Sunday, May 30, 2010

Blooms, Bees, and Tidying up the Gardens

I adore valerian flowers. They were getting so tall I took the flowers off at the ends to hopefully keep them going awhile. The bees love them too




It was so hot today even momma squirrel was trying to catch a breeze.


I have a sunchoke bed started this year. I had to move a lot of strawberries from that area to the front strawberry bed.



It is so hot I thought I better put down some straw to keep them from burning. Now both of these bed areas also have tomato plants, I think 6. And then there are more in pots this year.


I have quite a few potted plants this year. There is sheep sorrel, boneset, arugula, romaine, american licorice, chard, parsley, basils, and others just scattered amongst things. Some of them will be planted out in the native plant garden (which I forgot to take a picture of ).


daylilies, and clary sage


See that tall plant? Remember when I went and dug up a native aster and was questioned by the police last year? Well, look how big it is this year!! lol

My husband poo poos my energy conservation measures sometimes. Doesn’t stop me though. Found this old push mower and had the blades sharpened



The yellow honey house that I still need to finish painting


The black cohosh is growing it’s candles, but they are funny shaped.  Some of the angelica grew huge but a wind broke the stem, but it is still trying to bloom. It is flies that are mostly it’s pollinators, or so it seems! Been so hot that even though it is in the shade with just some morning sun, its poor leaves are already a bit scorched!




All around the pond, the orange daylilies, marshmallows and others are growing like crazy!





Some things are just about stopped flowering already


The toothwort and forget me nots are setting seed


Glad the toothwort, bloodroot and mayapples I transplanted from the wild this spring are settling in


As are the new elderberry trees! yea!




The bees are doing great. That is a frame of honey lying on that metal stand to the left of the hives. I am feeding them back honey. The new hive does have a sugar water feeder on it. I don’t usually do that, but with the heat already, giving them a bit of a boost.


This area was a huge pile of dirt and yard waste my husband had piled up. Just full of poison ivy. So glad to have that chore done and the spot cleaned up!


I have raspberries entwined in a lot of the back gardens chain link fencing.


This is from standing by the beehives. That is the garage in the background.

I am exhausted! Believe me, everything did not look near this tidy before I have spent most of the last week working! Excuse me now, I need a bath, a glass of mead, something to eat, and the couch!


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Party Time at Ulrike’s! With a Giveaway!

One of the sweetest, friendliest, barefoot, dirty handed girls I have met this last year (when I started blogger), is Ulrike. She is hosting a very nice jewelry giveaway over at her blog. Lingering Shade is such a lovely place to visit. Check out her posts, if you haven’t already:) I sure would like to sit out and enjoy nature with her in her gardens. Well, virtual visiting is fun too, so hop on over and introduce yourself!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Casualties of the Storm!

It seems many of us are experiencing out of season blooms this year. Our temperatures have risen drastically this week also. The daytime temperatures are reaching into the 90’s. I would expect that at the end of June, but this is too early. It is very hot and humid and now we are experiencing the kind of storms that come up big and blustery during summer heat. Last night was such a storm and one of the old branches that supports our oldest birdhouse broke and fell!  I got home from tending Dylan just awhile ago, and went out to survey the damage, and found it just lying there. Sparrows had nested in it but it appears the babies must have already fledged as no one was home when I found it.



Yes I know this birdhouse could use a coat of paint. It never seems to happen though, as even in the winter birds will find sanctuary in it. It is always occupied and fought over! LOL One time in a storm the whole roof blew off and I managed to cobble it back together, although the wood is getting a bit spongy. This is our garden birds very favorite house, so I must try to climb up the tree and find another branch to hang it from ASAP!!

Another big branch had fallen and wiped out one of my little garden lights. I was just thankful it had missed my pot I am trying to grow wild plums in!

So, I am walking around checking on everything and making my plans for what to do tomorrow, my last free day till next fall when school is back in session. And suddenly I see movement and find this….




A baby blue jay! This little beauty is so cute! I wish I had a better camera as this picture just doesn’t show how vibrant it’s blue is! I sure hope it fledged naturally, and wasn’t shook out of the tree, from it’s nest during the storm. I will be checking on it frequently today as there is no parent in sight, and that is very, very weird! When blue jay fledglings are in the yard, usually their parents are super protective, and will dive bomb me, to ensure I don’t harm their little one. I sure hope I see it’s parents soon, or I will be tempted, at night fall, to put it in one of the bird cages my husband has for his racing and show pigeons. My gardens are a busy place during the night, with many critters coming to the pond for a drink, or scavenging around for any left over bird or squirrel seeds I have put out during the day. There are several cats that come through, chasing the critters that are eating the seed and visiting the pond for a drink. I am afraid if there is no parent to protect this little beauty, it won’t make it through the night. If I do have to pen it for the night, I will let it loose tomorrow morning, first light. Kind of wish it would start making a ruckus so it’s folks will find it. On the other hand, if it makes a ruckus and it’s folks don’t show… I guess I will be trying to feed a baby blue jay! Here is a real good link to tell us all about the blue jay. There are several good search tabs at the top of that link with an overview page here. On that page you can listen to several different songs and calls it makes. It is real interesting how they can mimic a hawks call!

Luckily it looks like I can feed this little beauty fruit and nuts, if I need to. Don’t relish the thought of feeding it a mouse…:)

Update! Before I could even hit the publish button, there was a knock on my door. One of our friends was had came to visit and had seen the baby bird, which by now had got in with the flower bed out front and was hollering loudly! We walked up to it and it fly/hopped out to the road. We got it corralled and was going to at least carry it to the backed fenced garden until night, when suddenly we saw mom and dad come flying in above our heads! Yea! Now if I can keep from going out to make sure it isn’t in the road….

Monday, May 24, 2010

Making Plant Markers

Just wanted to give you all this link for the kit I use to make my stones to mark my plants. The kit is called Poetry Stones. They are easy to make and I find them very valuable when sharing info with others about the garden plants. Several of you had asked so thought to just make a blog post so you wouldn’t miss my reply:) I made mine last year, and haven’t made any this year so no pics to share!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This is Not a Skullcap! lol

Awhile few weeks back I was in the garden, and saw the marker…


but the plant I saw then… was NOT a skullcap! lol over the winter someone else had taken over the skullcaps spot! (it was much smaller then, but here is how big it was yesterday)


A gloxinia had volunteered and probably crowded out the skullcap! Luckily, while cleaning out last years flower pots I found…. a skullcap!


Goodbye uninvited guest! Hello skullcap!


When I posted pics awhile ago, I had shown that gloxinia and meant to tell you gloxinia had replaced my skullcap, but somehow just posted it was a skullcap, which obviously it wasn’t! lol Sarah, I bet you wondered how big they got here! lol

Was given a bonus from nature and had several pots full of chickweed! Yea! I thought this one was the cutest!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Tulip Tree – Liriodendron tulipifera

tulip tree

My neighbors have a huge tulip tree which overhangs Comfrey Cottages on the north. It’s flowers are so absolutely gorgeous! The bees have been very busy gathering nectar from it and I can hear them buzzing happily high up in its branches. I have always appreciated this trees for the shade it provides and its nectar and pollen it provides the bees. The squirrels are eating the mature buds also, with apparent relish. Well I decided to research and find out whether this tree might have edible or medicinal qualities, that we could benefit from also. What I found was most interesting indeed! While I can find no references to eating the Tulip Tree, in any form, Henrietta’s Herbal had a couple pages chock full of historical references to it’s usage as medicine. It seems that it has been basically ignored in years though. I think that I will explore some of the medicinal uses listed this year since I have a very keen interest in using the trees and plants that are easily available in my area. Luckily I have some Amish friends that harvest trees, so I can ask them to share some of the inner bark of the root the next time they cut one. I will share about it whenever I get a chance to work with it. Of course, I don’t intend to do anything but enjoy the blessings of the tree overhanging our gardens here:)

One of the pages Henrietta has is information from John Scudder on this tree.


“The bark of Liriodendron tulipifera.—U. S.

Preparation.—Tincture of Liriodendron.

Dose.—From five drops to one drachm.

Therapeutic Action.—The bark of the Tulip Tree is tonic, stimulant, diaphoretic, diuretic, anthelmintic, aromatic, stomachic. It may be used in all cases of anorexia and impaired states of the digestive organs, where a stimulant tonic is indicated. It promotes the appetite and facilitates digestion; for these purposes it will be found fully equal to the simple bitters. It is often used with some advantage in intermittents.

It is employed in gout and chronic rheumatism, and in the declining stages of the acute form, after the irritated action has subsided, as a stimulating diaphoretic and tonic. If administered freely in the form of a warm infusion, it evinces conspicuous diaphoretic properties; and not unfrequently its diuretic powers are equally manifest.

The American Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics, 1898, was written by John M. Scudder, M.D.”

Very interesting, right? lol



Herbal Roots Zine - Giveaway Monday – Mortar and Pestle

I especially wanted to share about Kristine's generous giveaway this morning, because I know there are a few of my readers who don't own a mortar and pestle, and others who aren't subscribed to Herbal Roots Zine yet. HRZ is the most helpful $6 I spend a month folks! At the very least, I suggest you go through her list of past months plants and treat yourself by getting the one whose plant you are most drawn to. I would appreciate it if afterwards you would share with us:) Now back to the giveaway.. Please follow this link to read all about it! Thank you Kristine for all you do to help us all along our journey:)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chickweed and Plantain revive with spring rains!

I got so hung up on the nuances of botany and identifying and wild harvest/crafting in the woods this spring, I completely forgot to make my herbal tinctures and oils with chickweed and plantain! By the time I remembered, the chickweed was looking a bit ratty and my husband was already mowing, so the plantain had a haircut…. but then the rains started. We really didn’t get our April rains, but May is making up for it and the chickweed is so lush, bright green and moist now I just had to get outside first thing this morning to harvest some! Now Comfrey Cottages has the “s” on the end for a reason. I customarily harvest and garden not only in my own garden and yard, but also my children’s and my brother Eric’s. Today I went over to my son Tommy’s yard (Dylan’s dad), because he has been working overtime and he hasn’t mowed recently and there was so much lush chickweed and brand new moist plantain leaves just waiting to help keep our family healthy:)



Chickweed is just so very fresh tasting I happily munched on it while I was preparing these medicines and had to put a bit out on the floor for the kitties to enjoy also, to keep them away from the preparation area!


And some of the plantain went to the kitties too:) Young Dandelion kitty seemed just ravenous for some greens:)

The chickweed tincture will be used for many things as an herbal helper, but I am especially interested in the fact it is reputed to be excellent for dealing with arthritis and other conditions like rheumatism. My daughter has been having a lot of trouble with arthritis symptoms for quite awhile now and frankly, I am very worried about the side effects of many arthritis drugs. I will be thrilled if chickweed tincture ends up being of benefit for her. From Gail Faith Edward’s book Opening our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs, I have learned that chickweed has alkalinizing properties that can benefit those with chronic bladder and urinary tract infections. The chickweed oil will be used to help with many minor skin complaints such as diaper rash and bug bites. The next harvest I make of it, I plan on infusing some in vinegar. I also am thinking to chop some up to freeze in ice cube trays so I can just pop out one to use as a poultice for its drawing, cooling and dissolving properties, when it is winter again and hard to find and harvest any. These little chickweed cubes will also be nice to have on hand for any eye irritations due to strain or infection.  Chickweed is right now one of my favorite plants to just grab and use as a poultice for bug bites and skin scratches we all get when gardening:) Gail also shared that chickweed is  excellent for dissolving ovarian cysts and helping reduce swollen glands. My husband has trouble with a gland in his groin which will swell up and cause his leg to hold heat and I am planning to use the tincture to help him when this condition strikes next! Since chickweed weakens bacteria, this will also be used in times of colds, and other respiratory problems, my family and friends might experience. I am especially curious to see how it helps the asthmatics in my family. Its expectorant and cooling actions will probably be so helpful for when we have those hot, dry cough going on.

The plantain oil will be used for many skin problems. I am especially interested in seeing how it does for a family member who suffers from hemorrhoids, which it is reported to help shrink and soothe.  The tincture will help with coughs and other respiratory complaints with its antispasmodic actions on the mucous membranes and moistening and expectorant qualities. Nice to have in the herbal medicine chest for its astringent properties when faced with diarrhea issues, also. If any of us are faced with kidney or urinary tract issues, this nourishing, soothing herb should be of great benefit. So excited about getting to know and working with plantain this year! I will keep you posted in who I share these medicines, why and how they respond to them as the year progresses.

Great big herbal and honey hugs to all who take the time to visit here at Comfrey Cottages




Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ancient Beehives found at Rosslyn Chapel


Look at the flower embellishment on the pinnacle. It has a hole in it for the bees to enter.


I love stories about the history of our bees and civilization. Rosslyn Chapel, just outside Edinburgh, has been a holy place for centuries. Its name means either “point of a waterfall” or “ancient knowledge down the line” depending on who you ask. One of the magical spots in the world I would love to see first hand someday. This link tells you more about this amazing discovery!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bees Starting Life Encased in Flower Petals

Two separate research teams discovered that some bees make little nests of flower petals to lay their eggs in. I thought these pictures were so amazing and the news so cool I just had to share in case you hadn’t seen it yet!


How beautiful is that?!


Click here for the full story and more pictures:)

I am just in love with the thought of starting life inside flower petals:)

big hugs and love to all who visit Comfrey Cottages

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Birthday Time and Wee Medicine Man

Time flies by. Seems like yesterday I was holding my beautiful daughter Michelle for the very first time. I was immediately a smitten kitten and still am to this day. She is my rock and my best friend, and I am so very proud of the strong, beautiful, dependable, resourceful, interesting, and big hearted daughter I have.


I love you to the moon and back my darling daughter!

On the gardens and herbal medicine front…. when you have a two year old in tow, everything is done in small increments and I am mindful to be grateful for this time with Dylan. In just a couple short years, he will be in school and this time will have passed like the ephemeral spring it is. We harvest a bit at a time and our medicine cabinet is full of small jars of things like this dandelion oil Dylan made today, all by himself.




We just simply walked around our yard and he harvested the dandelions we had available right under our noses. He really seemed to enjoy putting them in the jar and filling it with oil. This looks like such a small thing, but it is his first herbal medicine he has made by himself!

Dashed home today and managed to weed a bit of the gardens and get 5 tomato plants in the ground. I was pleased to see some calendula had reseeded itself and that the strawberry plants are in bloom. I used to be the type that would work 12 hours straight, weeding and working the ground for planting. And then work the next day planting. While Dylan is young it is enough to accomplish a foot at a time, as there will always be next year for tomatoes, but only for a few years will he be my constant companion and we are better served walking through the fields and woods and running through the parks and yard right now. His innate love for nature is boundless and I think learning the names and ways of nature is the most important thing I can give him right now. Many times I will point out a plant or tree and talk to him as I would you, and the next thing I know, he is pointing out to me, another of the same plant! I am still new at learning so many plants and I feel so blessed to be learning along with Dylan.

big hugs and much love to all who visit Comfrey Cottages