Sunday, August 25, 2013

Easy and Natural Bee Sting Remedy!

Bee stings...they're bound to happen to everyone sometime in their lives.  We live with nature and nature includes stinging things; which means bees and wasps.  My own stings only amount to three which is pretty amazing considering how much I'm around them in the garden.  The interesting fact is that only one of my stings was connected to gardening.

This goes to show you how mild-tempered most honeybees and bumblebees are.  They are very occupied in gathering nectar and pollen and are very uninterested in human beings for the most part.  Most stings that occur from them are connected to their hives or if they feel like you are going to harm them.  Case in point: One of my stings was from gathering some leaf mulch in the spring while not wearing gloves.  A honey bee was in the mulch and I kept disturbing it until it finally stung me.  Ouch.  Learned a lesson there. 

The next one was from me walking barefoot (I think it was the only time too) in the yard.  There was white clover all around in the grass and that's where this honeybee was hanging out.  Needless to say, I limped for a bit that day.

The most obnoxious sting was from yours truly (pictured up above.)  I was minding my own business, sitting on our front door stoop when this yellow jacket kept hanging around my hand.  I did what I could to deflect it but it chose to sting me right then and there.  I think it was attracted to my shiny wedding least that's my theory.  

So what did I use for all these bee stings?

Yep.  Plain old, free, readily available, all natural mud.  The very best remedies of all are the easiest ones and this does not disappoint.  I've used it for all my stings, my husband's stings, and our two sons who seemed to get stung quite a bit.  

Yes, I know you can use baking soda, cornstarch and flour (to name a few) but I was always stung outside, usually away from our house with no resources to these items.  (Oh, and if you have bee allergies...use the mud but also use your EpiPen!) 

While driving with the windows down to a trip to a local park, a bee came into our car and promptly stung our youngest son.  While everyone contemplated going home, I had my husband pull over to the side of the road where I gathered as much loose soil as I could find.  We had a water bottle in the car and I made up the mud and applied it...wall - la!  In a matter of 2-3 minutes he was feeling perfectly normal.  He washed off the mud with soap and water when we got to the park and we had a great afternoon together.

Another sting occurred while hiking during a camping trip.  First I applied plantain to the sting but the pain didn't go away.  So, we went to the mud poultice and within a very short time, the pain and the swelling were gone.  The faster you apply it, the less swelling and pain you'll encounter.

Why does this work?  Well, mud has amazing "drawing" abilities and it actually draws the poison into itself.  We've used this remedy countless times and it's simple...tried and true.

Okay, there's no rocket science here but I was able to take care of screaming kids on a playground within a minute from yellow jacket stings all from the most humble remedy of all...mud.


What's your favorite bee sting remedy? 

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Hydrangeas: Amazing Color for the Shade

I have to admit that I'm a diehard hydrangea fan.  Not because they're the easiest plant to grow but because I'm mesmerized by their fluffy ball of petals and their unique and intense colors...they really can be a show stopper.

If you live in the right location, they also can be a beautiful plant for the shade.  Their deep green foliage and intense shades of pink or blue captivate you quickly and make you look more than once. 

There are different varieties of hydrangeas and they look quite different from each other.  I'm going to be talking about the mophead/bigleaf (Hydrangea macrophylla) and lacecap varieties in this post although the oak leaf hydrangeas are gorgeous in a more understated way. 

There are two main colors in the mopheads and lace caps being the pinks and blues but I often see light purple flowers and different shades of blues on some bushes.  If the soil ph varies too much this can cause the flowers to change in shade although pink varieties will stay pink and blues won't necessarily turn pink.  That being said, it's best to buy the color hydrangea you would like and don't worry about changing the colors around by amending the soil.

Hydrangeas are not made for deep shade, but I've found that planted on the east side of our house, they do much better in the shaded areas.  They grow beautifully if they are in rich moist soil and I actually lost a few plants last summer because it was so hot and it was relatively dry.  My hydrangeas will often wilt during this kind of weather so I would water them as much as possible to keep them healthy.  

They also bloom in early summer for weeks at a time taking over the blooming from your spring bulbs and perennials.  They really fill in the gap for extended blooms in your perennial bed.

They also didn't put out leaves or bloom well during the last dry summer.  That means I'll need to put down extra mulch and be dilligent about watering the next time our summer is hot and dry.

A photo of one of my own hydrangeas in early bloom
They will do better in warm climates if planted on the north side of the house or at the edge of a woods.  Hydrangeas are not shy about letting you know if they aren't happy where they're planted.  Their drooping leaves and lack of blooms will let you know right away what they need.

I told you they can be fussy.  But in the right spot, in rich moist soil in indirect sun, they are a thing of beauty.  I snapped all these photos taken on one of my walks along the lakefront.  We have four bushes at home too. 

This lace cap variety had fertile flowers on the inside surrounded by large showy flowers on the outside.

What I also love about these mophead/lacecap hydrangeas is that they are only 4-6 feet tall and perfect as a landscaping plant.  It's one of the reasons I picked it to put in our front flower beds.

This is a neighbor's bush and I LOVE the blue color.  I have pink myself but the blues always draw me too.

I've even cut the flower heads off when they get close to being done blooming (the flowers begin to fade a bit) and just bring them inside in a vase (no water) and let them air dry.  You'll want to do this NOT on a humid day so the petals don't wilt.  You may want to try one flower and see how it drys to make sure you don't lose them all.  I would make a wreath completely out of the blooms...gorgeous!

If you haven't grown these beautiful plants before, you may just want to check them out and see how much they can brighten the loneliest spot in your garden!  Blessings!

Do you grow hydrangeas?  Which is your favorite color?

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Friday, August 9, 2013

How to Make Your Own Echinacea Tea

It's August already and that means fall is around the corner as well as the seasonal onslaught of colds and flu.  However, if you have this plant growing in your garden, you can make your own arsenal of flu-fighting goodness for pennies a cup!

Echinacea Purpurea is the above mentioned flower that is used for this medicinal AND delicious tea.  This North American native flower is wonderful to include in your garden for many reasons and you can read more about that here.  When I first began learning about herbs 20 years ago, this was one of my go-to plants for my family.

I first began using it primarily in conjunction with ear infections.  If our boys had an infection, I immediately put them on this tea to help fight it off and to boost their own immune system.  I would use my Garlic Oil Ear Remedy to get rid of the infection and used this as a "chaser" to keep the infection away.  Our boys began drinking this out of bottles and then sippy cups.  They loved it and it is still one of their favorite herbal teas to drink.

How to make this?  It's so simple if you have the plants.  If you don't, you could always buy the plant parts from a reputable company.  The roots of this plant have the strongest medicinal effect, but the leaves and flowers are medicinal too and mild enough for the little ones.  I don't want to sacrifice my plants for the roots, plus the work in digging them up, cleaning, drying and cutting them up is a lot of work.  I use raw garlic as the main antibiotic and anti-viral fighter and echinacea to build our immune system.

Locate your plants and find the topmost leaves that are free from brown spots, insect bites and anything else.  I always use the uppermost leaves as they are newer and less bitter.  Select flowers that are the newest blooms.  Cut the stem completely away.  Place in a dehydrator tray or even a cookie rack that has a grid pattern on it.  Put the cookie rack on a cookie sheet to give some air circulation between it.  I often just let the leaves air dry in a dark, fairly cool place. 

 You can use your dehydrator if you like or I've heard of using your car to dry your herbs as well because let's face it, if your car is outside, it gets to be an oven in there.  It's so easy to dry your own herbs that it's well worth the effort.

I based my recipe off of the original "Traditional Medicinals Echinacea Tea" by Rosemary Gladstar.  So, I also add spearmint and lemongrass to my echinacea.   I just so happen to grow a delicious spearmint, so I'll add this to my tray of leaves and flowers to dry.

You can dry the plant parts separately and mix them or dry them together and put them in a nice tin or glass jar when dry.  If the jar is clear, make sure to store in a dark place so the herbs don't lose their potency.

I buy lemongrass to add to the mix for flavor, however, I grow lemon balm so this would be a nice addition to the blend as well.  The main idea is to have more echinacea than the other herbs in order to get the most benefit.  I find the spearmint is just enough with a hint of lemongrass.  I found some lemongrass at an Asian market and will dry my own for the blend. 

Here's a basic recipe using dried plant parts:

Echinacea Tea
1 part echinacea parts, leaves, flowers, roots
1/4 part lemon grass
1/4 part spearmint leaves (or to taste)
Stevia leaves to taste

Mix and brew at the first sign of cold or flu.  Based on the Traditional Medicinal recipe.

There you have it.  Your own stash of Echinacea Tea from your own backyard to brew at the first sign of a sniffle during the dark days of winter.  I think you'll find yourself going back to this tea time and time again; even if you don't have a cold...blessings!

Do you grow and make your own teas?  Do you use Echinacea Tea?

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