How To Make An Herbal Tea

Passion Flower makes a wonderful tea that can really calm the nerves.

Passion Flower makes a wonderful tea that can really calm the nerves.

When talking with folks about herbs I find that one of the big mysteries of growing herbs is how to get them from the garden to the table- especially in regards to medicinal herbs.

Well, the simplest way to use an herb to make you feel better is to make a simple tea.  The directions below will seem overly simple but that is the point- it is simple.

Tea using fresh herbs:

A tablespoon of selected herb

1-2 cups of boiling water

Place herb in heat-proof container and pour water over the herb.  Place a lid on the container and allow to steep for 10-15 minutes.  It is important to keep the container covered as the essential oil (where much of the herbal goodies are) will evaporate in the steam. Strain herb matter out.

Enjoy- that is it.  I like to sweeten mine with honey and add lemon.  The honey will also help with healing if you are ill.

Tea using dry herbs:

The same as above except the fresh herbs will be replaced with 1 tbsp of dried herbs.

If you are new to herbs, you probably think I am pulling your leg.  But it is that easy to use herbs.  Below is a blend of herbs I like for any winter illness that may be going on, this will make you feel much better.

Winter Illness Herbs

Dandelion Greens, Sage,  Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Catnip, and Rosemary- dry these herbs and process them in a food processor then use as above.  In regards to the amounts- there is no right or wrong.  I prefer the Lemon Balm and Peppermint to be in larger amounts due to the good flavor.  Rosemary should be used in moderation as a little goes a long way and the flavor can overpower the others.

What Do You See?

EomirWhat do you see when you look at this picture?  You probably see cuteness, adorable baby goat.  Some of you may even think that this is exactly what you need.  And shopping through the ads on craigslist you can find many cute and sweet goat kids- just the thing to make your little farm complete.

BUT, I will tell you what I see- a punk.  Punk with a capital P.U.N.K.!  He has not even had his first month’s birthday yet and already he is a punk.  Some of you don’t believe me- you think that nothing this cute and young could possible be classified as a punk.   Some of you, however, have dealt with goats and know perfectly well what I am talking about.

So, I will tell you how he came to be known as a punk.  Savannah- my 17 yr old daughter & his mama- left for San Angelo leaving me to care for the little guy.  So, on the first morning I get him out of his crate (he sleeps in a dog crate in Savannah’s room because it has been quite cold at night and he has no one to keep him warm) and give him his bottle.  As I am making the calves bottles, which only takes me about 5 minutes he pees and poops more than should be possible.  Now, this is somewhat to be expected so we move on.  I open the door and head out and he happily comes along.  He is following me like a good boy until we reach the half way mark to the barn.  Then he notices a rock, a blade of grass and the plastic that is draped over the livestock trailer converting it into a greenhouse.

So, I walk on calling his name.  He knows I am talking to him because he looks at me every time.  Each time he acts as though he will run and catch up, but all he does is run a few steps buck and leap in the air and turn around to see what fascinating thing he has missed.  At this point I am still thinking that he is innocent- just a happy goat kid exploring his new world.  I soon learned the truth.

Still carting the calf bottles each containing a half gallon of milk, I walk back from the barn door (why didn’t I just set the bottles down?) and walk back to him.  Just as I get within about 10 feet of him, he turns and runs off.  He runs back to the house and all around the back yard.  I am in shock.  He is knowingly avoiding me because he knows I want to take him to the boring barn.  So, still carrying the bottles I trudge back up the hill to the house.  Each time I get just close enough to grab him he darts away.

Now, I set the bottles down and get a dog leash.  Punk sees the bottles and thinking that he has just hit the mother load of milk comes close enough for me to grab.  Having been caught, he turns on the charm nuzzling my neck and talking sweetly to me.  I, however, am no spring chicken and having been around the goat block a time or two do not fall prey to his charms.  I slip the leash on him looping around one leg “shoulder” and his neck.  I do not put it around his neck because a goat will pull so hard against a leash that they will choke themselves down- of course they recover quickly- but still I hate it.

I gather the bottles up and give a little tug.  He prances along thinking it is a game until we reach the half way point again.  Then he fights like there is a huge beast lurking in the barn waiting to eat him whole!  I hold tight to the leash and practically drag him to the barn but he arrives unharmed and conscious.  I deposit him in his stall and feed the calves.  I apologized to the boys for their milking being lukewarm and they eye the little punk knowing how goats can be.

EaomirGoat kid and the trailerOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spring is Springing

You know when you have on of those days that just seem disjointed and purposeless?  Well, today was one of those days for me.  My outlook did improve as the day went on.  Maybe it was tied to the weather.  For a day that started off rainy and cold (for Texas), it really finished off beautifully.  The sun came out and warmed us all up to around 70′.

Tuesday, I finished the pig waterer, yesterday Tony and I bought a new trailer and then made a run to an herb grower.  I am growing a lot, but not as much as we need for the whole season.  So, there are a few who I trust their methods and buy from them.  Our first sale is Easter weekend, so the spring season is upon us.  I am excited about that!

Duckie, our Boykin Spaniel, sitting by the Sweet Olive.

Duckie, our Boykin Spaniel, sitting by the Sweet Olive.

All over the gardens, things are coming back to life.  I cleaned out some of the herb beds and while doing so I kept noticing the faintest scent, so sweet and pleasant.  It took me a moment but then I placed it- Sweet Olive.  There is no better shrub for adding a wonderful scent to your home.  The scent of the Sweet Olive will rival any Gardenia, but the Sweet Olive will bloom from September until it gets hot in May or June.  You can’t beat that with a stick.

The chickens got some treats today.  Usually all the kitchen scraps got to Effie the Pig who converts them into lovely ham and bacon.  But since Effie the Pig had already gotten a bucketful, when I cleaned out the fridge I decided that the chickens deserved the treats.  The flock has not gotten as much free ranging time due to the fact that a lot of my seedlings are in low tunnel hoop houses that are accessible to the birds if they tried.  So, for another 2 weeks or so, they are only allowed out in the late afternoon.

Daffodils

The Girls went crazy for the kitchen goodies.

The Girls went crazy for the kitchen goodies.

Making A Hog Waterer From PVC Pipe

If you have ever had a pig on your place, then you know how much they love to wallow in mud.  Pigs love it so much they will dump their drinking water over to enjoy the fun of wallowing.  The problem is that then they have no water to drink, except the muddy stuff.  The muddy water seems to suit the pigs fine, but as a person who wants to provide the best for the animals in my care, it didn’t suit me.

The challenge is that pigs are so strong that they can flip a trough weighing hundreds of pounds like it was a marshmallow.  The choices you are left with is securing a concrete water trough that is about as heavy as the Titanic or going with an automatic system.  The concrete waterer is not an option- 1. because my husband refuses to move anything that heavy without a tractor and we don’t have a tractor & 2. I like to move the pigs around to till new ground for me and we don’t have a tractor.  So, that left us with an automatic type of waterer.

There are several ways of using automatic waterers, but again because I want to be able to move the pens around, I decided on a PVC type waterer.  I have seen these many times at livestock shows made out of green PVC and being about 2 1/2 feet tall and about 4 inches in diameter.  The pigs bite the water valve and water flows out.  When the pig stops biting on the valve the water stops.  This means that a pig’s pen can be kept dry if needed.  The waters are wired into the corner of the pen eliminating the pig from being able to flip it over.  I do not have any intention of denying our pig the joy of wallowing in mud, so I will fill the hole dug by said pig with water just for fun.

In the following pictures, you will notice that my pipe is not green but white.  Also, I chose the heaviest grade of pipe available, 8 inches in diameter and 5 feet in length.  This is because I do not want to fill this everyday and I thought the heavy grade pipe would have a longer life as pigs can be very rough.  The water valves were purchased at our feed store and the other supplies came from the local hardware store.  I purchased a 10 ft piece of pipe and had the store cut it into 2 pieces along with 2 caps to fit.  All total I spent about $55.00 and will have two waterers when done.

To construct a water:

pig waterer 1About 6 inches from the bottom of the pipe (the lid is about 4 inches deep) drill a hole using a drill bit with a saw blade attached to it.  This bit cuts a circle, a hole in the pipe.  The hole should be just a bit bigger than the nipple valve.  The valve has threads on it so that you can insert it into the hole and screw it in.  The bit I used was the same size as the valve because the next size up in the bit department was bigger than the valve.  So, I used the drill and bit to wallow out the hole some by just drilling around the edge until it was large enough.  Being that I have small hands and not enough strength to manhandle much more than a small goat- I gripped the valve with a pair of vice grips so that I had enough leverage to screw in the valve.  This is the hardest part- which was not that hard.

cleaning pipealcoholAfter the valve is in, the pipe needs to be cleaned to prepare them for the plumbers cement and putty.  If the cap and pipe are not cemented together the water will leak out. Also, the valve needs plumber’s putty to keep it from leaking.  First, I cleaned the pipe and cap with orange oil and vinegar to get all the dirt off.  The orange oil was followed by alcohol so that the surface would be super clean and dry faster.  When you are trying to glue anything, dirt and moisture are not your friend.

Plumbers putty snake For the valve: scope out about a quarter’s worth of putty and roll it into a snake (think play-dough and preschool).

wrapping the valve

water valve all smoothed out

Wrap the snake around the valve where it meets the pipe.  Then, press the putty down pressing out all air bubbles and smoothing the edges.  There were no directions on my tub I just had to guess at it.  Also, I thought I would have to wait until it hardened then I read on the tub that it never hardens.  So, I wasn’t really sure if this would work, but it did.

Inside the pipeI did the same thing on the inside of the pipe- just to be certain.  This is what the other end of the water valve looks like.  As you can see, there are threads and a screen to keep debris out of the water valve.

plumber's cementspreading the cementWhereas the plumbers putty was labeled as completely harmless, the cement was plastered with warnings.  One of the warnings was not to breath the fumes.  I find it sad that that warning had to be printed.  The fumes are awful and it was obvious that I should not stand too close.  The lid has a little ball on it for spreading.  Generously spread the cement on the pipe all the way around.

spreading cement on the lidDo the same on the lid.  Then put the lid on the pipe, you may need to use a hammer to tap the lid down.

I left my to dry for several hours.  After drying, I put water in the pipe and it did not leak!  Now, the pig has a new waterer.  I will be using this in the new pen, pictures to follow when that is done.

Pig waterer suppliesAn ingredient recap- PVC pip of selected length and weight, cap for pipe, plumber’s putty and plumber’s cement, water drinking  valve, alcohol and orange oil cleaner.

Tools- drill, drill bit with saw blade, hammer, and vice grips

PVC Pig Waterer

PVC Pig Waterer

Some People Buy Flowers…

Savannah and Boer Goat Baby

Some people buys flowers or cook you food when you lose a loved one, but in our family we buy you small livestock.

 

I realize that this might be strange to some, but to us there is no better way to say “I am sorry for you loss” than with a baby goat.  As you know, Savannah lost her beloved goat, Kandi, last week.  Well, while she was gone to a friend’s her sister, Cheyenne, and I went and bought a bottle baby boer goat for her.  She knew nothing about it.  When she got home, she plopped down on the couch by her daddy.  He looked over at her and said, ‘We got something for you”  He then lifted the blanket on his lap and revealed the cute little thing.   Yes, you understand that correctly, my city born husband was sitting on the couch watching TV while holding a baby goat.  Goat kids are just that cute!

Cheyenne and the new goat- that is sisterly love.

Cheyenne and the new goat- that is sisterly love.

Needless to say,  she was very happy.  She still cries from time to time missing her Kandi, but the funny antics and bottle feeding go along way in helping the hurt pass.

Savannah washing the new kid.

Savannah washing the new kid.

A Sad Day On The Farm

Kandi our fist goat and her baby, Kit Kat.

Kandi our fist goat and her baby, Kit Kat.

It’s one of those things that you know will happen, but you hope, somehow, it never will.  Kandi, our goat, died yesterday.  Death is something you live with on a sustainable farm, a homestead on which you produce your own food.  But you do get attached to the breeding animals, the ones who will live out their life on your farm.  Kandi was one such goat.  She was my daughter, Savannah’s goat bought- as a bottle baby- when she was 9, she is now 17.  This loss hurts.

Kandi was no ordinary Boer goat- she was special.  Not because of her breeding or bloodlines, but because of her intelligence.  We have always said that if she were in Narnia she would have been a talking animal.  Kandi could pick a gate latch with her lips with such skill and speed that would have made Houdini proud.  She never forgot where a bag of grain had been stored or where a rose bush had been planted.  She knew her name and knew her place in the herd- queen.  She produced 5 great kids for us, the boys always made the sale at the county fair- which Savannah showed.

She was also special because she was the beginning of our goat herd, the beginning of our homestead and she made me remember what I had forgotten- the my heart is happy and at home on a farm.  As I sit at this computer writing this, tears are beginning to flow again.  This makes my heart hurt and greif rears its ugly head once more.  But, I want this written down.  It is important to us and Kandi deserves to be remembered, she is such an important part of our story.

After an ugly experience with goats as a kid, I vowed I would never own goats.  Well, you know how these things go.  My older two were intent on joining 4H and wanted to show goats at the county fair.  So, being the good mother that I am, I said OK thinking that a meat goat project only lasted from January to April.  I could handle that and the goats would then be gone.  Well, that was 9 years ago and the goats are still here and I am just as crazy about them as the kids.  Maybe more so, the older two are in college and a senior in high school, no longer show goats but I am still raising them.

The thing about buying goats for the first time is that I had NO CLUE as to what I was doing.  We had a drought the previous summer  and everyone that I had contacts with suddenly had no kids to sell because the goats did not breed as usual.  So, I started hunting in the papers- craigslist did not exist then.  Little did I know that I could have called the extension agent and he could have connected me with a breeder.  But, for once, I am glad for my ignorance.  I found a breeder in the paper and called her.  Yes, she did have show goats, two bottle babies.  Perfect- I thought.   We brought them home- paid a crazy amount of money for them.  Kandi and JoJo- JoJo died, but that is another story.

Kandi almost died as well.  You see, bloat is a sneaky thing and incredibly dangerous for a goat.  When Kandi was just a few days old, she began to bloat (like her brother, JoJo, but because of his death we knew what we were looking at) and I called the vet.  It was late at night and he said baby goats did not bloat, but I could bring her in to the office in the morning.  Well, I was pretty sure we would not make it till morning.  I looked up bloat in my goat books and it said to drench the goat with mineral oil.  I could not for the life of me figure out how pouring mineral oil on a goat to the point of drenching them could help what was going on on the inside.  So, I skipped that part and read on.  You needed to rub their bellies to help the expel the extra gas- you had to do it every two hours at least.

An all nighter?  I don’t do those well.  I looked at my two girls, just children then, and said that they would have to do it.  They were enthusiastic about it and made a bed on the couch for the two of them and the goat.  They did it!  They saved the goat.  I walked into the family room the next morning and the two of them were asleep on the couch with a little goat curled up between them.  Her little read head popped up, blinked at me and let out the sweetest little bleet.  I thought to myself, “Oh gosh, I am now one of ‘those’ people now.”  It is true, I am one of those people.

As it turns out, you can’t show does at the county fair.  So, now we had a meat goat living on our place with no where to go.  Great.  This began the building of pens and sheds and the buying of goat feed, minerals and wormer.  And it has never stopped.  I can’t begin to account to you how much we have learned on this journey, the joy we have experienced and the heartache.  We are so much stronger now as a family, as individuals, and physically.  We possess so many skills I would have never thought I could learn.  Along the way, I remembered that I loved farming and my kids became farm kids- and it all started with a little goat named Kandi.

Other goats have come and gone, but Kandi always remained.  Now, she is gone and a part of the story of our farm has gone with her.  Even Cheyenne was crying and I made the comment that I did not think Kandi was her favorite (Kandi was the ring leader of much chaos on our farm).  She said, “No, but she was family.”  That is how it is on a farm- the animals are family.  I hurt for Savannah, she loved that animal.  I wish I could make it all go away but I cannot.  We do have her last kid- Kit Kat.  She is sweet and cute, we will see what she grows into.

Thank you for the memories, Kandi.  You will always be remebered fondly in this family.

So typical, Kandi was a strinker.

So typical, Kandi was a strinker.

Kandi and her second baby, Whopper

Kandi and her second baby, Whopper

Easy Breezy

Farm dog- Eowyn and the daffodils

Farm dog- Eowyn and the daffodils

The weather the last few days has just been wonderful- cloudy with the sun peeking through from time to time, breezy and just warm enough to be so very comfortable.  Our windows have been open and the air is cool, humid from the misting rains and reminiscent of summer evenings.  The summer evenings that arrive in April and May, sometimes in June then it gets HOT and even the evening air is hot.  So for now, in February, we will enjoy this warm and breezy weather.

Today I bumped the last of the basil- for now.  The basil that I could not remember in the last post is Bolloso Napoletano- I love the way that name feels in my mouth.  I have no idea what the basil is like but I would pick it again just because of the name.  It is not uncommon for me to choose vegetables just because of the names.  Drunken Woman lettuce was one such purchase, but a good one- it tastes great!  That name just makes me smile maybe even giggle.

Tony will be home tomorrow and we will be busy moving the animals to their new land that we have leased.  Another greenhouse will be started, we are smooth out of room around here.  Savannah asked me the day I bumped 24 trays of Holy Basil alone, “Did you mean to grow this many plants?”  Well, yes and no.  Yes, I intended to grow plants to sell- this is our business of course- but no, I had no idea that 3 packets of Holy Basil seeds would produce nearly 500 plants.

As I am spending so much time outside, dinner have gotten very simple.  Tonight was homemade pizza, I found a great recipe in a magazine that has the dough rising in the fridge for 3 hours to overnight.  This is my kind of thing this time of year.  I can mix it together in the morning when I am full of fire and then in the evening when I am pooped all that is needed is some simple assembly and a hot oven.  I wasn’t going to post many of these recipes I am using these days because they are not really that interesting.  However, they are from scratch and healthy and simplicity is something that everyone needs from time to time. So, the dough recipe will be posted shortly, it only has about 4 ingredients and three steps in making it.

I have begun to make a pot of soup at the beginning of each week now, not for dinner but for having for lunch.  I am not one for liking leftovers, but I do like soup.  With a pot made up I can simply warm up a bowl full when I come in for lunch this makes my day so much more simple.  Sierra loves soup, too- but mainly for the broth.  She loves french bread dipped in a good broth of any kind.  She is so much like me it can be a little scary.  Last night I was being quite a smart mouth to Tony and then pouting when I didn’t get my way- He looked at me and said, “She acts just like you”  Yep.  And he spoiled both of us.

If you would like further evidence of this check out this Homemade Soup recipe- the accompanying story of how I made it when I was 5 is pretty funny- if I do say so myself.

 

A Beautiful View

Farm in the fog

My daily trip to the barn to feed “my boys” (the jersey bull bottle calves) was made through a very foggy morning on Tuesday.  Each morning when I start down the hill, Effie- the pig- starts to grunt excitedly and runs from stall to stall then up and down the fence.  I would like to think that she just loves me, but in  truth she would be just excited to see any person coming with the ability to pour feed  into her feeder.  Never the less, it is a great way to start the morning.  Wednesday was not foggy, but it was cloudy and rainy.

Effie The PigEffie the pig 2

The bottle calves are doing great.  The injured tail has mostly healed and only needed the first treatment of salve.  The boys are eating grain and hay very well.  Once the outside pen was in place we turned the pig and the calves out together, they get along great but the pig is definitely in charge.  The first morning I went in to bottle feed the calves, they were in seperate stalls.  To feed them, we just put the nipple through the wire grids and the boys slurp it down.  As I was watching one calf nurse, I could hear the slurping coming from the other stall.  Imagine my surprise to look over and see that it was Effie the Pig drinking from the bottle!  Well, the calf was confused and bewildered as it wasn’t really sure what the pig was much less why it was drinking his breakfast.  Now, we avoid any confusion by pouring feed into the pig’s trough first and then giving the boys their bottles.

The boys waiting on breakfast.

The boys waiting on breakfast.

Tuesday found us bumping up only 11 flats of Eritrean Basil and 2 flats of  mullein, I would have liked to bump more but that was all the prepped flats that were ready.  Needless to say, first order of business today was to fill more flats.  35 were filled and I have already used 24- all being used for Holy Basil.

Hollyberrry Herb Farm might be called the Basil Farm this spring.  Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil, Lime Basil, Holy Basil, Eritrean Basil, Red Rubin Basil, Spicy Bush Basil,and Sweet Genovese Basil are all growing happily in their 4 in cups.  Mammoth Basil, Cinnamon Basil, and one more variety that I can’t remember right now are up and waiting to be bumped.  We have over 100 flats of Basil in it’s various forms!  Even the seedlings give off such a wonderful aroma when I am transplanting them.  I just can’t wait for March, planting in the gardens will begin.  Also, the farm will be open and I am looking forward to our customers coming back around.

Sierra and Jonathan discussing how to cook breakfast.  Jonathan cracks me up as he wanders around the house wrapped in his blanket.

Sierra and Jonathan discussing how to cook breakfast. Jonathan cracks me up as he wanders around the house wrapped in his blanket.

“The Talk”

What a cutie, sweet with a will of iron.

What a cutie, sweet with a will of iron.

It seems that it is time for “The Talk” once again at my house.  For many of you, you probably assume that from the title this talk will be about the birds and the bees.  Not so.  When you live on the farm topics like reproduction and various anatomical differences between male and females come up with everyday life.   As a matter of fact, most non-farm orientated folk would be deeply disturbed by what is discussed at the dinner table amongst the farm family. Then the kids just sort of put things together, if you will, and then the topic of human reproduction comes pretty easily and just moves on by.

No, in our house dominated by strong-willed females “The Talk” is a different sort of beast.  Really, it is more of a speech- talking involves conversation and by the time “The Talk” is needed I am not interested in conversing- I am interested in laying the law down.  With each of the girls- all three being ahead of the boy- as age 14 rolls around they have just about decided that I don’t really know what I am doing.  And possibly, they have confused the fact that I treat them with respect and as intelligent individuals instead of just dumb kids  with the presumption that they are equal to me.  Big Mistake.  My authority does not come from the fact that I am more intelligent than my children- the fact is that they are just as if not more intelligent than I am and they arrived in this world that smart.  My authority comes from that fact that God made me their mother and I am in charge until they are adults and out of the house.  Until that day, I am the Alpha Female.

Well, the youngest daughter just turned 14 and just like her sisters before her, she has gotten a little too big for her britches.

 

To her I will say:

“You have four years left here in this house.  These years can be years of peace and fun or they can be 4 years of fighting and unhappiness for you.  It is your choice.  The rules haven’t changed and they will not.  You will treat me with respect, treat your siblings with kindness and respect or we can fight about all these things and you will lose.  I am still the mother and I am not budging.  The boundaries that have been in place since you were born will not change, test them as you may, test them if you must- but they will not change.  If you are looking for a fight, I am game.  However, I hope you choose peace.  What will it be?”

Because I have laid the ground work for 14 years of their lives- I don’t make idle threats, if I tell you I will take away all your books because you keep reading instead of doing what you are supposed to, I will.  They know I mean what I say and they also know from whom they inherited the strong will and have decided it’s best not to tangle with me.  Now when I speak of boundaries, I am speaking of basic tenants of obeying our guidelines and treating one another with love and respect.  I am not a mother who had ideas of what her children should be and then forces them into the box I have created.  My children are free to be and to become what God has intended.  I simply create an environment in our home in which they can hear God.  The Bible is the final word in our home, therefore, if you do not like what it says don’t blame me take it to God.  Until He changes, I am not.

This all sounds pretty harsh, but really it isn’t.   Also, these are strong willed kids- you have to have a will of granite to stand your ground or they will eat you alive. We all need to know where the boundaries are in our lives.  I want my children to learn that inside the boundaries are freedom and peace.  If they learn that in our home boundaries mean good things for them then when they are own their own they will know that living within the boundaries that God sets are for their good and protection.  So far so good, the 19 and 17 year-old have not given us one moment of grief and I can truly say I love having teenagers.

So, here it goes for the third time.  I am not sure there will be a forth- will Jonathan challenge me or his dad when the time comes?  I don’t know- I hope he challenges his dad…  Why should I get to have all the fun!

What have been the most challenging seasons of raising you children?