Saturday, March 31, 2012

Acne and Eczema – Springfield Sanctuary Research Task

As part of our research on the function of skin and blood, we were asked to look at why people develop acne and eczema, and to explore which herbs might be helpful.

Acne occurs when hair follicles become plugged with dead cells and oil. As we learned earlier, hair follicles are connected to sebaceous glands. These glands secrete sebum, an oily substance which lubricates your skin and hair. Sebum normally travels up the hair follicle and out onto the skin, but when there is an excess of sebum or dead skin cells, these can plug up the end of the hair follicle and form a soft plug where bacteria can thrive.

skin2                            (picture from WikiMedia Commons)

This plug may cause a whitehead (closed comedone) by producing a bulge in the follicular wall. A blackhead (open comedone) is formed if this plug is exposed to air. Blockages that occur deep on the hair follicle produce cysts. Pimples occur when these blockages become infected or inflamed. Hormones, certain medicines (such as androgens, lithium, and corticosteroids ), and diet may all trigger or aggravate acne.  Overactive sebaceous glands may cause acne. We might see acne on the face, head, chest and back if this is the case. Contact irritants such as laundry soaps, dryer sheets, soaps, lotions etc may cause or aggravate acne. Experiment with removing or changing these products, especially if you use fragranced ones.

I do want to share what I learned about acne that develops in adult women may be a sign of pregnancy, polycystic syndrome or rarely Cushing’s Syndrome, so things to be aware of. It is not uncommon for acne to be related to normal hormone fluctuations related to menstrual cycles, or puberty.

Possible Herbal Helpers for Acne:

My friend Helen Compton, was a consultant on this timely article about using Thyme is the treatment of acne.

My dear friend Lucinda, suggest Viola may be of benefit in both eczema and acne in this post.

Other suggestions to help control or alleviate acne, could be:

Garlic oil to combat infection. Perhaps rub a cut clove on the affected area. Add garlic to the diet

Basil which you can apply the leaves directly, make a wash or apply the tincture with a cotton ball.

Tea Tree oil or Lavender oil ( anti-pruretic, or anti- itch, anti- inflammatory, antimicrobial) –diluted 1 part to 10 parts water and applied. Alternatively, a couple drops of either oil could be added to bentonite clay and a little water, and applied as a paste to draw out and dry up acne.

Cabbage is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Liquidize fresh leaves and witch hazel, strain, add 2 drops lemon oil and use as a lotion. ( Penelope Ody recipe)

Rose petals, to remove the heat. Use as a water infusion, a distilled rose water.

Calendula taken as an infusion or tincture may help with overactive sebaceous glands. As could borage, taken in the same way.

Sebaceous acne might be helped by combining peppermint and elderflower in a pot of water, brought to a steam and then used as a steam bath. Follow with a an astringent toner of witch hazel with yarrow flowers ,  which are anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial.

The cause of eczema is unknown. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form.  Dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin, but atopic refers to allergic tendency, which is inherited.  While the atopic dermatitis is not cause by an allergy, eczema sufferers have a high risk of having or developing allergic conditions like hay fever or asthma.  Typically eczema can cause skin to be red, dry, itchy, even cracked or leathery. Serum may even ooze from the raw patches. Crusts of this serum may form. Lesions may bleed. It tends to run in families (genetics). Stress, sweat, heat, wool, synthetic fabrics, and different soaps can all be triggers, as can an allergic reaction to pet dander, mold or pollen. Winter time low humidity, living in a dry climate, not lubricating after bathing, being too hot or too cold, all could be triggers. Makeup, chlorine, dust, the list seems endless of things that can trigger or aggravate eczema. Just having dry skin can worsen the condition.  Perhaps an abnormally function immune system may be a cause.

Babies have a thick, crusty rash on their heads, which is sometimes referred to as a form of eczema and commonly called cradle cap. Studies suggest it might be related to a lack of biotin. Nursing mothers might eat more Swiss Chard, a good source of biotin. Externally, rosemary, burdock or heartease may be used as a wash. The nursing mother might consider drinking Violet leaf tea. Swiss scientist have suggested maybe massaging a small amount of borage oil onto the spots, and then gently brushing away the loosened bit.

Possible Herbal Helpers for Eczema:

My sweet friend Latisha shares her Eczema Dream Cream recipe featuring Hibiscus here. She also suggest Creosote bush.

Stellaria, chickweed, is demulcent and emoillient, refrigerant, a wound healer, blood cleanser and anti-itch and may be of benefit. May be used as a tincture, infusion, or in a bath using either the infused chickweed or chickweed vinegar added to the bath water. And of course, should be used in foods.

Borage oil, a source of gamma linolenic acid, an omega fatty acid and an omega 6 fatty acid, and essential fatty acid, may help by locking in moisture.

Evening Primrose contains essential fatty acids needed to maintain healthy skin. Take as a capsule or use as a simple.

Stinging Nettle, may help. It is astringent, a circulatory stimulant so is useful if poor circulation is a cause of the eczema, which is not uncommon as we age. It is also tonic. Take internally as an infusion or tincture or of course, as a food. Externally it can be made into a cream or ointment. Plantain may also be useful in this type of eczema.

Birch leaf tea

Other blood cleansing herbs such as red clover, cleavers, figwort, heartsease, yellow dock, dandelion and burdock may all be helpful in both eczema and acne. Use them as simples, as foods, in combinations with each other. Purifying your blood and system of toxins with these herbs may be of great benefit! Of course, Sassafras root bark is a great blood purifier also.

A non herbal helper for eczema to be considered might be light therapy.

In the book Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth, Dr. Sharol Tilgner suggests this skin formula to help acne, eczema and other conditions which are indicated by dry, itchy, scaly skin. She also stress that the underlying condition be address, be it stressors, poor liver function, etc

Skin Formula

Burdock  30%- 45%

Oregon Grape 20% – 30%

Sarsaparilla 10% – 20%

Nettle 10% – 15 %

Horsetail 5% – 15%

This assignment has me perking my “ears” everytime I am reading one of my herbal folklore and ethnobotanical  books now too! I think I will save some of those finding for another post in the future though, as they warrant a post of their own!

Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx


Queen of the Sun – What are the Bees Telling Us?

queen of the sun
I requested the movie, Queen of the Sun, through our interlibrary loan system to bring to this months beekeeping meeting to share. We were all quite moved by this  profound, film about the global bee crisis from Taggart Siegel, director of The Real Dirt on Farmer John. 

Queen of the Sun
The gentleman in the blue shirt you see at the beginning of the trailer is Gunther Hauk, a biodynamic beekeeper. He and his wife own Spikenard Farm and Honeybee Sanctuary in Virginia in the US. I really enjoyed his view. “ Colony Collapse Disorder is the bill we are getting for all we have done to the honeybee.. It is just a name we give the phenomenon where a a hive is found empty. There is food and honey but the bees are gone… The problem will not be solved by killing a virus, or a bacteria, or fungi because the problem is an inner one…. I am grateful for a crisis. The crisis will give us the possibility to learn something if we are willing. If the heart opens enough to tell the mind something…”
Grateful?! What a wonderful way to view this problem! I am so inspired by him as I am constantly trying to do this myself, find the positive in the negative. He is right. We have been determinedly moving toward destruction with our agricultural practices, and other non earth friendly activities,  but if we can all stand together, as a hive functions, as one super organism, we can instigate change to save the bees and ourselves. Each of our own individual choices and actions can contribute to the good of our planet.
Yvon Achard, a beekeeper and Bee Historian in Grenoble, France, is the gentleman who is beekeeping shirtless and tickling them with his moustache. Michael Pollan, who wrote the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Carlo Petrini, president of Slow Food, and Michael Thiele of The Melissa Garden Honeybee Sanctuary are amongst some of the people interviewed in this film.
queen of the sun
I suggest this as an excellent film for everyone to watch. It is not about just preaching to the choir for all of us who are concerned and trying to instigate change for the bees, it is also an uplifting, positive, forward thinking movie with excellent ideas, photography, interviews, and positivity! On the main website there is a link for instant viewing and suggestions to host a viewing party. I encourage you all to do either or both of those ideas!
Last night as I lay sleeping
I dreamt-marvelous error!
That I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
Antonio Machado (1875- 1939)

On the Queen of the Sun webpage, they have links for several ways to watch this movie instantly online using Amazon, !Tunes or Vudu. Click here to be taken to that page.

Honey and Herbal Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Monday, March 26, 2012

Remembered Remedies –UK Herbarium March Blog Party


I have had some interesting remembered remedies contributions!

My friend and fellow Springfield Sanctuary apprentice Jackie, asked me to share with you this lovely memory:)

All through my youth I recall my father keeping in the side cupboard a small tin of 'magic' ointment. That ointment would be produced whenever there was a hurt or accident with the promise that it would make everything better. It would cure all ails, from scraped knees to insect bites, eczema to chicken pox, burns and scolds. I swear as I got older and discovered boys it could even mend a broken heart!
I knew my sister felt the same way but I was a little surprised that my daughter would also recalled her grandad and his 'magic' ointment.
I don't think we've seen the 'magic' ointment for something like twenty years. It was long gone but still got a mention every now and again. 
Last year my daughter told me that she had located some. She was in a chemist and just happened to notice it. A buzz of excitement ran through the family. I told my mother. My mother told my sister. My sister, having related the story to her family, went on to tell me! So the next time we saw my daughter she had waiting for us three little tins, one each to treasure. It was so amusing, the first thing each of us did as we were presented with our long lost friend was open the lid and smell the contents. All of us letting out a contented murmur as we inhaled.
I'm thrilled to know that my grandson will grow up soothed and protected by his great grandad's 'magic' ointment.
What was this wonderful ointment that stopped many a tear I hear you ask... Why Zambuk of course..! A green vaseline type gunk with a unique smell.
The reason I'm passing on this story is because having acquired my new tin I looked at the contents list... The ingredients are 100% herbal. Good on ya Dad..!
Jacki “

Lady Barbara, of Lady Barbara’s Garden blog, shared her wonderful memories of how she was cared for so lovingly by her family at this link.

Allison of Allisonian’s blog shared her cool memory of Un-Syrup.

Fellow Sanctuary Apprentice Paules, of Spinney’s Herbal Sanctuary blog, shared with me about her Mum using Camphorated Oil on her for chesty conditions…
“The only thing I remember my Mum using whenever we had sore throat, chesty cough was not only Vicks heat rub but also Camphorated Oil, but she used to buy that
all ready made . .. but even so its the Camphor which is the significant ingredient. It would ease & open the airways. She would rub my chest with Camphorated oil, it was bought in a small glass bottle.”

Shullie, of Tales from the Under Gardener’s Lodge, shared Hot Ginger, Lemon and Honey tea (with an added kick), which sounds just perfect!

And my lovely Latisha shared this lovely rosy remembered remedy for a rose facial steam and a reminder about what it really means to be a strong woman

And my own Remembered Remedies:)

Much love and many thanks to all of you who contributed to make this such a fun and great blog party!
Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

My Own Remembered Remedies


My own memories of being unwell as a child, are of course hazy, but I do remember my Mom always being very attentive, caring, and assured on just what to do! As I was sitting down writing a rough draft for this post I got thinking about when my own children were little, (in the late 1970’s early 1980’s), and got ill with a bad cough, how my Mom told me to just go to the pharmacy and ask the druggist for a bottle of Paregoric , sign for it, and  it would do the trick. So, off I went to the druggist and asked for the Paregoric. He looked at me a little strangely and said he couldn’t give out that particular medicine anymore without a prescription as it contained Opium! It seems some of the first herbal medicines I was given as a little one was Paregoric which contains opium, anise oil, and camphor as it’s herbs:) I imagine it quiet my cough nicely:) lol! So a bit of herbal remedies there.

I do remember our family doctor, Dr. Edwin Baker, coming and staying at our home and using a croup tent with me when I was ill with the croup. We lived out in the country and to think that back then our doctor was so dedicated as to do house calls and actually stay with me until he brought me relief.. well, truthfully, I get misty eyed thinking of Dr. Baker. He was our doctor until I was ready to deliver my first baby. I was so disappointed he had given up delivering just that year! Anyway, the smell of menthol or camphor,( I don’t know which for sure he used and their smells are similar and I was so young), still remind me of this dear dedicated doctor!

Good old black salve, was used to help us if we sprain our ankle or other things. Used on us and the critters! It did have Eucalyptus oil and rosin in it, so a bit more herbally type of things were used to treat us

krestol salve

Of course, like most folks my age, Vicks Vaporub was slathered on both front and back of my lungs during colds. I especially remember this as I was swaddled in old clean cloth baby diapers and mom used a big diaper pin with a duck on it to secure it! 

vicksThe ingredients in Vicks are Camphor and Menthol , which both help suppress coughs and are analgesic, Eucalyptol which suppress coughs,  Cedar leaf oil, Nutmeg oil, and Thymol (which is antimicrobial and antiseptic). Again, lots of plant goodness, just not so cool with the petroleum base it was delivered in!

Another memory is of sickness that caused vomiting. The remedy for that, (besides I assume a few drops of Paregoric, lol), was cola syrup poured over chipped ice and ate with a spoon.

I wish my Mom was still with me. She would adore all the herbal explorations I am doing now. She loved to read and learn about home remedies! One of my favorite memories is of the time my dad got a horrible sunburn on his legs. Dad’s legs were lily white and he had on shorts and was bent down working on a reflective surface all afternoon and got a horrible sunburn. Well Mom had read that wrapping a bad sunburn would help it go away. Dad submitted to her wrapping his legs up in linen and the next day when she unwrapped them… they looked black! Holy Cow! But you know what? They healed just fine! lol! When my brothers and I got sunburns on our backs and faces during the summer, we went around smelling like a salad as vinegar was her favorite treatment for use on us.

Another fond memory is of her favorite saying when we came running in crying with little minor injuries, “It’s a long way from your heart, so calm down!” lol! Said with love, but in that tone that calmed down our hysterics instantly:)

So whereas I can’t remember any homegrown or foraged remedies, I do remember lots of love, tender administrations, and feeling that my Mom could handle anything that might happen! It has been fun to look up the ingredients for some of the remedies she used and see that there was a bit of herbal magic included:)

Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Balyolu: The Honey Road

I recently learned of Balyolu through Elizabeth Gowing’s blog, One Hundred Days of Honey. ( I recently wrote about Elizabeth’s book, Travels in Blood and Honey, Becoming a Beekeeper in Kosovo)


Balyolu (pronounced "Ball-yole-ew") The Honey Road, is the first honey tasting walking journey of its kind. The program is led and inspired by local women who are training to become world-class beekeepers & rural entrepreneurs.

An inspirational young woman named Catherine Jaffee, is the thrust behind this first of its kind adventure, Balyolu, The Honey Road in North Eastern Turkey. This is Cat’s story, of how she went to Turkey to research women and rural migration. Her blog fills in the rest of her story and how she  developed the idea of Balyolu. I invite you to cruise around her blog and really enjoy the pictures and stories of this lovely adventure. Balyolu is on my life list now!

Honey and Herbal Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xxx

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Can you guess what we are doing at Herbcraft eCamp?


chakra tea

herbcraft We are having so much fun! Happy Vernal Equinox everyone! xxx

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Ostara Issue of Pooka Pages is ready! Happy Spring Equinox!


Oh this Ostara issue of the Pooka pages is just wonderful! Darling coloring pages, craft ideas, gardening ideas, adventure quests, book suggestions, and a wonderful story! 

In case you missed last years issue click this link! And make sure to sign up for the mailing list and explore the rest of Lora’s wonderful site!

I want to mention that my friend Latisha has beautiful ideas for celebrating spring also! This is her post from last year with lots of ideas for you also to use to celebrate!

Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

(picture used with Lora Craig Gaddis’s permission) xx

An Introduction to Plant Identification – Free Webinar

The School of Modern Herbal Medicine is hosting a free webinar on learning plant identification. I know I have some readers that are new to identifying plants, and thought to share this in case they would like to sign up! This from the site:)

“It's great that modern herbalism allows us to purchase ready-made herbal products in capsules, tablets, tinctures and other forms. However, it's even more wonderful when you actually know how to harvest and use local plants. There's something magical about being able to pick a wild plant or even a common garden weed and process it into your own herbal medicine. It helps you to recognize the bounteous gifts of Nature that are available to us for free!
With the economic struggles many people are experiencing and the global problems that are happening, and are predicted to continue to happen, its also reassuring when you know how to turn to nature for food and medicine.
That's why we're offering a botany class via webinar. It's not that you have to be an expert in botany to know how to identify a plant, its just that understanding some basic botany, such as leaf and flower structures, types of roots and fruits and the characteristics of major botanical families really helps you when it comes to identifying plants.
In this free introduction to our Botany class, we're going to discuss basic flower parts and introduce the characteristics of several major botanical families. We're not only going to talk about the plant characteristics of these families, we're also going to discuss some of their basic chemistry and energetics.
Join us and start understanding plants as something more than a prepared herbal medicine in a bottle. Start to get to know the plants as the living creatures they are. You'll gain a whole new appreciation for Nature's medicines.
This is a webinar (a class taught via the internet). To register, to to:
The class will be recorded and a link sent to everyone who registers to download the recording and handouts. So, even if you can't make the live class, you can still get the material if you register.”


Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xxx

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Travels in Blood and Honey

I just finished reading the book Travels in Blood and Honey – becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo by Elizabeth Gowing.

bloodandhoneyI have followed her blog, One Hundred Days of Honey, for awhile. On it she shares lots of recipes which include honey or reviews of honey. ( I should snap on this idea and offer to review peoples honey if they would like to send a sample;-) ) Anyway, after reading this book, next time I am reading and commenting on her blog, Elizabeth will be a very real person to me. She shared so very deeply in her book and I have a new found deep respect and admiration for her!

I have wanted to read the book and just recently found it at the bookstore. I was mesmerized right away.Not only is it a wonderful story of a beginning beekeeper,  this is special, she starts keeping them in Kosovo, where she takes language lessons to be able to communicate with the locals. And not just one language mind you, but two, Albanian and Serbian! Her husband gave her a hive as a birthday present. The hive was on the land of a beekeeper who lived in the country outside of Pristina, where they lived. Elizabeth paints such magical description of her interactions with the beekeeper Adem and his family. Throughout the book is her stories of meeting both Albanian and Serbian beekeepers, interlaced with many other stories of her daily encounters and volunteerism in this unique land.  I would like to meet Elizabeth! I would venture to guess that most people would not strive to understand and immerse themselves so thoroughly in a culture where they knew they were not going to be living for long. She does just the opposite! Besides taking language lessons and learning beekeeping, she strives to really understand and connect with the people she meets and to learn the history and culture of the area. She starts many cultural and community ventures including, but not limited to, setting up venues where locals may come and sell their homemade goods, such as honey and needlework. This lady thoroughly immersed herself in this new temporary homes culture and her stories will make you have a real flavor of the area!

From this book I learned so much about Kosovo and its history and its future. It has a rich, diverse, sometimes tragic, violent history, but also a beautiful, hopeful future. The picture Elizabeth describes is of a generous, hospitable peoples, with a delicious food culture! Intermixed throughout are lots of recipes and cooking techniques that make one long to try and create them at home! This book should appeal to history buffs, foodies, armside travelers, beekeepers, and anyone else who just enjoys a wonderful non-fiction read:) I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it! And Elizabeth herself… I just have so much respect for her courage, honesty, integrity and ingenuity, besides her writing style is quite engaging!

Herbal and Honey hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Making Herbal Gels by Full Circle Botanicals

Ever wonder how to make an herbal gel? Well Full Circle Botanicals shared on their facebook page how they make theirs and were generous enough to say that we could share it. This is their direct quote,

“All the information here is available for sharing on FB and any other way. No limitations. We are just keeping the gift moving. It all came from the plants. Herbally yours, Michael and Patricia.”

So,  I thought some of you might not be on facebook but would enjoy trying your hand at this also:)

“At Full Circle Botanicals we have been making gelled extracts and decoctions for twelve years and have found them to be a good addition to our topical array. Gels fill the niche between salve/oils and liniments offering ease of application and effective penetration. Making gels in the kitchen is easy and quick and you will find ways to play around with the process to suit your temperament and needs.

Agar agar is the base gelling ingredient. It is made from marine red algae and is nourishing to human skin. We are currently using NOW powdered agar which you can find from several sources in different sizes by doing a web search. If you have some of the flake agar it works fine also and it is usually available at health food stores. We use alcohol extracts as well as decoctions. The extracts are concentrated and are good for first aid applications and the decoctions offer a non-alcoholic option which are preferred for use in everyday skin treatments.

This is a two step process since we want to cook the agar agar and let it cool and gel.

Agar agar: 1 slightly rounded Tablespoon of powder

1 quart filtered water 

2 Qt. sauce pan with lid

2 qt bowl- metal or ceramic

rubber spatula

Dissolve the agar in warm water which you have preheated in the saucepan. If you are using a gas stove I recommend a heat spacer or a thick bottomed pan. If you have difficultly controlling the heat you an use a double boiler but if you pay attention there should be no problem. Heat the agar to about 200 degrees. It is not necessary to boil it. Stir often and return the lid between stirring to prevent too much evaporation. When the agar has thickened and has bubbled a bit, remove from the heat. We pour the agar into another bowl to speed up the cooling and then cover and put in the refrigerator although if you are not in a hurry just set it aside and it will slowly cool and harden.

Once hardened we quarter the jell in the pan and then remove the four pieces. For your first batch we recommend using one quarter or less  depending on how much herbal liquid you have. Refrigerate the remaining for future use.

It may be best to start with a decoction so you can play around with it without fear of wasting alcohol extract. You can, of course, use decoctions and extracts in the same gel. Here is what you need next.

herbal extract or decoction

vegetable glycerin

electric blender

Optional: essential oils

Chop up the agar into little pieces and put into the blender. Run the blender to reduce the size of the agar and then begin to slowly add the herbal liquid. Blend-add liquid-stop.  Blend-add liquid-stop. Go easy taking time to mix the slurry with the spatula between blending. There is no perfect consistency so play around until it feels right for your use. You can add water if you don't have enough herbal liquid to finish it off . We often dilute the alcohol extracts . Add a bit of glycerin to smooth it out and add just a bit of tackiness. Go slow with the glycerin. Try 1/2 teaspoon for 8 oz. of the gel to start and you can add or reduce according to you preference. Now if you want to add essential oil this is the time to do it and blend one final time to mix it all well.

We find that gels made this way do not need refrigeration but with decoction-only gels you may want  to refrigerate. Occasionally some herbs may separate slightly but stir them and the consistency will return. Our favorite herbs to gel are Calendula, St. John's Wort, Arnica, Plantain, Comfrey  and Solomon Seal. Next on the list is Pedicularis. That's it. By the time you are done with one batch your imagination will take you in different directions. Enjoy.”

How many times I have wished for a non greasy feel like salves or oils! This will be wonderful to experiment with:) They also said that they will be adding more information about their gels, so I will share those also as they do. It is so nice to meet folks who feel like I do. This gives me a chance to clarify something about this blog also. I feel just the same as they do. If you read something on this blog you want to share with others, please feel free to do so!

I happen to have some agar and some st. john’s wort, comfrey and calendula, I guess you know what I am going to be experimenting with :)

For those of you unfamiliar with agar agar this is what wikipedia says. I have it on hand to use as a thickener in cooking and for making homemade jello like dessert:)

Have fun and please do share about your agar herbal goodies you make! I use soooo much St. John’s Wort and Arnica oils, it will be very nice to be able to hand out these less messy gels to my little village when they are sore and achy:)


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

Monday, March 12, 2012

Making Bitters – Springfield Sanctuary Task

One of our tasks has been is to create a digestive bitters. The taste of bitters stimulates saliva, digestive secretions, bile release and helps with appetite and digestion. Sarah has several entries on her blog about them, if you care to peek.The following is the recipe I chose to make for this task

GEDC6803I used the rind, with the white pitch intact, of a whole lemon and half of a grapefruit. To these I added a tablespoon of honey, some chamomile (which is a bitter herb) and topped it all off with vodka.

GEDC6804This will sit in the cabinet for a month before use.

Other happenings, I saw the first Robin bird last Friday! A true harbinger of spring around my home. Since then, the main flock is back and they are everywhere!

Dylan’s little chickweed container is growing. He has been able to munch them all winter, as it is in a protected spot. But we are seeing some new growth, along with a dandelion now.

GEDC6798We tidied it up some and he had a munch

GEDC6797  The he and Ariana enjoyed some sunshine and play


Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xxx 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Flying Alchemist

You are looking at some very focused, happy bees. See their little “grocery sacks” of pollen on their back legs? They are bringing home pollen, a main ingredient to make bee bread, also know as ambrosia. The workers bees forage the pollen of the male parts of flowers, (anthers). They comb the pollen off their hairy little bodies, and pack it in special pollen sacks on their back legs. Seeing this lets me know that the queen is alive and laying eggs! I was doing a jig today when I saw this! We went from snow to a sunny, albeit very windy, 60 degree day. I tentatively went outside to check the bees this morning when the temperature rose. It had been too cold for the bees to fly and I hadn’t seen them in a couple weeks. A nail biting time for beekeepers as you just never know for sure if the bees survived the winter until you see this! These bees were so focused on bringing in the pollen, they didn’t even care that I had brought them out a treat of a whole frame of capped honey! I never process all the honey I remove, instead, saving back several frames in case the bees have depleted their winter stores and need fed before the nectar flows start. They must still have a good larder as they completely ignored the frame! They were so focused on bringing in the pollen I sat within inches of the hive, unprotected, taking these pictures, and they could have cared less as they bumped against me and flew around me in their determinedness to get the pollen in the hive to pass off to the house worker bees. The house bees will use their head to pack the pollen into cleaned cells, that are lined with propolis , where they will mix it with honey/nectar,secreted enzymes, saliva and then seal it with more propolis, ensuring it stays free from contaminates and the development of bacteria and fungi. The sweet little nurse bees, who are only 5-15 days old themselves, will then eat the bee bread which will be converted to royal jelly, which they secrete from their head and feed to the young larvae for three days. If they feed the royal jelly any longer, the larvae will develop into a queen. So there is the difference between a queen bee who can live several years, and a worker bee, who usually lives about 6 weeks…the diet they are fed as a larvae!
I am one happy lady today. My little flying alchemists have survived another winter!
Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xxx

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Remembered Remedies


This sweet sign is on one of my apothecary cabinet doors. A friend made it for me a few years ago:) A perfect sign to talk about my hosting the UK Herbarium blog party this month!

This month I have chosen the theme of Remembered Remedies. This can be memories you have of an old family remedy, your village traditional remedy, your ethno groups remedies, just whatever the words Remembered Remedies mean to you!

Please either send me a link or if you don’t blog, your written piece, to by March 20th. I will post all of the submissions, plus my own post on the 21st.

Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages. I look forward to reading your remembered remedies!! 

ps I hope you all know that in an email the word at should replaced with the sign @  I wrote it like that to fool any spammer robots:)

Signs of Spring












roseand echinacea2012



echinacea, I don’t tidy until spring so the birds and I can enjoy them all winter:) These are of course not this year echinacea but last years, but I thought they looked cool with snow on them


Julie Child’s rose, which contrary to what others have said, is a strong licorice scented rose in my gardens:)

Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx