Friday, December 2, 2016

How to store dried herbs

If you're anything like me you've spent the better part of the summer growing, harvesting and drying your own herbs. Growing your own herbs is a very cost effective way to stock your spice cabinet or herbal apothecary and drying them is simple enough that anyone can do it! Now that you have all these dry herbs, how do you store them so they last the longest and are the most potent? 

Best way to store dried herbs

There are 5 things that deteriorate herbs:
  • Air
  • Heat
  • Sunlight
  • Moisture
  • Time

To minimize the deterioration cause by the first 4 on the list, store your dried herbs in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. I like to store mine in glass and I use canning jars. I love that they come in all different sizes since some herbs I use a lot of and others I only use sparingly. I store them in a cabinet down in my family room where it stays pretty cool year round. Unfortunately because kitchens tend to get hot when cooking/baking that is probably the worst place to keep them. If you can't store them in a cabinet, try the tinted Ball jars to help keep light out. While I do prefer glass, that is absolutely not the only way to store dried herbs. You could also use plastic ziploc style baggies. The baggies can be stored in a decorative tin or ceramic cookie jar to keep the light out. I love the old fashioned coffee, tea & sugar canister sets I always see at the thrift store, these would be great for storing herbs away from light. I personally do not like metal canisters by themselves. I can sometimes taste a slight metallic taste in teas when delicate herbs like chamomile are stored this way.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The easiest herb drying method: use your car!

This past weekend I found a super simple method of drying herbs  without using any fancy equipment and I just have to tell you about it! Over the years I have used various methods of drying herbs including air drying by hanging, oven drying and my current favorite, using my dehydrator. That is until now, because I have discovered that the easiest way to dry herbs is to simply leave them in your car! Yep, that's really all there is to it and I stumbled upon this quite by accident. 

Dry fresh herbs in your car!


Last weekend we went to the Renaissance Festival down in Pittsburgh. The parking lot was a huge field and all along the outer edges were huge Red Clover plants. The basic rule of foraging is to not take too many and ask permission. There really wasn't anyone around to ask, but this was a field they were slowly destroying by parking cars on it so I figured the unparked areas were fair game. We were going into the festival and I was afraid if it was dark when I came out I would forget to grab a few, so I picked 1 perfect Red Clover blossom and placed it on my dashboard as a reminder. We locked up the truck and went into the festival for the next several hours.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

You can prevent forest fires. Really!

If you've been anywhere near a computer, TV or newspaper lately you've heard about the devastating fires sweeping across the nation. Right now, at this very moment, there are thousands of acres of wilderness burning to the ground due to wildfires across 7 or more different states. There is a 300 acre fire in Oregon. Over 82,000 people have been evacuated and historical landmarks have been destroyed in the Blue Cut fire currently raging in California. There are at least a dozen other forest fires of various sizes racing across the land and consuming every thing in their paths....as we speak!

While some of these are caused by nature, like lightning strikes, more of them are caused by the carelessness or accidents of humans. We live on a clearing right in the middle of the woods – so as you can imagine, any kind of wildfire would be completely devastating to us! I can't even imagine looking out the window and seeing the woods glowing orange with fire. Or feeling the heat as it races towards me. *shudders* That's the stuff nightmares are made of!

Forest fire Styggkarret reserve

I believe that knowledge gives us power and it is so important to understand the safety and prevention of wildfires. They are damaging not only to the forest but can also be damaging to any homes and structures around them as well. You can't tell me it doesn't break your heart to think of all the frightened animals in the woods as a fire approaches! I know it kills me and I would hate to be the reason anyone or anything suffers through such a devastating event! After all, it really isn’t all that difficult to take steps to ensure that you are doing what it takes to prevent a wildfire.


We have to be SMART and take preventative action any time we are going to be outside! And while we all know that matches, burning cigarettes, and abandoned campfires are all potential threats for wildfire – there are MANY lesser known causes. Ones that you might be participating in and not even realize it.

Common ways YOU could unintentionally start a wildfire:

  •  Metal chains hanging from a moving vehicle
  •  Parking over tall, dry grass 
  •  Unattended debris burning
  •  Equipment fires such as from lawnmowers, ATVs, power equipment
  •  Smoking
  •  Unattended campfires
  •  Fireworks
  •  Carelessly discarding fireplace or BBQ ashes

Do you remember the Smokey Bear commercials? I remember the them from when I was a kid. He stared out at me from the television and while pointing straight at me stated "Only YOU can prevent forest fires!" What a message that sent to a younger me! Even though I was a suburbs kid and only saw the inside of a forest once a year, I still learned caution from those ads. Well, those and the free coloring books that were handed out by fire trucks at parades. I loved those books. Many year later when I moved into the woods myself, I found myself being overly cautious with my own firepit. Well, overly cautious in the eyes of my husband that is! He never understood why I would sit out until the fire was cold instead of just heading in to bed. Or check on it every 5 minutes till I finally gave up on waiting and dragged the hose out to drench it. I just had to make sure it was out or I wouldn't be able to sleep. Maybe that's why he bought me that burn cage a couple years back? Hmmm, now it all makes sense. 

Any-who, coinciding with Smokey Bear’s 72nd birthday, the Ad Council, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), have launched a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) created to help prevent wildfires nationwide by increasing awareness about less commonly known fire starts:

Friday, June 24, 2016

10 Ways to attract bees to your garden

I'm sure that by now you've heard of the bee 'crisis', if not I'll sum it up for you real quick: bees are being killed off at an alarming rate by big AGs use of pesticides. Unfortunately we need bees to pollinate flowers so plants can produce food so we can eat and do that important thing called LIVE. While there isn't too much we can do on a large scale, there are several things we can do to attract these natural pollinators to our own gardens. The better pollination we have going on in the garden, the better chance we have of a great harvest. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I have no plans of spending days in the garden hand pollinating my zucchinis! I need bees to do this for me....so I attract them to my garden.


10 Ways to attract bees to your garden

Short of becoming a beekeeper, what can we do to attract bees to the garden? It's actually quite simple and you might be surprised to find you're already doing some of these:

1.) Plant flowers amid your veggie plants. 
Yes vegetable and fruit plants do flower themselves, but by adding flowers here and there around your garden you'll be sure to attract all types of pollinators to your garden.

2.) Plant for a constant supply of flowers:
Once they begin to bloom, plants like Marigolds will bloom continuously till a hard frost. Certain herbs that are used for flowers like Chamomile also bloom continuously. Other flowers bloom more sporadically. Still others like the Hosta only bloom once. Choose early, late and mid-season blooms. Mix it up so that you always have a steady supply of flowers to attract bees to your garden.  

3.) Colors, size, shape, texture & smell:
Blue, purple, white and yellow seem to be popular colors for most bees as do flat flowers like daisies. Think of the blooms this way: the easier it is for you to see the center of the flower, the easier it is for the bee to get to the center of the flower which is where the nectar and pollen are. Also, different bees are attracted to different types of flowers. Contrary to popular belief it's not just the honeybees that do the pollinating. Different pollinators are active at different times of the year and actually prefer different types of blooms. I bet you didn't know that sweat bees really like strawberries, bumble bees are great at pollinating tomatoes and mason bees are quite fond of fruit tree blossoms. Having a variety of blooms is a great way to attract a variety of pollinators.

4.) Do not use pesticides:
Hang Japanese beetle bags, put out a shallow bowl of beer for slugs, hand picking tomato horn worms, etc etc....use natural methods to rid your garden of pests. Insect killing sprays do not just kill the bugs you want it to, it's not that selective. If a spray is killing other bugs there's a good chance it's harming the bees too, so just skip it and go with less poisonous means of pest control.

5.) Give them a drink of water:
Bees need a drink of water too, especially on a hot day. Unfortunately most garden water sources like birdbaths are too deep and they risk drowning. You can give bees a water source by putting small rocks into a bowl or shallow pan and adding water till its almost to the top of the rocks. The rocks give them a safe place to land while they get a drink. The closer your bee water bowl is to flowering plants, the easier it will be for them to find.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A weeks worth of blog hops!

Sadly my blog hops have ended with the beginning of 2016. Both the Great Blog Train and Green Thumb Thursday have had their final link up. Without getting too far into the details I will say that I definitely feel the void they have left. I loved seeing all the links everyone would join with and always pinned, tweeted or shared them. Sadly, my tweets started to get few and far between and my FB page was looking sad with no new posts....so, I started finding awesome new posts at other peoples link up parties! There are lots of parties similar to mine and I just needed to spread the love around a bit. If you're also looking for somewhere else to drop all your wonderful links you work so hard on, take a look at some of my favorite blog hops. I link up with these all on a regular basis and find so many great posts while I'm there!

Mostly Homemade Mondays: This one has 3 hosts but I usually link in at The Sustainable Couple. Kelli also gives you a peek at their weekly homestead meal plan which I find fascinating! They eat very seasonally and seem to waste nothing....this is a serious goal for me! The hosts invite you to link up: Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice.

Tuesdays With A Twist: I usually head over to God's Growing Garden to link up but there are 3 different hosts to this on. This is a great little no rules party and each hosts chooses 3 features. There are so many awesome home and garden links added to this link up, I know you'll feel right at home here! 


Link parties for every day of the week!

The Homestead Blog Hop: This Wednesday hop has 6 different hosts. I usually link in over at Idlewild Alaska. These lovely ladies welcome all things homesteading: real food recipes, farm animals, crafts, DIY, how-to’s, gardening, anything from-scratch, natural home/health, self-sufficiency, self-reliance, natural remedies, essential oils, & more!  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

12 ways to clean the air inside your house Naturally!

It's winter in most areas and the windows and doors are shut tight to keep out the cold. Unfortunately, that keeps in lots of allergens, contaminants and irritants that we're breathing in constantly. The more all that toxic stuff builds up, the more it tears us down and that is the last thing we need this time of year! So how do you clean the air? I mean really clean the air, not just cover it with a blast of perfumed spray! I have a few different methods I use to keep the air inside my house naturally clean.

12 ways to clean the air inside your house naturally


Salt Lamps: Made of Himalayan pink salt and either powered by a light bulb or candle, these lamps are said to clean the air in your home. When the light is on, the salt warms slightly increasing the negative ions which then attract contaminants like dust and allergens. This weighs them down and they cannot circulate so you don't breathe them in. I have this lamp made of smaller chunks of salt with a dimmable light bulb in the middle, but there are also solid rock lights available too. They have a nice pale orange glow so they make a great accent or night light. Be forewarned though: cats like to lick them!

Beeswax candles: I've always lit a beeswax candle when I wanted to "clear the air". My belief has always been that it helps to remove negative energy...but what does it really do? When 100% beeswax burns it releases negative ions which bind to toxins and helps remove them from the air. Beeswax burns without any smoke or scent so it's not adding any pollutants to the air like paraffin or wire wicked candles do. Beeswax is particularly helpful for allergies and asthma.

Bamboo Charcoal Air filters: You know those bamboo stalks you see pandas eating at the zoo? When that bamboo is baked at super high temperatures, it turns into absorbent charcoal. This porous charcoal then draws in bad odors and hazardous chemicals removing them from the air you're breathing. I use bamboo charcoal bags to remove impurities, odors and moisture from the air naturally. They are organic and sustainable plus they are safe to use around pets and children. Recharge the bags by placing them in direct sunlight once a month. They last a few years then can be composted.  

Vents and fans: Anything that removes odors and fumes and whisks them outside is going to improve air quality. Fans above your range hood and in the bathroom are two that come to mind. You want to run the bathroom fan during showers to remove moisture from the air. Too much moisture is a breeding ground for mold which can be very tricky to get rid of once established. Range hoods and oven vents are also important for removing smoke or fumes while cooking. Ever notice how oily and sticky your vent cover is when you clean it? That was all airborne at one point and got trapped on the way out. Aren't you glad you turned it on?

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