaning , while i see no such activity outside of the pink hive. time will tell and we haven’t seen a day near 50 degrees in a couple of months to really see any activity such as flying. so i wait to see what the first warm day can tell me



my husband keeps racing and show pigeons and for the last few years we have had a starling sneak into the pigeon house to overwinter. well, this year he has not only brought a mate but also invited another couple in! lol my husband and i can’t help but admire these resourceful birds! so this picture shows one starling couple roosting in their nice cozy home with free food and water provided and no rent! lol


see them up in the left hand side of the pic up behind where the pigeons are:)

and here is a picture of ariana, my youngest grandchild and her loving auntie michelle, my only daughter


ariana will be one year old next week!

whew, i had a bit to catch up on with you all! sending each and every one of you big herbal and honey hugs always



Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Celebrate Herbal Roots Zines One Year Anniversary! With a Giveaway!

Kristine, at Herbal Roots Zine is hosting a lovely giveaway to celebrate the zine’s one year anniversary! The giveaway is for a copy of the book, I Am A Medicine Woman Too, by Jesse Wolf Hardin.


This months issue of Herbal Roots is all about willow!


I can not tell you all how much the children and I enjoy Herbal Roots zine! Just a wealth of fun activities, medicine making, and yummy treats to make in every issue. Who knew learning herbs could be so much fun!