Tag Archives: medicinal herbs

Full day homesteading skills class

Thanks to everyone who completed the survey for what people are looking for as far as education here in Indy. Here is the first response to that. Based on the survey results this is what most people wanted to see.

Full day homesteading basics class. 8 full hours plus free samples to take home. As of now here is the breakdown of the class. This is for people from apartments to rural areas. I will give examples of how you can implement in just about any situation. I will bring examples, what materials I use, photos, and a CD/DVD of resources I use when I need additional information.

Class will be $40 per person or $60/couple. If bringing the family or more than 2 please contact me for other arrangements. Pay in advance or at the door. Cash only at the door. You will save the cost of the class alone if you just adopt and use a few of the topics mentioned.  Due to the limitations of Meetup payments (can’t do discounts based on number of people) contact me if you want to pay in advance with cash or use electronic payment.

Register through one of the Meetup groups below although not required. There is a limited number of seats but should accommodate a larger class size but to guarantee a seat registration is recommended.

http://www.meetup.com/AlternativeGardening/

http://www.meetup.com/Indiana-Disaster-Preparedness/

Here is what is being offered. I can add additional topics if time and my experience permits. Seats, and tables provided along with two large overhead screens for notes and examples. There will be breaks and a lunch period as well. Bring your lunch or visit one of the many local places.

  1. Backyard Grocery (fall is one of the best times to start this)
    1. Mini Orchard
    2. Vegetable garden
    3. Edible landscaping
    4. Aquaponics
    5. Backyard Chickens
    6. Goats
    7. Bees
    8. Rabbits
    9. Vertical Gardening
    10. Potatoes
    11. Container Gardening
    12. Medicinal Herbs
    13. Composting and mulch
    14. Water harvesting and rainbarrels
  2. Food Preservation (what to do with everything you harvest)
    1. Canning
      1. Water bath canning
      2. Pressure canning
    2. Dehydrating
    3. Freezing
    4. Smoking
    5. Fermenting
  3. DIY
    1. Laundry soap – how to make – free samples 5 ingredients or less
    2. Tooth paste – how to make – free samples 3 ingredients or less
    3. Bar soap – how to make –(free samples if cured in time)
    4. Fire starters – how to make
    5. Homemade bread – very simple steps <5 ingredients. Way more healthy for family
    6. Homemade pasta – very simple steps <5 ingredients. Way more healthy for family
    7. Make your own ethanol
    8. Battery backup for emergency home power use
    9. Make your own generator from your car with an inverter

Permaculture multiple diciplines all in one

                Many people are just starting to learn about permaculture. I wrote an intro a while back. While some say it isn’t rocket science, it is a combination of many traditional disciplines from school. I recently received an e-mail about a job that is opening up, Urban Agriculture Extension Specialist. I thought wow; this may be just up my alley. I just completed my permaculture certificate and I wanted to specialize in suburban and urban settings. No luck, they wanted a Masters degree and several semesters of agriculture classes, but why? Permaculture is so much more. In my opinion, it is way beyond anything I learned in school. Here are some examples of how the sciences are blended, and some common terms that are thrown around in permaculture circles and my own interpretation of what they mean.

Agronomy – science of soil management and crop production. This is one of the fundamentals of permaculture. Without rich soil it is hard to grow anything.

Anatomy – The study of organisms and their parts. To fully understand the relationships of plants, organisms, animals you have to understand how they work, and then how they work together.

Anthropology – The study of the origin, behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of humans. While it is not in much detail, learning about how previous civilizations and cultures worked the land, gives insight and we are now often repeating some of their practices.

Bacteriology – The study of bacteria, especially in relation to medicine and agriculture. Definitely here used in permaculture. Bacteria are in the soil, in aquaponics, in circles of organisms used in permaculture designs.

Biochemistry – The study of the chemical substances and processes in living organisms. How to the plants and animals interact, nitrogen fixing, and bioaccumulation.

Biology – The science of life and living organisms. Basically all of permaculture relates to biology in some way.

Botany – The study of plants. You will get to know plants on a whole new level.

Cartography – The art or technique of making maps or charts. Designing maps, layouts for properties, how to read various types of maps and layouts. Designing your own maps and layouts is a key aspect in permaculture design.

Chemistry – The science of the composition, structure, properties, and reactions of matter, especially of atomic and molecular systems. From chemistry of the soil, to chemistry of plants, chemistry of nutrients in feed, to aquaponics. Chemistry is all over.

Ecology – The study of organisms and their environment. This again is basic permaculture. Before I heard about the term permaculture, I had considered going back to school for ecology. Glad I didn’t. It is just a small portion of what I have learned.

Engineering – The application of scientific, economic, social, and practical knowledge in order to design, build, and maintain structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes. From building, dams, waterways, bridges, houses, water catchment. There are all sorts of engineering concepts at work.

Entomology – The scientific study of insects, both beneficial and harmful insects. What bugs like to eat your plants, and what bugs like to eat the bugs eating your plants? Who is a good pollinator, and who will make you cry when it is harvest time.

Forestry – The science and art of cultivating, maintaining, and developing forests. From edible food forests, to orchards, to harvesting trees for fuel or other properties, trees are a big part of permaculture.

Genetics – The study of heredity and inherited traits. Breeding your own plants, what plants will cross pollinate. How to get a species to grow in your area with your soil makeup, your temperature, be disease and drought resistant, and produce a good edible product?

Geography – The study of the earth and its features. Using the features of the land to work with your design, rather than making the land features what you want. Learning about terrain, and natural makings of the earth’s features are a key component in permaculture.

Herbology – The study and use of medicinal properties of plants. The vast majority of today’s pharmaceuticals aka drugs came from plants. There are some many beneficial medicinal plants out there, you will learn quite a bit.

Horticulture – The science, technology, and business involved in intensive plant cultivation for human use. While this is permaculture the big schools have made this into monocroping and how to grow corn, soy, and wheat and not much else, and adding lots of chemicals in the process. At its base, horticulture is permaculture.

Hydrology The study of the properties and effects of water on earth. Here again, a base fundamental of permaculture. Hydrating the soil and making the most of the water.

Ichthyology The study of fish. In ponds, streams, and aquaponics, knowing what the appropriate fish for your application are, and what ones to avoid are important.

Medicine The science of diagnosing and treating disease and damage to the body. Similar to herboilogy we can grow so much of our own medicines; we could potentially put the pharmaceutical companies out of business.

Meteorology The study of weather and atmospheric conditions. Studying the weather patterns, winter sun, summer sun, and rainy seasons, are an iatrical part of permaculture.

Microbiology The study of microorganisms and their effects on other living organisms. From under the soil, to in the compost bin the various microbes in the soil are an important part of permaculture.

Mineralogy The study of minerals, including their distribution, identification, and properties. Knowing what minerals are in your soil is important, but what is also important is how to obtain lacking minerals, where are those minerals found, what plants can harvest certain minerals, and how to use them.

Mycology The branch of botany that deals with fungi. From breaking down toxins, to making new soil fungus is among us in permaculture.

Nutrition The study of food and nourishment. What plants produce what nutrition? What does your body need, what plants and nutrients to the animals need? What nutrients do the plants need? It is all related.

Thermodynamics The study of relationships and conversions between heat and other forms of energy. From making greenhouse, to heat sinks out of rocks, to how to design you house or structure so that you are using less energy to heat or cool. Understanding thermodynamics and how it works is important.

Toxicology The study of poisons and the treatment of poisoning. Some plants are toxic, some are beneficial in small amounts but overdue it and it is death. Some species thrive in toxic environments. But like herbology, understanding how much of a good thing to use before it becomes something bad.

Zoology The study of the structure, physiology, development, and classification of animals. Lifecycles of plants, animals and insects, or when to introduce chickens into an area to break the invasive insect species life cycle is part of permaculture.

 

“Chop and Drop” – Chop and drop is a means to get green compost. It simply means to cut living plans and drop whey they lay or apply to another area.

“Contour” – The parts of the property all at the same elevation. Think of a hill. If you were to take a giant samurai sword and cut through the entire hill all at exactly a level horizontal line, that would be a contour line. Now, keep slicing up and down every few feet. You would get a topographical map. The lines on a topographical map are all on the same elevation.

“Food forest” – This is an intentional planting of trees, bushes, plants so that once established will need very little maintenance and will continually produce food for people and animals.

“Middle story” – The middle layer of tree or shrub growth part of the forest.

“Monocrop” – Growing only one species of crops in an area. What you see conventional farming. This required large amounts of chemicals to be sustainable, which it is not, and is killing the soil.

“Nitrogen Fixer” – a plant that absorbs nitrogen from the air and through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria deposit the nitrogen into the soil at the roots.

“Over Story” – The upper part of the canopy or forest.

“Swales” – Ditch with a hill on the down side of a slope. A swale can be any number of sizes it all depends on where it will be used. From a few inches across and deep to large enough to drive a large tractor in. It is a ditch, with the dirt piled on the downhill side of the ditch. The goal is to trap water, allow it to seep into the ground as opposed to running off the property. Trees are typically planted in the piled up earth.

“Understory” – The lower part of the food forest. Ground level.

“Water flows at 90 degrees to contour” – What this basically means is water will run downhill. If you were on a contour line, and emptied a pail of water it would run 90 degrees to the line. Or another way of saying it, it would try to dun downhill. But when you are trying to map out a property, and keep the water on the property as long as you can, it is important to know which direction the water will go wherever you are standing. A common way to say this is it will run 90 degrees to the current contour line you are examining.

“Water Harvesting” – This cam mean several things. But basically you want to collect all the water you can. From rain water, to runoff, to creeks, etc. water is the backbone of your permaculture project. You must have water to feed the microbes, which feed the soil, which in turn feeds the plants. Harvesting can be in the form of rain barrels, swales, or dams and ponds.

Pinterest finds

I was going through some of my pinterest finds and thought I would share a few.

Growing

Herbs

LEaves

Regrow

companion planting

I found a website http://www.dumpaday.com/genius-ideas-2/simple-do-it-yourself-craft-ideas-52-pics/and you can really dump a day there. I found all kinds of cool stuff I added to my pinterest account. Before long I have used up 1/2 a day looking at some of the cool stuff.

Here is where I pin stuff I find.

http://www.pinterest.com/rikkrack/

Herb Blurb – Garlic

Recently I wrote about homemade cold remedy, and homemade chicken broth. Here is the details on another great herb. Garlic.

garlic 2 garlic

Garlic is closely related to onion, shallot, leek, chives and rakkyo and has been used by humans for some 7,000 years. Originally from Asia, it has spread all around the world and is used in both culinary and medical applications.

Garlic today is available in many forms, including fresh, frozen, dried, fermented, (black garlic) freeze dried, and shelf stable products (in tubes or jars). Personally fresh garlic, or home dried is the best option.

Garlic is easy to grow and will grow in most areas of the US. While it can reproduce naturally using pollination from a male and female plant, most grown garlic is used by planting a clove from the bulb. One bulb can plant 10-20 new garlic plants. Garlic is typically planted in fall about six weeks before the first frost and deep enough to not go through many freeze thaw cycles as it will develop mold and rot. It is then harvested in the spring. Garlic doesn’t have too many enemies in the pest world, and is actually great to plant near other plants which are more susceptible. We planted garlic around the roses this year and have noticed a significant decrease in pests. You can also do this around more susceptible plants in your vegetable garden. Garlic can be places fairly close together as long as there is enough room for the bulbs to mature. It likes loose, dry, well drained soils in sunny areas. The best USDA zones for planting are 4-9 but don’t let that stop you from trying if you are outside that zone. If I am close to the zone boundary of a plant I will at least give it a try. There are many techniques using permaculture that can elevate your current zone 2-3 zones higher. Example you can get an extra zone using rocks around the base of a tree to increase 1 zone going from 5 to 6. Or a hoop house can get you as many as 3 zones. From 5 to 8.

You can not only eat the bulbs or cloves, but you can also eat the leaves and flowers. Both have milder flavor than the bulbs, but is still usable in many dishes. Garlic has so many uses in the kitchen they are almost endless. You can eat it raw, sautéed, roasted, infused in oils, toppings and that is just a few. My favorite (although my family hates it when I do this) is to roast it in a terracotta roaster. Take a bulb or elephant garlic, cut the top, and roast it. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, and eat right out of the peels. The reason my family hates it, is I already eat a lot of garlic. From adding to my scrambled eggs, with a little goat cheese and herbs, to minced raw garlic topping on my salad, to garlic herb butter on my steak. Eating roasted puts me over the edge. I start to ooze garlic out my pores. I smell like walking garlic for a few days until it works out of my system. Apparently can smell from a few feet away. I never notice.

As I said in an earlier post garlic is a component in the cold remedy. Garlic has been known to repel parasites, aid in digestion, antimicrobial, antibacterial, improve respiratory problems, and improve low energy. It has been shown to improve cardiovascular and cholesterol related issues. It has shown in some studies to increase good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol. Some studies have shown that regular use of garlic in the diet can reduce high blood pressure and even regulate blood sugar levels. During World War II it was used as an antiseptic. Garlic has been used to treat infections, and administered for treatment of chest colds, digestive disorders, and fungal infections such as thrush. Garlic has also been successful in China in treating AIDS patients with certain types of infections and ailments.

The sticky juice of the garlic has been used to glue glass and porcelain together, and even as an insecticide in organic gardening with diluted and sprayed over plants.

If you are looking to add garlic to your gardens, whether it is vegetable or ornamental gardens, fall is the time to buy. A little bit of garlic can go a long way. 1lb of garlic bulbs can yield 10 lbs of garlic next spring. If not wanting to plant garlic to eat, perhaps just plant as insect and pest control. It is also good against molds, and bacteria and viruses that attack ornamental plants. The less people spray they better off we will all be. While I think of garlic as a wonder plant/herb my family is not so keen on the herb. As my wife says “Everything in moderation, and honey…you over did the garlic again… you are banned until you stop stinking.” Yet I don’t get sick very often, and can eat all kinds of food not good for me (mmm fried foods). My cholesterol is low, and I have really low blood pressure for someone my age, weight, and dietary intake. Now there is an idea. Combine my favorite. Fried garlic in some way? Off to the kitchen to experiment…while the wife is still at work.

Homemade chicken or turkey broth

                I have started making my own chicken and turkey broth for the last several years. It is simple, uses what otherwise was a waste product, and is cheap. You all know I like cheap.

I start by taking a chicken or turkey carcass. This is usually left from when we have Thanksgiving turkey, or roast a whole chicken, or make crock pot chicken.  After all the meat is picked off, I place the carcass in a large pot, or leave in the crock. Add enough water to cover. Then I add the other ingredients.

                You can save your vegetable discards for the stock. Celery tops are great. You cut celery for eating or other recipes. Save the tops of the celery. if you bought the heart from the store, save the bottom too. You can both plant it, and grow your own celery plant (only during warmer months) or toss in the freezer for alter use, like in broth.

                Carrots. Tops and bottoms. Save these and add to broth. If you but the bunches at the store, or of you grow your own don’t throw them away. Use them for broth. You can use and should use the green portions as well.

                Onions are the same as carrots and celery. When you cut the tops and bottoms for other recipes, save them and throw in the freezer. I also use the onion skin.

                Garlic, tops and bottoms. Same thing.

Parsley stems, basil stems, oregano stems, and any other herb which you like, that you use the leaves and toss the stems.

                I will occasionally add broccoli leaves just for something different. You can add any number of veggies to the broth for your own tastes.

                Last I add some black pepper and if I have them some pepper tops and bottoms left over from other recipes. Depending on how the chicken was cooked I will also add some salt or season salt. Not necessary, but I will leave off, because sometimes I do not need salted broth.

                Bring all the ingredients to a boil. The longer the boil the more you get out of the bones from the carcass. I typically let boil 3-4 hours at least. If not covered you may need to add more water or even if covered may need to add more water to keep everything covered by liquid.

                After boiling I allow the broth to cool slightly and strain through a metal strainer. Something like this.

 metal-strainer

I will strain into a large pitcher. This makes it easier to can it later. While still hot I will put the broth into clean, sterile canning jars and pressure can it. You should NOT attempt to water bath can this. I am paranoid about food poisoning, so anything with meat, meat byproducts, or low acid food I pressure can.

Herb Blurb – Parsley

               Many people think of parsley as just another condiment or a garnish on a plate, but parsley has many benefits beyond garnish. For starters you can and should grow parsley in your gardens. It is a biannual and after the first year establishes will come back again stronger. I have had relatively good success planting and harvesting parsley here in Indiana. Last year’s drought took its toll on many of my plants. What plants survived the horde (aka the chickens) has done well now that I have protected it from them. There doesn’t seem to be anything that they won’t eat.

ParsleyParsley_Curled

Something I didn’t know and again learned recently that there are two crops from parsley. The green tops most commonly used here in the US but also the root. After the first year the parsley plant grows a large tap root to help it survive winters.  This tap root is edible and used commonly in and around Europe in soups and stews. The downside is that after harvesting you will no longer be able to harvest the leaves, which means you will just have to plant more. Some for harvesting the tops, and some for harvesting the roots.

                Besides using parsley in everyday cooking I like to use it in my cold remedy. This will be a series on the components of that remedy starting with parsley. Parsley has anti microbial and antibacterial properties. I recently learned that it also has shown anti cancer properties. Parsley is loaded with antioxidants and has loads of vitamin C and A. Some studies have suggested that it also can help with arthritis, is healthy for the heart, and the anticancer properties have shown promise in colon and cervical cancers.

                Parsley can take a while to grow as the germination time from seed is four to six weeks. I plan on starting my next batch of parsley December-January timeframe. I know, middle of wither here in Indiana right? But this early start allows for a longer growing season. By the time the last frost comes, my plants will be 4-6 inches tall and already on their way to producing for me. This means I can harvest some of the leaves as early as March or April when many people are just starting to think about gardening. It prefers well drained soil and full sun. It can be grown indoors or out, and in the ground or in containers. I currently have my parsley in container gardens, but plan on adding it to one of my herb spirals for next year out at The Farm.

                When I have harvested in the past, I would only collect the leaves. Or cut a large bunch, then chop off the leaves and either dehydrate or use fresh. Lately I have been saving the stems and freezing them. These stems are what I use as part of my cold remedy or to flavor stocks. Whenever I have a component if a vegetable or plant I am not eating directly I save for when we make stock. Parsley stems for example, or the tops and bottoms of onions, or the tops and bottoms of celery. While I don’t eat them directly I wouldn’t dare throw them out. I save it until I have enough to make a stock. Read more about stocks and cold remedy on another post.

                Parsley can be eaten raw or cooked. Raw parsley is said to cleanse the palette and freshen the breath. There are many juicing and smoothie recipes using fresh parsley. Try making it an addition to meals prepared at home.

Suburban Farm Tour 9-21-13 10am

If you are local to the Indianapolis area we are hosting a group tour to see in person and ask questions some of the things we have used on our micro farm in the city. See the three aquaponic systems in action, back yard chickens, medicinal herbs, water harvesting, edible landscapes just to name a few. Ask questions, tips, techniques and see some of the items we have for sale. This will be scheduled through Meetup Alternative Gardening group. If you are not already a member of Meetup there is a link below. We are having it on Saturday September 21st 10am.

Group Tour info

Backyard Gardening for a Sustainable Lifestyle – Class Scheduled

Summer is dwindling down and fall will soon be upon us. Come find out why this is the perfect time to start planning and even starting your productive gardens. Landscaping and gardening doesn’t just have to be about pretty flower garden or doesn’t just have to be about vegetable gardens. You can combine them. Come learn about aquaponics, back yard chickens, medicinal herb gardens, edible landscapes, water harvesting, permaculture and much, much more. Recent graduate from Geoff Lawtons Permaculture design course and willing to help you turn your space into a productive one. Reduce your grocery bill, turn your hobby into an income generator, reduce your dependency on pharmaceuticals. Live in an apartment, or rent, you can garden too! Come learn how. This talk will be a broad coverage of many topics, and more in-depth class on topics will be scheduled for interested people.

Meeting at the Franklin Township Civic League
8822 Southeastern Ave. Indianapolis IN 46239

Meeting to start 7 pm

Alternative Gardening

Indiana Disaster and Survival Preparedness

Herb Blurb – Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm also known as Melissa officinalis, spreads and is part of the mint family. Rubbing the leaves you will get a lemon scent hence the name. In summer it has white flowers and is a pollinator attractor. Because it attracts bees so well it was given the name Melissa or Greek for “honey bee”. Lemon balm is as invasive as other members of the mint family and should be planted in containers or other was contained if spreading is not desired.

Lemon balm is used in candies, ice cream, teas both hot and cold, and is the main ingredient in lemon balm pesto. In teas it is used as a mild calming agent or sedative. The extracts from lemon balm have been shown to have high antioxidant properties.

There have been numerous studies involving lemon balm. From reducing stress in agitated people in a control group to reduction in obesity. Some studies have shown when drank in a tea given to people with regular exposure to radiation, the DNA degradation, and increased plasma levels. While it is known it inhibits the thyroid medication thyroxine it however inhibits antithyrotropic activity and may lead to treatments for Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism. The extracts from lemon balm have show to improve mental performance and even shown positive results in testing with Alzheimer’s patients. It has both antimicrobial and antiviral properties and has shown to be effective against herpes simplex.

At our homestead we use it as a mosquito and fly repellant in addition to a flavoring for teas. Three of the four kids including myself react harshly to mosquito bites and we have lemon balm growing all over our homestead. Any time one of walks out it is now a habit to grab a handful and rub the leaves all over any exposed skin. This has kept the mosquitoes at bay and prevented us from using any harsh chemicals or pesticides.

We regularly harvest and dry the leaves and dehydrate for longer term storage. We also sell plants from our herb gardens to start your own natural medicinal and culinary herb garden. Use the contact us page for purchasing.

220PX-~1800px-Melissa_officinalis2

Herb Blurb – Catnip – Not just for cats

Catnip is not just for cats. Nepeta cataria has many beneficial properties. While most of us know it for the “drug” we give to our cats to make them loopy for a while and act like a kitten again, it is of use in the garden, for insects, and even for people. It looks like a member of the mint family but has a square stem with green-grey leaves. The flowers can be purple or pink. Catnip is an attractant to butterflies and cats. Like my favorite lemon balm, it is also a mosquito and fly repellent in addition to cockroaches, and termites. The chemical terpenoid nepetalactone is the main component of the essential oil which is obtained through steam distillation. Have no fear, you do not need steam distillation equipment to harness the benefits. For fly and mosquito repellant on your person simply pick a few stems and leaves and rub on your skin. Enough pressure needs to be applied to release the oils in the plant. When done it should look slightly crushed and dark green. Research has shown that catnip also attract beneficial insects such as lacewings which eat aphids and mites. Catnip is drought tolerant, and can also respell certain insects such as aphids and squash bugs. Additional research has shown that the essential oil of catnip is ten times more effective repelling mosquitoes than DEET the active ingredient in most insect repellents. Be careful as catnip can be evasive and spread like mint. To keep it contained you can plant in pots or containers around your garden. It WILL attract your neighborhood cats. You can also harvest it and dry it. Either in a dehydrator, hang upside down in a cool dry place, or even hang outside in the sun. Once dry take the leaves and put in a sealed bag.

Catnip has a long history of being used as a digestive aid. It’s a natural sedative that also helps to ease digestion, colic and diarrhea. Dehydration caused by diarrhea, and high body temperatures caused by fevers can be life-threatening. A tea brewed from its leaves may help alleviate these symptoms. Catnip is also a mild sedative that naturally helps calm the nerves during stressful situations.

CatnipCatnip-1