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So this morning I was exploring another new to me site, when I ran across this one, The Self Sufficient Gardener. I am very impressed with the content of this site, and wanted to share with you all:) The page I just linked you to, has some text posts and podcasts leaned toward the medicinal uses of plants. Jason Akers site is one I am sure I will be exploring more, and thought you might enjoy it also:) I giggled at his video The Passion of the Bumblebee

Well, enjoy exploring the site! I know I will:)

big herbal and honey hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages

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Today finds me in my home apothecary.  I started by making a Muscle Injury Ointment recipe.

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It was nice to be able to go to my herbal oil cabinet and see that I had made, this last season, from either wild crafted or home grown herbs, the three oils I would need. Plantain, Comfrey and St. John’s Wort. I had also, previously poured some of our own melted beeswax into little molds that each end up being the perfect amount for this particular recipe, 1 tablespoon.

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So I melted the beeswax and then added the three oils, in the given amounts, into my little cast iron pan.

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After the melted beeswax and the 3 oils were mixed together well, it was time to remove the pan from the heat and let it cool down. Then a small whisk was used on the mixture and lavendar essential oil was added and it was re-whisked and put into containers and labeled.

The next recipe I made was one for both a sunscreen and a burn ointment. This recipe calls for using only one oil. St. John’s wort oil infused in sunflower oil. I learned that sunflower pressed oil and shea butter are the highest plants in natural spf’s! So in this recipe, was made using shea butter instead of beeswax. The same method as above was used. I melted the shea butter, added the oil, cooled and whipped with lavender essential oil.

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I ended up using 3 tablespoons of the shea butter, to get the consistency I wanted, and putting the pan in the freezer for a few minutes to hurry up the setting up process before I whipped it.

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This is my herbal first aid kit, with the additions of the two new ointments and a thermometer.

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I started 6 new tincture extractions,  Chamomile, Fennel, Burdock, Yellow dock, Catnip and Elderflower. Again, from herbs I either grew or wild crafted last season:)

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When these tinctures are finished I will be making some more recipes and bottling some of them as is, to include in the kit. This is a work in progress, so stayed tuned for more additions to the kit:)

The ethno-botanical books are just lovely and I am so thrilled to have them

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Very happy to have received Maude Grieve’s, A Modern Herbal. I refer to the online site constantly, so excited to have it in book form:)

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Well, that is what is happening at Comfrey Cottages today! Big herbal and honey hugs to all who visit!

Eric and I were taught to keep bees using Langstroth hives. That is how our bee guru taught us, and that was the way everyone in our beekeeping group worked their bees. We were taught to use medicines preventively and many manipulation techniques. Both of us pretty much went along with what we were taught for the first two years, or so. Our main bee book was Beekeeping for Dummies. Whereas the book is excellent, with lots of good information, it is a book for keeping bees in Langstroth hives, and purchasing all the equipment that this method of beekeeping suggests. Well, we just didn’t set up the bees and keep this up. We kept reading about bees and beekeeping, both from older text, and from more modern sources and we came to the conclusion that top bar beekeeping, naturally, was much more the manner we would like to keep bees and we will make a transition to it. Last year, a friend on facebook, named Kristen, shared plans with me on how to construct the top bar hive. One of the men in our beekeeping group made one, following these instructions, and he and another member tried to hive some bees in it, and failed. Well, since then I have been trying to read and learn more about it and one of the sources I am using is Phil Chandler’s site, The Barefoot Beekeeper. On that site is a great free eBook and access to all his articles free. Phil is a strong advocate for natural beekeeping and I am making time to learn all I can from him. He takes you step by step on how to start natural top bar beekeeping here. I am a book person, so I will be getting his book too:) For all you people who are technically inclined, he offers podcasts for all the latest devices.

I have several friends who use top bars and so have found a couple of lovely blogs to follow. A new friend named Marcia, lives in New Zealand and writes about her adventures with top bar hives, at blog Kiwi Beekeeping Top Bar Hives.I have just started learning all this folks, so join me and lets learn together:) Top bar beekeeping is better for the environment, better for the bees, and better for us for the afore mentioned reasons, and the considerations of cost, equipment and heaviness of keeping bees in Langstroth hives. Now I will share this, for the last couple of years I have not been using the premade wax foundations we are told to purchase to use in the Langstroth hives. I have let the bees build natural comb, even in the honey super, and they have built their comb naturally and I have been able to even  harvest some honey. I just started using the crush and strain method instead of dragging my supers to my beekeeping guru’s house, and using his extractor. The wax is useful when making my herbal salves and ointments and I hope to dabble in candle making someday:) It is nice knowing that my honey and wax are both chemical free and natural!

Well that is it for today. I need to go get supper made as it is my Aunt’s birthday and I would like to go bring her some jelly, flowers and a card afterwards. There are as many ways to keep bees as their our beekeepers. You will have to make your own choices along the way and the bees will teach you also:) I am just sharing here where Eric and I are at in our thoughts for beekeeping. You will have to weigh the pros and cons of either using Langstroth or top bar hives. There are even other types. We just feel that top bar hives is the right choice for us and we invite you to follow us as we learn and hopefully, begin this method this spring:)

Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages

 

A few friends have expressed an interest in bees lately, so I am inspired to show you a bit about how I started keeping bees. I guess it all started with this little darling honey pot my mother gave me about 12 years ago…

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Not long after that she gave me this cute little honey bear wind chime..

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Yes, that is a little indoor “clothesline” type of affair, under the chime. I use it to hang straining cloths, tea balls and other things to dry and be handy to grab:) The chime and the line both hang over my kitchen sink.

These two gifts made me start noticing bees more. The more you notice bees, the more you see and I started collecting a few more bee decorated things and then… my brother Eric gave me these two books

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Sue Hubbell’s Book of Bees, is an excellent book to learn more about bees, and keeping them.  Her book A Country Year, chronicles a year in her life and talks extensively about what  it entails keeping bees, throughout the year.  Her style of writing  is homey and warm and makes you want to know her and start keeping bees! lol

I will be adding more post about beekeeping. I just wanted to get you started with a couple of excellent reads on the subject. You know if you are already interested, bee fever has already struck and it is just a matter of time until, you too will just take the plunge:) I suggest you try to find a local beekeeping organization and go to a meeting. Eric and I started going to meetings and meeting local beekeepers before we got our first hives. Great way to learn more and have a network. Most of the folks that are in our beekeeping group, ended up joining the herb group we formed. I will tell you more about our beekeeping group soon:)

Big herbal and honey hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages

I will admit it… I am a mother hen type. I worry about my bees in the winter.  But today I put my worries aside for awhile and rejoice in the fact we are having a warm enough day the bees can do what bees need to do. Run outside and potty (they are too tidy to do this in their hive), haul out the deceased, and joyfully spread their wings, landing on anything that might be a flower. This especially applied to me as to a bee, in my white bee suit, I look like a great big flower! lol They seemed to truly be fascinated with my light yellow gloves:)

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I brought the bees out a bit of holiday cheer, in the form of the wax left over from the last time Eric and I crush and strained some honey. It had been stored in a big bucket on top of one of my apothecary cabinets. I directed a few of my hitchhikers to it.GEDC0905

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The bees you see here will probably not live to see summer, so I give them back a taste of summer with my thanks and blessings upon them.

It warmed up during the night and by morning thunder, lightening and showers were happening. The rain finally broke this afternoon and the sun came out to shine magnificently! This will rapidly change and we will be plunged back into winter tonight. I think the forecast is for something like a 40 degree fluctuation in temperatures today! I am going back outside to watch the bees a bit, then I will have to shoo them off their present of honey wax in a bucket so they will get back to their homes before the falling temperatures catch them too far away to make it home. Even though the bucket is just a few yards from the hives, inside will be warmer than outside the bucket, and the lure of honey so strong, by the time they are ready to go home, unless I have shooed them out already, my gift will become their grave as they just can’t move when it drops to a certain point. So off I go to see how many others have came to have a treat. I am sure after the first bees filled up they dashed to the hive to do a waggle dance to entice their sisters to the feast!

Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages

This first aid kit will be handy to grab and shove in my backpack as I head out each day. Whether it is in the bee yard, the park, boating, minding the grandchildren or foraging through the woods, it will not be a hindrance and is fairly sturdy. I am making index cards I am going to laminate on which herbs to use for what purpose, in the event someone else needs to use my kit and with an eye towards future presents for my family members, so each household feels empowered that they too can learn to care for their families with herbs and confidence.

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a little fennel for the tummy and a bit of heat might be needed…

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No doubt about who actually runs the apothecary! lol Wisteria!

 

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. These cards will help me make the cards I want to include in my portable kit as well as my home apothecary.

Part of the books I ordered for my dh to give me 😉

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I am thrilled to have just received two of the books from my ethno-botanical list. I have even found a plant in them I have been searching for…

 

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These are a few of the books I customarily refer to of my own gathering over the last few years

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the above books are all in my kitchen:) Anyone else a bookaholic?

Was Santa Claus nice to everyone? Santa, aka Eric, was very nice to me this year, as well as my family and friends! I feel utterly spoiled!

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Eric and I found all those herbal books while together at an antique store:) Nice they ended up in my basket! Lovely teas, and handcrafted soaps and some seeds! Oh my! I am so psyched to grow nicotiana! I can just smell it on a late June evening now…. dreamy:)

I will keep you posted with updates on how my herbal medicine chest progresses.

I gave Eric a pretty cool gift. If we all ask him nice, maybe he will start posting about it. I have given him blog permission;-)

Big hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages

Yesterday found me learning to do something I have always want to learn! Soap making! Our friend Jill, who is in our beekeeping group and our herb group, invited me over to her house to learn to make both goat’s milk soap and pine tar soap. Here is the recipe we used for the goat’s milk soap

28 ounces lard

24 ounces coconut oil

24 ounces olive oil

4 ounces castor oil

27 ounces of frozen goat’s milk, mostly defrosted and big hunks chopped up ( you could use any milk or water)

11. 5 ounces of lye

First thing Jill did was line her molds with parchment paper, for easy removal after the soap cured. She also lined some extra baking dishes with parchment paper for the extra. So you see, you could start soaping without any specialized bits and pieces if you wanted to!

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The first step was to measure out and add the lard, coconut oil, olive oil and castor oil to a stainless steel pot. Do Not use an aluminum pot! There would be a terrible reaction when you added the lye later! No aluminum mixing spoons or pots allowed in soap making.

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Jill used a handy dandy digital scale her husband has for his work to measure as she went. But not necessary folks, you could just measure as usual, but be mindful to be precise. After the lard and oils were measured and put in the pot, it went on the stove top to gently melt down

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Next, a second stainless steel pot was got out and the goat milk measure into it. Then the lye was added SLOWLY to the milk and stirred with a stainless steel spoon. You have to stir until the lye is dissolved completely or you will end up with a piece of lye in your soap and that would burn you! Lye is very caustic and reacts with the fats and oils in your skin, is you get it on you. Rather like turning your skin into soap! Ugh!

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(that is the bag of lye. care must be used to keep it very dry before use)

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Do note, protective eye and hand gear used when starting to work with the lye part of the recipe! Here Jill is measuring the lye.

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And slowly adding the lye to the milk, while stirring. It turned a beautiful yellow color and smelled like oysters at this point!

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After the lye was thoroughly dissolved in the milk the pan is brought over to the pan of gently melted oil and lard and poured into it. ( Just get the oils melted and then turn off the heat)

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Jill had an immersion blender she used for mixing it all together until it reached the trace stage. You could do it by hand, but a bit more work:) I had always heard of this trace, but wasn’t sure what it was. After you see it once, you will know though. Here is a good explanation

Trace is the so-called "point of no return" in soap making. It is the point where the oils or the fats in your soap have successfully mixed with your lye solution. More appropriately, this is the point where your oils and your lye turn into soap. The following are the tell-tale signs of trace:

  • Your soap has a thick consistency similar to cake batter after you’ve mixed it.
  • If after you drizzle some of the soap on the surface of the mixture, it leaves behind a "trail" that takes a while to sink back in the mixture.

So after we reached trace, it was time to fill the molds!

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Jill’s darling homeschooled daughter kept us company:)

After the soap sat up a bit, it was moved to a warm spot where it will finish reacting for a week.

Jill made the first batch, while I documented and took notes, and then she had me make the second batch:) Easy breezy really. Just like following any other recipe!

I will share the Pine Tar soap recipe in a different post later. I gotta run go get my vehicle from the repair shop!

Big hugs to all who visit here at Comfrey Cottages:)