Monday, June 25, 2012


OMG! It arrived! My delivery from Horizon Herbs with loads of medicinal herbs in it! Hallelujah!

HERE is who I ordered from.

While I have been falling in love lately again and all over with herbs and their culinary uses - think mint, lavender (chocolate scones), sage, oregano, borage (try flowers in your salad), thyme and rosemary (roasted chicken with roasted potatoes) - my even deeper and older love goes for their positive and powerful medicinal effects on us humans.

While pregnant with Ms D, my wonderful midwife Jeanne had introduced me to raspberry leaf tea and through my gardening class, someone had brought hibiscus tea into my life, and then while pregnant, I started using an herbal mix that was supposed to prep my uterus for birth. Apparently the effect on me was so strong (read: i am that sensitive) that I went into contractions. Roberto was taken by the power of these 'weeds'.

So, with all their amazing powers, I wanted to plant them in my garden, so we could put them to use anytime we needed them.

Who inspired my love for herbs? I cannot possibly tell. It seems it was always there. Whether my sister and I munched the sweet red clover buds on the meadows in the village I was raised in or my love for fennel or chamomille tea or possibly my mom's cooking which ALWAYS included herbs, dried or fresh!

But I can tell you, who made me want to know herbs better and use them not merely for culinary uses:
Juliette de Bairacle Levy, whose passion and knowledge of herbs is unsurpassed!

Read more about this amazing woman HERE.

So, what did I order and what am I planting or sowing?

Well, it's a bunch and I will keep updating as I keep planting, but along with a bunch of seeds, I received a comfrey root today that needs to go into soil TODAY; moon in virgo, you know.

So, what's the story on comfrey, Symphytum Officinale?

Juliette calls it a 'wonder herb', claiming it's "good for almost every ill of mankind". It is most often used for repairing fractured or broken bones. So, having two wild little girls, this can come in handy,
I figured. Some refer to comfrey as 'knit-bone'. It is also good for skin conditions and many natural cosmetics for several skin conditions, contain comfrey. Screams Saturn to me, for the astrologers reading. How to use it? Externally through rubbing leaves on a grater and smear it on or simply rub the leaves on. Of course, you can eat the leaves in a salad or with potatoes.

Read more about comfrey's use in medicine HERE.

How to grow that thing?

You probably can buy a plant but I ordered the root. It is an herbaceous perennial with pretty little purple flowers.

Comfrey is also a good helper in pulling nutrients from deeper parts up to the area more close to the surface due to its vast root system, thus, making it a great plant to grow next to annuals, who need nutrient density closer to surface, especially when starting from seed.

Plant it in a well- spaded area.

It likes full sun.

Dont cut the leaves the first year and wait in the second until about 2 inches when it reaches about 2 feet (yes, they get big!)

Of course, Mother Earth News did an article on COMFREY a bit ago. CLICK HERE.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Friday, June 22, 2012

Lavender Chocolate Chip Cookies

Laah!vender.... I love it. 

But what to do with all these beautifully smelling buddies?

One use that isn't widely known is in the kitchen. 

Here is a yumm recipe for chocolate scones with lavender. 

  • 1/2 cup real butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. dried Sweet Lavender flowers (3-4 Tbsp. fresh flowers)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups white flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 generous cup good chocolate chips

Bowl 1: Blend butter, sugar & Lavender until smooth. Add egg, milk & vanilla in next.

Bowl 2: Blend oatmeal, flour, and baking powder together; add in your chocolate chips to this dry mix.
Blend both mixes together to form soft dough.

Place by teaspoons onto baking tray.

Bake 10 minutes for soft cookies, 15 mins for crisp ones in a preheated oven at 350F.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Wonderberry Muffin Recipe

I know what you are thinking, what the heck is a wonderberry?

The wonderberry, also called sunberry is a nighshade with botanical name solanum burbankii.

It is an annual, a small plant who produces good yields and takes about 75 days to ripen.

They were developed by Luther Burbank; it is a tasty, small blue-purple fruit; good fresh or cooked.
A historic heirloom that is easy to grow.

Now, I had planted some last year and thanks to bird or squirrel poo they reseeded themselves all over the homestead. Great! Especially here in Southern California, where we have a hard time growing blueberries or any ramblers.

Now what to do with them wonderberries!


1/2 cup butter at room temp
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs (ideally duck eggs)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
cups fresh Wonderberries (I only had about 1 cup... ah well)

Bake at 375F in a preheated oven for 20 mins.

Wanna read more about wonderberries.... CLICK HERE

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Friday, June 15, 2012

Garlic Harvest

OMG,.... could it be time to harvest those beauties? Really? Already?

I guess so.... my chickens scratched the heck out of my garlic bed and so I looked at them.

They look done to me.
Moon is in Taurus.
All systems say GO!

Now, the digging up part in our super compacted soil is a chore. The other day to pull out carrots, I needed a knife and instead of a pulling out it was rather a digging out.

Anyway, I am seeing roasted garlic in my very near future....

Will check out this recipe HERE.

Read about planting the stinking roses HERE.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Look, who is in my bee hive now - Varroa Mites - Cheap DIY Remedy

This poor colony of Italian Ladies has been suffering since the day I got them:

1. I had to hive them while doing all those mommy chores.... so they ended up being hived AT NIGHT

It started bad: Argh... so, i dropped the queen cage in the package. now i gotta fish it out... then baby woke up and started crying... so i had to put the sugar feeder back in with hundreds of girlies now outside the door and a few smooshed ones.... SORRY! rushing inside to calm the crying baby. thank god for the dog who entertains ms a with playing fetch.... i need to hive them before sunset.

Update: i went out during a brief calm to fish the queen cage out with the hive tool but it is stuck. so, i will have to put my hand in as soon as everyone is fed & calm.... and the sun is going down.... they really need to be hived before dark.... *sigh* 

Update: after i fished out the queen cage (in the dark with a flashlight and all the bees basically asleep), i inspected it: there were several bees in the cage (there is normally only 1 queen in there). 

im not sure my queen was in there because of all that 'gewusel' and because i had ordered my queen unmarked (not digging the idea that someone snips her wings and/or paints sharpie on her just so i can find her more easily in the colony)... 

i figured she MUST be in there because a large cluster was around the cage. bees always surround their queen, waiting to feed her or get other orders :-D 

Aurelia was assisting me; holding all the tools and watching my total bungle bee job... 

So, i pulled the cork out of the cage, so that the workers can eat thru the candy thats stuck there and this way release her majesty, hung that thing from a frame in the super and shook the rest of the crew in. 

of course not all went in and i left the package sitting out, next to the hive, hoping the stragglers will get 'home', following her pheromons. 

next morning, while feeding sugar water, the 'stragglers' were still in the package and a bunch of dead bees at the hive entrance... OHNO! now i had to bring out the suit and open the hive. it looked alright; guess i smooshed a bunch when i hived them. when i checked on them later in the day, the stragglers had made it home, i saw many of my girlies already flying out to forage... 

THANK GOODNESS for their resilience! Note to self: NEVER IN THE DARK!

2. then, ANTS invading my hive....

Yeah, i loooove bees. last year the mites got them all and this year, i started sooo poorly with the hiving and NOW i got ants in the hive.... drives me crazy because the bees are still on sugarwater and the ants keep stealing it. i already poured boiling water over the ant hill.... they dont seam too impressed...

Read more about solving this problem here

3. and now M I T E S !
Yep, M I T E S ... I noticed a few bees flying funny and then I saw a crawler with eaten up wings.

Of course you know, THIS MEANS WAR!

So, what is my first strike? Powdered sugar and a sticky bottom board.

What do I do?
Make a sticky bottom board.  You may buy it or simply build it yourself. I build it myself, using cardboard, vegetable oil and a mesh that's big enough to let mites thru but no bees. Typically 3mm or 1/8 inch are recommended. However, I mis-estimated the size of my mesh (it is about 2mm) and then figured I should try it since the mites are at max. 1.6mm x 1.2mm in size and so they should fit thru a 2mm mesh. I bought 2x2 ft of mesh, costing me less than $2. It occured to me that some curtains may work for this as well or if you have a torn fly screen, there you go... you get the idea: Just measure the size of the screen/mesh/thingy.

So, I cut the board in the size of my super minus the walls. Smear vegetable oil on it. You can also use vaseline, whatever you have at home or is cheaper. This ensures the mites stick on the board and you can berid them. HALLELUJAH!

I stapled a thin rim on the four sides and then stapled the mesh on the rim.

Then the sugar... This is easy: Get powdered sugar, fill it in a glass jar, punch holes in the lid. There is your sugar shaker. No brush or other fancy equipment needed. I had to buy it: 1 lbs for about $2 (total of $4). Take all this to the hive. Put the sticky bottom board in first. Then, take the sugar and open the top of the hive and sprinkle the bees. Make sure you get many covered.

What this does? The mites cannot hold on then anymore to the bees and fall off. This also inspires the bees to clean each other and as a result, more mites fall off. 

Now what? After a day remove the sticky boards, scrape the sugar and mites and toss into a trash bag or some suggest to burn it (I see some homeopathic remedy potential here and will consider). A good tip is to not leave it on the ground as it may attract ants and boy, the last thing I need is more ants around my hive. Smear new oil on the sticky board and put it back in the hive. 

How often, when to do the powdered sugar sprinkling?

In spring!It is advised to do this treatment 3 or 4 times in spring at 5 to 7 day intervals. 

If you have an infestation like mine,  dust every 3 days for 21 days to capture mites that emerge from brood.

Before winter! Plan to do this treatment in autumn instead of chemicals. Do the dusting before the bees begin to form clusters because mites inside the cluster will not become sugared as not all bees will.

My only concern... the sugar may bring those dang ants back.... anyway, I have to get the mites down first.

If you want to read in detail how to do it, check out this pdf.

More on this gross mite stuff, here....

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

MAY 2012 - Harvest Tally and Annoying Ants in Beehive

Still working to make up for all the dead seedlings. Meanwhile, at least some of my work was not in vain... we harvest some lettuce and the perennials didn't have a chance to suffer from failure to thrive since I planted them last year.

Mid month, the bees arrived. I hived them, using the old frames with drawn out comb to give them a head start.

There is not much in bloom these days in my neighborhood. Luckily, some sunflowers (self seeding - thank you very much!) are blooming. OK, there is food plus I feed them sugarwater.

Hoping they make it as I am observing lots of ants trying to rob my hive from the sugarwater.

What am I doing?

Well, I honestly watched it for a while, trying the all natural remedies:

* sprinkling cinnamon around
* putting hive on cinnamon sticks
* thyme and peppermint leaves
* thyme and peppermint essential oils
* pouring boiling water into the anthill

Result? Ants still happily marching into my hive.

Now what?

No more sugar water!

Still ants..... and NOW? I am being told that ants can take down a hive in a week, so I needa do SOMETHING. DRASTIC. FAST.

Back to my good old ant traps. Seriously, I am not in favour of this but it is the only thing that I know works:

I use old plastic containers from yoghurt or hummus or whatever we ate. Yes, I store them for all sorts of possible usages, just like this one.

OK, back to the ant traps: Take those containers. They need to have lids, though.
I poke a few small holes into the lids, just big enough to fit an ant or two through it.

Then I make sugarwater, as I would when feeding bees:

Heat 2 cups of water, take it off stove, stir 2 cups of regular sugar into and let it cool off.

Pour this stuff into the trap container, add 1 or 2 teaspoon(s) of boric acid (wear a mask when handling) and stir it in.

Now, bring those traps outside and place them into the ant street. I typically pour a bit out to make sure they understand what dead super-yummy stuff I have for them. The ones that don't die from eating it, carry it into the anthill and feed it to their young.

It may take a few weeks but I got rid of 2 ant colonies that way.

Boric Acid is poison; let's not kid ourselves but with one trap (1 teaspoon of BA), I was able to kill 2 colonies. And yes, that stuff now is in my soil. However, adding boron to soil can be beneficial to certain types of soils. So, it's not all too bad although I am really not proud of having to go this route to protect my newly hived and vulnerable bees. Choices, choices, choices.

So, what did we harvest in May?

2 lbs of lettuce
8 lbs of peaches (from that one tree that we planted bare roots last spring.... the same tree, that looked dead and Roberto wanted to throw it out only 1 million times! THAT TREE!)
1 lbs of artichokes (yay for perennials!)

35 chicken eggs
37 duck eggs

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis


Luckily, the birds kept producing.
Whow, what a month! Our little girl has been taking all of our attention. Needless to say, that not much got done. As a result, many many MANY seedlings (!) died due to not being water at all or not enough.

Roberto said, he is working on the watering system to avoid this for any other seedlings that I am sowing these days, if ever.

Luckily, last years rotten tomatoes were hoed into the soil and produced enormous offspring. Hallelujah for self-seeding!

So, what DID we harvest in April?

7 lbs of chard
37 duck eggs
40 chicken eggs

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Of course you realise, this means war!

We have been having all sorts of vermine visitors. Some long eared and somewhat more tolerated due to incredible cuteness, while others more light evasive and omnivorous and extensively disliked due to incredible distructiveness. And I should mention, we equally dislike the bald tails and the fluffy tails, just as Carrie in SATC famously said, "Squirrels are just rats with cuter outfits."

Watch the Carrie and the Squirrel clip here.

Typically, we believe in sharing. Yes, even the labour of our hard gardening work with those dang critters. But, sharing means, that we too, get some of the food. This is the part of the sharing concept that they don't seem to quite fathom.

When our donut peaches - not quite ripe I should mention - were showing obvious vermine traces, my man decided

Of course you realise, THIS MEANS WAR!

more Bugs war declaration.
And off he went to put out traps....

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis