Monday, April 30, 2012

Free Webinar with Aviva Romm, M.D.- Herbal First Aid for Summer- Outdoor Kids

Free herbal webinar this Thursday! Presenter is Aviva Romm, M.D. The subject is first aid for summer for outdoor kids! Follow the link for all the particulars and to sign up! Host: John Gallagher from
from the site:
During this 90 minute webinar you will learn:
  • Six fun herbal activities you can share with your kids this summer
  • What to pack in your simple, summer herbal
    first aid kit
  • When to use herbs and when to see the doctor
    Simple herbal treatments for...
  • Bites and stings
  • Boo-boo's and ouchies
  • Sunburn
  • Poison ivy
  • Allergies

Buzzzzz-y Busy

I got a phone call the other morning that made my heart sing! A man in town had a bee swarm in his yard and was asking me to come fetch it! Free bees! It is hard to see it well in this picture, but that dark spot is a the swarm!
GEDC7575Luckily my son Tommy was home, so he came and helped me:) And took this picture of me
swarmme  swarm
Swarms are extremely gentle. They keep balled up around their queen, while scout bees fly off looking for a new home. Later, I went back to where I got this swarm and found a cluster of scouts who had returned to where there swarm had been. Imagine if you had told your family you would go off in search of a new home and when you returned, they were gone! So sad to even think about so….
scouts I went and retrieved them and reunited them with their family:) You see the queen’s scent was still there, and they would have just stayed right there until they died! I thought these little sacred lived deserved being cared for and brought to their family:)
I have a friend named Jim, who is in my beekeeping group. He bought a package of bees and I went to help him hive them. Package are one way you can buy bees. They come in a screen box, which has a sugar water can inserted in it to keep the bees fed while in transit. The queen is in a tiny screen box inside this package. One end of her cage is plugged with a candy, that the bees will eat and eventually release her.
GEDC7585GEDC7586  Jim had his beehive all put together and ready. We just removed some of the center frames and then poured the bees in, after removing the sugar feed you can see in the center of the top of the bee cage. It looks like a can of veggies or something..
GEDC7591  This is the queen cell, Jim is holding. He used the hive tool corner to break up the candy plug just a little bit more. We hung this cell between some frames and soon the workers will have ate out the plug and released the queen
GEDC7588 GEDC7592 GEDC7593 GEDC7597 The bees that didn’t pour/shake out were left sitting right outside the entrance. It wasn’t long until they marched out and joined the rest of the hive.
We got the veg garden tilled this weekend
GEDC7601 We garden at my nephew Scott and his wife Dawn’s house. Scott was so patient teaching Grandson’s Evan and Breven how to run the tiller
GEDC7603 GEDC7605 GEDC7606
Gerald and I went to the Civic Center in Peoria to see Red Green this weekend. Visit the link if you are unfamiliar with this comedian. Gerald has been a great fan of his for years so he had a great time:)
GEDC7584 We had one bummer this week though. We found a woodpecker in our yard that had a broken wing. We kind of guess it was probably hit by a hawk. We were going to try and heal and rehabilitate it to re-release it.. but it passed away within an hour of us finding it:( Must have been hurt worse than we could tell, although Gerald didn’t hold out good hopes for a full recovery to its wing to begin with..
On an up note…. Gerald gave Dylan his very first duck call. Dylan is always wanting me to drive Papa’s truck, as Gerald has duck calls hanging from the rearview mirror. Well, now he has his own:)
GEDC7579 Dylan had some sort of tubing that he was forever using to try and holler at the geese in the fields on the way to school in the morning. So cute, he will roll his window down and just start blowing and blowing this homemade thing trying to get their attention. When I told Gerald, he thought it was time he had a real one:) Quite the big little man now!
We went to the river this week, and I got some of the herb gardening done, but I should save those things for another post as this one has got quite long!
Herbal and Honey Hugs to all of you who visit Comfrey Cottages xxx

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Propagating a Rose Cutting with Honey

Rose is my number one ally with my Springfield Sanctuary Apprenticeship this year. Sarah asked us to start plants from seeds, etc. and since you can start a new rose bush from a cutting from an established one, I started exploring this. I found many sources suggesting using a rooting compound, and I will try that on another cutting, but today, I decided to try to root a cutting by dipping it in honey and then water. This is the video that inspired me to try this environmentally friendly way to root a rose cutting:)
starting a rose bush from a cutting
I have admired one of my daughter’s neighbor’s roses, and decided to use a cutting from it, with permission.
I do not know this roses name, but it has lovely pink roses that repeat bloom from spring to very late in the fall and has lots of lovely rose hips every year. I will let you know how this method works in a few weeks! I will try another cutting using rooting compound and see if I can discern a difference on the success or (perish the thought!), the failure!
 Herbal and Honey Hugs from all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012

This blog post is my contribution for Lucinda, of Whispering Earth, UK Herbarium blog party. I thought it had been 42 years since the founding of Earth Day, and perhaps some people might not be aware of its beginnings and magnitude on how most of us now view our role in relation to our Mother Earth. I have also included my favorite poem, in honor of this Earth Day.

The history of Earth Day, began with a protest, here in the United States. April 22, 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson organized this grassroots movement to educate Americans about the importance of environmentalism. 20 million people participated! This event inspired the development of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Protection agency that same year. Greenpeace was founded the next year. This new awareness and advocacy for our planet was the thwart for the passing of the Clean Water Act, The Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Senator Nelson lost his senate seat in 1980, and went on to join the Wilderness Society. In 1995, President Clinton bestowed upon Mr. Nelson, the highest American civilian honor award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his role in founding Earth Day.

On the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day, it went global, with 200 million participants and 141 countries participating! Recycling efforts around the world increased and this event inspired the 1992 United Earth Day Summit.

184 countries and 5000 environmental groups met for Earth Day 2000 focusing on global warming and the sustainable energy.

Gaylord Nelson was a global treasure and lived to see Earth Day become an annual global event with estimates of over a billion participants. He truly changed the game from global residents being merely earth users to earth stewards.


Earth Day poem video.

If the Earth were only a few feet in diameter, floating above a field somewhere, people would come from everywhere to marvel at it. People would walk around marveling at its big pools of water, its little pools, and all the water flowing in between. People would marvel at the bumps on it and the holes in it. They would marvel at the very thin layer of gas surrounding it and the water suspended in the gas. The people would marvel at all the creatures walking around the surface of the ball and at the creatures in the waters. The people would declare it sacred because it was the only one, and they would protect it so it would not be hurt. The ball would be the greatest wonder ever known, and people would come to pray to it, to be healed, to gain knowledge, to know beauty and to wonder how it could be. People would love it and defend it with their lives because they would somehow know that their lives could be nothing without it. If the earth were only a few feet in diameter.

by Joe Miller


Joe Miller’s wonderful book. I recommend it as a gift to the young person in your life or for a friend who is due a very special gift.

How will you honor the day?

Today I will be working in the gardens. We have three new neighbor boys ages 9, 10 and 14. They have become frequent visitors here at Comfrey Cottages and have been most receptive to and inquisitive about the herbal gardens and the bees. I will spend the day not only planting and tending my own medicinal herbs for crafting home health products, but also the native plants which benefit our native pollinators and birds. I will also be playing it forward, helping to shape young minds with awareness and joy of these activities.

Happy Earth Day, today and everyday, with love from Comfrey Cottages xxx

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rose Hip Candy and other Rose Hip Recipes

My friend Leanne, of Cottages Tails blog, and fellow Springfield Sanctuary apprentice, asked if I had any rose hip recipes. She lives in New Zealand and so it is in fall time instead of springtime for her:) Since I will be posting rose hip recipes anyway this year as part of my apprenticeship, I thought I might as well go ahead and post a few now, instead of fall when it is my rose hip time
rosehips                                   from WikiMedia Commons
Rose hip Candy (posted by Janet Woodring Haines on
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
  • 1 cup (240 mL) rose hips
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (40 mL) water
Wash the rose hips with a spray or under running water. Drain and pat dry gently with paper towel or a clean cloth towel. Remove the seed from each rose hip with a small coffee spoon or pointed knife.
For each 1 cup (240 mL) rose hips, dissolve 1/3 cup (80 mL) sugar in 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (40 mL) water. Add rose hips to the sugar-water and cook over medium heat. Be sure all hips are coated on the inside. This is easiest done by tilting the pan and spooning the syrup over and around them. Shake pan occasionally. Cook until rose hips are just about to burn, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove hips as quickly as possible from pan - but individually, if you can - dropping each onto a sheet of waxed paper that is covered with granulated sugar. (Use two forks for this process. ) Separate any nested hips. Sprinkle sugar over them, then roll in the sugar until the hips are well coated on all sides.
While they are drying, break off any hard bits of sugar. Add more sugar and toss the hips gently with two forks. Store candy in a glass jar.
It is not advisable to try more than 1-1/2 cups (360 mL) rose hips at one time. For that amount, use 1/2 cup (120 mL) sugar and 1/4 cup (60 mL) water. It is best to have the hips only one layer deep in the pan to avoid nesting of hips. Also, the syrup thickens fast while you are removing the hips from the pan.
A winner of two blue ribbons at the Southeast Alaska State Fair
Recipe Source: One Hundred Years in the Kitchen by Mary Scott Peters

I found these rosehip jelly and jam recipes interesting and yummy sounding, from Elise, on Simply Recipes
And one for rosehip and apple jelly at The Cottages Smallholding blog.
Maybe some rosehip catsup might strike your fancy, Leanne!
Rose hip Catsup
1 qt. Rose Hip puree
2 c. vinegar
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. Salt
Dash of cayenne
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Cook until thick. Bottle in sterilized jars or old catsup bottles.
There are pudding, bread, and fruit leather recipes here:) I will post more recipes throughout the year!
Please make sure and blog about any of these ideas you tried:)
rosehipfairy                                             Cicely Mary Barker
Herbal and Honey hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

I am a winner ….but I feel sad!

We have a plant nursery in Fairview, about 15 minutes from my home, that is under new management. Eric and I went to visit it last weekend during their grand opening. They were offering different prize drawings in celebration, and we entered. Monday I got a phone call that I had won my choice of apple trees! Where oh where was I going to plant an apple tree in my yard! We have 5 mature maples already, and our white pine….

GEDC7413 Later that same day Eric called and asked me if I had seen his back yard . I babysit Dylan at his home right across the street from Eric. I said no, why? Well the big winds we had on Sunday night had caused a huge limb in Eric’s Tree of Heaven to fall, hitting his porch awning and the fence! Gerald and I went over to survey the damage and Eric called his insurance agent and got the name of a tree removal company. The removal company quoted Eric a very good price and it got Gerald and I thinking that we had put off doing something about our pine too long, and we called them also. They quoted us an excellent price to come and remove half of our pine tree. You see, about 20 years ago Gerald’s daughter had brought the pine tree home from school on Arbor Day. It used to be that on Arbor Day the schools always sent the children home white pines. A silly tree to plant in most yards in town as they just get huge! Well, our tree had been planted waaaaay too close to the house and it’s roots have started to damage our basement wall and its limbs have caused us to do roof repair before. We had just been putting it off and putting it off as it is so expensive to do tree removal work, plus the sentimental value. I had become so close to this tree and have wrote about her many times in previous posts. But here we had a free tree that would suit the spot size wise, a reasonably priced tree remover, and so the time seemed right.

Our pine before. The tree guy said it could have easily grown another 50 feet before full growth!

We decided to just take it half way down so it could still shade the house, while the apple tree grew a bit. In a year or two we will take it the rest of the way down, if it lives from this butchery :( 


I gathered the green pinecones to tincture and the dried last year ones to make fire starters


 I chose a Golden Delicious apple tree as my prize, as with research, it seems to be the best one for self pollinating, and its apples are wonderful just to eat, and they hold up well for canning and cooking:)  So you understand the title of this blog post now. I might have won… but, I am sad that it is the beginning of the end for my special white pine :(

Honey and Herbal hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rose Petal Jam

Some rose bushes are starting to bloom! Seems very, very early! Rose is one of my herbs I am studying in depth with my Springfield Sanctuary Apprenticeship, and as I have stated before, I am going to be sharing lots of recipes. Here is one I will be making as soon as I have enough lovely rose petals:) I will show you pictures when I do!
4 cups rose petals
1 1/4 cups water
juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons rose water
1 cup white sugar
Slowly simmer the rose petals in water for 15 minutes. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil, stirring continuously until the sugar dissolves. Cook steadily for 15- 20 minutes, until the jam starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and stirin the rose water. Pour into sterile jelly glasses and seal. (The Herbal Connection Collection, Maureen Rogers and Patricia Sulick)
An alternative recipe  is this one, from a delightful book I am reading titled Rose Petal Jam Recipes and Stories from a Summer in Poland, by Beata Zatorska and Simon Target
Such a simple recipe to just use a mortar and pound the rose petals and sugar together:) Time consuming, yes, but nice! Make sure and choose the most fragrant roses you can find, and cut the white off. You can stack several petals together before cutting to save time.
rose petal jam
Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April Blog Party- UK Herbarium hosted by Lucinda of Whispering Earth

Lucinda, of Whispering Earth blog, is hosting this months UK Herbarium blog party. I adore what she has chosen as her theme, and invite all my friends to submit a write up or take the pledge she writes about! I really look forward to reading all the submissions this theme should inspire! Lucinda writes:

“As April 22nd is Earth Day, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to host a blog party with that theme. It is open to everyone who would like to join in and the topic can be anything that reflects some aspect of our relationship to our beautiful Mother Earth. You might like to share sustainable or wildlife friendly gardening tips, ways to save water in these dry days, a recipe that honours the bounty of the Earth at this time of year, a picture or poem that speaks of your relationship to the Earth, photos, natural healing advice, inspiring books… anything that you feel moved to write about will be just perfect.

To join in simply write a blog post on your chosen Earth Day related topic and email me the link by April the 22nd at I will share all the posts on the evening of the 22nd (UK time).

Even if you don’t fancy writing a post, you can make a pledge for Earth day here. The aim is to get 1 billion pledges of small acts that help to change the world. A wonderful way to focus our intentions and ensure that every day is Earth Day.”

comfreycottagesblissHerbal and Honey hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Saturday, April 14, 2012

It’s a bee.. no it’s a hummingbird,’s a moth that flies like a hummingbird and looks like a bee!


hummingbirdmoth1  hummingbirdmoth3




Thursday, Dylan, Ariana and I went to Lakeland park so the children could ride their bikes and feed the resident geese. We were playing and looking at the plants when suddenly I saw the above insect. I thought to myself, my gosh, that is the longest bee I have ever seen. On closer inspection I realized I was seeing an insect I had only heard of and never seen in person, Hemaris diffinis, a Cloudberry Clearwing Moth, sometimes called a Bumble Bee Moth! Click this link if you would like to learn more about this fuzzy moth!

We had fun feeding the geese

GEDC7396 And then I noticed one of my favorite scents on the breeze… the linden flowers are about ready to bloom… very early!


Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages!


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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tree Huggers




And big hugs to all of you who visit Comfrey Cottages xxx

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Honey for Maya- a film by Stephen Buchmann

Mr. Buchmann is wanting to turn this into a full length film

“Deep in the rainforest of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, in the shadow of his ancestors' great stone pyramids, one of the last Mayan beekeepers guards an ancient secret. It was passed on to him directly from his fathers in the Mayan language from long before the time of Cortez. He is one of very few modern Maya upholding the beecraft skills of keeping stingless bees. All is unveiled as Emmy award-winning cinematographer Keith Brust (Planet Earth, etc.) takes us deep inside the bees' hidden world and this ages old Mayan tradition for the first time.
Producer, director, copyright holder: Dr. Stephen Buchmann The Drylands Institute, Tucson, AZ and International Coordinator, The Pollinator Partnership ( Email: (
Cinematography: Keith Brust, Wildtime Media, Tucson, AZ
Editing: John Hadwin, Reelworthy, Inc., Tucson, AZ
Scientific Advisors: Dr. Rogel Villanueva Gutierrez, ECOSUR, Chetumal, QR, Mexico. Dr. David Roubik, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama City, Republic of Panama.
I'm actively fund-raising to finish filming and post production, expanding this 7 minute teaser into a full-fledged 50 minute documentary for US and worldwide television broadcast. If you are an interested funder, foundation officer or know someone who is, please contact me by email. I would like to finish this project before Dec. 21, 2012. Not much time left. :-) “

Stephen Buchmann


Tucson, Arizona, USA


I can’t imagine the thrill it must have been to witness this ancient art of keeping bees this way in person! I thought I would share this film in the hopes others might be interested in donating to get this film completed and also as it is just so very beautiful and interesting:)

Of the 500 or so species of stingless bees in the tropics, the Maya beekeepers favorite has been Melipona beecheii. The bees traditional name is xunan kab ( or kolil kab in the Mayan Language), means Royal Lady.

From a press release by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute:

Long before Europeans brought honey bees (Apis mellifera) to the Americas, Mayan bee keepers harvested honey from the log nests of stingless bees native to tropical forests. Now, colleagues from the Colegio de la Frontera Sur in Quintana Roo, Mexico and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) warn of the imminent demise of stingless bee keeping on the Yucatan — a result of ongoing cultural change and habitat loss.
"In our initial surveys of bee keepers working with native bees in the eighties, we estimated that they maintained more than a thousand active hives. In 1990, we only found around 400 hives, and in 2004, only 90. At this rate, we would expect the art of stingless bee keeping to disappear from the Yucatan by 2008." David Roubik, once dubbed "The Bee Man" in a National Geographic special about his work on Africanized bees, and recently featured on the PBS "Deep Jungle" series, would like people to take note:
"For thousands of years, Mayans were expert practitioners of bee husbandry, and honey was an essential forest resourceĆ¢€¦as a sweetener, as an antibiotic and as an ingredient in the Mayan version of mead. The Mayans, like other tropical forest cultures, worked with large-bodied meliponine bees that produce a variety of honeys. Their favorite, and one of the most productive species, has been Melipona beecheii, 'Xunan kab', which means, literally, 'royal lady'."
Of the 500 or so species of stingless bees in the tropical world Melipona beecheii is unique in that it was routinely propagated. Mayan bee keepers divided existing hives in order to increase the number of hives and honey production. "That technology is all but lost, but we'd like to see it turned around, not only to ensure the survival of meliponiculture as a way of life, but also to build up breeding stock to be re-introduced into the wild where bees play an important role as pollinators," Roubik explains.
But beekeeping is fast becoming a global monoculture. Africanized honey bees produce more honey, and therefore are an economically attractive option for bee keepers. In the Mayan tradition, a priest harvested stingless bee honey as part of a religious ceremony twice a year. Over harvesting kills the colony. Native bees may simply starve as deforestation, forest fragmentation and hurricanes reduce the availability of the floral resources they need.
Finally, most of the bee keepers on the Yucatan are old men living in rural areas where no one inherits their knowledge of the fine points of meliponiculture, specifically, how to propagate bees by dividing nests. Earlier this year, Rogel Villanueva-Gutierrez, first author of the paper, with Stephen Buchmann, Arthur James Donovan and Roubik published an amply illustrated handbook, in Spanish and Mayan, with step by step instructions for basic stingless beekeeping.



The Mayans believed that bees had cardinal virtues. Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Fortitude. They were also treated as deity. For more information about this, I suggest checking out this link!

And a good National Geographic article

And a very beautiful beehive altar

Honey and Herbal hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Free ebook – Early History of Bees and Honey

This book, by Mr. William Carr, was written in 1880, is a treasure trove of ancient authors and their writings and thoughts on bees and honey.

hieroglyph                       image from WikiMedia Commons


Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx