Archives for category: Wildcraft

I like to think that pretty much everybody can identify a dandelion.  If not, ask somebody around this time of year, and they can probably show you.  Usually when you gather from nature, you have to be careful not to overharvest.  This is not a problem with dandelions.  They’re basically impossible to kill, which leads to the only thing you really have to be careful of with them – make sure you’re harvesting from a place that hasn’t been sprayed with weed killer!

Oh, and watch out for your friendly neighbourhood honey-bees.  They like dandelions too!  image

Anyways, I wanted to make some dandelion-infused oil.  It’s a nice massage oil for sore muscles, but more than that, it’s packed full of Vitamin D and is great for cooking with in the deepest dark of winter when you can barely remember what it felt like to be warm.

The actual gathering portion of this is quick and easy.  You probably need less than you think you do, because the garbling portion of the show is pretty tedious.  You don’t want the green bits, just the yellow petals.  The best technique I’ve found is to split the flower head in half and then sort of scoop out the petals with my thumb.  This project will appeal to the same sort of people who like knitting.image

imageI’m infusing mine in sunflower oil, because if we’re going for solar energy, let’s go all the way!  To that end, I’m also letting it infuse in sunlight for the afternoon.

At this point I’m not sure if I’ll even strain out the petals.  They’re totally edible and good for you, after all.  Probably only if I notice the oil starting to get cloudy, at which point straining out the plant matter can save it.

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I’ll definitely be saving some of this for Longest Night!

Now that my poplar buds have been infusing in olive oil for a month, (see Part 1) it’s time to move on and actually make the balm.  In her Boreal Herbal, Beverley Gray calls this Boreal Balm, and also Balm of Gilead, and simply Poplar Bud Balm.  (I will never stop recommending that book. Go! Buy it!)

No matter the name, this balm is good for dry/itchy/cracked skin, burn treatment, minor cuts & scrapes, soothing inflammation & rashes, and generally preventing infection and speeding up healing.

Ingredients:

1 cup poplar-bud-infused olive oil

2 Tablespoons grated beeswax

contents of 2 vitamin E capsules image I’m sure pros either buy little beeswax granules, or have a much better grater set-up, but in a pinch, my kitchen cheese grater works fine.

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If you have a double boiler, great!  If not you can probably rig something up like I what I did with a sauce-pan and a Pyrex glass bowl.  Just be sure the upper portion can handle the heat. Strain out the buds from the oil (top up with more olive oil if you have to in order to get a whole cup), and SANITIZE whatever you’re going to put the finished balm in.  I had sort of an odd collection of little containers.  SANITIZE!  Just like for brewing – no sense wasting all your time and effort through laziness at the end.image

Fill the saucepan about halfway with water, and put your bowl or glass measuring cup or whatever you’re using on top.  Heck, a Mason jar would work fine.  Put the burner on about medium heat and melt the wax.image
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Then add the oil.  The temperature difference will make the wax go all lumpy, which is fine.  Let the wax & oil melt together, stirring periodically.image

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When the wax and oil are nicely melted together, add your vitamin E oil.  From what I understand it helps the balm last longer.  Then carefully pour your hot melted mixture into your sanitized jars.image Let them cool completely before you put on lids and label them.
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Easy-peasy, simple balm!  image

We are blessed with an abundance of poplar trees on our land. Poplar buds have been used for centuries to make medicine, sometimes called Balm of Gilead. Powerful for many different topical ailments, my primary motivation in making this is for its treatment of burns.  It was brought home to me the other day that we’re lacking a good burn cream in our medicine cabinet. Time to fix that! Poplar buds are best harvested in the spring when they’re just starting to swell with luscious juices. That is, right now. image You don’t get much when you’re determined not to strip more than one branch per tree, but luckily I only needed about half a cup. image They’re super sticky – gloves highly recommended. image I’m working mostly from Beverley Gray’s Boreal Herbal. Cannot say enough good things about this book!!! If you live in the boreal ecosystem and are at all interested in wildharvesting, go forth and purchase it ASAP. image I don’t own a double boiler so I’m heating my infusion in a mason jar in a pot of hot water. image 1 part poplar buds to 2 parts olive oil. Once the water starts to simmer I remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature with a coffee filter over the top to let any excess water evaporate. (If I had cheesecloth I would have used that instead but I don’t, so we make do) image Then I put the lid & label on (label very important, always label your concoctions!!) shake it and put it in the cupboard to infuse over the next month. I’ll shake it again periodically as I remember. image A month from now I’ll strain it and use the infused oil to make my salve.

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See Part 2 for the actual making of the balm.

The next morning my syrup base had almost gelled.  It wouldn’t fit through the sieve!

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I added a bit of water & heated it up and thus solved the problem, but I did wind up with slightly thinner syrup than I had hoped because of this.  Strained it out, then squeezed every last bit of sweet sugary goodness from the plant matter.

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I was left with a rich purply-red concoction.

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After simmering 20 minutes it thickened up.  Mixed in a couple spoonfuls of brandy to help preserve it and then let it cool.  For all of this I got about 2 cups of syrup.  Next batch will be bigger for sure!!

The syrup turned out absolutely delicious, and unique.  The fireweed gives it a flavour you simply don’t find anywhere else.

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Goes GREAT on French Toast!

Success!

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Above you see pictured the ingredients for the syrup I (finally) started making today.  2 cups each frozen cranberries and dried fireweed flowers (and some rose petals, but mostly fireweed).  2 cups of cane sugar, 1 cup of water.  That’s it.

Here are the working instructions I cobbled together from a couple of different recipes in The Boreal Herbal:

I tossed all the ingredients into my trusty enormous frying pan and slowly, slowly heated them up, mashing periodically.

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Took about 20 minutes to go from partially frozen to gently simmering.

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Now the infusion has to sit in the fridge overnight.  I took a sneak-preview taste though and was blown away!  Complex, intense flavour in this syrup.  Can’t wait!

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Yukon wildflower arrangement. Yarrow, fireweed, chamomile & some tall gangly relative of the dandilion.

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Also got my second shipment from PCDI (Ashworth). Workbook + pin tumbler lock & keys. Going to take apart, rekey, probably master key, put back together and eventually pick this lock. We’re going to get to know each other very well.

Current lesson is intro to master keying. Understand the idea, still working on the mechanics.

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I admit I have been distracted by Skyrim today.

Blech.  My turn for the strep throat now.  Yucky and ouch.  They describe it as razorblades in your throat and I can see why.  It hurts in long strings lengthwise down the windpipe.  The lab called Brian back yesterday, by which point he’d mostly recovered already.  They did confirm our diagnosis.

The throat lozenges and my herbal brew have very similar effects.  Both coat the throat and relieve the pain.  To be honest we’ve both been alternating between the two.  They’re also killing the bacteria and taking it to the stomach, which digests it as usual.  Stomachache.  And then you sit on the throne for a while.  Not fun.  Sleep.  Next day feel better.

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Anyways.

Herbal tea recipe for releif of strep throat:

1 part each:

yarrow, fireweed, poplar buds (I’ve added twinflower before too, which is nice but I don’t have it on hand)

I have a little metal tea-ball they sell for loose teas.  I just sort of eyeball amounts and stuff one side of it with loose ripped-up plant matter, then add boiling water and let it brew for 20 minutes.  I like to add honey halfway thru as well.

This morning on my way home from work I was planning to get home, change clothes and go out in search of fireweed.

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I know there’s a big stand down the street I just haven’t gone to get it. Instead I was met at the door by my husband who said (quietly), “We need to go to the hospital.”

Well ok then.

Nasty nasty sore throat. Suspect strep. Poor guy can hardly talk. Head down to emerg (blessedly empty at 7am) and get in to see a doctor. Throat swab off to the lab, we’ll get back to you. Instructions to gargle. Grocery store for OTC antibiotic lozenges & soft/soothing foods. Home.

I also brewed him a strong tea of yarrow, poplar buds & fireweed, all straight out of the yard. Between the lot of it he’s feeling much better.

Head out to walk the dog. Find this:

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Thank you!!

This stuff has a reputation as bug repellant that I’d like to test for myself. Making a very simple tincture from the yarrow I harvested and dried.

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Equipment: dried yarrow, glass jars, vodka.

Tinctures are not difficult. Fill your jar with dried flowers & leaves. (if your dried plant matter is mostly powder only fill the jar halfway)

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Add vodka.

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Seal, shake, label and store somewhere dark for at least two weeks.

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I’m planning to leave this test batch for a full month. Then strain thru cheesecloth or a coffee filter and load up a spraybottle. Very curious to see if this is going to work.

This is why I need to take chemistry.

Roses were looking a little bedraggled this morning on account of the rain.

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I admit when I started this syrup project I was thinking there was no way I was ever going to find enough roses to make a difference without stripping plants completely, which I’m not willing to do.

As I was walking thru the woods with Ted on our walk, I was stopping to pluck a petal from the flowers I saw here and there, thanking each plant and generally feeling grateful. Then I looked up and saw a branch of the path lined on each sides by flowering rosebushes!

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They were guarded by fearsome mosquitoes, but there they were in profusion.

It will still take a few more trips to gather enough petals, but I no longer fear not finding them.

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Petals drying.