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Thursday, May 28, 2015

All the Buzz about Pollinators

When we think of bees, often the only ones that come to mind are honeybees, bumblebees, yellow jackets and hornets. But there are actually around 25,000 known species of bees worldwide, 4000 here in the United States. 

Buzzaboutbees offers a lot of further information about the bee world. According to this site, "These 25,000 species can be divided into over 4000 genera (types of bees) belonging within 9 groups or 'families', all under the banner - or 'Super-family' - 'Apoidea'.
Apoidea also includes 'sphecoid wasps', from which bees are believed to be descended."

The Honey Bee -(Family: Apidae)
Honey bees are classed as ‘social’ bees, as they live in colonies usually consisting of around 50,000 – 60,000 workers.

 We hear so much about colony collapse disorder that studies have been done to learn whether native pollinators can supply the pollination needed for food crops.

 While honeybees are social insects that live in large colonies, or hives, most native pollinators are solitary bees that nest in the ground or inside vegetation.

Natives pollinators can do a lot of benefit, but you can't manipulate them like honeybees. You can't throw them on a truck and move them across country to get pollination services. Native bees have evolved in a specific region and have adapted to the climate and forage of that region. Human influence on habitats have greatly affected the bees.

With so many of our crops being large monocultures, only a few weeks of abundant food is available. Baseline habitat guidelines encourage the inclusion of at least three different plant species that bloom at an given time during the growing season. In the natural scheme of things, a much greater variety of plants are available.

Harm to pollinators through pesticide use could be greatly reduced if farmers and homeowners would consider the bees before spraying. Avoiding treatments around blooming plants or areas where bees are nesting would help enormously. Or reduce harm by waiting to spray till evening when bees are less active. Of course, the best action would be to not spray at all, especially to gardeners for whom insect damage is cosmetic rather than economic.

Here are some of the pollinators we are most familiar:


The Bumblebee (Family: Apidae)
Most bumblebee colonies are fairly small, from 50 to 400 workers, but usually around 120 to 200.
Bumblebees are fuzzy. There is a saying that goes, "If it's fuzzy it's friendly."  I've worked plenty with these bees just doing their thing around me amidst the flowers.
For their homes they use burrows and openings in buildings.

Digger bee
 Digger Bees and Carpenter Bees (Family: Apidae –originally, they were classified in the family ‘Anthophoridae’)
These are also solitary bees, and are good pollinators.
Digger bees usually make their nests in soil. They have hairy bodies, and can be up to 3cm long.

Carpenter bee
 Carpenter bees (Xylocopinae) are frequently a pest to homeowners who dislike the large holes they burrow into wooden eves, decks or other wooden garden structures.
Bumblebees often get mistaken for Carpenter bees. Bumblebees are fuzzy, whereas the abdomens of carpenter bees are shiny black.

Mason bee
Leafcutter and Mason bees (Family: Megachilidae)
These types of bees are solitary bees. With solitary bees, usually, a single female mates, then constructs a nest alone (though near each other) and provides for the egg cells that will become larvae.  Mason bees lay their egg within a hole and separates that egg with mud, resin, leaf bits, pebbles, or chewed up vegetation/mud. Leaf cutter bees like hollow stems and ready made holes in wood. These solitary bees typically have life spans of about 6 weeks and are active only a part of the season.

Yellow Jacket
It is incorrect to call a wasp a bee. Bees have branched hair and look fuzzy, while wasps usually have smooth single hairs or no hair at all. Wasps don't actively collect pollen, but pollinate incidentally while foraging for food. Bees actively collect pollen to feed to their offspring. Wasps hunt for bugs to feed to their offspring. The stinger in a bee is attached to the end of the digestive system. Once a bee uses that stinger it will die because the barb stays in the skin of the victim. Whereas wasps are more aggressive and can sting over and over again.

Yellow Jackets and Hornets, though they're presence is generally not appreciated, they are beneficial in that their carnivorous ways do help control the insect population.The main reason Yellow Jackets become a pest is that they are social and defensive. They are very attracted to anything sweet. Being they dwell in the ground where grass is mowed and people walk, they tend to get stirred up and irritated.
Hornets are often feared but unless the nest is in an area where there is a good chance of disturbing them, it is best to just leave them alone. Here is a good post about whether hornet nests should be disturbed. The comment section is very informative.
Wasps control many insect populations with their carnivorous ways.

Read more :
most common are honeybees and bumblebees for the bees and paper wasps, yellowjackets and hornets for the wasps.

Read more :

most common are honeybees and bumblebees for the bees and paper wasps, yellowjackets and hornets for the wasps.

Read more :
Paper Wasp


Like them or not, we need the bees! Food doesn't just appear on our tables, we have to take an interest! As with most wild creatures, leave them alone and they'll leave you alone.
Help the pollinators by providing plants that will offer food throughout the growing season. These are just a few choice selections:

Redbud, small tree, blooms in the spring

Crabapple, small tree, blooms in the spring

Carolina Rose, blooms in the spring
Ironweed, a perennial, blooms during the summer
Globe Thistle, a perennial, blooms during summer
Lamb's Ear, a perennial, blooms during summer
Lavender, a perennial, blooms during summer
Coneflowers, a perennial, blooms during the summer
Beebalm or Monarda, a perennial, blooms during the summer
Sunflowers, these are perennial Helianthus, blooms during the summer
Catmint, a perennial, blooms during the summer
Lemonbalm, a perennial, blooms during the summer
Goldenrod, a perennial, blooms in the fall

Sedum, a perennial, blooms in fall
New England Aster, blooms in the fall

To deal with pesky yellow jackets during summer outings try not to encourage them in the first place. Once picnic food has been served, cover or put away exposed food and dirty dishes. Sweet soda is going to attract wasps therefore cover the top of the can with a lid if it is going to sit around and dispose of the empty cans and bottles. Gently brush away any wasps buzzing around the table, don't swat or you'll anger them. Remember, yellow-jackets can sting over and over again if angry.

If you find a honeybee colony nesting on your property leave them alone since they are endangered and non-aggressive or call  a local beekeeper to safely remove them and relocate the nest somewhere else.

If you find a hornet or wasp nest there are a few ways to handle them. 
Worker wasps will die off with the arrival of winter, so if it is late in the season you can just use caution around the nest and leave it alone. The nest is not reused in the spring so it can be safely removed at a later time. 
Commercial sprays can be used to kill bees and wasps. If you choose this route, wait until evening when the wasps are all back in the nest and quiet. Follow the instructions on the can. If over the next few days you still see activity, repeat the spray application.
A way to get rid of the nest without using chemicals would be to wait until evening and carefully cover the nest with a plastic bag. Leave as little opening at the top as possible.and cut the branch holding the nest. Move slowly and then place the bag in the freezer or lay it in the hot sun. Either method will kill the wasps within a day or two. 

Use caution when around bee activity. They are necessary so we need to just respect their presence and be knowledgeable of their behavior.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lemon Balm, our Sweet Melissa

Choosing what plants to add to an herb garden is a personal decision and there are many reasons why people get passionate about herbs. Some folks enjoy the history, mythology and stories behind these plants. Others choose plants suitable for use in the kitchen. The pursuit of natural beauty has always been popular and before the cosmetics industry took off people relied on plants for their personal care routine. Before we had the convenience of the local pharmacy, it was absolutely necessary to know what plants are medicinal and how to use them. There  are those who plant for environmental purposes to help out the bees and other insect pollinators. It is fun to watch people at a nursery. It is predictable that the first reaction people usually have to a plant is to smell it. Many herbs are very aromatic, therefore it is a delight for the senses to just wander around from plant to plant and be taken in by their individual smells.

Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis, has all of the above, therefore a must have for the herb garden.
The genus name of Melissa comes to us from the Greek, meaning 'honey bee' or 'honey'. The story goes that there was a nympth called Melissa who shared the wisdom of the bees and in return the bees shared their honey with her. Due to its high production of nectar, lemon balm is a favorite plant of the bees. Bee keepers intentionally plant lemon balm to attract the bees.

The distinct lemony smell of the crushed leaves give us all sorts of avenues for use in food preparation. It goes well with meats, fish, vegetables, sauces, fresh in both greens and fruit salads as well as a fine addition to flavored water.
If you like flavored honey, fill a pint mason jar half full with the fresh leaves, top with honey, cap with a lid and let sit for about two weeks before straining. Flip the jar upside down and the next day right side up as a non-messy way to stir. Do this daily till ready to strain.
For a flavored salad vinegar, fill your jar with leaves but this time add apple cider vinegar. Cap with a plastic cap, metal will corrode, and let sit in a dark place for a few weeks. Shake once in a while.
You can taste test both the honey and the vinegar as the days pass to see if you want it stronger.

Infuse the fresh leaves in witch hazel and you have a refreshing facial toner. Make a strong pot of tea and use as a refreshing hair rinse.

Lemon balm leaves can be used in potpourri but realize that once dried it does eventually lose the strong scent.
Help your little ones sleep by making dream pillows. Cut fabric squares and sew three sides with the printed sides together. Turn the fabric right side out again. Stuff with the dried leaves and cotton batting for softness and sew the fourth side to close.

The species name, officinalis, tells us that lemon balm was once a part of the official U.S. Pharmacopeia. Originally coming to us from the Mediterranean, lemon balm has a history of being medicinally used by Pliny, Hippocrates, Galen, Culpepper, and Shakespeare.

The simplest form of utilizing herbs as medicine is as a therapeutic hot cup of tea. Lemon balm tea doesn't have the 'green' bitter taste you may expect with herbal teas, plus the scent of lemon makes it a pleasure just to sit there and inhale the steam. When it comes to depression, insomnia, anxiety, indigestion and headaches, chamomile is usually the first to come to mind, but lemon balm should also be on the top of the list.

Primarily used to calm and relax the nervous system, lemon balm tea with a touch of honey is a wonderful remedy for tired, cranky children and even very safe for pregnant women. Possessing a high concentration of essential oils with antispasmodic properties, lemon balm can be a great aid to help relieve those belly aches and gas pains.
Another great way to use lemon balm for children is to soak a wash cloth in the tea and let the child suck and chew on the cloth to ease teething pain.
Make popsicles out of the tea and see if your children take to them.
Bee stings and cold sores can be relieved by applying a cloth soaked in lemon balm tea or use a wet tea bag.

This plant gets even more amazing. According to James A. Duke, "The Green Pharmacy", lemon balm is among the leaders of plants containing anti-viral properties.
Compounds in the herb known as polyphenols work to calm herpes outbreaks.
herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1),herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2), and varicella-zoster virus.
H. simplex comes in two forms, cold sores and genital herpes. This virus is a cousin to H. zoster which causes the skin lesions of shingles.The first symptoms usually occur four to seven days after initial exposure. There is a burning, tingling itch followed by pimple type bumps that turn into painful blisters. The formation of scabs and healing begins about a week later. Some people suffer once and aren't bothered again, while in others triggers like stress can bring on another flare.

In Duke's description of how the polyphenols work, the body's cells have receptors that viruses latch on to when they're trying to take over the cells. These polyphenol compounds can latch on to the cells' viral receptor sites. By taking up those spaces, the viruses are prevented from attaching to the cells. The spread of infection is halted.
In addition, all mints contain antioxidant vitamins and selenium, which strengthen the immune system. Free radicals are mopped up, thus protecting the body's cells.

Lemon Balm, St. Johnswort Salve
Application of a salve made from both Lemon Balm and St. Johnswort can help with the healing of the painful blisters on lips, waist, genitals, wherever needed. The virus may have to run its course but the trip may be a bit easier with help from our herbal allies.

Lemon balm is in the mint family. Characteristics of this family of plants is the square stems, oval leaves growing opposite each other, and the ease in which it propagates. I don't think lemon balm spreads as rapidly as other mints since it is more of a clump, but it does pop up elsewhere. If you want to plant it where you prefer, simply dig up a piece and replant. The roots are shallow and easy to dig. The flowers are white with the lipped look typical of the mint family. The flowering period is from June to September.

Lemon balm in flower
To harvest lemon balm it is best to do it in May and June, before it flowers. The plant will contain the most essential oils if picked before it starts to flower. Try to beat the days heat and pick in the morning hours. If you want to cut the entire plant at once, cut it two inches above the ground and hang the whole thing in an airy, shady location. If it doesn't dry quickly it'll turn black and need to be discarded. Once dried, strip off the leaves and store in airtight jars. Another option is to snip the fresh leaves into pieces and make ice cubes.

Whether you desire a children's garden, an aromatic garden, a medicinal garden, a culinary garden, a pollinator garden, a historical garden, natural beauty garden or a combination of all of these, Lemon Balm would be right at home.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Meditations For Women Who Do Too Much

May 7
"What you know in your head will not sustain you in moments of crisis...confidence comes from body awareness, knowing what you feel in the moment."
Marion Woodman

Our feelings are what makes us human, yet we live in a society that tends to see feelings as fickle, irrational and unnecessary for the road to personal success. Maybe for a robotic society that may be correct but certainly not for the success of what makes for the intricate beings we really are. Feelings are a gift that brings us in touch with the world we live in, that connects us with each other, gives us the signals we need to read behavior and cope with life in general.

May 8
"She would greet us pleasantly, and immediately she seemed to surround the chaotic atmosphere of morning strife with something of order, of efficient and quiet uniformity, so that one had the feeling that life was small and curiously ordered."
Meridel LeSueur

We can all relate to situations such as this. The domino effect is happening and things may appear to be getting out of hand. One person's high-strung energy may be trying to emit control and order but in doing so, that charged, nervous energy is filtering around the room creating tension. Another person in the same situation may give off a quiet, confident presence that others tend to gravitate towards; calm, cool and collected. Order that comes from such a person is so much more peaceful, the definition of serenity.

May 9
"You can get lonesome-being that busy."
Isabel Lennart

People who are overly busy all the time may read this and dismiss it. The truth may be that it is possible to not realize we are lonely because we don't stop long enough to be in touch with what we are feeling. Our work can be like a jealous lover, demanding more and more. It is good to be productive, but not at the expense of intimacy and time needed to nurture our relationships with those we love.

May 10
"So instant intimacy was too often followed by disillusion."
May Sarton

While it is possible to feel an instant connection with someone, it is a mistake to think if we find the right person we'll know immediately that this is the one. True intimacy is a process that takes time and if you don't have time for what that involves, then the relationship probably won't develop beyond a quick flame that fizzles rather quickly. It is said that instant intimacy is one of the characteristics of addictive relationships.

May 11
"Each woman is being made to feel it is her own cross to bear if she can't be the perfect clone of the male superman and the perfect clone of the feminine mystique."
Betty Friedan

Sometimes there is just too much to do, too many roles to play, and too much pressure to be and do it all. The way to handle life when the vise starts to tighten is to realize that we have the power to control its turning. Rather than blocking out the anguish all the stress is causing and thinking we are weak if we admit it, we would be much better off if we would just acknowledge what is happening and step out away from it.

May 12
"I wish I'd a knowed more people. I would of loved 'em all. If I'd a knowed more, I would loved more."
Toni Morrison

There is no limit to the amount of love we can share. Love is an energy that is shared because we have it, simple as that. It should not be dolled out as a means to get something in return. It should not be parceled out in piecemeal due to the fear that to give freely will only get us hurt. Love is something that flows out of out deep sense of loving ourselves. It is not possible to love another if we don't know and love ourselves. Once we love who we are, we'll be much more open to getting to know other people. We'll soon learn there is plenty of that love to go around and the reserves won't be drained dry.

May 13
"The thing about having a baby is that thereafter you have it."
Jean Kerr

While it is true that babies are born a clean slate, it is a disillusion to think we can shape them how we see fit and they'll stay that way. Parenting is an intimate, interactive process that continues for the rest of our lives. Only when we stop with the fantasy child image can we begin to see who these little people really are. And when we do that it is a great step in giving our children the autonomy they need to develop into independent adults.

To read the previous posts:

To read the previous weeks' posts:
Week 1 January 1 - January 7
Week 2 January 8 - January 14
Week 3 January 15 - January 21
Week 4 January 22 - January 28

Week 5 January 29 - February 4
Week 6 February 5 - February 11
Week 7 February 12 - February 18
Week 8 February 19 - February 25

Week 9 February 26 - March 4
Week 10 March 5 - March 11
Week 11 March 12 - March 18 
Week 12 March 19 - March 25
Week 13 March 26 - April 1 

Week 14 April 2 - April 8 
Week 15 April 9 - April 15 
Week 16 April 16 - April 22
Week 17 April 23 - 29 

Week 18 April 30 - May 6

Friday, May 8, 2015


Meditations For Women Who Do Too Much
April 30
"One of the reasons our society has become such a mess is that we're isolated from each other."
Maggie Kuhn

A characteristic of any addiction is that the person tends to cut herself off from people. Women who do too much are no different. Priorities tend to get out of balance and getting the work done takes precedence over social events. By not having the time to reach out to people, we tend to forget how. After declining enough invitations, people often stop asking.We tend to feel if we're just left alone we'll have more time, feel less stress and more accomplished. But in the end, all we feel is exhausted. Workaholics needs to learn the difference between isolation and solitude.

May 1
"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return."
Mary Jean Iron

All we really have is the moment we are in right now. Too often we squander the treasure of what today has to offer and regret it later because we can never get those lost moments back. We have to remember that the past is done and the future my never be. Today may be just a normal day, but it is a gift.

May 2
"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels."
Faith Whittlesey

Being good at what we do is not a curse, nor something to feel vain if acknowledged. Humility can be the denial of an expertise, which is a loss to not only ourselves but to others who could benefit from our gifts. Our strange culture seems to want us competitive and passive at the same time. It takes courage to acknowledge how good we are at what we do and be proud of it.

May 3
"That was a time when only the dead could smile."
Anna Akhmatova

As with any addiction, hitting bottom is often what it takes to force one to make some changes. Once the depths of despair have been reached and the journey back out has been successful, the feeling of relief, and the joy for the chance of a new life, can be some of the most accomplished feelings of a lifetime.

May 4
"Yesterday is a cancelled check. tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is cash in hand; spend it wisely."

Too bad there isn't a name to give credit to this wise analogy. Nothing kills the present moment quicker than worrying about what hasn't happened yet or stewing over things that have happened that we cannot change. We need to do our lives, not just think about it.

May 5
"The social workers have named a new syndrome. It's called "compassion fatigue." Why does it sound so familiar?"
Anne Wilson Schaef

As a society, we are trained that if we take care of people, they in turn will take care of us. Relationships are built on taking care of each other, and if we took care first, we would certainly get the same in return. How naive we feel when we get the rude awakening that this isn't always how it turns out. Not everyone shares that feeling of obligation. Human nature has it that too often the more we take care of people, the more they seem to want. It doesn't take long before caregivers are drained emotionally and physically, and the feelings of being overwhelmed result in resentment. Recognizing that those feelings are very normal helps with the guilt over feeling that way about someone you love.

May 6
"Make a prayer acknowledging yourself as a vehicle of light, giving thanks for the good that has come that day and an affirmation of intent to live in harmony with all your relations."
Dhyani Ywahoo

Part of any healing and recovery is that we begin to see the good that we do each day and the good that comes to us each day. We tend to really understand gratitude. We begin to live in harmony with those around us and treasure those relationships. 

To read the previous posts:

To read the previous weeks' posts:
Week 1 January 1 - January 7
Week 2 January 8 - January 14
Week 3 January 15 - January 21
Week 4 January 22 - January 28

Week 5 January 29 - February 4
Week 6 February 5 - February 11
Week 7 February 12 - February 18
Week 8 February 19 - February 25

Week 9 February 26 - March 4
Week 10 March 5 - March 11
Week 11 March 12 - March 18 
Week 12 March 19 - March 25

Week 13 March 26 - April 1 
Week 14 April 2 - April 8 
Week 15 April 9 - April 15 
Week 16 April 16 - April 22

Week 17 April 23 - April 29

Rhubarb, More to it than Pie

Garden rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum)
Rhubarb is one of those plants that is rarely used except when making cobbler or pie, especially in strawberry season. It is a green leafy plant with pink and red stalks, and though used in fruit recipes it is actually a vegetable.Those stalks can grow to be two feet tall and each are topped with a large, umbrella-like leaf. Only the stalks are edible, as the leaves and roots naturally produce a toxic compound called oxalic acid that helps ward off predators.

Though rhubarb looks a lot like celery, they are not related. Celery belongs to the parsnip family, Umbelliferae, while rhubarb belongs to the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae. Celery is an annual plant, but rhubarb is one of the few vegetables that is a perennial and produces from year to year.

Gardens containing asparagus and rhubarb are wonderful because these vegetables return to us every spring. Its tart tang is usually combined with anything sweet, finding a delicious balance between sweet and sour. Those long, ribbed, red stalks are crisp when raw, but cook down into a thick mush that is perfect for preserves, pies, cobblers and sauces.

Late May and early June are the best time for rhubarb, though it continues to grow all summer. The older and larger the stalks, the tarter and tougher they are. Being a perennial, the plant needs to get established before you should start picking stalks from it. Leave it alone the first year and pick sparingly the second year, than by the third year the stalks should be nice and thick. Rhubarb plants grow best if started from roots and last five to eight years.

Rhubarb is hand picked and each stalk is gently pulled and twisted off from the base rather than cut. You can pick as needed or harvest up to two-thirds of the plant at once. With good weather conditions, you should be able to harvest the entire plant (but leave a third) up to three times in a season. But at the end of the growing season take off all the leaves for the winter so there aren't any rotting which could effect the crown.

Rhubarb originated in Asia over 2,000 years ago and was initially cultivated for its medicinal qualities. It was not until the 18th century that rhubarb was grown for culinary purposes in Britain and America.

Rhubarb has long been used in natural medicine for its diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties. 
It is a great alternative source of calcium for people who prefer not to consume dairy.  
A little bit of expressed juice from fresh rhubarb brushed on the teeth with a soft brush coats the enamel with potassium, calcium and phosphorus, all protective minerals against tooth decay.
Rhubarb's high fiber is very useful for relieving constipation and being an astringent plant, can also help stop diarrhea. 

Rhubarb has also been used for cosmetic purposes. The stalks make a wonderful hair-lightening rinse. Simmered in white wine or water, regular use can cause noticeable golden highlights in your hair.

 Taken from "Natural Beauty From The Garden" by Janice Cox

 I have two versions with the same instructions for either one:

3 fresh rhubarb stalks and 2 cups white wine or water
3 fresh rhubarb stalks, 1 tbsp honey and 2 cups water
Chop the red rhubarb stalks into small pieces and place in a medium-size saucepan. Cover with either wine or water and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture sit for another 30 minutes, then strain and save the liquid. 
Leave the mixture on clean, damp hair for 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the degree of lightening desired. Repeat weekly.

Makes from 12 - 16 oz which is enough for 1 - 2 treatments.
If using the same batch for another treatment, keep the mix in the refrigerator till needed.

Aside from pies, jams and sauce recipes, this one is quick, simple and can be thrown together for a last minute easy dessert.

Taken from "Amish and Mennonite Kitchens" by Phyllis Pellman Good and Rachel Thomas Pellman

Rhubarb Crunch
Rhubarb is not cut out, but rather pulled out. "Open" up the rhubarb plant and wedge your index finger way down inside the stalk, encircle it with your hand, and pull slowly but firmly while twisting the stalk at the "base", (also referred to as the "crown" or the "rhizome").
Cut off most of the leaf, leaving about 2 - 3 inches, (this is called a "crowfoot"). Leaving a little bit of the leaf will help to keep moisture in the stalk, so it will stay fresh and crisp longer. This is especially important if you plan to store the rhubarb in your fridge for several days. If you are planning on freezing or canning your rhubarb, you can chop off the entire leaf of each stalk. The easiest way to chop off the leaves is with a sharp knife striking the leaf diagonally with a quick flick of the wrist.
- See more at:

When harvesting rhubarb, almost all of the rhubarb stalks may be harvested at one time, or you can harvest selectively over the growing season period.
It is recommended to leave about one-third of the developed stalks when harvesting the entire plant. However, when you make the last rhubarb harvest of the season, remove all of the leaves, to avoid rotting leaves affecting the crown.
- See more at:
When harvesting rhubarb, almost all of the rhubarb stalks may be harvested at one time, or you can harvest selectively over the growing season period.
It is recommended to leave about one-third of the developed stalks when harvesting the entire plant. However, when you make the last rhubarb harvest of the season, remove all of the leaves, to avoid rotting leaves affecting the crown.
- See more at:
1 cup flour, sifted (half white flour, half wheat flour)
1/4 cup oatmeal or rolled oats, uncooked
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups diced rhubarb stalks

Stir together the flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. Use a pastry blade to chop until crumbly.
Set aside half the crumb mixture.
Pat the remaining crumbs over the bottom of a 9 ' square baking pan or a pie pan.

Combine the sugar, cornstarch, water and vanilla in a medium size pot. Stir with a whisk until smooth.
Add the rhubarb and cook gently until mixture becomes thick and clear. Stir frequently.

Pour the rhubarb sauce over the crumbs which are in the pan.
Crumble the remaining crumbs over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes

Let cool a while to allow the sauce to thicken before serving.
Serve as is or with ice cream.
When harvesting rhubarb, almost all of the rhubarb stalks may be harvested at one time, or you can harvest selectively over the growing season period.
It is recommended to leave about one-third of the developed stalks when harvesting the entire plant. However, when you make the last rhubarb harvest of the season, remove all of the leaves, to avoid rotting leaves affecting the crown.
- See more at:

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Detox with Dandelion, Your Body's Spring Cleaning

dandelion greens

Spring cleaning is not just for your home or yard. It is time to clean out the body as well. In the past, before supermarkets offered fresh vegetables all year long, people relied on canned, dried or pickled foods to get them through the winter. Fresh vegetables usually consisted of potatoes, winter squash and root vegetables, those that if stored properly, would last for months. By spring, people looked forward to those first peeks of fresh greens in their gardens. Though called weeds by the majority of people today, these plants were what was called bitters.

Stinging nettles, chickweed, burdock, mints and dandelions are just some of the edible weeds often sought out by foragers. If you are interested in supplying your own greens, just be sure you are cutting plants that have not been exposed to herbicides or pesticides.

Dandelions have been used or ages to detox and fortify the liver. By lowering cholesterol levels, liver function improves.

Dandelion leaves are high in the electrolytes sodium and potassium, thus they may help support the kidneys as a natural diuretic. A diuretic helps increase urine output, allowing the body to reduce water retention.

Anyone with digestive issues needs to add bitters to their diet. By increasing hydrochloric acid in the stomach, digestion is improved, gas in reduced, elimination is more regular, and all in all, less bloating and belly aches.

High in calcium, dandelions are proof you can meet your calcium requirements without relying solely on dairy.

Dandelions are what you could call a multivitamin green. High in iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, beta carotene, copper, vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E and vitamin K.

At this point you may be thinking, "yea right, I have trouble getting my family to eat lettuce, how in the world am I going to get them to eat weeds."

Well, unless your diet has routinely included cooked greens, it may take some getting used to. Dandelion leaves are on the bitter side, so it is best to collect them before flowering. But since we may not even notice them until we see yellow, we just have to find ways of cooking that add flavor and reduce the bitterness. The leaves can always be added fresh to salads or chopped up and put into soups. If you want to try them as a side dish, here is the basic recipe for Sauteed Greens:

Wash the fresh leaves in a strainer to remove any dirt.
Put in a large pot with only the clinging moisture from washing.
Add a dab of butter or olive oil.
Saute on medium heat till wilted. This only takes 7 - 10 minutes. Greens should be cooked only until they turn bright green. If the color darkens, the greens have been cooked too long.
Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Other options:
1. First saute onions and garlic in butter and then add the greens.
2. Fry bacon, remove to a plate and use the drippings to cook the greens. Then dice the bacon and return to pan to heat through before serving.
3. Add balsamic vinegar before serving.
4. Add Bragg's Liquid Aminos before serving.

I have to admit, I need to find ways to make this dish more enticing. Perhaps chop up the leaves first and they definitely needed something like bacon or ham. I may have overcooked them a bit so need to work on that too.

My mother told me her mother used to make a Hot Bacon Dressing and served it over fresh dandelion leaves. The dressing was hot so it wilted the greens just enough.

6 slices diced bacon
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
vegetable oil
2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
salt and pepper

Fry the bacon until crisp.
Remove the bacon from pan, leaving the fat.
Set bacon aside.
Ad onion to bacon fat and cook five minutes or until soft.
Set onion aside with the bacon.
Pour bacon fat into measuring cup and add enough vegetable oil to equal 1/2 cup.
Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper in small saucepan and heat to a boil.
Add cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened, about 1 - 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and add bacon and onion.
Serve while warm. Pour over fresh dandelion leaves.

There are several ways to get the benefits of these plants:

Teas: Light infusions made with fresh or dried flowers, leaves or roots
Decoctions: Simmering tougher plant material such as the roots for up to 20 minutes
Tinctures: Made with alcohol or vegetable glycerin to extract the medicinal properties. Very concentrated, drops are added to water, juice or tea

To make any of these, follow these rules:
Dried herbs use 1 tsp dried herb to 1 cup boiling water.
Fresh herbs use 1 tbsp fresh herb to 1 cup boiling water.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

MEADOW MUFFIN MOMENTS, WEEK 17, April 23 - April 29

Meditations For Women Who Do Too Much

April 23
"Shit work is infinitely safe. In exchange for doing it you can extract an unconscionable return...the women's pound of flesh."
Colette Dowling

Let's face it, a lot of the work women do is shit work. We do it because it has to get done, as mundane as it can get. Of course there are other things we would rather be doing and we do get tired of cleaning up after others. I think the point Colette is making here is that we cannot get ourselves in the habit of making others feel guilty with our sulky attitude. We may not be able to change a situation at the moment but we can change our attitude towards the situation. If we can make a change, then start the ball rolling to make necessary changes. Seek other employment, be more assertive with your wants, if able, pay for outside help in the home, learn to direct others to help out, and there is always the option to just say no.

April 24
"Out of the strain of the Doing, Into the peace of the Done."
Julia Louise Woodruff

There is always work to be done and ideally, when a task or project is complete we can stand back and be proud of ourselves for a job well done. If we believe in the "work before play" philosophy then once the work is done there is no problem with then going off and having a good time. The problem with workaholics is that they never feel okay with "being done". There is a sense of guilt with doing nothing, as if they are wasting time, as if they'll be judged as being lazy. Should someone walk in and "catch them" there is the impulse to jump up. Being projectless and being worthless are not synonymous. Where does this guilt all start anyway?

April 25
"The experience of God, or in any case the possibility of experiencing God, is innate."
Alice Walker

We as humans have a natural yearning to believe in something greater than ourselves. There is no need to seek out professional advice on how to "find" God. We don't have to look for the possibility of experiencing a greater power, it is already within us. The key is to stop thinking there is an instruction book. There is no need to get so into rituals that we neglect the necessity to seek within ourselves in order to feel something.

April 26
"The season is changeable, fitful, and maddening as I am myself these days that are cloaked with too many demands and engagements."
May Sarton

When we do not recognize the signs telling us that we have become overloaded, we end up in situations that involve drama, emotion, misunderstandings and unintended outbursts. The classic red flag that we need time for ourselves is if we constantly say to ourselves, "I wish I could just be left alone." Keep it up and you will be left alone because bridges will be burned and people will avoid you. We have to become better at taking care of ourselves, taking necessary time outs and avoid such a crisis.

April 27
"I discovered I always have choices and sometimes it's only a choice of attitude."
Judith M. Knowlton

Once our judgement gets to the point that we feel in a corner and trapped, we forget about the power of compromise. To feel there are no options other than to stay in a situation or else leave, is often just not true. Often it is not the situation that is keeping us stuck but our attitude about our situation. To lighten or shift perspective isn't denying the right you have to feel as you do, but if the burden is harming your mental and physical health, perhaps it is time to let it go.

April 28
"Oh, it was a glorious morning! I suppose the best kind of spring morning is the best weather God has to offer. It certainly helps one to believe in Him."
Dodie Smith

When we go through our days and barely notice the change of seasons, it is time to stop and look up. Too often when we listen to the weather report it is for no other reason than to know ahead of time if we will be held up with snow, ice, rain or fog. Those who live in the city are especially prone to missing out on the many gifts of the great outdoors. Taking the time to appreciate a beautiful day is wonderful for reducing stress and perhaps the needed nudge to start living in the moment.

April 29
"All women hustle. Women watch faces, voices, gestures, moods. The person who has to survive through cunning."
Marge Piercy

The ability to notice detail is a wonderful skill. But many of us preen this skill only to evaluate and prepare for every situation we are in. Our fear that whatever we do will not be enough or that we are not enough to really matter anyway, results in living as though our very survival depended on knowing just how to act. There comes a time when we should just say, "enough already, this is who I am, accept it."

To read the previous posts:

To read the previous weeks' posts:
Week 1 January 1 - January 7
Week 2 January 8 - January 14
Week 3 January 15 - January 21
Week 4 January 22 - January 28

Week 5 January 29 - February 4
Week 6 February 5 - February 11
Week 7 February 12 - February 18
Week 8 February 19 - February 25

Week 9 February 26 - March 4
Week 10 March 5 - March 11
Week 11 March 12 - March 18 
Week 12 March 19 - March 25

Week 13 March 26 - April 1 
Week 14 April 2 - April 8 
Week 15 April 9 - April 15 
Week 16 April 16 - April 22