Thursday, June 30, 2011


A fresh batch of yarrow tincture was made yesterday. Blossoms of yarrow, Achillea millefolium, filled a jar topped off with vodka. The only difficult part of making yarrow tincture is waiting for the plants to bloom. I use yarrow to slow down heavy menstrual bleeding and to relieve symptoms of cold and flu. Echinacea is good for staving off a virus but once it's set in, I'm learning to remember yarrow tincture or infusion.

A new St. John's Wort oil was begun, too. I say "begun" because in my garden, it takes a few days to collect enough flowers for a jarful.  So I start out small and move into a larger jar if I'm lucky. The aim is to fill a jar, any size, with the flowers and fill again with organic olive oil. This was yesterday's beginning.

St. John's wort, Hypericum perforatum, oil is a topical healing treatment for burns, scrapes, and other skin problems. It's sometimes called St. Joan's wort because Joan knows a little more about healing burns than John. If you look closely at the leaves, they are perforated like skin pores, thus the name and its use as a skin herb.

This morning's collection to be added to the jar and topped with a little more oil.

The oil will soon turn a lovely red. It does a little something to skin, too. I wonder what these bright stars might do to, say, a piece of silk?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

a knitted camera case

My new knitted camera case. It could be used for lots of things although it really is such a nice, soft holder for my camera. Funny, I thought I could take a photo showing the camera partially inside it. But I only have the one camera!

This vintage red button won the button contest.

And these were neck and neck with it until the very end.

The pattern by Mielie is only on the label, not on-line. But if you buy this t-shirt yarn, you'll get the pattern and support a company that employs over 50 people, mostly women, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

blanching & freezing wild greens

I am a lover of cooking with common wild weeds. Dandelion, nettle, mallow, purslane and lamb's quarters find their way to the table while other common weeds like burdock, yellow dock, motherwort, and mullein are used more as medicine than food.

Lamb's quarters, Chenopodium album, are my favorite mild green, I like them way better than spinach. They are abundant, tender, and tasty -- a typical case of an under-appreciated plant. They are best harvested before the plant blooms but if you're pinching off the tops all along, you delay that process. Use them the same way you would use spinach.

Here's how I blanched and froze my first batch of wild greens this summer. 

I gathered a big bowl of lamb's quarter tops with tender leaves and stems. Greens need to be blanched before freezing so I brought about gallons of water to a boil, added the greens, set the timer immediately for two minutes, and brought it back to a boil. Since I'm at a high altitude, I gave it another half minute. When the time was up, I spooned the greens with a slotted spoon into a big bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process -- for about another two minutes. (I saved the cooking water to cool down for watering potted plants.) Then I placed the greens onto a big terry-cloth towel spread out on the counter and rolled them up for a minute. After measuring out 2-cup quantities, I chopped them a few times on the cutting board and bagged them.

A trick to get all the air out of the freezer bag is to stick a straw in the bag and suck as you close the bag. It really works. These smaller bags were placed into another larger freezer bag, making them double-bagged. I've never had any freezer burn problems with this method.

Twelve ounces of greens (by weight) turned into two 2-cup packets for the freezer. It was less than a half hour of quite pleasant work. If I do this five more times, I'll meet my gardening goal of 12 packets in the freezer!

Also posted at Food Renegade and A Moderate Life.

Monday, June 27, 2011

good enough moonday

I wrote on this stone three years ago, enough, as a reminder. I am enough. Smart enough, creative enough, fast enough, kind enough, spiritual enough, grounded enough, good enough. Enough.

Why do I keep forgetting that?

Today is a last-quarter waning moonday in the sign of Taurus. An opportune time for dismantling, sorting, putting in place. For releasing matters of the past. For tying up loose threads. Yesterday, the messy desktop nearly sorted, filed, and cleared itself; normally it's not so easily done. Hopefully, the same magic will be in play today with the computer area here and the walk-in closet that I can't set foot into. And goodness knows, there's a lot of dangling threads around the house.

Taurus rules the teeth, jaws, ears, throat and neck, including the thyroid gland -- the fifth chakra, the center of self-expression. The health of the thyroid gland is thought to reflect our sense of self and speaking our truth -- whether we feel lacking in some way and then need outside approval or are secure in ourselves. Along the same lines, the teeth represent our indecision -- the ears, our inner voice.

My stress list from last moonday has grown. Stress is a reaction to an outside circumstance and I want to change my inner response. Sometime this week before the new moon on Friday, I'll go to the garden altar and offer the list to the power of fire and transformation. I'll scatter its ashes in the garden if the wind doesn't carry them off first. And then trust that I've tried hard enough.

You are enough. xo

Friday, June 24, 2011

hexed (in a good way)

The other day I stopped in at Fancy Tiger, a little locally-owned fabric and yarn shop crammed full of good stuff. To just look, you know. But I was weak, I think from all that cleaning and gardening I've been doing around here lately.

The first thing I wanted was the t-shirt yarn from Cape Town, South Africa. Really, I wanted the pattern that was on the label so I had to get the yarn. Then I saw the Moda bee cloth and well, I do have some bees in the birdhouse in the back -- it was meant to be. And then as long as I was stash-building, why not pick up a few fat quarters?

Oh, and an Amy Butler pattern.

But that was all.

As I was knitting, I realized this little camera case was a hexagon. Hmm, look at that, the yarn is named Be Sweet with a bee graphic on the label. Aren't the bees in the birdhouse in the back making little wax hexagons all day long? And come to think of it, that bee cloth has hexagons, and don't I have those little plastic forms to make hexagons.

I was hexed (in a good way).

Bee happy this weekend! xo

Thursday, June 23, 2011

into the dye-pot: lupine & clematis

A dye bundle was made with a flower stalk and leaves of lupine on silk shantung with vinegar mordant. A clematis bloom snuck in as I was rolling it up.

Lupine and clematis are two plants I love dearly. They don't grow with abandon here like in some places, but it has been a successful year for them thanks to Sister Rain. I'll miss them when they're all bloomed out, but maybe the cloth will be a memory keeper. We'll see.

Anyone had success with either of these?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

rose petal recipes

Rose Petal Milkshakes were made last night and, oh my, I will definitely make these again!

The recipe is tweaked on one found in a little publication called The Fairy Home Companion compiled by The Essential Herbal Magazine.

Rose Petal Milkshakes

1/2 cup fragrant fresh pink or red rose petals
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 cup cranberry nectar or juice
2 cups vanilla bean ice cream

Blend the rose petals in the lemon juice and cranberry nectar until there are no rose particles visible. Strain through a sieve and discard the pulp. Then add the ice cream to the rose juice and blend together. Pour into two glasses and garnish with a few fresh rose petals.

Rose Petal Syrup is best made from fragrant roses and the petals should be separated and dried. I experimented with fresh and am sorry to say the result is not as rosey-flavored as with dried. The dried form of many flowers and herbs is more intense in flavor, but not always. For this recipe, dried is best.

Rose Petal Syrup

1 cup dried fragrant rose petals
2 cups water
1 cup sugar

Place dried rose petals in a heatproof container and pour the boiling water over them. Cover and infuse off-heat for at least 45 minutes. Strain the infusion into a small saucepan. Bring to and maintain a heat setting just below simmering, where you can see the steam rising but no actual bubbling, until the liquid is down to one cup. Add the sugar and mix until dissolved. Keep refrigerated.

It's wonderful drizzled over yogurt or ice cream or cake, etc. One year, little bottles of this syrup were my Yule gifts. I tell you, dried roses come in handy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

almost summer solstice

a fairy table setting from days gone by

Almost the longest day. Nearly the shortest night. The day began here at 5:32 a.m. and will end at 8:31 p.m. but in actuality, tomorrow will be our longest day by a minute. Regardless, I'm happy to have a nice, long stretch of time today. I'm  happy that I don't have anything scheduled and that my house and garden are still fairly tidy and clean because of entertaining last week. And happy to remember all the past Summer Solstice fairy parties that my children and I set up -- a tiny tea service set, flowers and leaves, bits of fruit and crackers, with herbal tea poured. In the morning the fairies would have sprinkled fairy dust and left shiny little crystals and stones as gifts (I did this part). The crackers & fruit would have been partially eaten and the table setting in disarray (I didn't do it and it was my favorite part because it was proof that someone really had come)!

a mushroom table had popped up that year

Maybe there will be a fairy party again tonight. If so, it will include some white strawberries, a variety from Shepherd Seeds years ago. They are nearly as sweet as alpine reds and the birds leave them alone because of their lack of color. I see that the seeds look like little beads on the photo, but in real life, you don't notice them much. The plant is a fast-growing ground cover, too, and does pretty well on not too much water. Whatever happens in the garden or the world, a person can count on these during the month of June.


Monday, June 20, 2011

pisces moonday dreams

The first sweet drawstring bag to hold this year's dream blend -- didn't want to bother getting out the sewing machine because it's just so nice to hand sew a few straight seams. Maybe this will prime me for more stitching action on my other pieces. This is being made from a rosey bed sheet that my friend gave me and I just looked all over for some plain cotton string for the drawstring, but guess I'm out.

Today we move into a waning moonday in Pisces. In keeping with the moon's energy of reducing and decreasing, we too can decrease things in our life. Stress is something we all seem to work at lessening. We hold it in our bodies creating dis-ease and dis-comfort, it affects assimilation and digestion of food, disrupts our sleep, and we make ill-thought decisions under stressful conditions. That's the short list.

Becoming conscious of what causes stress is the half of it, they say. Write down on one piece of paper all the things that set you off. I know what they are because my fists clench and I find myself holding my breath. On the last days of this moon's cycle, use the transformational power of fire and burn the paper, knowing that although you can't always change the conditions that cause stress, you can change your response to them. And again, "they" say, when we change, everything else can change. The first thing on my list will be our dogs barking from inside the house at people outside walking their own dogs.

The moon in the water sign of Pisces is dreamtime, when we are more sensitive and intuitive. Pisces influences our feet and increases the effect of anything we take into our bodies -- food, medicines, herbs, alcohol, etc. The weather often reflects Pisces with increased humidity or precipitation; now is when seeds are well-planted so we need to run out during lulls in the rain to get them into the ground.

Do you remember your dreams and then forget them right away? The Talmud says a dream which is not interpreted is like a letter which is not read. I'm on and off with dream journaling. But last night I had a dream that could not be forgotten and I'm so glad that I spent a little time examining it. It led me to the realization (and the little exercise up there) that I can change my response to stress and that I can trim away things in my life to make room for new things ahead. In my dream, I was a tree-- and it required some time of reflection to realize the meaning. But it was an act of engaging and embracing mystery, something that I very much do want in my life.

And so, I wish you memorable Piscean dreams.

Friday, June 17, 2011

a country of women

A Country of Women is the title of an article from More magazine that I first saw mentioned over at Hella Delicious a few weeks ago.

I don't even know what to say about it. Other than it feels right to somehow bear witness to their experience -- and ever since I read the article and looked at its photo gallery, I've thought about these women every single day.

Because we're in it together.

Twenty-five years after the world’s worst nuclear accident, More visits a hardy community of women who’ve made a home in Chernobyl’s desolate, radioactive surroundings. Why they chose to live here after the disaster, defying the authorities and endangering their health, is an inspiring tale—about the pull of ancestral lands, the healing power of shaping one’s destiny and the subjective nature of risk.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

onion skin curtains

I miss the snowflake curtains. But I'm thinking some onion skin curtains might be okay, too. In keeping with my not sewing lately, this side is pinned on the rod.

The curtain for the other side was begun on the May full moon.


 A month has gone by -- time to uncoil the bundle -- I hope the two sides match!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

full moon fancies

first broccoli harvest

first batch of rose petal syrup

chive butter: 4 T. chopped chives and 1 T. lemon juice in 1/2 cup softened butter
outdoor hearth 

 getting ready for summer gatherings -- tray of jars for drinks

must always take time to drum on a full moon

must drum lightly for the bees

valerian as tall as me, 5’5½”

lots to do by tonight . . .

I hope you can see the beautiful full moon wherever you are! xo

Under the full moonlight
we dance
spirits dance
we dance
joining hands
we dance
joining souls

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

make hay while the sun shines

Composing the very groundwork of a long cloth sun piece -- to be named rising suns or suns rise? -- using elderberry cloth and many suns. I think there needs to be a dark night sky element on it  -- maybe a side or upper curtain, being lifted away.

It's becoming borderline weird around here with so many new pieces laid out and pinned, then rolled up and hidden away. Maybe a dozen pieces conceived and gestating, but very little stitching action, only a couple have been completed. Guess it's simply the right time for beginnings.

What's that saying -- make hay while the sun shines?

I'm really hoping the day will come soon when I'm moved to unfurl everything, hang it on one wall, and see it all together, spiritcloth style. Because then I'm pretty sure things will start hopping with needle and thread.

Monday, June 13, 2011

flower loving moonday

I've been collecting the darkest of the purple pansies to freeze for more ice-flower dyeing. Every single one has that sweet little golden moon in the middle. Or is it a sun or a star?

If you're not familiar with ice-flower dyeing, India Flint has a chapter on it in her book, Eco Colour. It is basically freezing flower petals, immersing them in warm water, mixing in a mordant, and voila, you have a flower dye.

Today is a waxing moonday in Scorpio, traditionally the very best time to harvest leaves to be dried or preserved for storage. It's believed that leafy plant material gathered now will be especially effective medicinally -- and I really hope the same is true for dyeing.

Scorpio rules the sexual organs, and as flowers are the sexual parts of plants, I'm taking it a step further and working with flowersflowersflowers today. That's probably making my own rules as we go, but that's OK, heightened curiosity is typical Scorpio moon behavior!

More roses have been picked for drying and freezing. In my search for blue, I've also collected blue larkspur for the freezer and am going back out for some blue salvia.

Elder flowers, Sambucus sp., intended for treating symptoms of cold or flu, will dry in this low basket. Dried elder flowers also make a soothing skin wash or eye compress but I don't pick too many of these because I'd rather harvest the berries later on for syrup. Woven baskets are great containers for drying flowers and leaves that can't be hung in bundles. I'll place a light cloth over these delicate flowers to keep them dust-free as they dry, then store them in an airtight jar in a dark cupboard for up to a year.

What curiosities is Scorpio stirring up in your life this moonday?

Friday, June 10, 2011

basketfuls of rose petals

Today's garden section in the newspaper went into detail on why so many trees and shrubs suffered this year -- the unfortunate timing of some cold snaps, heat waves, dry spells, and wet spells all stress the plant world. Our Gertrude Jekyl roses had a little die-back this year and there are fewer roses than normal. They are the best variety in my garden for drying, cooking, and medicine-making because of their color, fragrance, and size. Fortunately, some roses in the wild part of the garden came through to pick up the slack.

In case you're wondering and in case you're coming over here this summer sometime, one side section of our backyard is wild. There's burdock and motherwort, mallow and lamb's quarters, yellow dock and dandelion galore. It's where the nature spirits live. It's where the bees have set up house. And it's where the wild roses are.

When things start blooming, flower drying begins -- this week, it's roses -- next week, the lavender. This little basket is only the first of many big basketfuls (yes, that is the plural of basketful, sounds funny, doesn't it?).

My little drying station is in the basement on a large window screen. After the rose petals are spread out and have dried a few days, a light-weight cloth will cover them until they're completely dry. Fortunately, drying plant material in Colorado goes so fast, there's no time to grow any mold. I store the dried rose petals in old Ovaltine amber glass jars. If you come across any, grab them because they don't make them anymore and they are fabulous for storing dried herbs.

I'm always on the lookout for rose recipes to try right now. This year, I want to make rose petal milkshakes -- doesn't that sound decadent? Do you have any fresh rose recipes?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

white owl

We had a spray-painting day. This large gray owl had been haunting the basement long enough, awaiting transformation.

Now to find her a place to perch.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

sugar hand scrub

When you forget to put on gloves out in the garden, this is what your hands'll look like. It happens to me more often than it should. Last time I renewed my drivers license, they couldn't get a fingerprint from me, it took four fingers until one printed well enough -- it was a conundrum to the clerk -- she asked me what I did to my fingers and I said I gardened. I'd evidently scrubbed my fingerprints smooth with soap and a nail brush. Ever since then, I try to wear gloves, you never know when you'll need your fingerprints.

This is a nice gentle hand scrub. You simply fill a jar with sugar (I added more after this picture) and stir in unscented natural dish soap until you have the consistency of a loose paste. Then add a tablespoon of almond oil and about 10-15 drops of your-choice essential oils. The almond oil moisturizes and is a tremendous help for my hands -- they don't feel all dried out like they do with regular bar soap. 

I put a little wooden stick in the jar so I can stir it and glob it onto my hands. Or you could use a spoon. Both the sugar and the honey scrubs are handily by the sink, ready to clean, protect, and preserve those dirty fingerprints!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

tuesday afternoon

This song came into my head first thing this morning. So dreamy, the way I've been feeling lately. I've waited until the afternoon to post it, to make the timing right, you know. I had some of the lyrics wrong -- kept singing there are no beginnings to end, now you've gone away. What's my subconscious telling me, I wonder? Probably something from 1970.

Anyway, gentle voices are calling me and the trees are drawing me near so I'm going back outside to find out why. xo

Tuesday afternoon.
I'm just beginning to see,
Now I'm on my way.
It doesn't matter to me,
Chasing the clouds away.
Something calls to me.
The trees are drawing me near,
I've got to find out why.
Those gentle voices I hear,
Explain it all with a sigh.

I'm looking at myself, reflections of my mind.
It's just the kind of day to leave myself behind.
So gently swaying through the fairyland of love,
If you'll just come with me, you'll see the beauty of
Tuesday afternoon.
Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday afternoon.
I'm just beginning to see,
Now I'm on my way.
It doesn't matter to me,
Chasing the clouds away.
Something calls to me.
The trees are drawing me near,
I've got to find out why,
Those gentle voices I hear,
Explain it all with a sigh.

Monday, June 6, 2011

self-mothering moonday

The moon represents home and mothering in the astrological chart. The easiest way to find the moon at work in your life is to ask what makes my mood improve and/or what activities make me happy? Your answers will be based on the way they make you feel and can be a clue for ways of self-mothering or self-nourishment (more on this in Intuitive Astrology by Elizabeth Rose Campbell).

I can truly relax and feel content at a fabric store. I don't have to buy a thing. I sort of go into a trance -- I used to worry it was from all the formaldehyde or other chemicals on the fabric but now I think it's sensory-based. I like to wander around touching cloth, then sit at the pattern book table and dreamily page through the books, listening all the while to the little sewing conversations going on around me. Have you noticed that most people at the pattern table come in little groups of twos and threes?

Digging and creating new planting areas in the garden makes me pretty happy. Or sitting in an area where the bees are working the flowers, closing my eyes and listening, sometimes feeling a fly or bee land on me, well, that pretty much does me in. Or the scent of valerian.

Another one of my answers is reading. I've been craving some Elizabeth Goudge lately, this will be about my fourth read of The White Witch (1958), first read about 15 years ago and spaced out thereafter. I'm slowly collecting books by Elizabeth Goudge, an English theosophist author who resonates with me for some reason. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943) has been read at larger intervals -- this is my mother's copy and I first read it when I was in elementary school and have about every ten years since. Don't get me wrong, I don't spend a lot of reading time rereading things. But these just give me that feeling, you know?

This moonday find us with a beautiful waxing crescent moon in Leo, did you see it last night? Leo moontime is all about interrelating. It is time to shine and not minimize yourself. By simply being, you light the way for others. That quote by Nelson Mandela applies here. "Your playing small doesn't serve you. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking."

Leo daytime is dry and fiery so remember to drink water and make sure the plants aren't thirsty, as well. Leo rules the center of love and strength, our hearts and circulation. If you feel weak or unloved, ask yourself the questions mentioned above to see how you can self-nourish.

If you have access to any motherwort in bloom, you could harvest this heart herb that lowers blood pressure, calms heart palpitations, reduces anxiety, and relieves menstrual cramping. Motherwort's name is Leonurus cardiaca -- if it's at the correct stage of growth and bloom, there couldn't be a more suitable time to harvest and make its medicine than now.

Garden-wise, Leo (and Virgo that follows) is a barren sign, so hold off on seed-planting if you can until Thursday when the moon enters Libra, a semi-fertile sign. On the other hand, inner seeds of strength, love, and courage are very well-planted now!

Friday, June 3, 2011

fairy cloth

A pile of dyed strips is like a plate of chocolate chip cookies -- they're both simply irresistible. The pansy on the newly-woven cloth is from the very plants that were used to dye it. Quite amazing.

They belong together. I honestly didn't see it coming. Now I wonder if a trilogy is in the works? Makes me think of a fairy bed of soft moss and maybe someone looking out the flower window. I am enchanted.

Happy weekend. xo

Thursday, June 2, 2011

out of the dye-pot: pansy petals

Green is easy. Purple and blue are evading me.

This is the result of purple and blue pansy flower petals using the ice-flower dyeing method from Eco Colour. In the book, India Flint describes using black violas to obtain shades of blue. I guess my purples weren't dark enough to be considered black. Or maybe the yellow splotches on some of the petals are responsible for the green.

Even so, I'm happy with these lovely shades of green -- strips of silk organza, linen, cotton and wool -- but I'll definitely try again for blue using only the darkest petals.

Any advice?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

hearts in the garden

These are the last hours of the moon's waning phase. A time for heart and soul reflection. Also, the best time for weeding and trimming. Later this afternoon, at the new moon, seeds and transplants should be placed in their garden homes. You'll feel them leap out of your hands.

A gift from Britain included these amazing heart stones and sea glass and pottery shards collected from an East Yorkshire beach and a tidal river foreshore. They find themselves placed as a mosaic on a garden altar one mile above sea level in the middle of North America. They must feel like they're on a mountain top. Heartfelt thanks, Lyn, I love them.

The hawthorns, Crataegus sp.,  are blooming. In keeping with this dark moon, I've cut a branch and put it by the garden altar for now, to be placed near the front door later. Hawthorn helps us with physical, emotional and psychic boundaries and is an instrument of change.

Medicinally, hawthorn contains both heart and digestive intelligence and brings about balance in those areas. I use it quite a bit, mostly the berries. For a strong medicine, I tincture both the flowers and the berries separately and then combine them, making it a summer long process. To me, this is very powerful -- to contain the energy of the hawthorn from blossom to fruit over one growing season. The easiest way to enjoy and benefit from hawthorn is to infuse it in vinegar. A jar is filled with hawthorn berries and topped with apple cider vinegar, capped and infused for 4-6 weeks, 1 T. taken in a glass of water. Or use in the kitchen.

Now, I'm headed back out to burn some copal in the garden. I love its fragrance combined with everything else. It's like a choir.