Monday, January 30, 2012

Imbolc Fun for Children

It might be winter time still, (in the Northern Hemisphere), but life is growing in our Mother Earth, and in the belly of many mother animals now. Imbolc means in the belly:) Whether your family celebrates Imbolc, Brigid Day, Candlemas or just excited waiting to see if the Groundhog sees its shadow,today I am wanting to share with you a delightful way to celebrate this time of year with your children. The Pooka Pages Magazine! ( This is a free download! Fun to print off and color the coloring pages)
This Imbolc issue has Elsie and Pooka sharing a recipe using foods that are traditionally used this time of year… cream, eggs and butter! An easy recipe to make with the child(ren) in your life. Take time to start some great discussions on where these foods come from.
In Elsie’s garden, she is sharing some simple methods to begin growing plants inside, in preparation for spring and trying to draw a plan for her garden… with Pooka’s help:)
The Storybook chair shares with us about growing Patience. Something we all might need as we wait for spring!
Lora Craig–Gaddis, the creator of the Pooka Pages, has granted me permission to use her artwork featured in this blog post. Thank you Lora! For you grownups, I invite you to visit Lora’s Gruenwold Cottage. There you can find one of the coolest herb rooms ever, lots of great recipes, beautiful stories about crows, music, poems, gardening, herb usage and all sorts of magical fun! Make sure and visit every room and in one, you will find a special book that will tell you more about Lora!
There is a special link on the Pooka Pages about Grimalkin, a new friend of the Comfrey Cottages kitties:)
Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Friday, January 27, 2012

Forget-Her-Nots Every Flower Has a Secret

Laurel’s mother passes away, just when she needs her most.. on the cusp of becoming a young woman. Her father immediately sells their home and moves them away from her mothers beloved gardens. Her grandmother is devastated and becomes withdrawn, even going so far as burning her own gardens!
Laurel starts school at a boarding school that her mother and her grandmother both attended. The only person she knows there is her cousin, Rose. She is lonely with few friends and deeply missing her mother, home and the supporting love of her grandmother.
Things begin to change one day when Laurel is giving a presentation in English class on the Victorian Language of Flowers. Strange sensations and thoughts begin to happen when Laurel interacts with the flowers she brought for the demonstration.  She soon learns she has the ability to affect peoples lives with the flowers she shares with them! Giving a spinster teacher a bouquet transforms the teacher's life with a love interest, and soon Laurel’s secret is out. Other girls begin clamoring for Laurel to give them flowers to help with tests or attract a boy. Being only fourteen years old, Laurel doesn’t fully understand or have the ability to have control of her power and many unusual things begin to happen to the girls who receive requested  tussie mussies and bouquets from her!
Ms. Suarez, who is in charge of the schools conservatory, takes Laurel under her wing and begins to reveal to Laurel her family legacy. Her grandmother finally recovers from the devastating grief of loosing her daughter, and joins in to help guide Laurel in learning to control her inherited power.
I highly recommend this book for young women. Very well written, entertaining, and enchanting. I found it a delightful read myself! Amy Brecount White has crafted an amazingly magical story!
 Hugs to All who Visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Thursday, January 26, 2012

HerbCraft – Spring eCamp


(click the picture in the right column of this blog, to learn more)

My friend, Latisha Guthrie, is offering a new herbal opportunity, for those of you interested in awakening your senses in the natural world, with the excitement of a child again!


“Campers will receive:

  • Detailed instructions on how to prepare six of the most basic and effective types of herbal remedies
  • Lively video demonstrations of the entire medicine making process
  • Complete PDF instructions including step by step photos
  • Encouragement for engaging your wild and primal self with weekly activities offering you a chance to deeply reconnect with the nature that is right outside your door
  • Gentle guidance into the sacred use of herbs with spiritual bathing, flower essences, plant journey and incense
  • A private forum to share your experience with other HerbCrafters “

This eCamp will not be dependent on the season you are now experiencing, so will be suitable for anyone interested  around the world! I like the idea of the forum too, as it will be so inspiring to visit and share with others in the camp! Please click on the HerbCraft calendula on the right column of this blog for more information and to sign up for notifications of when the camp begins. My little otter totem is especially excited about the spiritual bathing:)


Latisha’s Wild LifeNotes, a daily email containing an inspiring photo and quote, is a true joy! There is a clickable picture for her Wild LifeNotes information right under the HerbCraft picture, if you care to explore that also:)

I hope to go HerbCraft camping with many of you! This will be fun, educational and inspiring!

Big Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Free Webinars for You

Tomorrow evening, Wednesday 26th, the American Herbalist Guild is offering a free webinar entitled From Seed to Safe Use: Defining the Modern Apothecary. It will be presented by Eric Yarnell, Eric 'McKey' McKinney, and R. Erin 'R.E.' Murrell.  In this joint-lecture, they will  explore both the history and the many facets of the modern day apothecary, all the way from seed to safe use. You must register ahead of time if you are interested and on the site, there is a spot to click to figure out what time it starts in your area.


The Color of Vitality: Seeing Healing Constituents in Healing Foods and Herbs, webinar, Tuesday February 7th., via the Sylvan Institute of Botanical Medicine, will be taught by Lisa Ganora. “ What are the purple, blue, and red antioxidants in berries and what do they do? What anti-cancer constituents do carrots, sweet potatoes, and Dandelion flowers share? What are the hidden companion molecules of colorful chlorophyll? In this webinar we'll explore using the senses to detect, evaluate, & understand some interesting constituents and the synergy among them.” Click the link to pre-register for this also.


The School of Modern Herbal Medicine has been presenting some awesome webinars. I don’t know why I didn’t think to share with all of you about them earlier! And yet again, click above as many of them are still available for viewing and their handouts for downloading:) 

Webinars are a great resource for learning right from the comfort of your home! Enjoy, and please share if you do take advantage of any of these learning opportunities:)

Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx


Thursday, January 19, 2012

How to Grow Your Own Elderberry Trees

One of the nicest things about running a blog, is all the new people you meet! They sometimes ask questions, and when I try to answer them, I learn new things also! So this post is dedicated to my friend Arya, who asked if I knew how to grow Elder from seed. She only sees the bush in areas that might be contaminated. I had the same problem a few years ago. They are all over my county, but many times they are a long creeks that are too near crop fields or roads. I am real fortunate that my friend Valorie bought a new home that had a huge old Elder stand growing already, in her garden area. I have been able to harvest there the last few years, but two years ago I did start some saplings from Possum Creek Herb Farm, and was amazed that the year after planting them, they flowered and later had berries! They are just two years old now, so not harvesting from them yet, but soon I will just be able to go into my own gardens for elderflowers and elderberries!
A few other sources I found are for buying Elder plants:
at Dave’s Garden site I found a seller in Florida
Elderberry Life - Missouri
Horizon Herbs - Oregon
Nature Hill – Nebraska
Raintree Nursery - Washington
Willis Orchard - Georgia
Thanks to my friend Anke of Herbology, I can now include a couple of Australian sources!
The Diggers Club
All Rare Herbs
Well, I have never grown an Elder from seed so I went off on a search and found some information.
At I found this article for those of you who want to give it a try! I think I will try it also:) has planting and growing tips. Take time to look around the site for lots of information, discussions, and individuals who have Elder plants for sale also.
Now I am very sorry these sources for plants are for the US and Australia only.  I would love it if readers from other countries would give me the links to their favorite sources, and then I will revise this post to include them!
                                             Cecily Mary Barker picture
 Herbal and Honey hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Elder Bark for Bruises

One of the first tasks Sarah assigned to we Springfield Sanctuary year 1 folks, was to use elder bark to make a double infused bruise salve. First off is peeling the bark off
It peels quite easily and soon I had quite a bit peeled.
Next was to divide this peeled bark roughly into two piles.
Half went into the top pan of my double boiler with enough olive oil to well cover the bark. This smaller pan is fitted into a slightly larger pan, partially filled with boiling water.
(A double boiler can be any sort of arrangement where you have a smaller pan that fits into a larger pan. The idea of one is to fill the bottom larger pan with water that is heated to a boil, while the smaller pan sits inside it holding the  substance you are  infusing or melting. They are wonderful for melting chocolate, wax or other things that if put directly on the source of heat, would either burn or possibly burst into flames! Care must be taken to not have the bottom pan have so much water in it that when boiling it splashes water into the upper pan though, so that is something to watch for. You must not walk away from a  double boiler either, as vigilance must be maintained to make sure it does not boil dry!)
The elder bark was infused by this method for two hours, then strained through a piece of a clean old cotton pillow case, (use what you have folks! no need to go buy anything special). I let it cool a bit and then gave the cloth filled with this infused bark some good hard squeezes to get every bit out I could. The other half of the fresh bark was then placed in the top pan of the double boiler and the first infused oil was poured over this new bark and again, infused for two hours. (I did end up having to add a little bit more olive oil to the second batch to make sure the elder bark was covered.)
                Double infused elder bark oil
Sarah recommends that when you are using fresh plant material, it is best to wait three days to make sure any water content separates out.
The next thing was to make a bruise salve out of the oil. Using the double boiler method again, I heated the double infused elder bark oil in one pan and melted beeswax in another. You could just grate the beeswax right into the warming oil, if you prefer.
The usual proportions used in salves is 1 ounce of melted beeswax to 8 ounces of warmed oil. I always work on a glass cutting board, so after the warmed oil and melted wax have been combined, I  just put a bit on the glass, so it cools quickly, and I can see if I would like it either a bit firmer (add more wax) or a bit looser (add more oil). You can see my little test blob in this next picture
When you have the oil and beeswax in the proportions you like, just pour into containers to cool.
My friend Marci, had given me some lovely lavender essential oil, so I added a few drops to part of the salve, as lavender eo is good for bruising also. The other part I just left plain though, as I am curious to see how the elder bark plain does with bruising and I like the smell of it just fine plain. In fact, I thought it smelled wonderful while heat infusing on the stove top! I have never used elder bark before, myself, have you? You haven’t?! Would you care to? Leave me a comment letting me know if you prefer to try a tin with or without the lavender essential oil and I will draw a name Saturday and mail the winner a tin to try!
So just what is the structure and function of skin? And how does a bruise form?

Skin is our largest organ, covering approximately 20 square feet. It helps regulate our body temperature and allows us to have the sensations of heat, cold and touch. It helps protect us from the elements and microbes. It performs an essential role in respiration in the form of perspiration. Vitamin D synthesis also occurs here.
Skin is divided into three layers:
Epidermis – Outmost layer, creates our skin tone and a waterproof barrier (It might make you wonder when I said that skin is a waterproof barrier, how this salve will affect a bruise. Well skin might be a waterproof barrier, but it readily absorbs other things, like this oil/salve)
Dermis – Beneath the epidermis, contain hair follicles, sweat glands, and tough connective tissue
Hypodermis/Subcutaneous Tissue – The deepest layer, made from fat and connective tissue
Bruises form when small blood vessels under the skin tear or leak, most often caused by a bump or fall. Blood leaks into surround tissue, causing the black and blue color. As bruises (contusions) heal, they can change colors, as they heal, from purplish black, to reddish blue, or yellowish green. Initially, the bruise can appear quite red. It is the hemoglobin in the red blood cells, and the breakdown products of hemoglobin, that causes these colorful changes.
Most bruises are not cause for concern. You should be aware though, that if you have a severe bruise form, swelling and pain that begins within 30 minutes of an injury,  you might have a sprain or fracture.
It is possible to get a bruise and not even remember what you did to cause it. As we age, we loose our some of the fat under our skin, causing it to be thinner and less flexible. This change, along with skin exposure, causes blood vessels to break easily. When blood vessels break, bruising happens.
Ladies are more prone to bruising than gentleman, especially in areas like the buttocks, upper arms and thighs. A tendency to bruise easily can even be a family trait.
Sometimes a bruise will travel in the direction of gravity, so a leg bruise might take longer to heal than one on the arm, for example.
Arnica , Calendula , and Comfrey are a few herbs which might also help heal a bruise. If you find you bruise easily, you might consider adding Bilberry to your diet. It helps strengthen and protect capillary walls, which makes it a good addition to help any bruise heal and to help prevent new ones.
Big Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Guide to Finding Elder Trees in Winter


Elder tends to be between 5 and 10 foot tall,( but I have read some types grow taller), with branches that branch outwards from the base. They sucker, so it is common to find multi-stemmed sprawling thickets.


You can see in the above photo how many branches rather grow swooping out from the base. Some do grow more upright and don’t show the graceful swoop until they are loaded with leaves, flowers/berries.


A telling feature for identification is the warty like growths on the bark. Just little rough raised areas, (scabrous),as you can see in the above picture.The bark itself looks rather grayish with a very light red cast to it. 


When cut, you can see the stem is filled with a light, porous pith.




I hope this helps any of you who are having trouble identifying elderberry trees in the winter!

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

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Herb Group being offered in Derby!


Debs Cook, in the Derby area, has started the Herbal Haven Herb Group. Visit the link for all the details! Promises to be a fun, and interesting learning and networking experience!


Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year, A New Herbal Journey – Springfield Sanctuary Apprenticeship

I am very pleased to share that the new year brings a new herbal journey. I have been accepted for the Springfield Sanctuary apprenticeship program with Sarah Jean Head of the Tales of Kitchen Herbwife blog.

The first thing Sarah asked us to do was to pick 20 herbs to study this year, with one of those being our herbal ally. These are the ones I chose:

angelica                         Angelica archangelica


bergamont                   Monarda fistulosa 


burdock                         Arctium lappa and  Actium minus


calendula                      Calendula officinalis


chamomile                   Matricaria discoidea


cleavers                        Galium aperine


comfrey                         Symphytum officinale


dianthus                       Dianthus armeria in wild and Dianthus 

                                         caryophyllus in garden


evening primrose     Oenothera biennis


hyssop                          Hyssopus officinalis


lavender                      Lavandula angustifolias


meadowsweet           Filipendula ulmaria


milk thistle                Silybum marianus


nettle                          Urtica dioica


self heal                     Prunella vulgaris


st. john’s wort        Hypericum perforatum in garden

                                     Hypericum  punctatum in wild


vervain                    Verbena officinalis


violet                      Viola striata, Viola sororia and numerous  others                     native and Viola  odorata in the garden

violet  yarrow                       Achillea millefolium


with Rose being my herbal ally choice. Rosa ssp. (the different types I have available are just too great to list at this time!)

rosehip fairy

                         Rosehip Fairy by Cicely Mary Barker

I have included more than one Latin name in places, as I use both garden and the wild plants when medicine making. I will attempt to differentiate between the different types when doing the tasks this year. Perhaps doing the assigned tasks with each of the different species and seeing if I can discern any difference.

For those of you with interest, I have linked on my side bar to some of my fellow apprentices blogs. Sarah sent us several tasks to start out with already! It will be such a pleasure to be working with an herbalist that is so knowledgeable and eager to share that knowledge with us! What a beautiful way to start 2012 :)

Big Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xxx