Late Summer Foraging and Plant ID

Officially, we are still at D4-Exceptional drought levels, but we did get some significant rain this last week. Depending on who you ask, we got somewhere between four and seven inches. Thank you Lord for that!

In my last post, I said that I had seen some different “weeds” this summer probably due to the drought. Maybe when the less drought tolerant plants don’t make it, room is left for these guys. Anyway, it’s always exciting to see new stuff.

Speaking of new stuff. Someone in the wild edible Facebook page I belong to, told me about this phone app called Picture This. When you come across a plant you don’t recognize, you can take take a picture of it, and the app will try to identify it. Most of the time, it gives you a few possibilities, with the first one most likely. If nothing else,  that means you have a place to start from. I’ve been having a great time playing with it!

This cannot be said often enough: If you do not know, with 100% certainty, what a plant is, don’t eat it! It could be fine, or it could kill you. By the way, all the pictures in this post were taken with either my camera or my phone.  With one exception, they were all taken somewhere on our place.

This is spurge. You DON’T want to eat it. It will give you a bad stomach ache and all the nasty stuff that goes along with that.

xs_1533764768413_resized

spurge

This however, is purslane, and it is good for you.

xs_1534437112912

purslane

Here is a very good blog post with some good pictures that can give you more detailed info about the two. For me, purslane leaves look shiny and rubbery like succulents. They often grow close together, so once you know the difference, it’s pretty easy to tell them apart. An interesting side note is that, often edible plants and their poisonous look alikes grow close together. Another look alike for spurge (and as far I know this isn’t edible either) is knot weed. This grows all over my yard. I think makes great ground cover. I would like it better if it was edible.

0904181033_resized

knot weed

When we got rid of the giant ragweed last spring, this came up in its place. It’s called “Lambs Quarters, or Pig Weed or Wild Spinach…anyway. You can eat it. It’s a cousin to amaranth. As a matter of fact, several years ago, when we lived in Independence, I planted some amaranth. When it came up, my ex-husband saw it and asked me why I planted pig weed.

IMG_0698

pig weed

Taking a walk with Ed the other day, we came across these. Yep. Elderberries. They are along the road, and I don’t know if they were sprayed (although they probably weren’t), so we didn’t pick any. You gotta be careful with roadside finds for that reason. Many places want to get rid of the “weeds” along the road, so they spray poison. You don’t want to eat that! We’ve lost some of our own elderberry bushes this summer, while others seem to be doing very well. It well be a few years before ours produce anything though.

IMG_0705

elderberries

This is sumac. No this isn’t the poison sumac. The berries and seeds are edible. Green Deane at Eat the Weeds has a great article about sumac. Going to have to play with this one if I can get to it. Taking the picture was kind of a challenge.

xs_1534855565259_resized (2)

Sumac bush. You can see a  cluster of fruit/seeds in the center of the picture and another one off to the right.

This is milk weed. Butterflies love it, but the leaves are poisonous for us. The Spruce  has some good information about milk weed, including the fact that caterpillars can eat the poisonous leaves and thrive, while becoming poisonous themselves to any potential predator.

IMG_0719

milk weed and guest

This is pepper grass. It’s growing out in front of our detached garage. I had to hold my camera down at ground level in order to get a decent picture. The leaves have a peppery taste, and the seeds can be ground and used like black pepper. Green Deane says the roots mixed with vinegar makes a great horseradish substitute. Ed and Bam Bam would love that. Chicken girl and I, not so much. You all know I’m going to have to play with it anyway, right?

0904181038a_resized (1)

pepper  grass growing in the gravel

This stuff is growing everywhere around the house. It’s called Hornbeam Copperleaf, and as of yet, I can find no good use for it. If you do, let me know.

xs_1534532469397_resized

hornbeam copperleaf

These were out in the dog pen. Don’t know enough about fungi to even venture a guess. I did ask about it, and couldn’t get a definitive answer, so we pulled them up and disposed of them. Don’t think the dogs would eat them, but you never know with Meeko. He eats ragweed leaves.

0824181730

Some kind of fungi. Notice the spurge at the bottom of the picture

This is…yes, it’s corn. We didn’t plant it. It’s out where the chicken pen was a few years ago, so we figure those were some seeds the chickens didn’t get. Don’t really expect it to do anything, but we’ll see. Morning glories are coming up around it. Talk about invasive! Morning glories are the worst! Even if they are pretty.

IMG_0699

Corn. See the morning glories kind of circled behind it?

This is called a hummingbird vine. Someone had to have planted it, because it originates in Mexico and South America.  It’s invasive too. It’s pretty, but it’s unruly. Good thing I like the wild look huh. Still if it gets too wild, I’ll have to cut it back.

xs_1536077803919_resized

hummingbird vine

The wild cherries are gone as far as I can tell, but the grapes are hanging in. xs_1534532720530_resized

We have a ton of juniper berries, but still don’t know what to do with them besides making gin and I’m not doing that.

IMG_0720

juniper berries

Of course we still have plantain, dandelion, chicory, mallow, and goldenrod.

0904181037_resized

goldenrod

Remember when we were talking about mint and I said that it’s super invasive and that’s why a lot of people don’t plant it directly in the ground? Well, I guess it doesn’t do well in drought, because I only have about three stalks of mint in my yard and they didn’t get very big. Maybe it will come back now that we have some water.

0904181114_resized

What’s left of my mint.

For the second year in a row, we have a volunteer pumpkin growing under the maple tree in the front yard. It starts so late that it won’t be big enough before it gets cold. At least it wasn’t last year.

0904181036_resized

volunteer pumpkin blooming

Next week, Ed we’ll be back to tell you more about our experience with the wild hive. It was awesome!

Hey, if you like our blog, please share the love with your friends!

Have a great week!

Connie

Advertisements

Mint, Mint, and More Mint

Ed is working on the next installment of our Endangered Skills series and probably a rant about law mowers. I thought I would talk about the one thing I planted that will go on and on without me: Mint.

Yes, mint is invasive.

I’m ok with that.

I think I told you a few years ago, that I really wanted to turn the front yard into a garden, not only for the benefits of having a garden, but also because we wouldn’t have to mow it. Well, we have Maple trees, a very small witch hazel sapling, a few day lilies and we have mint….we also have thistles, but I would rather they go somewhere else. I’ve planted other things, especially down near the road hoping they would grow up hill. Not only have they not grown up hill, they haven’t grown at all. I can’t even find where they were planted.

IMG_0021

Little witch hazel

Yes, I got a new camera. It’s an updated version of my old one and lets me use wifi to upload the pictures.

The two or three little mint plants I put out there two years ago, have expanded to about 15 square feet. That’s 15 square feet we don’t have to mow.

img_0018.jpg

The mint bed, with a few weeds in the front. The tallest plants that are just starting to flower are almost waist high for me, so they are about 3 feet tall.

I haven’t even tried to harvest any this year. To be honest, I don’t use much of it. For me, the smell can be overpowering, particularly spearmint. That probably has something to do with family road trips when I was a kid. I had a tendency to get back seat carsickness, and somebody was always passing out Wrigley’s Spearmint gum. The two are irrevocably connected in my mind and so the smell of spearmint can make me nauseous. It’s strange because mint is used to treat nausea.

Peppermint is another matter. Its the smell of candy canes and Starlight Mints. Peppermint essential oil is fantastic for stopping headaches.

We have both kinds of mint growing and fortunately, they are easy to tell apart. Spearmint leaves have a rough texture and are a light shade of green. Peppermint is slightly darker, and has much smoother leaves. I used to have some chocolate mint too. Yes, it smells just like Thin Mints.

img_0019.jpg

Spearmint on the left and peppermint on the right.

The mint family of plants is huge. I read somewhere there are 3200 varieties. You can learn more about them here. One of my favorite members is lemon balm. I had a pretty good stand of it when we lived in Independence, and planned to bring cuttings with me, but my accident during our move stopped all that. I started some lemon balm seed summer before last, but it didn’t make it. Catnip is also a member of the mint family. Our cats are divided on it. Captain and Bookworm could take it or leave it. Adora likes it, but Marshmellow was the catnip junkie.

There is so much you can do with mint, and there is plenty of information out there in blog land to prove it. This is a good post that links to several other good posts. I may have to try the mint infused honey. I could do one of the salves too. I think I have everything I need. I let you know how it turns out.

Anybody want some mint?

Connie

P.S. If you like our posts, please follow us, and share us on social media.
Thanks!

Run, Run, Run!

Seems like all we did this week was run.

We made two 100 mile round trips to Liberty. and one 140 mile round trip to Independence this week, for doctor’s appointments and other personal business. Needless to say, we didn’t get much done on the homestead.

However, we did find a supplier for free wood pallets and other cool stuff from a store in Liberty. Look what we brought home yesterday!

wood frame with pallets in the background.

wood frame with pallets in the background.

Since we still don’t have the cold frame finished, Ed is thinking about using part of one of the pallets to frame the windows. Lord willing, his next two days off (Monday and Tuesday), will be “stay at home and catch up on projects” days.

Even with all the running, we did manage to get some school done. Most of what we did this week was literature. Since she was having to do a lot of sitting and waiting, I made her take books with her. She was not happy, but she did it. Today we started some Shakespeare, as well as reading “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” . Next week will have some “catch up on school” days as well.

The days that Ed worked, I got a few projects finished. I got some goldenrod picked and then I hung all my herbs out in the garage to dry.

goldenrod

goldenrod

drying herbs

drying herbs

I started drying them this way a few years ago, when we lived in Independence. I had a bumper crop of herbs and needed to get them all harvested before a forecasted frost. I crammed everything I could get into paper grocery sacks and stuck them on a shelf in the back of the house. Time got away from me and I didn’t get anything done with them. A few months later, I opened the bags, expecting to find rotted plant matter. What I found was perfectly dried herbs. I’ve been drying them that way ever since. The challenge this year was finding a place to hang the bags. I thought about the basement, but its too damp. I finally settled on the garage. I would have suspended them from the rafters, but I didn’t have any way to reach that high.

I also finished my first fall decorating project.

maple syrup bottle candle holders

maple syrup bottle candle holders

It’s the same concept as the blue ones I did awhile back. These are maple syrup bottles. I coated the inside with a shade of acryllic paint called “nutmeg”. Since the little handles are solid glass, I covered them with hemp rope. The leaves on the front are real maple leaves from the trees in our front yard. I coated them in about a ton of Mod Podge, to make them stay on. Then I tied on the raffia bows. I think they turned out well. The candles were too big for the bottles, so I had to whittle them down a little to make them fit. I guess that is as good a reason as any for learning to make my own candles!

Of course, on the days that Ed worked, we still had school, and Katherine still had to read. Here she is reading Les Miserables. Bookworm is reading along.

Kat and Bookworm reading Le Mis

Kat and Bookworm reading Le Mis

Ed is working on a series of posts about our critters, but I have to say something about Bookworm here. She is Captain’s daughter, from her first and only litter. At our last house, she practically lived outside. Now, she won’t go out unless we make her, and then she climbs the front door screen, yelling at us to let her back in. She divides her time between Katherine’s room and the tables in front of the picture window in the front room. I’m not sure what she was  thinking here. Maybe she thought she looked better in the pot than the avocado tree did.  That tree is tougher than it looks. It stood right back up when I made Bookworm move.

Bookworm in the avocado pot

Bookworm in the avocado pot

Our weather has been typical for Missouri fall. Two temperate days, one hot day, and then a “but I don’t want to turn on the furnace yet” day, and then back to a temperate day. We are getting very close to our average first frost dates, so I would really like to get some things finished outside soon. I also need to bring in some potted plants and herbs from the front yard. Then I’ll have to work on some interior lighting.

Hope everyone has a great evening!

Connie

The Results of the Poll

A few weeks ago, we took a poll asking what kind of posts you would like to see more of.

To the ten of you that voted: Thanks!

“Wild Herbs/Edibles” and “Faith Based”, were the top two choices, with three votes each. Then there were two votes for “Daily Experiences” and one each for “Animals/Farm Critters” and “DIY”

Ok, so my mind, working like it does, my first thought was faith based wild herbs and edibles? Well, ok, maybe not.

Let me ask you this: What do you all think of a weekly or maybe biweekly post about each of those things? Tell us what you think in the comments, use our “Contact us” page, or talk to us on facebook.

For now, let me say this. Every time I go out to forage, I am always amazed at how much God has given us that we don’t even recognize. Go for a walk in the woods, or in a meadow, or some place where wild things grow, and just look at the variety of plant life. Look along the side of the road, and see all the different wild flowers. Look at all the different types of trees!

Genesis 1: 11-13 says

“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.”

It was good! It was ALL good! Do you realize what that means? Before Adam and Eve sinned, there were no poisonous plants! Poison ivy wasn’t! Stinging nettles didn’t! Still, even after the fall, God made a way, like he always does. There may be poisonous plants now, but there are also healing plants.

From what I’ve been told, jewel weed, which can be made into a salve for stings and itchy rashes, always grows close to poison ivy. The cure grows close to the poison! How cool is that?

Oh, and stinging nettles? Their “juice” can treat the stings of their own leaves! Not only that, but nettles are used to stop bleeding and have all kinds of other health benefits. You can read more about that here.

So, I guess I did write about faith based wild herbs and edibles, huh?

Connie

Writing 101: When I’m Not Writing

This was the Day 11 assignment from Writing 101:

What do you do when you’re not writing? How do you reset and return to this dashboard, refreshed? What do you need in your day-to-day life to maintain balance: Running? Yoga? Gardening? Painting? Cooking?

Today, publish your post in any form you wish, as long as you focus on one or all of these questions.”

What do I do when I’m not writing? Every thing else!

The most important thing I do is spend time with the Lord. I talk to Him. I read my Bible, and sometimes some other devotional material. I write down scriptures from my reading that speak to me that particular day, and sometimes I write down prayers, and other thoughts. The earlier in the day I can do that, the better.

Then, of course, is the work of the homestead: Cooking, cleaning and caring for critters. There is gardening and foraging. Look at this beautiful Goldenrod. I recently found out that tea made from the flowers can help with kidney trouble.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

Today, after we ran to town for groceries, Ed, Kat and I worked on expanding the chicken coop. Although Moonrise is much smaller than Sunrise; we’re pretty sure he is a rooster too. So, we will have to find some hens soon.

Sunrise and Moonrise

Sunrise and Moonrise

The almost done, expanded coop

The almost done, expanded coop

Then there is the homeschooling. I really like Charlotte Mason’s methods, but coordinating it all takes a lot of time and a lot of reading. The upside to that is that my daughter is getting a great education, and I’m improving on mine.

When I don’t have any of that to do, then I work on repurposing projects, practice piano and guitar, and try to learn new things for myself.

I try to check in with facebook at least once a day. I have a lot of family spread out across the country and that is the easiest way for us to stay in touch.

I really like Pinterest, but I could really waste a lot of time in there, and I can’t afford to do that right now.

At the end of the day, I try to come back and write it down to share with you. Sometimes I’m better off sleeping on it first.

Oh, and here are some pictures of a few other projects I’ve been working on.

My first refrigerator pickles. They were awesome!

Refrigerator Pickles

Refrigerator Pickles

Straining the mullein and plantain oil that I started in July. Now I can make plantain salve. I put some of the mullein oil in a recycled brown bottle with an eye dropper. That way, it will be ready should one of us have an ear ache.

plantain in oil

plantain in oil

straining the plantain

straining the plantain

mullein oil

mullein oil

Remember the day I was going to take pictures and it rained? Well, as promised here are some pictures of my painted junk. I’m thinking of planting clematis around the bike, and turning the baskets into fairy gardens. There are some rather sickly cone flowers (echinacea) between the pots.

painted junk

painted junk

Here is some of my not painted junk as well as some nice mums I bought at the flower shop here in town. You can see my tin man and some other stuff in the back ground.

Not painted junk and mums

Not painted junk and mums

This is my latest project. I got the idea from something I saw on Pinterest. Those are olive oil bottles that I coated on the inside with acrylic paint. You just pour some paint in and swish it around until it coats the bottle. I want to do my kitchen and dining room in these colors…someday.

painted bottle candle holders

painted bottle candle holders

Anyway, that is just some of what I do when I am not writing.

Connie

Let the Horror Begin!

That is what Katherine said as we started school this morning. Yeah, that was encouraging. Well, we made it through the day with only one meltdown. Although, I guess you could call it a double, because we both got pretty hot. Fifteen-year-olds with attitudes are so much fun. Yeah, right.

The rest of the week was just as busy as last week. I did get my herbs harvested, but haven’t done anything with them yet. I got the strawberry bed mulched, and cleaned out the mess in the driveway that runs into the basement/garage. We had stuff sitting out there covered with tarps, and the tarps were useless. The garbage man had a busy day. Oh well; it’s just stuff.

harvested sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, basil and mint.

harvested sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, basil and mint.

Katherine and I pulled out some old tires and an old bike we’re going to turn into yard art, and scrubbed them down with dish soap. Now, I just have to get the paint.

scrubbing the bike, tires, and other things.

scrubbing the bike, tires, and other things.

Speaking of paint: We have a ton of paint left by the previous owner. Most of it is interior latex paint. Any ideas about what to do with it? She and I have totally different tastes in color schemes. Most of it is pastels, except for a really bright “melon”. Not my thing at all.

I do want to share a few things with you that I’ve learned in the last few weeks. You know I can barely stand to throw anything away if I think I can do something with it. Well, I have been reading for years about things to do with toilet paper and paper towel tubes, and have a bunch in a bag. Last week I was fighting with two different glue guns and a glue pot, trying to untangle their cords. I was about to roll the cords around their respective owners when the bag of tubes caught my eye. Ok, it’s not pretty, but it really works! As for the pretty part. I covered coffee cans with scrap book paper and old dictionary pages to make tube collectors that sit on the back of the toilet.

cords in tubes

cords in tubes

tube can

tube can

Since I keep all glass jars and bottles, I have spent a lot of time trying to remove labels. Then a few weeks ago, I read this blog post. She is absolutely right. Wow that works! Only don’t leave them to soak over night. Your jars will be clean, but the cold washing soda will set up in the bottom of your sink around the drain plug. Using, vinegar, running water, a table knife, and about thirty minutes time, we finally got it out.

washing soda hard as rock in the sink

washing soda hard as rock in the sink

petrified washing soda

petrified washing soda

Some time over the last few weeks, and I honestly don’t remember where I read it, there was something that said you could spray a table spoon of Epsom Salts diluted in a gallon of water on your peppers and they would produce better. Since mine weren’t producing at all, what did I have to loose? So I sprayed them. Of course, it could be a coincidence, but my peppers are blooming like crazy and I actually have a few small peppers growing. I’ll keep you posted. I took some pictures, but you can’t tell what from what with all the green.

Oh, here is a picture of our pitiful potato crop. Our neighbor, Mr “A” says he doesn’t “fool with potatoes”, for that very reason.

pitiful potatoes

pitiful potatoes

The other day, I noticed something growing in front of the barn doors that I thought I should know. I had to wait for blooms to be sure, but it’s mallow! I’ll tell you about it in my next post, as well some info about preserving herbs.

Mallow!

Mallow!

Connie

A little Garden Update

Well, the garden is still intact. The new chicks kind of put all that on hold. Additionally, I think something out there read the blog and told everyone to shape up or else! We got more from the garden yesterday than we have for the last month, but it’s still not a lot. The only plant I really want to leave is the basil. I always plant basil and marigolds near my tomatoes to deter horn worms and other nasties. I bought a basil plant this year, and then found the seeds I had saved from two years ago. I planted those just to see what they would do, and they didn’t do bad. I’m thinking I will harvest the leaves from the plant I bought and then let the other produce some seed that I can save for next year. I have one die hard marigold too!

Basil among the weeds

Basil among the weeds

Die hard marigold

Die hard marigold

The front yard is doing much better. We harvested the three little cabbages that survived from the seeds Kat and I started indoors last winter, and turned them into a nice batch of slaw (whole 30 compliant, of course). The green beans out there are still steadily producing. I am thinking about leaving them now, and using what else we get for next year’s seed. The strawberries are sending out runners everywhere, and I am looking forward to seeing what we get next spring. We also have sunflowers growing from saved seeds. They are working nicely as a trellis for our best producing cucumbers.

sunflowers and cucumbers

sunflowers and cucumbers

just about ready

just about ready

I have been working on covering the strawberry and herb beds with newspaper, cardboard and mulch to cut down on weeds and provide some nourishment to the soil. So far, most of the mulch has come from grass clippings, and it has been a slow process. This week, I was determined to get finished. Technically, the herb garden isn’t much of one yet, although most of the transplants I put out there have done well. So, I was out there, pulling the bigger weeds, and covering the smaller ones with newspaper and cardboard, when I came across a vine with some interesting, feathery leaves. Then I noticed a few red blossoms. I headed in the house to see if Google could shed some light on my mystery plant. Success! They are rose feather morning glories, and they are rare. Considering where I found them, I think a previous owner had to have planted them. So they can stay for now. I just mulched around them.

Rose feather morning glory

Rose feather morning glory

mint

mint

Rosemary and thyme

Rosemary and thyme

Oregano getting ready to bloom

Oregano getting ready to bloom

Sage

Sage

Rosemary

Rosemary

more oregano

more oregano

Since Ed has decided that he can rake grass a lot faster than I can, he started helping with that last time he mowed. Yesterday, he determined that it was just going to take too long to get enough grass to finish the job. We have a ton of old hay in the barn. So, we went and filled the truck bed with hay and quickly finished the mulching. I just hope its dead enough to not try and give me new growth in my herb bed, next spring.

Tossing hay from the loft

Tossing hay from the loft

036

mulched herb bed and extra mulch

Oh, and here’s a little chicken update:
As Ed said, Katherine has already named the chickens…much in the same way she names her drawings of dragons and My Little Pony characters. They are Free Fall, Sunrise, Noon, Dusk and Moonrise.
Here is a pic I shared with our facebook friends.

Kat and baby Moonrise

Kat and baby Moonrise

Today, she came inside, grabbed a pair of plastic gloves and headed around the corner toward her room (and the bathroom). She came back a few seconds later with a wet washcloth, holding up her gloved hand which now displayed a dark runny streak. Yep, she had just been pooped on by one of her “babies”! As I struggled not to laugh, she did too. Then she begged me not to tell Ed, but he figured it out when he saw her wiping her hair down with the wash cloth. I have a feeling the chicken stories are just beginning!

Have a blessed weekend!

Connie