Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Language of Flowers – Book Review

thelanguage of flowers
This novel touched me on so many levels and plucked so many emotional heart strings. Vanessa Diffenbaugh has crafted a magical book that takes the reader through a journey of loneliness, solitude,rejection, hate, grief, mistrust, love, redemption and hope.
Victoria has spent a life time in the foster care system. She turns eighteen and is emancipated. She is unable to feel a connection to other people, and instead is immersed in a world dominated by flowers and their meanings, as learned from the Victorian language of flowers. She is alone and homeless, when a florist learns of her unique ability to choose flowers that will help the flower shop customers with their own problems. A flower vendor at the flower market enters Victoria’s life and forces her to examine her life and face a painful secret, which changes her destiny.
Vanessa Diffenbaugh was inspired to write The Language of Flowers from her own experiences as a foster mother. While researching flower dictionaries, she noted that there were discrepancies between them and sometimes the same flower would be said to mean two or more different things. The more she researched, the more discrepancies she found! Therefore, she has included in this book, a flower dictionary she has made using either the science behind each flower, the most popular or frequent meaning, or the meaning she best liked. I think she did a brilliant job!
I don’t often spend money on novels, as I just don’t have room in the budget for both novels and the herbal books I need for my studies, but this novel is one I am going to definitely buy. Not only because I want to reread it whenever I like, without going to the library, but I also want the flower dictionary part as part of my herbal/plant library. Besides the fact, as Lily gets older, I think this book will help teach some valuable lessons. One being that love can overcome even the worst secret we might hold.
Vanessa Diffenbaugh is the founder of the Camellia Network. The mission is to create a nationwide movement to support youths transitioning from foster care.
Using the Language of Flowers, I thank all of you who read and comment at Comfrey Cottages

Bellflower – Gratitude
And in the coming New year I wish you each
Celadine – Joys to Come
Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xxx

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fabulous Find (pssst something for those menopausal power surges)

This spring, I hosted the UK Herbarium group blog party one month and my dear friend Rita contributed her recipe for elderflower cordial to the party. When our elderflowers bloomed I gathered some and followed her recipe. Simply delicious and I began to just crave a nice cold glass of water mixed with the cordial in the evenings. Coincidentally, I started sleeping like a newborn baby… I eventually ran out of the cordial … and started sleeping poorly again…The other day I just developed this powerful CRAVING for the cordial and thought, well I will just make a batch with some elderflower I had dried.. in the meantime I wrote Rita and told her how I was craving it and mentioned that strangely, I had not slept as well  in the last few months as I did while enjoying the cordial nightly. She said she had never heard of elderflower as a sleep aid either, so I went to my bookshelves and just chose Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal to reference. I figured I would just pour through all the different books and try to figure out just why this cordial made me sleep so soundly! Well right away I see that in that book, the cordial is recommended for hot flashes! A light bulb went off and I have it figured out! You see I thought I was through with my hot flashing part of menopause. I no longer can count up to 35 distinct power surges per hour, wake up so drenched I have to change night shirts 6, 7, 8 times a night. I occasionally feel a bit of a surge, but nothing like I used to feel. The rapid pulse, anxious almost anxiety type of feeling. And I have just attributed my poor sleep pattern of waking several times a night on the kitties wrestling on the covers or one of them cuddled up in my tummy too tight to why I was just a bit too hot…well I know now I must be still having hot flashes, just not as severe, so that is why the elderflower cordial helps me sleep so well.. it is controlling the power surge and keeping me at an even keel! lol! Now in looking back at the really intense flashes I must say I did use cold elderflower tea quite a bit, and it did help, but I believe if I would have been making this cordial then, and just keeping a thermos of cool water and cordial with me at all times I would have had a much, much easier time of it, ( and lets face it, the cordial just tastes yummier than the tea so would have used it more).  I had to rush and share this with all of you, hoping that it will help one of my hot flashing mama friends deal with her power surges too:) 

Children love this cordial too. Don’t worry, perfectly safe for them!


Lily squeezing all the juice out of the lemon slices



And enjoying her cordial!

Big honey and herbal hugs to all of you who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Thursday, December 8, 2011

On My Mind… Heirloom Roses


The hemisphere I live in is fast approaching winter. It was gloomy, a little snowy and cold when I came home and found my Heirloom Roses catalogue in the mailbox. I changed into some comfy fleece pants, made a cup of tea with both rosehips and rose petals and settle back to enjoy the catalogue with visions of spring dancing through my mind. As I wishfully peruse each page, I read each flowers description with the avidness of a wine connoisseur reading the wine list at an upscale eatery…the fragrance is my weakness, with the actual beauty being secondary.  Tess of the d’Urbervilles, fragrance: exceptional, Myrrh; Lexy, fragrance: Moderate, Spicy; Crocus Rose, fragrance: Very, Tea; Lilian Austin, fragrance: Very, Clove; Strawberry Hill, fragrance: Very, Myrrh/Lemon; Tea Clipper, fragrance: Very, Citrus; CL Iceberg, fragrance: Moderate, HONEY!!!; Galaway Bay, fragrance: Very, Old Rose; Creme de la Creme, fragrance: Moderate, Fruity; Veilchenblau, fragrance: Very, Orange; Cecile Brunner: fragrance, Light, Pepper, Spice… I have a giddy, heady feeling just reading these descriptions.

I will eventually come down to earth and sort through first by fragrance, then by beauty and bloom time, of course, keeping in mind my actual planting zone, but in the meantime… what is on my mind is fragrance…and away I drift on a waft of rose scent….

This is my contribution to Herbology’s What’s on my mind blog post.

Big herbal and honey hugs, and a bit of rose scent thrown in, to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xxx

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Just Peachy!


Remember when we picked all these peaches? (btw, that is Mama Peppermint) Well besides canning a lot of peaches, we also used the peels to start a peach vinegar and used some of them to make a spicy peach vinegar ala Mrs. Reppert! The spicy peach recipe  was inspired by the book Mrs. Reppert’s Twelve Month Herbal and I received permission to share it with you all


Insert enough small size peaches to fill up a wide mouthed-jar. Then add several whole cinnamon sticks, 1/4 cup of whole cloves, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Completely cover with white vinegar ( I used homemade apple cider vinegar) and set in the sun ( I left mine on countertop). I started mine at the end of August and just strained it out. What a lovely rich color and the taste is heavenly!


I can’t wait to try mine as a lovely Peach Honeygar, one of the ways Mrs. Reppert suggested to use it. Other ways being a dollop in marinades,  in sauces, in yogurt for a dressing for fresh fruit compotes, added to coleslaw, and to enhance gravies.

The peaches themselves will be used as garnishes


The peach peel vinegar was made in another jar


I just filled this jar with the peach peels, covered the peels with spring water, added a couple big spoons of our bees honey, and about 1/2 cup of our homemade vinegar with a nice piece of the mother with it.  A piece of cheesecloth is used to cover it, so air can still get in. I also started this at the end of August and just got around to straining it. ( I had been checking on it, periodically to make sure the fluid level was still good in it)



Such a beautiful and lovely, light tasting peachy vinegar!

For those of you unfamiliar with the term honeygar, it is about 1 tablespoon of raw unfiltered honey,  and one tablespoon of vinegar, in a glass of water that is just warm enough to make the honey mixable without being so hot it destroys the benefits of the honey. You can either sip it while warm or serve it cold. Very delicious and very good for you.

Big herbal and honey hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fabulous Finds Friday

So it is Sunday instead of Friday, my bad:)

I love to have a healthy breakfast of using either quinoa, steel cut oats, or groats, but frankly, find it a nuisance to take the time to stand there and watch and stir the pot first thing in the morning, while trying to get things in order so I can dash out the door to tend Dylan and Ariana.  While looking for oat recipes this morning, I happened upon a way of cooking that is new to me, and I can see where I will be incorporating this method often from now on. Thermos Cooking! On the site you will find this is an energy efficient, and time saving manner in which to cook oats, millet, quinoa, pastas, and other things. I am sure I will be making the oats, quinoa, and groats methods often, and like the idea it is something I can do and take with me on the run if I am running late. Just adding whatever extras like dried fruits, cinnamon, honey, or milk, and I will have a power packed breakfast I can slurp on the run or wait and share with the children.

I decided to follow the steel cut oats recipe to see how I like it…

First I filled my thermos with boiling water. This makes your thermos hot so when you add the boiling cooking water, that water can actually start cooking your oats, not loosing heat energy on heating up the thermos… I left mine in the thermos about 5 minutes and then poured the water back into the teakettle and it only took a few seconds to bring it back to boil. I halved the recipe and used 1/2 cup of the steel cut oats and 1 and 3/4 cups of boiling water. Added all of this to the thermos and put it on its side and waited 40 minutes, shaking periodically as I passed by while doing other chores…



One perfectly cooked, fuss free bowl of oats for breakfast:)


The next thing I have to share comes from Elizabeth Gowing, who wrote the book, Travels in Blood and Honey; Becoming a Beekeeper in Kosovo. Honey Apple pie with honey pastry. Oh my!!! Follow the link for the recipes!

And speaking of apples… Sarah, of Tales of a Kitchen Herbwife, shared some luscious apple recipes on a recent post you will find at that link:)

One last link is to my friend Anke’s fab site Herbology. In this post she gives us several delectable cordial recipes and a wonderful natural cleaner recipe using lemons:)

Well I must dash, my brother Eric is hosting friends of ours from out of town and I want to go visit with them:) More fabulous finds later!

Big herbal and honey hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages 


Friday, October 28, 2011

Fabulous Finds Friday

I thought it might be fun to start sharing some of my fabulous finds on Fridays

I found a lovely homesteading blog:) Lori’s Latest… and Other Tales from the Homestead. I love this banana chip recipe she shared! Yum! I adore banana chips but never had a great recipe before:)

Common Sense Homesteading is another fabulous blog:) Laurie shares about a variety of topics, including self sufficiency, homesteading, herbals, wonderful recipes, natural health and an array of other lovelies

Born in the Wrong Century rather says it all doesn’t it? Nichole has some really unique and great recipes in her index and her to make list!

ball dissolvable labels

I found these labels in one of the local stores, and I am in love! Always such a hassle to remove old labels when reusing jars. Now, simply wash away the old with water!

Another great find was this lovely Care2 network group: Green Apples, Green Gardens, Green Homes, Green is the Word! My lovely friend started the group as a place to share our ideas for greening our lives:) I invite you to come visit there and exchange thoughts and ideas!

I hope some of these things might be useful to you also:)

Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages! xxxx

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Serving as the Dining Room Table


I took time to stretch out on the sofa recently, and soon found myself covered in kittens. (The white kitty is our oldest cat, Rose Marie). Mama Peppermint came into the room and was rather frantically calling out, looking for them, so I called her over….


She jumped up and immediately lay down for them to nurse…


and received a well deserved wash up from Earl Jr. afterwards..



And yes, we still have all the kittens! They are nearing 5 months old so I have a feeling they are staying right where they are, in our home, with their mother who still will search them out to snuggle and nurse them. I see everyday how much she loves her babies, and have no desire to separate them. If karma chooses someday to send a special person my way, who wants and needs a cat, I might consider letting one go to a new home, but not now, no way will I break up this family. When I found Peppermint, part of her healing was a promise, a promise to keep her safe and happy for all time, and that included her unborn babies.

Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xxx


Our Cloudpaw, is still having issues with his leg injuries, but we are improving! A post about his herbal journey soon!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Making Horehound Toffee with Lily

I just love it when I find an herbal book at a flea market, used book store or other spot, and it turns out to be a treasure. So it is with a recent find, The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices by Sarah Garland. This book is just full of useful recipes for using herbs and spices in cooking, cosmetics, soaps, herbal remedies, dyeing  and much more. There are lovely botanical watercolors and photographs throughout with wonderful diagrams also. The history and traditions section and the monographs are very good also.

Lily and I decided to try this nice recipe for making Horehound toffee, from the book. We really like it and think you will also:)

Horehound Toffee

3 sprigs of horehound (ours has already been harvested and dried so we decided to use 2 tablespoons to make it nice and strong with the medicinal qualities so we can use our candy as cough helpers also)

2/3 cups soft brown sugar

2 tablespoons of molasses

the juice of 1/2 orange

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pour 1 1/4 cups boiling water over the horehound and leave to infuse for 30 minutes


Strain, pressing to extract the juice. Pour the liquid into a heavy pan and add the remaining ingredients.

Stir to dissolve, bring to a boil and boil fast until a drop hardens in cold water. Pour the liquid onto an oiled marble slab or baking sheet (we buttered ours)


the instructions then say to mark out squares with the tip of a sharp knife. When it is cool and brittle, break it and store in an airtight container. We didn’t have the best of luck scoring it, so we just cut it up rather randomly with scissors before it was brittle, then tossed powdered sugar over them:) YUM, good medicine that tastes good too!


Herbal and Honey hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages


Monday, October 10, 2011

Nakey Trees

My little man, Dylan, has started Little Learners preschool program, which lasts 2 1/2 each morning during the week. We are getting in to quite the ritual of going to the woods near his school, when I pick him up. Luckily, we never get lost as he carries his compass with him and consults it often


He likes to also carry his whistle, and walkie talkie headset, just in case you know

We find all sorts of interesting things each time we take our woods walk. Walnuts full of worms, hedgeballs and buckeyes….

We like to pack a picnic and sit and enjoy the peace and quiet of the leaves drifting down all around us making a blanket for us to sit on

Sometimes Dylan’s doggie Zoey gets to come with us!

As we were watching the leaves the other day, Dylan looked at a tree quite bare of leaves, got an impish look on his face, and declared “Nakey trees!”:) I love the way he is being able to identify some of the leaves these days. And he asks constantly for the names of ones he doesn’t know. I got a real thrill the other day when he found a white aster, and looked at me as if to answer his own question when he said/asked, “this isn’t chickweed is it Grandma?” No sweetheart, that is an aster:) You see Dylan has his own chickweed garden at home and he loves to happily munch it all the time

With Dylan starting school I have come to realize that there will be a lot more of this from now on…he leading me to follow

These are the same woods Eric and I recently found Black Trumpet mushrooms for the first time! We actually found quite a few different sorts that day


Friday, September 23, 2011

September blow soft,-Till the fruits’ in the loft…



(art and title from The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden)



That quote seemed appropriate with so many of us canning, freezing, drying, and storing food by for the coming winter


(Earl of Sixth Avenue, inspecting the harvest)


(Peppermint wondering if it is for her)

erics picture 405

(the old pear tree Eric and I found a few years ago, in the woods)


(my forager basket was full! How blessed I am to live in our beautiful world, eat of her fruits and hang with my bro!?)

We spent a whole afternoon peeling and chopping up those pears. (All while watching the first season of the Walking Dead! lol! Myths and lore of all flavors fascinate me, and when mixed with survival type situations, I can’t resist! Even if I do have to cover my eyes occasionally). We then canned these pears in a water bath canner. We spiced ours with a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, crushed spiced bush berries, (you could use allspice), and tiny pinch of cloves, into each jar before processing.

We are pleased to even have our modest amount of homemade preserving to help nourish us this winter.


Do you see Comfrey Fairy watching over all? Some of this years harvest. Top shelf is herbal honeys, and oils. Then we have violet jelly, spiced pears, peaches, jams, tomatoes, green beans and others. I love to give specialty preserves and jellies for special occasion gifts.

We made peach vinegar from the trimmings this year. Peach pit tincture, and my favorite, I can tell all ready…Mrs. Reppert’s  recipe for fruited Peach Vinegar!


Note the sassafras roots we  managed to harvest, when transplanting some sassafras saplings from my stepsons hedgerow, to the hedgerow we are planting.

Our Mother Earth sent me another gift, just yesterday. One of her own, who passes between the worlds, came and danced for me :) She seemed to be trying to lead me down this ravine…. I was on my way to our beekeeping meeting and it was near dark… so thought best to go back and look, with Eric in tow this weekend. I do not know if there was anything physical she was trying to show me, but I do know what she means as a totem animal when she addresses you. I have recently found friends who enjoy discussing the same things I am into, and amongst other topics, we talk about our dreamland experiences. Today I explore what it might mean for Groundhog/Woodchuck to choose to invite your attention. I am ready to follow….


See how she looks over her shoulder? She would dance, then go a few feet, look over her shoulder at me, dance and go a few feet, all the while heading down the ravine…

Marmota monax, travels between the worlds of burrows dug into the earth, water, and land. She will be entering true hibernation and trance dreaming when winter comes. When I see her I think of her messages and reflect she is a powerful creature, often the totem animal of Mystics and Shamans. She symbolizes altered states, like lucid dreaming, Shamanic journeying, and trances. She reminds me to mark my boundaries, store for winter, build my home, be prepared, manage my metabolism, know when to go to ground and to burrow deep into my journeys… I will embrace her presence, now when I enter dreamland and allow the experiences there to develop and be learned from…I feel very honored that she has come forward to be my guide as I explore these others realms..they have been calling to me and I have held back from the whole experience…I was waiting for my guide..

How appropriate she appears on the Autumnal Equinox/Mabon/Harvest Home. Which reminds me of one of Eric and I’s favorite book, Harvest Home! lol! I am Widow Fortune and he is Worthy:) See? Otter still is with me as I had to lighten up a bit before I entirely lost those of you who aren’t into Woodchuck’s message!

And I wanted to share with you all a very nice video on Edwardian Herbs. I love this whole series, so explore around enjoy the other videos also

And in case you have not read this series, by Susan Wittig Albert, and enjoy Victorian and Edwardian books, I highly recommend Bill and Susan’s mystery series, The Robin Paige Victorian- Edwardian Mysteries!

I will hopefully get permission to post the spiced peach vinegar recipe soon! I will explain my steps for making peach scrap vinegar, and why in the world I would make peach pit tincture then. Those of you interested in trying some of this tincture or vinegar for yourself, stick around, I will be having a fall giveaway:)

Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Drift Watch -- Register your Pesticide Sensitive Area Here!

This tool is for US beekeepers, and others with pesticide sensitive crops and habitats, (things like apiaries, fruits, grapes, nursery crops, vegetables, pumpkins, melons, certified organic livestock and crops, fish farms, floriculture and greenhouses, christmas trees, hardwood plantations, mints and herbs, and others), to help protect them from pesticide spray drift . Driftwatch registry is fully up in running in several states, and from the info I can gather on the site, other states are in the process of joining in. It only takes a moment to register and I was pleased with the ease of it all when I registered at my states Driftwatch site.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Full Disclosure!

It had been at least four weeks since Eric and I last visited the veg garden we put in at our nephew Scott and his wife Dawn’s, garden. Friday nite, there was a small break in the horribly hot weather we are having so we went to visit and found this…


lets see some more angles, just so you know the full truth



Not surprising with the relentlessly high heat and humidity we have had. The same weather that I simply melt in and develop shingles in. Really, it wasn’t devastating to me or anything, even though our corn did poorly, the beans disappeared we still are getting plenty or squash, gold potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli and other things:) Besides, I am fond of a few of these “weeds”. Poke, sheep sorrel, cleavers, ground ivy, chickweed, lamb’s quarters and others have been providing a playground for some adorable baby bunnies who were running around like little dervishes!

We went ahead and did a bit of tidying and harvesting and yesterday we started putting things up for winter by doing some dehydrating of tomatoes while enjoying tomato sandwiches and elderflower cordial:)

the potatoes that got speared with the fork, while digging, were cut up and frozen in the freezers. the others we are going to put up in buckets full of sand and store in the basement for the future. We have lots of squash and some we are going to go ahead and bake, scoop and freeze, some will be sliced up and frozen for later.  We are going to try and arrange root cellar type pallets or something in our basements to store some and this will be a first for us also, so will share with you all when we do.

To reward ourselves for our valiant foray into the wild and wooly garden we escaped to the lake for awhile and enjoyed harvesting a bit of monarda while there

More disclosure on the gardens around Comfrey Cottages soon. Including the beautiful burdock that is the official greeter at my front door:)

In the meantime, I disclose that my husband periodically goes to the store and lays in his supply of soda, plus many other unhealthy things! lol! I do indulge every so often, I must admit!

The kittens are 8 weeks old now, and I seriously should start trying actively to find them homes while they are still little… seems that is when people want to adopt but I find it so hard to consider when Peppermint still allows them to nurse


So I also disclose I have too much on my plate… I always do, and wouldn’t have it any other way! lol! Having a full plate is not something we always actively seek, but is sometimes just given to us by the web of life.  My gardens and a home are far from tidy, but all creatures and people within my sphere are happy and healthy so I am content.

My darling little herbie apprentice and granddaughter Lily celebrated her 7th birthday by getting feathers in her hair! lol! The apple of my eye! xxx

Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx I hope I haven’t scared you off from visiting again! :)