Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sharing with the Herb Club

Earlier this year, a few of us folks, from the beekeeping club, and I decided it would be fun to get together monthly to explore herbal type things. Everyone invited just whoever else we thought might be interested and we have a nice little group now.We are just a little rural group of folks and our group isn’t anything formal of anything, but loads of fun. When we first started, we would each research an herb and at the meeting we would give a little talk about what we found out and give hand outs to each other. When the weather got nicer, we went for woods and fields walks identifying the wild medicinal and food plants in our area. With the nights coming so soon, we have moved back inside, and this meeting they asked me to demonstrate making salves. I have a new camera, and so my brother and I aren’t too good with it yet, but you will get the idea:) I chose to demonstrate how to make two different salves, one a pine salve and the other rose.


At home I prefer to work with oils and herbs I have allowed to infuse in a sunny window for 6 weeks+,  but for the demonstration, I just put the rose buds in oil and let them gently infuse for awhile in one pot, on top of a canning ring, in another pot with some water in it. A homemade version of a double boiler. In the other double boiler arrangement, I started some collected pine sap in a bit of olive oil.


After the pine pitch and the rose had infused awhile, I melted some beeswax, in the same fashion, and slowly incorporated it into the strained oils.

The next picture I am demonstrating how I tell whether I have enough or too little wax in the final product. I just take a dab out and put it on my glass cutting board, (a plate would work), and feel it. It is all a matter of personal preference actually. Some folks might prefer it softer, more like an ointment consistency, some firmer. Jill, in the red, was so cute taking notes and thinking I had a formula! I think I successfully demonstrated that one doesn’t have to have a certain precise recipe. The folk method I use has consistently made good, fragrant, useful salves:) It is no big deal if the salve is too thin or too thick, just a matter of using a bit more oil, or a bit more wax.


Oils are nice and I frequently just use rose oil and others at home, but salves are nice and less messy for throwing in my purse or using with children:) I felt good to be able to share that working with herbal oils and salves is something any of us can do:)

We sure had a good time, and next month will be great. Steve is going to share with us how to process our horseradish! I will share with you afterwards:)

Love and hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

All About Thyme

Just thought I might share this in case some of you are unfamiliar with Susan Wittig Albert’s newsletter All About Thyme. It is free and gets delivered weekly right to your inbox:) Susan is the author of many of my favorite books including The China Bayles mystery series, The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and a wonderful series of Victorian/Edwardian tales she and her husband wrote under the pen name of Robin Page. Here is a link for the mystery partners page. It is a joy to just explore all the links here! Where else can you enjoy a tea party with either China Bayles and friends, or Beatrix Potter and her friends? LOL  Make sure and sign up for her e-letter if you haven’t already. And the Book of Days is just a must and great fun to read each days entry throughout the year! Have any of you started reading her new series the Darling Dahlia’s yet? You can also register your book reading club with Susan and get the benefits of having her suggest questions and other ideas as your group reads each book. Also, your club will be eligible for free book drawings, book marks, recipes, herbal hints and other goodies sent out for you to distribute to your group. Comfrey Cottage reading club is registered!


September was an Apple-y kind of Month!

One of the things that always says fall is here to me is apples. My brother Eric and I have a friend in our beekeeping group, Rick Camp, who owns an apple orchard farm not too far from us. One Saturday we decided to go our and watch Rick, with the help of his family, make apple cider. Now Camp Grove Orchard apple cider is the best cider I have ever had in my life folks, so I was real excited about this! LOL Rick and Tammy’s orchard is located down a picturesque country road located at Roseville,IL.


Camp Grove Orchard

373 105th St.
Roseville, IL 61473
Warren County
Phone: (309) 774-4244
Open: September - November; Wednesday/Thursday 5-7pm, Friday 1-7pm, Satruday/Sunday 10-5pm
Directions: East of Roseville 6 miles on highway 116 then 3 miles south on 105th St.
Description: Apples, Cider, Honey, Pumpkins & Gourds

They have so many types of apples!

Apples: Yellow Delicious, Red Delicious, Arkansas Black, Jonagold, Jonamac, Jonalicious, Winesap, Empire, Paula Red, Rome, Ida Red, Jonathan, Suncrisp. Coming soon: Honeycrisp, Snow Sweet, Jonared, Fuji, Gala, Sweet Sixteen, Granny Smith, Candycrisp, Lindamac, Smoothie.

The whole family is just as nice as can be and let us wander around the orchard checking it all out. Here are some pictures of the apple cider press in operation,

The apples to be pressed are first put in this big vat of water with a bit of bleach in it. I do the same thing before I process my apples.


Then they are drained and loaded on the conveyor belt


The machine then mashes them all up, separating the bulk from the juice. Rick then takes stacks of the bulk and puts it in a wheelbarrow to be used as compost.






The strained off juice is piped to big stainless steel storage vats to be then bottled


The amount of moisture in the air from all this processing surprised me, although it shouldn’t have, as I get the same effect in my kitchen while processing fruit!

Eric and I then walked around exploring their orchard and their beehives. There were some old apple trees that were just growing the way you normally see an apple tree, but the new ones they have planted, were all espaliered.








It was great fun learning how apple cider is made and best of all… I took home a couple gallons of this tasty cider and a couple pounds of their honey:)


Basket Making Video Using Tulip Poplar

One of my facebook friends, Plantain Patch, shared this wonderful video. Doug Elliott shows us how to use Tulip Poplar,Liriodendron tulipifera, to make our own baskets! Now if you are unfamiliar with Doug Elliott, I highly recommend his books. They are just a joy to read! He is down to earth and full of useful and fun information on a huge variety of natural subjects. The book he wrote, Wildwood Wisdom is one of my all time favorites.

When Plantain shared about these baskets, I was immediately interested. You might remember I shared earlier this year about this trees medicinal uses. We have a huge one overhanging our yard, and this year I have found a couple saplings started from it. Making these baskets don’t look hard at all and when my saplings are bigger I am going to give it a go. Who knows, I might find a sapling to use soon during one of my woods rambles:) Will share about it when I do get to make my own baskets. Enjoy the video!