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Monday, October 31, 2011

A Witchy Brew and a Poem, Too!

Photo by
"Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble..."
William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I

Now doesn't that sound like a delicious brew for a chilly Halloween evening?   Let's see if we can recreate this brew! 

Photo from Wikipedia
"Fillet of Fenny Snake"
Arum palaestinum

I am going to let you in on a little secret  Fillet of Fenny Snake, Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, etc. those are really folk names for herbs.  Let me see.....Fillet of Fenny Snake is well, that one is a little more on the mysterious side.  Fillet of a Fenny Snake is very debated as to meanings. It can actually mean "fenny snake" which is a snake from the fens of England, or some people debate that it isn't actually a snake, but is a type of fruit called Arum, and it is sometimes called "Snake's Meat".  An herb named Snake's Meat.  Oh, how lovely.  Oh, and by the way, this is a poisonous plant and not a Texas Native.

Now, let me look through my herbal apothecary for, ahhh, there it is "Eye of Newt". 

There is no way to be absolutely certain, but modern herbalists speculate that Eye of Newt referred to the seeds of the wild mustard plant, which could look like the small yellow eyes of the newt.  The photo of the Newt is by Byron Moore from Fotolia.com.  Wild mustard mixed with old wine has been used throughout its history to disguise unpleasant food tastes.  Hmm, makes you wonder if those witchy sisters were covering up the taste of "Fillet of Fenny Snake"?  Another source I came across said eye of newt could have been any of the daisy-type flowers such as English daisy (Bellis perenis).   I like the mustard seed version better, He, He, He.
Photo from
Toe of Frog
Bulbous Buttercup
Ranunculus Bulbosus

Toe of frog?  Let me reach way in the back of the cupboard.  Ahh, there I got it.  Toe of Frog or Bulbous Buttercup leaves. 
"The toxins of the buttercup cause contact dermatitis in humans. Beggars once used this property to create blisters to engender sympathy for alms; the name Blister plant reflects this practice.  When buttercups are eaten by grazing animals, the toxic oils cause oral irritation and blistering of the esophagus. In severe cases, gastrointestinal distress can lead to convulsions, paralysis and death."
This plant does grow in Texas and sounds like one that needs to be avoided!
Now we need to add a little Wool of Bat.  Wool of Bat is more commonly known as Holly Ilex aquifolium.  Okay, the Holly in our brew will be a Yaupon Holly Ilex vomitoria  because it is a Texas Native.

Native Americans used the leaves and stems to brew a tea, commonly thought to be called asi or black drink for male-only purification and unity rituals. The ceremony included vomiting, and Europeans incorrectly believed that it was Ilex vomitoria that caused it (hence the Latin name). The active ingredient is actually caffeine, and the vomiting was either learned or as a result of the great quantities in which they drank the beverage coupled with fasting.  Hudson, C. M. (1976). The Southeastern Indians. University of Tennessee Press ISBN 0-87049-248-9.

Tongue of Dog
Hound's Tongue
Cynoglossum officinale

Oh, dear, now where did I put that dried Tongue of Dog.  Noooo, I didn't, wouldn't, couldn't use are real dog's tongue.  Tongue of dog is Hound's Tongue Cynoglossum officinale.  This plant is also called Gypsy Flower or Rats and Mice due to its smell.  Tongue of Dog does not grow in Texas, is considered a noxious weed where it does grow and is a medicinal plant.

A serpent's tongue.
Isn't he cute!

Now a pinch of Adder's Fork or Serpent's Tongue Erythronium americanum.
Caution!   Adder's fork can be strongly emetic  in some people (which means it makes you throw up a lot).
Adder's Fork is native to Texas.

Now for  a good dose of Blind-worm's Sting and Owlet's Wing.  Ahhh, sorry, folks, these must be the secret ingredients because I cannot seem to find out any information on these herbs.

Could you please bring me that fresh Lizard's Leg?  Oh, look, there is some on that wall over there!  No, not that cute little Gecko!  That Ivy trailing along the wall!  Yes, that is the fresh Leg of Lizard that Mr. S's witches are using.

Okay, so now we have all the ingredients  to make some sort of mystical concoction.  We will put it on the fire to let the cauldron bubble.  Well, not actually the brew given above but how about a big pot of Veggie soup?

Anyway, have a Happy Halloween and remember Nov. 1st  is the Day of the Dead. 

Until next time,
Spookily yours, Susan 

The Witch's Garden

In the witch's garden,
The gate is open wide.

"Come inside," says the witch,
'Dears, come inside."

"No flowers in my garden,
Nothing minty, nothing chivey."

"Come inside, come inside,
See my lovely poison ivy."

By Lilian Moore (1909-2004)

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Sugar High and a Sweet Voice

Candy Corn
Granoturco di candy
How close is this Italian translation
to Latin?
Good afternoon, All!  I am a little late getting around to blogging on this foggy Monday, because I am pet sitting with a lovely elderly lady dog named Elsie and her cockatiel friend, Bird.  So just a quick blog then I am off to stay with my new furry and feathered pals for a few days.

October 30 is National Candy Corn Day! 

I hate to admit it but I love this stuff.  To me and my system it causes a pure sugar rush and has me pinging off the walls, so it is a one time a year indulgence.  When I was a kid, I thought Candy Corn must be food of  the Gods, after all we only had this colorful sweet at Halloween!

"Candy corn history dates back to the 1880s when the Philadelphia-based Wunderlee Candy Company's George Renninger invented this popular candy. Wunderlee Candy Company was the first company to manufacture the candy. In 1900, the Goelitz Candy Company, which later became the Jelly Belly Candy Company, started making these candies and continues to make candy corn today.

Originally the candy was made by hand.[3] Manufacturers first combined sugar, corn syrup, wax, and water and cooked them to form a slurry. Fondant was added for texture and marshmallows were added to provide a soft bite.[3] The final mixture was then heated and poured into shaped molds. Three passes, one for each colored section, were required during the pouring process.
The recipe remains basically the same today."  This information is from Wikipedia.com

Heather McCready

Photos courtesy of
A couple weeks ago, Cousin Sandra, Ann, L and I went to see the Heather McCready Ensemble in concert at Crossroads Music Company and Listening Room in Winnsboro.  We have seen Heather and her guys perform several times and love them every time we see them.  If you have never had the pleasure of seeing Heather or listening to one of her CD's Sandra has found a link to view several of her videos.

Show Schedule:

The opening act for Heather was an up and coming local singer named Lindsey Gail.   You can learn about Lindsey at her website:  http://www.lindseygail.com/

Title card from 1966 TV special

And the Great Pumpkin will rise up out of his pumpkin patch
with his bag of toys for all the good children.
—Charles Schultz, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Well, hate to rush off.....but I should go check on Elsie.  So until next Monday, be good and leave a few of those sweet treats for the Trick or Treaters.  Or maybe just stuff your favorites or the Candy Corn to the back of the cupboard, I won't tell!  Susan

I'm outta here!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Heavenly Blue, Herbs for Stress and a Poet honored

"Heavenly Blue" Morning Glory
Ipomoea tricolor
(Can you see how the center is glowing?
I did not even see the glow until I put
the photo on the computer!)
My neighbor Omer was watching me work in the garden last year.  I think I was trying to plant some Chickweed into my garden in hopes of getting that lovely weedy plant established.  Chickweed is a medicinal and edible weed.  Anyway, Omer said that I was the only person he had ever known who actually planted the weeds in her garden.  Yep, that would be me!

Texas Bindweed
Convolvulus (Morning Glory family)
Convolvulus equitans
Anyway, I love Morning Glories.  Yes, I realize they are a weed and very invasive.  The pretty pink or purplish flowers that are now growing along the side of the road  are a wild morning glory or bindweed.  If you have ever known a farmer that has run a plow or other farm implement through bindweed, well, put it this way, bindweed will not be his favorite plant.  The wild variety has a very tough stem that is probably 1,000 ft. long (exaggeration) and wraps tightly around axles, plows, discs or anything else that has the misfortune to run over it, the name bindweed is very appropriate.  Plus, it unmercifully wraps around any plant growing near it and chokes the living daylights out of the plant.  But, my beautiful purple and blue Morning Glories are growing on the side of an old dog kennel, well away from the garden.  I am hoping they will completely cover the kennel next year.  And I can guarantee you that I will find Morning Glories sprouting in my garden.  They are easy to transfer, or so prolific that it wouldn't hurt to just pull them up!

S t r e s s

Maxine is such a love! 
She handles stress
by being grouchy. 
I received an email this week about Stress and the College Student.  The email had some great herbal advice and I really wanted to share because we all seem to be suffering from
S T R E S S of some sort and it is just plain not any fun and is terrible for our health.

The Junior Herbie suggests using herbs like Chamomile, St. John's Wort and Holy Basil.  Very good choices.

Chamomile is a great remedy for restlessness.  You know those days, when you have had to run around all day, nothing seems to go right and the easiest things are just so darn hard to accomplish.   When you can finally stop the running around, take some good deep breaths (oxygen is a great stress buster because we tend to breath shallowly when under stress or experiencing anxiety), and make a cup of Chamomile tea.  Chamomile tea is also very tasty as an iced tea.  Chamomile tastes like honey to me, so I usually don't add any extra sweetness to my tea but I do like it with a little Almond milk (you can use any type milk you please!)  Chamomile tea bags are available at the grocery store or StarDragonfly Herbals has a nice Organic Chamomile for tea.  Chamomile volunteers to come back in my garden in the spring but as soon as there is any heat, she vanishes, letting me only collect a few flowers.  But, Chamomile is beautiful while she is around and well worth trying to grow, maybe, in partial shade.  Plants will be available in the spring.

St. John's Wort
Hypericum perforatum
photo from:
This website has some very good
information about
this plant
The next herb. St. John's Wort can be used for relaxing and focusing.  St. John's Wort is a wildflower  which grows in Texas but I have yet to find this plant.  Anyway, St. John's Wort is easily taken as a tincture and has been found to help with focus, happiness and commitment in some people.  I have had very good success with taking St. John's Wort for depression.  I have also used St. John's Wort tincture combined with Black Willow tincture to help with shock and pain.   

 Holy Basil will definitely be a blog topic one of these days!  This is a great herb, one of my favorites for herbal remedies, tea and tincture, and the plant has decided to happily grow in my drought stricken garden and in a pot on the porch.  Holy Basil is also known as Tulsi and has been used for centuries in India and is used extensively for quite a few ailments.  Holy Basil is also a anti-inflammatory and anti-viral and also, increases memory.  Holy Basil can be taken as a tincture which StarDragonfly Herbals will have available next month or as a tea which we have available now.  Holy Basil is a difficult plant to grow from seed, but occasionally you will see plants available in the spring.

These are just a few herbs for stress.   Two of my favorites not mentioned above are Lemon Balm and Catnip.  Bach's Flower Remedy is also a good formula for stress.  I have used Lemon Balm tincture and Bach's Flower remedy several times on myself, Sandra and various animals for stress and shock.

October 17
Black Poetry Day
Today is the birthday of the first published African-American poet, Jupiter Hammon, who was born into slavery in 1711, probably on Long Island.

Jupiter Hammon
1711 - 1806
photo and quotes
from the website:
In 1786 Hammon gave a speech, An address to the Negroes of New York, to the African Society, in which he said that while he personally had no wish to be free, he did wish others, especially “the young Negroes, were free.”

He was also quoted as saying "Let all the time you can get be spent in trying to learn to read."

Now, this was a man who knew stress.......Mr. Jupiter, may you always get to sit at the right hand of God.

Well, I shall close for today.  Hope all your stresses are minor or at least, happy stresses.  The weather is so beautiful!  Get out of the house if you can and go for a walk (Chi and the Puppies think this is a great idea!)   If you cannot get out of the house, make yourself a cup of Chamomile tea, grab a book and read!

As always, Herbally Yours, Susan

"Don't stress, Omer, you won't melt!"

Our wonderful neighbor, Omer, running across the corral on a rainy afternoon.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mints, Music, and must have Cookies!

The plant that is in front and behind
the lovely toad of the road is
Apple mint
Sometimes called woolly mint; Mentha suaveolens
Around here we are so into Fall, we have actually been able to work til noon in the gardens and sit outside in the afternoon and drink tea or read a book.  Just to be able to go outside without swooning from the heat is such a blessing for me.  The horses and donkeys spend their afternoon frolicking around the pasture (really!), jumping and kicking up their heels.  The dogs have decided they can abandon the giant holes they dug in the soft sand that was supposed to be the outside patio garden.  And then there are the chickens, who are slowing down egg production for the winter.  Ahhh, come on girls, this is the time of year when we need eggs for baking!  Think pumpkin pie, quick breads and dozens of fresh baked cookies!

Mints for a cool weather garden!

(Left) Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis  
and  (Right)  Passionflower.
Passionflower Passiflora is not in the mint family.
The plants in the mint family are some of my favorites to grow and use in my herbal teas.  The mints tend to be wild and free spirited garden plants but hey, that is not such a bad quality, especially if you want a low maintenance garden.

Spearmint  Mentha spicata
Peppermint is much more
effective as a medicinal herb
than Spearmint,
which is mostly a culinary herb.

photo by
And then there's catnip Nepeta cataria.
Cats love this plant as it contains
a constituent that causes
them temporary euphoria!
The Mint Family of plants falls under the order known as Lamiaceae.  There are as many as 3,200 types of mint species around the world.  Most mints are perennial.  Mint plants typically have a four sided square stem and leaves that grow opposite each other on the stem or in a whorled pattern around the stem.  Several of the mints are important medicinally and most have a pleasant aroma.

Medicinally, mint is known for properties that help with indigestion, stomach cramps, menstrual cramps, flatulence, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and colic in children. 
New research indicates that mint oil used externally in a cold compress or rubbed directly into the skin can significantly reduce pain in cases of arthritis and chronic joint pain, with few if any side effects.  If you have some mint growing in your garden, I would suggest Peppermint, Spearmint (my favorite) or Apple mint, you can easily make yourself a cup of refreshing herbal tea...here's how:
Put the kettle on to boil,
gather your mint, but don't stay too long in the garden or the kettle will boil over!
Strip a good 1/4 to 1/2 cup leaves off and put in a 4 cup tea pot or sauce pan. Pour about 2-3 cups boiling water over the leaves.  Let steep, covered (you don't want to loose those wonderful smelling volatile oils!), for about 10 minutes. 
Now, find your prettiest tea cup.
Before pouring, lift the lid and inhale deeply!
Now pour and enjoy.  Add a little sugar, if desired.

The nymph Menthe
and Mint Sugar Cookie fix'ins!
Easy Mint Choclate Chip Sugar Cookies!

One of our very favorite cookies is made with the addition of the Mint plant, and these cookies are sooooo easy to make!  The only problem is they tend to disappear very quickly.  I like to make them small, you know, that kinda reduces the guilt factor!  As in this statement that is heard around here way too often,  "I guess I could have just a couple more cookies because they really are so small!"
You will need a small package of sugar cookie mix.  Betty Crocker is one of my cooking heros.  Did you know:  The name was first developed by the Washburn Crosby Company in 1921 as a way to give a personalized response to consumer product questions. The name Betty was selected because it was viewed as a cheery, all-American name. It was paired with the last name Crocker, in honor of William Crocker, a Washburn Crosby Company director.  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 
Okay, you will need a Sugar Cookie Mix
                                   1/2 stick of Butter (Oh, Please use real Butter!)
                                   1/2 cup (or more, I vote on the side of more!) Chocolate Chips
                                    about 1/2 c. fresh Peppermint leaves, packed, then chopped pretty fine. 
I have used dried Peppermint but the cookies just are not as good!

The Secret Ingredient!
1 Tbls. Triple Sec

photo by Jim
Wildernest Treehouse JamFest
That's me in the pink
and turquoise blouse and cowboy hat!

Now there is no sense in me telling you how to make these cookies!  Follow the directions on the package...those directions work real well! 

But, there is a secret ingredient that is not on the package.  I find that the 2 Tbls. water called for in the directions (on the package that I told you worked real well) still makes too dry a cookie dough.  So, a creative solution to more liquid?  Cointreau or Triple Sec.  Do as you please, but we like them this way!

Oh, and try not to eat them all before lunch!

Wildernest Treehouse JamFest

Saturday night, (October 8) Sandra, L, and I and a whole bunch of Northeast Texas music lovers descended on the Pineywoods for a great night of Music, Music and more Music! 

There were quite a few musicians who took the stage (my policy is no last names or personal home addresses)  including Scruffy, Gus, Alex, LeeAnn, Amy, Ty, Tami, Kent, and the group KMG (Kevin, Mia and Gus).  If I left anyone out, my apologies....everyone was fantastic.

There were hot dogs and chili on the grill, lots of drinks and cookies.  I believe there were even folks smoldering (how about toasting) marshmallows over the fire and making S'mores.

And let me tell you about the spot in the woods where we were having so much fun.  Not too far from Quitman we turned down a county road, then another county road, then a verrrrry sandy road.  Word to the wise....next year if you drive a sporty type car, borrow a pick up truck!  Then we hiked a ways and ended up in the clearing you see in the photo above!  Talk about out in the sticks.  The location was absolutely beautiful, the moon was almost full and the temperature was near perfect!

Thank you to Jim and Glenda for putting on JamFest and we are hoping they will continue with this great music venue!  Looking forward to next year.  As always, herbally yours, Susan

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Road Trip, Some Good Clean Fun, New and Old Friends

Buenos días todos. Este es mi nuevo amigo, Felix.
Conocí durante nuestro viaje a Edom, Texas.
¿No odio cuando su novio es skinnier que estáis?
Translation:  Good morning all.  This is my new friend, Felix.  We met him during our trip to Edom, Texas. Don't you hate it when your boyfriend is skinnier than you are?

Okay, my Spanish is not very good.  I understand a few words and phrases and most of the food words (taco, fajita, queso, etc.)  Bing has a great site called Bing Translator, and I made use of that site!

Jean and John
Wednesday evening we had company grace us with their presence!  We just love these people...they are so much fun.  John is a great musician (at one time he was a guitarist for the band Asleep At The Wheel) and Jean is an amazing cook and crafty lady.  Jean and John are on a month long trek to Missouri to visit friends.  They stopped by StarDragonfly farm on the way to Oklahoma and really wanted to see a little of Northeast Texas.  Last year, we visited Winnsboro, ate at Art & Espresso and had a great afternoon visiting Antique shops and driving around the beautiful countryside.

 This year we decided to make a trip to Edom, have lunch and then make a stop at Blue Moon Gardens.  (Can you even guess whose idea that was?)  If you love plants or love to photograph plants and have never been to Blue Moon Gardens, I highly recommend you make the trip!

If you google for a map their address comes up Chandler but they really are not at Chandler but just this side of Edom.
They still have lots of herbs.
Okay, it really is a straight shot from here to Tyler.  From Winnsboro take 37 til it becomes US. 69 South at Mineola.  When you get to Loop 323 in Tyler turn right.  Then you will turn right on Erwin St. West/TX-64, then Left on FM-279 and Blue Moon will be about 5 miles down the road and on your left.  I guess that's about as straight of a trip as it gets in East Texas.  Personally, I would call before I drove down there and check on when they are open.  The phone number is listed on their website.
And vegetables

Sandra looking at just a
small sampling of
flowers that are still available
Anyway, the drive is pretty (dry and the trees are brown but what can we expect after the summer drought?).  And there are several really yummy places for lunch.  We decided on THE SHED.  The food was awesome!  If you like sweet potato fries, theirs are really good.  And they are a historic place in Edom.  They are strictly down home cookin' and very proud of that fact!

How To Make Hand Milled Soap

We love homemade soap.  But, since I already dominate the kitchen with my herbal experiments and lots of cooking (experiments, sometimes!) the last thing I really desire is another project that takes over the kitchen.  And that would be the nature of making homemade lye soap.  No thank you.  But, what I did discover is that I can make hand milled soap.  Hand-milled soap is simply soap that has been grated, melted and formed into molds.  Easy and no dangerous chemicals lying (really, no pun intended!) about.
Okay, let's get started......Rich and Foamy Milk Soap........you'll need:   2 bars mild unscented white soap (I used Ivory), 1/2 cup dry instant milk (used Goat's milk), water (1/4 c.), a wooden spoon , plastic soap molds (found at craft supply stores) I have used the cut out bottoms of yogurt cups or egg cartons, a cheese grater, and 3 drops of essential oils (optional), (of course, Cousin Sandra wanted her soap Almond scented.  I do not have Almond essential oil so we are trying Pure Almond Extract),   ...................... Grate the bars of soap, like you were grating cheese for pizza, into a bowl.  In your small sauce pan put 1/4 c of water.  Now add your grated soap.  Heat on low until melted. Try not to stir.  You will be tempted to but don't, or you'll make bubbles that you don't want.  "Sandra, please don't stir the soap"..........."uhhh, I already did"...........oh, well, it will be okay.  Fortunately, she didn't stir too enthusiastically, so no harm done.  Let me tell you, this is a looooooooooooong melting process.  I suggest you make yourself a snack.  I cut up some carrots and celery to munch on.  Clean the kitchen, read a book or clean out the frig.  You don't want to rush the melting or you will have scorched soap. When it is all melted, fold in your dry milk.  Make sure you don't stir, it's very important to fold gently.  I really hate to tell whoever made this recipe that there is no way that powdered milk is going to mix in that glob of melted soap without some stirring. Remove from heat, and add essential oils, if desired.  Spoon into molds and stick into the frig until it's set and hard.  You can put the mold in the freezer for 2 hours. Remove the soap from where ever you put it and take your soap out of the molds.  Put your

soap on a cooling rack, and put it somewhere to dry.  The drying can take up to three weeks.  It's very important to make sure your soap is completely dry before wrapping.  When you're sure it's thoroughly dry, wrap your creation with plastic wrap, tightly.  Tape the wrap closed.  Use your imagination on further packaging of your soap.  Tissue paper and ribbons are always pretty.  These little soaps are great items to add to a hostess gift.  Have some good clean fun making your own hand milled soap!

Well, friends and neighbors, the blog is finished for this week.  I don't want to promise what I will do next week because you never ever can predict what is going to happen around here on any given day.  But, I do have one more soap recipe for you and we will take a gander at the soaps that were molded today.  Until next time.....Always bubbly, Susan

Ode to Head of Ranch Security

As Head of Ranch Security
Chi takes her job seriously
Her herb dog instincts are of utmost purity
And always she loves to play deliriously!

Sandra Jean