Sunday, 31 October 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!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Fifty Ways To Save Money For The Holidays

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


















With the holidays looming, many people fear that the extras aren't possible within their income level or budget so the additional "needs" get dumped on the credit card! There are so many teeny tiny greener changes we can make over the next 8 weeks which will save you hundreds of dollars and maybe pay for the turkey, trimmings and presents :)

1. Stop buying books and magazines and start using the library instead!
2. Don't buy cleaning products and instead invest in vinegar and baking soda [see the Down To Earth blog for tips]
3. Only wash clothes that are dirty, don't wash simply because you've used them
4. Hang your clothes to dry
5. Shower instead of bath and put a timer on
6. Swap childcare with friends
7. Eat vegetarian meals 3 nights a week - eating less meat is certainly greener!
8. Set yourself no spending days begin with 2 a week for the first month then add in another!
9. Use low energy light bulbs
10. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth
11. Turn off all lights in empty rooms
12. Put a sweater and socks on so you can keep the heat lower.
13. Turn down the water temperature.
14. Pack snacks
15. Practice freezer cooking once a month so you have frugal meals handy!
16. Don't use things that are disposable like water bottles
17. Stop buying paper towels
18. Plan a weekly menu
19. Have breakfast for dinner once a week
20. Only shop once a week maximum
21. Try to buy direct from local farms and co-ops
22. Limit or ditch the cell phone
23. Schedule a long walk each weekend (great frugal family activity)
24. Pick your own - in some areas apples are still available!
25. Use what is available free - does your gym have showers and shampoo you can use instead of showering at home?
26. Wash your clothes at lower temperatures
27. Establish a change jar
28. Set yourself no driving days - if you need your car for work, nominate one day at the weekend where you aren't allowed to use it.
29. Set yourself the goal that if you could walk somewhere within 30 minutes you shouldn't take your car.
30. Write down everything you eat.
31. Write down everything you buy
32. Cancel the newspaper subscription
33. Don't eat out. Maybe challenge yourself and see if you can not eat out at all between now and the holidays!
34. Nominate one night a week to be soup night
35. Commit to cutting your grocery bill by at least 10% [I cut mine by 75%]
36. Stop buying soda, juice and alcohol
37. Ditch the cigarettes
38. Have a movie night at home.
39. Rent movies from the library - in most countries that means they are free.
40. See if you can get what you need for free by making use of local adds and enquiring if friends or family are looking to get rid of what you need.
41. Join a book group - usually a free way to have a night out.
42. Turn off all electrical equipment
43. Get back to nature [photographing squirrels is free, green & fun!]
44. Make your own shampoo
45. If you want to purchase something, make yourself wait 48 hours and examine whether you need it or want it.
46. See if what you need you can purchase second hand
47. Wait to do dishes until there is a full load [by hand or machine!]
48. Watch your portion sizes
49. Be your own beauty therapist
50. Ask for the necessities for holiday gifts

Taking a minute to reflect on this list, it is obvious that many of these money saving measures are actually green choices too! I've always found being greener doesn't need to be expensive despite what media reports often say! There are hundreds of every day little steps you can take to green your life, reduce your carbon footprint, enjoy a simpler life and live within a budget!

Have you got any green tips which help save money? Do you find being green expensive or frugal?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Soap Making Tutorial

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

I have been making soap with the able assistance of my good lady wife Kim since January this year, and we find the finished product wonderful to use.   We have also been holding soap making workshops for our Sustainable Living Group free of charge.

As I said, back in January we embarked on the giddy world of lye, vegetable and essential oils, with half a hand of botanicals thrown in. We bought a cold press soap kit from a local soap supplier for $45 that had everything in it to make the first 20 odd bars.  I am a bit of a kit bloke, mainly because I like to have everything supplied to start with and then find the cheap alternatives afterwards.  This is similar to my cheese making hobby.  I started off with a simple kit and it grew from there. 

There are two types of soap making methods that we researched, melt and cold press.  We choose cold press because you do not have to keep going back to a specific supplier to get the necessary ingredients.  Most of them you can buy from local suppliers, like the supermarket in the case of oils and the lye, or caustic soda from the hardware store. 

I have had such a fantastic response on my own blog that I was encouraged to make a video tutorial on the process we used.  We utilise various sustainable harvested vegetable oils and lye to make the soap.  The good thing is that we have the raw materials readily available that are grown in Australia and it is cheap to make as well.  Here is our recipe;

Gavin and Kim's Bubbly Cream Soap Recipe
makes about 1.2kg

Ingredients:
300gm Olive Oil
300gm Rice Bran Oil
300gm Coconut Oil
100gm Sunflower Oil
140gm Sodium Hydroxide (lye/caustic soda)
380gm water
25gm Fragrance Essential Oil (the choice is yours)
Soap colouring to your personal preference.

So sit back and enjoy our soap making tutorial.  I hope everyone including those who already make soap in this method gets a tip or two from it.

Part One;





Part Two;





If anyone has any questions, please let me know via comment.  Also, if anyone has any other soap making tips using this method, I am more than happy for them to share.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Pumpkin into Food for Now and Later

by Danelle @ My Total Perspective Vortex

This is how we roast pumpkin to make pumpkin puree for pies and soups. Under each half is a tablespoon of salted butter. This variety is small sugar pumpkin. I like it for processing this way the best of all the pumpkins recommended for pies and soups mostly because I can do three at a time, the vine produces quite a few and they ripen before the vine gets mildew or attacked by stink bugs. They store well too. All around a great pumpkin.

I remove from the oven (set at 350-400 degrees F) after about an hour or when I start to see the skin split.

I let cool until I can easily touch them without being burned. Then the skins will have started to curl off, and they easily peel off by pulling with my finger or prodded with a butter knife. I turn them over and scrape the seeds out of the center, but I leave the stringy part mostly. It all goes into the food processor and gets pureed, why waste it?

After whirring a bit in the processor (a blender works too), I scoop into freezer bags or jars in about 2 cup (16 oz) amounts. That's what most recipes call for. From there I can make mashed pumpkin (like mashed potatoes with more nutrients, pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, or pie filling.

For pie filling I actually cook the pumpkin goo for a little bit on the stove top with butter and cream and seasonings (I like cinnamon and nutmeg), puree it again to get the texture just right and then use whatever recipe calls for a "can of pumpkin" but this way it's free of preservatives and can stuff.

See? Pumpkin IS food and not just porch decoration. ;)

I do wonder though, has anyone ever just pureed the skins too? Seems like they would also be full of nutrients.....

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Time to Plant the Garlic

by Kate
Living the Frugal Life



I'm re-running this post from the archives of my personal blog.  It's garlic planting time again.  There are a few tips in this post that have given us good harvests of this indispensable seasoning, even in two back-to-back years of opposite weather extremes.  If you've never grown garlic before, it's probably not too late in the northern hemisphere.  If you can't get planting stock at such late notice from a seed catalog, check your local farmer's market for untreated garlic and use the largest cloves you can find for planting.

We finally got our garlic planted yesterday. We aim for a week after first frost, and that event was rather late this year. It's both counter-intuitive and oddly reassuring to plant things this late in the year. I've had excellent results in growing hardneck heirloom garlics in my zone 6 garden. So I thought I would describe my method.

First things first: I prepare a bed that I have not used to grow garlic in the past three years. This helps protect garlic from just about the only thing that threatens it: fungus that attacks the roots. I scrape down any weeds, leaving them in place on the soil. To them I add a few leaves from my comfrey plants to act as a green manure, albeit not a living one. Comfrey is a deep-mining bioaccumulator of many nutrients, bringing these minerals to the surface where they can be made accessible to other plants. I make sure the comfrey leaves wilt for several hours in the sun before burying them. The plant has astonishing powers to root itself from cuttings. After that I work the ground over with the broadfork and then apply the lasagna/sheet mulching method. So much for the bed.

The night before I plant my garlic bulbs, I break down the heads of each different type of garlic into individual bulbs, leaving as many of their papery coverings intact as possible. The wrappings protect the bulb from viruses and other unwelcome intruders. Given the damage to this year's garlic crop from our incredibly wet June, I looked over the planting candidates with a very careful eye, rejecting any that showed signs of damage or rot. Those that made the cut got my standard pre-planting treatment. This consists of a soak in a mixture that is both anti-fungal as well as nutritive. It's a mixture of 1 tablespoon of liquid seaweed fertilizer and 1 heaping tablespoon of baking soda mixed into one gallon of water. The bulbs soak in this mixture overnight, with each garlic variety I plant in a separate mason jar. They soak for 16 to 20 hours altogether.


The day of planting, I pour about two cups of flour into a container and then rummage around in the garage until I locate my planting template. I made this template from a piece of scrap particle board I fished out of a dumpster. The template has 18 holes, each spaced 8" apart, which is slightly generous spacing for garlic. Originally I had intended to plant the garlic directly through the template, but that didn't work out when I saw how large the bulbs of some heirloom hardneck varieties are. Instead, I lay the template down over a well prepared bed, and dust the flour down every hole. When I take the template away, I can easily see where the bulbs should be planted.



Just before it's time to plant, the bulbs come out of their seaweed and baking soda soak, and go into a much briefer soak in rubbing alcohol. This additional disinfectant soak lasts for just 3-5 minutes. We've used 70% rubbing alcohol in the past, but this year it was 91% pure. While the cloves soaked, my husband did the hard work of making a deep narrow hole at each of the floured spots, punching straight through the newspaper in the lasagna mulch. I try to get the cloves about 4" deep, but sometimes it's difficult to tell exactly how deep they are when I have a lot of mulch on top of the ground. This year I added good compost down each hole dug for the cloves. This year's bed was built in late summer over lawn, so I figure the garlic could use some extra help. That's pretty much it. I don't even water the bed usually. We have enough rainfall in our area that it's not needed, and the bed is pretty well protected from drying out. It's raining today.

The garlic shoots have no trouble making their way through the lasagna mulching. They just come straight up through the hole I punch in the thick newspaper layer with the dibble. The key is to avoid walking on the bed after planting, even though it looks like an empty space in the garden.

Garlic requires more advanced planning and a longer time in the ground than other annual plants. But the payoff is that we eat homegrown garlic from July to December at least. This year we planted a softneck variety too, which should store better after harvest, in hopes of extending our homegrown supply into the spring months, or at least late winter. So here I am in October 2009, thinking about whether or not we'll have homegrown garlic to eat in February or March 2011. Although I started growing garlic in 2007, we're now eating from our second harvest of this crop and wondering how long we can manage to store it. No wonder it takes so long to feel like I know anything about gardening.