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August 2017

Shining True with Goldenrod

Research shows that the color yellow is the happiest color, and I completely agree! The warm, stimulating effect of golden sunflowers, autumn leaves, and pale yellow houses certainly leads me to think positive thoughts. I’d not want to live in a world that lacks such a glorious hue.

Nor would I want to live in a world without the healing provisions plants can provide. The snappy yellow color often draws me in when I come across a patch of wildflowers. Which leads me to the delightfully cheery Goldenrod. You’re likely to find it in a natural area nearby right now. With over 130 various species, Goldenrod grows in some form in every state and readily around the world. A blazing summer beauty, Goldenrod has something for everyone in its repertoire of medicinal gifts.

For the Wildflower Gardener…

Goldenrod makes a lovely flowering perennial to add to any natural wildflower area. Whether you are looking for a bright plant to hover only a foot off the ground or tower seven feet above it, Goldenrod (in one of its various forms) will fit the bill.

The tiny, blooms atop the stem form a cluster of yellow-which attracts beneficial pollinators. Goldenrod leaves differ from species to species creating a great deal of diversity there, as well. It will happily take root along roadsides, in ditches and fields, and moist areas.

Although, it makes a lovely garden addition it can also spread like wildfire. Some even consider it an invasive weed. Whether it is cultivated by seed or rhizome, be sure to maintain its growth to prevent it from taking over.

For the Cook…

All parts of Goldenrod can be eaten, although it is advised that the top parts (flowers and upper leaves) are where the best flavors reside. Goldenrod produces a variety of different flavors, and much of that depends on what species it is you have available. Some are sweeter while others tend to be more bitter.

Eating seasonally is something that I strive to do. Having various additions to main courses throughout the year keeps my palate fresh and my creative juices flowing. Adding Goldenrod blossoms and leaves to a salad or cooked greens is a great way to include Goldenrod into your diet. You could also infuse the plant in some vinegar or honey to soak up and preserve the many medicinal benefits.

For the Home Medicine Maker…

Like other common medicinal plants, Goldenrod has many properties helpful in healing and restoring distressed and irritated systems of the body. Here are some examples:

Sneezing, Sniffling, and Allergies

Although unjustly blamed at times for causing allergies, Goldenrod is actually an impressive remedy for the classic symptoms associated with allergies, colds, and flu. As an astringent, Goldenrod can dry runny noses and watery eyes with ease. As an expectorant, it can unblock air passages by ridding the sinuses of mucus. And as a diaphoretic, Goldenrod will encourage the body to sweat and reduce fevers. Goldenrod can even provide relief for sore throats due to it antiseptic properties.

The best way to enjoy these benefits is to drink an infusion of Goldenrod tea.

UTI and Yeast Infections

Two very unpleasant things most women will deal with at some point in their lives. If you’ve ever dealt with a UTI or Yeast infection before, you know how painful and uncomfortable they are.

Goldenrod is an aquaretic. It will help to rid the body of water, but you won’t experience the loss of electrolytes. With a UTI it is important to continually flush the bladder as often as possible. Goldenrod is also anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. It will reduce irritation and relax tightened muscles that naturally occur when the bladder and urethra become infected.

Drinking Goldenrod infusions often throughout the day is an effective healing practice for UTIs.

Antifungal compounds allow Goldenrod to be an effective remedy for yeast infections. Using Goldenrod tops to make a strong infusion and used in a sitz bath will encourage the fungal infection to subside. Plus, you will be picking up the added benefits of Goldenrod being anti-inflammatory and calming to irritated tissues, as well.

Digestion

Goldenrod falls in the carminative category. This simply means it makes a great digestive remedy. Carminatives stimulate the digestive system-kicking it into high gear to work effectively at breaking down and ridding the body of waste. Therefore, Goldenrod comes to the aid of those experiencing discomfort from gas and bloating. It can help with stomach tension due to its antispasmodic properties, as well.

Drinking Goldenrod tea following a heavy meal would be wise for those prone to digestive upset.

For the Natural Body Care Crafter…

I woke up recently with one of the worst neck aches I’ve ever experienced. I wish I had a muscle rub salve ready to ease the pain. Then, I read that Goldenrod was especially helpful for this very purpose, and I knew what I would be doing later that day…making a Goldenrod infused oil to be turned into a salve later.

Goldenrod as a salve or poultice to be used externally can calm minor burns, skin irritations, and bruising. It even has reported benefits helping with eczema. And, a Goldenrod tincture is nice to have on hand for wounds. It can halt bleeding and promote healthy healing in minor wounds.

For Teens or those with Social Anxiety…

Do you or someone you know struggle with social anxiety? Often when I’m in a social situation or large groups, I find it difficult to let my true self shine through. I look at everyone else and imagine what they would think of how I live, the things I like, and how I prefer to spend my time. I feel so different.

This is precisely the reason to call upon a Goldenrod flower essence for help. A flower essence made with Goldenrod is suggested for those of us that tend to become a wallflower rather than show our inner selves to the world. That is why it is suggested for teens. During the teen years it is easy to follow along with everyone else while you try to figure out who you want to be. Adolescents may find that a Goldenrod flower essence will help them express themselves while staying true to themselves.

Flower essences are simple to make, and I love how they make me feel closer to nature in a spiritual way. You can easily find them for sale online, too. Either way, give it a try.  Over time it will make an impact on your ability to shine true, too.

For Knitters…

Another use for Goldenrod’s delightful yellow color is to go beyond the medicinal purpose, and bring it into your home for crafting. A lovely homesteading idea would be to make a natural dye from Goldenrod blossoms for wool fibers. I love this DIY (Goldenrod for Dying Yarn) on just how to go about this. I think it’s one of my goals to do this some day. Ultimate sustainability!

Plans for Goldenrod

It is easy to see there are many benefits to this blazing display of golden flowers. Unexpectedly stumbling across this beauty has my mind reeling with ideas for Goldenrod. I’d like to plant more of it throughout my yard. I’d like to make some homemade remedies and include it in some tea blends. And I (someday) would like to use it for dying yarns made from the fiber animals I hope to have.

All of these things are wonderful, but the most wonderful of all is that Goldenrod shows us how to show up as ourselves. Freely giving our all without holding back who we really are. So keep foraging. Keep crafting. And keep doing the things that make you, you. Don’t forget to show the world, too!

 

To Welcome Failure with Open Arms

I don’t like excuses. I just can’t stand them. So, I won’t feed you any. Simply put…I failed. My plans were beautiful and full of potential. But, they didn’t work out as I hoped they would. All I have to show for them are these barren patches of dirt in the front yard. Every day I step outside and see my failure.

It sounds harsh, but it is merely the truth—exactly as I see it. I was too wishful in thinking I could create a large, lavish herb garden in one growing season. I wanted more than 10 beds of plants I’d not grown before to thrive in my garden. However, I ended up with none.

“I must be a terrible plant grower. I should probably throw in my towel at ever being an herbalist.”

These are all things I’ve been telling myself as I think about this failure. But, that is my ego talking. There’s more to see and learn here, if I can be present with my failure—not wishing it away. Instead, asking it to stay and teach me a thing or two.

Failing is unpleasant, disappointing, and often extremely embarrassing. But failure brings just as many opportunities for growth as a success can offer. Perhaps even more! Let me share this dreamer’s story, and I’ll show you what I mean.

The Failure Part

Daisy sitting near one of my flower beds.

In late winter, I started getting antsy. I wanted to be planting, and I was ready for everything to turn green. I needed something to occupy my days while I waited for the spring. So, I started designing the perfect medicinal herb garden. Using graph paper, I measured everything out precisely as I wanted it. I surveyed the spot where I would put my garden. And I cleared the area of leaves and twigs.

By February I had my seeds ordered and the weeds were scraped clean from the beds where I would be planting them. I started the seeds in regular garden dirt to save money on buying soil. I figured I’d be able to tell when the plants sprouted, rather than the weeds that were hidden in the dirt. Wishful thinking!

Some of my seeds did sprout. I was able to identify them, and I was happy to see them coming up among the grassy weeds. Still, some of my plants did nothing.

I was beginning to feel overwhelmed as spring arrived. In addition to the herbs I wanted to grow, I had garden vegetables to plant. This was a first time garden year in this particular place. The garden needed heavy tilling and a fence before being ready for plants.

Also, life was happening outside the garden. New schedules and routines. House work, meeting others’ needs, appointments. Oh, and the chicks! We had chicks to care for now, too. The plants I did have starting to come up didn’t make it. There wasn’t enough of me to go around.

The Picking Myself Up Part

Of course, it is disappointing to think about the plants I would love to be wandering through right now. I am sad, and slightly embarrassed that my dreamy plans didn’t take shape this year. I was so eager to get started, and the next growing season feels like ages away. It would be easy for one to assume that my skills aren’t good enough to make this plan a reality. For a while, even I believed that to be true.

The easy route is to believe that, and just give up. I could find something else that might interest me and try that. Then, I don’t have to think about the fact that I failed anymore. On the other hand, a more difficult path I could take involves sitting with the unpleasant feelings in order to learn from them. It may be be the more difficult, but it will also be the more rewarding in the end.

So next year I will try again. I will attempt to grow medicinal herbs in garden beds. (I’m dreaming of it already.) But this time with a few new lessons learned.

These are my failure takeaways

  • Start small. Planning and attending to one small patch of herbs successfully growing in my garden will be much better than planning a large, diverse patch that leaves me with zero or only a few suffering plants. Remember, you are not a superhero. You can only do so much!
  • Take your time. It is common in our modern society to want everything right now. That is one area where I went wrong. I wanted a beautiful, elaborate garden to walk through this year. But these things take time. Adding on, little by little, to a strong foundation is the best route to go.
  • You can’t possess the plants. I wanted to control the plant. If it’s growing in my garden, I will have ready access to it and it will be mine-so I thought. However, I now understand that the plant is a free spirit. If I try to plant medicinal herbs with this controlling wish, they will sense that. I will always be in a rush, and never satisfied with them. If I change my tone and attend to them with appreciation I will have a much happier plant growing in my bed.
  • Be prepared to put in extra work. This summer became hot and dry very quickly. Next year, I must be prepared to put in extra trips to the lake to keep the plants cool and moist. A routine is helpful when it comes to adding extra seasonal chores.
  • Start sooner. My plants were started too late from seed. They didn’t get adequate time to establish themselves before the summer sun cooked their roots. Plan to build a small greenhouse to start seeds.
  • Don’t give up. I’ve learned many great lessons to take into next year’s growing season. Not to mention learning a little something about my stamina along the way. Keep trying, because this is going to happen!

Most often, the situations and events that leave us feeling uneasy and uncomfortable are the situations greatly needing our attention. They are trying to tell us something. My tendency is to push them away because they are so unpleasant. Yet, they always seem to offer the most room for growth. I’ve learned so much about myself from this process of thinking through a failure and forming a plan to try again-with the hopes of greater success.

Had I pushed this failure aside, or hid it under my bed I would not have identified little areas of weakness. And more importantly, I wouldn’t have determined how I could make them better. I challenge you to think about something you feel is a past failure. Can you too work through it, rather than giving up on it? I guarantee you will find out something new about yourself in the process. And, understanding ourselves a little better is always worth the effort, in my mind!

Naturally Deter Squirrels (and Other Critters) from Your Garden

My chickens are so polite. They love to share their food. The minute I put out some tasty sunflower seeds, they invite the squirrels over to share in their feast. It’s so nice to see them sharing their good fortune. I’m not quite sure where they get it from though, because I’m not a fan of sharing my garden vegetables with the squirrels, rabbits, or chipmunks.

The squirrels, especially, have been a menace this year. They especially enjoy the sweet cherry tomatoes planted about the garden. Now, I may find them extremely annoying, but that in no way means that I’d resort to putting toxic chemicals in the garden to drive them away. Nor would I like to see a squirrel hunt take place.

So what can one do?

Luckily, over the years I’ve collected a few methods for deterring small critters from the garden. With these few good tricks, you can chase the pesky squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, mice, and more away from your garden without harsh extremes that will hurt your plants or the animals stealing their fruits. 

Ways to Keep Small Critters Away from the Garden

Fence in the garden. Before moving to 22 acres covered in trees, I didn’t put a fence around my garden. But, now that our garden would be naturally bordered by trees on three sides, putting a fence up was a must. This hardly phases the squirrels. They simply climb up and over the cedar posts. However, using chicken wire to wrap around the garden has done a tremendous job at keeping our hefty rabbit population out. Be sure to bury the fence a little ways underground to prevent any clever burrowers.

Plant marigolds. Small animals (and many insect pests) detest the smell of marigolds. It is best to plant them around and throughout the garden to fill the air with their scent. Plus, your chickens will enjoy munching on some marigold seeds come fall.

Spread coffee grounds around. Another foul odor to critters that so many of us humans enjoy is coffee. Spread spent coffee grounds throughout the garden to deter pests, while also fertilizing your garden plants.

Scare them off with the scent of a predator. (I’ll warn you, this one is a bit weird. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, though.) Small critters (and even some large ones) are often skittish over the first signs of danger-not that I’m blaming them. By placing human or pet hair around the garden you are sending these pests a warning. The scent of a human or pet will likely send them packing. You can simply spread a bunch throughout the garden, or you can create a “repellent bag” to hang around the garden. Find out how to do that here. 

Sprinkle cayenne pepper on and around your plants. Cayenne pepper will make the leaves and fruits of your garden plants not so delightful-sending squirrels and their friends off in search of tastier food. Be sure to reapply frequently as it washes away with rain and watering. **I’ve read that cayenne pepper can be harmful to pollinators. I do not use this method until the end of July or August when I’ve noticed a decrease in the number of bees in the garden. Just in case.

Mix up a hot and spice spray. A cup of hot sauce, a pint of vinegar, and 12 mashed garlic cloves sitting in a spray bottle in the sun for a couple of days will be no match for those garden thieves. Spray this concoction on your plants, vegetables, and fruits and watch as the squirrels, rabbits, and others turn up their noses and head elsewhere for dinner.

Plant herbs. Probably my favorite suggestion. Similar to marigolds and coffee grounds, small rodents do not like the strong aromas coming from common kitchen herbs. Dispersing herb plants throughout the garden will discourage any critters from snatching your garden vegetables. And as an added bonus, you will have lovely homegrown herbs to add to your meals. A double win for you!

Your Best Bet for Success

I don’t believe any one of these is a magic solution better than another. Not one idea is a cure-all for squirrels, rabbits, or other small animals from wreaking havoc on your garden. These suggestions work best when you combine their benefits in your garden. With a bit of vigilance you can keep the critter population to a minimum in your garden.

Think about how much work you put in starting seeds, fertilizing and watering sprouts, and pruning plants. Don’t let all of that be carried off by woodland creatures for a free meal. Use these effective methods to rid small critters from your garden without toxic chemicals or harming the animals. Just simple, all-natural ways to deter pests so you can enjoy the harvest you most assuredly deserve!

Have you dabbled in critter control before around your garden? What is your most effective method?