Gardens are so important to many people, either for aesthetics or for producing food.  Working the soil is good for the soul, and years ago I had a gardening epiphany; if I am going to do all this work landscaping, why not put in plants that would give back in the form of food, herbs and medicine?

I've never been much of a tea drinker.  I have sampled many times the teas in the little boxes from the grocery store, trying to understand why people seem to like them so much.  They were always so bland and tasteless, even if I used three or four bags.  I even went so far as to find a local bulk tea shop, and bought several types that appealed to me.  Most of them just can't compete with my heavenly dark brewed, packed with flavor, beloved coffee.  I gave up, and decided the Brits could have my share.

However, when I began to grow my own herbs, a really wonderful thing happened; I found that my homegrown teas were packed with flavor.  In addition, if you are using teas as medicine, using fresh plant material is a better way to acess the medicinal qualities.

For an even more interesting tea, try adding fruit peels such as apple, lemon or orange.  I save my fruit peels for just this purpose.  Find some local honey as well, and you can create all sorts of heathful, helpful powerhouses.



 






From wikiHow.com:

A tea garden is a delightful hobby that can complement the rest of your herb garden and will provide you with the joy of fresh herbal teas, more properly known as herbal infusions or tisanes, at a moment's notice. Creating a tea garden in a container can also make a perfect gift for somebody.  References to "tea" below should be understood to refer to herbal tea.

[snip]

Peppermint - this is a perennial favorite for many people. Its refreshing taste is uplifting and cleansing, as well as wonderful for stomach troubles of all kinds. Peppermint is generally very easy to grow and enjoys sunny and semi-shaded spots. Grows very, very easily and unless you want it escaping across the garden, keep it pot-bound. The leaves are the part used for making tea.

Lavender - a delightful, softly fragrant tisane that is perfect for soothing, especially recommended for reducing tension and soothing headaches. Lavender grows well in full sun, well-drained soil . Lavender buds are the part of the plant used for tea.

Lemon Verbena - a refreshing and tangy lemony taste comes packed in these simple but easy-to-grow leaves. It needs full sun and will not tolerate harsh winters, so keep it pot-bound if that's a danger in your area. The leaves are the part used for tea.

Rose Hips - rose hips are the seed cases for roses. They are extremely high in vitamin C and are very good for you. Rose hips will form once the rose bush goes to seed. The rose hips should be deep orange-red before harvesting. Clean the rose hips gently before steeping.

Marjoram - this herb has a fruity, citrus flavor and an undertone of mint. It grows well in full sun to semi-shade.
Leaves and flowers are suitable for steeping.

Pick the leaves or flowers. The best time of day for this is just after the dew has dried but before the heat of the sun begins to draw the oils out of the plant.

Prepare the leaves. Leaves should be bruised to release their essential oils . Do this by rubbing them  together.

Make the tea. Add the herbs to a teapot or directly to a mug or cup. For each cup of tea, add approximately 2 to 3 teaspoons of fresh leaves and/or flowers. Slice rose hips in half before adding.

Allow to steep for 5 minutes. This will ensure that the flavors are released and the full benefits of the herb's or flower's qualities are available.


Read more about teas as gifts, choosing the right soil and/or pots for herb growing, and additional herbs to grow and use at http://www.wikihow.com/Grow-an-Herbal-Tea-Garden.



 
 
When I had a market garden, I grew 200-foot rows of lettuce. The rows contained my own mixture of lettuce varieties, chosen for taste, color, and leaf shape, and I cut the leaves young for the mesclun mix I sold to local chefs. Twice a week my two young assistants and I knelt in the white clover pathways to shear the baby plants.

Most of the dozen or so lettuce varieties were the type  described as cutting lettuces, which obligingly and vigorously sprout a fresh  crop of leaves when they are snipped off just a couple of inches above the  ground. They are often called cut-and-come-again lettuces.

Cutting lettuces are mostly non-heading leaf varieties from two groups, Grand Rapids and  oakleaf. The Grand Rapids group produces broad, crinkled, and frilly leaves,  while the oakleaf varieties have flatter and distinctively lobed leaves. Both  groups include red and green varieties and several red-green combinations. All  make great garden design elements.

Paint the garden with  lettuce

Whatever else I grow, I always have plenty of ‘Black Seeded  Simpson’, an heirloom. I don’t bother with little packets; I buy it by the  ounce, about 25,000 seeds. Properly stored, lettuce seed stays viable
for three  years. ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ is so reliable I use it as the standard for  judging the germination success of other varieties. A fast grower, it produces  crinkly, juicy, yellowish-green leaves. Its only shortcoming is a tendency to  bolt in summer heat; it does best in spring and fall here on Long Island.

One of the best summer performers I have found is a romaine: a French cos, ‘Craquerelle du Midi’. When every other lettuce in my garden is getting bitter or defiantly announcing its plans to set seed, this one stays mild and leafy.






The red or green lobed leaves of the oakleaf types are pillars of the looseleaf establishment. There are at least half-a-dozen varieties of each color commonly found in seed catalogs. ‘Oakleaf’ is the original old standby that yields crisp,  tender, light green leaves and keeps going through moderate heat. Although it  has deeply lobed leaves, ‘Salad Bowl’ is not a true oakleaf. But it is an  All-America Selections winner that produces rosettes of delicate lime-green  leaves and also has good heat tolerance.

Tops for reliability, even  through a hot summer, is ‘Red Sails’. Another All-America Selections winner,  it’s a fast grower with green and reddish-bronze leaves.



Read the rest of this article at http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/2961/cut-and-come-again-lettuce-sampler#comment_list
 
 
Join us on our Facebook page, for more of a conversation, rather than the post of the day format.

You can find us here, https://www.facebook.com/BillyJoesFoodFarm.  Don't forget to "like" the page, and click "show in newsfeed" and/or "get notifications" so that you won't miss our Facebook posts.

 
 
Here in southern Kansas, we got a foot of snow a few days ago.  Although it was relatively nice this weekend and some of it melted, we are now expected to get over another foot in the next 48 hours, in blizzard conditions.

It is at times like these that I am so thankful that we have planned ahead.  We have sources for water and heat, independent of any power sources.  But just as importantly, we have a full pantry.  I consider that to be absolutely necessary, especially because we have children. 

You have insurance for your health, insurance for your house, even insurance on your car; why not carry food insurance?  You never know when a crisis will hit, or what it will be when it does.  Loss of income, illness or injury, or severe storms can all cause disruption in your ability to keep your kitchen cabinets stocked.

The photos below were taken by my daughter's friend who works at a local grocery store.  Let's hope anyone who was looking for supplies was able to find what they were looking for somewhere else.  Please keep enough food on hand so that a situation like this doesn't affect you and your family.


 
 
Having farm animals provides many benefits.  However, along with the fleece, the milk and the eggs, we also have a LOT of flies.  Just sitting on the porch can become a trial.  This spring, I am going to try using essential oils as a deterrent.


From wikihow.com...


Tired of fly sprays and the unwanted chemicals they contain? Are you constantly being bothered or bitten by unwanted pests in your own back yard? There are some very easy solutions to keeping flies away from the
outdoor dining area, and you can do them all yourself. Read on for some helpful tips and hints!


Clean out a small tin with a lid. This will be the "home," so to speak, for your repellent.


Take a clean piece of cloth or a small piece of dish sponge able to fit into the container
. Saturate it with one of the following oils (after it has been diluted appropriately, see Tips):




Lavender oil - lavender is considered to be particularly effective against flies
Citronella oil (dilute with water first)
Eucalyptus oil (dilute with water first)
Pennyroyal oil (dilute with water first)
Peppermint oil (dilute with water first; likely more effective against mosquitoes but also considered to work against horse-flies.
Lemongrass oil (dilute with water first)


Place the cloth in the tin and shut the lid. Allow to sit for 24 hours.





Use as needed. Whenever you need to use the tin, remove the lid and place on the entertaining table. Make as many as you wish to put around the entertaining area to deter flies.





Replenish the oil after each use; once open to the air, the strength weakens and needs to be topped up
.




Read other tips about using herbs and essential oils for insect repellants at WikiHow - How to make natural repellents with essential oils.
 
 
Raw milk; very few things these days ignite such a firestorm of debate in circles of those who are concerned about getting the very best foods for their families.

Why?  Some feel that drinking milk without pasteurization endangers the health of people needlessly, others feel that all the good things about milk are destroyed during pasteurization.

My opinion is that people should be able to eat and drink whatever they want.  Is it not up to the individual to determine if there is a risk, or not, in drinking raw milk?  Or a risk to their health when consuming anything else, for that matter?

We have many agencies and inspectors, and yet people still get sick and/or die from eating spinach, or tomatoes, or beef, or eggs, heck even cantalope, that have been tainted with one thing or another.

What we eat and drink for sustenance is the most basic human endeavor.  Not everyone can own dairy animals, so rely on their neighbors who can.  Many states, and even the federal government, are now involved with raids and arrests of those who sell milk to people who want it.  That fact is unfathomable to me. 

Where do you stand on this issue?


From Misty Morning Farm in the beautiful Virginia countryside, here is Adam and Faith Schlabach's story about how their family decided that raw milk was best for them. 



People ask me why we drink raw milk.  I will tell you our story.  Adam and I
grew up drinking raw milk, he grew up Amish and they almost all drink milk right
off of the farm, (yikes, and they’re still alive!  and we were poor with 5
children and more land than money.  I drank raw milk until we moved at the age
of 13.  We had a wonderful smaller type Jersey.


When we got married we did not know the value of 
grass-fed
dairy, let alone raw, so we did not make any attempt to obtain it.
In fact, Adam being very much into healthy eating, 
believed that we should not drink milk at all.  There was a belief within health
circles for a long time that milk was not good for you and that it would cause
all kinds of problems such as lactose intolerance, congestion, mucous, emotional
volatility, etc.  Amazingly, no one caught on that all those symptoms seem to
arise from pasteurized, homogenized milk, not raw grass-fed
milk.


In our personal family we had three who couldn’t drink milk, or so we
thought,  for over 15 years.  One would get very phlegmy and congested, one
would get very volatile,  (He was an easy going guy until he drank milk and the
next day he was a bear!  We had a joke in our house that if he drank milk today,
he went to work with his Dad tomorrow, and our daughter was lactose intolerant.
In fact, it took her three months or so before she would even try one  sip of raw milk.
In my case, I could not drink milk with bovine growth hormones but seemed to “tolerate” store milk
without the hormones.


About eight years ago, we learned thru the
Weston A Price
foundation
(please please peruse their site and bookstore,
(it will change your health!) that it was probably not the milk
itself but what we were doing to it.  So we visited a neighboring state and a
friend gave us three gallons of raw milk.  Surprise surprise!  We could drink
it.  I cannot tell you the amazement of discovering that.  I am still not over
the wonder of it.  I made raw milk ice cream the other day!  I wish you all
could have come over for a bowl – it WAS amazing and I didn’t feel one bit
guilty.


Since then, my daughter’s cavities which she could not get under control
although taking extremely good care of her teeth and eating VERY little sugar,
are under control.  In fact, she has not had a new one since drinking raw milk. 
We feel healthier, stronger, and need less sleep.  My joints got dramatically
better as well.  And best of all, we can now have ice cream.

  
Did I say amazing!?


I honestly cannot find words to express the goodness we receive out of having
all the raw milk products we can use.  Can you imagine making your own ice
cream, yogurt, kefir, sour cream, cream cheese, cultured butter, 100′s of
cheeses, AND raw whey to make lacto-fermented foods for all the probiotic
benefits?


Read the rest of their story, and see their beautiful cows and homestead, at Misty Morning Farm.
 
 
One of things that I really, really need here to grow the amount of food that I would like is a greenhouse.  I have looked at so many, and they are usually incredibly expensive.  My building skills are rudimentary at best, but this one I think I can not only build, but also afford.

From http://bepasgarden.blogspot.com/2011/03/building-greenhouse.html, take a look at this nice 6' x 8' greenhouse.  If the price is accurate, I could build one to grow greens for the animals too.

 
 
This little tool is one of the coolest survival tools I have ever come across.  In my opinion, every glove box should have one of these, especially on road trips.

Adventure Medical Kits SOL Origin Survival Tool

 
 
10 Weeds That Heal (from http://www.thereadystore.com) was a fairly popular post, so here is a companion, 10 Herbs That Heal.  Go eat some plants!!




 
 
"It's natural, it can't hurt me!"

Many people think if a plant, vitamin, mineral, etc. occurs naturally, that it cannot be dangerous.  Often people think if a little is good, a lot is better.

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

I was diagnosed with osteoporosis at the age of 36, and began studying herbal medicine at about the same time.  As a result, I spend a lot of time reading information and studies about supplements and using food as medicine.

To make sure I get the calcium I need, I use dairy products and foods that are high in calcium.  Actually, my health issues are what made me decide to get dairy animals in the first place, sheep in particular; sheep milk has more calcium than other milk.  My feeling is that a body will absorb more of what it needs if you consume the vitamins and minerals you need by ingesting them via foods, rather than supplements.

I am happy that I came to that conclusion, as every day there is some commerical advertising a pill with ridiculous side effects, a new lawsuit about some medication that caused birth defects or deaths (but the research them before they okay them for public use, right???!!!), or a new study, usually in Europe because America is Pharmaceutical Nation, about the use of vitamins.

Today, I share with you a warning regarding the use of calcium supplements.  The British Journal of Medicine has found after a study that lasted for 11 years that people in the study who took calcium supplements were more likely to suffer heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

The human body is an amazing thing, and the nutrients contained within the food that you eat all have a purpose, which is why eating whole, natural foods is infinitely better for your body.  Your body naturally knows what to do with the food you ingest, and how to take what it needs and throw out what it doesn't.  I'm just not sure if the same can be said for supplements.  Why not err on the side of caution and just eat more of what you need?



From Science Daily...
Calcium Supplements Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Attack, Study Finds

"They found that calcium supplements were associated with about a 30%
increased risk of heart attack and smaller, non-significant, increases in the
risk of stroke and mortality.


The findings were consistent across trials and were independent of age, sex,
and type of supplement."




From the BBC...
Calcium pills 'increase' risk of heart attack

In all 12,000 people aged over 40 took part in the trials of calcium 
supplements of 500mg or more a day.

The risk of heart attack was seen across men and
women,  was independent of age and the type of supplement given.

A small increased risk of death was seen in the study but was not 
statistically significant, the researchers said.

The reason for the increased risk of heart attack is not clear but it is 
thought the extra calcium circulating in the blood could lead to a hardening of 
the arteries.

Calcium in the diet is safe and the Food Standards Agency recommends adults 
have 700mg of calcium a day from milk, cheese and green, leafy vegetables.




From CBS news...
Study links calcium pills to heart attacks..."A dietary uptick in calcium is not harmful, but supplements could lead to heart disease,  study finds "

"Additionally, people with a naturally high calcium intake through foods like
milk and cheese tended to have a lower heart attack risk, the study found.
"




I am not a doctor, nor am I advocating that you stop or start any kind of vitamin or supplement.  I study food as medicine for my own use and benefit, but I do want to share information that I think you will find useful, so that you can make up your own mind about your health.  Individuals are their own best patient advocate.  If you have questions, please ask your physician.