Monthly Archives: July 2016

Red Clover

Red Clover is another one of my favorite medicinal, nourishing herbs that I use on a regular basis, not only for the human body, but for the land. We have red cover planted in a few places here on the farm, in our back yard among the grasses and in the orchard meadow, we do that because clover is a legume and naturally fixes nitrogen in to the soil, along with deep roots and a lot of biomass, its a great ally to have in a permaculture landscape. But that is not what I want to focus on for this post (believe me, I will be writing more on the benefits of clover for the garden) I want to focus on the benefits clover has for the human body, specifically for the female human body.
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One of the most cherished of the fertility-increasing plants is red clover (Trifolium pratense). Common in fields and along roadsides, it has bright pink (not really red) blossoms from mid-summer into the chilly days of fall. A favorite flower of the honeybees, the tops (blossoms and appending leaves) are harvested on bright sunny days and eaten as is, or dried for medicinal use.

Susun Weed

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Unlike soy, which is also a legume Red Clover has phytosterols:  “Phytosterols are hormone-like substances found in many plants that can be bio-converted in the human gut into active anti-cancer estrogens and other helpful anti-stress hormones”. 

Red Clover is also known to help with infertility and all hormone related issues in women.

 

…A favorite flower of the honeybees, the tops (blossoms and appending leaves) are harvested on bright sunny days and eaten as is, or dried for medicinal use. The raw blossoms are delicious in salads and nutritious when cooked with grains such as rice or millet.

To make a fertility-enhancing infusion, I take one ounce by weight of the dried blossoms (fresh won’t work for this application) and put them in a quart size canning jar. I fill the jar with boiling water, screw on a tight lid, and let it steep at room temperature overnight (or for at least four hours). Dozens of women have told me that they had successful pregnancies after drinking a cup or more (up to four cups) a day of red clover infusion.

It is especially helpful if there is scarring of the fallopian tubes, irregular menses, abnormal cells in the reproductive tract, or “unexplained” infertility. It may take several months for the full effect of this herb to come on and pregnancy may not occurs until you have used it for a year or two. You can improve the taste by including some dried peppermint (a spoonful or two) along with the dried clover blossoms when making your infusion. Treat the father of the child-to-be to some red clover infusion, too!

Susun Weed

IMG_6723When the clover gets tall and starts to blossom its time to harvest! Cover is a fun herb to harvest, especially for the little kids, its very simple, just pop the flower off.  My little ones like to recite the line “Mama had a baby and her head popped off!” while picking clover, they also like to snack on the blossoms as we gather. We get a big paper grocery sack and fill it up about half way full.  you have to be careful drying clover blossoms, they need a lot of air flow to dry without molding.  Some people suggest laying the blossoms in a basket in a single layer not touching.  I don’t have the room to dry herbs that way, so I put them the paper grocery sack and leave it on the kitchen counter where I see it often, and several times a day I give it a shake or stir. The paper helps wick away the moisture and stirring it often keeps the blossoms separate and allows for air flow. It takes about two weeks to dry in my neck of the woods, but we are dry, it  will take longer in more humid climates.

IMG_6721Red Clover is an infusion that I use in my regular rotation, I plan on making it my ally when I move from child bearing years to my menopausal years and beyond.
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More informaiton on the uses of Red Clover:

Herbal Information Sheet

Red Clover and Fibroids

Herbs for Fertility

Menopause 

 

 

Beautiful Dissapointment

This is a picture of our freshly harvested carrot bed, it is currently waiting for a fresh layer of compost and a new generation of carrots.  However, if you notice in the fore ground a nice little group of flowers. Those are carrot flowers, and there is a story.
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The thing with a carrot is that it is a bi-annual, meaning they live two years, the first year they grow and produce foliage, the second year they flower, make seeds and die. Most gardeners harvest carrots after the first season, when the root is nice and tender, before it flowers and the roots get hard and fibrous.  I am not a seed collector (yet) I buy all my seeds and I never save seeds so I have never and would never keep a stand of carrots into the second year for seeds, and even if I did collect seeds I wouldn’t need this many.

So why do I have carrots flowering in my garden?
IMG_6859I. Have. No. Idea. None, nada, ziltch.

I bought purple carrot seeds from a company I have bought from for years, and I have successfully grown this variety at least twice.  These flowers are from a first year planting.  My other carrots did well, but this variety decided to skip year one and go right into year two.
IMG_6860I was quite cross when I first realized what had happened and I almost pulled out every single one of them.  Then I got curious and decided to wait and see.  I’m glad I did.  They are a delightfully un-expected addition to my boring vegetable garden, waving  their pretty little colors in the breeze.
IMG_6861I’ve fallen in love, and I believe that these little flowers are going to make a seed collector out of me after all, I want to duplicate them next year all over the garden.

And it makes me wonder, maybe this wasn’t a mistake after all, maybe it was a gift…..
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Carrots, Beets and Cotts, Oh My!

One of my very favorite summer chores is canning.  I know, weird, but I love it.

There is something absolutely satisfying to me about sitting down, with a chipped enamel-wear dishpan and a piles of vegetables in front of me.  I carefully and quickly peel each vegetable, quietly channeling the energy of all my grandmothers before me who did the same chore to ensure her family’s survival for another year. It feels primal to me, that desire to provide food and comfort, while it is not longer necessary to preserve my own food, the drive to do so is in my bones and manifests in my flesh.
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The beets are all peeled and cold packed in jars, ready for the pressure caner, beets are a family favorite.
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IMG_6835Carrots washed and peeled, I love the soft, translucent orange and light yellow of the roots when I peel them. I had planned on having dark purple carrots as well, but they had a different surprise in mind for me, something I will write about later.
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Jars of raw packed carrots, they too will go in the pressure caner.  They come out the prefect texture for eating, my kids will eat them cold right out of the jar and they are soft enough for the babies to eat too.

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And last, but not the least by a long shot, a batch of sun ripened apricots fresh from a neighbors tree ready for the dehydrator. In the winter they will be soaked and cooked with buckwheat for a warm sweet breakfast, much like a breakfast my great-grandmothers would have served to their hungry loves on a cold winter morning.

Carrots and Beets

We had a killer crop of beets and carrots this year.  They loved the deep mulching methods we used this year and all our hard work sure paid off with the root vegetables.
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Fresh beets and carrots are absolutely the best and we all enjoy eating them fresh roasted or raw, but these lovely ladies are meant for canning, to be stored for food when the winter winds howl.  The first of August we will be planting our fall crop of beets and carrots, those will stay stored in the ground until the first hard frost and then they will be roasted for autumn dinners when the land turns golden and smells of earth and pumpkins.
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Goats on Pasture

The Goats are almost three months old now and fully weaned, its time they go to pasture and be trained on the line.
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Part of the purpose of our goats is weed control and sustainable grazing. Grazing animals can be very destructive to the land if their grazing isn’t focused and managed.  On the flip side, land that isn’t grazed by herbivores will become over grown and unhealthy, quickly pulling more from the soil then adding back.  They synergy between the grasslands and its herbivores is slowly becoming recognized and honored.
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When a herbivore eats the grass the roots of the grass die back a little, leaving organic matter and open channels in the soil for beneficial microbes to feast on and water to run down.  Then there is a flush of new grown, invigorating the grass, making it stronger and producing more roots to break up the soil and provide for those microbes I love so much.  In turn the herbivore leaves its manure, full of nutrients and seeds to further bless the land.  A pasture can be easily over grazed, if animals are kept on it continually with out a rest period, it becomes distressed and can’t sustain new growth. That is where management comes in.  We no longer have vast prairies with massive herds of buffalo and birds doing the job, we now have to facilitate the process, by using rotational grazing and letting the pasture rest in between grazing.
IMG_6694Here on our farm we don’t have vast pastures, we have small meadows and paddocks, but that same principle applies, just on a smaller scale.  We set the goats out daily to graze, watching carefully so as not to over tax the land and then move our animals so the plot can rest and rejuvenate, making it more fertile and productive.

Unwelcome Visitor

We try to live with nature as much as possible.  We will tolerate a pest until it becomes a danger to humans, pets, live stock, or our gardens.  And when it does become a problem, we try to relocate and discourage it, before we dispatch it.   We had such a visitor the other day, one that I would usually watch slither away, but because of the location of this visitor and because it was not letting itself be known, I felt it was a safety issue, and had to dispatch it.

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I am by no means a snake expert, but I believe that this guy is a Great Basin Rattlesnake or Crotalus oreganus lutosus.  Aimee and I stumbled on this guy when we were getting ready to get into the van.  Aimee noticed the pit viper head immediately and I verified it by looking at the tail.  I later identified it as the Great Basin Rattlesnake by it’s coloring and other pictures on the internet.

The color pattern usually consists of a buff, pale gray, pale brown, olive brown or yellowish brown ground color, overlaid with a series of 32-49 dorsal blotches. These blotches are dark brown to black in color, with pale centers and pale borders, and are often irregular in shape and wider than they are long. There is also a series of lateral blotches that are indistinct anteriorly, but become more distinct posteriorly and eventually merge with the dorsal blotches to form crossbands. Older specimens sometimes have a faded pattern, or they may have uniformly black blotches, with the dorsum of the head also being black [Source]

As noted above, I  would usually relocate snakes, but this one was within 10 feet of our front door, and was not using its rattle.  So I instantly felt like I needed to dispatch it, instead of herding it to another location.

It surprised me that this guy was not rattling.  He was coiled, just sitting there looking at us.  He was sitting behind our chipper/shredder, which I moved to take this picture and to figure out a way to get him to uncoil so that I could take care of the threat.  After doing a little more research, I came across an article (“Rattlesnake danger grows as more serpents strike without warning” July 22, 2001) that explains that rattlesnakes are now not using their rattles and are more likely to attack without warning.  The Great Basin Rattlesnake is also more timid.

The quickest, and best way that I have found to dispatch a rattlesnake is to put a shovel blade just behind its head and decapitate the snake.  But you NEVER want to approach a coiled pit viper.  They have the ability to spring and attack the distance of their body when they are in a coiled position.  So you want to get the snake to move on, so you can dispatch it while it is not coiled.  And this guy was not going to uncoil for me.  And he only rattled once, and that was for a second after I poked him with a sprinkler pipe to get him to uncoil and move off.

So, I figured that vibration/noise would make him move.  So I fired up the chipper/shredder.  He only looked at it, did not move an inch.  So I then turned the shredder so that it was now blowing at him.  This did the trick, the uncoiled and started to move away from the shredder.  I then walked up behind him and with a shovel decapitated the snake.

The problem with snakes, is that they still can move, rattle, and bite after they have been dispatched.  This one was no different.  After I removed his head with the shovel, I went to pick the head up, with the shovel.  His body-less head then bit the shovel.  Never, try to pick up a snakes head, even if it is removed from the body.  They always have the ability to inject venom through their fangs.  I then dug a hole, and promptly buried the head.  I then removed the rattle, and then put the body of the snake away from the house to let nature take care of it.

The Utah Department of Wildlife Resources in an article titled “Rattlesnake safety tips – DWR” lists several things to do when you encounter a rattlesnake and how to protect your property from them.  Rattlesnakes are actually illegal to kill in Utah (R657-53).  The law does have an exception for “reasons of human safety.”  -28(6)(a) “Great Basin rattlesnakes, Crotalus oreganus lutosus, may be killed without a certificate of registration only for reasons of human safety.”  I agree that they should usually be left alone, and would usually leave them alone, especially if it was in the wild, but because it was a safety risk for me and my family I dispatched the snake.

 

Interesting Visitors

Over the last few days we have had some fun visitors of the insect variety, they were unique enough that we had to investigate further.

Solifugae

The first one is called a Solifugae, or as some people would call them a camel spider, wind scorpion, or sun spider.

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There are a lot of urban legends about this guy.  Everything from them being big enough to eat birds, run at really fast speeds, and that they are deadly to humans.

Well, they are all false.  This guy eats ground-dwelling arthropods, and other small animals, does not pose a risk to humans.  It can run fast, but only at a top speed of 10 mph.  It does not have any venom glands or any type of venom-delivery apparatus.   But they can give you a very powerful nip with their mouth parts or their chelicerae, but it is nothing medically significant.  They like to avoid the sun, and will move to get away from it.

Carrion beetle

This visitor is a Silphidae  it is also called a carrion beetle or burying beetles.

IMG_0419This guy is one of natures cleanup beetles.  Specifically, it is know for taking care of dead animals.  These guys have wings but no longer use them.  They can be found worldwide and belong to a family of 183 species.  I have to admit, these guys, like the camel spider are also a pretty misunderstood visitors.

The Silphidae adults feed in a saprophagous manner: they colonize the carrion during all four stages of decomposition, which are fresh, bloated, decay, and dry. The main areas of decomposition for adults are during both the bloated and decaying stages. The Silphidae larvae mainly inhabit during the decaying and dry stages of the carrion. The primary food source for the subfamily Silphinae is the maggot mass present on the detritus. The Nicrophorinae will colonize the body earlier in decomposition in order to avoid competition with maggots. If there is a sufficiently large maggot mass they will not colonize the carcass. The parental care exhibited by this subfamily is that the adult beetles regurgitate food into the mouths of the young larvae until they are mature. Silphinae colonize later in the decaying process and the adults eat the maggot mass, sometimes leaving little maggot evidence left to estimate a post-mortem interval. In the case of the sexton or burying beetles, Nicrophorinae, the adults will bury small animal carcasses and lay their eggs on it. In some species, a slight depression is made on the detritus for maturing larvae that the adult beetles feed and protect. In both subfamilies the larvae are observed to eat the decaying organic material while the adults mainly consume the maggots. Flies are the major competitor of Silphiade for detritus. If a carcass is infested with maggots, many of the Nicrophorinae will abandon the carcass while members of Silphinae will feed on the maggots.[Source]

Sounds like something that Gil Grissom would really like to find during one of his Crime Scene Investigations.  These guys are not considered a nuisance to humans, they also have a large distribution.  They have been know to become pests to farmers and will use crops as a secondary source of nutrients.

An interesting side note to this guy.  I found him next to our garbage can as I was taking it out to the street for pickup.  In the garbage can, there were several gophers that I had trapped during the week.  Looks like this guy was just trying to find a new place to lay its eggs.

 

Spring Babies

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We all love the babies here on the farm and the last of the spring babies have arrived!  Rabbits can be bred all year long, but they tend to struggle in the heat and a pregnancy only adds to the difficulty, so we take a break in the heat of the summer. We also take a break in the cold of the winter, not because it hard on the rabbits, they love the cold, but it is a bit more difficult to manage kits in the freezing weather, they need to be kept very warm and it is easy for a kit to chill and die very quickly. So here we are the very last litter of the spring birthing season, they get to hang out in the house with us during the heat of the day and in the evening they get to go be with mom until morning.  Rabbits only feed their babies once or twice a day and spend the rest of the time ignoring them.  It is a survival instinct, by only visiting the nest once a day they don’t attract predators to their babies. Once the baby’s eyes open, at about ten days, they will become adventurous and follow mom around.  When the babies are six weeks old they are separated by sex and moved into big grow out pens to wait until they are big enough to process.

How do I feel about processing our own meat. I don’t love it, and the day I do will be the day I quit eating meat. Rabbits are prey animals, they are meant to be eaten to fulfill the measure of their creation.  Our rabbits are very much loved and cared for and when the time is right humanly dispatched and processed, then eaten with much honor and thanksgiving.