Category Archives: Gardening

Make Your Own Buzz!

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Next week is National Pollinator Week! I didn’t even know this was a thing, but I’m glad it is and I think it needs to be shouted from every rooftop. This week is brought to us by the Pollinator Partnership, who I found out is funded by Monsanto and Bayer. Ugh. The very organizations that are killing them via  “Monsanto’s genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant ‘Roundup Ready’ crops,  Monsanto’s insecticide-producing, genetically engineered ‘Bt’ Crops, and  Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds treated with Bayer’s insecticides”. Read more about it here… it’s sickening.

I feel like the situation is dire for our pollinators and our food supply so I still feel that our pollinators are worth celebrating and talking about.

What can you do?

1. Avoid buying bee killing pesticides like: Monsanto’s Roundup, Dow’s Rodeo or Bayer 2-1 Systemic Rose and Flower Care. Don’t forget that seedspotting soil and plants are also pre-treated with neonics.

A quick weed killer that can be used in place of Roundup is as follows:

-1/2 cup of salt, preferably sea salt or Himalayan salt

-1 gallon organic or non-gmo vinegar

-1/4 cup all-natural dish soap (for sale at local health food stores)

Mix ingredients and place in a spray bottle. The correct ratio is a 1/2 cup of salt for every gallon of vinegar and 1/4 cup for this recipe.

For seeds try:

•    GrowOrganic

•    Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. 

•    Seeds of Change

•    The Seed and Plant Finder 

•    Seed Savers Exchange

2. Let Dandelions and Clover grow in your lawn. This is by far the easiest thing that a person can do. Bees love them. Don’t worry, we won’t judge you for not having a perfect lawn 🙂

3. Plant bee friendly flowers: lamb’s ear, which has some added benefits that you can read about here), hyssop, lupine, bee balm,  coneflowers, heather, lavender, heliotrope, etc. You can also find mixes that are native to your region to make things super easy.

4. Buy Organic. Let your dollars do the talking for you. Support organic farmers. If they are local, even better!

5. Add Your Name. Sign Petitions to let your voice be heard regarding passing the Saving America’s Pollinators Act .  Another petition can be found here.

Also, tell Lowe’s to stop selling bee killing plants and pesticides here.

The more I read about this, the sicker it makes me. I am hopeful that the message will continue to spread and we can change this course before we lose our valuable pollinators.

Source: Honey Bee Health via Organicconsumers.org

 

Building My Dream Herb Garden

photo_12348_20090723I remember walking through a colonial era house in Elizabeth City, NC a few years ago. There was a beautiful herb garden planted near the front. The design reminded me of a traditional English herb garden, complete with a gravel path although on a much smaller scale. It was so beautiful and inspiring. I imagined that there were herbs used for cooking and healing and maybe some just because they are pretty but I don’t’ suppose that one would be planted for that reason alone.  I also pictured herbs hanging in bundles from the rafters and long lines of herb-filled jars on shelfs in the kitchen. It is a cozy, warm image in my mind.

This last week, I finally have my garden plot prepared and planted a few aromatic herbs. I’d only heard of two of them before but went out on a limb to try  some new ones.

Here’s what I know I have in no particular order: Lemon Balm, Anise Hyssop, German Chamomile, and Cinnamon Basil.

About the only thing I know about any of those herbs is that they can probably go in a tea bag and taste pretty good. It’s time to expand my knowledge.

Lemon Balm:  I opted to plant this because it attracts bees and I want to do all I can to make a nice place for both the bees and my plants. It’s a calming herb and has been used since the Middle Ages to reduce stress & anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite and ease the pain of indigestion (read gas & bloating).  I feel like it’s got quite a bit of credibility. Lemon Balm is usually combined with herbs such as valerian and chamomile for relaxation so it’s a good thing I added some Chamomile. It can be used in creams to treat cold sores also.

Cinnamon Basil: I was nervous about this one but after some brief research, I’m very pleased to add it to my garden. It is a common ingredient in Italian food, which I don’t make all that often, but can be used in Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese cooking as well. I found some cookie recipes here that I’m exciting about trying. Although I will have to adjust to keep them gluten free. Cinnamon Basil has an impressive list of medicinal uses which include: allergies, cold and flu, respiratory disorders, etc. The most appealing thing to me is that it can repel mosquitos. Yay! I can’t wait to test this! It is advised to plant it near decks or maybe make a centerpiece with it during picnics. You can also rub it on the skin. Last Summer I got a mosquito bite on the bottom of my foot so this could have saved me some misery. Additionally, a poultice can be made with it to use for insect bites and wart removal. Now, what the heck is a poultice?

German Chamomile: The most popular herb in the world. In the Middle Ages chamomile was used as a love potion! More recently this herb is used to treat many issues including anxiety, digestive issues, muscle spasm, skin conditions, and mild infections. More specifically, chest colds, sore throats gum inflammation acne, eczema and minor burns. Sounds good! The white and yellow flower heads are what is used to make the teas, ointments, and extracts.

Anise Hyssop: I don’t prefer the taste of anise but given that this plant attracts butterflies and bees and is repellant to deer and my nemesis – moths, I decided to try it.  This herb can help with blood sugar control, relieve respiratory symptoms, and improve digestion. A warning though- do not consume while pregnant. I’m pretty interested in this jelly and cocktail recipe.  The Methow Valley Herbs website has a wonderful post about Anise Hyssop.  Here is a recipe for an Oxymel that will help loosen mucus, made with Anise. Interesting stuff.

I have a mint plant left to add to the garden. With mint, I make the most healing elixir that I know of: mojitos. They take me to a sunny, tropical place in my mind and I am completely at ease.

That’s what I’m starting with. It’s not in an elegant, traditional garden. It’s not even a complete medicinal garden. I’m not even sure what a complete medicinal garden looks like. Here’s what I know: I have a while to watch these lovelies grow, I will enjoy the butterflies and the bees, and I will be ready when cold season hits. I will let you know how it goes 🙂

 

Sweet Sunshine

I finally got outside yesterday. Our poor landscaping has been under inches of snow all winter and looks like it needed some love. A few days previous I noticed that the weeds were abundant so I decided it was time to get after it. It didn’t really matter what I did in the yard, the task is endless. While I was out I contemplated my favorite thing that day. It wasn’t too windy. It wasn’t too hot. The birds were chirping- it’s been a long time since I paid attention to that.

photo_9780_20090316Then I got excited! It’d been so long since I was out in te sun!  I remembered how good it feels to have the sun on my skin. Has winter been that long? How could I forget this?I have alway been so careful to shield myself from the sun. I always heard how bad the sun is for you, that is causes skin cancer, you will get wrinkles (egads!) and so on and so on. In my early 20s, I of course disregarded that nonsense but after some time I became religious about slathering on the sunscreen and always sat in the shade.  A good line of defense to be sure, but as it turns out, a little bit of sun exposure is really good for you.

With some sunlight we can enjoy:

  • Increase in Vitamin D levels- don’t forget this is a fat soluble vitamin so we need to eat fat in our diet.
  • Lower Blood Pressure due to an increase in nitric oxide productionwhich will reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • Improve sleep – morning exposure gets your circadian rhythm on track.
  • Elevate Mood– sunlight therapy is used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, but you don’t have to suffer from SAD to reap the benefits
  • Other lesser known benefits include: pain relief, treatment for skin diseases, & regulating body temperature

The takeaway here is to make sure you get back outside but be smart about it. Indirect sunlight is okay! In fact it’s probably the preferred way for a lot of people. Some people can only be outside for 10 minutes before their skin starts to get damaged. If your pink, you’ve been out too long. Take your sun exposure in increments. If your skin can handle a bit more, go for it! For more specific recommendations on sun exposure, this Dr. Mercola article is a good resource.

I’m pretty sure I will be singing a different tune once the Summer gets here, but I will try to remember this feeling.