Fire Tonic Cider

Semi-functional immune systems are no fun, let me tell you. The past two weeks of my life have consisted of a cold, travel and an out of state doctor’s appointment (which involved sitting on two planes full of coughing, sneezing, hacking people), and a different cold that I got while traveling. Cold number two is particularly nasty and had me bed/couch-bound for days, so needless to say I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of how to support my immune system.

My current batch of Fire Cider
My current batch of Fire Cider

As soon as I was semi-functional (read: could put a coherent sentence together) I asked my mother to run to the store and pick up the fixings for fire cider. Fire cider is an herbal remedy consisting of apple cider vinegar infused with immune supporting herbs or other foods that is sweetened with honey and taken to prevent colds and the like. Since it has to sit for a month it’ll be ready just around Spring Break when everyone will be traveling and bringing back all sorts of nasty crap. Had I had any foresight, I would have made this wonderful herbal concoction a month ago so it would have been ready when I returned from my travels. Guess I learned my lesson.

Because there are so many options for ingredients, there are a ton of recipes available for Fire Cider on the internet. I decided to start off with the basic recipe from the woman who made it as popular as it is today, Rosemary Gladstar. In the video below she walks you through the benefits and how to make it. The only change I made was doubling the amount of ginger I used because I LOVE ginger.

Basic Fire Tonic Cider

Based on: Rosemary Gladstar’s Fire Cider

1 part Horseradish (fresh, diced)
1 part Garlic (fresh, diced)
1 part Onion (fresh, diced)
1 part Ginger (fresh, diced)
Cayenne Powder (to taste, I didn’t add a lot)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw Honey (to taste)

Put first four ingredients in a wide mouth quart jar (you’ll want the jar to be about half full). Add enough vinegar so there is two to three inches above the herbs. Add cayenne to taste and let sit for four weeks. Strain and discard spent herbs (I’ve seen people make a chutney out of them or dehydrate them to make a seasoning). Add honey to taste.

There are infinite variations on this theme. Some people add jalapeños or citrus or use fresh cayenne peppers, some leave out the onion, some do a sort of hybrid recipe of fire cider four thieves vinegar and use the herbs thyme, rosemary, sage, lavender, and mint. I’ve seen gorgeous fire cider that has been colored red by the addition of hibiscus or elderberries. Some people choose not to add the honey. It is really a very customizable recipe which is why I think it is so popular, that and that people swear it works.


A note about the Fire Cider name: Recently there have been a group of herbalists trying to trademark “Fire Cider” claiming that they came up with the recipe and the name all on their own. They have been attacking small sellers and other herbalists telling them that they can’t use the name. This is like trying to trademark something like “vanilla ice-cream” or “granola bar”. Something similar has happened with “thieves oil”, another common herbal remedy.

If you want to learn more about how to make Fire Cider, its history, and the whole trademark thing, Herbal Roots zine has a wonderful FREE PDF that I highly recommend.

Garden Journal

** Warning, this is a photo heavy post. **

FoxyFix wanderlust

Today I want to talk a little bit about garden journals. Keeping a garden journal is something I try to do every year, and somehow by the middle of the growing season I completely forget about it. This has left me with a bunch of partially started notebooks and horrible records of what I’ve grown. Clearly the old system wasn’t working for me, so this year I decided to try something new.

Enter the traveler’s notebook. It’s essentially a cover (mine is a Wide Wanderlust Butterscotch from Foxy Fix) with elastics which hold notebook inserts. It’s highly customizable and has a huge fan base. I stumbled across them while looking for ideas for setting up my grad school Filofax (a post for another day) and though that maybe, just maybe, here was a system that would work. So I thought about it for a few months, came up with a plan, got some inserts to try out, and ordered my notebook.

It arrived a few weeks ago, and so far I’m definitely a fan. It feels like a nice cohesive book, but the inserts seem to give me the flexibility I’ve been craving. Here’s how it’s set up right now.

Insert 1: Calendar
Purpose: Mostly for recording weather and planting dates, but other garden events like classes are included too.

Calendar (Midori brand)
Calendar (Midori brand)

Insert 2: Garden Log
Purpose: To record what goes on in the garden (planting dates, harvest quantities, pest problems)

Grid insert (Midori brand)
Grid insert (Midori brand)

Insert 3: Orchard Log
Purpose: Essentially the same as the Garden Log, only for the orchard: To record what goes on in the orchard (tasks, harvest quantities, pest problems)

Grid insert (Midori brand)
Grid insert (Midori brand)

Insert 4: Garden Resources/Ideas
Purpose: This insert gives me a place to write down helpful books and websites as well as any ideas/information I come across that seems useful.

Lined insert (Midori brand)
Ruled insert (Midori brand)

And lastly…

Insert 5: Orchard Resources/Ideas
Purpose: In addition to being a place to record similar stuff to the Garden Resources insert, I’ll also use this to keep my notes from the steward training classes for the orchard.

Lined insert (Midori brand)
Ruled insert (Midori brand)

And there you have it! Five inserts in total, and hopefully enough space to record everything I want to. Again, right now I think this system will work, but then again I’ve thought that about the other notebooks too. Here’s hoping.

Do you have a garden notebook/journal? How do you keep from forgetting about it halfway through the season?

Herb of the Month: Introduction

Bowl full of cut herbs

Oh herbs, aren’t they wonderful? I just love growing them. Last year I decided to delve more into their medicinal side by taking the Intermediate Herbalist online course through the Herbal Academy of New England. It was a fascinating course, but ever since I finished it this past fall I’ve been at a bit of a loss for how to continue my herbal studies. The Herbal Academy offers an Advanced Herbal course and an Entrepreneur Herbal course, but both these feel like a bit more than what I want to do right now. That said I don’t want to stop learning about this side of herbs completely.

After mulling it over for a few months, I decided to take twelve of my favorite and most used herbs and focus on one per month in 2016. This’ll include looking into how to grow them, what their culinary properties are, what their medicinal uses are, and trying out a few recipes. Also, to help me meet my blogging goal for this year I’ve decided to write blog posts about it. I’m hoping it comes out to about three posts per month, one about growing the herb, one about using the herb, and one with the recipes I tried. At least that’s the plan.

The schedule for 2016:

January: Bay
February: Basil
March: Lavender
April: Oregano
May: Thyme
June: Fennel
July: Licorice
August: Calendula
September: Sage
October: Ginger
November: Cinnamon
December: Rosemary

Lavender Calendula Winter Skin Salve

Winter Lavender Calendula Salve

If you’re anything like me, winter can be tough on your skin. During my no-technology week last month I whipped up this salve to soothe skin and brighten spirits (and because I needed some last minute gifts this holiday season). I think it may be the best thing of this sort that I’ve ever made and I’m very pleased with how it turned out so I figured I’d share.

What’s in it?

Lavender – Not only does lavender have a calming scent and the ability to lift moods but it also has antiseptic and pain relieving properties.

Calendula – Calendula is sometimes known as pot marigold and is an herb that is valued for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to stimulate wound healing and soothe irritated skin. It can be used to treat burns, bruises, and injuries. Calendula also gives the salve a sunny yellow color that reminds me of the much missed summer sun.

Olive Oil – Olive oil is moisturizing and soothing to dry skin. For this recipe I infused the olive oil with herbs following the solar infusing method from the Herbal Academy of New England though the other methods would work as well.

Beeswax – This is what thickens the oil to a salve consistency. It also has a slight honey scent, which I love. I used natural beeswax for this recipe.

For this salve I was shooting for a medium hardness and used the beeswax/oil ratios from Humblebee and Me. If you’re into DIY bath and beauty products I definitely recommend her site; she makes the coolest stuff and has tons of recipes.

 

Brick of beeswax, bottles of infused oil

Lavender Calendula Winter Skin Salve

(makes 4.5 oz)

45g* Calendula infused Olive Oil
45g* Lavender infused Olive Oil
20g* Beeswax
Tins
Clean can for melting
Small Pan
Water

  1. Measure out ingredients
  2. Place ingredients in your clean can.
  3. Place can in a small pan and surround it with between one and two inches of water.
  4. Heat the pan with the can over medium heat. Stir mixture in the can occasionally to facilitate melting.
  5. Once all the beeswax has melted, remove the can from the pan and pour salve into tins (I used these from Mountain rose herbs).
  6. Allow salve to cool. Label tins and give as gifts (or keep for yourself).

*The wax:oil ratio I used was 1:4.5. This means that you can scale up this recipe and use 40g beeswax and 90g of each of the infused oils, or scale it down and use 10g beeswax and 22.5g of each of the infused oils. Just remember it is the ratio that is important.

Beeswax in a cup on a scale
Weighing the beeswax
Can in a pan with water around it
Can-pan set up. Note how the water surrounds the can.
Beeswax and oil melting in can
Melting the beeswax
Salve cooling in metal tins
Cooling in tins from Mountain Rose Herbs
Harden salve in tins
Ready for gifting

 

Five Things I Learned from My Week Without Internet

Hello from the other side… of my first semester of graduate school! It feels good to be on break and to be able to use my energy on things I want to. I’ve actually been on break for a little over a week now. So far I’ve read 4 books, tried 2 new recipes, finished the body of my sweater, and a bunch of other stuff.

I also took a break from technology for a week. By the end of the semester I couldn’t look at my computer without getting the urge to throw it across the room, mostly because I had spent so much time on it working on my semester projects. I decided to take a week away from the Internet so I shut off my computer and my phone (a small pocket computer really) and embarked on my wonderful tech-free week.

Needle felted hedgehog
I don’t have a picture of my computer, so here’s a hedgehog I needle felted instead.

Well, going into it I thought it would be wonderful and different. In reality though it was kind of a normal week. I still read a lot, just instead of Internet articles it was books. I still tried new recipes, just ones I had in my cookbooks instead of ones I had saved on my Pinterest. I still didn’t get a good night’s sleep and felt tired and had rough days. I didn’t escape the feeling that I should be doing more things, the things I thought I should be doing just changed and I don’t think I was happier or more at peace or anything without the internet. Not that I had really expected it to be that different, but I had kind of hoped that not seeing pictures of people traveling would make me want to travel less. Nope. Turns out that less screen time leaves me more time to think about things and that the things I think about tend to be the same things I look at on the Internet.

Even though my week didn’t bring any revelations I did learn a few things:

  1. I missed having access to the news. This was actually the first thing I missed during my week. Normally as part of my morning routine I check the news online. I don’t subscribe to a newspaper, but if I went Internet free I’d have to since not knowing what was going on in the world and with the local weather bothered me the entire week.
  1. I use my computer as my radio/music player. I hadn’t realized how much I listened to music on my computer until I couldn’t anymore. I found myself wishing I could turn on Pandora radio while I was cooking, and that I could listen to podcasts (my current favorites are: Welcome to Night Vale, Permaculture Voices, The Ruminant, and Farmer to Farmer) while I craft. The only radio I have in my house is a small weather one that you have to crank to give it power. I did pull it out by day three of my no-Internet-week so I could at least listen to NPR to get the news.
  1. Internet, and technology in general, makes communication easier. I like being able to send messages (email, text, Facebook, etc.) to people when I think of them. I’m not a super chatty person, but I found myself wanting to check in with friends to see how they were doing and to send pictures of my dog to my sister for encouragement during her finals. None of these were things I NEEDED to do, but I missed them.
  1. I had developed some technology habits that I was unaware of. One of the reasons I did a tech-free week was because this was something I had suspected. I knew I checked the Internet first thing in the morning (to get news and weather), last thing at night (updating my online health log), and during meals, but when else? It turns out that a big time I get on the Internet is when I’m moving from one task to another. Have I finished my nap and am going to walk Olive? Better check the weather. Had I finished working on my sweater and am going to cook dinner? Better see if anyone has commented on Facebook, or Ravelry, or Instagram… well, you get the idea. I think this using the Internet as a transition is actually how I accumulate most of my hours online, which leads me to…
  1. There are a lot of hours in the day when you don’t have the Internet (and even more if you skip your nap, though you’ll pay for that later). I had a lot more time to do things, to do other things, when I wasn’t on the Internet. I got a lot done during the week, and was a lot more active (which had both positive and negative consequences health-wise). Fortunately I have a ton of hobbies, so it was easy to fill the hours, but I imagine boredom could have been an issue if I didn’t.

So what’s the takeaway from all this? Well, I did print out a few of my favorite recipes so I can access them if my Internet is ever out. Other than that the only thing I’m going to do is try not to use the Internet as a transitional activity, and maybe buy a radio I don’t have to crank to make work.

Have you ever done a week (or more) without Internet? Did you learn anything from it?