Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Stroll

Started the day in Chicago visiting my baby brother. Went there to celebrate my twin nieces 5th birthday...
Lake Michigan

And ended my day back home to March going out like a lion...

Sharing this for Aisling's Sunday Stroll xx
Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Time to learn about gemmotherapy!

Maple Syrup making season is over for the year. My first year doing this has been a lot of work! But such a sweet reward. One of the ways to know the season is over, is the maple trees begin to bud. What a perfect time to explore a subject I have been wanting to learn more about, gemmotherapy! Gemma is Latin for bud :)

Gemmotherapy is a form of herbal medicine that uses remedies from the newly emerging Spring shoots and buds of trees and shrubs. It originated in France in the 1950s, in the work of a group of doctors who studied its use in detoxification treatments.  Subsequent research and clinical experience has confirmed its effectiveness in drainage protocols and also its applicability to many common conditions.

From the School of Gemmotherapy:

“These are the embryonic plant tissues, which contain the meristems or plant stem cells by which new growth occurs. The embryonic tissues also have high concentrations of nutrients, vitamins, plant hormones and enzymes.

Gemmotherapy remedies have a multiple action:

  • drainage and detoxification of the whole person or of particular body systems
  • regulating physiological functions (whether they are hypo- or hyper-)
  • supporting and toning the tissues and organs

Their basic draining action may be explained by the outward-moving energy of the buds and young shoots.

Gemmotherapy takes its name from 'gemma', the Latin word for bud (and also for a precious stone, though there is no connection between gemmotherapy and gem therapy).

The remedies act predominantly on a physical level. They are used in a variety of clinical situations and can solve specific problems that come up all the time in practice:

  • to clear environmental toxins or metabolic waste products from the organs and tissues as part of a detoxification protocol
  • to drain the emunctories (= the organs of elimination) when they are underfunctioning
  • to stimulate the immune system
  • to support, nourish and maintain weakened or susceptible parts of the body
  • to prepare the body for the deeper action of another treatment, such as a homeopathic remedy, when there could be a risk of an aggravation
  • synergistically with other therapies, for a greater combined effect
  • when deeper forms of treatment are too slow in bringing relief of physical symptoms
  • symptomatically for the relief of acute, sub-acute or chronic physical symptoms
  • to calm aggravations without throwing off any underlying curative action that may be taking place
  • as a stop-gap to buy time while you work on the case

Most often used by naturopaths and homeopaths, gemmotherapy can easily be combined with any other kind of treatment, such as chiropractic or osteopathy. As Marcus Greaves MD has pointed out, gemmotherapy can even be used to help conventional medication work better.”

Nick Churchill MA(Oxon), RSHom, founder of The School of Gemmotherapy discusses what gemmotherapy is in this video

Buds, Meristem and Energetics

I was thrilled to discover that Nick Churchill is offering a free introductory course now. It runs from March 15th and last four weeks. All you need is a google account to be able to participate.

I have had this fascination with this modality for awhile and think learning more about it will be very interesting! I found this link which tells which plants are generally used and the conditions they can be useful for.

I thought to share about this new journey in case any of you have been curious also. Now is the time to explore a bit more with this free class offer. The course started already, but late comers are welcome.




Glad this is a short course, because now that the Maple syrup making season is over, I must start focusing on beekeeping preparations soon!


Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Sunday, March 17, 2013


As I was standing near the cookstove, tending the maple sap today, I noticed my ally Maple’s reflection in the pan of sap…
When we open our senses to a new ally, we begin to see so many new ways.
We had a large maple branch fall and this is what we found inside of it..
Our maple tree is not only providing us with sap for syrup, but fuel for the fire, home for our feathered bird friends and furred squirrel friends… and much for me to reflect upon as well…
adventures in maple syrup2
adventures in maple syrup
And my special daily buddy, grandson Dylan turned 5 yesterday. I volunteer in his preschool class once a month. Friday we celebrated his birthday. Proud Grandma when we were coming in from playing on the playground and he stopped the whole line of wee ones to bend over and pick something up.. then proudly announced as he held it up high..”The first chickweed of the year! “
Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

I am linking this up to a favorite blog of mine, The Quiet Country House by Aisling and her Sunday Stroll!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

More Stillroom Book Pages

I am having so much fun creating this! Funny how now I look and see so many things that can be made into elements of these pages. I am trying to do a side of a page a day, and at the same time, create a few blank pages and envelopes for the future.




(not overly fond of the heading details of that last photo.. probably will rework it soon! lol!)

GEDC9064 (the one I am working on now)

I can’t wait to start the sections on fairy lore, folklore, and history!

When I decided a few weeks ago to start affixing some of last years flower pressings, I was putting the cart before the horse.. In the future I am going to wait until I am arranging a page to affix them. You can see the rose I cut out of one of those already done pages, just isn’t right with that white background.. something else I will probably either improve on or remove until I have a new pressed flower to replace it with this year.

Something else I learned, those magazines you might have laying about with the article or recipe you don’t want to forget about. Go through that magazine again, cutting out any elements that might be useful in the stillroom book later, plus the recipe or article you saved the whole magazine for anyway. Then you are ready to recycle it and un-clutter your house at the same time:)

Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Inadvertent Ally

I started maple syrup making this year, just because I have always wanted to. I knew real maple syrup was healthy for you.. but I didn’t know just how health it was…Wake Up World website recently published an article entitled, “Enjoy the Surprisingly Sweet Health Benefits of Maple Syrup”.  Amongst the benefits listed are:
“… maple syrup is nutrient rich in thiamine, manganese, and zinc. Adequate thiamine (B1) is essential for proper cardiac function, prevention of cataracts, and Alzheimer’s disease. Thiamine also reduces the effects of aging and encourages proper digestion. Manganese is linked to energy production, proper thyroid function, sex hormones, balancing blood sugar levels, and the absorption of calcium. Manganese is also a strong antioxidant, protecting against free radicals in the body. One ounce of pure maple syrup provides 46 percent of the daily value of this essential mineral. Zinc helps protect the heart, controls diabetes, aids in wound healing, and helps to alleviate the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Both manganese and zinc are powerful immune response boosters.”
How exciting about the indications for helping with cancer and preventing diabetes.
“As seen in the Journal of Medicinal Food, maple syrup has been shown to prevent diabetes and is a potent ally in slowing cancerous cell growth. Maple syrup has high levels of phytohormone and abscisic acid. These compounds encourage the release of insulin and improve the insulin sensitivity of fat cells which helps to combat metabolic disorders such as diabetes. A study at the University du Quebec a Chicoutimi revealed that maple syrup may be more effective against brain, prostate, and lung cancer than broccoli, blueberries, carrots, and tomatoes. Laboratory research shows that, due to its concentrated form, maple syrup is more potent than maple sap with pure dark syrup noted as best. “
In an article from Science Daily, I read this..
“"We know that anti-oxidants are present in the leaves, bark and twigs of the maple tree, so looking at the sap make sense."”
Which really spoke to me and a light bulb went off.. whether  I intended it or not.. I have a new ally this year! Maple Tree! I have used maple syrup for herbal extractions before, and of course, cooked with and enjoyed on pancakes, but I have plans for really expanding my use of it this year and will enjoy sharing recipes and other things with you.

Now, in regards to this first year of sugarin’, I have learned a few things, the hard way of course!

First, do use a piece of felted wool to strain your hot syrup. I tried just straining with a jelly bag and ended up with what is called sugar sand in the bottom of my jars. The only felted wool I could located locally was for craft projects, so I just choose the one with the lightest color and washed it out repeatedly with water, (no soap), to make sure no dye would bleed out of it.
GEDC9067 Just wash the felt out with hot water and line dry between strain sessions. I have a little clothesline type of deal above my sink at all times. Handy for many things, including drying the pages of my glued stillroom book :^)
GEDC9068 The accumulation at the bottom of this jar is sugar sand.

I also learned it is beneficial to have an alternate heating source to keep things going quickly, or in case you can’t be outside, due to the weather. This handy cast iron propane cooker was moved in the garage this past rainy weekend. I have sometimes used it in conjunction with the wood stove when I had a lot of sap to get cooked quickly.


I learned if you don’t have a dedicated building for maple syrup making, you still need to provide wind blocks to keep the heat up in your wood burner and to keep the flame going on the propane cooker. Thus the sheet of plywood in the photo on the other side of the wood stove.

I also learned it is  RULE never to try to cook the sap in the house, except maybe right at the end before bottling. Yup, got cocky one pretty day when some windows were opened and thought to hurry things along with an extra pot on the stove. Even with stove overhead fan sucking the moisture and windows open for it to escape, I had a dripping bathroom ceiling AND the most disgusting occurrence in the living room… my daughter came in the house, steam billowing out the door as she entered, and she pointed at the walls right above my baseboard and asked, “Is that mold?!?” Yikes! Luckily not, but, my walls are textured plaster in that room and thus, are hard to keep perfectly clean.. well they are clean now… the moisture washed the dust from the crevices of the texturing and it must have all gathered at the bottom on the wall… emergency cleaning session ensued…
See not everything is always perfect here at Comfrey Cottages!  I want to share the good, the bad and the ugly and not prop myself up as some Domestic Diva, thus my share about that little faux pax…;^) So never, ever get cocky and try to cook the sap inside.. you are warned graphically… although I will save you from a picture of that mess…

I almost forgot this one and had to come edit the post... if you are going to store your sap, until you have enough sap gathered or the time to cook, either keep it in the refrigerator, (if you have space), or keep it outside in a cold spot, like the shade, or a snow bank. It will go bad at room temperature in the house within a few days.. I had 3 five gallon buckets in my kitchen, thinking I was going to be able to cook it, and one thing after another happened and I didn't have time to. Within 4 days, at room temperature in the kitchen, it developed a bit of a yeasty smell. I went ahead and cooked some down, but the taste was off... Keep your sap cool by all means. I had to pour that soured sap onto the tree roots, feeding it back to them.
 I have enjoyed watching our squirrels going out to the very ends of the maple trees to eat the new leaf buds forming, and to nibble the delicate new branches. See the teeth mark in this photo?
New little buds are on all the branches. I will affix one of these in my stillroom book for my section on my newest ally, Maple.
Remember the bit above about antioxidants being present in the twigs and buds? I am guessing that not only are these are tasty morsels for the squirrels, but also like a spring tonic for them after their long winter! I chewed up one of the buds myself. It didn’t taste bad at all.. :^)
Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sneak Peek at Rose Page of Stillroom Book

Recently I posted about starting my stillroom book. One of the issues I discussed is I do not want just page after page of recipes taking up all the available pages in the book. I came up with an alternative I want to share with you. I am going to include envelopes that slip in to the protective covers, that I can put recipe cards, recipes clipped from magazines, etc. in.

First I found an envelope that was the right size.


Then I just gently unglued the edges, spread it out and traced it on the back side of the paper I chose to make my envelope from, and cut it out.


Then it was just a matter of marking or noting where the crease were and folding it. Take the side triangles to the middle to meet and then fold the bottom part and then the top flap. I used glue to seal the bottom fold to the two side folds.  I reached inside the envelope and reinforced it with a bit of tape. You can use old calendars, pretty pages from old magazines, left over stiff wrapping paper, just whatever you want to make these envelopes.


I will label the envelopes with a list of recipes in each.

I had fun starting some pages this week. I started with Rose as she was my primary ally last year and I have a lot of information I need to get sorted out anyway.

This first page, I cut out a piece of cloth, a remnant from a sewing project, as the background, and glued it to the page. Then layered it with lace and ribbons. I cut the word rose out of some scrap paper and then covered the letters with the same fabric, adding a button for the center circle of the letter O. I sewed the button on.


Since the flowers, hips, seeds and roots are all valuable parts of the Rose, I will be addressing each separately. I have started with the flowers.


As I mentioned in my previous post, I want to include brief-ish herbal monographs for each plant. (You can see my dots of glue on the page. It hadn’t dried yet when I took the picture. I recommend a glue stick instead of actual glue, but Lily had used mine up, so went with what I had.)

I have never been a particularly crafty person, so this is really appealing to a me as something that doesn’t take any special talent! lol! You can get fancy and buy a bunch of special scrapbooking paper and embellishments, heck, on a web search of scapbooking ideas I was blown away by the digital layering you can do if you want to go in that direction. You can use gorgeous old photos from magazines, old beat up unreadable books, wallpaper samples, or whatever you can think of and make a really pretty book with just odds and ends, without spending a young fortune though. It’s all up to you, it’s your creation. I will continue to share with you as mine develops. I just thought you might help me celebrate that I finally got started! :)

Now who says there isn’t anything herbal wise to do in the middle of winter?!

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

Monday, March 4, 2013

I have the best friends.. I have never even met!

Recently, my friend Wildcraft Diva  and I were discussing the fact that Horsechestnut trees, Aesculus hippocatanum,  are not a trees native to my area. We have the Ohio Buckeye,  Aesculus glabra, of that tree and shrub family. WD and I are in the Springfield Sanctuary Apprenticeship together.  Sarah, our mentor,  had assigned the task of making a cell wall strengthening salve from horsechestnut bark, and I was talking to WD that since that wasn’t a tree I had, I might experiment with Ohio Buckeye. She immediately volunteered to send me some of her bits from her stately, old horsechestnut tree that grows in her gardens! The package just arrived…


I was tickled pink she included a couple bars of soap she had crafted. It smells heavenly and I can’t wait to try it! If you look around her blog, you will find that she has experimented quite a lot with horsechestnut.

We have also been sharing recipes for wild foraged edibles, and I had asked her in an email if she had cattails available. Well, what I call cattails, she calls bulrush and we had some miscommunication going on. She thought I wanted her to send me one for pressing in my stillroom book, so she included one! lol! Actually, I had some good cattail recipes to share… :) Don’t you just love the differences in language usage? I know I do!


Now how to press that in the stillroom book…?

This photo shows how much horsechestnut conkers and Ohio buckeye trees buckeyes look alike. The buckeyes or the ones at the top of the photo. We carry them for good luck! I am going to crack one of each open to look at any difference or similarities I can discern….


I had another wonderful package arrive. Again, from a member of my SSA group. Charlie sent me a rowan cross to help guard against pixies…


She also included a wonderful handout sheet she had written for a talk she gave at the Springfield Sanctuary Herb Festival on amulets and talismans.

“ Rowan has been used for centuries to stave off and repel magical or malicious attacks. The berries (being members of the apple family) have been marked at the base with the sign of the pentagram, a sign of protection.”

Red threads were also sometimes tied around children’s necks to give them protection against witchcraft and to protect them from being carried off by faeries, symbolically binding the child to the here and now. “

“Knots make effective amulets because they are believed to catch evil spirits”

This gift came from Charlie as I had recently posted a query in our Facebook group, the Typsy Herbwyfes, (Springfield Sanctuary Apprenticeship), about herbs for protection. We have a problem with ghosts at my daughter’s home. We even had a paranormal investigation team come in two weekends ago with a Medium. The team worked for 6 1/2 hours and for now, all is quiet. They are suppose to come back to share the rest of their findings when they are through sifting through them. I will tell you that we heard many ghosts and spirits over their electronic voice machines and saw things also.. Maybe more on that after we receive the report, but for now, do you see what I see in this photo? Click on it for a better look.. this was taken with infrared in the pitch black basement…

ghost face 2

Click on these next two photos for another look.. enlarge them or manipulate with your photo program..

ghost face


My dear friend Debs, responded to my query with a wonderful handout she had done about herbs for protection also. I never posted about it, but she had recently shared with me an extra copy of a wonderful book she had!


Coincidently, Sarah had included an Herbal Energetics handout in this months lesson. It included anointing and smudging herb usage, as well as for cleansing bad energies etc. Isn’t it wonderful how the Universe conspires to help us in times of need? With a little help from our friend! xxx

So a big shout out of thank you to my friends, WD, Charlie, Sarah and Debs! Love you gals xx

Now here is your dose of cute. Dylan’s Werewolf snowman


He told me he had a great idea, one day. To make ink out of blueberries. I just happened to have some in the freezer so we whizzed them in the blender!


And of course, he has been my maple syrup making buddy!


Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Vintage Apothecary Labels

While we were antiquing one weekend, I had fun reading the old apothecary bottles, boxes, advertising and labels.

Our friend Sassafras





GEDC8944 GEDC8945

Dandelion Root ( I wish I would have had time to have them open the cases as there were a lot of these type of boxes)




Marshmallow Root


Licorice, Caraway and Fennel

licorice, caraway, fennel


gentian root

And many others such as Peppermint, Arnica, Rosewater ….


Fascinating to find authentic placards that would be hung to place whole households, ships, hospital rooms and other places under quarantine, especially during epidemics. The practice of quarantine, as we know it, began during the 14th century in an effort to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. Ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. This practice, called quarantine, was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which mean 40 days.





I thought they were a little proud of them, due to the price tag.. but then got thinking about it and figured that these signs would probably have the name of the household, street address, etc labeled on them when they were used. They were probably thrown away or put in the incinerator after use. Not exactly something you would want to save for the family album….


These are some apothecary bottles/labels from an old timey pharmacy that closed in our town, Lewis Pharmacy.




The pharmacist who owned the pharmacy was a great collector of antique/vintage pharmaceutical items. His collection included items from as far back as the Civil War!

The best thing about this pharmacy for the grandchildren was the ice cream parlour! Ed Lewis kept the prices unbelievably low until the day he retired. I could take myself and two children there and we could all get a phosphate and ice cream for under $5! Luckily a local business, The Sweet Shoppe, moved into the building after Mr. Lewis retired. The prices might have gone up, but we still enjoy the atmosphere and a sweet treat! This is Dylan with a new toy and a mug of root beer :)


Most of Mr. Lewis’s collection was donated to the Pearson Museum at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, IL. I plan on visiting it next time I am in Springfield visiting my Aunt and will get some more pictures:)

Thinking to send some of the label pictures to be printed and add them to the stillroom book pages!

Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx