plain plantain

Susun Weed, herbalist and wise woman extraordinaire, refers to Plantain as “Plain Amazing”, though says that this humble plant prefers to be known as just “Plain Plantain”.

Plantago Lanceolata

Plantago Lanceolata

Recently I’ve been finding my path back to herbalism a joyful one. I take a walkabout and greet familiar herbs as old friends. Truly, it seems that once you establish a relationship with these plants (plants that most of my neighbors would deem noxious weeds), they become pieces of beauty and sources of hope in my everyday. Plantain has been that for me these last few weeks.

Known to many Native tribes as “White Man’s Foot” or “Englishman’s Foot” because it seemed to spring up wherever the early white settlers traveled, it was used to treat wounds of the skin like inflammation, cuts, and bruising, as well as for drawing out splinters and poison. They also used it internally to treat coughs, colds and bronchitis. The Navajo said Plantain is one of the life medicines. I like that. They would also use it in ceremony for protection.

Plantain is literally everywhere. Just look down. You can generally find one kind or another growing somewhere nearby. Here in Colorado it shows up early May and generally continues to spring up until August or later. We have two varieties in my yard. Broadleaf, which dominates, and a few Ribwort. The latter of which I wish we had more of because its thin leaves are useful band-aids. Most experts say either variety can be used for soothing irritated skin, (i.e. bug bites, rashes) and healing cuts and scrapes, among many other things.

plantain bandageThe easiest way to utilize this amazing herb is as a “spit” poultice, which is just like it sounds. Grab a couple leaves, chew them slightly and apply to affected area. Wrap with a cloth or bandage, (or use the Ribwort leaf and the very stingy fiber to tie it on) and reapply every few hours. Plantain is awesome because it heals from the inside out. It will actually keep the wound open until all of the harmful matter inside is gone.

Misc Google Images

Misc Google Images, a bit blurry.

Dried Plantain will work as well, but fresh is best. I’m currently preparing an infusion for an ointment out of olive oil and fresh picked leaves. I started it on July’s full Thunder moon and will let it infuse until August’s new moon, allowing approximately 6 weeks to extract its magic. I’ll either keep it as an oil or add some beeswax to make a salve. It should keep for about a year. I’ll use it for skin conditions like diaper rash on the baby, itchy rashes or bites, cuts and scrapes, and for drawing out stingers or splinters.

This “plain plantain” is no slouch. She’s kinda the Goddess of wild plants in my book. Again, I’d say that fresh is best, but drying the leaves to keep around for winter colds and coughs could be wise. Plantain is taken internally to treat respiratory illnesses, bronchial infections and pneumonia. John Gallagher considers Plantain on of the “big 3″ for easily found healers, along with Dandelion and Chickweed. He spins a quote that says, “The laying on of leaves is very powerful medicine.” I love that. Another herbalist, Jim McDonald, says that Plantain is great for digestive health and when combined with Slippery Elm is good for leaky gut. He also suggests it for UTI especially when used with Cornsilk.

On the folklore side of things (we are Folkways Farm, after all) Plantain is an herb of Venus and was an important element in numerous charms and love divinations. In old German lore, Plantain embodied the souls who still sought the light after entering the Underworld. It’s hung in the home and car as an herb of protection.

“Plantain has a compassionate stability that finds opportunity for growth in every situation.” Hmm… we should all strive to live like Plantain.

In short: Plantain should be your go to first aid herb. If you’re outside in nature (as you should be), there is always a possibility for some kind of scratch, sting or sunburn. Use Plantain. That’s what she’s there for. And please, get to know her other healing properties. She’s got dozens, and is a safe herb in general that can be taken regularly.

And of course, Plantain is an excellent edible, best when the leaves are picked young. Chocked full of usefuls (B, C, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron and Potassium), it’s a must add if you’re out picking yard greens.

thieves in the night.

folkways farm

So we have 7 munched on butternuts, and counting. Between squirrels, racoons and skunks I may go on a rampage. I was really excited about these squashes. Any advice on how to keep them from ravaging the rest?

a fall sowing.

I have been mostly non-participatory in our gardening ventures this year, so I’ve decided to try and do some late season planting and see what becomes of it. I’ve seen many an article on fall gardening to inspire me lately, and on this last day of the waxing moon I’m gonna put some seed in the ground.

There are a surprising amount of veggies that can be started this late. Certain beets, rainbow carrots, LOTS of greens; chard and spinach for example, and mustard greens and mesclun mixes. Also, none of our pumpkins took, so I’d like to go buy some late starts from Rick’s today, but I’m not sure I’ll have time.

It’s a busy day getting Daisy ready and making some last minute plans. She leaves tomorrow.

Seeds.

We’ve had some beautiful weather lately and Saturday Niko, Leelu and I played in the dirt. Leelu got a good taste (literally) of being a food gardener. We caught up on some overdue seed planting and now have some hope and butterflies for those little greenies to show their faces. Niko borrowed a book from the library called, “Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook“, which has proven useful so far. Our goal is to just keep learning, to get better and better every year. I’m looking forward to food this season. Fingers crossed over green thumbs.

*Beautiful white out less than a day later. Oh, Colorado. You vixen.

how to make a great salad

I know what you’re thinking. Salad? Seriously? How hard is it to make a salad?

And you’re right. It’s not. I’m just sharing, is all. Because I am The salad maker of the household (though the husband’s gettin’ pretty darn good). And we don’t tolerate no measly side salads ’round these parts.

So… without further ado:

Grab some greens and wash ‘em up. Any kind of greens will do. Except of course the harder winter greens, but that’s another post for another time. Preferably these greens come from your backyard or local farmer’s market, and of course, organic is ideal. (Bring on the bugs! Just don’t linger or you’ll get squished.)

Here's what landed in mine tonight: Og greenleaf, beets, carrots, radishes, red and green onions, blueberries, and good white chedder. Yum!

Open up your fridge and take out all edible produce. Especially what might be going (waste not want not), but is still hanging in there pre-chicken scrap. Chop up said produce. Throw on top of greens.

If you have any nuts, seeds, dried fruits, etc., throw those babies on, too.

Toss with your favorite dressing. Tada. Side salad my foot. That’s a meal, folks.

P.S. Don’t be nervous about mixing in what might not be a “normal” salad fixing. Just do it. I’ve had my best salads with just such random ingredients. Betcha won’t regret it!

hands dug deep

Niko and I enjoyed a date night on Thursday. It was wonderful. It’s been awhile since I’ve just been able to sit with my husband. When we went to hear Joel Salatin speak that was definitely nice, but this time we got to listen to each other for awhile. So necessary. We’re going to attempt date night once a month. Fingers crossed.

After visiting a local restaurant we took a long and lingering walk back home through our west-side neighborhood. I’m so grateful for walking. We miss so much riding in cars all the time, even bikes. Walking is such quiet reflection and observance. It was fun and inspirational to see what everyone was doing in their gardens, and amazing to discover homes and streets that we may not have tread on before. Even though I miss living in Manitou, and also long for the day when we have expansive open land to farm and roam, I give thanks that my feet are presently planted in a west-side neighborhood in Colorado Springs. If you lived in this part of the city, you’d probably be thankful too.

We got back from our date around 9. While I relieved Daze of her babysitting duties, Niko took to the garden by the dim light of a waning moon, mending beds that have been overrun by aphids. We’ve seen quite the loss from those pests. It’s been very discouraging. We’re not giving up, of course, we’ve just had to improvise. Since losing many of our own starts, we had to resort to purchasing plants from our local Garden Center. We’ll need to be extra diligent to make sure they stay healthy, even putting some of them into pots for the greenhouse, hoping to extend their season a little longer and offer a bit more protection. Something has already dug up one of my Lavender plants. Probably Benjamin pissed off that I blocked him from the catnip.

Much of our gardening waits until the twilight hour, often (for Niko) lasting well close to midnight. It’s just too bloody hot to be outside in the heat of the day. It’s alright though. It’s a nice way to wind down, with your hands dug deep into the earth.

Spring Rye

winter rye in june

Today is the third of June.  I just planted Winter Rye throughout the front “field” (that wee space between the sidewalk and the street).  I hope it grows.

Winter wheat came up there earlier this year, albeit trampled by snow-blind boots.  A few weeks past, that winter wheat made the transition from life to death, from stalk to mulch.  Had I put in the fancy free paver walkway before the snow fell, the wheat might have made a stronger impression come Spring.  Alas, only the edges were coming up hearty, the inside of the field was its own little Dust Bowl.  And now the matter formerly known as wheat protects the vulnerable little rye seeds from weather, rascals, and the world.

For posterity, here is the “Before” image:Freshly planted rye field

The yellow strands are homegrown straw, leftovers from the winter wheat.  Strewn among wheat carcasses are a variety of weeds who have long attempted to occupy this tiny corner of the world.  Bindweed is the worst of the aggressors, accompanied by kochia and the weed Unknown-but-Ubiquitous.  Rye has an allelopathic effect on the soil – which essentially means that rye kills weeds.   She produces chemicals that inhibit the germination of weed seeds and her roots smother other growth.  Perhaps this front bit of Earth will become a fruitful field.  Perhaps.