Collecting Fall Herbs: Field Day Friday

Do you look at the beauty of weeds like I do? Fields of the yellow tasseled goldenrod, roadsides covered in frilly blues of  chicory, happy looking Black eyed Susan’s and the purples of the many different types of thistle invigorate the sense of beauty as far as the eye can see. I see beauty all around me, but I also see the innate medicinal value of these plants as well. We have many of them growing on our farm. Some would tell me to cut them down, to pull them out, but I won’t. Instead, as nature does her work, I allow them to spread naturally. My husband has known me to bring home seeds and roots of some plants to transplant in our herb garden as well.

Being part Cherokee and having learned much from my elders, I know that all year long we are blessed with opportunity to gather wild herbs to save and use for different purposes. I can’t prescribe what herbs another should use, but I can share with you what different ones are used for, and allow you to make decisions for yourself. Also, having practiced as a Registered Nurse for 26 years, I will be the first to tell you to talk with your personal physician before using any herbal, holistic type of healthcare regimen. He or she and you, should decide what is best for your personal condition and go from there.

Today, I want to share with you one of the fall herbs that I’ve gathered, it’s medicinal values and how to collect and dry. Herbs, in general, should be collected in the mornings, after the dew has dried, but before the heat of the midday sun. Most herbs may be dried on a screen, covered with another screen or cheesecloth to keep off insects. Some herbs may be hung upside down, in small bunches, and allowed to air dry. Some people advocate drying herbs in a dehydrator or in the low heat of an oven. It’s a personal choice, but at our homestead, we don’t use either of those methods. My pantry looks like an upside down garden at the moment, and smells heavenly.

Today, let’s talk about goldenrod. goldenrod  These flowers amaze me. For so long, they’re been regarded as one of the worst allergens of the fall. They can cause issues for some, but do you know how medicinally good they are? Used for hundreds of yeas by Native Americans, they have antifungal properties, the saponins, that can help alleviate such yeast infections as oral thrush when a tea made from it is used as a gargle. It can be used for skin yeast infections or those elsewhere when used as a wash or rinse over it. Gargled, as a tea, it helps to stop coughs and sore throats. As a weak tea, it can help stop diarrhea naturally, without having to resort to chemical compounds found in over-the-counter medications. It’s been found to be an effective treatment in colitis and IBS.

Goldenrod tea is also beneficial for the urinary tract, kidneys and bladder. The saponins, tannins,  and flavonoids found in the flowers and leaves help keep infection and stones from forming in the urinary system.

Mixed with dandelion and thyme in a tea, it is an effective immune stimulating drink.

The usual dosage for a tea for ingestion or gargle is about 1 teaspoonful of the dried herb in a cupful of boiling water. Allow the herb to steep for about 10-15 minutes for the full effect, strain, sweeten with honey if desired, and drink. For gastrointestinal issues, it’s recommended to drink about 4 cups (1 quart) of tea daily.

We keep goldenrod planted on our farm, not just for medicine, but to draw in pollinators. goldenrod with bee

I love watching bees and butterflies visit the golden fronds goldenrod with butterfly. and coating their legs and bodies with the powdery pollen.

Goldenrod is associated with fall, the waning of the heat of the summer and watching the trees slip into the last final burst of glory. It’s fall already?  I am not ready to give summer up quite yet.

Fall Readiness

It’s time to start planning. Don’t we all, and most of the time? Each morning as I open my eyes, stretch, smell the crisp cool air, I begin to contemplate not only the day’s needed activities, but start planning for fall and winter. It seems like summer is barely gone. Fall is beautiful, the colors, the cool respite after a long, hot summer. But, soon to follow are the harsh cold winter months. Living on a farm is glorious, but it sets off a whirlwind of activities that absolutely must be done before winter coldness puts a stop to it.

We’re busy gleaning the last of the garden. Ripe tomatoes are picked daily and frozen until a large enough batch is ready to can. Squash and pumpkins are beginning to turn their lovely shades of yellow to orange, the corn is being harvested and the garden, slowly, but surely is being cleaned out to receive her yearly dose of compost and manure. This year we will plant cover crops on top of the garden for green manure also. I have turnip seed and buckwheat to sow. Our rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese and goats will appreciate that feast as it grows. And, our garden will benefit from the nitrogen content of the plants as we till it under next spring.

But, planning ahead, we have a list of other things that need to be done. I suspect that this list could and would apply to those who live in urban areas too.

Water. water barrel on palletThis is at the top of the list. Water storage for the “what if’s” that happened more time last year than we’ve seen since the ice storm of 2007. What if you are suddenly without power and are unable to draw water from your well? Do you have an alternate means such as a hand pump that will work for your depth of well? Hand pumps on deep wells are available, but try to pump water from a 180 foot well. By the end of the power outage, you will have excellent deltoid and trapezius build. Do you have a generator? A wind mill? A well bucket? If you live in the city and depend on municipal services, many times they don’t fail, but how many times have you experienced “boil water” orders? In the event of a natural disaster, how reliable will your municipal water supplier be?

 How much water do you need? That depends. Most sites recommend at least 1 gallon per person per day for drinking and minimum sanitation. Quite honestly, for our personal needs, this isn’t enough. What we do, and this is a personal preference, is to store at the bare minimum, 2 gallons per day. We also keep our swimming pool filled summer and winter. Our pool has about 7000 gallons of water, which will go a long way in a power outage.  Swimming pool water is not potable for humans, but it is an excellent water source for the farm animals since we don’t have a pond…yet. The pool water can also serve for bathing and commode flushing if needed.

Storing water. How? In almost anything. Glass and food grade plastic are the most common choices. Long term, bulk water storage requires a little extra. It’s at this time of year that we empty, sanitize, refill and add 8 teaspoons of bleach to a 50 gallon, food grade barrel, cap and store on pallets.

Food.nutty squirrel Again, the amount to lay back depends on the number of people in your family, finances and room to store food. There are several food storage calculators online. The one we find most useful is  http://lds.about.com/library/bl/faq/blcalculator.htm .  One must take into consideration special needs of diabetics and those on other diet restrictions, infants, the elderly, and your own personal likes and dislikes. A key factor to food storage is to keep it fairly simple, easy to prepare, allow variety, wholesomeness and nutritive values. I’d not recommend storing a year’s supply of pizza, even though it truly is a healthy food, when you look at it’s contents. Many people think that food storage is a bulky task, hard to find places to store. It truly isn’t. Space under beds, couches, even behind and underneath dressers or entertainment centers is a possibility. I’ve seen closets converted to pantries, and even bases of kitchen cabinets made with hinges on the baseboard and canned goods stored under those. Those with basements are indeed blessed. Rafters can serve as excellent canned good areas if needed. Shelving units can be purchased or hand made. I’d advise never to store anything directly on concrete floors though as concrete can react with plastic containers as well as metal containers, corrode and/or disintegrate those in time.                                                                                                                                food storage between wall studs  food storage under couch water food storage pantry 4.5 inches wide in a mobile home hallway. built from 1x4s and 1x2s

 

Don’t forget to remember your animals in your food storage plans. Buy, can, or freeze enough food for them to get them through precarious times. Our outside animals necessitate a little extra. We store food for them, in the barn, in large 55 gallon barrels with lids. Goats are notoriously nosey, and piggy, and, well, determined. We have to use the large metal, lidded barrels in their barn just to keep the food stuff intact and also free of rodents. It also means that we need to check drinking water heaters to make sure they’re operable, make sure that we have enough extension cord in good repair to service the heaters. It means that we need to lay back enough hay, and soon, to last through the winter. As another blogger wrote, shortages are common in the winter. Many farmers keep what they have for their own livestock first. It’s better to stock up while you can, as it becomes available, rather than waiting until the last minute or in the middle of a crisis.

Housing.chimneyman It’s time to check for any outside needed repairs. Is the power line coming into the house secure? During the winter ice storm of 2007, we saw many conduits leading from the power lines to inside the house, bent and ripped away from the house. Check those, secure with clamps as needed and be safe. Windows, shutters, faucets, outbuildings need inspected and repairs made as necessary. This includes storage sheds, barns, garages, and your home. There’s nothing worse than having to go out in the middle of a freeze to make a repair that’s become mandatory when it could have been fixed simply and with much more ease during the warmth of summer or fall. It’s also time to pull out snow shovels, blowers, ice melt, and auto windshield de-icer.    

     fixing a water faucet

Heatwood fireplace How do you heat your home? Take into consideration the rising cost of propane in the winter months, the potential for a shortage of dried wood for wood heated homes, and the potential for electrical outages in total electric homes. Do you have a safe backup source of heat? Safety is a key word here. I’ve heard people tell me that they have a kerosene heater to use. That’s fine, but make sure you have a way to ventilate that kerosene heater well. Make sure you have a way to ventilate your gasoline powered generator that you will use for space heaters, very well. Carbon monoxide poisoning is, or can be deadly. It sneaks up on the unsuspecting individual and overcomes them before they know it. My husband could tell you a hair raising story about such an event with him just this summer. Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. Wood. If this is a primary or back-up source of heat for you, you are most likely aware of how many cords of wood is needed for a winter. Stock up now, place it up on pallets and keep it covered and dry. Do this while the weather and supply allow you an ample stock. Wood pellet stoves, again, you know how many bags of pellets your stove needs. The math is easy. Lay back at least enough to get you through an anticipated crisis. For those who use a fireplace, now is the last chance you will have before winter sets in, to clean the flu, make necessary repairs and ready your hearth for use.

Clothing and blankets. gmbbigI can remember my grandmother using this time of year to finish quilts. She had quilts made from all sorts of fabric, from Grandpa’s coveralls, to pieces of flannel and wool. I still have one of her wool quilts that is lined with several layers of flannel, has a flannel back, and is so heavy that it held me fast in bed when I was only 5 years old. She mended boots with patches, mended coats, stockings and gloves. Winter wear and heavy curtains were brought out and aired in the crisp coolness of the fall afternoons. Living in an old farmhouse meant drafty and chilly rooms. Now, 50 years later, I have learned that it wasn’t just her house that was drafty at times. Most of us experience the same…ummm…memories. We’ve discovered the art of using window quilts in some of the back rooms during the winter. I’ve made smaller quilts to fit those windows that have a tie back to use during the daytime. At night, the window coverings are closed and keep the day’s warmth in for quite a while. The same inspection and repairs, if needed, is a memorable task we make to this day, just as my grandmother did so many years ago. Items such as boots, gloves, hats, scarves, are purchased well in advance of the winter’s need. Again, no one knows what the winter will bring and it’s better to be prepared rather than in need and the supply not available.

The last item I want to share with you is light. It’s not a necessity, but a welcome luxury in the event of a crisis situation. What are your backup sources for lighting? Battery operated? Candles? Oil lamps? Make sure you have enough fuel stored, and safely for oil lamps. Make sure you have enough matches or lighters stored away to light them, or the emergency candles you have stored. And, with candles, make sure you have a way to use them safely, sans the possibility of them tipping over or having a breeze blow flammable items into the flames. Batteries need to be purchased and stored in a cool, dark place for longer viability. One favorite that I’ve seen used recently are solar powered outside lights. They’re safe, inexpensive (most likely going on sale shortly) and give a fair amount of luminescence for a small sum of money. Here are just a few ideas.

mason jar lamp  oil lamp II        Solar Accent Lights.  batt lights

I’m sure that most of you could come up with a much longer list than this for your fall chores either around your city or rural homestead. The most important thing to do, is to get them done. Procrastination isn’t an option if you want to be prepared. If you need to procrastinate, do so when the ground is covered with a heavy blanket of fresh fallen snow, cover up with your nice, warm quilt, have a pair of thick wooly socks on and curl up in front of the fireplace that has been cleaned, repaired and is stock full of the wood you’ve gathered for just this very pleasure.

                                                                  family feet