Archive for new ideas

Mother Nature’s Medicine Chest

Plant a garden of ancient herbs and learn how early healers used them to cure sicknesses and aid in emergencies.  By planting this garden in the shape of a horseshoe, you will have a fragrant arch that will send you back in time; back to a time were doctors and pharmacies, hospitals and nurses, and laypeople and grandmothers turned to plants for their medicinal needs.  Many of these green medicines are still used in modern medicines today.



1 seedling Aloe Vera

1 seedling Calendula

1 seedling catnip

1 seedling dill

1 seedling fennel

1 seedling lavender

1 seedling lemon balm

1 seedling parsley

1 seedling peppermint

1 seedling sage

1 seedling woolly lamb’s ear

3 seedlings cilantro


Slit open the leaf of an Aloe Vera plant and squeeze the clear gel on your skin.  It feels cool and soothing when used on minor burns or skin irritations.  Stuff a pillow with lavender to ensure sweet, colorful dreams, and make your own bandages with woolly lamb’s ear leaves.  You can concoct a lemon balm wash for cold sores, and a healing throat gargle from sage leaves steeped in vinegar.  The petal of Calendula will surprise you with their ability to cleanse wounds and heal chapped skin, and a cup of catnip tea may become your favorite sleepy time drink.


Pick out an area for an 8 by 8 foot size garden that will receive at least six hours of full sun daily.  Outline a horseshoe shape, approximately six feet wide and eight feet long with planting beds 18 inches wide.  Make sure the opening of the horseshoe is facing south


Prepare the garden bed as you would any new garden space.  You can with till the top layer of soil under, double dig the entire garden, or do as I do and use the newspaper method.  Spread a layer of newspaper over the garden area, and then begin layering shredded bark, mulch and compost over the newspaper.  Garden is immediately ready to plant and the new emerging plant roots will grow through the newspaper into the topsoil below.


One the horseshoe shaped beds are planted, fill in the open area of the garden with mulch or shredded bark to keep the weeds down and provide a comfortable place to relax.  When planting, maintain 12 to 18 inches between each plant.  The tallest herbs, like fennel and dill, should be planted on the north side of the garden to prevent shading of the shorter plants.


Uses for Some Herbs:

1.     Dill – helps with upset stomachs and heartburn.  The foliage, flower buds and seeds are the eatable portions of this herb.

2.     Coriander seeds – the seedpods of cilantro are called coriander seeds.  Snacking on these seedpods will give your mouth a breath-freshening feeling.

3.     Aloe Vera – the oozing gel inside an aloe Vera leaf will help sooth mild burns, sunburns and other mild skin irritations.

4.     Peppermint – rubbing peppermint leaves on your exposed skin will help discourage nuisance bug bits.

5.     Fennel – the seeds of fennel taste like licorice and a helpful with weight loss because they satisfy hunger and decrease appetite.

Home Remedies

1.     Tummy Tea – strip dried peppermint leaves from their stems, pack them into a clean tin, and cover with an airtight lid.  Store in a cool, dark cupboard.  Herbalists use the healing, anesthetic menthol of peppermint tea to soothe upset stomachs and indigestion.  Scoop 2 to 3 teaspoons per cup into a tea ball, place into a teapot, and add boiling water.  Steep for 8 minutes, cool, then sip slowly for gentle relief.

2.     Sage Gargle – Sage leaves are filled with astringent and antiseptic tannins that comfort sore throats.  Pack a wide mouthed jar with whole dried or fresh sage leaves.  Cover the sage leaves completely with apple cider vinegar and cap tightly.  Store in a cool, dark place, and shake daily.  After two weeks, pour the sage-vinegar mixture through a strainer and rebottle the liquid.  Put it in your medicine cabinet and use as a gargle for sore throats.

3.     Cold Sore Remedy – Strip dried lemon balm leaves from their stems, and fill a clean glass or tin container.  Cap tightly and store in your medicine chest to make an antiviral wash for cold sores.  Put 2 to 4 teaspoons of dried herbs in a container and add 1 cup of boiling water.  Steep for ten minutes, strain, and let cool.  Apply the cooled mixture to cold sores with a sterile cotton ball several times a day.

4.     Herbal Bath Bags – Bath bags are simple to make and can be washed and reused.  With pinking shears, cut a piece of fabric into an 8-inch square.  Fill the center of the fabric with a handful of lavender flowers and stems and lemon balm leaves, lift the edges to form a bundle, and tie closed with a piece of ribbon.  For a muscle-relaxing soak, drop the herbal bag into a tub of hot water.  Climb in, stretch out, and breathe in the heavenly fragrance.

5. Dream Pillows – Aromatherapists and herbalists recommend the sweet, blended fragrances of herbs and flowers for calming, colorful, dreams.  Mix together dried lavender flowers, lemon balm leaves, and fennel and dill seeds.  Cut a 6- by 12-inch piece of soft fabric and fold it in half.  Squeeze a narrow bead of fabric glue along two of the edges and allow the seams to dry.  Loosely fill the pillow (it should be flat enough to slip inside a pillowcase) and finish closing the bag with another bead of glue.  Slip the thin fragrant pillow inside your pillowcase and drift off to sleep on a cloud of herb-scented dreams.


Leave a comment »

Three Sisters of Life

Gardening in rows, while on the one hand is extremely productive, they are usually not much to look at.  With organic gardening becoming more of the norm these days, different gardening techniques are meant to provide healthier products.  Some of the gardening techniques implemented into agricultural landscape today is a throw back to the time of Native American gardeners.  Small spaced gardens and water saving techniques helped the Native Americans not only provide for their village, but to do it in an effective manner.


One unique way of gardening is to use mounds instead of straight rows.  Typically these mounds were planted with the “Three Sisters of Life” – which are corn, beans and squash.  This important trio of crops helped each other in several ways when interplanted.  Corn planted deeply in a mound can withstand high winds, and mixed plantings of crops aren’t as likely to be destroyed by pests.  Corn, the tallest member of the family, provides a support for her climbing sister, the bean.  The bean takes nitrogen from the air and transfers it into the soil, enriching it for her two sisters.  Squash spreads her big leaves over the ground, shading out sun-loving weeds and helping to conserve moisture for them all.


To experiment with my own three sisters garden, I started with an 8 by 8 foot square of land that was in full sunshine for the majority of the day.  I layered newspaper, shredded bark, and compost over the area in late fall.  By spring, I had the perfect planting bed.  I divided the garden into four equal blocks, with two pathways going through the center of the garden in a cross formation.


In each block of garden, I mounded the soil up approximately four inches to form a hard-packed boundary wall.  I filled each mound with composted garden soil to make four nice planting beds.


Corn is the first sister to be planted – I used red popcorn for my experimental garden, but sweet corn or field corn is just as acceptable.  For ease with planting corn, try soaking the kernels overnight in warm water to soften them.  Poke 4 to 6, 4-inch holes throughout the mound and drop a corn kernel into each hole.  Refill the holes with compost, and pat down thoroughly.  Water the mound to help settle the soil.  When the corn is about six inches high, thin to six inches apart and add another two inches of compost around the bases of the cornstalks.


After thinning the corn and adding more compost, make a one-inch deep hole near the base of each corn stalk.  Drop a bean seed into all but one hole.  In the remaining hole, plant a squash seed.  Water the garden again and keep the seeds moist until they sprout.  Check the soil daily for moisture; when the soil is dry, fill the mound and allow the water to slowly seep down to the roots.


Throughout the growing season, feed your plants every two to three weeks with manure or compost tea.  Lend a helping hand to the beans by guiding their vines up the cornstalks.  If the squash vines are crowding the corn, clip them at a leaf node.


When the corn plants are about a foot high, mound more compost around their stalks to provide support; take care not to bury the young squash or bean plants when doing this.


When the corn silks turn brown, the corn is nature.  Pick and hang them in a dry area, or spread on newspapers to dry.  Harvest the brown pods of pole beans and dry them on old screens.  Gather the squashes, wipe clean, and store in a cool, dry place.


I also tried another variation on the Three Sisters Garden, and I had great success.  Instead of using corn, beans and squash, I used sunflowers, beans and pumpkins.  I planted the sunflowers in the same way as I did the corn.  When the sunflowers were one foot tall, I planted the beans and pumpkins seeds exactly like I did the beans and squash.  When using miniature pumpkins, the vines can grow up the sunflower stalks just like the beans.  With larger pumpkins, you will have to let the pumpkin vines escape from the garden and grow along the yard.


Growing By the Light of the Moon

Some Native Americans plant their above ground crops, such as corn, on a waxing, or growing moon.  They believe that seeds planted on a waning moon will not grow.  They plant underground crops, such as potatoes, on a waning moon.  From the new moon to the full moon is considered the waxing moon because the moon appears to be growing in size.  From the full moon to the new moon is a waning moon because the moon appears to be shrinking in size.

Leave a comment »

New Fangled Tomatoes

A new idea I am trying this year is to grow tomatoes in hanging buckets. I’ve taken a 5-gallon bucket and cut a two inch hole in the center of the bottom. I also punch several small holes for drainage. Then I took a tomato plant and gently placed it in the bucket upside down. The plant will be hanging from the bottom of the bucket. I then placed moss around the opening to keep the plant securely in the bucket and then filled the bucket with compost. In the top of the bucket I planted two sweet potatoes. I have the bucket hanging from my clothesline and I water as needed. During the last cold spell we had, I brought the bucket inside to prevent frost damage.

I got this idea after seeing a commerical for a similar planter. The tomato vine grows out the bottom of the bucket and the sweet potatoes grow down the sides of the bucket. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of this experiment!

Leave a comment »