What a beautiful weekend to celebrate the return of the Autumn season. We welcomed guests for the 3rd annual Urban Homestead Tour sponsored by Buckley’s Homestead Supply and Colorado Springs Urban Homesteading. There was an obvious change in this year’s conversation compared to the first tour. Whether it be chickens or gardens or goats, almost everyone that came through already had a piece of something or other going on in their neck of the woods. Urban homesteading and backyard farming are no longer anomalies. What a beautiful thing! I didn’t get any pictures from the tour this year but I’d like to thank everyone that came out. It was a joy and we can’t wait to see what you’re up to next year!
Meanwhile, another season is upon us and though the sun still shines down brightly, I am loving the cooler mornings and the signs of fall at my door. Though our food harvest is not large this year, we’ve gratefully lived and learned through yet another Colorado gardening season. We produced the most beautiful and tasty carrots I’ve ever experienced and eaten enough mustard greens to make even the toughest palette weep. Our hives are strong and I have good faith that they’ll make it through Winter and our goats and chicken are happy and healthy. Mostly in this time of harvest I am grateful for the community of family and friends that have been gathered. We are truly and beautifully coming together to create the Village. I love you. Thank you for your awesomeness.
Who knows where we’ll be this time next year. You might see us on the 4th annual Homestead Tour or visit us for a cob workshop on a bit more land. But what I do know is this: We’ll be working harder. We’ll be growing wiser. We will be waking everyday with gratitude and loving each other the best we can.
Happy Fall, Y’all.
Dig Deep. Share Joy. Live Inspired.
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”.
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.
The 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.
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.
I’ve been enjoying technology lately, more so than usual and am even taking advantage of my new-ish smart phone while milking the goats in the morning. Since my IPod went kaput, and having been on milking hiatus for months due to sickness, it was taking me a little while to get back into the rhythm of things. Especially milking Heidi, my sweet lil Toggenburg with the teeniest finger teats. Milking her can be exasperating. So I turned to pulling my mind away from the task at hand and just letting my hands do what they know to do~ by watching You Tube videos on my phone. And I’m loving it because I get to learn (which I’m a fiend of) mostly uninterrupted. And you know You Tube~ you watch one video and it automatically filters out others like it. I started out with a Susun Weed interview and have since stumbled onto other fun herbal stuff, which are both helpful and inspiring. I’ve been trying to figure out how to incorporate video into Folkways, but being that I’m really not one for talking to a camera… I gotta work on that. Either way, I’m enjoying the lesson time, and the girls don’t seem to mind at all.
About a month ago we got a phone call asking if we could take in a couple of wandering chickens. Wandering~ literally into someone’s yard on a busy street. No owner or caretaker could be claimed. Sure. Why not? What’s 2 more chickens? Well, 2 more chickens.
Monday one of our milk customers called with a tale of a middle of the night raccoon woe; lost 2 of their birds with the possibility of a wounded 3rd going soon. We offered her the 2 new girls (I dubbed them Thelma and Louise) which turned into just 1 new girl as we believe the other is a he not a she. Time will tell with that one. Having had our share of raccoon trouble, Niko was immediately sentimental and since the two new birds were not adapting well into the pecking order, we thought to do all a service with the exception of said rooster. Which who knows, if he turns out to be quiet-ish with his crow he may be serviced (*wink wink) and of service after all.
Last night we had our own 4am coon alarm, though couldn’t at first figure out why. With the moon so full we barely needed a flashlight, but all seemed secure. Confused, I went back to bed and Niko told me later they had gotten one of our Jerseys. I still can’t figure out why she wasn’t in the coop. She was never one to fly over the fence or stay out after dusk. When I closed up last night it was already past dark and I had no inclination that anyone was out. Very strange happenings. Poor chicken. The coons at least had the decency to drop her in the compost pile when they were done with her. Niko has been perfecting his bow hunting skills so 3 raccoons may be 2 soon. I would not be opposed. These 3 have plagued us for over a year now and I’m tired of it. I’m considering calling a trapper, but Niko wants a go. If this seems inhumane to any of you, dear readers, then you’ve never seen what a raccoon can do to a flock of chickens.
Losing the Jersey follows the loss of 2 of our older girls as well. One last week, one about 2 months ago. Both unknown causes. Being a farmer and keeping livestock teaches you many lessons of death, and the circle of life that must carry on.
You may have seen last year’s photo of our first homebrew cheese press. As awkward as it appeared, it was actually doing a fine job of squeezing that leftover whey out of the cheese. It was gouda. And it did taste good. There was just this small problem that a pregnant fly had made her way through the protective colander as the cheese sat drying and laid her plethora of eggs right there in our first homemade aged cheese. I sliced off a sliver of the side that was not so maggot-ridden just to have a taste. It was going to be good. But it ended up going to the chickens, since they actually enjoy eating maggots, unlike us so-civilized human creatures.
Brandi had recently checked out a cheese making book from the library and I found it lying around one day when the fridge was overflowing with milk. Within it’s bountiful pages sat a recipe for “White Goat Cheddar” and it sounded like a good thing to try to mess up.
The recipe was quite simple: 1 gallon of pasteurized goat milk, 2 tablespoons of mesophilic starter culture, 3/4 teaspoon of rennet, a bunch of time spent stirring and watching a pot of simmering milk and the resulting curds, and a cheese press.
While the recipe was simple and seemed near at hand, we had none of the prescribed ingredients. Our goat milk is raw, we had only packages of “direct set” mesophilic bacteria and extra concentrated vegetable-based rennet, and nothing resembling a classical cheese press. We did have the time to do it, since time really does count as an ingredient. Confident that we could do just fine with what we had on hand, I dumped a gallon of raw goat milk into a makeshift double boiler and put the process in motion.
The book went so far as to give time figures for how long it should take for the milk to heat up, the culture to ripen the milk, the rennet to set the curds, and the curds to drip away the rest of the whey. It was kind of the author to provide these guidelines, but reality didn’t quite unfold in the same timeline. Even so, raw goat milk turned into a very rubbery cheese-like substance throughout the course of the day, and before long, the time came to figure out just how we were going to apply 40 pounds of pressure to this lump of fermented sludge in order to send it on its way to becoming cheddar cheese.
I enlisted Leelu to help me figure it out. After exploring the options of placing ancient dirty bricks or a 5 gallon bucket of sand atop the cheese-to-be, Leelu found a bungie cord in the van. That discovery sped through my mindspace and led me directly to consider the multitude of ratchet straps that are generally hiding in every vehicle we own. We found one there in the van and joyfully trodded back to the kitchen, intent on victory.
A quick assessment of possible accomplices in our daring mission provided a pair of pot-shaped colanders to hold the cheese and let the whey drain away. The next missing piece was a way for that ratchet strap to apply the needed pressure (that we would never measure to assure it was providing 40 pounds worth…). A log? No, too dirty. A bit of dimensional lumber? Alas, the clean ones laying about were too short and/or skinny to get the job done. What about that flour crock that’s not holding flour? Eureka. And we found our cheese press.
It may not be quite as pretty as those professionally built presses one may purchase from your local homestead supply store, but it is a bit of an improvement over our first attempt of home-pressing cheese. The major flaw in the current design is that there is no lateral limit to the squashing of the cheese. We end up with a fat pancake of cheese, rather than a finely formed wheel. Homebrew Cheese Press v.3.0 will attend to this situation, but for the moment, we continue to squash the cheese with this crock and look forward to enjoying the consumption of said squashed cheese in a month or so, after it has aged its way into a semblance of cheddar.
This, my friends, is the new home workshop of bloom daisy. Arriving all the way from 1970, I think she’s the most awesome office ever. This has been a long time comin’. There is a lot to do to make her vintage worthy and presentable but for the most part she is in excellent shape and ready to help produce beautiful product. I am so excited. I’ve been working on moving bundles of fabric out of the house along with other sewing supplies and look forward to freeing up some house space, not to mention giving my husband back his own office. I, of course, want to dive right in and get sewing but there is an organization thing to tackle at the moment. Here are some before pictures and I’ll post some “after” shots when they are ready. Congratulate me!