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LeClaire is also the home of the now famous antique shop, Antique Archeology, made famous by the History Channel’s television series, American Pickers. We enjoyed exploring the shop and it was a pleasure to meet Danielle. She is just a sweetheart, who happily autographed publicity handouts, the shop provided.

After exploring LeClaire, we travelled on up the River Road and explored a bit in a few more towns, briefly, on the Iowa side of the river. One of the towns was Clinton and I would like to go there in the spring to visit the Bickelhaupt Arboretum located there. Then it was time to cross back over the river, which was frozen over from to shore to shore ,on a different bridge, and head home.

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Imagine my delight when we got to the Illinois side of the river and found ourselves in the town of Fulton, Illinois. It was late in the day when we were there, so we just had time to locate and look through a couple of the antique shops and discover that this is a richly historical town also. One we would like to explore more thoroughly on another day trip. I really want to go there during the first weekend in May, when the town celebrates its rich Dutch heritage with the Dutch Days Festival. This is a picture of the working grist mill that was closed for the day. Another reason to come back as I have a thing for historic grist mills:) This one has a nice museum associated with it.

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I found a very interesting book also. I will love reading about Susan La Flesche, the youngest daughter of an Omaha Indian Chief, who felt the call to medicine. About Bethenia Owens Adair, who traded in laundry work for a successful medical practice. And dozens of other women who lived and treated patients in the frontier-era West.

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Speaking of that era, we saw the loveliest cupboard in one of the shops. It was reputed to have been crafted around 1800 and to have travelled, over the Atlantic Ocean, with an European immigrant. What a history associated with this piece! I can well imagine it being many women’s prized possession, through the ages.

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Thank you for visiting Comfrey Cottages xx

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Formalizing the Apothecary

 I came to herbalism through my garden, woods and field walks, my bees, ancestral call, and our families children’s eyes:) Since I didn’t start with herbs, but accumulated bits and pieces through the last few years, I was feeling rather disorganized  so spending the entire day devoted to straightening up the apothecary and making a list of what I do have herb wise. I still need to tweak the list and then make labels for everything with both the common name and the botanical name.I have been meaning to for a long time, but you know how it is when you have a million irons in the fire… so now I have my list of herbs and new labels right next to me on the couch so tonight when I am visiting with my hubby I can still be doing homework at the same time;-) He is being a sweetie and supportive of my time spent on this:) I expected no less though, as he has thoroughly supported and helped me with my gardening and beekeeping endeavors, also. So Wednesday I spent the whole day inventorying just the herbs and getting their cabinets arranged.  So many of these herbs I have either grown or wild crafted myself that you will see in these cabinets.

This cabinet was my original herb cabinet. Due to the fact it has a glass front and is in a bit of window light, I have changed its function.

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My darling daughter Michelle, gave me that sweet little pillow. My soul sister in Wales, Linda, made me the cute little Grandma’s Remedies sign. And my sweet Katee Bug gave me the little bee and heart window cling. I like to intersperse little gifts and memories throughout my apothecary. They fill me with joy and make me pause before I ever work with herbs, to focus on the love I want to put into making herbal preparations. Time is always of the essence for me, and to see little reminders of love, inspires me to become present and focus on what I am doing, rather than be thinking of a million things still beckoning for my time:) The drawer has some teas, labels and little muslin tea bags.

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See those little tincture bottles in there? Those were quite a big deal for me when I got them! I think that is when I decided to quit being just a dabbler and get focused on learning!

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The cabinet itself was a gift from my husband when my herbal love outgrew my countertop space! lol On top of it, you can see my honey bottling pail. Now that tall, thin white cabinet off in the corner by the window, became my second cabinet when things kept expanding. On top of it is a big pail full of lovely wax. Eric and I are hoping to make beeswax candles this winter and some will be used in salves, ointments, and for little decorations for presents:) The red cabinet is my newest cabinet. Those corner two are holding most of the dry herbs.

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For now, I have kept some of the essential oils, salves, and extract tinctures with their corresponding dry herbs, if they have one.

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There is one other cabinet in my kitchen. Now folks, this took some ingenuity to accomplish this as my husband is not tiny and has to fit through doorways, so figuring out a way to get all four of these cabinets in my eat in kitchen in my hobbit cottage, well…. let us just say I think it is a miracle! lol This other cabinet has the rest of the dried herbs (each cabinet is alphabetically arranged with the tall white one being first, the red cabinet second and this pinkish one (a gift from my daughter) the end of the alphabet plus tinctures, elixirs, and vinegars we have been making this year at Comfrey Cottages:) The bottom shelf has the pots and pans, funnels, cheesclothes, etc we use in making salves and melting beeswax.

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This next picture shows that next to the cabinet is a five generation picture of my mom, grandma, daughter, granddaughter and I together. We have since lost mom and grandma, but they are still here in our hearts and in my work and intentions. With their help my intentions are to make wonderful preparations to keep myself, Michelle, Lily and the rest of our family and friends, nourished and healthy working with these herbs.

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Luckily, we have a small bedroom right off the kitchen, that I have taken over as part of the apothecary. There are three more cabinets in there and a baker’s rack.

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The green one is for books and extra small jars. The white one has herbal oils and honeys, as well as canned goods such as violet and wild plum jellies:) Some of the bigger supplies are on bottom shelf. What is the ammonia for you say? A mushroom identifying helper:) Too many interests right? LOL But they all blend together and need tools! lol Thus… lots of cabinets:)

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I can’t grow inside plants easily or well. We just have too many large trees and cats! LOL But, when my daughter gave me the bakers rack I am trying to grow just a sage and an aloe plant on the top shelf. Hopefully the cats won’t figure that out! I TRY to put the current things I am studying on the shelf. The wooden shelf is nice for garbling herbs, while looking out at part of the garden:)

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And underneath it holds some honey supers waiting to be processed.

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While arranging, I took the time to check each jar for freshness, using taste, sight, and smell and ended up with quite a few rejects! I used them in the bee smoker, while working my friends apiary with Eric, and they made a nice sweet smoke the bees reacted well too!

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There is one more cabinet in that bedroom/apothecary area, it is yellow and holds liquor, some spices, extra bottles, spoons, etc etc

Now I need to make the labels, inventory all my tools, such as funnels, strainers, etc. And determine what I would still like or need to have, and then make a couple of the extraction and preparations.

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Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages, from me and Comfrey Fairy! Who by the way, is mightily pleased with this tidying up around here! LOL

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Forgot to mention, Dylan is starting the potty training process again! Aunt Michelle comes and visits almost every lunch hour she has, and is seen here reading Dylan one of his potty training themed books:)

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Four years ago I got my first beehive. My brother Eric got a hive also the next spring and we were off on our backyard beekeeping adventure. We try to keep two hives going in each of our backyards. Since we just have a few hives, we just use the crush and strain method of extracting our honey from our honey frames. Here is a previous post about this method. This is the first time Eric has had a chance to actually participate, so this is a little picture post about Pooh’s honey harvesting adventure tonight!

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This was some of the honey from our 2009 harvest. Good thing we had a good harvest that year as this one was not near as bountiful. I have found that the honey keeps just fine in the comb until it is needed. Since we keep our honey raw, and unheated, it has a tendency to crystallize  a bit fast, so we only remove it from the comb when we run out:) Now to make some garlic honey and some sage honey:) And other yummy herbal medicines besides just as part of our diet:)

Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages

 

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One of the things that always says fall is here to me is apples. My brother Eric and I have a friend in our beekeeping group, Rick Camp, who owns an apple orchard farm not too far from us. One Saturday we decided to go our and watch Rick, with the help of his family, make apple cider. Now Camp Grove Orchard apple cider is the best cider I have ever had in my life folks, so I was real excited about this! LOL Rick and Tammy’s orchard is located down a picturesque country road located at Roseville,IL.

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Camp Grove Orchard

373 105th St.
Roseville, IL 61473
Warren County
Phone: (309) 774-4244
Open: September – November; Wednesday/Thursday 5-7pm, Friday 1-7pm, Satruday/Sunday 10-5pm
Directions: East of Roseville 6 miles on highway 116 then 3 miles south on 105th St.
Description: Apples, Cider, Honey, Pumpkins & Gourds

They have so many types of apples!

Apples: Yellow Delicious, Red Delicious, Arkansas Black, Jonagold, Jonamac, Jonalicious, Winesap, Empire, Paula Red, Rome, Ida Red, Jonathan, Suncrisp. Coming soon: Honeycrisp, Snow Sweet, Jonared, Fuji, Gala, Sweet Sixteen, Granny Smith, Candycrisp, Lindamac, Smoothie.

The whole family is just as nice as can be and let us wander around the orchard checking it all out. Here are some pictures of the apple cider press in operation,

The apples to be pressed are first put in this big vat of water with a bit of bleach in it. I do the same thing before I process my apples.

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Then they are drained and loaded on the conveyor belt

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The machine then mashes them all up, separating the bulk from the juice. Rick then takes stacks of the bulk and puts it in a wheelbarrow to be used as compost.

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The strained off juice is piped to big stainless steel storage vats to be then bottled

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The amount of moisture in the air from all this processing surprised me, although it shouldn’t have, as I get the same effect in my kitchen while processing fruit!

Eric and I then walked around exploring their orchard and their beehives. There were some old apple trees that were just growing the way you normally see an apple tree, but the new ones they have planted, were all espaliered.

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It was great fun learning how apple cider is made and best of all… I took home a couple gallons of this tasty cider and a couple pounds of their honey:)

 

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The last few posts I shared pictures of the feral pears, my brother Eric and I harvested.  They finally reached a good stage of ripening,  so he and I got busy peeling, and quartering them for canning. These pears were not as symmetrically and smoothly formed as ones from the store. Nor were they perfect, as they come from a tree which was either left over from an old homestead or were truly wild, planted by a bird or critter. It took a bit more time to get them peeled and cut up and no way are they actually quarters! LOL Some might be, but the majority are just whatever shape they ended up;-o I weighed them when we were done, and we have 7 pounds in these two bowls

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We had a pot on the stove with 6 cups of water, 2 cups of honey, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda , in it.

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Heated the liquid up a bit and added the pears to simmer in the syrup for about 5 minutes

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Assembled my jars and tools while the pears cooked and got the water to a full boil in the canner.

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See that tool with the red handles, balanced on the edge of the bowl? Invaluable tool I pilfered from my husband’s tool shed. It has a magnet on one end. That is soooo handy when fishing hot flats and rings out of that bowl of boiling water! Mechanics use it to fish out fallen bits during vehicle repairs.

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Filled the jars up for water bathing in the canner. Half plain and half spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice.

End results… 11 pints:)

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Canned Pears

7 pounds of peeled and quartered pears

9 cups water

3 cups honey or sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking soda for every 1 cup of honey

Start a big pot simmering with the water, honey and baking soda. Add the prepared pears and cook them for 5 minutes.

Ladle the pear and syrup into your clean canning jars. I ended up using 11.

Process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes.

Can be spiced with your choice of spices:) I used allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg in mine. I just put a pinch of each on the top of some of them. Gave them a good stir through with the handle end of  my wooden spoon before sealing and processing in the canner

You will notice in my post I said I used 6 cups of water and 2 of honey for my syrup. Which deviates from the recipe. I wrote the recipe the way I will do it next time. I was shy a bit of syrup when filling the jars, and improvised by filling the rest of the way with apple juice. So, I decide to increase the proportions in the recipe, thinking I would rather have too much syrup than not enough. If I end up with a small glass extra, cool! Sounds like a tasty drink:)

We found our pear tree, at the edge of the woods. I like to imagine some other woman, in the past, planting and harvesting from this same tree. Many times you can find fruit trees and other edible stands of plants, near spots which were old homesteads.

I started destemming more elderberries while the canner was going. I ended up spending 4 hours total destemming last nite. I plunked on the couch with  bowls around me and watched 2 silly movies when I did it;-) I decide to dry some of them in my dehydrator. I had found the nicest tool to use with berries, herbs or other small things. It is a Clean-A-Screen by American Harvest company. It has little finger places along its side so that when you are through drying your harvest, you can lift the screen out and flex it, thus loosening the berries or whatever else you might have dried that is sticky. I am certain many of you already use this, but it was new for me!

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Today I have been invited to a friends apple orchard to watch and learn about making apple cider! Have a beautiful day, wherever you are. Honey and herbal hugs to you from Comfrey Cottages

 

 

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A week ago, my brother Eric and I harvested the first pictures batch of elderberries, from a wild spot. These were preserved as a tincture, and syrup, and some were dried. We also harvested from a feral pear tree, and I have been letting them soften just a tad on the counter. Pears are a fruit that seems to develop well, on one’s counter, if it is picked a bit hard. The wild plums were picked by Katee and a week ago. We picked them yellow, and they have developed a nice red color, also in the kitchen. Last night, Eric and I went and picked the last of the elderberries at our spot, and I have been invited to a friends property to harvest what berries she has, this morning. Eric introduced me to a nice lady, last evening, who has an apple tree, but didn’t want to harvest from it. We went to her home last night and got a tour of her lovely garden, I tried the apple, it was nice, so made plans to harvest there today. In the meantime, I had talked to our local state museum folks, and been assured I can harvest the wild plums Katee and I found there. So…. I need to go to Val’s to pick elderberries, stopping at the store for her on the way….bring berries home, emptying the carrying basket, get Katee to go with me for the plums, stop and get apples on the way home… and then get busy canning up the pears and de- stemming the elderberries. I might wait and do up the plums in the morning. Just depends on how it goes!

This past few days, we have enjoyed cooler temperatures and I am just rejoicing in the gifts from our Mother’s labors.

 

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Diligently stripping off non perfect leaves:)

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