Monday, December 29, 2008

January Gardening Calendar, Zone 7

January is almost upon us, so here is my gardening calendar for the month, once again gleaned from various sources including the Master Gardener's Handbook and the Alabama Gardener's Calendar.

•Make a garden plan! Plan the garden to include various vitamin and mineral groups.
•Consider planting a few new varieties along with the old favorites.
•Plan the amount of each vegetable to be planted, including enough to can and freeze (preserve), if you're able. Allow about 1/10 acre of garden space for each member of the family.
•Buy enough quality seed for two or three plantings to lengthen the season of production.
•Take soil samples if you have not already done so, and take them to your county extension office for analysis. Your local extension office is an invaluable resource if you plan to garden!
•Apply manure or compost and plow/turn it under if you did not do so in the fall.
•Apply lime, sulfur and fertilizer according to your soil-test results and vegetable requirements. Buy 100 pounds of fertilize for each 1/10 acre to be planted (if manure is not available, buy at least half again more). Use 5-10-10 or 6-12-12 analysis, depending on soil test and vegetable requirements.
•Get plant beds or seed boxes ready for growing plants such as tomato, pepper and eggplant. Have beds ready for planting in early February.
•Check on your compost pile and make sure it is ready for use in the spring.
•And once again, go by your county extension office and get copies of their gardening publications.

If you like to be an early-early bird with your planting (like me!) here in Zone 7, you can transplant cabbage and cauliflower plants after January 10. Onions should be transplanted and lettuce seed can be sown after January 25.

Remember, above ground plants like cabbage, cauliflower and lettuces do best when planted when the moon is waxing, or growing. Below-ground plants like onions should be planted when the moon is waning, or shrinking. And don't forget to try and plant everything during a fruitful sign! There's a link to a handy moon phase/sign calculator over there on the right.

Happy gardening! :)

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Monday, December 15, 2008

December Gardening Calendar, Zone 7

Yes, I realize the month is halfway gone, but I thought I'd share this since I'm already sitting here, glad to have one more excuse not to get up and clean my house :D

Thanks to the Alabama Gardener's Calendar, The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, and the Alabama Master Gardener Association handbook!


•Vegetable Seed - You can still plant cabbage and lettuce in cold frames.
•If you haven't already, spread manure, rotted sawdust and leaves over beds and turn under; this organic matter improves the fertility, physical structure and water-holding capacity of the soil.
•Take a soil sample to allow plenty of time to get the report back. Lime applied now will be of more benefit next year than if it is applied in the spring before planting. Apply Dolomitic limestone in order to get both calcium and magnesium.
•Continue saving leaves for the compost heap. Take an "inventory." Maybe you had too much of some vegetables and not enough of others - or maybe there were some unnecessary "skips" in the supply. Perhaps some insect, disease or nematode problem got the upper hand. Make a note about favorite varieties. Start planning next year's garden now!
•It’s wise to order flower and vegetable seeds in December or January, while the supply is plentiful. Review the results of last year's garden and order the more successful varieties.
•Check the viability of seeds left over from last year by placing some in damp paper towels and observing the germination percentage. If the percentage is low, order new ones.
•Before sending your seed order, draw a map of the garden area and decide the direction and length of the rows, how much row spacing is needed for each vegetable, whether or not to plant on raised beds, and other details. That way, you won't order too many seeds. This same advice applied to the flower garden. Try new cultivars, add more color, change the color scheme, layer the colors by having taller and shorter plants - don't do it the same way year after year.
•Look around for tools you do not have and put these on your Christmas list.
Dig potatoes or buy more, put carrots in buckets of sand, hang onions, etc. Put up any additional cold frames and mulch plants to over-winter. Preserve remaining food if necessary. It's also not too late to gather nuts - my side yard is still full of hickory nuts!

It's not too late to make up some baskets of homemade goodies for Holiday gifts!

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2008 Southeast Women's Herbal Conference

As for my previous lack of conference photos and details, there is yet another story which has something to do with why I bummed out on posting. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my dear eldest daughter took it upon herself to remove the memory card from the digital camera before I left and I was only able to take six, yes SIX, photos of our weekend. Not sure why she did this, but needless to say I was upset. I'll post the six photos (maybe five ... I think one of them is a silly pic of Mel she possibly will object to me posting), but they really aren't much to get excited about. I haven't even loaded them onto my computer yet and it might take a day or two to find where said memory card-ejecting daughter has stashed the camera.

Luckily, the lovely ladies at Red Moon Herbs have posted their Conference pics HERE. Enjoy!

Mel and I had a marvelous time. We camped beside the beautiful Camp Rockmont Lake, ate like organic queens, and learned an incredible amount of valuable, herbal information. I met Corinna Wood as soon as I arrived and she was even more down to earth, warm, and friendly than I expected. I attended the Southern Appalachian Medicinal Plants Herb Walk with Patricia Kyritsi Howell, Astrology for Health workshop with Phyllis D. Light, Herbs and the Immune System and Women's Apothecary with Bevin Clare, Herbal Toolkit for Moms with Jessica Godino, and spent the last evening in the company of 300+ women being led in song, dance and celebration under the guidance of ALisa Starkweather. Rising Appalachia performed a fire dance that took my breath away.

I wish I could describe the food at the conference, but I'll just say it was nourishing to the body and soul, and truly divine. I've never eaten so well in my life. The meals were fit for royalty and included local organic meats and vegetables, artisan breads and cheeses, fresh, juicy fruits, organic nuts and seeds, mouth watering salad greens with herbal vinaigrettes, herbal teas, local raw milk, and lacto-fermented dishes that were so good they made me want to cry! The Sweet Monkey, a delightful bakery and catering operation out of Asheville, NC, were set up in the vendor area and furnished us with warm apple cider, hot chocolate, one huge and delicious breakfast burrito that Mel and I split between us, and organic pumpkin muffins that made me want to smack my grandma.

The camping was fun. Okay, it was colder than a well diggers butt at night up on that beautiful mountain, and having to get up in the dead of night, wrestle a belligerent (and loud) tent zipper, and stumble around 15 feet from a deep dark lake to pee on the ground was maybe not so fun. That's what camping pregnant women and gals with small bladders (neither preferring to walk less than a quarter of a mile to the loo) do, you see. I dare say if you've never lain awake in a cold dark tent for almost an hour vehemently denying the selfish needs of your bladder before painfully relenting, you have not lived. Mel and I are much closer now that we have heard each other pee outside in the wee hours before dawn. Yes, we acted like six year olds in the tent, and it was great, despite the grandaddy long legs invasion.

The weekend wasn't just about herbs. No one cared who you were, how you dressed or what you looked like there (I wore a sweatshirt with pajama pants and hiking boots almost the entire weekend). Women were free to really be themselves with no expectations on them other than to relax, breathe, be aware, learn, and have fun. I was very grateful to be able to spend the time with Mel because she lives about 150 miles away and I rarely get to see her. Truly it was an enjoyable, enlightening, educational, moving experience. I'll never forget it!

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Not dead, just pregnant (conference details in the next post!).

Several folks have contacted me wondering if I've dropped off the planet, or just dropped dead in general. Just before I left for the 2008 Southeast Women's Herbal Conference, I found out that (surprise!!) I am pregnant with my third child. We *are* very happy about the news .. it just took a little time to sink in. I'm 38 years old and mom to a very active, soon to be 15-year-old daughter and a lively little 3-year-old daughter. Luckily, I am able to work from home. This is truly a blessing I am gratefuly for every single day of my life.

So I'm blowing up like a gestating bovine, but fortunately have suffered very little sickness or other pregnancy maladies at all outside of my usual preggo-crazies. Daily nourishing herbal infusions of stinging nettle or red raspberry leaves help tremendously. I'm almost 5 months along and am scheduled for an ultrasound Wednesday, when hopefully the baby will cooperate and show us whether number three is sporting a hamburger or a hot dog.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'm off to the conference!

Spending tonight with Mel and tomorrow morning we're leaving bright and early for North Carolina, and Southeast Women's Herbal Conference!

I promise to post lots of details and pics when I get back! :D

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tonight's Music

Seven Spanish Angels, by Ray Charles and Willie Nelson.

Cause it's freakin awesome and you should give it a listen (might need to give it a minute to load, but trust me, it's worth it).

Friday, September 26, 2008

An Exciting Find!

I was weeding the perimeter of our garden fence by hand today (I do this because I love to let Morning Glories grow up the fence, and the weed eater is an indescriminate killer), and lookie what I found!

The praying mantis is one of my most favorite insects. I found a very young mantis in my driveway earlier this year and very carefully transferred it to my garden.

I can't say if this is the same one, but I like to think that it is :)

So I called my Jaybird to tell him about my find, and he said, "Oh yeah! There's a mantis egg sac on one of our blueberry bushes!"

Well! How's that for Christmas in September? I'm not really sure if the egg sac, or "ootheca" has already hatched or is ready to overwinter for hatching next spring when the weather turns warm again, but either way, I'm thrilled! Mantids are voracious predators of harmful garden insects, and let's just face it; they're positively fascinating in every conceivable way!

The Life Cycle of the Praying Mantis

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Aye Carumba!

I'm normally pretty appreciative of the insect life around me, and out here in the boondocks there is a plethora of it to appreciate. But this takes the cake! I went out to pick the last of my blueberries and caught a glimpse of this, um, caterpop, and almost did a back flip! Isn't it cool and yet horrible at the same time? Kinda makes you think of a creeped out appetizer-on-a-stick, doesn't it? :D

I did a little research, and I think these are "Yellownecked Caterpillars" (Datana ministra), destroyer of oak leaves and other United States hardwoods, not to mention shade and ornamental trees >:-(

And this, from the Forest Health Protection, Southern Region: Newly hatched larvae skeltonize the leaf; older larvae devour all except the leaf stalk. Individual trees, or even stands, may be defoliated during late summer and early fall. Since defoliation is confined to the late part of the growing season, little damage is caused to the tree.

See the way they've arched their backs, throwing their heads and tails up into the air? When disturbed, the creepy little larvae use this as a defensive measure to prevent parasitism by various wasps and flies. I think it looks pretty funny. Like bug yoga.

Moths appear during June and July and deposit white eggs in masses of 50 to 100 on the undersides of the leaves. Larvae feed in groups, reportedly maturing in August and September. Mature larvae are fuzzy and black with white stripes. I hate to thell them but they're running late. They're really gonna have to get on the stick to make it by October (pun intended! heh..) Mature larvae drop to the soil and pupate at depths of 2 to 4 inches (50 to 100 mm), where they spend the winter. There is one generation per year, and since their natural enemies generally keep infestations in check and they apparently don't really cause much damage, I'm just going to leave the little suckers alone, and see if the freakshow returns next year! ;)

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mr. Monarch Butterfly

I wonder where you've been, and where you're going.

I hope you enjoyed your visit to my garden!

You're a bit tattered and torn, but beautiful still, and always welcome here. I hope I'll see you again soon.

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Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

I found this caterpillar in my dill earlier in the summer, and lucky for me it's still there! I hope it stays and gifts us with the opportunity to watch his/her transformation. It's going to be a gorgeous Black Swallowtail. Also called the Parsley Caterpillar, young Black Swallowtail caterpillars are black with a white saddle, later becoming smooth and green with black bands and yellow spots, growing to approximately 2 inches. It has an orange osmeterium, a fleshy organ found in the prothoracic segment of caterpillar larvae of Swallowtail butterflies including Birdwings. This organ emits smelly compounds believed to be pheromones. Normally hidden, this forked structure can be everted when the caterpillar is threatened, and used to emit a foul-smelling secretion containing terpenes. These chemicals are bad tasting to predators and vary from species to species.

The Black Swallowtail eats Queen Anne's lace, carrot, parsley and dill, of course. It overwinters as a chrysalis and is found in southern Canada and throughout the eastern United States, as well as the south-western states and Mexico.

Isn't it beautiful? :)

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Feedin' Time!

My youngest daughter, Ava, positively loves animals, and chickens in particular. She goes to the barn with me every single day to feed and water them and gather eggs, and has a pet chicken she named, "Lolly", that allows my girl to pick her up and carry her around like a baby. It's very cute!

So here we are, at the gate, and everyone is here to greet us with their usual enthusiasm!

And, they're off!

Feeding frenzy!

Ava and Lolly, BFF.

There's nothing better than life on a farm! :)

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Calendula, or Pot Marigold, is probably one of the most useful medicinal herbs. It comes from the daisy, or Asteraceae family. The name Calendula comes from the Latin kalendae, meaning "first day of the month", presumably because the calendula flowers are present during the first days of it's blooming calender months, normally from May to November. Other folk names include "Bride of the Sun", "Marybud", and "Summer's Bride". Although a native to the Mediterranean, the bright and cheerful calendula is now cultivated throughout the world for its beauty, garden virtues, and valuable medicinal qualities. Calendula officinalis is edible and was in fact first cultivated for food use. It adds color and flavor to soups, stews, cereals and rice dishes and the petals are pleasant on salads.

Medicinal preparations are usually made from the fresh wilted or dried flower petals or the entire flower head and may include Tea, Wound Dressings, Mouth/Throat Gargle, Tinctures, Compresses, Washes, Infused Oils, Essential Oils, and Ointments, Creams and Salves.

WARNING ~ Calendula preparations should not be used over an existing infection as it may stimulate tissue growth and heal over the infected site.

Externally, calendula's strong antibiotic action and immunostimulant properties painlessly promote healing of minor wounds by reducing inflammation and pus formation. Calendula is also a strong Antifungal, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antioxidant, Antiseptic, and Astringent, among others. The flowers have reportedly shown slight anti-tumor activity. Its medicinal uses are legendary and includes but are not limited to:

Externally: Abscesses, Boils, Bruises, Burns/Scalds, Cold Sores, Cuts, Diaper Rash, Hemorrhoids, Inflamed Eyes, Scar Tissue, Sores, Sprains, Stings, Sties, Varicose Veins, Warts, Wounds.

Internally: (Do not use calendula internally without professional medical supervision): Bronchial Troubles, Crohn’s Disease, Diarrhea, Endometriosis, Fevers, Fibroids, Gastritis, Indigestion, Liver Congestion, Menstrual Irregularity, Mouth Ulcers, Nausea, Pelvic Inflammation, Stomach Cramps, Ulcers (gastric/duodenal).

In The Garden

Calendula is an easy to grow, somewhat hardy annual that prefers full sun in rich, well-drained soil but will tolerate most average or slightly poor soils in zones 3-10. Most will bloom reliably all summer.

Calendula is deer resistant but attractive to bees, butterflies and some birds.

Transplant with plenty of organic compost and add a general purpose organic fertilizer once a month. Mulch for moisture retention and weed control.

Sow seeds in the spring but once established calendula will generally self-sow.
Seeds need dark to germinate so take care to cover.

Grows up to 2 feet in height. Water once or twice weekly during dry spells. Once your plants bloom, deadhead or snip dead blooms off to keep them attractive and encourage new blooms.

Calendula is light frost tolerant but will not survive heavy frosts or freezes.

Folklore Uses

-Pick Marigolds at noon when the sun is high and hot to strengthen and comfort the heart.

-Marigold garlands strewn under your bed will protect you while you sleep and make your dreams come true.

Make Your Own Calendula Infused Oil for a soothing skin treatment.

1/4 c. dried Calendula flowers
1/2 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Put flowers into a pint-sized canning jar. Add the olive oil and stir well. Cover the jar with a lid and place it in a sunny window. When the oil turns deep, golden yellow (1-2 weeks), strain the oil through several layers of cheesecloth into a container to remove all the flowers. Place into a container with a tight fitting lid. Store in a cool, dark place. Will stay fresh for approximately one year.

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Common Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

Common, or Eastern Ninebark takes her name from her unusual but beautiful, peeling bark. I bought one for two dollars at the Master Gardener's Annual Plant Sale in May and put her in my garden, before I did some reasearch and realized she's going to get too big - as in up to ten feet wide and tall - for her plot. I'm planning on moving her to a place where she can really spread out this Fall.

A membef of the Rosaceae, or Rose, family, Ninebark is a deciduous, hardy, spring-blooming shrub, but mine didn't bloom this year so we'll have to wait and find out about her flowers first-hand next Spring.. I can't wait to see them! It is native from to Quebec to Tennessee and is cold hardy to Zone 2. It has a medium growth rate and gorgeous yellow to bronze autumn foliage. Mine was wildharvested and will blend perfectly with my "Wild & Wooly" yard and garden theme ;)

I don't know much about Ninebark yet, but I've read that it can be propagated from cuttings or seeds, which germinate without pre-treatment. It transplants easily and apparently grows well in a wide variety of light, moisture, and acidity, making it a very hardy, friendly, adaptable shrub to grow.

Common Ninebark's spring-blooming flowers are an excellent nectar source, and the red fruits which appear in Autumn are eaten by many species of birds (some species flower and fruit in the same period). Physocarpus monogynus, or Mountain Ninebark, of the Southwestern US was used by Indians to relieve pain – the roots were boiled to softness and placed on sores and lesions as a poultice.

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Updated Spilanthes (Toothache Plant) Post

Check it out! My Spilanthes has fully matured and she's glorious! I updated my original post with the new pics so all of the information would remain together.

I hope you enjoy them! :D

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

Today is a New Moon, and I celebrated by harvesting wild Goldenrod with my family. There's an old country road off the beaten path beside a big brown, muddy pond about two miles from my house, and the Glorious Goldenrod is proliferous there. Acres of yellow as far as the eye can see, along with Joe Pye Weed, Trumpet Vines, and Thistles. I've never seen so many bees and butterflies in my life! What a lovely day. Too bad that by the time I got home my camera batteries were dead and I couldn't upload them! My camera karma appears to be off lately. Technology and I do not jive. Thanks again to Wikipedia for providing a very nice pic for us. I do promise to post my pics when I replace my camera battery.

Goldenrod is a very common, widespread plant of the Asteraceae (Aster) family, and she grows in dry, sunny areas. Unfortunately, she has earned a reputation she does not deserve as a harbinger of late summer and fall allergies/hay fever. The lowly ragweed, green and inconspicuous, usually blooms at the same time as Goldenrod but lurks in the shadows and so her bright and beautiful neighbor takes the blame. The opposite is actually true ... Not only is she a sunny, friendly girl, Goldenrod is a very useful herb for the treatment of seasonal allergies and the red, itchy eyes and noses which accompany them. Matthew Wood states in his "Earthwise Herbal" that Goldenrod is specific for cat allergies. I'm hoping my friend Melissa, who suffers from a cat allergy, is going to test this for me in about six weeks, when my Goldenrod tincture is ready.

In "Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians", Patricia Kyritsi Howell lists other names for Goldenrod as Farewell-to-Summer, Aaron's rod, Woundwort (not Stachys palustris, a.k.a. Woundwort, a smelly European mint naturalized in North America), Sweet Goldenrod, and Anise-Scented Goldenrod. There are between 40 and 60 different species of Goldenrod, but the medicinal properties of most species are similar.

It was too late for me to harvest the leaves (a wonderful stomach tonic) on this late August day because the prime time for Goldenrod Leaf harvest is before she blooms. But bloom she does and so I've started a tincture using coarsely chopped flowers (easily stripped from the stems), filled but not packed into a quart jar, covered with 100 proof vodka, capped tightly, and labeled. I allowed the flowers to sit and dry a few hours before chopping. My tincture will be ready to use in six weeks, and I'll give it a gentle shake or two each day in the meantime.

My tincture will be not only be useful for allergies and upper respiratory inflammation/congestion but also for sinus infections, colds and flu, and kidney/bladder infections. Goldenrod is anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and antiseptic, and is a well-known kidney medicine, stimulating them to greater efficiency, particularly during times of disease or stress. Solidago virguauria, the European species of Goldenrod, has even been used to dissolve or eliminate kidney stones.

Goldenrod also makes a yummy medicinal tea (yes, I've tried it and it really is good), which is great for heartburn, indigestion, and diarrhea. Take that, Pepto Bismol! An infusion is a remarkable sore throat gargle. I used it with great success during a recent, nasty bout of strep throat, along with two Poke Berries, swallowed whole, and two dropperfuls of yarrow tincture in a little water every day with lots of good, clean water and rest.

I hope you find some Goldenrod where you live and give her a try. At the very least, give her a kind nod and a "Fare-thee-well."

Happy harvesting! :D

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Monsanto, GMO's, PCB's, Roundup Ready Crops, and oh yes, there's more...

If you eat (or breathe, for that matter) you need to watch this video. It's about 26.5 minutes, and it's serious stuff. I am not exaggerating when I say it could save your life.

Ever had questions about Monsanto, the safety of genetically modified crops, GMO's, PCB's, Roundup, "Roundup Ready" plants, Cancer, Bioengineering, Biotechnology, the standards by which these things are regulated, or how all of it is tied to government? Have you wondered what exactly is the big deal about organic food? Watch the entire video. This is REAL, and it's happening to you and your loved ones. This is our lives these people are playing with, and they aren't playing fairly. Sitting around on our hind ends thinking someone else will take care of this thing is irresponsible, lazy, and just plain stupid. I don't even have the words to say how it makes me feel, but it absolutely, positively scares me to death.

Anniston, Alabama, is less than one hundred miles from my home. My next door neighbors use Roundup every season. *I* used to use Roundup, many years ago before I became educated about it. Local farmers here are using Roundup Ready crops. And please don't get me wrong, this isn't just about Roundup! All consumers are affected by this genetically modified madness. My husband and mother are cancer survivors. This is a very important subject to me and I hope it is to you, too. After you watch the video, please take a moment and join the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign.

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Great Article on Eating Locally-Grown Produce

I wanted to share this fantastic article I found today at, by John Cloud. I hope you take the time to read it!

Eating Better than Organic

Monday, August 11, 2008

FDA Globalization Act

If you're offended by swearing, please read no further.

Have you heard of it? If you're a work-at-home mom or small business owner who manufactures "cosmetics" (soap, lip balm, salves, lotions, etc.), you should have. I read the 69 page draft. Of particular interest, Section 301, Registration of cosmetic facilities, on page 7 informs us that, "Section 301 requires the Secretary, by regulation, to require any facility engaged in manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding of cosmetics to register annually. These facilities will be subject to a $2,000 registration fee. The Secretary shall, by regulation, require cosmetic manufacturing facilities to report all anticipated and unanticipated serious adverse events. The Secretary shall also, by regulation, require that cosmetic facilities comply with good manufacturing practices."

Of course I agree that manufacturers of cosmetics should comply with good mfg practices, and that every product should have its entire ingredient list, inci names included, provided either on the package or an insert. Canada has "Cosmetic Regulations" which require mandatory ingredient labelling on all cosmetic products sold there, and I think the US should do the same. The International Cosmetic Ingredient (ICI) Dictionary and Handbook "presents, in detail, the bulk of INCI names juxtaposed with their corresponding empirical chemical formulas, technical/trade names, Chemical Abstracts System numbers (CAS No.), or alternate numbers" (from Health Canada). What more could you ask for? Don't answer that.

There is a copious amount of information about the FDA's mandatory rules and regulations concerning the manufacture of cosmetics listed in their Compliance Guidelines. They have the right to inspect any manufacturer without notice, but they can't afford all the extra leg and paperwork the new legistlation will require. If there were only 10 WAHM's or other small home businesses in every state paying the fee the FDA would generate an extra $1 million annually (remember, it's not a one-time fee) in revenue. You can do the math from there. Business as usual. I read on an FDA Law Blog in April that, "There are fees for registration, reregistration, reinspection, certification, certifying agent accreditation, laboratory accreditation, export certification, and importer registration. The Energy and Commerce Committee predicts that the food registration fees alone will generate approximately $600 million for food safety activities at FDA. In addition, the bill provides for the levying of substantial fines for violations of the new requirements. The proposed fees in this bill mirror the efforts seen in FDAAA to increase user fees as a means of generating revenue for FDA."

One of the reasons this makes me so mad is because I read at the that the FDA has performed inspections at just 1,500 of the nation’s *5,000* drug manufacturers since 2002. I find this infuriating and think they need to - once again - take a good long look their big ducks before they start eyeballing the ducklings. But the big ducks have government lobbyists and a team of expensive lawyers in every corner, don't they? Did you see the piece on CNN this morning about Gardasil? It's been linked (coincidentally, of course) to over 9,000 "adverse events" and 21 deaths. Please don't tell me the FDA is actually going to show up in Flat Rock to inspect my lip balm when they are already *3500 drug manufacturers* behind. The annual $2000 fee is a crock of shit. I don't think neglecting to monitor big pharma is any excuse to let small biz mfg companies slide. But I do think the fee is another way for them to make more money and that it won't change a thing, except for putting small time businesses, including work-at-home mom's who already barely pay their taxes and won't have the extra time or energy for all of the additional paperwork (and trust me, I am already struggling under a mountain) which will come with the legislation, out of business. They aren't going to effectively regulate WAHM production any more than they do Merck or Mary Kay. I was a bookkeeper and tax preparer for a struggling small business for eleven years and I know exactly how the government deals with the "little guy". If I stay in business for 10 years under this ammendment I will have paid $20,000.00 to Uncle Sam and have filled out literal mountains of paperwork. Surely there is an easier way to ensure public safety from my plantain salve. They don't give a hoot about your ethics or the quality of your products, they just want your money and a little extra insurance to cover their own asses. If they're going to charge us no matter what we say, they should at least do so based on our annual sales. Not that I really believe that would be a good alternative. I didn't even MAKE $2000 in my first year of business.

I support consumer safety 100%, and I follow every single guideline set forth by the FDA concerning cosmetics mfg. I wouldn't even mind paying a one time $2000 fee (even though I would have to borrow it ) to cover the additional paperwork it will take to establish ingredient safety materials for consumers. I do, however, respectfully decline the annual poke-in-the-rear, thank you very much.

If you support small businesses who provide quality handcrafted bath and body products, please sign the "Stop the FDA Globalization Act of 2008" petition.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Constructive use of time?

Nope. But here's what I learned to do yesterday (easy!) while my internet was down. Um, besides clicking on "Send/Receive" every other minute ....

There were lots more edited pics (got a little carried away), but these are two of my favorites.

Just becaue I love them....

And this is a pic of my Mom (and her older sister) when she was a baby! It's in pretty bad shape and I'm still working on it. Ironic how my grandmother had two daughters 15 years apart, and now I have two daughters 12 years apart!

More on the Southeast Women's Herbal Conference 2008

Once again, the link for program information is HERE. Click on the orange tabs for all of the details.

And in case you missed it, the full weekend schedule for 2008 (Adobe .pdf document) is HERE.

In addition to the incredible workshops offered by many well-known presenters including Phyllis D. Light, Patricia Howell, Amanda McQuade Crawford and Kathleen Maier (and many others!), three intensives will be offered. Pre-registration is recommended for intensives and there is an additional $45 charge for each:

Gaiacology: Gyne-Ecology, Herbs & Women, with Amanda McQuade Crawford on Friday, Oct. 4, 2:30 PM - 6:00 PM EST.

Healing with the Five Elements, with Patricia Howell, Sunday, Oct. 5, 9:00 AM - 12:30 PM EST.

Awakening to Our Power and Tapping Our Profound Roots of Womanhood, with ALisa Starkweather, Sunday, Oct. 5, 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM EST, post-conference.

Mel and I are camping, which is included in the registration cost, but there is likely still time to reserve a cabin or bed in the bunkhouse if you need one. There is also still time to make the pre-registration deadline on September 5! If you need it, Ride Sharing information is available.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Weeds: If You Garden, They Will Come

Hours bent, squatting, pulling, clawing, digging, with perhaps a bit of stomping and cursing thrown in for good measure. Dirty clothes, red face, soaked in sweat, aching knees and back. Your hamstrings feel like they are going to spontaneously combust. Does any of this sound familiar? No? Then please allow me to introduce you to Summer Weeding in the South. If you think mulching will get you out of it, I'll kindly advise you to forget that silly little notion right now. Not that mulching doesn't help ... it helps! But nothing, not even a nuclear holocaust, will stop them. Weeds are Mother Nature at her finest, ensuring that life on this planet will go on, regardless of what we do.

I happen to be a fan of most weeds and don't personally know where the idea originally came from that we should all work out butts off and/or spend the family fortune on making our yards look like golf courses. My own father remembers sweeping his yard. Gasp! Swept his yard, you say? Why, yes, young whippersnapper. Grass was considered a nuisance, and every new blade which dared to poke it's unruly head above the surface of the earth was unceremoniously plucked and discarded. They actually took brooms and swept the yard "clean"! Can you imagine the dust? He also walked to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways, and didn't get anything but fruit and nuts for Christmas. If he was lucky he might get a firecracker (insert eye rolling here). He likes to say, "I remember when we had a DIRT yard! I wish every bit of my grass would just DIE!" Not an unreasonable request here in Drought Country.

Apologies for the detour. My dad cracks me up.

So, what exactly is a weed, anyway? Dandelion? Crabgrass? Wild Violet? ;)

Let me put it this way: They're aren't just the invasive, "useless" plants (sorry, no such thing) that you abhor. If you have a healthy corn plant growing up in your tomato bed, and you don't want it there, it's a weed. Any plant that's growing where you don't want it might be a weed to you. They can take moisture, light and nutrients from your "desired crop" as well as possibly transmit diseases and attract or harbor unwanted garden pests to their neighbors.

Most "wild" weeds (my loves, the native species) are hard to control for very good reasons. After all, they are the natives. You are the interloper who's moved in and wants to evict them. Non-native weed species are also there for a reason. They've found somewhere suitable to thrive, and so they do. They're adapted to their environment from the bottoms of their marvelously efficient little root systems to the tops of their copious, seed-producing heads. Most of them are drought tolerant and seem to thrive under any conditions, don't they? They'll just stand there, staring with righteous indignation at the weak, flowery-looking stuff you're trying to replace them with. "Growing like a weed," is right on! They can thrive where fruits, vegetables and flowers fail because they own the place, mister, and you'll do well to remember it. I pulled up armloads of Common Lambsquarter, or Pigweed (Chenopodium album), for years until I learned that Lambsquarter, a summer annual, is a close cousin to spinach but much, much more nutritious and yes, even yummier! It's been called one of Nature's "Nutritional Powerhouses" and I was throwing it over the fence for the cows. Duh. Now when I see it I don't just pull it up. I pull it up and cook it for supper. ;)

What to do about the weeds you don't want, then?

I don't recommend using harsh chemicals in your yard or garden (or anywhere else, for that matter), but here's some information that might help you:

Plants (including weeds) fall into the categories of summer & winter annuals, biennials and perennials. Please research your own weeds before you destroy them. You might be suprised to learn that many of them are amazing healers and may also support your beneficial native insect species.

Summer annuals, like Crabgrass (the one I despise) and Morning Glory (beautiful but annoying), are the most common and germinate in the spring or early summer and flower in the summer or fall. The larger their seeds, the harder they are to control. Large-seeded weeds can germinate from deeper down in the soil and can easily push through a shallow layer of mulch.

Winter annuals, like henbit, dead nettle (yuk and double yuk), and chickweed (yummy, healthy goodness), germinate in the fall and flower/seed/fruit in the spring. They usually die back with the onset of summer heat, but they're usually there when you're working your garden in late winter and early spring, and tilling them under can and often does kill them. I can promise you this ... give chickweed an inch and it will take a mile. I love it and use it not only as herbal medicine but as a nutritious addition to my dinner table, but it's a proliferous "carpeting" plant and if you don't want it to take over your garden, keep close tabs on it. It will also set out about a gajillion seeds every spring.

Perennial weeds, those stubborn little suckers that persist in one spot for many, many seasons grow vegetatively, germinate from seed, form flowers, seed and fruit in a single year and can even die back to the ground before returning next season. They are proliferous reproducers.

Biennial plants which complete their life cycle in two years normally germinate from seed in their first year of life and produce stems, leaves and flowers before they die at the end of their second year. Common mullein is one of my favorite biennial "weeds".

Start thinking about weed control as soon as possible, preferably in the garden planning stage. Don't space your plants any further apart than is recommended. When they mature, their foliage will often come together above-ground and create a canopy that prevents light from reaching underneath where weeds will emerge. Less light = less weeds.

One of the most important secrets of weed control is removing them early. You should visit your garden every single day, if only to stroll through and give everything a good eyeball. Weeds are soooooo much easier to keep under control if you pull them up while they're young. And never, ever should you let them go to seed before removal. That's a mistake you'll regret, I promise. A single weed can produce hundreds of thousands of seed! And weed seeds can survive many, many years in your soil, meaning that every time you "work" it (tilling, hoeing, digging, etc.), there's a good chance you're going to pull the seeds closer to the surface where they will come alive.

Mulch, mulch, mulch, to a maximum depth of 3 inches (any deeper and you may prevent oxygen from reaching your soil), and try to make sure your organic mulch doesn't have seeds, rhizomes, or tubers in it. Besides being a weed deterrent, mulching helps regulate soil temperature and prevents evaporation of soil moisture. Organic mulching materials for the garden include leaves, bark, compost, straw, sawdust, grass clippings, pine needles, peanut hulls, and newspapers. I personally find inorganic mulches such as plastic and landscape fabric to be expensive, unruly, not necessarily more effective, and a general pain in the butt to install and maintain.

Soil solarization is natural method of weed, bacteria, fungi, and nematode control by covering a problematic area of soil with clear polyethylene plastic sheeting (2 - 6 mils thick, or construction grade) to capture the radiant energy of the sun and raise the soil temperature to levels that are lethal to many weed seeds. It's particularly effective here in the Southeast United States because of the intense heat during summer months. The best time for solarization (here) is May to August. You should remove/turn under all plant material (hoe, rake, till, shovel, etc.), especially sharp stems or sticks that could puncture your plastic, then moisten the soil and cover with the plastic sheeting. Secure it with soil, concrete blocks, bricks, wooden poles, or whatever you have. We staple ours to the wood around our raised beds. Keep the plastic clean by sweeping or mopping if off, or by giving it a good squirt with the garden hose every now and then. Leaving the plastic in place for 4 - 5 weeks so that soil temps are allowed to reach 120 - 125 degrees F should practically eliminate all viable weed seed in the top 2 - 3 inches of soil. And just in case there are seeds lurking further down, take care to not disturb the soil deeper than that. You can plant the next day after removing your plastic! We also cover our empty, raised beds with black plastic sheeting in the winter/spring for extra heating power and to prevent winter/spring weed growth.

Additional tips:

Prevent new weed seed from entering your garden by cleaning dirty plows, tillers, or other tools that have been used in weedy areas and may be harboring seed fugitives.

Poultry litter, hay and manure are often harbingers of seed.

A new crop of weeds almost always emerges very soon after a rain.

Organic mulch gradually decomposes every season, and will need to be replenished.

The use of "cover crops" over several seasons reduces weed problems. Keeping a steady stream of plants (for example; winter, spring, summer and autumn veggies or annual flowers) minimizes available space for weed growth.

For effective, chemical-free weed control, you must make a commitment to do what must be done in every season, year-round. Eventually it will become second nature to you and you will learn many valuable lessons along the way. In all seriousness, the weeds in my yard are what originally called me to herbalism and it was one of the happiest turns I have taken thus far along the road of my life.

Happy weeding! And remember this:

One girl's Weed is another girl's Green Ally :D

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Political email forwards, ugh.

My camera is still broken, and I'm ill as a hornet.

So. Today I received yet another forwarded email about the supposedly true, evil nature of Barack Obama. I do not wish to ignite any kind of political debate, and I'm not going to start campaigning for either candidate. I personally think most politicians are not to be trusted. But please, check the validity of your forwards before you unwittingly propagate a bunch of hooey? is a good resource to compare your forward's possibly (and nine times out of ten absolutely) ridiculous claims.

It does nothing whatsover to benefit your party's cause, whether it be right or left, to spread untruths. We shouldn't have to be reminded, over and over, not to believe everything we read whether we want it to be true or not.

Have a nice day.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." Lord Acton

(Check out my friend Brittany Scott's Two Cents in the

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Time to harvest ....

I've decided I'm going to try and do regular posts about some of my favorite local, native medicinal herbs that should be ready to harvest in my area, which is the southeastern United States (northeast Alabama, to be exact) during specific months. Of course the months I've listed here will vary from place to place, but they are pretty much dead-on for my area.

Remember to never, ever take all of any plant species from one area. "Ethical wildcrafting" is the practice of harvesting plants from the wild in a sustainable manner. An alarming amount of wild medicinal herb populations are declining due to overharvesting and loss of habitat. I don't want to be one of the reasons why a plant becomes endangered or extinct, and I know you don't, either. Educate yourself so that you know exactly what you're harvesting, when to harvest, how much you need, and why. And always leave some for Mother Nature.

Photos are above their related information.

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) blooms in July and the root is ready for harvest July through September. Please do remember, though, that Black Cohosh is in limited supply and is endangered, so tread lightly around her and never harvest unless absolutely, positively necessary.

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) leaves are ready for harvest May through July, before the fruits mature; harvest the green hulls as soon as they begin to fall, sometime between August and October.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) blooms in the spring and the root should be ready to harvest now.

Elder (Sambucus nigra) blooms are ready to harvest May to July. It's a little bit late for the leaves around here now but the yummy-delicious and oh-so-useful berries should be ready next month.

The above-ground, or aerial parts of Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) are ready to harvest through August before the flowers begin to fade.

Mountain Mint/Horsemint's (Pycnanthemum muticum) aerial parts should be harvested asap (around here it starts looking pretty ragged by late summer) and early in the morning before the hot summer sun has a chance to affect the essential oils.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) leaves and flowers (the above fantabulous passion flower was grown and pic was taken by Mel), ready to harvest June through August.

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila maculata) leaves may be harvested all year long!

Pleurisy Root/Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) roots should be harvested July through October.

Rabbit Tobacco/Everlasting (Gnaphalium obtusifolium); aerial parts from July through October. Pic was borrowed from Alternative Nature Online Herbal.

Harvest green Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) leaves from June through September.

Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) blooms in the summer and the root is ready to harvest July through September, after the berries ripen.

Harvest the entire flowering plant, including the root, of Stoneroot (Collinsonia canadensis) July through September.

Sumac (Rhus glabra) is blooming and the leaves are ready now! Wait until September or sometime before the first frost before harvesting berries for maximum vitamin C content and peak red color.

Wild Cherry (Prunus serotina) blooms spring/summer and her fruit should be ready now through August. Harvest bark later on in the fall, after the first frost.

Photos courtesy of, unless otherwise noted. Hopefully I'll be acquiring a new camera very soon.

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