We’re Ready…

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Are you ready? Ready for what? Winter snow and ice to disappear for another year? Ready to have warmer temperatures so you can enjoy the outdoors? Ready to prepare the garden bed? Ready for spring?

We are here at the Rick’s Ranch/Midwest Homestead garden is waiting for my hands in it’s dirt. The pigs are busy eating weed roots, clearing the garden plots and providing it with natural, organic fertilizer. We’ve had so many seed catalogs come in this year that it’s actually given me a headache trying to keep up with what we wanted to order, needed to order for our seed sales business and for our homestead. We have wish lists, need lists,        ” have to have it or the homestead won’t survive lists”. Never mind that the snow is still 8 inches deep in some places. The sun is shining, it’s well above freezing, and the adrenalin is pumping in anticipation of this year’s gardens.

It’s time to pull the portable greenhouses in, clean them, and ready the seed start trays for planting. Wash, disinfect, air dry. It’s an annual event that most times takes place in our bathroom, under the spray of the shower head. Hopefully this spring the greenhouse will be completed and these chores can be taken outdoors, where they rightfully belong. And, it’s time to take note of which seeds we have, and teaching others, how to best pre-treat seeds for optimal germination and growth.

Seed Starting

Unlike the seeds of annuals, lots of perennial seeds require a period of moist cold (cold stratification) before they will germinate. In the wild, this occurs naturally by the wind scattering the seed, animals carrying the seeds on their feathers or coats then the seed is covered with grass, weeds and leaves and finally cold temperatures and/or snow. Without this natural process, many seeds simply will not germinate. It is called Mother Earth’s Cycle of Life. It’s continued from the very beginning, and shall continue until the end of days if allowed.

Human intervention has evolved to include artificial means of stratification. We have learned that soaking certain plant seeds in clear water, maybe using the addition of a natural, organic additive, sometimes helps germination to occur. We have learned to mimic Mother Nature’s way of cold stratification by sowing seeds in a planting medium, storing in a cold environment before planting. We have learned that some seeds need to have their shells scarified, or nicked or sanded down to the inner portion of the shell to allow the waiting embryo to emerge in it’s time. We have learned to mimic that which was natural, in order to hasten a plant’s growth. Should we? Absolutely! Some plant species are quickly becoming extinct due to mankind’s over zealous harvesting, land clearing or natural disasters. In order to save and propagate these species of plants, we should and do, intervene.

Some of the ways to hasten seeds to germinate are discussed below.

Cold Water Soaking:
You can use fresh tap water, preferably that which contains no chemicals. Rainwater is another good source of liquid for soaking. Adding liquid kelp (diluted per manufacturer’s instructions) to the water will hasten germination once the seed is planted.

Generally, seeds that appear wrinkly are seeds that need soaked for at least 24 hours before planting.

Seeds that need soaked before planting include:

Belladonna Henbane Black or White Mandrake
Monkshoods Okra Nasturtiums

Warm Stratification then Refrigeration:
You need something to hold the moisture in, such as a bit of sphagnum moss or peat moss for acid loving plants, clean sand, vermiculite that has been slightly moistened, paper towels for others. Slightly dampen the medium, place seeds in the medium and store in the refrigerator, in a zip lock bag, preferably for 3 months. If one doesn’t have that 3 month window, store at least 3 weeks. Liquid kelp diluted per the bottle’s instructions, will hasten germination for your seeds. Many seeds do better if placed in the dampened medium, kept in a warm place 59-68°F for 2 weeks then placed in the refrigerator. Check the bag’s contents weekly to look for signs of decay such as a musty smell, mold, or oozing seed matter. Most times that is as a result of improper packaging at the manufacturer’s, the seed is too old, seed may not have been stored properly during shipment or in the home, or contaminated seed. Remember that some seeds may not actually germinate until the second spring.

Even if the seeds germinate during this time period in the refrigerator, it is perfectly acceptable to plant, just as you would any other seed.

seed germination

Those seed would include:

Anise Hyssop Monkshood Masterwort
Belladonna Betony Motherwort
Mandrake (Black and White) Black cornflower Moonwort
Black Henbane Black nightshade Mugwort
Calamus Root Myrtle Pokeweed
Climbing Nightshade Cowslip Vervain
English Bluebells Red Pasque Flower Rose Milkweed
Green Wizard Coneflower Gray Sage Rowan
Harebell Russian belladonna Helebores
Heather Tansy Poppies
Valerian Hops Valerian
Jack in the Pulpit Old English lavendar Wolfsbane
Lily of the Valley Purple Coneflower Turtlehead
Meadowsweet Clematis Butterfly Bush
False Indigo Lady’s Mantle Bluebeard
Fuschias Foxtail Lily Peruvian Lily
German Status Ibiscus Sweet Peas
Catmint Evening Primrose Phlox (all)
Chinese Lantern Sweet Cicely Candytuft
Gloxinias Waxbells Bloodroot
prairie Mallow Speedwell Sedum
Stoke’s Aster Balloon Flower Viola
Globeflower Toad-lily Foamflower
Ironweed Black Eyed Susan Burnett
Soapwort Wild Rose Fruit tree seeds

Here is a link for all the seeds known to need stratification. It is listed by the genus and species names: It is written by seed expert Tom Clothier and is well worth the time to read. It contains multiple links for germination temperatures, stratification and scarification, garden pests, pollinators and such.

http://www.tomclothier.hort.net/page02.html (and) http://tomclothier.hort.net/index.html

A seed expert who’s works I enjoy reading, is Norm Deno. J Hudson seeds has multiple links to his seed starting methods written clearly and concisely. It contains vast information regarding all different types of plants including perennials, annuals trees, and vegetables.

http://www.jlhudsonseeds.net/Germination.htm

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Scarification:
Certain seeds with thick shells need to be scarified if they are going to be able to germinate. To do this, use a piece of sandpaper or a nail file to gently rub off part of the external shell. The best way to know how deep to rub is to rub until you can see a different color of shell appear. Do not rub all the way through the shell. It only needs to be rubbed down enough that water can get through the shell into the seed, and to allow the young, germinating embryo to emerge. Some seeds need both scarification and stratification.

How to scarify seeds.
seed scar with file

seed scar with sandpaper
Some examples of seed that need scarification are:

Morning Glory canna seeds purple hyacinth bean vine
Nut Tree Seeds Fruit tree seeds

Spring and direct planting:
Many seeds do not require special treatment such as soaking, scarification or stratification. They can be planted without inoculants, directly in the soil. For a complete list of these seeds, see the following link from Prairie Moon Nursery.

http://www.prairiemoon.com/Species-Requiring-No-Pre-Treatment-Code-A.html

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Fall Planting:
Fall planting may be an answer to having fresh produce all winter. Many old timers use this method, planting in cold frames, greenhouses, or on sunny, enclosed porches in containers. I’ve also seen used, cleaned old tractor tires

old tire planter   tire planterand livestock mineral lick buckets, containers covered with glass during the day…when the temperature is 35-45 degrees , and the glass covered with a piece of cardboard to maintain internal heat at nightfall. One newer gardener used clear Christmas tree lights inside his cold frame to provide warmth on the coldest days. This isn’t his light heated cold frame, but this picture conveys the general idea.

light heated cold frame

Some species of vegetables and flowers do well with fall (and early spring) planting. Brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, bok choy, kale, radishes), Mustard Greens,  spinach,  and parsnips have a sweeter taste when grown in cooler weather.

crucifers

Happy Winter! Now is the time to stratify and/or scarify those seeds!!

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References:
http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2013/02/perennials-which-require-cold-stratification/

http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2013/02/perennials-which-require-cold-stratification/

http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2013/02/perennials-which-require-cold-stratification/

http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2013/02/perennials-which-require-cold-stratification/

http://tomclothier.hort.net/page02.html

http://www.prairiemoon.com/How-to-Germinate-Native-Seeds.html

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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

                                      

 

 

 

 

Herb of the Day: Ground Ivy

ground ivy

Ground Ivy (glechoma hederacea)
 
Also known as:
-wild snakeroot
-creeping charlie
-cat's foot
-field balm
 
When the plant is crushed it will smell like camphor, citronella and peppermint mixed together. Harvest the flowers and stems between April and June.
 
Used for:
-decongestant, helps treat persistent coughs, asthma
-weak tea solutions are used to help treat eye infections, back pain
-has a very high vitamin C content 
-as a tea, for relief of flatulence
-has been used to help treat lead poisoning
-as a tea is has diuretic qualities and may be used to help treat kidney disorders, bladder and kidney infections
-as a wash, may be used to treat sinus cavity infections
-safe to give to children to help treat respiratory ailments such as coughing, bronchitis, 
-helps to alleviate diarrhea by drying up watery and mucous secretions.
-may be used to help treat arthritis and rheumatoid problems
-Compresses and poultices may be used help treat wound infections, boils, cuts and bruises.
-May be used in dried form to help alleviate heavy menses
 
 
per http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_ground_ivy.htm 
To use as a tea- Use 1 teaspoonful into 1 cup of boiling water. Let it steep for 10-15 minutes and drink 3 times per day.
 
To use in tinctured form, use 1-4 ml of the tincture 3 times per day
 
To treat heavy metal poisonings, use 3 plants in 1 cup of boiling water, steep for 10-15 minutes, strain, cool and drink. Take 1 liter of this fluid per day for 10 days to 3 months, depending on how serious the heavy metal poisoning is. 
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To make a tincture fill a glass jar 2/3 full of the herb, take equal parts of 100% grain alcohol and spring water and pour over the herb until the herb is completely covered. Allow to sit in a sunny place 24 hours, then shake and store covered, in a cool dark place for 1 month. Take 15 drops/day
 
Herb may be dried on a screen for later use.
 
HEALING OIL
1 3/4 oz (50 g) ground ivy, freshly dried 
4 cups (1 liter) olive oil
Grind the ivy in a mortar or in a blender. Add the oil and mix. Macerate 1 month and carefully strain. Pour the oil into several small bottles (easier to use and less likely to go rancid).
Excellent for wounds, bruises and even muscular pain.
 
 
 

 

Getting Ready for Winter: Part V: Your Vehicles

blizzard Colorado Blizzard of 2003

Last but definitely not least is your vehicle. It’s more than just transportation. It could be a lifesaver or a life taker.

 

Vehicle:

  1. Have your vehicle serviced. That includes oil change, filter changes as necessary, tire pressure checked, tires checked for tread worthiness. Replace worn parts. There’s nothing worse than having your vehicle break down in the middle of winter when you are 20 miles from home!
  2. Place a 72 hr survival kit in the car. That should include blankets, extra warm clothing, socks and waterproof boots, hats, gloves, etc. Also include in that kit, high energy foods that won’t freeze, water or juice, hard candy, extra meds if needed, a small sterno stove and sterno fuel (don’t use this inside your vehicle!! CO2 from a sterno stove is deadly!). Include matches or a lighter, kitty litter or sand, a tow rope, jumper cables, flashlight with extra batteries or a hand crank type flashlight. Garbage bags, tissue paper, feminine items (you just never know!!), and a can or pan to melt snow into water as needed.
  3. Keep a full bottle of windshield washer fluid in your vehicle. The kind that contains de-icer is best for cold winter months. 
  4. Keep a can of WD40 around. Don’t put it in your car. It’s a great mechanism for de-icing frozen car locks, but it won’t work if it’s locked inside your car! I carried a tote bag to and from work, carried it inside and put it under my desk. In it, was a can of WD-40. My office mates used to laugh until they saw me de-icing my car locks when theirs were frozen solid. And, yes, I took pity on them and shared my can of WD-40. I noticed other tote bags showing up at work. I always wonder if they followed my lead?
  5. Keep a  et of chains (if you’re able to put them on your car) in the vehicle.
  6. Make sure your tool kit is in the vehicle.
  7. Keep headlights and tail lights clean.
  8. Make sure your vehicle battery is in good shape. Excessive heat and cold are hard on older batteries. Replace as necessary.
  9. Flares: It doesn’t matter what kind, whether they’re reflector type or the old kind that looks like firecrackers. Have them handy.
  10. Consider having a “HELP!” sign to place in your windows. If not that, the universal code for help is a red flag or bandana or cloth tied to the antenna. That way, if you need help and are stranded in your vehicle, you will have a visible sign to your rescuers.
  11. Keep your cell phone charged.
  12. If you need to travel, always plan your route and let someone else know what your route is. Don’t deviate from it. If you have a breakdown, knowing where you might be could be a lifesaver if someone needs to trace your route. Try not to plan trips during extreme weather conditions if at all possible. Blizzards, white-outs, I’ve been unfortunate to have to travel across Montana and Wyoming in blizzard conditions and it was scary. I’ve traveled down I-70 through Colorado in the middle of a blizzard in December of 2003, couldn’t find a motel anywhere, was reduced to traveling 30 MPH during the lighter part of the blizzard, and had to spend the night at a rest area with snow piled 8 inches deep on top of my car the next morning. Frightening? Absolutely because I was alone. But, with these tips and tricks, I am blessed to be here to share this blog entry with you. Take care, be prepared, and be safe!

Getting Ready for Winter: Part IV: Your Animals and Livestock

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Animals:
1. Lay in an adequate supply of feed, just in case you can’t get out due to weather conditions.
2. Make sure hay and straw are covered or are in a dry holding area.
3. Make sure all feed dishes are clean.
4. Pull out electric water thawing devices for outside animal’s water troughs. Check to make sure they’re in good working order and put them in place the day before an expected freeze. Make sure all electrical cords are out of reach of inquisitive animals.
5. Make sure all animals have plenty of dry bedding. Add a bit of rosemary to dog, cat, and other outside animal’s bedding to keep insects away. (yes, they do thrive in the winter months too!)
6. Heat lamp up in the chicken coop.
7. Have an ample supply of water stored for your animals, in the event of a power outage. Include your own water needs in your water storage plan too!
8. Winterize and cover stock trailers, utility trailers, etc.
9. Our rabbits need extra protection. Their hutches are next to the chicken’s run, but are not in an enclosed building. We make sure they have extra straw…and check it daily because they will nibble on it. The hutches are covered with tarps to prevent the cold wind from blowing through. Their nesting boxes are checked and repaired for cracks or open places where wind might blow through as well.

Medicinal Herb of the Day: Dill

Image

Dill

We commonly think of it as a culinary herb, but did you know that it has many medicinal uses too? I didn’t, at least until my Native American adopted dad started teaching me the why’s and wherefores of Native American lore. You see, I am part Cherokee from my father’s side. My great-grandmother was full blooded Cherokee and I found her name, plus many other family members on the Dawe’s rolls. That’s a story for another day. But, in keeping with my heritage, and with what dad #2 has taught me, the need to share this knowledge leads to this blog, the way we live, and what we share with others. Back to the subject.

Dill

Anethum graveolens is the Latin name for this plant. It grows in gardens to the height of about 16-24 inches with thin, delicate leaves, It is an aromatic plant, sometimes used in companion planting in your vegetable garden to ward off destructive pests and to lure in beneficial insects to keep your cucumbers healthy. As a companion plant, don’t plant it near tomatoes or carrots.  I keep an herb garden specific for my many herbs that I use in natural remedies, cooking and as a place to sit in the cool evenings and partake of the many scents that the garden provides.

As a medicinal plant, it’s know to have a calming effect. It can be used for the following:

To help alleviate flatulence, abdominal bloating, indigestion and colic

The oil is said to relieve stomach cramping, especially with diarrhea

Combined with another antispasmodic herb, caraway or crampbark, it helps to alleviate menstrual cramping

It can increase lactation in nursing mothers, but, understand too, that mother’s milk will have the anti-spasmodic effect in the infant and it will help if you have a colicky baby.

It can help prevent bad breath when chewed

It can help alleviate motion sickness

And, last but not least, it can help, when added to other herbs, to prevent coughing spells

It is an antibacterial, especially for use with staphylococcus aureus

 

Harvesting Dill Seeds

Wait until the seeds on the top of the stalks become brown and dry looking. Wait until the morning dew has dried before harvesting seeds. Place a paper bag over the tops of the heads, bend the stem downward and gently clip off the stalk with a sharp pair of pruning shears or scissors. After you’ve harvested all the dill seeds you want, take them inside the house, and on a piece of waxed paper, gently shake the stalks inside the paper bag. Pour them out on the waxed paper and allow to air dry. Do not put the seeds in the oven or microwave since heat will destroy the beneficial effects of the volatile oils contained in the seeds. You can also dry the seeds by tying the stalks together at the ends, with the paper bag over the seed heads and hanging them from a rafter or in your pantry to completely dry. The seeds will fall off the heads easily when dried. Store the seeds in an airtight container until ready for use or replanting. I do leave some of the seeds on my plants to naturally reseed the garden and increase production for the following year.

To Harvest the leaves.

Leaves should be harvested before the seeds develop, otherwise they become bitter. To harvest, gather in the early morning, rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. You can dry dill leaves by tying the branches in clusters, and hanging upside down, just as you would the branches with the seed heads. Allow to dry thoroughly, and store in an airtight container until ready for use. They can be used medicinally as well as culinary. Fresh dill is wonderful when a few sprigs are placed in jars of dill pickles as the oils will be released in the brine, making the pickles have a wonderfully deep, dill flavor. Dill is also good when placed fresh or dried on poached salmon.

To use medicinally. as a tea to help prevent gastrointestinal issues:

Steep 2 teaspoons of slightly crushed dill seed in a cup of boiling water for about 10-15 minutes. Strain, and sip slowly.

Tinctures may be used at the rate of 1-2 mls, 3 times per day to help relieve gastrointestinal disorders.

 

CAUTION: Dill may cause dermatitis with some people if used excessively. It may have a phototoxic effect if used and the consumer goes out into the sun. Use sunscreen with aloe if you experience any sort of dermatitis or sun burning after the use of dill tea, or stop using the tea altogether. Personally, I have not seen this happen with anyone I’ve known who use it, but the words of caution appear in my herbal books, so I feel compelled to share them with you.

Disclaimer: Any words of wisdom on herbal remedies is meant for entertainment purposes only. It is not a substitute for proper, licensed medical care and should not be construed as such. Alternative medicine is wonderful for some, but it is not for everyone. Even with the use of herbal remedies, it should be done with the understanding and approval by your licensed healthcare provider as some herbs may interact negatively with prescription medications. As always, if you use herbs for alternative medication, and the symptoms do not subside within a few days, it is best to seek the advice of your primary healthcare provider. …and that being from the words of a retired nurse…me.

 

Sad Day/Planning for the Inevitable

I received word this morning, actually a phone call at 0630 from a friend in TN that our dear friend’s husband had passed away unexpectedly yesterday. Our mutual friend was much to distraught to elaborate on it, and one could feel the loneliness and confusion in her email to us. Mel was only in his early 60’s. Much, much to young to leave his beautiful wife to fend for herself on their farm. They have 2 grown children, neither who live in TX close to them, to be able to help their mama with the farm duties. They raise dairy cattle. My heart is broken in a thousand tiny pieces for G. and their family. Reading her email and crying on the phone with Linda this morning put a whole new perspective on life, how delicate and fragile it is. It makes you realize the importance and sanctity of marriage, of a partnership with a life-mate.

Farming is hard work, especially so when you have large livestock that require strength and determination to manage. Thus, this post. Planning. Life doesn’t hold guarantees, doesn’t hold a promise of “forever”. What would I do if my husband were to leave this world to meet the Creator? Where would I go, how would I manage? Would this farm maintain and sustain itself with a one person shepherd? I don’t know. This is the 2nd time since July that I have lost close friends. Friends that maintained a homestead with just themselves as partners. It’s time to plan. We aren’t spring chickens anymore. I am 59 and my husband is 65 and isn’t in the greatest of health. Fortunately, our livestock is small, but there are still the daily chores of feeding, watering, cleaning barns, gathering eggs, cutting and hauling firewood, hauling hay, mowing a bulk of 10 acres, gardening and canning, vehicle maintenance, farm equipment maintenance, repairing fences, adding more fencing to enlarge pastures, washing, cleaning the house, cooking…and then…after all of that, there has to be time to take care of myself. Then, there are the financial considerations of maintaining a homestead. But, more than anything, there is the companionship…the laughter as you share those tasks, of praying together before meals and at night, of the extra set of muscles when it comes to lifting a bale of hay or a roll of fencing. Where is it all going to come from, especially when you are hundreds of miles from family. You never realize how much one depends on their mates for help in just the everyday activities of daily living.

Yes, it’s time to plan, and not just for myself, but for you as well. I think the first step in the planning is estate planning. To find a good lawyer is paramount to protect your interests, your assets and your livelihood. We are blessed in that I have a beautiful niece who is close to me to help me with that. I will call her this afternoon or tomorrow and make an appointment with her to begin setting up our estate plan. We have a bit of insurance, but I know that most will go to pay off the balance of the loan on the farm and the few creditors that we have. Fortunately, these bills are not high, so that is a blessing in itself. But, that doesn’t include final expenditures, funeral and burial, remaining medical bills. And, after that, our marriage was a late in life marriage, meaning that we have grown children from previous marriages. I don’t anticipate issues, but the possibility is always there. Unfortunately, grief brings out the worst in some people. Estate planning will eliminate those issues, especially when you have strong legal representation to protect your interests. From what is left over, how long will that support this farm? Is it something that I can manage on my own? Do I contemplate selling it and buying something smaller that is more manageable? Again, questions that cannot be answered until when and if. Where would one go if they do decide to sell? My children have their own lives, are city kids and live in urban areas. That is not the life for this homesteader. I need to be where the stars shine at night without impedance from city lights and smog, where I can go to a nearby trout stream and wade in the shallow rivers in the summertime, where I can watch the deer play and listen to the crickets and coyotes at night and the roosters during the day. It needs to be a place where I can catch my turkeys, “Christmas” and “Thanksgiving” and pet them…even if they look like goofy Jurassic Park creatures when they run.

Planning further, where will we be placed after we pass away? It needs to be planned ahead, not waiting until the last minute when one is so heartbroken and confused and vulnerable to the widow and widower vultures that exist in the real world. We will be making a trip to the local mortuary and making those final plans very, very soon. Prepaying final expenses is an option that often locks in today’s prices for those services. Many mortuaries offer that service for their clientele. It allows the loved ones a peace of mind in knowing that their wishes will be followed, that the services and interment will be per their choosing, not that of a distraught spouse or child. We have the option of being interred in a VA cemetery because my husband is retired, career military. If they can promise that we will be interred in the same plot, then that is one less expense that our family will have to endure. It doesn’t matter to me where, as long as we’re together.

Then too, what to do with the estate? There are so many questions and considerations, especially when there are sets of children and grandchildren from multiple marriages. Talking with an unbiased estate planner will help you make a fair and just decision on those issues. Things to have in hand, birth certificates, Marriage license, (divorce decree if there have been previous marriages) financial statements including bank account numbers, insurance policies (including those on credit card accounts, military, Social Security and Medicare or others) and beneficiary phone numbers and addresses…and social security numbers, names, addresses and phone numbers of children, siblings or other important people who will need notification, real estate papers including copies of land deeds, titles on equipment and vehicles, pre-paid burial plots, funeral home services, even pictures of the inside of your home that show valuables, jewelry, etc. Copies of stocks and bonds, IRA’s, are just a partial list of documentation to have on hand when you visit with your estate planner. They will need a list of all your creditors, account numbers and balances. When you make an appointment with one, ask if there are any other legal documents that need to be brought with you. We have given a key to our home to a neighbor and to a best, trusted friend to be able to come into the house and take out our inside animals to board them until a final decision is made to their disposition. The attorney will either have a key to the lockbox or know which of our trusted friends has it. In our case, since our niece is the estate administrator, she will have a key of her own.

To some, death is a morbid topic, but it is very real. It is a part of a culmination of life on this plane and the beginning of life on another. It is just as important as planning what your next meal will be, what clothes you will wear when you drive into town, or what will be placed on your grocery list. Please, don’t let this pre-planning sneak up on you like a thief in the night. It’s better to do this while you are level headed, clear in thought and can make appropriate decisions that will affect the welfare of your spouse, children and other loved ones.

In loving memory of Mel H. and to the strength, courage and fortitude of his wife, G. I am….

God's promise