Sunday, November 22, 2015

All natural, and cheap, homemade house cleaners

Sunday, November 22, 2015

It is easy to clean your entire house with a few simple basics from your pantry: vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and washing soda.  Simply add your favorite essential oils, herbs, flowers or fruits to infuse fragrance in your healthy cleaners and home with every use.

Vinegar is a natural odor remover.  Just leave in a bowl and it will neutralize any odors.
For mildew, apply full strength, let set 30 minutes or more, scrub, and rinse.
To clean the toilet bowl, put 1 cup in the bowl, allow to sit several hours, and scrub the rings away.
For grease removal from the microwave, mix 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup of vinegar, place in microwave, and bring to a boil.  Then, wipe out.
Remove hard water buildup from shower heads by filling a plastic bag with vinegar and attaching to the shower head and let sit submerged several hours.

Baking soda
Make a paste with water and scrub away!  Great for cleaning sinks or treating grease stains on clothes.  If you need some abrasion, add salt to the paste.  
For scrubbing bubbles, add castile soap for more cleaning power.

Washing soda, a natural salt, is stronger than baking soda.  It is effective for grease, oil, and wine stains.

Use lemon juice for whitening.  Can give hair highlights or whiten your linens.
Use a cut lemon for cutting grease, freshening your cutting board, removing hard water stains, cleaning fingernails, removing tarnish from copper, and age spot remover.
Throw your used lemon peel down the garbage disposal to freshen it.

Lemons can also be used to keep apples from turning brown, just squeeze some juice over the slices.  The juice from a lemon into a glass of water helps with the day after as well; it stimulates the liver to accelerate detoxing of the body.

Add essential oils for antibacterial properties and scent-lemon, tea tree oil, eucalyptus, peppermint, or pine.  For antifungal, eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, peppermint or pine.  Or if add any essential oil that you love for beautiful fragrance every time you clean.

These basic cleaners should cover all your home needs.  You can use your current cleansers containers and fill with these healthy, fragrant options.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Make your own fragrant herbal body oil

Saturday, October 21, 2015

It is easy and fun to make your own body oil!  You can make an oil specific to your skin type and add herbs for specific benefits or just for the scent.  Or add your favorite flower.

I have very dry skin, inherited from my grandmother.  I tried every lotion I could find and none were moisturizing enough for my alligator skin!  I remember Granny doing the same thing; looking for a lotion or oil that would be keeping moisturizing.

I also started reading about the chemicals that are in most personal care products and thought there had to be a better, healthier way to help my dry skin with fragrance I love.

I then tried different kinds of oils-almond, coconut, jojoba, olive.  Out of all of them, coconut oil ended up being the most moisturizing of all.  The draw back to coconut oil is that it is a solid below 75 degrees F.  

I added olive oil and sunflower oil to the coconut oil to get it to stay liquid at lower temps.  You can always put the oil under the shower to heat it back up if you prefer more coconut oil in the mix.

I use all organic ingredients: raw coconut oil, cold pressed olive oil and cold pressed sunflower oil.

I remember what I read once-your skin is the largest organ of your body and absorbs everything you put on it.  So, only put on your skin what you would eat, including the quality of the ingredients.

I read my "Herb Encyclopedia" book to see what herbs would be beneficial.  The two that were great for anti-aging were lavender and chervil.  I grow both in my garden with no chemicals, all organically.  They smell great too added to the oil!  You get a 2 for 1 benefit.

You can use any herbs or flowers you like!  Be sure to dry them before adding them to your body oil. Fresh herbs can harbor microbes.

Here is the final 1 quart jar recipe I ended up with:
1/3 quart coconut oil
1/3 quart olive oil (loaded with CoQ10 and other antioxidants)
1/3 quart sunflower oil
2 tablespoons shea butter (optional)
2 tablespoons dried lavender
2 tablespoons dried chervil

I just put them all in a quart jar and shake well (if the coconut is a solid, I put in a bowl of hot water to liquify it).  Let it sit in a cool, dark area for a couple of weeks to let the herbs infuse the oils.  It will smell wonderful!  

Then use a tea strainer to catch the herbs as I put them in the dispenser I use in the shower.

If you need your scented oil asap, you can gently heat the oil on the stove with the herbs to infuse quickly.  Keep the temp below 100 degrees F as you infuse your oil to keep all the wholesome goodness of your oil and herbs intact.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Use your own herbs for your Thanksgiving dinner

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Add a fresh edge to your Thanksgiving dinner by using herbs straight from your own garden.  Herbs can be harvested all the way through the entire winter in most years.  Traditional vegetables used for flavoring the Thanksgiving feast are also harvestable at this time of year, like carrots, onions and celery.

Herbs are easy and care free to grow and almost all of them are perennials.  That means you plant once and they come back year after year.  For more details on growing your own herbs, see my blog here

Jazzing up the turkey flavor
You can easily make poultry seasoning for your turkey from herbs in your own garden.  Poultry seasoning adds great flavor to, of course, chicken or turkey, but also veggies, fish, casseroles, pasta.

The first commercial poultry seasoning was invented by William G. Bell, a Boston cook, in 1867.  His included sage, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, pepper and ginger.

I like to make my poultry seasoning with dried sage, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram.  Some add nutmeg, pepper, ginger , onion powder and/or cloves.

Here is my poultry seasoning recipe:
3 Tbl sage
1 Tbl parsley
1 Tbl thyme
1 Tbl marjoram or oregano
1 Tbl rosemary

Insure all spices are crumbled into tiny pieces so they will disperse evenly in your favorite prepared dish.  Combine in a pint jar, shake to mix well.  

You can transfer the amount needed to a kitchen spice jar.  Keep the rest in a cool, dark location.

For any spices, you want to keep them as fresh as possible.  They lose their flavor over time and quicker if exposed to heat/light.

Herbal powered stuffing
For stuffing, you can gather fresh sage, onions, carrots and celery from the garden even in late November. 

In a bowl, put 8 cups of dried bread cubes and soften with 1 cup of chicken broth (I love using organic “Better than Bouillon” for my stock).  In a skillet, sauté 1 cup of chopped carrots, 1 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped onions with 1/2 cup of butter.  After browned, add 2 teas fresh sage or poultry seasoning, 1/2 teas salt, 1/8 teas of pepper.  Mix all together and stuff the turkey.

Potager turkey gravy
To make 2 cups of gravy, cook in a sauce pan, 1/2 cup of fresh chopped carrots, 1/2 cup of fresh chopped celery, 1 cup of chopped onions, 3 cloves of peeled and mashed garlic until browned.  Add 1 bay leaf, 3 cups of chicken stock, and giblets and neck from turkey.  Simmer on low uncovered for an hour or so until reduced in about half.  Strain out all solids and combine 1 cup of stock with 1/4 cup of cream and 1/4 cup of flour, whisk until smooth.  Bring remaining stock to boil, add cream mixture, defatted turkey pan drippings if desired, simmer until thickened.

Herbed potato options
There are a few options for snazzing up your mashed potatoes.  For 5 pounds of potatoes, you can add 5 cloves of roasted garlic, 1 cup of buttermilk and 8 ounces of cream cheese.  

Or how about 5 pounds of small potatoes that are cooked until tender, then tossed with 1 cup of butter, 3/4 cup freshly, finely chopped parsley, marjoram, chives and/or thyme.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Herbal salad dressing
You can keep it simple and flavor a good white wine vinegar with your favorite herb like tarragon for the salad.  Use a mild olive oil so that the flavor of the herb shines through.  Herbal vinegars are easy to make, but you need to make ahead.  Place the herbs in the vinegar and leave in a cool dark place for at least a week.  You can strain out the herbs before using after infused.

Homemade version of Hidden Valley Ranch is easy to make.  Just mix equal amounts of buttermilk, mayonnaise, and sour cream (half cup each).  Then add parsley, dill, garlic, onion (half teas), salt (quarter teas), and pepper (eighth teas) to taste.  If the mayonnaise is too overpowering, I substitute yogurt.   Other home made dressings:  Homemade salad dressing recipes with garden herbs

This is the perfect time for fresh spinach salads.  Spinach and other greens are in season and loving this cool weather.

Artisanal butter
If you are making an herbal butter to serve, you would want more like 2 tablespoons of herbs to 1/2 cup of butter.  Add the herb that complements the dish you are serving.  

You can either serve in a dish, roll it into a log using plastic wrap, or form into a shape.  If you use a form, simply press the butter firmly into the form, then place the form in a shallow dish of hot water.  The butter should slide out easily after a little warming.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Slow growing in winter months

Potted lettuce

Saturday, November 14, 2015

If you have noticed that plants stop growing in the winter, whether indoors or out, you would be right.  It is not just the temperatures that affect this slow down.  It is the amount of sunlight.

Basically, plants go dormant when receiving less than 10 hours of daylight.  For my latitude, this is from November 17-January 24.  You can look on the weather channel to see when your daylight hits 10 hours.

When planting in the fall for winter crops, you need to plan that they are at full, harvestable size by November 17th.  They will remain basically this size until the end of January, when they begin regrowing.

Growth starts back up at the end of January, for indoor and outdoor plants.  The lettuce, chard, sorrel, cabbage, kale, celery, and herbs that have overwintered will start growing with vigor again after this time with clear days and warmer temperatures.

Covering plants with row covers or portable greenhouses can help your plants grow; warmth does make a difference.  Just don’t expect significant growth until we get back to at least 10 hours of sunlight.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A late fall tradition-fried green tomatoes!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mr. Frost is a knockin’!

Tomatoes will survive a light frost, but not a freeze.  If you still have green tomatoes on the vine, make sure you pull them before the first killing frost.  You shouldn’t harvest tomatoes from a dead vine.

There are a few techniques you can use to prolong your tomato harvest.  
*You can cover with a sheet when calling for frost and removing when it warms in the morning.  
*You can keep them going even longer if you put a portable greenhouse over them.  Be careful to vent your portable greenhouse very well when it is in the 50’s or warmer and sunny.  It will be a scorcher inside and you’ll have roasted tomatoes.
*You can bring any potted tomatoes indoors and they will continue to produce in a sunny spot.

There are several things you can do with your green tomatoes.  
*You can make green tomato relish.  I just love all the fun flavor combo’s I see folks coming up with, from spicy habanero to sweet sorghum.  Your imagination is the only limit!
*You can wrap them individually in newspaper and store them some place dark to ripen.
*Or, you can go all out and have fried green tomatoes!

I remember my Granny making them each year.  I don’t have her recipe, but you can use a spicy fish breading, like Andy’s Cajun.  You simply slice your tomato, dip in the breading, fry in oil, and enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Preparing for a hard freeze

Sunday, November 1, 2015

When a hard freeze is in the forecast, it is time to pick the last of the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants and clean the plants from the garden and give your cold crops a coat to protect them all winter!

You can compost any that were disease free, but dispose af any diseased plants in the garbage.  Only high sustained temperatures will destroy the spores and it is not worth the risk of spreading disease into next year’s garden.

Peppers will do well indoors.  They will continue to flower and fruit for weeks.  Their flowers and red fruits are pretty, too.  Come spring, they will have a one to two month head start on the season.

This is the time of year to put a coat over your potted plants left outdoors planted with cold crops.  The best place to locate your plants and greenhouse is close to protection and on the south side of the house in full sun.  Putting the greenhouse against the house will help keep the temperatures warmer for your plants.

I have my mini portable greenhouse over my three Earthoxes that contain kale, celery, French dandelion, spinach, lettuce, blood veined sorrel, and garden purslane.  I also put inside the greenhouse along the outside edge, 5 gallon jugs filled with water and spray painted black.  These will help moderate the temperature inside the greenhouse.

The biggest risk with a greenhouse?  Overheating!  The sun’s rays are quite hot on a cloudless day.  I open the vent on my greenhouse when it is sunny and in the 30’s.  I will unzip the front door flap when it gets into the 40’s.   In the 50’s, the cold crops really don’t need any protection.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

November garden planner

Marigolds and tomatoes with roses in the background

Saturday, October 31, 2015

November is a beautiful time of year as Mother Nature is getting prepared for the cold, wintry days ahead.  Late fall chores should include cleaning up your garden beds, reflecting on the gardening season completed, and preparing for the first freeze.

Garden bed clean up
To prepare your garden for its winter slumber, remove gardening debris from your beds.  For any diseased vegetation or seeds, be sure to throw these away. 

This is a good time to decide if you would like to make your own compost.  Compost is referred to by gardeners as “black gold.”  It provides nutrients, beneficial microbes, fertilizer and overall improves your soil’s condition.  Composting is possible in small spaces or even indoors

I use an electric composter called NatureMill that we keep in the garage by the door.  It is easy to keep an odor free bucket made just for this purpose inside to collect fruit and vegetable scraps and empty weekly into the composter.  The small indoor buckets are called compost keepers or bins and come in a variety of decorative styles.  You get finished compost in a couple of weeks.  You can store the compost you are making in a trash bag to use when preparing your spring beds.  It is great for flowers and vegetables.

Reflection on the past garden season
While the past gardening season is still fresh in your mind, now is a great time to jot down some notes on what went well, what didn’t, and what you would like to research over the winter.  Make a list of the varieties that did great that you want to replant, which plants you want to be sure to have more of next year.

Fall is a fabulous time to make new garden beds.  It is super easy, too.  Just use a hose to outline your new bed, fertilizer, put down a layer of cardboard (earthworms love cardboard!), a layer of compost, and cover with mulch.  By spring, the new garden bed will be ready for planting.  Easy ways to make a new vegetable garden bed

Gardening after the first frost
For northern Kentucky, the average first frost date is mid-October.  We had our first frost a week ago.  If you can cover your veggies with a portable green house or row cover to extend the season for many cool season crops.  With a portable green house, we have kept lettuce, kale, mustard greens, sorrel, and celery all the way through winter. 

If you are using pots, putting the pots on the south side and close to the house will keep them from getting frost bit.  It seems to extend the season for 2-4 weeks.

You can also divide a piece off your herbs, put them in a pot, and bring indoors on a sunny window to have fresh herbs readily available.  Chives, thyme, rosemary, savory, tarragon, salad burnet, and oregano can also be harvested into December from the outdoor garden.  Growing herbs indoors for winter

Surprisingly, we found that peppers are great candidates from bringing in for the winter.  Our Jalapenos and Cayennes continued to fruit for weeks indoors and when put back out in the spring, had peppers a month earlier than when using new plants.  Eggplant and tomatoes are also contenders for overwintering indoors.  Both are tender perennials.

Be sure to use insecticidal soap on any plants you intend to bring indoors a couple weeks prior so you don’t bring in unintended guests.
Bumblebee on marigolds

For the herbs you cut back earlier in the season to dry, November is a great time to now strip the stems of the leaves, dry and put into jars for winter cooking.  You can make your own “Herbes De Provence”.  Thyme, oregano, rosemary, savory, basil, tarragon and lavender are common herbs used in this famous French seasoning.  I mix them up in about equal amounts and store in a sealed Mason jar.  It is great to add to just about anything-sauces, chicken, fish, potatoes, garlic bread.  Makes wonderful Christmas presents, too.  Make your own "Herbes de Provence"