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Showing posts with label Natural Remedies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Natural Remedies. Show all posts

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Amber Teething Necklaces

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

Parts of this post have been published before on my personal blog, but I thought I would be good to share here too.

We started using an amber teething necklace on our son a year ago. As he started wearing it before any symptoms of teething occurred it is hard to say if it has helped. My first child breezed through teething without a tear, the second was miserable and not knowing any different he was offered several pain relieving methods of the non-natural kind. With Ben he has been a little grumpy at times, but overall he is content, so I would like to think that the necklace has helped.

Ben in amber 


Australia is one of the last countries to 'cotton on' to baltic amber being used to ease and calm babies and children through teething. Across Europe and many other countries babies wear these special necklaces from birth. The treatment is old and said by many to be effective. I am new to this style of treatment, but not new to the awareness of the healing properties that can be found in minerals, gem stones and any other natural product that comes from our earth.

Babies do not 'chew' on these necklaces. That isn't recommended as the amber is soft, so could break, and not necessary either to assist how the amber heals. Instead the necklace is designed to be worn against the skin and healing oils are released in trace amounts into the skin. The oils contain Succinic acid which is believed to have calming and pain relieving benefits. Succinic acid can also be found in plant and animal tissues. Recent scientific evidence is proving the benefits of what people have known for thousands of years about this 'millions of years old' treatment for many ailments.

Baltic amber is a fossil resin making it extremely lightweight and comfortable to wear. In my opinion the safest necklaces are knotted between each amber bead and have a safety release ring or catch. Ben has been very happy to wear his necklace and as I have read from many reviews the children don't even notice wearing them.

Regarding safety with amber necklaces:

I was hesitant at first, from both a mothers perspective and an early childhood educator. I agree there is a risk involved with any necklace worn by a baby or child and that is why I would never use one without constant supervision. Most necklace manufacturers/designers recommend that they are removed from around the neck to be worn as an anklet when your child is put down to sleep. I probably wouldn’t allow my child to wear one of these in a care/kinder environment either, but that is just a personal opinion.

I did a lot of research on these necklaces/bracelets and couldn’t find any evidence of a child choking on a bead and they are said to be too small, however again, constant supervision is recommended. It is a touchy subject with many parents and practitioners divided, therefore I believe it is up to the parent to consider the risks involved and take responsibility for their decision. I would recommend thorough research of any treatment whether natural or not to treat or care for family members and even pets.

With all that I have learned since having my first child, I would personally prefer to try any natural teething remedy before reaching for the common teething gels and analgesics etc. You will find some information provided by a local health practitioner on my personal blog regarding other alternatives to regular pain medication, if you are interested. You can read that here.

Do you have any experiences with natural teething remedies you would like to share or know of?

Amanda x


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chickweed Tincture among other things

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

It seems I am always writing about weeds, and for sure, my view of weeds has changed over the years. Now very few receive the all out assault that I used to dish out, as I have learned more about "reading" weeds and trying to learn what their presence means.

Chickweed, Stellaria media is one of those weeds that people love to hate, but I find that it is so useful in the garden that I don't mind it's company, especially since it really only shows it's face during cool spring and fall weather, taking leave during the summer.


In my garden chickweed is a sign of my most fertile ground, in the weaker parts of my garden I do not find chickweed. And if you can stand to let nature be a little, it makes a valuable and inexpensive cover crop full of minerals when returned to the soil at planting time. However be warned, it is tenacious in cool weather and will defy tillage, enough to drive market gardeners mad in a cool wet spring. Luckily I am just a gardener and can afford to wait.

Besides excelling in the cover crop department, chickweed is a powerful weed to add to your spring and fall salads, or in any greens dish. Full of vitamins and minerals, it augments any dish. It's bright, fresh taste goes well in soups, egg dishes, casseroles, and many times I use it as substitute for lettuce or spinach, or even in place of basil in pesto. And the best part? I didn't have to plant it, tend it, or spend all day foraging for it, it is just there for the picking right in my garden, nonchalantly protecting my garden soil from heavy spring and fall rains.


Besides agrarian and culinary uses, chickweed is a popular old time folk remedy too. Old, young, and the anemic or probably just about anybody can benefit from some chickweed in the diet.

Besides incorporating chickweed in meals, a less subtle approach would be an infusion made from dried chickweed if you're so inclined. Drinking several cups per day of chickweed infusion is said to helpful in weight loss and ridding the body of toxins and increasing overall energy.



Herbal tinctures are easy to make too, and helpful to have around, so while we are eating chickweed daily pending our first hard frost, I decided to make a chickweed tincture to have around for the dark days of winter. Especially since retail price for 1 ounce of tincture is around $10.00.

All you need to make a tincture is pure grain alcohol, preferably 100 proof (Everclear is a good one) and no less than 80 proof or your tincture may not be thoroughly preserved. Next you need the herbs of course. I just harvested a colander of chickweed with scissors on a sunny day.

After checking to make sure you have only chickweed and not other weeds mixed in, finely mince with a sharp knife.

Loosely pack into clean jars, fill with grain alcohol, and cap. It will be ready for decanting in 6 weeks. The tincture can be helpful for swollen glands and to dissolve ovarian tumors in addition to adding to your overall well being if taken daily.

These are just a few of the uses for chickweed, healing salves and oils can be made too, making this one of the most useful, easy to grow "weeds" in my garden. Hopefully, chickweed can become your friend!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Natural Insect & Disease Control - an ebook (and some local wisdom)

by Francesca
FuoriBorgo


stink bug 2

The other day, I noticed that my chard patch got infested by some bugs. Several leaves had turned yellow, and many others had large brown spots. Looking closely at my chard, it wasn't difficult to find the likely culprit: hiding right among the stems I could spot many good-sized brown bugs!



When disease or insects attack my vegetable garden, I often simply uproot and destroy the affected plants for fear that they might spread to the rest of the garden. But there are exceptions, and my poor chard was one of them: it's one of the few crops that survived my summer travels (here), and moreover it will continue producing for several months, until springtime. I needed to treat my chard. So I turned to the Internet.



After a little research, I found the best book on natural insect and disease control I've ever come across, entirely published online in Google books. What an amazing resource! The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Disease and Insect Control edited by Barbara W Ellis and Fern Marshall Bradley, allowed me first of all to determine that the “brown bugs” in my garden were “brown stink bugs”. This book also suggested ways to prevent them, or - as last resort - to control them by dusting the affected plants with pyrethrin powder, a natural organic compound with potent insecticidal properties. I happened to have pyrethrin powder, but because this book is mainly about North American insects and diseases, I wanted to be sure that my bugs were definitely stink bugs. So I asked my neighbors.


stink bugs

Farmers for generations, my neighbors have taught me most of what I know about gardening, and always have the answer to my gardening troubles. In the rare cases when they don't, they have at least a couple of suggestions, which normally solve the problem. My 86 year old neighbor unhesitatingly confirmed the diagnosis I'd made with the help of the ebook, but didn't agree with the treatment. “Oh, no! You just remove them one by one, and squish them dead.” he said. “They are very prolific, you know” he added to make his statement more urgent.



And so I went to find my gardening gloves. And my pyrethrin.



What steps to you take when insects or disease infest your garden?


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Time for a Shot?

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
This is a repost from last year; but still a timely reminder. When I first posted it, many of the comments were about the pros and cons regarding infant immunizations. This is an informational post aimed strictly at adults. Parents will want to do their own research, and make their own decisions, regarding the health care of their children. ~Sadge

When I was about eight years old, and visiting my Granny on her farm in Texas, I stepped on a rusty nail while exploring around back of some old sheds. I limped back up to the house, the inside of my shoe squishy with blood. Mom washed my foot with soap and hot water, checking to make sure no debris was left inside the deep puncture wound. Then Granny sat me down in the kitchen, my foot soaking in a pan filled with hot water and a heaping handful of Epsom Salts, "to draw out the toxin," she said.

"Lockjaw!" I heard from every adult relative that came in and saw me sitting there. I'd seen The Wizard of Oz. I imagined the rust from the nail creeping up through my body, freezing me up just like the Tin Woodman, until I couldn't even utter the word, "oilcan" (good thing I didn't know it would also mean painful muscle spasms throughout the entire body, plus elevated temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate, on-going for weeks). Mom assured me I'd be fine - I'd had my DT shots, before I started school just a couple of years earlier. I didn't know what a Deety was, I was just glad I had it.

Ten years later, when I was ready to go away to college, I first had to submit my immunization records. The university told me I needed a DT booster vaccination (which I now knew stood for Diphtheria/Tetanus) - the immunity lapses after 10 years. I've made sure to keep my immunity updated every decade since.

So why am I writing about this in a sustainable living blog? I now know rust doesn't cause Tetanus, but rusty cans and nails can often be found in areas harboring tetanus bacteria. The rough surface of a rusty object provides the perfect habitat for the tetanus bacteria to reside, and the sharp edges can make just the sort of break in your skin that provides the bacteria a route into your body. Tetanus bacteria spores are carried in the feces of animals, such as horses, cattle, chickens, dogs, cats, and guinea pigs. Anyone cleaning up after animals, making compost from manure, or using it in the garden, comes in contact with tetanus bacteria. Just getting your hands dirty while in your garden means you're probably carrying the spores on your skin. Tetanus bacteria thrives in hot, damp climates where the soil is rich in organic matter - exactly the type of environment organic gardeners strive to create.

Tetanus occurs when an open wound becomes contaminated with the bacteria. I know there are plenty of opportunities to cut, scratch, and puncture myself while working in my garden - splinters, insect bites, working around the cut ends of chicken wire, pruning roses and my particularly vicious blackberry brambles, to name only a few. Mom knew, even if you have a current tetanus vaccination, it's still necessary to immediately wash open wounds thoroughly with soap and water. Regarding Granny's Epsom Salts treatment - soaking in salt water really does draw toxins out of a wound - certainly not a substitute for a doctor's care in serious situations, but I do think it a natural remedy worth mentioning.

Vaccines can prevent tetanus, but the immunity needs to be updated every 10 years. Since it can take up to two weeks for the antibodies to form, if you need a booster shot try to get it before your gardening season starts. Tetanus is fatal in 10 to 20% of reported cases (death occurs mainly in adults over 60, also the most likely to have let their immunity lapse), but even in less severe cases, with treatment, full recovery can take more than a year. Being sick and miserable, especially when it's easily preventable, makes no sense to me. I'd rather be safe than sorry, and stay healthy out there in my garden.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chamomile for Damping Off

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
"It smells like wet dirt in here," Aries says when he gets home from work. No wonder - I'm in the kitchen wetting down four trays of little pots filled with potting soil. It's time to start seeds for my tomato, pepper, eggplant, and other garden transplants.

Earlier, I'd stopped by a nearby Hispanic market to buy dried chamomile flowers. In Spanish, chamomile is called manzanilla (man-za-NEE-ya), translating to little apple. If you're familiar with the distinctive aroma of chamomile tea, you'll understand the reason behind the name. They carry teas and spices in bulk cellophane packets, at a much better price (½ ounce for 89¢) than buying a box of teabags in the regular supermarket. I'd dumped the half-ounce packet of the chamomile into two quarts water, brought it to a boil, then turned off the heat and covered it to let steep until cool. I want a really strong brew, and two quarts will be enough to thoroughly soak the top of the soil on all the pots after the seeds are in. I don't even remember where I learned about using chamomile to prevent damping off. I've been using it on my indoor seed-starts for years.

Damping off is when just sprouted seedlings suddenly shrivel right at the soil line, fall over, and die. It's caused by a fungus in the warm damp soil the seeds need to germinate. I try to keep my seed-starting soil clean (and that's a major reason you don't want to use dirt right out of the garden to start seeds), but since I reuse the pots, six-packs, and labels (a Sharpie pen on pieces of a plastic bleach bottle) each year, I don't want to take any chances with losing my seedlings. A dousing with strong chamomile tea works great for me. When all seeds are nestled into the damp soil in the pots, I strain the dark-brown cooled tea and gently water the seeds in with it, taking care not to wash too much soil over the seeds. I'll do it once more after they start come up if I see any start to flop over. And now, we're off and growing!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Comfrey: Wonder Plant

by Kate
Living The Frugal Life


I'm posting one from the archives of my own blog today, in anticipation of planting season in the northern hemisphere. If herbs or perennial plants are on your mind for this year's garden, this one's for you.


Image originally posted by Buttersweet

I rarely cheerlead for products or services, and I don't think I've ever promoted a particular plant before. But today I'm going to discuss the many merits of comfrey, because it's both extremely valuable in the home garden and also little known.

Comfrey is an herb native to wide swaths of Europe, long known for its soothing medicinal properties. Many over-the-counter skin ointments and natural remedies include this herb for its healing qualities. One of the effects of comfrey when applied topically is to increase the rate of cell division, so that wounds and burns heal more quickly. A woman in my area posted an advertisement last year looking for fresh comfrey. She had a skin condition that hadn't responded to any treatment she had tried. She used some of my Bocking 14 comfrey to make a tea that she soaked her arms in and later told me that the comfrey helped more than anything else had. She just sent me an email asking if my comfrey had any leaves up yet this year. Comfrey also reduces inflammation, swelling, and irritation. If you enjoy home remedies or making herbal salves, comfrey would be an excellent addition to your garden.

There's an ongoing debate as to whether or not comfrey can be safely consumed, even by animals. Old herbal books in my possession discuss preparing comfrey as a cooked green matter-of-factly. Yet there is apparently some level of toxicity for the liver, both in humans and in animals. I am definitely not recommending that anyone consume any part of the comfrey plant. However, some studies suggest that a toxic dosage would only be reached after consuming huge quantities of the leaf or root. Comfrey is very widely used in Japan as an animal fodder, without any ill effects, evidently. And I have spoken to several homesteaders who regularly give small quantities of comfrey leaf to their chicken or duck flocks and even to pigs. I myself have fed my laying hens fresh comfrey leaf about once a month in modest quantities, and also use it dried as a winter feed supplement when fresh greens are scarce. The chickens absolutely relished the stuff. Since comfrey leaves are very high in protein, this isn't surprising. I never observed any detrimental effect on the hens after feeding them comfrey leaves.

But comfrey has yet other virtues beyond healing and animal fodder. Comfrey is a bioaccumulator plant whose long roots mine minerals and nutrients from very deep in the soil. (There are reports of comfrey roots reaching as much as ten feet deep into the ground!) Other culinary and medicinal herbs grown adjacent to comfrey have been observed to contain higher levels of essential oils and flavor than herbs of the same type not grown next to comfrey. Comfrey leaves can be cut and used as excellent green manures for other garden vegetables. The first leaves put out by comfrey plants each spring were traditionally used specifically with the planting of potatoes, to give the potato plants an early boost of nutrition and growth.

Comfrey is particularly known as an excellent companion plant in fruit orchards, especially apple orchards. With its tall and densely growing leaves, it will easily outcompete other nearby plants, reducing the need for weeding. Though it likes full sun, it can also tolerate the shade under fully grown trees. This contributes to its utility in orchards.

Although comfrey will not spread aggressively if left undisturbed, it is quite tenacious once it is established. And if the earth around it is tilled, new plants will grow from broken off fragments of root. If you want to eradicate comfrey from a particular spot, it will likely take some doing. So choose a spot to plant it with care. I have heard tales of gardeners cutting comfrey to use as green manure when planting other crops, only to find that the cut leaf took root and established itself in the new location. I haven't seen this happen [Update: I have seen this happen.], but then I take the precaution of letting all comfrey cuttings intended for green manure wilt in the sun for a few hours after cutting.

Along with its utility as a green manure, comfrey is equally valuable as a foliar feed ingredient. Foliar feeding is a natural form of fertilizing that uses weeds or other plants in a fermented liquid state. Like all anaerobic fermentation, a foliar feed made from comfrey leaves will smell atrocious. But it produces a natural, concentrated liquid fertilizer that can be diluted and applied to the leaves of many vegetable and flowers.

The comfrey varieties I have planted have large, somewhat oval, slightly hairy leaves that grow up to about 36" (90 cm) tall. Near the base of the leaf stalk the hairs sometimes develop enough heft that they become small prickles, much like a summer squash vine will produce. But they are not particularly bothersome if you have gloves. By their second year at the latest comfrey plants put out borage-like flowers for a long time from late spring to to midsummer. They vary in color apparently, but my plants' flowers are purple. Most varieties of comfrey do not reproduce themselves well from seed, but will readily grow from root divisions. There are several varieties of comfrey, all of them fairly hardy perennials. Some varieties are hardy up to zone 3, but most are hardy to zone 4 or 5. The Bocking 4 variety was specifically developed as a green manure, while the Bocking 14 was developed as animal fodder.

This is such a useful plant that I recently ordered a third variety, common comfrey, and plan to divide the roots of each type of comfrey I grew last year. It will allow me to make good use of the shaded areas of my property where very few edible things will grow. Instead, I'll harvest the fertility of those spots and transport it to my garden beds in the form of comfrey leaves. I can scarcely credit so many wonderful qualities packed into this one plant. Comfrey has medicinal uses, can feed livestock, and greatly enhances the fertility of my garden soil. On top of that, it's an attractive plant that has few pests and provides a bit of food for bees. I can hardly think of a non-edible plant that I would consider so essential for a sustainable garden as comfrey.

If the long term fertility and health of your garden soils are of concern to you, look into comfrey! I got my comfrey plants last year from Richters. They have an amazing selection of herb seedlings for those in the US and Canada, and the prices aren't too bad. I only wish I'd ordered some of the intriguing Piss-Off plant!

Update: check out what I learned at the 2010 PASA conference for yet another awesome attribute of comfrey. Just when I thought this plant couldn't be any more impressive, I found out I was wrong.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lemon Balm for Cold Sores

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
It's cold and flu season here. I usually stay pretty healthy, but one of my first warnings that I might have picked up a virus is getting a cold sore. Monday afternoon, while I was out working in the garden (too much sun can also be a trigger), I could feel the beginnings of a tender spot just inside my lip. I don't have time to be sick (does anyone? stress can also be a trigger). So I took quick action to stop the virus in its tracks. Lemon balm to the rescue!

Cold sores, herpes outbreaks, and shingles are all caused by the same virus family, and lemon balm is a great anti-viral herb. Lemon balm is an easy-to-grow perennial, a member of the mint family. It returns every year in my herb garden. It makes a nice summer tea, but I cut and dry most of it for winter use.

Whenever I feel the start of a cold sore inside my lip, I boil up a really strong detoction of equal amounts of dried lemon balm and water. Monday evening, I boiled together half-cup water with a handful of dried lemon balm for about 10 minutes. After it cooled, I strained it, soaked a cotton ball in the dark brown liquid, and held it inside my lip for a few minutes. After reapplying the soaked cotton ball a few times through the evening, I diluted what was left with a cup of water, heated it in the microwave, added a spoonful of honey (also an anti-viral and anti-bacterial), and drank the tea before bedtime. Lemon balm is also a calming and relaxing herb, helping to lower stress levels, so it makes a nice warming bedtime tea anytime. By morning, the cold sore was gone.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Natural Toothache Remedies

posted by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

Back in January this year, I had a killer toothache. You know the ones, the kind where you would do just about anything to make the pain go away. In my case, one of my top molars had given up the ghost and the nerve had died, which was causing excruciating pain, and giving me terrible headaches as well.

Now I found that antibiotics work in some cases, however if you want long lasting pain relief you either have to turn to something stronger that may make you very drowsy, or you can always give a few natural remedies a try to attempt to relieve the pain. So during my ordeal earlier on in the year I found two that worked during various stages of the pain.





Picture this;


On Sunday night I was nearly ready to get the pliers out of the tool box and extract it myself, Kim (my thoughtful wife) started searching the web for something more natural that would ease the pain. The painkillers were only working for a very limited time, and at about the 3 hour mark after taking them the pain came back stronger than ever.


She discovered a remedy where you cut a clove of garlic in half lengthways and press the cut side into crushed rock salt. You then place the garlic/salt mix on top of the affected tooth and gently press the juice out of the garlic for about 5-10 minutes. I was a bit sceptical at first, but after about 30 minutes the pain became less intense, and after about an hour it was just a dull throb, which I could handle. I applied this at about 2300, Sunday and it lasted until about 0700 Monday, at which time the pain came back stronger than ever. I tried the garlic/salt method again Monday morning, but it only worked for an hour or so and was then unbearable. So it was back on the painkillers for most of the day.


Tuesday morning, I took some my dad's advice. He remembered back to his youth where his mother (my grandmother) used to give him whole cloves and clove oil to ease the pain of toothache. Well I had some whole cloves and I was given a metal tea ball for Christmas, so I put about 10 whole cloves (the spice) into the ball, and infused them in boiling water for about 5 minutes. A weak clove tea with a teaspoon of sugar, helped relieve the mouth pain associated with the infection, and it provided a numbing relief for my entire mouth.


I then took out one of the cloves from the ball, which were now moist, and placed it on a tooth in front of the infected one and gently chewed it. In about 5 minutes my entire mouth went numb, like the feeling you get after a Novocain injection at the dentist. The pain went back to a dull throb again, and I managed to keep this up all day, putting in a fresh moist clove from the tea ball about once every two hours. A potent remedy if there ever was one! I used this remedy to good effect for four days until I managed to get in to see the Dentist to get the tooth extracted.


I am very impressed with these two natural medicines, and it make me think that there are so many more out there to be found. What other natural remedies do you use for aches and pains. We would love to hear about them here at the Co-op!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

20 Household Uses For Vinegar

Melinda Briana Epler, One Green Generation



I have stopped buying traditional cleaning products completely now, and have a cleaning cupboard that holds just a few things: vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, olive oil, lemon juice, Bon Ami, and locally-made biodegradable soap made from olive oil.

Vinegar is my most frequently-used item, so I thought I'd share how I use it first!


Worried About The Scent Of Vinegar?

With all of these uses below, there will be a faint scent of vinegar. Remember when I wrote about Redefining Normal? Think of this as the new normal! The vinegar scent will go away quickly, pretty much as soon as the vinegar dries. And it is a lot better than the smell of artificial chemicals and fragrances that just aren't good for you to be breathing. If you truly hate the smell, try adding a few drops of lemon juice, a cinnamon stick, or a sprig of rosemary, oregano, or lavender to your vinegar solutions.

Also, I use organic white vinegar because I think the scent is easier to cover up and it dissipates more quickly, but many people prefer apple cider vinegar. Try both and see which works best for you!



Twenty Household Uses For Vinegar

1. Washing Windows and Mirrors. I have a small spray bottle, bought in a drug store, that I fill at about 1 part vinegar to three parts water. Just good old-fashioned white vinegar you can buy in any store, or make yourself. With that, I spray windows and mirrors with the vinegar solution, and wipe with a soft, clean towel. Others use newsprint and swear by it - that has just never worked for me, but give it a go if you have newspapers lying around.


2. Washing Kitchen and Bathroom Surfaces. When cleaning my bathroom or kitchen, I use Bon Ami and a rag to really wash the surfaces. Then I spray all surfaces with that same spray bottle of 1:3 (vinegar:water), and wipe with a rag. The vinegar gives a shine to the surfaces, gets rid of soap scum, and also kills most germs and molds.

According to a Heinz spokesperson in this article, repeated studies have shown that their vinegar kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of viruses. Quite frankly, we are as a society far too focused on antibacterial everything - we need a few of them around for our children's immune systems to develop fully, for our immune systems to adapt, and to ensure that we're not creating monster super-viruses.

If you cook with meat and want to be extra safe, you can always wash cutting board surfaces with hydrogen peroxide to kill the other 1% of bacteria (I do not clean with chlorine bleach as I think it is awful stuff).


3. Toilet Bowl Cleaner. Pour 1/2 cup straight vinegar into the bowl, let stand for 20 minutes, and scrub clean. You can do this with hydrogen peroxide as well.


4. Mopping Unwaxed Floors. Add 1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon hot water. This makes them shine nicely, too. On some wood floors, the vinegar will actually strip the wax. Ours are so old and have so many layers of wax on them, that it works great.


5. Dusting. I don't use this mixture on wood (I use a pure oil instead). But I do use it on other hard surfaces. The same way I use it in the kitchen: spray with the 1:3 solution, and wipe with a rag. Alternatively, spray on the rag and then wipe the surface clean.


6. Cleaning the coffee machine, coffee and tea pot, coffee filter, and tea strainer. If your coffee machine is not making as good of coffee as it used to, chances are that there is a buildup of minerals, coffee oils, and other residue. Fill your coffee pot or espresso reservoir up to the full level, with 1 part vinegar to two parts water, and run that through the machine. If you haven't done this in a while, you may want to repeat the process. Then run just pure water through the machine to clear it out. And you can soak coffee and tea pots, coffee filters, and tea strainers in the same solution to remove residue and stains.


7. Cleaning the refrigerator. That same 1:3 solution works perfectly. I usually make a fresh batch with warm water, as that seems to work better inside the cold refrigerator.


8. Unclogging Drains. If water hasn't yet backed up, pour 1 cup of baking soda down, followed by 3 cups boiling water. Repeat if the drain doesn't clear. If the drain still doesn't clear, follow with 1 cup of vinegar. This makes it bubble, fizz and usually that does the trick! If this does not work, we usually buy enzymes from the local health food store.


9. Cleaning the Iron. I have only done this once, because I so rarely use my iron (I spray clothing with a fine water mist to get wrinkles out), but this does work! When an iron needs to be cleaned, you'll see white or murky residue inside the water reservoir. Fill the reservoir with 1 part vinegar to two parts water, and then run the iron on steam mode until it's out of water (you can do this in the air or onto a rag). If the residue isn't gone, you may need to repeat the process. Then run straight water through and do the same thing.



10. Fabric Softener. Add 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse water. Note: Most natural fibers do not cling very much, so don't worry about fabric softeners at all if your load is all cotton. And make sure you don't over-dry. Or better yet, line dry your clothing and you don't have to worry about it!


11. Alternative to color-safe bleach. Yes, you can have two-in-one power! Vinegar doubles as a color-safe bleach and fabric softener: add 1/2 cup vinegar to the wash water, add the soap, and let the washer fill up before putting clothing in. If you're also looking for a fabric softener, you probably won't have to add more vinegar during the rinse cycle (above), but try both ways and see what works.


12. Vinegar Hair Rinse. I have posted here and here about my hair treatment. I haven't used shampoo nor conditioner in over 6 months, and I love it. Basically, I mix 1 part vinegar with 8 parts water, and add a cinnamon stick and a bit of vanilla for a nice fragrance. Did I mention I love it??!


13. Denture & Mouthguard Cleaner. Soak them overnight in pure vinegar, and rinse in the morning. (Note: I'm not to the denture age yet, but I do have a mouthguard because I grind my teeth at night!)


14. Kill Weeds. Yes, it's true! My mom taught me this. Pour vinegar full strength onto weeds in sidewalk cracks, and along the edges of the yard, and presto - they die! She's been doing it for years. Gardening aficionados, do you know what it's doing? It's neutralizing the nitrogen, so it's essentially starving the weeds.


15. Ant Deterrent. It's not perfect, but it will help. Clean the surfaces with a 1:3 vinegar solution. Then make your own - or purchase - a natural cleaning solution that contains orange oil and spray it on the ant paths. Leave for at least a few days, until the ants find another place to go. Then clean it up with the vinegar solution. This has worked for me all over the country: north, south, east, and west.


16. Increase soil acidity. If you've tested your soil and found it to be not quite acidic enough, you can add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water when watering acid-loving plants, or when preparing the soil to be planted. Wait a few days before planting seeds or fragile seedlings, but hardier plants will be fine.


17. Cat urine. Yes, this is where we really discovered the magic of vinegar. If a cat pees on something that you can throw in the washing machine: wash it in hot water with a cup of vinegar (if it's really bad, it doesn't hurt to put in more vinegar). If a cat pees on furniture (eg, sofa, bed, plush chair): first blot up as much pee as you can with a towel. Then you want to really douse the area with vinegar, full strength, making sure that it gets deep into the cushions as far as the cat urine had. After several minutes, dab the area with a towel (or two), to get up as much vinegar as you can. And then cover the area with a doubled-up towel, and top with a couple of heavy books to help get up the rest of the liquid. Leave that for several hours.

This works because the main ingredient in urine is ammonia (like the nitrogen discussed above, when killing weeds). Ammonia is a base, so vinegar, an acid, neutralizes it.

Note: We have used this method on a couple of furniture items that we really cared about, and it did not stain them. But do use with caution. At the same time, generally the cat pee has a greater chance of staining than the vinegar (so at that point, what do you have to loose).


18. Cleaning Gold Jewelry and Tarnished Brass. Ok, I haven't done it (because when I wear jewelry it's generally silver), but I know many people that swear by it. Submerge jewelry in apple cider vinegar for 15 minutes. Then remove the jewelry and dry with a towel. For tarnished brass, simply pour a bit of vinegar on a rag and rub off the tarnish. For super sticky tarnish you may need to soak it a bit in the vinegar.

19. Food-Related Uses: For Instance, Pickling, Canning, Curdling Milk or Soymilk to Simulate Buttermilk, Homemade Salad Dressing, A Nice Addition To Pasta, etc. This topic is for another post, but of course in addition to all of the above uses, vinegar is incredibly useful as food!


20. There Are Many More. If you have another use for vinegar, please share it with us in the comments!!



Save Money, Time, and Anguish!

Ok so, with this list, you can now stop buying a whole lot of other products that you don't need and save a ton of money! Also, there is no need to worry about trying to find natural products in the grocery store, because now you can make them with vinegar and water (and sometimes one other ingredient).

If you want to save more money by making your own vinegar, check out Rhonda Jean's great instructions (with more here) - it's surprisingly easy.

And finally, if you have children and/or pets, please consider replacing your hazardous cleaning products with safe products such as vinegar. If you need incentive to do so, please read Kendra's post here.


What Else?

For those of you who are using vinegar for household needs, what did I leave off this list?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Healing Cottonwood Salve

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

A well stocked medicine cabinet should include some homemade soothing, and healing ointments and salves. Making your own salve allows you to control the ingredients, and keeps the expense down. A common salve that is easy to make is Calendula salve, but I'm going to show you how to make Cottonwood Salve today.

Supplies needed:
Dormant Cottonwood Buds
Olive Oil (organic, extra virgin is best for your skin)
Beeswax
wide mouth jar to make infused oil
assorted small jars and lids for salve
double boiler or a small and large kettle and canning rings


A popular European and Native American remedy for burns, it is just as useful today. Containing salicylates (think aspirin) it is also useful for pain, sprains and inflamation. Known for its natural antiseptic properties, it also helps with tissue regeneration.

Commonly known as Cottonwood or Balsam Poplar, Populus balsamifera, Populus trichocarpa.
A tall vigorous tree, look for it next to rivers, lakes and streams or in any moist area. If you are not sure if you have found the right tree, rub a leaf between your fingers, and an aromatic sweet scent will tell you if you have hit paydirt. But, mark the location, as the buds need to be gathered while the tree is dormant, in late winter through early spring.



How to gather buds from a 100' tree? Let Mother Nature help you. With cottonwood being a somewhat brittle tree, winter wind and ice storms will take their toll, and bring down limbs for you. I am not too keen on widespread wildcrafting, because if everybody is out foraging, the natural landscape will suffer, but Cottonwood trees are prolific and can take losing a cup of buds here and there. Look for tight, pointy buds that haven't started to open yet. They should be a little sticky and very aromatic. The scent is heavenly.



There are many ways to make infusions. The easiest is to place your buds in a wide mouth jar and completely cover with oil, so the buds do not mold. I prefer not to use heat, and I leave the buds in oil for a year, in the dry pantry. If you are in a hurry, you can heat the oil and buds gently and strain when the oil smells strong enough to you.

Cottonwood buds are antioxidant so no vitamin E or gum benzoin is needed. Good olive oil also is not prone to rancidity, so this infused oil keeps at least a year or more and is useful in itself. The addition of beeswax adds to the keeping qualities of the cottonwood, so you can expect this salve to keep several years.

Cast of characters: Beeswax, and infused cottonwood oil.


Decanted oil, I used wide mouth pint canning jars. That way I know at a glance how much oil I have, so I can measure my beeswax accordingly.



I wanted to make a firm salve, and the general salve recipe is 1 oz of beeswax to 5 oz of oil. Firm salves form a protective barrier, softer salves (less beeswax) will allow for more absorbency of the herbal properties. If this is your first salve making experience, use half the recommended amount of beeswax, when the wax and oil have melted, pour a little into one of your containers and let it set up. If you like the consistency, you're done. If it is too soft, reheat and add the rest of the beeswax and continue.
To get my beeswax down to a manageable size, I chopped it with a hatchet. I use beeswax in my some of my soap recipes too, so I can eyeball 1 oz sizes. I do weigh the beeswax though, after I have it in smaller pieces.


I made a double boiler with a large kettle, and some canning rings. The oil and beeswax should be gently heated to preserve the herbal qualities of the cottonwood.



While the oil and wax is heating, wash and dry your jars and have them ready for pouring. For this batch, I used an assortment of jars: 4 oz jelly jars, wide mouth 1/2 pint, recycled mustard jars (for the barn) and a real salve jar so I can share some salve as a gift. Always try to have a extra jar or two, I always do this when I am canning too, just so I don't have to go looking for one more jar when I have hot food waiting. Put down some newpaper too, if you pour like I do.



Pour the warm oil into your jars...


While the salve is cooling, you can wipe your pan to clean it. If the salve in the pan starts to harden just put the pan back in the water bath to remelt and wipe again, and then you can wash with warm soapy water.

When the salve has cooled, you can scrape the paper, (if you're as messy as me) and the jar threads and add the cleanings to your jars. Let cool overnight, or all day and wipe the rims clean and put the lids on for long term storage. Too soon and it may sweat and add moisture to your jars.

Once you have made and used some of this salve, you will love it!

Friday, March 6, 2009

"An Ounce of Prevention . . . "

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
When I was about eight years old, and visiting my Granny on her farm in Texas, I stepped on a rusty nail while exploring around back of some old sheds. I limped back up to the house, the inside of my shoe squishy with blood. Mom washed my foot with soap and hot water, checking to make sure no debris was left inside the deep puncture wound. Then Granny sat me down in the kitchen, my foot soaking in a pan filled with hot water and a heaping handful of Epsom Salts, "to draw out the toxin," she said.

"Lockjaw!" I heard from every adult relative that came in and saw me sitting there. I'd seen The Wizard of Oz. I imagined the rust from the nail creeping up through my body, freezing me up just like the Tin Woodman, until I couldn't even utter the word, "oilcan" (good thing I didn't know it would also mean painful muscle spasms throughout the entire body, plus elevated temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate, on-going for weeks). Mom assured me I'd be fine - I'd had my DT shots, before I started school just a couple of years earlier. I didn't know what a Deety was, I was just glad I had it.

Ten years later, when I was ready to go away to college, I first had to submit my immunization records. The university told me I needed a DT booster vaccination (which I now knew stood for Diphtheria/Tetanus) - the immunity lapses after 10 years. I've made sure to keep my immunity updated every decade since.

So why am I writing about this in a sustainable living blog? I now know rust doesn't cause Tetanus, but rusty cans and nails can often be found in areas harboring tetanus bacteria. The rough surface of a rusty object provides the perfect habitat for the tetanus bacteria to reside, and the sharp edges can make just the sort of break in your skin that provides the bacteria a route into your body. Tetanus bacteria spores are carried in the feces of animals, such as horses, cattle, chickens, dogs, cats, and guinea pigs. Anyone cleaning up after animals, making compost from manure, or using it in the garden, comes in contact with tetanus bacteria. Just getting your hands dirty while in your garden means you're probably carrying the spores on your skin. Tetanus bacteria thrives in hot, damp climates where the soil is rich in organic matter - exactly the type of environment organic gardeners strive to create.

Tetanus occurs when an open wound becomes contaminated with the bacteria. I know there are plenty of opportunities to cut, scratch, and puncture myself while working in my garden - splinters, insect bites, working around the cut ends of chicken wire, pruning roses and my particularly vicious blackberry brambles, to name only a few. Mom knew, even if you have a current tetanus vaccination, it's still necessary to immediately wash open wounds thoroughly with soap and water. I don't know if Granny's Epsom Salts treatment does anything, though. (Edit added later: upon confirmation by doctor's orders, from Jen in the comments, soaking in salt water really does draw toxins out of a wound - certainly not a substitute for a doctor's care in serious situations, but I thought it worth starting a "natural remedies" label on this blog).

Vaccines can prevent tetanus, but the immunity needs to be updated every 10 years. Since it can take up to two weeks for the antibodies to form, if you need a booster shot try to get it before your gardening season starts. Tetanus is fatal in 10 to 20% of reported cases (death occurs mainly in adults over 60, also the most likely to have let their immunity lapse), but even in less severe cases, with treatment, full recovery can take more than a year. Being sick and miserable, especially when it's easily preventable, makes no sense to me. I'd rather be safe than sorry, and stay healthy out there in my garden.