Worm composting, or vermicomposting, is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to compost kitchen scraps. The end product of the composting process is sometimes referred to as Black Gold because it is one of the most nutrient rich sources of fertilizer available. The best thing about worm composting is that it is easy, fun, and cheap and can be done indoors — even in an apartment.
Vermicomposting uses manure worms (not earthworms) to break down decomposing food scraps. The most commonly used manure worms are called red wrigglers and can be bought by the pound online — look on kijiji.
These worms are smaller than the earthworms we are used to seeing when we dig in our gardens.. In the wild they live in forests and work at decomposing the decaying materials on the forest floor. They can also be found — as their name suggests — in steaming piles of manure.
Red wrigglers, the manure worms commercially used for vermicomposting, originate in California so they are not cold‐hardy. This means, in regions that get a cold winter, they are best suited for indoor bins and are ideal for people who do not have access to a backyard for composting. Vermicomposting is also great for folks who want to supplement their outdoor composting in order to quickly create amazing fertilizer for their gardens and plants.
Here’s how it works: Red wrigglers can eat half their body weight of food scraps each day. They eat the food and quickly pass it through their body. The result — worm poop or vermicompost — is the amazing black gold that is filled with beneficial bacteria and nutrients.
Starting a worm bin
Red wrigglers don’t live deep in soil like earthworms. They live in decaying materials at the surface so they can easily live in small human‐created composters. You can make a simple worm composting bin out of two plastic storage containers. Drill holes in the sides and bottom of one storage container and put it inside the other one. Drill holes in the lid.
When you first receive a package of worms, they will come with some vermicompost and their egg cases. You will need to add some bedding - I use damp shredded newsprint and some grit (sand or ground up eggshells). When you first set up a vermicompost bin, wait a few days before you start feeding the worms kitchen scraps. Start with a small amount — about two cups. Remember to always bury the food under the bedding.
A pound of worms can contain up to 1000 worms. The worms will regulate their population depending on the amount of room they have and the amount of food they are being given.
Under ideal situations, a pound of worms can eat up to ½ pound of food scraps every few days. The best way to determine if your worms are being over or underfed is to feed them food — remembering to bury it under the bedding ‐ and check in a few days later. When it looks like the worms are breaking it down, add more. If there are still a lot of intact food scraps, wait a few more day before feeding them. You will have to replace the bedding periodically. Simply rip some newspaper into strips, soak them in water and wring them out. Fluff them up and put them on top of the worms.
Amazing facts about worms!
1. All worms are intersex. They have both male and female parts and can freely reproduce with each other
2. Worms do not have teeth but have powerful muscles in their mouth that take in the food and move it down their digestive tract.
3. Worms lay (release?) an egg case out of which about 5 baby worms emerge. Looking for egg cases in your worms bin is an easy way to determine how healthy and happy your worms are. They look kind of like dill seeds.
4. Worms do not have eyes but they move, find food, and find each other through their skin, which is sensitive to both touch and light.
5. Some people claim that composting worms can live up to three years!
Feeding your worms
Harvesting the worm poop
When your worms are healthy and happy they will produce lots of castings. How do you separate the worms and their castings to put this amazing fertilizer onto your garden/plants? You can take a handful and pick out the worms and egg cases but this is a time consuming endeavour.
Here’s an easy way to harvest the castings: take the lid off the bin and put all the bedding and food to one side. Make sure the bin is in a place with bright sunlight or turn on the lights. Most of the worms will eventually crawl over to the side of the bin with the bedding and food. Most will migrate to the bottom of the bin to escape the light. This makes it much easier to get worm‐free castings (I still pick out any extra worms and egg cases).
You can put the castings directly on your garden or houseplants. You can also make a nutrient‐rich worm tea for even more impact.
How to make worm compost tea
1. Fill a 5 L bucket with warm water
2. Mix in 1/3 cup of molasses and stir well
3. Put a cup of castings into a nylon and tie it closed
4. Put the “tea bag” in the water
5. Take an aquarium pump and attach to an air stone (you can buy both at pet stores). Put the stone into the bucket and let bubble continuously for 48 hours. This is crucial as it helps the good bacteria to grow.
6. Dump the tea on your garden and plants for a bacteria and nutrient rich feeding or put in a spray bottle and spray on foliage.
I am a permaculture educator, feminist and anti-racist activist in London, ON, Canada. I am currently a PhD candidate in Geography at Western University, where I study the relationship between people and bees in cities. My M.A. in Anthropology, also at Western University, focused on gentrification and belonging in a community garden in Toronto. I live in a suburban permaculture sanctuary with my family, two dogs, three cats, two bunnies, and thousands of gorgeous, busy bees. I maintain the blog Permaculture for the People.
Want to know more?
I am so excited to be teaching urban permaculture as part of the first online Permaculture Design Certificate taught exclusively by women. If you would like to know more or would like to have me as your permaculture design reviewer, please check out my blog and get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
#vermicomposting #wormcomposting #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #permaculture
By Heather Jo Flores
Some of our favorite foods are fermented, such as beer, wine, bread, cheese, pickles, salami, yogurt, tempeh, vinegar, kombucha, kimchi and many more. And whether you are a devoted foodie with a well-stocked fermentation station on your kitchen counter or just somebody who loves a Reuben sandwich, one of the simplest and most satisfying fermented foods to make at home is good, old-fashioned sauerkraut.
If you've never experimented with home ferments, sauerkraut could be the gateway. It is easy to make, hard to mess up, and once you've got the hang of how to make a good kraut, you'll be set up with the tools to branch out into more complex recipes like kimchi and kefir.
Myself, I prefer kraut to all the rest. I learned this recipe during a hands-on workshops with fermentation guru Sandor Ellix Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved. For a labyrinth of delightful fermentation recipes, visit his website www.wildfermentation.com.
All of your supplies should be freshly cleaned in hot water. Don't bleach them but make sure they are free of dirt and debris.
Large stainless steel bowl
Sharp kitchen knife, not serrated
Large cutting board
A ½ gallon Mason jar, wide-mouthed
A smaller glass jar, narrow enough to fit easily into the mouth of the larger jar
A sanded and boiled 2-inch-wide, 10-inch-long wooden dowel or a clean, empty Tabasco bottle with the label removed
A clean, lightweight cotton cloth, such as a dish towel or pillowcase.
Ingredients and method:
1 large head of green cabbage
1 medium head of red cabbage
3 tablespoons non-iodized natural sea salt
(Optional ingredients could include juniper berries, radishes, daikon, carrots, garlic, horseradish, bok choy, onion, goji berries, currants, hot peppers or any range of small fruits, seeds and veggies, but I recommend starting with just a simple kraut of only cabbage and salt and then experimenting with other ingredients later on down the line.)
Wash the cabbage, remove the largest outer leaves and set it aside. Slice the cabbages in half and carve out the small, hard core. Some people include this in the kraut, but I find it doesn't ferment as well as the rest.
Taking your time, slice up the cabbage into very thin strips. Mix both colors into the large bowl, adding a dash of salt to each handful of cabbage.
When all of the cabbage is in the bowl, sprinkle the remainder of the salt over the top.
Squeeze and rub the cabbage with your hands, using your thumbs to work the salt into the leaves. Keep doing this until the cabbage feels wet and slippery, and the colors darken. This is the "cabbage massage" — the most important part of the kraut-making process.
DO NOT add water, vinegar, or any other liquid. This will cause your kraut to mold. Use only vegetables and salt.
Pack the cabbage into the large Mason jar, using the wooden dowel (or Tabasco bottle) to smash down each layer. If you have been thorough with your cabbage massage, a foamy liquid will start to form around the leaves as you pack them into the jar. Keep smashing and packing until all of the cabbage is rammed into the jar. Leave an inch or two of space at the top.
Rub salt on both sides of a few of the large cabbage leaves set aside at the beginning and place them over the top of the packed cabbage to create a leaf-lid that sits just under the top of the liquid level.
Now fill the smaller jar with water and seal it with a tight lid. Place this jar inside the mouth of the larger kraut jar to weigh the large leaves down on top of the kraut.
Wash and dry the steel bowl and place it under the jars to catch any liquid that overflows during the fermentation process. If you have ants, put a little water in the bottom of the bowl to trap them before they can crawl up into your kraut.
Drape your cotton cloth over the whole contraption to keep out bugs but allow in the happy ambient yeasts and bacteria that will help your kraut thrive. Keep it in a cool, dark place. Warm temperatures speed up the fermentation process, cold weather slows it down and super-hot weather could kill it.
Once or twice a day, uncover the kraut and remove the smaller jar and large lid-leaves. Smash the cabbage down. Smash, smash, smash! Wipe away any overflow liquid, replace the lid-leaves and smaller jar, and re-cover.
After about 5 days, begin tasting the kraut. My preferred flavor usually happens around 7 to 10 days. Longer fermentation time will usually yield stronger flavor and softer kraut.
Shorter time means lighter flavor and crunchier kraut. But if you let it go too long, it will get mushy and not so yummy. When it gets to the place where you love it, cap the large jar with a snug lid and refrigerate it.
If a murky film or fuzzy mold forms on the top or sides of your jars, don't worry. Just wipe it away with a clean cloth or carefully remove it with a spoon. If the kraut seems too dry, smash it more and perhaps add a pinch more salt.
That's it! My favorite way to eat it? Try mixing 1 part fresh kraut, 1 part chopped avocado and 1 part grated beets. Scoop this mixture into a boat of Romaine lettuce for a delectable, rainbow-colored, crunchy raw food snack.
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #growyourown #foodnotlawns #DIY
#foodforest #fermentation #sauerkraut
with Lichen June
Excerpted from our double certificate design course.
Plants are active participants in the vibrant and diverse community of soil life. There are more than 50 million genera of bacteria in the soil, and more than 50 million genera of fungi. Humans haven't named more than a small percentage, and we know very little about those which we have named. Thus, the vast majority of life in the soil, along with their relationships and functions, are unnamed and unknown.
By some accounts, humans have destroyed 50-80% of earth's topsoil. I find this so troubling, I almost don't know what to write next. However, this is a very clear case of, “the problem is the solution.” There is so much land devoid of life, so many layers and niches just waiting to be filled with diversity, life cycles, and carbon. Soil is an incredible and established reservoir that is ready to hold carbon, if only we nurture it back to life.
One method for improving the health of your soil is adding compost. Your food is only as healthy as the soil that it was grown in, so you'll want to give your soil biota something good to eat. In this mini class I will show you how to create your own compost.
Compost recipes and variations.
This recipe is a variation of the, 18 day Berkley method, and can teach you the basics. As you gain more experience, you can change the recipe. The greater variety of matter you put into your compost, the richer your soils become. You'll need 25-30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Some examples:
Sawdust is 500 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen.
Fish is 7 to 1.
Urine 1 to 1.
Chicken manure 12 to 1.
Rabbit manure 8 to 1.
Horse manure 20 to 1.
Green weeds 25 to 1.
If you can increase surface area by chopping or shredding, it will speed up decomposition. You will need a lot of materials. Don't go over 4 feet high or it will squeeze the air out. You can use a gravity fall pile, or a piece of wire fence. You'll need a long handled pitch fork with 3-5 prongs, a rake, and a cover to maintain moisture.
You need 1/3 of your materials to be manure, 1/3 high carbon material, or browns, and 1/3 fresh greens. Pitch them all together and mix them up. Then water the hill until it starts to leak water. If you have food scraps, those can be incorporated into the layers and covered. Make sure to avoid: meat, bones, grease, and dairy products. Avoid materials that have come into contact with: Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotic medications, and anything that will take your pH to one extreme or another.
Once you’re more familiar with this recipe, you can put an activator in the middle when you start the pile. These could include: Dead animal, fish, chopped comfrey, yarrow, nettle, or old compost. You have to be certain that you know your recipe, so your pile will cook and not go putrid. Some people urinate on their compost piles to increase the nitrogen. Some add menstrual blood as an activator.
Other common activators, by % of Nitrogen:
Alfalfa meal 2.4%.
Blood meal 15%.
Bone meal 4%.
Chicken manure (dry) 8%.
Coffee grounds 2.1%.
Rabbit manure (fresh) 2.4%.
Rabbit manure (dry) 12%.
Once you have built your pile, you will want to cover it if you are expecting rain. Place branches on top of the pile to hold the cover off the surface, allowing air to pass through. You can also build the pile inside to heat a greenhouse. If conditions are very hot, place your pile in the shade.
If you want to look at your compost activity under a microscope, put a handful of compost in a jar with water and shake for 10 minutes. Then get a pipette and drop one drop on a slide, under a cover sheet, to view under the microscope. Take five minutes to look at this and you will see thousands of organisms every second.
Carbon is more of a fungal food. Nitrogen is more of a bacterial food. Non-woody plants and pasture prefer bacteria rich soil. Trees prefer fungal/carbon rich soil. Flour, paper, cardboard are all fungal food. If you want more fungi in your compost, you can add something like oat flour on every turn.
You can test the temperature of your pile with a good quality compost thermometer. If the pile is hotter on the inside than the outside, then your pile is too dry. If your pile is hotter on the outside than the inside, then your pile is too wet. Compost kept between 131 – 140 degrees for 15 days will kill pathogens, parasites and weed seeds.
If you want to speed up the compost turning process, you can turn your pile every day for 10 to 12 days and get it done faster, but it will be more work. Make sure you put the outer layer in the center when turning your pile, and the inner layer on the surface.
Step-by-step guide to fast composting:
Day one: Create the pile.
Day four: turn it over, ideally putting the outer layers in the middle and the center on the surface, as you move and rebuild the pile. Replace branches and cover.
Day six: turn.
Day eight: Turn every two days.
How do you know if the moisture in your pile is adequate? Squeeze a handful of the matter from the compost pile. If one drop falls, it is perfect. More water than that, and the pile is too wet. No drops, and it is too dry.
The pile should also be very warm. If you put a glove on and push your arm into the pile up to your elbow, it shouldn't be so hot that you say, “Ow”.
Turn the pile on day ten, day twelve, day fourteen, day sixteen and by day eighteen it should be done. When it is just warm, dark brown, fine with only a few chunks, and an earthy smell, not putrid, then it is done.
How do you fix problems with your compost recipe? If you get to day 6 or 8 and your compost is not hot enough, ask yourself:
If the pile is too wet, you've got to put a hole in the center with your pitchfork handle and place a chimney in the middle to let it steam off. If it is too dry, just water it.
If you have too much nitrogen it will loose volume fast and smell very bad. Carbon is your sponge and carbon will slow it down.
If your compost goes a little anaerobic in places for lack of air, it will present a white moldy looking powder. That is the first indicator that you've gone over the line in temperature or moisture and need to make an adjustment.
You want 10 compost heaps to an acre if you want to kick off an organic crop garden system.
Your soil will hold more water at the end of this process.
When you get skilled at turning your pile, you can do it in 20 minutes. That's 3 hours of work total for this 18 day recipe. One compost heap this size, spread around a garden, will grow vegetables for one year, for one person.
Slow compostTurning a pile every two days is not for everyone. If you are too busy, you can turn your pile once every 7-10 days. At that rate your compost will be finished in 1-3 months.
If you need to go more slowly, that's okay. You can always assess what your compost needs are when you turn it, and add accordingly.
Alternately, you can make an add as you go pile. This requires even less effort, as there is no need to separate your kitchen waste, yard debris, and clippings. Unfortunately, it decomposes at a slower rate of 3-8 months. It is prone to odor problems because the lack of turning allows it to go anaerobic. It doesn't heat up well, which means it does not kill weed seeds and pathogens. It will be less nutrient dense. It might attract pests if uncovered.
If you mix your sieved compost with sharp river sand from the inside bends of creeks or rivers, you can make your own potting mix. The smaller the seed the more sand you want in the mix, for example, carrot seeds, etc. With large seeds you can use 50/50 compost and sand.
You can also extend your compost by making compost tea.
One way that you can measure the success of your compost is to use a refractometer.
The refractometer measures refracted light through plant fluid. Inside is a gauge, and in that gauge is a blue line. It is used to measure the starch and sugars in fruit. If the starch goes up, the plant is probably feeding and happily using your compost. This shows an increase in the nutrient density in food. Caution: If you use this to measure the nutrient density of food from the supermarket, you won't find it easy to spend money on commercially grown produce ever again.
Now that you’ve seen different methods of creating compost all that’s left is to choose the method that is right for you and to do it! However, if you want to be energy efficient, make your compost near where you are going to use it! Have fun!
This miniclass is excerpted from the Soil Basics module of our double-certificate design course, taught by Lichen June.
Lichen June is a writer, speaker, educator and stuntwoman. Raised on a dairy goat farm by a naturalist mother and gardening father, Lichen was given a profound sense of ethics and relationship with the natural world. As an activist Lichen has been producing educational events and doing publicity on environmental issues for over 20 years. Teaching communication and ethics since 2008, and permaculture since 2013, Lichen studied permaculture with Geoff Lawton and Toby Hemenway, and received her certificate from PRI Australia. Lichen is the Executive Director of the NW Permaculture Institute, and co-founder of Elephant Head Educational Designs, creators of regenerative learning materials.
Further reading on this topic:
Darwish, Leila. Earth Repair: a Grassroots Guide to Healing Toxic and Damaged Landscapes. New Society Publishers, 2013.
Hosking, Rebecca. Building Soil with Regenerative Agriculture. Permaculture.co.uk: Permaculture People/Permaculture Magazine, 2015.
#compost #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #foodnotlawns
1 cup water
2 cups of liquid castile soap
4 tablespoons melted coconut oil
10–15 drops lavender essential oil or essential oils of your choice.
Never use clove oil or oregano oil directly on the skin as they will burn. If you choose peppermint essential oil, use only half of the suggested number of drops. To be safe, stick to gentle essential oils such as lavender and rosemary. Small amounts of peppermint, tea tree or other safe essential oils can be used as well.
Whisk all ingredients together in a measuring cup. Using a funnel, fill a reused body wash bottle or squirt bottle. Be sure to label. Use 1 or 2 squeezes per wash.
1 cup water
1/2 cup liquid castile soap
8 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoons coconut or calendula oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil
10 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops rosemary essential oil
Whisk together all ingredients in a measuring cup. Funnel into reused shampoo bottle. Be sure to label. Use 1 or 2 squeezes per shampoo.
Natural Mint Toothpaste
6 tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon Celtic sea salt
5–10 drops peppermint or spearmint essential oil
1 tablespoon water
Mix together ingredients in a small plastic container with lid. Be sure to label. Use ½ teaspoon per cleaning. Use within three months.
1 cup water
½ cup vodka
10–15 drops of peppermint or spearmint essential oil
2 teaspoons aloe vera gel (optional)
5 teaspoons liquid vegetable glycerin (optional)
Bring water and vodka to a boil and then let cool. Add 10–15 drops of peppermint or spearmint essential oil and mix well. If you like, add in aloe vera gel and liquid vegetable glycerin. Transfer to a recycled mouthwash container and shake well before each use. Be sure to label. Use 1 capful per rinse.
1 cup coconut oil
½ ounce beeswax
1 ounce shea butter
1 tablespoon vitamin E oil
40 drops lavender essential oil
1 tablespoon zinc oxide
Mix coconut oil, vitamin E oil, beeswax and shea butter together in a double boiler. Let cool. Stir in essential oils and zinc oxide. Store in small recycled jars (baby food size) jars with tight fitting lids.
Natural Baby Wipes
Medium stack of heavy-duty organic cloths (30)
2 cups water
½ cup aloe vera juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons calendula oil or vitamin E oil
1 tablespoons liquid castile soap
2 drops lavender essential oil
Whisk all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Gently press down cloths into liquid so it is all absorbed. Place wet wipes in a reused wipe box with lid. Be sure to label.
1 cup coconut oil (infused with 1/8 cup dried calendula flowers, 1/8 cup chamomile flowers and 5 plantain leaves,)
¾ cup shea butter
1 tablespoon vitamin E oil
15 drops lavender essential oil
1 tablespoon zinc oxide
Infuse coconut oil with flowers and plantain on low heat for 20 minutes. Strain. Mix coconut oil and shea butter together in the top of a double boiler. Let cool. Stir in essential oils and zinc oxide. Store in recycled shallow jars with tight-fitting lids.
#naturalbodycare #herbalbodycare #herbs #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #DIY
This article was originally published in The Healthy Planet Magazine
The Autumn Equinox sends a signal to the backyard gardeners’ cerebral cortex, gently reminding us that the harvest season has arrived and that now is the time to be preserving and putting up food for the winter. Within just a couple of short months, the garden will once again die off for the year, becoming dormant and barren, giving the soil a time to rest.
An avid gardener’s greatest bounty occurs at this time of year. The seasoned homesteaders and canners have it down to a science, putting up multiple jars of canned tomatoes, sauces, salsas, fruits, vegetables, jams and jellies. Hats off to those folks. Becoming skilled in this age old hobby requires knowledge of safety measures and temperature regulation to prevent risks of botulism and temperamental pressure canners. I would recommend taking a few classes through your local Extension Office before delving into the art of pressure canning. For beginners, it is best to stick to the basics such as hot water bath canning and freezing.
Freezing is an underutilized and excellent way to preserve your garden bounty — and it’s virtually fool-proof. Below are 4 simple suggestions:For squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes or eggplant, fully cook or blanch and freeze them in a freezer bag for quick meal additions.
For vegetables such as peppers, corn or onions, just chop and freeze them to later add to omelettes, quiches, stir-fries, or other meals. This will make meal preparation more convenient too!
With your harvest, cook large batches of soups or stews and freeze in freezer bags to thaw and heat in any amount you desire.
Make batches of sauces or salsas and freeze in individual labeled freezer bags.
Grill a large quantity of veggies at a time, cut into strips, and freeze in labeled freezer bags to have the taste of summer any time of the year.
Herbs are one of those garden glories that often get overlooked during the frenzy of harvest and canning season. Culinary herbs are not only flavorful, but are very nutritious and often highly medicinal. Common herbs and spices contain a plethora of medicinal qualities including antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
Fresh herbs of course should be properly identified and researched before being ingested medicinally. There are many contraindications such as during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Consult an herbalist to discover an herbal regimen that suits your needs.
In the meantime, start preserving your culinary herbs! Most of the herbs are at their prime right now. Don’t miss the chance to preserve that beautiful fresh herb flavor to use in all of your culinary creations throughout the winter months.
Here are some simple ways to preserve your herbs:
Either hang bundled herbs upside down with a string in a dry place, or buy a food dehydrator. When the leaves are crisp and dry, remove from stems and store in labeled glass jars. Be sure to include the date. Once you have multiple dried herbs, you can create custom spice blends. Create a handmade label and give as gifts to friends and family.
One of the easiest ways to capture an herbs essence is to simply cut fresh herbs with a pair of scissors and freeze them in ice cube trays. Use fresh herbs. Cut the leaves from stems. Fill ice cube trays with water, and then place herbs into each cube space. Freeze overnight. Place frozen herb ice cubes in labeled freezer bags. These work well for adding to soups, stews or sauces.
Herbal Vinegars & Olive Oils
Simply place clean, dry herbs in a jar of either vinegar or extra virgin olive oil. Store in airtight, labeled jars. Hardy herbs such as rosemary and thyme may stay in the jars. Remove leafy herbs such as basil and parsley after 1–2 weeks of steeping. Be sure to include the date on your label. No need to refrigerate. Use within 6 months.
Pesto is a simple way to prolong the freshness of herbs. Pesto can be made with any leafy herb. The basic pesto recipe is:
2 cups of fresh herb (leaves only)
1/4 cup of nuts (any nuts will work.
You can also use sunflower or pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup of olive oil.
A pinch of salt
A tablespoon of lemon juice to preserve freshness.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until you reach desired consistency.
Pesto can be made from basil, parsley, cilantro, chervil, dill, mint, lemon balm, as well as from lettuce, arugula, kale and chard. Pesto can also be made from wild edible weeds such as lambs quarters and chickweed. Freeze excess pesto in labeled freezer bags or in ice cube trays which can be stored in freezer bags when frozen.
Create your favorite herb combinations. Remove herb leaves from stems. (Use stems later in a broth.) Chop herbs finely. Melt a stick of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté herbs gently and remove from heat. Pour the melted butter in baby food jars. Stir while the jar is cooling. Once the butter has cooled, place in the refrigerator. If you desire whipped butter, simply whip the melted herb butter in a food processor and store in baby food jars in the refrigerator.
#foodpreservation #herbs #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen
It’s not too late to join La Vista CSA Farm, just in time for Harvest Season! Prorated shares are still available. Convenient CSA pickup at Garden Heights Nursery 1605 South Big Bend Blvd. Visit www.lavistacsa.org to sign up or to find out more about Community Supported Agriculture.
Happy Harvesting & Preserving!
By Heather Jo Flores
We can't grow chocolate or avocados in most places, but of all the ways in which we indulge in imported resources, these are two of the most nutritious, delicious and versatile treats. Combine them, toss in a few more ingredients and you get: vegan, raw, gluten-free, sugar-free, high-protein, antioxidant avocado chocolate pudding!
Say it three times without stopping — that's how long it will take you throw together this tasty and healthy family favorite. I invented it while trying to eat healthier a few years ago. It's just about 300 calories per serving, packed with protein and other nutrients. Eat it for breakfast or as a dessert. I know you'll love chocomole as much as I do.
Ingredients and method:
¼ cup unsweetened milk (almond, coconut, cow or goat)
¼ cup maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons powdered hemp seed
2 tablespoons almond, hazelnut, cashew or peanut butter (try different versions and see what you like best)
Optional add-ins: flax or almond oil, dates, walnuts, sunflower seeds, mint, coconut, cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a blender (my Mini Magic Bullet works well) and blend until smooth.
Add more milk as needed, incorporating one tablespoon at a time so the mixture is loose enough not to clog the blender. If you want a smoother pudding, add more milk, or try flax or almond oil. For a chunkier treat, fold in finely-chopped dates, seeds or nuts.
Pour the pudding into small bowls and serve. A dollop of yogurt or a sprinkle of coconut or cinnamon make nice toppings.
More in the mood for a milkshake? Starting with the above recipe, omit the nut butter and use a full cup of milk. If you're feeling really frisky, add a scoop of chocolate-flavored Coconut Bliss. Blend until frothy and serve with a straw.
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #growyourown #foodnotlawns #DIY
Tincture making is an ancient art that has been passed down through generations, usually from mother to daughter, around the globe.
Tinctures involve soaking herbs in a liquid — typically vodka, brandy, apple cider vinegar or vegetable glycerin — to extract the medicinal properties of the herbs. Alcohol tends to have a long shelf life so the tincture will last up to a year. Vinegar and glycerin tinctures have a shorter shelf life and may need to be refrigerated.
The liquid used in tincture making is known as the menstruum. The standard ratio for fresh herbs in tincture making is 1 part fresh herb to 2 parts menstruum. The standard ratio for dried herbs is 1 part dried herbs to 5 parts menstruum. Typically the herb will rise to the top of the jar, above the liquid surface. To prevent this from happening, weigh down your herbs with a crystal (be sure to sanitize the crystal first). For advanced tincture-making, 190-proof organic alcohol works best. Different herbs require varying concentrations of alcohol.
Herbs and flowers of your choice
Mason jar with lid
Alcohol (organic vodka or brandy)
1) Label your jar with contents and date.
2) Fill jar ¾ of the way full with herbs.
3) Fill jar halfway with alcohol.
4) Fill remaining space in jar with water, leaving one inch at the top of the jar.
5) Be sure your herbs are covered. If they are not, tamp them down with a spoon.
6) Shake vigorously for 1–2 minutes.
7) Store in a dark, cool, dry place.
8) Shake daily. Medicine will be ready in two weeks and will last up to one year.
#tincture #herbs #herbalremedies #wellness #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #DIY
By Heather Jo Flores
I spent almost a year living in Granada, Spain. The whole city is filled with gardens. Figs and pomegranates grow as weeds; Mediterranean climate at its very best. And all summer long, we drank gazpacho made from local ingredients. Gazpacho is often called a "cold soup" by gringos, but in Spain it is served over ice as an afternoon drink on hot summer days. Delicious and refreshing!
Here is a quick rundown of everything you will need to make homegrown gazpacho, followed by a recipe I learned from a Native Andalusian chef. The varietal recommendations are my own, based on my experience and the flavors that I find work best.
Any tomatoes will do but for gazpacho I prefer Roma, Beefsteak and Ox-heart varieties. Or try a combination of San Marzano, Brandywine and any color Ox-heart. Black Krim also makes an excellent gazpacho. Or take the traditional route and use only Romas with the seeds and skin removed. Me, I just throw the whole tomato in. Make sure to choose the ripest, sweetest ones. Underripe tomatoes don't yield the right texture.
Lemon cukes work great, especially the big ones that get knobby skin and start to turn green! You don't need a lot of cucumber for a batch of gazpacho. Just find a medium-sized one, peel it, remove the seeds and toss it in. If you don't grow lemon cukes, any salad cucumber will work just fine. Even pickling cukes. The cucumber in the gazpacho is really more for texture than flavor, so as long as you remove the skin and seeds, you're all good.
Poblano are my absolute favorite pepper to use in gazpacho. I also really like Anaheim, but be sure to remove every single seed! Gazpacho is not supposed to be spicy at all. It is a soothing, nourishing summer drink for when your energy wanes on a hot afternoon. A siesta snack, as it were.
Yellow Spanish onions are the traditional type to use. Any variety will do just fine. For a slightly different flavor, try my favorite, Red Torpedo onions. These are easy to grow in our climate, despite their large size. They don't store quite as well as other onions, but in my experience, they never last that long anyway because they are so delicious.
No batch of gazpacho is complete without just a smidgen of garlic to set off the other flavors. Not surprisingly, my favorite is Spanish Roja. It just seems to have that perfect, authentic flavor. Garlic flavors vary widely and, for some reason, the subtlety of good gazpacho seems especially susceptible to ruination by too much garlic, or by the wrong kind. Experiment a little to see how you like it.
Apples are not a traditional gazpacho ingredient, and they weren't in that recipe I learned from my Spanish friend. But a fellow gardener who is gluten-free recommended I use apples instead of bread in the recipe, and I love it, so I include an apple tree in my gazpacho garden design. My favorite apples to use are Pink Lady, Gala and Granny Smith. Choose a fruit that is still a few days underripe. Think of the texture of hard bread.
This is an optional ingredient in gazpacho, and some people don't like cilantro at all. Evidently, it's actually a gene in your DNA that makes cilantro taste like soap. Anyway, I love cilantro and include it here because it makes a lovely garnish. Any variety will work just fine.
All of the other ingredients in gazpacho are probably staples in your kitchen: olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper. Here's the recipe:
Measurements are not exact. Add or subtract spicy ingredients to suit your taste.
1 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed
1 or 2 peppers, seeds removed
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 apple, seeds removed and sliced OR 1 apple-sized slice of hard sourdough bread
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 sprig of cilantro
Combine salt, pepper, oil and vinegar in a bowl and marinate the sliced apple (or bread) for at least an hour. Put all ingredients in a blender and cover with just enough water to make it blend into a smoothie-like consistency. It should be drinkable through a straw. Serve over ice in chilled pint glasses and sprinkle chopped cilantro on top.
#permaculture #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #growyourown #foodnotlawns #DIY
Cold Infusions can be made by steeping fresh herbs in cold water for an hour or more. Hot infusions are soothing, warming and comforting during winter months. Herbs can be steeped for 5–10 minutes to extract the active constituents and the medicinal benefits from the herb. Leaves and flowers require less time to steep than roots and bark.
Try the following herbs when you are feeling under the weather.
Cold and Flu Support
Slippery Elm Bark (ethically harvested)
Pau d’ Arco Bark
New England Aster Flower
Red Clover Blossoms
Calendula Flower Petals
Oregon Grape extract
Pau d’ Arco Bark
red clover blossoms
St. John’s wort
Natural Stress Relief
St. John’s Wort
Red Clover Blossoms
Red Raspberry Leaf
St. Johns Wort
Roselle, red clover flowers, calendula flowers, chrysanthemum flowers, Echinacea petals, rose hips, lemon balm, red raspberry leaf, nettles
ginger root, TULSI, peppermint leaf, basil leaf, and chamomile flowers
Rest and relax
chamomile and valerian root
kava kava, chamomile flowers, spearmint, passionflower herb, rose petals, lavender flowers and cinnamon bark
peppermint leaves and lavender flowers
Crystal Stevens is an Author, an Artist/Art Teacher, a Folk Herbalist, a Regenerative Farmer, and a Permaculturist. Crystal is the author of Grow Create Inspire and Worms at Work, published by New Society Publishers. Crystal speaks at conferences and Mother Earth News Fairs across the U.S.. She has been teaching a Resilient Living workshop series for over a decade. She is the Garden Manager at EarthDance Organic Farm School in Ferguson, MO, where her husband, Eric Stevens, is the Farm Manager. They have two children and live along the rolling hills of the Mississippi River near St. Louis. Visit them at www.growcreateinspire.com, on social media @growcreateinspire and @earthdancefarms
#herbs #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #DIY #herbalinfusions #botanicalteas
The following is an excerpt from my book, Grow Create Inspire.
Herbal oil infusions are used topically for dry skin or to heal blemishes. They can also be used to make lip balm, first-aid salve or other healing salves. Making an herbal oil infusion simply involves soaking herbs or flowers in a jar of oil, then straining the herb to use the oil.
Oil Infusion for First Aid Salve
Supplies + Ingredients:
1 Mason jar with lid
1 cup dried herbs or 3 cups fresh herbs (comfrey, dandelion, calendula, echinacea, plantain and lemon balm)
2 cups carrier oil (grape seed oil, extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, sweet almond oil or apricot oil)
3 capsules of vitamin E oil
1) Pack your herbs in a large glass jar, cover with oil and add vitamin E capsules, leaving an inch at the top.
2) Shake vigorously.
3) Seal the jar and leave it in a warm, slightly sunny place for two weeks, shaking daily.
4) Pour into a clean glass jar, straining through cheesecloth.
5) Squeeze as much oil through the bag, and pour into clean dark glass bottles.
6) Seal the bottles and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
This great general-purpose healing salve will make about 10 ounces.
2 cups of your herbal-infused oil (comfrey, chickweed, calendula, echinacea, plantain, lemon balm, dandelion)
1 ounce grated or chopped beeswax
3 vitamin E capsules of at least 400 units (this is your preservative)
10 drops of lavender essential oil
cheesecloth to strain herbs
double boiler, or 2 pots (one that fits inside of the other)
Glass measuring cup
Stainless steel container with a narrow pouring spout
Baby food jars or tins
Labels or a permanent marker
Place your herbal oil infusion in the top pot of your double boiler on a burner or on the stovetop.
Very GENTLY heat the oil mix on low.
Puncture and add your vitamin E capsules and then add your beeswax. Stir until it’s completely melted and blended.
Remove from heat and let cool just 1 or 2 minutes.
Add 10 drops of lavender essential oil and stir.
Pour into a wide mouth jar or several small jars. As it cools, the mixture will become semi-solid and the perfect salve consistency. First-aid salve may be used in place of double or triple antibiotic ointment. It helps to heal minor cuts, scrapes and burns. It also helps with bruises, dry skin, joint and muscle pain and even arthritis pain.
For a mint flavor, use peppermint and spearmint essential oils; for chai flavor, use small amounts of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove essential oils; for a citrus blend, use grapefruit and orange. Purchase pure essential oils online or at your local health food store. It is best to get pure food or cosmetic-grade essential oils. A few drops go a long way.
Basic Lip Balm recipe:
1 cup coconut oil or other solid carrier oil
(An herbal oil infusion with herbs such as chocolate mint could also be used)
½ cup hemp seed oil
2 tablespoons of vitamin E oil
1½ ounces beeswax (or ¾ ounce candelilla wax and ½ ounce soy wax — vegan option)
¼ ounce cocoa butter
10–15 drops of pure essential oils
Double boiler or 2 pots, one smaller than the other
Small stainless steel pitcher with spout
Approximately 50 lip balm tubes or tins (available online under the title “eco-friendly lip balm tubes”)
Heating element (stove top, double burner, etc…)
Have all ingredients available and ready. Set up lip balm tubes upright with enough space between each tube to grab and fill.
Pour about 2–3 inches of water into the bottom pot of a double boiler. Once the water boils, turn heat to low. Place beeswax (or candelilla wax and soy wax for vegan lip balm) and cocoa butter into the smaller stainless steel pot and stir frequently until completely melted.
Add coconut oil, hemp seed oil and vitamin E oil. Stir well until mixture is liquid again. Turn heat off. With a potholder, remove the pot with the mixture and pour it into the small stainless steel pitcher with the narrow spout. Stir in 10–15 drops of essential oils. Immediately pour mixture into the lip balm tubes. A pitcher with a narrow pour spout works fairly well if you pour slowly. Otherwise, use a stainless steel funnel. Let the tubes sit until they harden. Once they harden, put the caps on, wipe them with a clean damp cloth and label.
½ cup coconut oil
¼ cup shea butter
¼ cup cocoa butter
1 cup emulsifying wax
2 tablespoons vitamin E oil
4 cups hot water
¼ teaspoons of citric acid
Pure essential oils (pick gentle ones such as lavender)
Melt oils, butter and wax together in a double boiler on low. Put mixture and hot water into large stainless steel bowl. Mix for one minute using an electric mixer, or whip by hand. Store in a baby food jar with tight-fitting lid.
½ cup coconut oil
¼ cup shea butter
¼ cup cocoa butter
1 cup emulsifying wax
4 tablespoons beeswax
2 tablespoons vitamin E oil
4 cups hot water
¼ teaspoons of citric acid
10 tablespoons zinc oxide
10 tablespoons aloe vera gel
Pure essential oils (gentle ones such as lavender or eucalyptus)
Vegan option: replace beeswax with candelilla and soy wax.
Melt oils, butters and waxes together in a double boiler on low heat. Put melted mixture, hot water and citric acid into a large stainless steel mixing bowl. Mix for one minute using an electric mixer, or whip by hand.
After the mixture cools, add 10 tablespoons of zinc oxide and 10 tablespoons aloe vera gel. Increase zinc oxide and aloe vera gel if you would like to increase SPF. One tablespoons of each will increase the SPF by 5. For an insect repellent component, add 15 drops of citronella essential oil, 5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil, 10 drops of lemongrass essential oil and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. Store in baby food jars with tight fitting lids.
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#herbalremedies #wellness #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #DIY
The following is an excerpt from my book, Grow Create Inspire
Growing medicinal herbs in your garden fosters a relationship of understanding plants and their constituents. Once this connection has been established, herbs serve a purpose in your home system.
Often, medicinal herbs have stacking functions- They provide food and habitat for wildlife, they are helping to aerate the soil with their roots.
They are beautiful and create a peaceful and welcoming oasis in the garden. They provide medicine for humans. There are a number of ways to utilize homegrown medicinal herbs from the garden.
Stocking the home apothecary is a rewarding process which is fun, affordable, and beneficial to our health. Herbs can be easily dried and placed into labeled jars. Tinctures, tea blends, oil infusions, and salves are great herbal remedies to have on hand.
Herbal elixirs and herbal infusions are one of my favorite ways to use herbs. They really embody the essence of an herb through flavor, aroma, energetics and the effect the herb has on the mind, body, and spirit. Historically, herbal elixirs were used medicinally, as a pleasant way to treat a variety of ailments. Essentially, herbal elixirs involve steeping medicinal herbs in honey or, maple syrup, sometimes combining them with brandy or other alcohol, or fermenting them, such as medicinal meads.
Store bought beverages contain a large number of sugars, added sweeteners, artificial flavors, and additives. It’s easy to replace unhealthy beverages with delicious herbal infusions and elixirs.
Basic Herbal Elixir
Simply combine equal parts of herbal honey and herbal tincture. Fill a pint jar with medicinal herbs of your choice. Pour 1/3 pint of honey over the herbs, covering them all the way. Pour brandy over herbs and honey to fill the jar. Place a plastic lid on the jar and shake well. Place on a small plate to prevent leakage. Store in a dark cupboard for about a month. Strain the herbs. Enjoy the elixir 2 ounces at a time. Keep refrigerated to preserve longevity.
Herbal-infused Waters and Cold Herbal Infusions
Basic herbal infusion
An herbal infusion is created by simply steeping fresh herbs in water. Cold water infusions can be made using cold water infusions in the summer. Fruit can be added to the infusion to boost flavor and add electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals.
Cucumber Mint Water
Being out in the sun for extended lengths leaves us dehydrated and thirsty. I try to keep the farm crew hydrated with refreshing infused herbal water creations such as cucumber mint, strawberry fennel dandelion, and lemon balm with citrus fruit. The one that cools us off the most is cucumber mint.
Cucumbers are loaded with B vitamins and electrolytes. Mint has a cooling effect on the body and is good for temperature regulation. Mint also has antiviral properties and has a calming effect on the nervous system. Mint has been used throughout history to treat such ailments as headaches, liver complaints, digestive problems and colds.
Fill a 1-quart Mason jar with purified water. Add one sliced cucumber and 3 sprigs of mint. Let the cucumber and mint infuse in the water for at least 30 minutes.
Raspberry, Raspberry Leaf and Red Clover
Red raspberry leaf and red clover both help to promote women’s health, to tone the uterus and to reduce menstrual cramps, symptoms of PMS and hot flashes during menopause.
Fill a 1 quart Mason jar with purified water. Add 4 tablespoons of fresh red raspberry leaves, 2 tablespoons of red clover and ½ cup of raspberries.
Watermelon + Mint
Watermelon and mint are a refreshing combination for a hot summer day. Mint has a cooling effect on the body and is good for temperature regulation. Mint also has antiviral properties and has a calming effect on the nervous system. Mint has been used throughout history to treat such ailments as headaches, liver complaints, digestive problems and colds.
Strawberries are loaded with antioxidants and high in vitamin C and manganese. Fennel is nutrient-rich and aids in digestion and stomach upsets. Fill a 1-quart Mason jar with purified water. Add 3 chopped strawberries and 3 sprigs of fresh fennel. Infuse for at least 30 minutes.
Strawberries are loaded with antioxidants and high in vitamin C and manganese. Dandelions are vitamin- and nutrient-rich, boosting immunity. Fill a 1-quart Mason jar with purified water. Add 3 chopped strawberries and 10 dandelions. Infuse for at least 30 minutes.
Blackberries are rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. They are an excellent source of vitamin C. Sage is vitamin- and nutrient-rich and is a good lung tonic.
Fill a 1-quart Mason jar with purified water. Add ½ cup of fresh blackberries and 1 sprig of fresh sage. Infuse for at least 30 minutes.
Lavender Mixed Berry
Soothing and refreshing, rich in vitamins and minerals, antioxidant-rich. Fill a 1-quart Mason jar with purified water, mixed berries and lavender. Infuse for at least 30 minutes.
Soothing and relaxing.
Fill a 1-quart Mason jar with purified water. Add 2 sprigs of lavender and 10 chamomile flowers. Let the herbs infuse for about an hour before enjoying.
St. John’s Wort
Uplifting and mood-enhancing.
Fill a 1-quart Mason jar with purified water. Add 1 ounce of fresh St. John’s wort, leaves and flowers. Infuse herbs for about an hour before enjoying.
Purple Basil, Apple Mint, Echinacea, Tulsi
Uplifting, immune building, cooling, soothing, refreshing, overall health and well-being tonic. Fill a 1-quart Mason jar with purified water. Add 1 sprig each of purple basil, apple mint and tulsi. Add one echinacea flower or 1 tbsp of echinacea root. Let the herbs infuse for about an hour before enjoying.
Lemon Balm Herbal Lemonade
Lemon balm produces a very delightful herbal lemonade. Makes 2.5 gallons
Infuse 1 bunch of mint and 1 small bunch of lemon balm in 1 gallon of purified water and let steep for 30 to 60 minutes.
Add ½ dropper-full of liquid stevia extract. Add 1 cup of organic lemon juice concentrate. Add 3 sliced organic lemons. Add ½ bag of ice. Garnish with fresh herbs (mint, lemon balm, rosemary) and edible flowers. Add echinacea and St. John’s wort.
Nutrient-rich lemonade is high in vitamins and minerals, helps to cool the body and boost immunity and is an uplifting tonic.
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#herbs #herbalinfusions #herbalremedies #freepermaculture #permaculturewomen #medicinal plants
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Permaculture Women's Guild, and Heather Jo Flores.
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