Bitter What? Benefits of Bitters

Bitters…have you ever tried them? Do you know what the benefits of bitters are? I am here to tell ya!

Bitter is a flavor that many Americans think is wrong. You hear all the time, “yuck too bitter!”, “needs more sugar” ad stuff like that. We NEED that flavor in our diet. America loves their sweets more than any other country in the world.

If you frequently feel lethargic after meals, bloated, constipated or just crummy in the tummy, you may benefit from taking a tincture of bitters before or after each meal. I find it works great before meals. As soon as you put the tincture on your tongue, it stimulates the salivary glands producing your first digestive juices which is telling your stomach to get ready, here comes the food, start the digestive process!

Not only that, it may help –

  • sugar cravings,
  • regulate blood sugar
  • balance appetite
  • increase absorption of vitamins
  • help the liver

BUT who is it not for???? Someone with IBS with diarrhea – we don’t want to encourage that for goodness sakes.

There are many commercial bitters on the market today with an array of flavor profiles but it is super easy to make. Of course if you don’t want to make it yourself, I can make it for YOU!

There are so many herbs and fruits to choose from when creating your bitters as well as choices of alcohol. I personally prefer to use brandy, it is mild and helps the medicine go down, so to speak.

First choose your bittering agents, one or a combination: Use between 10-50% of total ingredients.

  • Gentian Root – the bitterest of all bitter herbs on the planet. Very strong!!! Don’t go overboard.
  • Dandelion Root and Leaf – a common bitter that is eaten but does well in a tincture
  • sarsaparilla, wormwood, artichoke leaf – I have not tried yet
  • Orange, lemon or grapefruit peels

Flavorings or aromatics to help the flavor profile:

Spices, herbs, fruits:

Cardamom, Cinnamon, Coriander, Coffee, Ginger, Fennel seeds,  Black pepper, Vanilla beans, Cacao nibs(because chocolate goes with everything!)

Chamomile, Hops, Hibiscus, Hawthorn berries, Mints

Citrus fruits and peels, fresh or dried.

The sky is the limit really!

This is my recipe adapted from a recipe from Learning Herbs and from The Kitchn.

bitter1
all the ingredients

Grapefruit Bitters

  • 1/2 fresh grapefruit, washed well, cut up into chunks
  • 1 Tablespoon dried dandelion root
  • 1 Tablespoon dried dandelion leaf
  • 1/4 cup dried hawthorn berries
  • 1/4 cup dried hibiscus roselle (sabdariffa)
  • 2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons raw cacao nibs
  • 1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • approximately 24 ounce brandy or other liquor

You can find most the the herbs at Bulk Herb Store I like that they are close by in Tennessee and I really love their story, check it out!

Add fruit, herbs, spices to a quart glass canning jar.

bitter2

Then pour your brandy to cover completely!

bitter3

bitter4

Mix well and put a lid on it. Keep it on a shelf out of the direct sunlight, where you see it daily to give it a shake.

bitter5
Grapefruit bitters and valerian tincture macerating

This is it after 24 hours – beautiful!! BUT you must wait a few weeks until it is ready. Taste it after two weeks but 3 might be better.

bitter6

Once it is done, strain it into another jar. You can add a bit of warmed honey to it but not too much, maybe 1/4 cup. You don’t want it too sweet or it won’t do its job. 😉

I will post the finished product when it is ready.

Share with me your recipes or your experience with bitter.

Enjoy your day – get out into nature and take a walk – 

Anne-Marie

 

 

 

What’s Happening At The Farm

It has been awhile since I updated what is growing in the garden and the woods and any critter news so I went out and took some new pictures to SHOW you what’s happening! 🙂

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I tried a few new medicinal plants this years, some worked and some not so good. I am not the best grower, it really has to be able to survive without pampering. I mean, I can’t help it, I just FORGET to water or weed sometimes. I realized tomatoes just do ok for me so I grow just a few plants now and trade for the rest. Hot peppers, easy but I have no idea what happened to the bell pepper plants…they were there but they didn’t make it. The okra….w–e-l-l I wasn’t sure when to pick it being the first year so they got a mind of their own, overnight I might add and they grew to like 4″ long. Oh well not so good to eat at that stage. So someone gave me this fabulous idea to let them dry on the plant, paint them and make santa Christmas ornaments – woohoo!!!

dried okra pods
dried okra pods

I CAN grow lemon balm, lemon grass, oregano, sweet basil, holy basil, stevia, chamomile, butterfly bushes, anise hyssop, comfrey, sorrel, lettuce, cabbage, stinging nettle, collards, burdock and oh yeah sunflowers BUT the darn squirrels came and took ALL OF THE FLOWER HEADS when they were going to the seed stage. UGGHHHHHH.

burdock, lemon balm, holy basil
burdock, lemon balm, holy basil
butterfly bush & anise hyssop
butterfly bush & anise hyssop
lemongrass
lemongrass
lettuce and napa cabbage
lettuce and napa cabbage

This week, I will be harvesting all of the nettle, basils and lemon balm – big work a head for me.

lemon balm
lemon balm
holy basil
holy basil
stinging nettle
stinging nettle

Here are my shiitakes! LOVE them – again easy peasy to grow.

Shiitake logs
Shiitake logs
Mmmmm shiitakes!!
Mmmmm shiitakes!!

We did lose our beloved dog, Lightning earlier this month at the ripe old age of 14. It is very sad losing one of our critters especially one we have had since a pup. 20140528_063549

She was loved by all and is missed very much by us and her furry companions Luke, our boxer/lab mix and our two cats. Critters must get along on our homestead, it is the way it always was here and always will be. Not quite sure how it happens that way but it really is cool to see all of them coexist, hanging out together. Like a regular land of Dr. Doolittle. 🙂

Socks kitty, Luke and Zoey(visiting)
Socks kitty, Luke and Zoey(visiting)

Currently we have 8 chickens and none, I mean non are laying eggs. What happened? I go out everyday to check, sometimes I get one, just one and we used to get 5-6 a day. Two hens are young so they aren’t ready yet and the others went through the molting stage, when they lose feathers everywhere and I do know they don’t lay during that time. Hopefully I can get some eggs soon or they won’t get anymore pizza scraps, veggies, sourdough bread or spaghetti. You ever see chickens eat spaghetti or pizza – they go nuts!

2 of the Brady girls.
2 of the Brady girls.

Herbal classes each month with Herb Walks and Making Medicines –

Backyard Medicinal Workshop June
Backyard Medicinal Workshop June
Backyard Medicinal Workshop September
Backyard Medicinal Workshop September

Well that’s what is happening on the farm!

Have a wonderful day,

Anne-Marie

Learning Herbalism Together

Learning Herbalism together as a community!

A couple years back, I started my journey into the herbalism world. At first, I learned there were medicinal benefits for certain foods that we ate like garlic, ginger, tumeric, cayenne, in general,
spices. Then a medicinal plant or berry here and there interested me. Eventually, I became obsessed…yep…OBSESSED!!! I will not STOP!!!

No really, joking aside, it amazes me everyday to see foods and plants in a different light than before. The weeds we once pulled because we figured they were taking over our precious flowers and vegetables. Ha! Little did I know, nature put them there for a reason. Some weeds benefit the soils by replenishing the lost vitamins and minerals so don’t pull them or heaven forbid, spray them 😦 ! Learn to identify the particular weed and see if it has some benefit for your soil, for you or for someone else.

I learned that red clover is an amazing soil nutrient that can fix the nitrogen in the soil. The best way to plant it, you will love this, go out into your fields and sprinkle the clover seeds all over the poop piles from your cows and I would guess, horse poop, goat poop, pig poop etc. Ok within two days their were sprouts and now they cover the cow patties. Hmmm… did not know this! But I did this for another reason as well, red clover is medicinal and I will harvest the flowers once they bloom.
red clover

Here are the benefits of red clover:
Red clover is considered to be one of the richest sources of isoflavones (water-soluble chemicals that act like estrogens and are found in many plants). It is used for hot flashes/flushes, PMS, lowering cholesterol, breast enhancement and breast health, improving urine production and improving circulation of the blood. It is also used to help prevent osteoporosis, reduce the possibility of blood clots and arterial plaques and limiting the development of benign prostate hyperplasia.

Red clover is a source of many valuable nutrients including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. Red clover is also considered to be one of the richest sources of isoflavones (water-soluble chemicals that act like estrogens and are found in many plants).
source – http://www.herbwisdom.com
If you want to buy red clover already dried visit the link below!
Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c
I love Mountain Rose Herbs! They always have what I need when I don’t have it growing in the garden. When my dried herbs come in from Mt. Rose, I peel the ingredient label off of the plastic bag and secure it to a quart mason jar. I then add my dried herbs and I look incredibly organized!

my apothocary shelves!
my apothocary shelves!

My goal is to learn everything about herbalism that I can and be the best herbalist that I can be. I will share what I learn with all of you and with my wonderful friends at our Ladies Homestead Gatherings!

Enjoy your day today!
Anne-Marie

Fun With Fungi

Continuing from my earlier post, I am going to tell you all about the classes we took at the conference last weekend. I have this strong urge to do mushroom logs and it is crazy because I don’t love mushrooms, hubby does but me…just kind of like them! Oh well, really just another skill I would like to learn!!!

Here is an outline of what Mr. Culbreath introduced to us:

Shiitake mushroom – Lentinula edodes
Oyster mushroom – Pleurotus ostreatus
shiitake

Substrate – need hardwood logs such as oak, beech, sweetgum and alder. Recommended size is 4-6″ in diameter and 3-4 feet long, something you can comfortably handle.

You need to cut the trees down in late winter/early spring before the trees bud. Let freshly cut logs sit for 1-3 weeks because the plants defense chemicals diminish during this time. Next clean the logs off with water to get off any lichens or fungal growth(you do not want any competition of other species on your logs).

Let them dry a bit before drilling. Drill 5/16″ holes 2″ deep(I hear there is a perfect drill tip that does this and removes the sawdust too!)
Use a guide or tape on the drill bit to monitor depth and drill holes no more than 4″ apart in a zig zag pattern all around the log. 50 holes approx. on each log.

Next take your mushroom plugs(you can order from fungi.com)
Drive one plug into each hole with a hammer – easy peasy!
hammering

Next step is sealing the log. Holes and ends of the log may be sealed with cheese wax or beeswax to prevent drying out. Use a small brush or turkey baster to apply melted wax to each plug.
painting log

Stack logs in a “crib stack” avoiding direct contact with the ground. You can use an old shipping crate as a good foundation. Label your logs with an aluminum garden tag – type of mushroom, inoculation source and date. Logs should be kept in a shady, moist and cool place BUT do not allow to freeze during the first few weeks. KEEP EACH SPECIE SEPARATE!! Best to have two or more logs for a good production.
crib stack
Water at least every other week, more for hot dry periods, maintain moisture at or greater than 40%.

After about 9 month, mottling will occur on the end of the logs(white spotty stuff). When you see this fruiting is about to occur – YAY! You will then see white bumps on the log where the plugs are and these are mushroom babies. At this time you would change the stacking of the logs to more of a slanted stack to expose most of the log.
slanted
Total time about 12 months and then it will continue producing for I think it was 2-3 years. Harvest the shiitake mushrooms as soon as the veil has broken.

I am so doing this!!! If anyone has experience with growing mushrooms, please share you knowledge with us and I will post it for you! Enjoy you day.
Anne-Marie

30 Day Fitness Challenge

Being a homesteader means doing a bunch of chores on the farm including raking, digging, clearing, cutting down trees and brush, shoveling poop, carrying hay bales, feed bags, cleaning, you name it! Lately, I have been feeling, well alittle bit lacking in strength…I guess you could say. My back and neck have some issues anyway so usually I ask my sweet son to carry the hay and feed for me which he does. Hey he is a big, tall 15 year old and me, wimpy 40 something, height challenged lady! No I am not really complaining because I would not change my life for the world!

So a bunch of ladies from our homestead group decided they would do this 30 Day Fitness Challenge. I neglected to sign up, at first, accidentally on purpose but after a week of seeing the posts of how much fun they were having…I jumped in!

I clicked the link for the challenge(killer boot camp),
www.mrshutupandtrain.com

I signed up Tuesday evening! Wednesday it is raining and the first task is a one mile run, yeah that’s right one mile! Patiently, I waited for the stupid rain to slow down so I could run my mile and finally did it. So I didn’t pass out, that’s good, now on to the rest of the tasks.
I am going to post the link for the video if you want to see the exercises and try them. 🙂
http://www.mrshutupandtrain.com/30daycc/day-1-baseline/
60 seconds for each exercise- how many reps can you do?
1. Crawl Down Push ups – did like three and then could not push myself back up so I had to modify.
2. Burpees(Whoever invented this I want to slap, seriously!!)
3. Single leg toe touches – not bad
4. Body squats -got it!
5. Tricep dips, my arms are still falling off!!!!

Today was Day 4

-Yep I skipped 2 and 3 to catch up with a friend. Day 3 was a rest day. Here is the link for Day 4’s exercises.
day4
http://www.mrshutupandtrain.com/30daycc/day-4-fuel-fit-blazer-challenge/I had twenty minutes to do these and let me tell you – I am OLD!!!! hahahahaha…I will get it together though and become stronger. Burpees better get the heck off the list and one day I will succeed at the REAL push ups without touching the ground.
Now let me go take my poor sore muscles and walk out in the rain, yeah still raining and go feed my horses!
Enjoy your day 🙂
Anne-Marie

Mom,is there spinach in these cookies?

You know you are a homestead when…your child comes in the room with a box of cookies and says, “Mom, is there spinach in these cookies?” Ok you gotta know me, yes I have hidden spinach in cookies, well really brownies, and blueberries and chickpeas and whatever healthy ingredient I could possibly slip into the food without my dear child and hubby knowing. You are probably saying, “Hey that’s sneaky!!!” but really you want to know how to do it do, don’t you?

First, this is what Jonathan brought in to show me.
Notice on the label, it says, Earthfare Organic Half and Half mix – spinach, but in the clear box you see a bunch of chocolate chip cookies. Ok so I wish I had a camera in hand for the priceless look on Jonathan’s face when he asked me that question, because there was no spinach in there, I just reused the clear box(as all of us frugal, homesteading, recycling freaks do)that the salad mix came in, which by the way was free from Earthfare. See past posts from earlier this month for that little tidbit!

Yes I was laughing and assured him there was absolutely no spinach, whatsoever in those cookies and matter of fact, they were store bought chocolate chip cookies. That’s right, I do buy store bought cookies too, not everything all of the time is completely homemade! Sometimes a girl needs a break!!!!

If you want to sneak some extra veggies and fruits in your baked goods. Blend up a couple cups of fresh spinach(no frozen spinach!) in a blender with a cup or two of blueberries. Save this mixture in the freezer in 1/4 cup servings and add it to your chocolate cakes or brownies in place of a portion of oil. No one will know, I promise!

I will post some of the recipes later that I use from “The Sneaky Chef” or you can find her recipes here:
http://www.thesneakychef.com/the_sneaky_chef_books.php

Herb Walk

This past weekend I went camping with the Lazy B Ladies Homestead Group and we had a blast as always! We camped on a beautiful 600 acre farm up in Carnesville, thanks to our good friend Lynn and her parents.

On Sunday the group, led by Andrea’s brother, Butch took us on a learning adventure all over the farm! He is so knowledgeable about plants and their uses that we almost did not make it 5 feet away from the campsite. The first thing he showed us were some mushrooms that are known for their medicinal properties in Chinese medicine. Now, I know nothing about mushrooms other than the normal cremini and portobella that you buy in the store. Since there can be some major toxic or hallucinogenic species in the forest…I kinda stay away from all of them!

Reishi Mushroom – notice the dark orangy brown stem.

Next we found some violets, well… violet leaves, no flowers present. The leaves are full of vitamin C and the flowers even more so.

Here is a plant that looks similar to the violet leaves but MUCH bigger! The leaves of the Wild Ginger are thick and waxy like where as the violets are thin and more delicate.

It is not the same as regular ginger but it sure smells like it. Not sure yet on the uses because so far it seems like the leaves carry a toxin that is not good if ingested so for now it can be used topically on wounds. Will post more on it as I find out.

OK so here we are walking through this HUGE pasture and Butch is off….way ahead of us cause he spotted something!!! See the white dot in the picture up ahead of the group to the right? That would be Butch!

He spotted a Willow Tree. Did you know willow bark has salicylic acid in it, the same thing used in aspirins? So someone had a really bad headache, Butch cuts off a strip of bark and tells her to chew on it. Lo and behold her headache goes away within minutes. Hmmmm…pretty cool stuff! So we all try a piece, and let me tell you, it is pretty nasty – just like chewing an aspirin. But I saved a piece for future use.

By the way, I found a Willow Tree at home -yippee!

Here is the view from our lunch stop on the hill. Absolutely gorgeous!
And most of the gang:
I love my friends! We laughed, we ate, we learned -totally cool!

Farm Work Never Stops…

I have not blogged in over a week because I threw out my back and neck! Uggghhhh!!! I am not used to sitting still or laying still for so long and I am itching to get back to work BUT doctor’s orders no lifting or working for a few more days.

So here’s the scoop on last week…. our two cows arrived about 10 days ago and it was NOT uneventful! I should say they are not actually our cows but we are housing them in exchange for meat one day. 🙂

 Here they are! They were dairy bulls that were purchased, bottle fed and castrated to be raised as steer. It is quite hard at this stage not to become attached because they are cute and #5 is my favorite(the one with his head in the bucket). Back to their first few days, you would think that two cows on 16 acres would love life and not think about escaping right? Wrong!!! Their sole purpose the second day was how do we get the heck out of here and head home! Sunday morning, as I am getting ready to leave for the day to work at the GHA Farmers Market, Jonathan informs me that the cows are in the front yard. Great…20 minutes til I must leave and already we have to round up cows! OK so it wasn’t as bad as I thought, they ran from us a couple times and then between the three of us, we squeezed them along a fence line back into their pasture, whew. A few hours go by and I get a call from John, ” Uh honey the cows are nowhere to be found, got to go search” and he wasn’t real happy about it. After I arrive home and see the condition of my husband, I realize what he had to go through to find our cute little cows! John retells the story , he walked the whole property, crossing fence lines and finally spots them atop a ledge of some sort 8 feet up scared to pieces. Gun shots are heard nearby as some dumb people on the next road are shooting and hooting and hollering just for the fun of it. Why do people think that’s fun??? Weird… Anyway, John attempts to get these cows down through numerous briars(hence the conditon of my hubby when I saw him) with no luck. Finally he turns to leave to come home and the darn cows come down from where they were and follow him home!

They were so traumatized by their adventure that they figured life NEAR the Bilella household is much better than far away in the woods!

I love my family so much and this week they have taken such good care of the horses, cows, chickens and my garden while I recover. My poor garden needs me and needs more plants, hopefully by the end of the week I will be back to normal and back to work as much is needed to be done!

OH and on top of all that…the lawn mower died. Well horses get to work and eat up all that grass!!!

Stocking My Apothecary

Last night I had a wonderful time at our Ladies Homestead Gathering! A few times per year, we do a medicinal swap and for last night we swapped first aid items. Each of us made 15 herbal remedies so we went home with 15 different remedies to stock our apothecary. Much better than a cookies swap!!!!

So here is what I got:

Bug Off Spray, Feverfew capsules, First Aid Cream, Witch Hazel, Bentonite Clay, Elder Berry Elixer, Garlic Oil, Usnea Tincture, Plantain Tincture, Organic Nettle, Jewelweed Salve, Poison Ivy Ointment, Mosquito Repelling Lotion Bar, Neem Soap and Peppermint Lip Balm. Here are a few descriptions:

Bug Off Spray, made by Owl Moon Farms, contains Witch Hazel, Citronella essential oil, Eucalyptus essential oil and Lemongrass essential oil.

Feverfew, made by me, is a capsule filled with organic feverfew(chrysanthemum parthenium) and primarily used for fevers, headaches and taken daily as a preventitive for migraines.

First Aid Cream, sorry not sure who made this, contains coconut oil(an awesome medicinal in iteself!), Lavender essential oil and TeaTree essential oil. Used for minor cuts and scrapes, eczema, cradle cap, diaper rash, cracked winter skin, minor burns, insect bites, athletes foot and acne.

I added all of these amazing remedies to my shelves in the laundry room right with all my loose herbs, beeswax, natural cleansers and soaps.

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