Charlotte and Susie made countless runs down into the woods for "just one more bunch, please?!" of jewelweed.

Charlotte and Susie made countless runs down into the woods for “just one more bunch, please?!” of jewelweed.

Jeremie and the oldest three have been gone for a few days. While they were gone, the kids and I made all sorts of concoctions in the kitchen! I always have a green salve on hand for baby butt rashes and bug bites. Usually I buy dried herbs to infuse into oils, but I was inspired by a friend to harvest my own.IMG_2899 We have an ABUNDANCE of plantain growing in the yard. Sadly, the lawn had just been mowed. No, not sadly. I mean I an super greatful to have short grass! That is an on-going struggle at the Funny Farm. Jeremie Some people around here like to have the yard look like a hay pasture! :) Anyway, I was still able to find plenty of large leaves of plantain in the orchard. Plantain is good for so very many things! Look it up! Bug bites, burns, itchies. It’s edible, so add some to your salad! After thoroughly washing them (I do have chickens, remember? And chickens poop everywhere.)  I dehydrated them in my Excalibur. IMG_2900You never want to infuse oils with fresh herbs because the water content in the plant matter will make your oil go rancid or moldy. Except when it comes to Jewelweed. That’s another wild plant that we harvested this weekend. Jewelweed is God’s remedy for poison ivy. He even plants is right in the same vicinity. Jewelweed has a juicy stalk that, when applied to the infected area, counter acts the irritation caused by poison ivy. But these juices are ineffective after being dried. So after we harvested this jewel of a weed 😉 (three times!) I did a couple different things with it.IMG_2904 First, I chopped up the stalks and leaves and covered them in water. After letting it simmer on the stove for a couple hours I strained the plant matter out. This juice will stay good in the fridge for a few weeks, but I froze most of mine in ice cube trays to be used as needed at a later date. IMG_2915Don’t forget to pop those frozen cubes into a ziplock container so they don’t dry out in the freezer! Applied directly to the infected area, the coolness and the jewelweed juice ease the pain and the itch. I also used the infused water to make a batch of jewelweed soap. IMG_2921This soap is packed with poison ivy fighting weapons! I infused the water and the oil both, before mixing together. I made the bars very small, individual size. Only two people in the family suffer from a reaction to the poison ivy. Once a bar of soap gets wet, it doesn’t last as long, so I wanted many, small sized bars for the many times Tommy or Benja need them. IMG_2928Then I also infused oil with this plant. Specifically avocado oil and sweet almond oil that are so good and nourishing for the skin. Care must be taken when infusing a fresh herb into oils because of the water content. After the oil is infused let it rest and the water should sink to the bottom. Simply pour off the good oil, leaving behind the bit with water. This will help keep the oil or salve fresh longer. There are a couple different ways to infuse oil. You can let the herbs and oil sit in the sunlight for a couple weeks, giving it a good shake now and then. Or you can heat the jar of oil in a crockpot on low overnight. Or you can heat the oil with the herb on the stovetop. But keep the heat low! IMG_2925I used the infused oil for my soap and I also made some salve by adding a few tablespoons of beeswax to the strained oils.IMG_2926 The last thing I did with my jewelweed was to make a tincture. I chopped the plant, put it in a mason jar and covered it with witch hazel. 100 proof vodka would work as well, but witch hazel is cheaper. If using vodka, the tincture can be taken internally, just a few drops in a shot glass of water. IMG_2909I keep the witch hazel infusion is a small glass spray bottle to apply topically to the infected area. This works not only for poison ivy, but for bug bites and burns as well. There is some controversy regarding tinctures and jewelweed so do your own research. But it works fabulous for us! You might think I’ve got a bit overboard with my remedies, but folks, if you could see Tommy and Benja suffer you would understand. It’s horrible. And we have poison ivy everywhere. And fences must be run. And forts must be built. And creeks must be explored. And boys must be boys.

This post is already too long, so I’ll share the rest of our wildcrafting adventures another day.

From Albuquerque, with love

IMG_6108These dried, red chile peppers came all the way across the country. Now that’s some love, I tell ya. We have friends that are native to the southwest and miss the red chile sauce that is everywhere down there. Chile. Not to be confused with chili. So, these little beauties trekked all the way across the desert to enhance the eating experience in Kentucky and Tennessee. Wow. I am so glad they did. This red sauce is not like anything I’ve tasted before. Smooth. Rich. A little heat. Flavor. So this is how to make it.IMG_6101Soak the dried peppers in hot water for just a few minutes, maybe 15-20 minutes. Then put the softened peppers in the blender with a bit of water. After blending til smooth, run the paste through the food mill. This gets out any seeds and skins. Now this delicious red concentrate is ready for the freezer or to be made into gravy. IMG_6113 - CopyTo make it into a gravy, add about 1 cup to a roux. A roux is a mixture of flour and fat. You can make a roux with butter, lard, bacon grease, shortening, etc. Mix in some cumin, oregano, salt and garlic powder. Add about 1 cup of water to this mixture and now pour it over enchiladas, over eggs, over potatoes, over chips, over anything you can think of. After mixing up this sauce with a friend I was sent home with a container of this red gold and a package of chile seeds. So if I can grow them in the garden we will have a never ending supply of yumminess. IMG_6103

After the chile lesson, we switched roles and had an informal soap class. A fun morning of learning new things closing with a delicious meal of homemade enchildads smothered in chile sauce! IMG_6080

Thanks, Tripod

Another way I enjoy using the milk from Tripod.soapmay2014 002


My recipe for Goat Milk Soap

2# coconut oil

2# lard

1# palm oil

1# castor oil

2# milk

10oz lye

1oz tangerine E.O.

1/2 oz clove E.O.

You must watch the lye/milk mixture very closely to make sure the milk doesn’t burn. Add the lye slowly to slushy, half frozen goat milk.soapmay2014 004Try to keep it at 90 degrees or less. Next melt your oils together over low heat. soapmay2014 003Pour the lye mixture into the oils and mix with an immersion blender until “trace”. That is when you can see the trail left behind a drizzle of soap. soapmay2014 006Pour into molds but do not cover or insulate as you would a normal water/lye batch of soap. At all costs, keep this soap cool at every stage. After 24 hours cut into bars. I love the wooden soap molds my dad made for me. They have removeable ends with a guide for cutting the bars nice and even.

Applesauce and soap

While the girls and Jeremie were out riding the horses, the boys and I were busy at home. I finished the last of our apples by making a couple batches of applesauce and canning it. 10-13-13 038 10-13-13 039I figure we need at least 100 quarts of applesauce to get us through til next year. 14 down, 86 to go! I love to can outside. It keeps the kitchen from heating up and I am not supposed to can on my flat top stove anyway. We got this double propane stove from  craigslist, but Jeremie has not hooked it up yet. So I canned on the little propane burner that we use to scald chickens. It works great with my water bath canner and the taller stove made a great “counter-top”.10-13-13 041


While the applesauce was cooking and such I started a batch of goat milk soap. This time I tried a hot-process soap. Hot process soap is different than cold-process in that after the oils are mixed with the lye, the soap is heated in a crockpot to saponify the lye. Hot process soap is ready to use in the next couple of days or week, while cold process soap has to cure for a couple months. Here are the oils (olive, lard and coconut) melting in the crockpot (that I scored for $1 at a garage sale last weekend!) HOTPROCESSSOAP 003Here is the lye water mixed with raw goat’s milk. It is always a challenge when working with goat milk because it is so easy to scorch it with the heat of the lye. It is best to freeze the milk and let it defrost to a slushy stage. Then SLOWLY add in the lye/water mixture so that the milk doesn’t burn. Burned milk causes a dis-colored bar of soap and you miss out on all the great benefits of raw goat milk soap.HOTPROCESSSOAP 002See how the milk is still nice and white? Then you mix it all together in the crock pot, let it cook for an hour or so. By then it is the consistency of mashed potatoes. I added patchouli essential oil (thanks, Jerrie!) and put it in the mold. In the morning I cut the beautiful bars and plan to use them this coming week. I hate waiting months to see if a recipe is to my liking or not, so this hot-process soap gratifies my impatience.

More soapmaking…

I have been wanting to try making liquid hand soap for months now. It’s quite a more involved process than regular hard soap. You start by making a soap “paste” out of oils, water and KOH, potassium hydroxide. This looks like clear taffy and is impossibly thick and hard to work with. Then you dissolve this paste in warm water to dilute it.DSCF5140It took all day. But I didn’t have to hover over it for most of the time. It just needed a stir every now and then. After diluting the soap paste in water, the solution needs to be buffered to bring the PH to the right level. This is a borax solution; my other options were to make a citric acid or boric acid solution. DSCF5141After mixing that into the soap mixture I added scent and color. I scented some spicy tangerine, some pomegranate berry, and some clove/sage. Now it needs to settle for 1 week for optimum clarity. It looks so pretty and clear in glass jars. The kids wanted to color some, so they chose teal, and purple and orange. It’s hard with color because the original solution is tinted yellowish already, so we learned a bit about mixing colors as well.DSCF5184Jeremie is so patient with all the concoctions and soap products I have curing in our bathroom, lol :)!