What To Do With Harvests After The First Freeze of Winter

We had our first freeze here in NE Georgia two nights ago. So my friend and I went out and harvested everything possible that would not make it thru the cold the day before and that morning. We got out a HUGE amount of stuff!

We picked all the green tomatoes, even the small one, loads of peppers, squash, gourds, and a huge pile of herbs of various kinds. The Tulsi (holy basil) was in great condition with lots of seed heads and leaves, so we cut the whole plant off at soil level.

The few green tomatoes we got in this last harvest will sit in a basket lined with a paper towel until they are ripe but in former years when the last harvest was very profuse, they went into a box lined with newspaper in the garage and were there and checked out routinely for ripe ones so we had fresh tomatoes until late December for sandwiches. The tiny ones usually don’t make it till ripe, but can be added to soup for a tart addition.

Some of my friends make pepper jelly but I’m so allergic I only grow hot peppers for friends or for trade or sale. Usually they get dried and mixed into excellent flavoring powder but I can’t do it in my house because I will sneeze for a week, but when sent as dried peppers, others do the powdering.

The lemon grass plants were in excellent shape and they got cut off as low as I could cut them leaving only about 10 big leaves sticking out in case the plant made it. Then we made a pile of straw over both plants and the soil around it to insulate the plant’s roots. I have not had lemon grass survive a cold winter before, but I didn’t really know how to insulate them. This is an experiment.

My Malabar spinach had 15’ long vines and loads of them. I cut all of it off at the root. Then I carefully cut off all the black berries separately. Later I removed all the leaves and picked off the black berries from the berry stems. Got about half a cup. I will juice the berries and save the seeds to plant next late spring. Malabar spinach is a tropical plant and likes it hot, so it will get propagated in late May.

We got about 9 Japanese eggplant that were worth harvesting. They just went into the frig. I’ll later bake them in the toaster oven till they pop, and sprinkle them with fish flakes and soy sauce – a Japanese delicacy.

Some other herbs were harvested like Sida rhombifolia. I have not harvested this before having just discovered the amazing herbal medicinal properties of it. This plant has naturalized in my garden. I kept pulling it and cursing it because it’s a tough little plant. Then I identified it and was cursing myself for being such a fool. This is a super herb. The woody stems are used in some cultures to make brooms, so we’ll see if I can do something with that too as I like the idea of making a broom. http://tropical.theferns.info/image.php?id=Sida+rhombifolia

Tulsi (Holy Basil) is a wonderful healing herb, delicious in teas, and so soothing. I grew two kinds this year – Ram and Krishna. They have very different flavors but are equally medicinal and kind to bodies. I save the seeds by cutting off the seed heads and letting them dry in the air on paper towels, then when the seeds start dropping out, I put the seeds in little glassine envelopes I buy by the thousand thru Uline, label with a sharpie, and store till next year. The leaves get dehydrated and stripped off the stems when dry. I blend this herb with many other kinds of relaxing and adaptogenic (balancing) herbs for tea. I also make a tincture of Krishna for an instant pick up and soother.

Once we finished harvesting, we worked on the beds, mulching any that were low on covering. We leave the tomato and squash vines because if they live thru the freeze they can grow a bit longer. But usually they wilt at which time we gather everything up, compost it, and take down the supports like tomato cages or bamboo trellises.

Years ago before I figured out how to protect my winter crops from the cold with the tomato cages holding up the plastic, the cages would sit outside and get rusty and be in the way. But by using them under plastic all winter, they tend to hold up better. I have 12 year old tomato cages still in use. Plus they are low enough to the ground even with space for air and heat holding, they don’t catch the wind like aluminum pipe hoop house type supports the smaller size I was using was about 3’ up from the soil. I did that last year and had to go out there in the wind and catch the plastic because it was too high and caught the wind. And I don’t think the air was as warm as if a thinner air cover. It never gets ‘warm’ but it keeps from a hard freeze. Even lettuce will wilt if too cold.

In the beds that are thus unplanted, I wait till it warms up for a few days then plant seedlings of the cool and cold weather varities (like cabbage family, spinach, lettuces, beets, carrots or anything else ready to go in), and cover them when the weather man says more freeze is on the way. Usually I lay my now unused tomato cages alternatively faced down the bed to act as plastic support. This makes an air space between the soil and the plastic which if not opened would squash delicate plants.

This year we had such weird weather in the last month of super wet or very hot conditions that I planted 3 times the cool weather seedlings so carefully germinated and babied, only to have them wilt or rot. Very frustrating. I may have to purchase some established seedlings this year. Once all the supports are torn down, I will add and dig in (but not till) a bunch of bunny poop my rabbit raising friend traded with me for herbs, so the next crop has nice fertilization without chemicals.

Then once planted, because I have a nice supply of spray free wheat straw (also traded for), the beds will be carefully mulched to act as insulation and worm food, supports layed down, and covered with plastic. I have found that clear 3.5 mil clear plastic sheeting from Home Depot is the best covering and can be used for several years. It’s not expensive. All the containers growing things get covered and weighed with bricks or single cinder blocks (scavaged) and often because we get bad winds in the winter, I lay sections of rebar over areas of the plastic so they don’t end up being sails.

Home Depot has really long rolls of plastic sheeting too – 7’ x 100’ for about $20 in both clear and white. Either one will work. Just be careful if you get an unexpected hot spell during the winter, to pull the sheeting off so the delicate cool loving plants don’t cook.

We covered the still producing (cool weather plant) beds with sheeting and in the seedling area on the back deck they got covered with a repurposed clear shower curtain. Everything out there was determined either freeze safe or brought in or covered with plastic. I have a big plant table in the South facing window of my living room and all the tender perennials are now on it inside. That included one plant in a container of lemon grass. The rest was harvested.

Now I had huge bags of herbs, trays of hot peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. The hot peppers went into the dehydrator (I save the seeds from some this way, and the rest goes into fierce pepper powder). Tomatoes are still ripening which we will then eat. It wasn’t many as I’ve been keeping up with harvest.

I did a bunch of furious research because I’ve tried dehydrating lemon grass in the past but once it becomes dry it looses its flavor. It still has medicinal properties, but I have not been happy with the results. I found out that lemon grass tincture is loaded with very beneficial medicinal properties, so when I come back from the package store today with a couple of quarts of vodka, I’ll start making the tincture. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/health-benefits-of-lemongrass.html    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3217679/ Tincture making: http://store.newwayherbs.com/lemongrass-cymbopogon-itratus-p59.aspx

Lemon grass is also a wonderous herb for skin and healing, as well as pain killing properties for sore muscles. It makes up into a lovely infused oil. For medicinal purposes I use a carrier oil of extra virgin olive oil, for cosmetic uses a lighter oil like sweet almond or jojoba. Later I will make some salves, ointments and butters with it. But it will dry quickly and I want to preserve it but won’t have time to make these products right away, so they will be infused in oil now.

I spent time picking the leaves off of the Malabar spinach and separating the stems in a huge pile. This is the first year I have had enough of this to need to find a way to preserve as the leaves left in the frig have a short life. They are delicious in salads, and can be used in soups, stews, sautés and I would imagine quiche but have not tried it. However, the nutrients in this vegetable are amazing. http://agrihomegh.com/malabar-spinach-health-benefits/ Its texture is mucilaginous (slimy when cooked) but this has amazing health properties because it is a prebiotic. A prebiotic is a fiber that is food for the good microbes in your gut responsible for up to 85% of your immune system, and without that food, these microbes crave sugar (which then makes YOU crave sugar) but when provided, your microbiome (the lining of the good gut microbes in your whole gastrointestinal tract) is fed and healthy.

Cooking the fresh leaves with slivers of bacon, then adding lime or lemon juice is actually quite delicious. But then I like boiled okra so maybe that’s a deal breaker for some. Just don’t overcook it and it has a nice texture.

Finding a way to preserve and use it has become a challenge. I’m going to try making it into a soup with chicken bone broth, then freezing it. The stems are a thickener. And I had the thought to juice some of it and freeze that. Another thought was to dehydrate and powder some of it to add to soups, stews and sauces for the nutrients.

I have a large bay laurel bush/tree (bay leaves) which grew all summer to amazing proportions. They got pruned and the leaves gathered. I sell these or give them to neighbors and friends as gifts, tied in little bunches. But the leaves are also medicinal. http://home.remedydaily.com/2016/07/25/the-incredible-benefits-and-uses-of-bay-leaves/?src=share_fb_new_54193  I dry them and powder the leaves, then encapsulate the powder as a supplement for heart health, arthritis and inflammation. It has many other medicinal and healthful benefits.

I cut the tall (up to 12’) Jerusalem artichoke (aka sunchoke) stems up a foot from the soil once they died off in October, and let them lay in the sun. So, the other day we cut them up into 1’ sections and use them all winter as kindling as they make great fire starters. The tubers (Jerusalem artichokes aren’t really artichokes, they just taste like it when cooked a certain way) need to get a good hard freeze before we can harvest them. By leaving a foot of stem in the soil you can tell where the tubers will be found. But we wait till it’s warm for a couple of days before that harvest.

Going thru all the herbs and making tinctures, oils, or freezing or otherwise processing all these abundances means some furious activity and bringing in extra supplies like vodka.

But I also am a 1700’s living historian at the Fort Yargo Living History Society in Winder, Ga. and our members met this weekend Saturday, so I brought boxes and bags of the abundance and did a little trading with one member for a lovely brown felt hat (period correct of course), and a lovely loaf of bread right out of the bee hive oven by our master bread maker, so sharing is a big part of why I grow and harvest so much.  When the hot peppers come out of the dehydrator those also go out to friends in Florida. And some of it I will sell or use for other tradings. This helps me with getting things I want like fresh eggs or even some money now and then. And of course we have all we personally need and then some.

I love this time of year for the abundances because often friends will likewise have more than they can use and we can trade. Some of the activity now is when I find I have something left over or too much of something, or something I would ordinarily compost (like Malabar spinach stems) I do a little research and find another use for these things. When there is abundance of things, the tendency is to waste. But in Permaculture Design we go for zero waste, so finding ways to turn these otherwise wasted things into yield is a big part of why Permaculture makes for a more efficient and affluent lifestyle. When I’m cutting up those Malabar spinach stems and putting them in the dehydrator, then powdering them once dried, I’ll have a jar by the stove for thickening sauces and soups instead of using flour or corn starch which adds calories and not much nutrition.

Happy fall my friends, and live in beauty.

11-12-18 Diann Dirks

We have a shopping page for purchase of some of the abundant herbs and foods mentioned here including seeds.









Posted in Adaptogenic herb, Antibiotic herbal, Antiinflammatory herb, Antioxidant herb, Food Forest, Gardening, Gut health, Herb gardening, Immune booster, Insecticidal herb, Joint pain, organic gardening, Permaculture, Seasonal gardening plants, Seed propagation, Soil fertility and yield, Uncategorized, winter gardening | Leave a comment

Basket Making From Foraging and Found Material

It’s fall in NE Georgia and the leaves are turning, with some freeze in the short future.

From the many things growing around in the garden and wild crafting, it’s time to harvest and gather basket making material for winter weaving.

In your garden, gather bulb leaves as they die down – especially good are daffodil, iris & day lily. Pine needles as they drop at the end of summer are available. Any vines or creepers can be harvested such as wisteria, greenbriar (aka Smilax), honeysuckle, kudzu, Virginia creeper, hops, grape both native and cultivated, jasmine, and passion flower/fruit. Some trees which need pruning such as willow are collectible now too. Native grasses with long leaves and lemon grass also can be harvested now. Into the wet lands find rushes, tall grasses, and other bog plants. Look around and see what is flexible and has long fiber potential.

Either make the material up into baskets immediately or dry and store. Some of the material may not be flexible once dried such as grape vine and honeysuckle. Even with soaking they are often too brittle to use once left too long. If they break when bended, they are past their prime.

What I do sometimes is make a very loose weave from stiffer material like grape vine or willow, leaving gaps in the weave. Later I interweave into this matrix twisted or braided bulb leaves, or grasses, or finer but evergreen material like honeysuckle. This makes for very interesting textures and often color variations. They tend to look primitive but I make them for the art rather than the practical when doing this. Into this kind of weave can be places stems of acorns or curly willow stems for textural interest. I also sometimes make a ring base and attach it for baskets that don’t stand up by themselves due to uneven bases. These rings of twisted or woven material are woven into the base of the basket with flexible material. I also add handles sometimes after the fact when other material is available. An otherwise poor sad little basket can be upgraded into a magical little thing this way, in another season.

To dry your material that likes to be dried and later soaked (such as some leaves, grasses or vines), lay out your fibers in a cool dark well ventilated space. I like to set used detached window screens on boxes to lift them above the floor in the garage or under the porch overhang, and turn them now and then to evenly dry. Once dry, bind bunches with rubber bands, wrap with newspaper, label, and keep in a cool dark place – like a dry basement or garage. When storing vines, curl them into donuts the size of the basket you will be making, dry them and secure with string, wrap in newspaper, and label. Often once dried many fibers look alike but have different characteristics so label with variety, date, use. Store in a cool dark space.

Or you can hang bunches of grasses or other fibers from the rafters of a well ventilated shed or garage, or someplace cool and dark. Label before hanging. Take down and wrap in newspaper and do the final label as above. This makes them easy to pull out when you need them for your work without opening things and making endless messes (said from many such mistakes…)

During the summer you may have collected sweet corn leaves or husks, or philodendron leaf bracts or fine native grasses, reeds or rushes. If they are small, they can be stored in cardboard boxes.

In the winter, once all the leaves have fallen and we’ve had a couple of good freezes, ensuring the sap has traveled down into tree roots, and you are doing your yearly pruning, many of the tree prunings make good basket material. Interesting branched stems, curly willow branches, stout pieces suitable for handles, and other uses are made available if you take the artists eye towards the pruning process. I save a lot of my willow branches which are stout (not flexible) to make straight handles or cross pieces for handles. I grow three kinds of willow here, and besides their use as plant cloning hormone and aspirin/headache pain killer, all have basket making uses. The curly willow branches are so decorative as strong curly handles, and the thinner branches add texture around the outside of a basket.

When harvesting some trees for medicinal bark or use for making cordage, I am left with very nicely peeled inner branches. They make other basket material such as twig baskets, or whatever creative use you see in them. But view them as a resource, not just as tinder for your fire or bonfires.

When I began my Permaculture Design demonstration garden here in Barrow County 12 years ago, one of the precepts given in my certification course was “every element in a design must have multiple purposes and uses”. I was initially thinking in terms of bees, medicines, foods, building material, aesthetics, and oxygen production. But being an old basket maker from Girl Scout days, and a couple of workshops in basket making over the years both in California and Georgia, and more research into the native plants that grow here, it occurred to me that basket making, cordage, and fiber were a powerful resource and another garden yield.

Instead of pulling those dead leaves from around the iris and composting them, now they are woven or braided for baskets. Instead of cursing the smilax growing up thru my holly bushes, now I eat the tender ends (they are edible and quite nice tasting), remove the thorns with a little tool used for stripping thorns off long stemmed roses, and use them as strong bones for my weaving. It added a whole new dimension to the yield from the food forest and garden areas here.

One of the other precepts in Permaculture Design is “zero waste” and the idea that “things considered pollution or contamination (like weeds) are merely resources that have not found a use”. Suddenly the honeysuckle vines taking over my stored garden structures are a wonderful source of not only blossoms in the spring (medicinal) but baskets in summer and fall. It’s all how you view things and if you know what can be done these with things they become friends. Even those pesky blackberry canes can be utilized for fiber. https://sharonkallis.com/2014/07/17/blackberry-skin-harvest-time/

Good hunting.

Diann Dirks  11-10-18

Posted in Basket making and fiber arts, Bee haven gardens, Cording, fiber and ripe plant, Food Forest, Gardening, organic gardening, Permaculture, Seasonal gardening plants, Self-Sustainability, Uncategorized, winter gardening | Leave a comment

Getting the Garden Ready for Freeze

Friends, we’re nearing the time we are getting freezing weather. In our area of NE Georgia, it’s supposed to freeze tomorrow night. So, it’s rush around and prepare. Here are some of the things we do here at Hillside Garden successfully in Auburn, Ga..
If there are any tomatoes or peppers still on plants, they get gathered up and either dehydrated, canned, or set in baskets with newspaper to further ripen. Tomatoes ripen from the inside out and are often good when picked green and not damaged well into December if kept cool.
We pick any squash, gourds, or other vegetables on vines or aerial parts and process them. We have tromboncino squash and others that make great soup so they are peeled, cubed, and frozen for later.
Any plants that are tender (like Moringa trees, or lemon grass which are in pots or other tender perennials) get brought in and set on a table by the South facing windows. I dig up any plants that I don’t think will make it, like basil or other annuals that can withstand being inside.
I also cover my container gardens with 3.5 mil clear plastic sheeting I get from Home Depot in rolls or packets – it’s not expensive, then weigh the edges with bricks, stones, or cinder blocks. I usually put something between the sheeting and the plants to raise them up above the plastic to form a little air pocket like metal stakes with a curlycue on the end so they don’t poke thru the plastic.
We cut the long stalks of Jerusalem Artichoke up a foot from the soil so we can see where the tubers will be when it’s time to harvest them (after the first hard freeze), and cut the dried stems into 1′ sections to be wonderful fire tinder.
We cover open beds which have been harvested with a thick layer of mulch such as stuff from the chipper or straw, or we sow a cover crop like rye, clover, winter wheat etc which handles the cold well.
We plant cold weather crops which like the cold like spinach, flat leaf Ital. parsley, Swiss chard, broccoli and other cole (cabbage family) crops, a variety of lettuces, beets, carrots, garlic and other root crops. Then the tomato cages which are now free of the vines, having been pulled and composted, are laid on their sides alternately top to bottom to top so the round biggest end alternates with the lower bottom so it forms an air pocket under the plastic. We are careful to not smush the baby plants we are protecting.
In earlier years when we had a lot of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc. still on vines, we’d cover them with plastic to extend the season. But this year we have had strange weather and things stopped producing, so it’s not worth it.
We sometimes bring in pepper plants because they are perennial if in pots and are in sunlight.
Moringa gets cut off 3′ from the soil and brought in. It will go dormant and come back in the spring.
We neaten up the garden, but leave plants which have seed heads that birds like such as Cone Flower (Echinacea) so they have some food.
We go into town and gather bags of autumn leaves from the sides of the street where people rake them. We get there before the city comes with their giant vacuum trucks. These we use to insulate our little nursery of un-planted trees and bushes. We form a circle around the pots and cover it with plastic to form a little green house.
In the spring we use the leaves to mulch and form soil. We try to gather leaves that have been run over by a mower as they break down nicely in the spring for soil building. We dehydrate as many of the herbs that are still growing or make tinctures or oils for winter processing into salves, ointments and other medicinal uses.
We also lay on manure and compost on our beds to mature over the winter, and before we plant our cool and cold weather plants. It’s a good idea to refresh the soil every season this way, and once planted give everything a good mulching. We use compost, unsprayed wheat straw and more finely chipped organic matter for the baby plants.
We have a fireplace and we have gotten in a good supply of firewood and tinder for the cold weather. And we have piled up woody or dry organic matter to be chipped. If we have time we chip before it is cold, but this year we’ve had so much we chipped many big bags and will do it again if we get a bit of warm weather later.
We grow year round in this way. Good luck with the season.
Diann Dirks, Georgia Dirks The Garden Lady of Georgia
Posted in Gardening, Herb gardening, organic gardening, Permaculture, Seasonal gardening plants, Self-Sustainability, Soil fertility and yield, winter gardening | Leave a comment

Transitioning from Summer to Fall in the Edible, Orchard and Herb Gardens

By Diann Dirks 10-9-18 Hillside Gardens, Auburn, Ga.

Many of us have gardens in the summer. But did you know that unless you are in the bitterest of cold areas, growing cool and cold weather crops can substantially increase your ability to feed yourself and family, increase general yield, and keep fresh food on the table all year long? Even if you are in Alaska or the coldest area imaginable, if you have a green house *, you can grow then too. There is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture – a subscription farm) in Alaska that feeds its member families in the coldest part of the year.

Here at Hillside Gardens, we are watching the weather get cooler. Yesterday it was 91, today it’s 77 degrees F. We had some rain, but basically we’re seeing fall come in and most of us are saying hooray! It has been too hot too long. I started my fall seedlings in the latter part of August, had them in the ground in September and watched them wither and die. Very disappointing because it was supposed to have cooled off by now.

We’re still getting tomatoes, asparagus beans (about 3′ long and delicious), hot peppers, winter squash, eggplant, and loads of herbs which like the hot weather. But by next week it will be time to plant the cool weather plants. And all my babies that were put in too early are now only about 20% still alive. So, it’s time to start the new ones in little newspaper pots we make by curling half pieces of newspaper around the bottom of a wine bottle, tucking in the bottom and taping them, then filling with nice potting soil.

But that isn’t all that needs doing and we’ve been busy working on the soil. As the tomatoes have been dying off we have been pulling the old plants out. Our neighbors with chickens have brought me lovely bags of chicken poo with bedding. My intern and I have been spreading this by the handfuls around the bases of all the surviving plants but not digging it in. It’s too hot for the roots, but sitting on the surface, it leaches the nitrogen and minerals in with every watering or rain.

When we go to plant fall plants in these beds, we carefully move it aside, plant, then replace so it always stays on the surface of the soil.

The food forest – perennials, herbs and trees – have had a rough time this late summer with lack of rain. I can only water so much or my water bill goes out the roof. So, we put in a lot of extra mulch this summer to hold in the moisture. But it hasn’t been enough and not everything made it, or died back. We had a chipping party with the chipper last week and filled several giant bags of chips. Into the chipper went large piles of dead prunings from trees and garden waste we had been piling up all summer. But before it was all chipped, I was out there with the pruner cutting back all the dead stems and damaged leaves from beans, squashes, and tomatoes.

This will all get spread over the food forest growing beds to insulate them in the winter. And it will break down into soil by the end of the cold times.

I don’t till but I do some cultivation to turn into the soil some amends such as compost from the compost pile, composted manure, crushed granite (for the minerals), soft mulch such as rotten straw, and coffee grounds and egg shells from the kitchen. I also save up kitchen waste in large cottage cheese containers and before I replant, I dig trenches in the open beds, pour in this smelly stuff, cover it with soil, recover the soil with mulch and give them about 2 or 3 weeks to rot down and feed the worm population.

As areas open up as summer plants  vacate them, I set in various cool and cold weather plants. So far I’ve put in carrots, beets, kale, several kinds of lettuce, spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, and calendula. Some of them have survived. But when I get the next batch of seedlings germinated, they will fill in the holes. I love putting in a lot of flat leaf parsley because it likes really cold weather. The beets provide greens all winter but I only take one or two leaves per plant so they can get busy making my favorite root. The carrots go in the back of the beds hardest to reach and the lettuce and greens go in front for easy harvesting.

I have 3.5 mil clear or white plastic sheeting ready to cover my tomatoes and other cold tender plants to extend the season. But once we get a full freeze, everything dies. Just before I know we are expecting a hard freeze, I collect all the tomatoes, green no matter. They go into cardboard boxes covered with newspaper to ripen in the garage. Everything gets harvested. Then the freeze takes out the plants. They get pulled, compost goes in and turned once, and immediately the places are filled in with babies.

We only plant on the east side of the gardens where I have a tall deer fence. The west side which is terraced is left fallow. I’m considering a cover crop this year of rye and clover. When that is left in the beds over the winter, it help builds the soil. In spring it all gets turned over to compost in place. This is called ‘green manure’.

In the food forest, fall is the time of year to plant trees and bushes. This year I have had to re-evaluate my tree population. When we set up this food forest 7 years ago I had a wish list and not a lot of experience in orcharding. I planted trees too close together, never realizing how big trees can get when in excellent soil. And I was not used to growing fruit in the SE, having only known California trees. So, many of the things I was used to growing just didn’t do well here. Soil not right, too many predatory bugs (I refuse to spray chemicals and the non-chemical sprays have to be replaced after every rain – a never ending chore I simply haven’t had time for.) So, this past week I invited our Extension Officer of Barrow County to look at my trees.

We were brutal. In Permaculture Design, if it isn’t productive, and can’t be made productive, it goes. So, even though I adore trees and it kills me to take them down, even if diseased or non-productive, we are taking down two apple (fungal disease), plum (boring bugs), pecan (volunteered right next to the road where it will ruin the paving), almond (never produced and like peach needs constant spraying), a couple of volunteer wild cherry (right by the side of the house), a non-productive volunteer peach, and a volunteer hackberry that split,  There will be major pruning in January too to clear about 20% of the blueberry branches no longer productive.

This will leave large areas open for which I am now contemplating some natives like Pawpaw, wild persimmon, and others. Because we’ll have a bunch of stumps, I may consider inoculating a couple of them with edible mushroom spores like Reishi, Oyster, and Turkey Tail. The others will get holes bored in them and the holes filled with epsom salt to get them to break down. It may be too late in the season to plant more trees, but the empty spots can be replanted in the spring after the most risk of heavy freeze is past.

Here are my favorite kinds of vegetables for fall and winter (all heirloom – I don’t plant hybrid or GMO plants): Several kinds of beets, several kinds of carrots, many varieties of lettuce, rainbow colored and white Swiss chard, several varieties of broccoli, cauliflower, two varieties of spinach, Mizuna Japanese sweet tasting mustard greens, mibuna spinach mustard, endive, pak choy varieties, garlic and onion starts, red, green and Savoy cabbages, black and diacon radishes, about 5 kinds of kale including decorative kale which goes into the vacant spots in the food forest to bring in color, and pansies which also get planted around the open areas. But the deer like to pull them out and leave them to die, so I usually put a light layer of deer netting across these beds to prevent this.

Once all the tomato cages, bean poles and tall stalks are out, we clean up the area, replenish the soil and mulch, water well, and lay our tomato cages on their sides, and have our babies planted, alternating direction down the beds so the tall top rounds are lined up to hold off the plastic sheeting off the plants. Then we lay the sheeting down over them and secure the edges with single cinder blocks, large rocks and big bricks. Usually the wind will pick up this sheeting unless we lay something over the top of the sheeting to keep it from sailing. Usually I have some large smooth branches or rebar for this which we carefully lay over the top of the sheet/wire supports. As we get warmer days several in a row, we remove and roll back the sheeting, and replace it when we see really cold weather coming in again.

Many of the plants we grow can withstand quite cold weather so if we forget, some will survive. But more tender plants will burn. Tough plants include spinach, kale, flat leaf parsley, collards, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, onions, and carrots. Tender ones include lettuces, sometimes Swiss chard, endive, and pak choy. They need to be carefully insulated with plastic. You can either integrate all of these together and just protect them all, or reserve beds for hardy and others for tender so you don’t have to recover all of the beds all of the time. This can save some back breaking work in very cold weather. You’ll appreciate this when it’s 10 degrees and the wind is catching your breath away.

I used to plant white potatoes over the winter, but they just don’t do well here in my garden for some reason, take up a lot of space, and are easy to purchase. We have in former years grown sweet potatoes and yams, but I have stopped this practice for lack of interest. But you can plant potatoes in the fall if you insulate them well with straw or leaves to grow over the winter.

About the time we have had a really hard freeze, the Jerusalem artichokes  which are a kind of tuber (aka sunchokes) are sweet enough to harvest. So, on the first nice warmish day after that I begin harvesting them. In September they bloom lovely yellow sunflowers. In October they start to die out. The stalks are cut off one foot off the ground so I know where to dig for roots. The stalks get cut into 1′ sections, set in bins, and are used all winter for kindling for the fireplace. They make great fire starters.

The soil in the JA bed has a lot of sand in it which makes for easier harvesting. We try to get every last little piece of root because every one of the ones left over become a new plant next year. We do plant again though, but controlled, 6″ deep, 18″ apart. I usually add some compost or manure to the soil then for next year. These plants are kept in one dedicated bed. The roots last 2 years in the frig and are a terrific flavor enhancing food and survival food too as it is very nutritious, and abundant.

If you need the growing space, I have successfully planted cabbage and other hardy winter plants in the same bed I had re-planted the JA tubers and covered them as above, because the JAs won’t poke up until the spring and by that time you have harvested the other winter veggies.

We also replace the wood chips in areas of  pathways that have broken down. This makes for easier travel thru out the garden in winter when it can be otherwise muddy or icy. Since we are out there in all kinds of weather, falling on slippery icy pathways is not a happy option.

Once we start seeing a lot of leaves being piled up along the road in the nearby town of Winder, we go out with a box of heavy duty construction grade black plastic bags and a metal garbage can to act as a bag holder, and a couple of leaf rakes, and fill up the back of my van with bags and bags of leaves. I look for piles that were picked up by the riding lawnmowers because they have been chipped up and often also contain grass clippings which make the best mulch. I usually make two or three runs every fall and pile them up for later use.

I have a little nursery of unplanted trees and bushes. I surround these plants with the bags of leaves as a kind of insulation ‘fort’ and cover it up with clear plastic or at least cover the planters and roots. The black plastic of the bags further warm these more vulnerable plants. In the spring it gets used for soil building.

Transition time in the garden is busy but exciting. We look forward to wonderful salads and fresh greens, Swiss chard and spinach and herbs. all winter, and a spring with new onions, fresh garlic, beets and large radishes. Broccoli and cabbage grow delicious leaves as well as heads, and can be harvested when large enough in winter or spring. Actually we harvest more actual food in the winter than in the summer except for tomatoes and squash volume wise. And we can count on real nutrition when what is in the stores is limp and terribly un-appetizing. In fact we feast.

Good luck with your cool weather garden. Look over the year for seeds which are good for cool weather and have them ready in October. Or if you are brave, September.

* Heating a green house can be done very economically using a rocket mass heater fueled only with twigs and sticks. Check out these websites:


Posted in Food Forest, food forest management, Food protection, Gardening, Herb gardening, organic gardening, Permaculture, Seasonal gardening plants, Self-Sustainability, Soil fertility and yield, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Diatomaceous Earth Magic

By Diann Dirks


It’s interesting to me that something that looks so innocent and ordinary (looks like flour) can have so many miraculous benefits. This substance is the mummified remains of quadrillions of tiny micro-organisms deposited in the earth millions of years ago. In an electron microscope it looks like chex mix filled with little holes with sharp edges. This stuff is negatively charged like activated charcoal which means it draws to itself positively charged particles.

Toxic and poisonous substances are positively charged as are bacteria, virus, protazoa, yeasts, and bodily fungus and parasites as well as many kinds of chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceutical debris and others. In other words most of the bad stuff that is in your body is positively charged. Having something that draws it like a magnet to itself then flushes it out of the body is like the garbage man taking away the trash in the neighborhood.

Without some kind of regular detoxification our bodies would drown in the garbage. Drinking lots of pure water, exercise, clean air, and good organic food keeps the amount of that garbage down, but in our modern life, we can’t always live like that. So, having a way to detox is critical to our health. So, I’m always looking for simple remedies that can be done inexpensively, simply, and without a lot of tech.

A friend of mine who has originated wanting to detox her body was looking for how to do it when she can’t do detox baths, doesn’t handle heat (as in sauna), and has a bunch of physical problems screaming out to get rid of the toxins and poisons accumulated from living in L.A. and having surgeries and such. So, when I came across something in my research I know can help someone I passed this on to her. She was elated to find something so easy to get access to, and use. It has no flavor, is totally safe to use in moderation, and does wonders for absorbing toxins out of the whole body but critically throughout the whole gastro-intestinal tract.

Believe it or not, in our ‘modern society’ we shudder to think of those horrible parasites growing in people who live in Third World societies and can’t imagine us having those here, but we get a large percentage of our foods from those 3rd World places, and it hitches a ride to our table. We have worms, various bacteria, fungus, and the above list of creepy crawlies living in our bodies, many of which don’t succumb to cooking. So, we end up being a host for a lot of unwanted guests. They attack our gut, causing leaky gut, and the inflammation arising from that disorder, and we end up hurting a lot from it all. Not to mention stealing vital nutrients our own body needs. Hurting isn’t the only problem these nasties cause. Inflammation is a major cause of a lot of illnesses and chronic conditions we are suffering from now. It also ages the body.

In our gut, we harbor collections of stuff our body has trouble eliminating. We get various build-ups of metals, toxins, parasites, and mucus. DE acts like a sponge traveling thru the system picking up and scrubbing out these accumulations. Colon cleanses and various products are on the market to help this, but DE taken every day is so simple. When junk isn’t lining the colon, the body can absorb the nutrients we eat much more efficiently, and when the parasites aren’t eating what our body needs, we actually get what we need out of what we eat. This pays benefits in energy, better metabolism, a lighter load on our immune system, and an efficient body that repairs itself.

DE has been used for a long time to kill those parasites in the body. Even though it’s just a white powder, seeing it in a microscope, not only is it porous but it has very sharp edges that are glass sharp. This doesn’t hurt our own body. But for little critters like parasites, when it is ingested by them, it cuts up their innerds and kills them.

It also does this externally when dusted on pets to kill fleas, lice, and even bed bugs. The bugs eat it, they die. You can put DE in pet food daily and keep them from getting parasites too.

It also kills slugs in the garden and many kinds of pests. It’s handy stuff.

I recently learned that ‘DE’ is about 85 to 95% silica (depending on where it is mined). It turns out that silica is a necessary component for bones to absorb calcium. What’s osteoporosis but the loss of calcium. This means our bones become brittle and weak. It’s why in older people, a fall often leads to broken hips or fractures in other areas. This takes place over a long period of time as we loose silica, calcium vacates the bones, leaving holes where the calcium was. Because most people are deficient in silica, and it gets moved to more critical places in the body, we don’t notice the long term loss. But if we start even in youth to keep our silica content high, the collagen which holds the body together in soft tissue, and the bones which are structure, stay strong. This means we stay young longer.

Silica stimulates metabolism for energy.

It also supports and helps to correct inflammation of the inner ear, a cause of hearing loss. It also may help with vertigo, tinnitus (buzzing in the ear), headache, and some say insomnia.

Thru research it has been found that the body can transform silica into calcium (called a calcium precursor) when it needs it. (1) It turns out that more women die of osteoporosis than breast or many other kinds of cancer. Silica is responsible for the depositing of calcium into the bones. Important when calcium is being leached out regularly. Since calcium is being moved around in the body to neutralize fluoride in the body, the obvious source being the bones, by drinking fluoridated water (calcium is the only thing that neutralizes the devastating effect of fluoride which is highly mutation causing) we leach the calcium. This may explain the greater osteoporosis being seen in people over the last aprox. 70 years when fluoride started being introduced into our water supply around the end of WWII. There are other uses of calcium in the body, to neutralize the acidity in our food supply for example. It goes and it comes mostly from the bones. It’s a ticking time bomb.

Arthritis is often the wearing away or inflammation of the tissues at the joints like tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and sinovial tissue which creates the lubricant in the joints. Occasionally it’s a disease process, but then again, it’s inflammation that causes the pain. When there is no or little cartilage, and the joint is bone-on-bone, this causes pain as well. So, all those tissues that make up a joint need support.

This is important to know when you have a broken bone because calcium needs to be absorbed and used to repair the fractured area. Silica also helps the body absorb magnesium and phosphorus which also are necessary to building bone tissues. So these are also important for repairing osteoporosis.

Without silica, the body can’t manufacture collagen because it’s a major component. Collagen is a substance that gives elasticity to tissue. Often we hear about collagen being injected into the lips or face to give us a youthful boost. But collagen plays important roles all thru the body. One of those roles is giving lubrication to the joints. This plays an important role in flexibility. We all want to move like young people do who have sufficient silica in their bodies, not just look young. In fact collagen is the glue that holds our bodies together.

Silica supports the skin as an important mineral for skin and connective tissue. The degrading of connective tissue is what causes wrinkles and skin sagging. By regularly using DE this rebuilds your store of collagen for youthful elastic healthy skin.

Tissue degeneration tends to accelerate as we age. This leads to older looking skin from lack of good circulation – that gray look. It also shows up as lack of moisture, a dry and thinning look to skin. DE/silica holds in moisture and increases the body’s ability to hold onto moisture which can be compromised when the silica content in the body decreases. The average amount of silica in a healthy body is about 7 grams, needing a great deal more silica than iron for example. Most people have way less of it than 7 grams which means we have to rebuild our supply and keep it up.

Silica may also help with various other skin issues such as injuries, rashes, itching, benign skin sores, callouses, warts, eczema, burns, frost bite, acne, abcesses, and boils.

By taking DE regularly you will also notice an improvement in your nails. It can also be applied to nail funguses. And it helps with food intolerances as well.

Making a DE exfoliation treatment by mixing a thick paste of 2 TBS DE and a few drops of water (optional add a few drops of your favorite essential oil like lavender) once a week will clear away skin debris. Or add it to your favorite skin cleanser. Scrub gently in a circular motion and leave on a few minutes, or rinse immediately. Don’t let it sit too long though as it can dry the skin.

As we age our hair also takes a hit from toxins, lack of nutrients, and wear and tear from the products we use on it. Hair is rich in silica but when we are deficient in it or it isn’t replaced, the shiny healthy growing hair we enjoyed as teenagers becomes brittle, dull, and not so much of it. DE stimulates hair growth, helps prevent hair loss, and improves texture and strength of our hair. It can also help prevent baldness.

Adding DE and some coconut oil to your shampoo once a week strengths and cleans the hair, feeds it, and brings out the healthy glow. Don’t scrub, just mildly massage, rinse, and use a conditioner and pat dry.

Silica also gives elasticity to veins and arteries, and strength to heart muscles and tissues. It also lowers cholesterol, removes plaque in the blood vessels, and helps regulate blood pressure. It’s a wonderful heart protector because of these things, and helps to repair the after effects of heart attacks or other heart events. A tablespoon a day in water, juice or coffee is all I take.

We worry about fat and cardiologists tell us to cut out fat in our diets. This is not actually a good idea since our bodies need fat to loose weight and for energy. But it’s where the fat goes that is the issue. When it lines our arteries and veins, it can close off flow and cut circulation. But DE absorbs trapped fat in the digestive tract. The silica clears the arteries.

Weight loss is often a goal our doctors set for us, or when we can’t fit into our skinny jeans anymore. Because DE detoxes, it can have an effect on the efficiency of our metabolism. When the body is more efficient, it burns fat easier. When it doesn’t hurt so much to exercise, using up calories is also a lot easier and less painful.

We are seeing a tremendous increase in cognative disease in this country such as Alzheimer’s. This has been traced by scientists to aluminum deposits in the brain. Most of the aluminum we absorb comes in thru the drinking water (unfiltered) in our beverages (the coffee and tea you get in a restaurant is only minimally filtered), (sodas and bottled beverages are not monitored for aluminum content in the water they are made from), canned foods are not processed with highly filtered water. So, we are getting it in a lot of our foods. The silica in DE keeps aluminum from being absorbed, lowers aluminum concentration in the brain, bones, liver, spleen and kidneys. Think of it as a scavenger for all the metals and toxins you are exposed to. It actually draws aluminum out of the brain and carts it away.

We hear about news scares of vicious disease outbreaks and wonder if our immune systems are up to the challenge. If you have school aged children, you know how they get exposed to every flu bug and cold flying around. You get exposed to virus, bacteria and various illnesses just being in contact with public. We get the PR about having flu vaccinations but for me, I’d rather not be putting aluminum and live viruses into my body when they actually do not have good stats for preventing illness. Instead it’s important to boost your own immune system so your body can fight off anything you are exposed to.

When your beneficial gut microbes are in good order, the toxins and metals are cleaned out of the digestive tract, the parasites are gone, and your general health is good, your immune system fights off most of what is traveling around. Silica in DE supports the immune system by its ability to produce antibodies which are what fight disease.

Candida is a growing systemic (whole system) infection in our culture. It robs us of energy, and makes life a lot less joyful. DE treats microbial disease by killing the candida or yeast infections then flushes the toxins and unhealthy material that candida clings to and encourages growth. If it doesn’t have the food it needs (be sure to cut out sugar too though) and can’t hide in debris and toxins, and you are continually cleaning out the digestive tract where that debris hides out, you get rid of it.

General plumbing help – Because DE/silica is a diuretic – gets the body to manufacture urine and expel it – this flushes out the captured toxins and metals, virus, bacteria and other creepy crawlies. It also goes into the stomach and intestines and removes mucus and disinfects areas such as ulcers. H. Pylori is the bacteria that causes ulcers, and silica captures and kills these germs. It also normalizes hemorrhoid tissue at the other end of the intestinal tract. It also acts on the kidneys and helps prevent kidney stones. It also heals UTI infections. It clears constipation and diarrhea.

Lungs also get a boost from silica. It increases the elasticity of lung tissue, repairs, maintains and restores, reduces inflammation in bronchitis, decreases coughs, helps with the upper respiratory tract and tones the lungs.

It also has a positive action on the lymphatic system which is responsible for carrying away toxins and debris from the cell activity. It is an antioxidant – something that neutralizes ‘free radicals’ – substances that are lacking an electron which roam through the body grabbing and mutating the internal workings of the cells, causing destruction, and even cancer. Free radicals are formed from exposure to poisons, radiation, injury and a number of other factors. Increasing the anti-oxidant functions in the cells are across the board protection to all bodily functions.

Your teeth have a lot to do with your general health. It has long been known that the nerves that connect up with each tooth also connects up with specific organs or systems in the body. When a tooth is in trouble, it communicates trouble to the connecting organ or system. So keeping your teeth healthy and intact in the body is important. Old folk wisdom says that when a person’s teeth go, end of life is near. We have dental practices now that help with dental health, but if anyone has had to suffer from wearing dentures, you know the value of keeping your own teeth as we age.

Meanwhile DE/silica hardens the enamel of the teeth, helps prevent cavities and preserves teeth. It also prevents the bleeding of guns, gum atrophy and recessing of the gums (you’ve hear the expression for old age ‘long in the tooth’ – this is from gum recession). Gum recession can lead to the loosening of a tooth and ultimately loosing it. DE/silica also helps fight ulceration and decay of the underlying bone and tooth decay, and lessens inflammation in the mouth. Sprinkling DE on your favorite toothpaste, or making your own tooth powder with salt, baking soda, coconut oil, peppermint essential oil (few drops) and DE is a lovely tooth cleanser.

Interestingly enough, with all the news about radiation from Fukushima traveling across the planet, having a way to get rid of radiation in the body is also important. Because the particles of radiation are positive, DE also latches onto them and gets them out of the body.

For women going thru menopause, DE/silica helps with many of the uncomfortable symptoms as well as aiding in the regeneration of bones which often start showing signs of osteoporosis about the same time.

My favorite way to get this into my system is in my morning coffee. I like cream and coconut oil in my coffee with some stevia, and a heaping teaspoon every morning is just fine. I also put it in pancakes, and cooked food when I can. The research I have is that a tablespoon a day for adults and a teaspoon for children is just about right. You can put it in juice, plain water, or baking. It disappears in muffins and pancakes. Your family won’t know it’s there.

All this is just some of the uses DE has for daily living. It has many uses in the home, garden, yard, and clean up (absorbs oil spills) as well. Smelly garbage cans get a scrubbing with DE and some baking soda (I buy this in bulk too) and pet blankets get some DE in the wash. I buy mine in 10 lb. bags and have it around. So far I have found the least expensive source is Chewy https://www.chewy.com/s?query=Diatomaceous+Earth&utm_source=yahoogemini&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=DiatomaceousEarth-Hard&utm_content=s&utm_term=302825200819  10 lb. $20 free s&h









Posted in Bone Health, bug repelling in garden', Collagen Formation, Dental Care, detoxification, Fire Ants, Gardening, Head Health, Permaculture, pest management, Self-Sustainability, Soil fertility and yield | 2 Comments

A Treasure Plant – Sida rhombifolia

Sida rhombivolia aka Wireweed, Broom Jute

By Diann Dirks 9-27-18

Flowers and developing seed capsules
Photograph by: Fagg, M.
Image credit to Australian National Botanic Gardens

Here is one of those amazing plants that just blow the mind with their vast usefulness.

Flowering stem
Photograph by: Shepherd, R.C.H.
Image credit to Australian National Botanic Gardens

Sida rhombifolia is a perennial woody small bush that grows especially well in the Southeast. But the family of Sida can be found worldwide and has been used in traditional medicines for thousands of years in Ayervedic (India), Traditional Chinese Medicine, Eclectic (19th century medical practice in America), and numerous native medicine practices. Currently it is being researched in labs for pharmacruticals. It was introduced in the 19th c in this country by Eclectic doctors and has gone native.

I found this plant in my garden and had ID’ed it after I had been pulling it as a weed for many years. When I realized the treasure I had I now cultivate it and use it for many things. It even can be used to make fiber for canvas, fish nets, cordage, etc. The stems make lovely brooms and has been used for this for centuries in various cultures.

But the real treasure is in the use for medicine. All parts of the plant are medicinal – leaves, flowers, seeds, stems, and roots. Usually people use the leaves for medicine for ease of harvesting. But the other parts can also be harvested and used.

You can make a tea, dry and powder it and use it as a powder or put it in capsules, make water extracts, make alcohol tincture, put it in oil and use it as a poultice, or make a tea for eye drops depending on what use you want to make of it.

Broadly speaking it is an incredibly powerful antibiotic, antiviral and anti-microbial effective against such usually hard to treat illnesses as TB, E.coli, Salmonella, various kinds of pneumonia, Malaria, cancer of the red blood cells, Whopping cough, UTIs, Bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses, colic, infected and septic wounds, eye infections, Hepatitus B, dysentery, and Staph infections (including resistive kinds). It kills candida albicans, and a host of fungal and protozoan infections, even parasites such as malaria to name just a few.

An adaptogenic is a medicinal property that means that it evens things out – when there’s too much of something, it lowers it to normal, likewise too little of something. This is important because much disease is because things go out of control or need boosting. Adaptogenics do that. Sida R. is an adaptogenic of importance.

It protects many functions of the body – the stomach lining (against ulcers), the intestines, the eyes, the liver, the kidneys (even helps with kidney stones), stops breast cancer from growing, increases antioxidants in heart tissue for heart health and repair, keeps blood sugar in range (for diabetes), is an antioxidant that knocks out free radicals – those factors that cause mutation in the cells and wreck many functions inside the organs and systems of the body, and kills parasites that do many kinds of damage all over the body. It even handles herpes siplex – those pesky canker sores in the mouth. It protects against respiratory problems like colds and flu, but also asthma and TB. It helps against diarrhea and fevers. It works to heal the skin of rashes, eczema, even impetigo.

It is effective against long term debilitating infections such as Lyme, Malaria, and Dysentery which kill a lot of people all over the world.

It is also a very nutritional plant with protein levels up to 25% – used in many cultures as their primary protein source depending on how it’s grown.

It is used to treat pit viper snake bites powerfully. It neutralizes the hemotoxins that destroy blood cells (and kills people).

It is a pain killer useful in treating rheumatism and joint pain and swelling, fractures, and sinusitis as well as cramps.

It’s also used to treat farm animals except goats (bad for goats).

This just hits the high points. When doing the research I kept coming across things that really amazed me such as the fact that it protects and rebuilds red and white blood cells which means it builds the immune system, and is the only plant that specifically protects the red blood cells which is why it’s good for anemia and myeloma (cancer of the red blood cells).

Generally it’s also healthy as it lowers blood triglycerides and cholesterol. And it is used as an antidepressant and anti-seizure.

It is used later in pregnancy in traditional medicines, but shouldn’t be used if wanting to become pregnant or early in a pregnancy.

It grows very well in the southeast and self-seeds. Once I stopped pulling it as a weed it had become abundant in my garden allowing for a lot of harvesting.

How to use it is covered very well in the first site below including how to make your own medicinal preparations. If you want to be self-reliant and have a powerful ally in keeping healthy, or even in survival situations, Sida R. is a wonderful friend. And you can eat it or make rope, clothing, brooms, and other fiber with it. She is a treasure. Enjoy.

Check out these resources:





https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sida_rhombifolia for description and pictures




Posted in Adaptogenic herb, Anemia, Animal forage, Antibiotic herbal, Antiinflammatory herb, Antioxidant herb, Antivenom traditional herb, Asthma herb, Bee haven gardens, Bees, Broom making, Cancer of the blood, Candida, Cording, fiber and ripe plant, Dental Care, detoxification, Diarrhea and dysentery herb, E-coli, Fever herb, Flowering herbs, Flowering plants', Food Forest, Gardening, Gut health, Head Health, Herb gardening, Herpes Simplex, Immune booster, Insecticidal herb, Joint pain, Kidney problems, Kidney stones, Liver protection herb, Lung problems, Lyme disease, Malaria herb, organic gardening, Parasites, Polyphenols, Salmonella, Skin diseases, Staph infection, Staph infections, Stimulant, Uncategorized, Wound care | Leave a comment

Making Echinacea Tincture

Here at HIllside Gardens, our lovely Cone Flowers (Echinacea purpurea) have been blooming all summer and are now ready to harvest and make medicine. I have a limited number of plants so I prefer to just harvest the flowers and leaves for making my Echinacea Tincture. I have in the past dug up the whole plant, divided the roots, replanted some, and made my medicine with the roots, flowers and leaves together.

Fall and winter are often the times people start eating a lot of sugar, especially related to holidays, but also just eating ice cream and other goodies. This lowers your immune system and it’s often why we think there is a ‘cold and flu season’. It also relates to kids going back to school. Schools are notorious for being germ factories, and kids bring home whatever is going around. There is also the issue of ‘flu vaccines’ which contain live virus. I’m convinced this is a harmful practice because I don’t see a lessening of flu but instead nastier varieties. Parents send their sick kids off to school for the baby sitting service. Please don’t do this. Think that your kids will also have the bad results from some other kid.

So, I don’t believe that there is so much a season. I just think it’s because we eat junk. Echinacea has been used for ages to help our immune systems combat bacterial and viral infections, and to strengthen our immunity in many ways. Besides fighting viruses, Echinacea can also fight against bacterial and fungal infection.

So, since it’s now the time in the garden to gather the makings, this will give you a nice supply to last for a long time.

If you go to the health food store or online and buy Echinacea tincture you will pay a lot of money. Typically over $8/oz. Why not make it yourself? It’s just a matter of growing Cone Flower in your garden and harvesting the flowers and leaves, or if you have a lot of the plants, harvest the roots. (Or you can purchase the herb from a reputable herb company like Mountain Rose Herb Company or Bulk Apothecary.) But you can cut the roots up and replant some of them so you don’t completely kill off the plant. Here is how to do tincture it:

I get the cheapest vodka, it isn’t for taste anyway. But any alcohol will do. Some use brandy or spirits, even wine though it is much less percentage alcohol. Don’t waste your money on 95% like Ever Clear or Moonshine unless you want to dilute it. I buy it by the quart. Usually I get the 80 proof which is 40% alcohol. You don’t need the higher (50% 100 poof) usually.

If you want a broader medicinal effect, blend it with other herbs which are mentioned in the article below – (increases effectiveness). But make each herb tincture separately and later blend the tinctures. You have more control over it that way.

BTW, other info I have is that Echinacea tincture shouldn’t be automatically taken every day (which would make it a tonic which it is not). But it can be taken 3x a day for 3 days then leave it for some time. I take it when I feel something coming on or when a cold or flu has gone on too long. It isn’t just an antibiotic, it’s a terrific immune booster. But you can abuse your immune system taking it too long. You’ll see that in this reference: https://practicalselfreliance.com/echinacea-tincture/ This gives a full tutorial on how to do the whole process. It also contains dosages.

I purchase or save quart mason jars for my tinctures.

As you make each individual kind of herb MAKE SURE YOU LABEL EACH BOTTLE! All tinctures look pretty much the same once they are in the jar – I put the herb name, the alcohol (i.e. Vodka 80 proof), the date made.

Put the jar out of direct sunlight (back of the kitchen counter works well) and shake it every day or so for 1 to 3 months. Once it has been masticating (soaking) for long enough, it needs to be strained. I sew a bag with muslin cloth (well washed, preferably not bleached), that just fits the inside of a mason jar and is long enough to curve over the top and down about 2” longer. Once ready, I put the bag into another clean mason jar (quart) and pour the whole jar with herbs and all into this. Then I pick the bag up by the part folded over the rim, slowly out of the jar, carefully, let it strain, then squeeze the dickens out of it to get every drop.

Then you can either compost the mast (solids) or if you want to make a double extract, put the now strained mast into a small pan, add filtered or purified water to cover the solids and a bit more, and slowly simmer (don’t boil) it for about an hour (replacing water as it evaporates). I like this method especially when using the root. Then repeat the filtering and pour the water (decoction) and the tincture (alcohol) together, mix and pour into dark glass bottles (old wine bottles of any color but not clear) work the best. Label it with the herb, the alcohol, the date, and call it Double Extract (or DX). This really gets all the medicinal compounds out of the herb. I especially do this with mushrooms or roots but any herb will do.

Enjoy the process.

Once you have a supply of the tincture made up, purchase glass dropper bottles of amber or other color https://www.bulkapothecary.com/categories/containers/glass-bottles/ Bulk Apothecary. Using a tiny mouthed funnel (can be found in a package of 4 sizes at Walmart), carefully fill a dropper bottle and label it (I cover my labels with clear packing tape so later the label doesn’t get washed off or damaged ).

Tinctures are a very long lasting way to preserve and extract the medicinal value of herbs and mushrooms. They last at least 12 years (some say much longer). As long as you keep them out of direct sunlight and in a cool place, almost indefinitely.

Caveat: This article is not meant to replace professional health care. I am not a doctor or a certified herbalist and am not practicing but if you wish to be more self-reliant, it’s a good thing to know how to make home remedies and be able to use plants especially if in a crisis situation. If you are on pharmaceuticals, be sure to check to make sure there are no clashes with what you are taking. Mostly personally I just grow about 150 different medicinal herbs, and make what we need. Echinacea (Cone Flower) is a native of Georgia and is a beautiful flower.

Diann Dirks 9/17/20 Hillside Gardens, Auburn, Ga.

Posted in Antibiotic herbal, Antiinflammatory herb, Antioxidant herb, Fever herb, Flowering herbs, Immune booster, Salmonella, Skin diseases, Staph infection, Uncategorized | Leave a comment