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Monday, February 27, 2012

A Whole Lot of Peeping Going On!

Brand new
Barred Rock chick!
That's her head and beak at the top
and her little wing sticking
out on the right!
Good morning!  And let me tell you, I sure was surprised when I got up this morning!  I let Chi outside to "potty" thinking "Man, those birds are noisy this morning!"  My sleep fuddled brain thought that an outside bird was sure unhappy and loud at 6:30 am on a Monday morning.  But wait, when I finally made it into the computer room to sit down to work on the blog, Lo And Behold! a brand new baby chick!  Poor baby, she was stuck in the turner of the incubator, no wonder she was so unhappy!  So, you could say I woke up to "Help, help, help, help, help" in Chicken language!  The "surprised" part of this tale is that the chicks are not supposed to start hatching until Wednesday!

Foster's Place, Pickton, Texas.
This is a photo from their Facebook page.
And, no, it was not snowing on Sunday.  This
photo was taken Jan. 9, 2011.
Sunday, L and I went to Foster's Place in Pickton, Texas for lunch.

We really enjoy this little restaurant!  They have great food, a warm atmosphere, and friendly management and staff.  How many restaurants can you go to these days and have the owner come and sit at your table for a chat?  Whether he knows you or not, Mr. Foster stops by all the tables to have a friendly "Howdy do" with his new best friends.  The food is great!  Foster's is located on Highway 11, between Sulphur Springs and Winnsboro.  Check them out on Facebook, and better yet make the trip out and have lunch or supper.  Their hours:
Sunday and Monday 10:30-9:30 pm
Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
Thursday 10:30-9:30 pm
Fri and Sat  10:30-9:30 pm

Mr. C (another, down the road neighbor) took me scouting for wildflowers this week.  We found several of them on Saturday. I was kicking gravel around the parking lot at Fosters waiting on L and found quite a few more.  So, let me get the photos loaded and and the field guides found!  Now here we go!

Field of Wild Jonquils
They are not only beautiful
but they smell devine!

Wild Jonquil, Daffodil
Narcissus jonquilla

Narcissus jonquilla
Wild Jonquil, Daffodil

Texans are always a little surprised when the beautiful Daffodil shows her face, this flower is a sure sign that Spring is on the way!  Around here she makes her appearance in February and March.  "The Jonquil is an old world daffodil that has naturalized throughout Europe and the United States.  It is one of the Narcissus species used in Narcissus Oil, a component of many modern perfumes." wikipedia  I received some information this past week about our friend the Wild Jonquil.  The author called them Lent Lilly Narcissus pseudonarcissus.  The author states that the Lent Lilly or Wild Trumpet Daffodil has been in cultivation since the 1500s and all our hybrid trumpet daffodils originate with the Lent Lilly.  Interesting.  According to the website www.naturalmedicinalherbs many if not all members of this species are poisonous but there are no known records of poisonings.  There are  no known medicinal uses.  But, this website also states that the flowers can be eaten raw or candied and used in desserts. ?????  I really am not so excited about munching on this one!  Personally, if I get the hankering for a flower snack, I will have a Dandelion!

Carolina Anemone
Anemone caroliniana
Carolina Anemone
Anemone caroliniana

One of the wildflowers Mr. C and I saw this weekend was the Carolina Anemone.  "Anemone is derived from the Greek word anemos, meaning "wind" (another source said "daughter of the wind"); the flowers supposed open with spring breezes.  Pretty! The plant contains anemonin, a poison that affects the nervous system.  Some Native tribes attributed great healing power to the roots, however, and used them in treating wounds." Wildflowers of Texas by Ajilvsgi

Callery Pear
Pyrus calleryana
Callery Pear
Pyrus calleryana

In bloom now is a tree with white flowers named Callery Pear.

"The Callery pear is an invasive species in many areas of eastern North America, out competing many native plants and trees.[2] In the northeastern United States, wild Callery pears sometimes form extensive, nearly pure stands in old fields, along roadsides, and in similar disturbed areas.

Callery pear is reported as established outside cultivation in 152 counties in 25 states in the United States.[7] While these wild plants are sometimes called "Bradford pear" (for the 'Bradford' cultivar), they are actually wild-growing descendants of multiple genotypes of Pyrus calleryana, and hence more correctly referred to by the common (or scientific) name of the species itself.[2]"wikipedia

Callery Pear Blossoms
The fruit of this pear can be eaten raw or cooked but before you begin dreaming of a pear pie you had
best wait til the fruit has been exposed to frost.  
According to www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net the fruit then will have softened and the the flesh will be sweeter.

There is no know medicinal use or no known hazards associated with this plant.  Except that those lovely blossoms may get your sinuses in an uproar.

Now, we saw a lot of flowers this week but you probably need to get busy and do something around the house or in the garden.  I know I do...but I would like to share 3 mushroom photos with you.  The only thing I know about mushrooms is they are beautiful.  And unless you really know what you are doing, and have basically been studying mushrooms for your entire life......well, let me put it this way......I am not ready to be the one pushing up the anemones and daffodils!  Slang for being on the wrong side of the grass!

Well, 2 chicks have hatched since we have been blogging!  And there are quite a few that have pipped.  Pip means they have cracked their shell and want out of the egg! Sunshine and Bugs, here we come, those little chicks are peeping!

This beautiful mushroom is only
one inch tall and growing on
a horse apple!

I will continue letting you know what wildflowers and plants are springing up around the ranch!  Until then, think Spring and Green!......Susan

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.
Jimi Hendrix

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Duck, A Dog, and A Darling!

DucDuc, A Duck!
My, My, My! You would think it is Springtime on the Ranch!  This week we have had so many new arrivals!  The first to arrive was the most gorgeous Duck.  She has been showing up at chore time to dine with the chickens.  She spends her time between here and the neighbors, who I have learned are also feeding her (but they are not feeding her biscuits!). DucDuc has definitely developed a fondness for sourdough biscuits.

Stuart, A Dog!
The next to arrive was Stuart.  Now Stuart is just a guest and will go home when Nancy gets back to town.  Stuart, also,  has a fondness for Sourdough biscuits.  Don't tell Nancy but we have been spoiling this little fellow all week!

Faye, A Darling!

And then there is Faye and her mom, Richelle.  They came for a visit this weekend.  Now, Faye's favorite thing to do on the ranch is feed the chickens.  This weekend we have had the best fed chickens in Hopkins County.

As you might have guessed it has been a fun week!  Not only have we had 2 legged and 4 legged guests but I am beginning to see a lot of plants making their appearance.  Now, I just want to let you know that I am not an expert at identifying plants!  But, I did check with my field guides and the Internet on the identification of these plants.  To learn about the plants growing around us is a great adventure for me!  If I am not always correct in my id's, please be patient with me!
Let me see, where will we start?  I have seen quite a few plants this week!
The large flower with the purple stripe is
Spring Beauty Claytonia caroliniana
The small white flower, I think is
Diamond flowers
Stenaria nigricans

I will just list the plants and you can enjoy the photos!

One of the prettiest is the Bluet which is a native plant.  It could, also, be called Star-Violet.

The little purple flower
on the left
I believe is,
Tiny Bluet, Small Bluet or Least Bluet
Houstonia pusilla
Spring Beauty is a member of the Greater Purslane family and is an edible plant.   The plant grows small roots that remind people of tiny potatoes, hence the nickname “Fairy Spuds.”  These roots are edible and said to be a littler sweeter than a potato.

I believe the tiny white flower that is all over the front lawn is Diamond flower, Stenaria nigricans.

Yellow flowers and a Puff Ball!
Taraxacum officinale
The Dandelion!  Wow, what a power house of medicine and food is contained in this little plant.

"Historically, dandelion was prized for a variety of medicinal properties, and it contains a wide number of pharmacologically active compounds.[23] Dandelion is used as folk remedies in Europe, North America and China.[23] It was used to treat infections, bile and liver problems,[23] as well as cancers,[citation needed] and as a diuretic.[23] There is evidence to suggest it may have anti-inflammatory effects and assist with urinary tract infections in women.[citation needed]" this information is from wikipedia
Red Deadnettle, Purple Deadnettle,
Purple Archangel
Lamium purpureum
All parts of the Dandelion are edible.  The leaves are used in salad and the roots can be roasted and ground as a coffee replacement.  I really like the flowers and tend to munch on them as I am gardening.  (Remember, I am the only person Omer had ever met that planted the weeds in her garden!)  The flowers are made into a wine.

Just eating a Dandelion leaf a day provides quite a few vitamins and minerals!

 Henbit Deadnettle, Greater Henbit
Lamium amplexicaule

Though superficially similar to a nettle in appearance, it is not related and does not sting, hence the name "deadnettle".

Stellaria media
Here in Northeast Texas Chickweed is prolific!  Chickweed is one of my favorite wild edibles.  It is great in salads.  We have used it in salads, soups, green smoothies, on pizza and as a pesto.

Chickweed is a wonderful folk medicine.  I make Chickweed oil and use the oil in my salves.   "The plant has uses in folk medicine. For example, 17th century herbalist John Gerard recommended it as a remedy for mange. Modern herbalists mainly prescribe it for skin diseases, and also for bronchitis, rheumatic pains, arthritis and period pain.[citation needed] A poultice of chickweed can be applied to cuts, burns and bruises."information from wikipedia.

Chickweed Pesto

To make this wonderful early spring treat combine:
2 cloves of garlic, 
3 Tablespoons of pine nuts or sunflower seeds, 
¼ tsp. salt, 
2 packed cups chopped fresh chickweed, 
½ cup olive oil, and 
½ cup Parmesan cheese in a blender...
THEN...Blend well!   

This recipe is from Learningherbs.com

Achillea millefolium
Yarrow can be used to
stop bleeding.  If you are outside and
cut yourself,  squish some Yarrow
leaves and apply to the cut.  Then
as soon as possible, clean and dress
the wound properly!
Sow Thistle!
Sonchus oleraceus

(the largest plant in this photo)
The young leaves are edible.
The root is medicinal and edible.
This week I also saw Field Pansy, Plantain, Shepherd's Purse, Lyre-leaf Sage and Honeysuckle and several others.

Hope you are able to get out and enjoy this great weather.  Go for a stroll (your dog will love it!) and see how many spring plants you can see!  And remember some of them are a great addition to a salad.

Herbally yours, Susan

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image.  Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.  
Thomas Merton

Brother Cody, Faye and Cousin Sandra

Monday, February 13, 2012

St. Valentine, an Herbalist?


Good morning, All!  For those of you in Northeast Texas if you haven't had a chance to glance out the window this morning, we had a light dusting of snow and ice on the ground.  As your fearless blogger, I ventured outside to take a few photos for you (before chore time, mind you!).  Now, I am never quite sure how these things happen, but there I was happily taking photos when at one point I squatted down and the next thing I knew my backside was soaking up ice and snow and my green mud boots were up in the air.  I had tumped over! (For those of you that are "not from around here" tump is Texas slang meaning to spill or dump.)  Okay, I am getting away from the story I wanted to tell you
about St. Valentine but I found a site on Texas slang and well, the first word listed was...... 


used to describe everything from mild annoyance to murderous rage. Usually pronounced "agger-vated." 
You mean to tell me that the rest of the world wouldn't use that word in that way if their backside was soaked with ice and snow?
I really was having trouble finding the perfect topic for the post this morning.  Then I found this story about St. Valentine at About.com in the home cooking section, of all places.

"There are several views on the history of Valentine's Day.  One is the story of Valentine, a physician also said to be a gastronomist, who made his medicines more palatable by mixing them with herbs, spices, honey and wine.

Honestly, that is an herbalist!  The best definition I could find for gastronomist is a connoisseur of good food, a gourmet.

The doctor was converted to a Christian priest and began treating the blind daughter of one of Emperor Claudius II's prison guards in an attempt to restore her sight.  Valentine was incarcerated for his religious beliefs, and after his refusal to renounce Christianity, was executed by Claudius II on February 14 in the the third century.  Legend has it that he had fallen in love with his patient and sent a note to the girl, signed "from your Valentine," before his execution.  Supposedly the girl's vision was posthumously restored by his treatment and faith at the very time she was reading his last words.  Valentine was canonized by Pope Gelasius in 496 and his feast day was celebrated until its removal in 1969 from liturgical calendars."http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/valdayhistory.htm
Dark Chocolate Bar and Beans

Valentine's Day is tomorrow.  Actually, if you haven't got your sweetie something by now, you are about out of time.  Roses are always nice, and I guess are the gift of choice, but honestly, chocolate is my favorite gift.  I love to receive chocolates on Valentine's Day.  Or any day for that matter.

And now chocolate has been found to be good for the heart, contains minerals and is a definite mood booster.  Dark chocolate and cocoa are rich in cell-protecting antioxidants -- natural compounds found in fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts.

Did you know that dark chocolate and cocoa may be good for your heart.  There have been clinical trials where dark chocolate and cocoa have reduced blood pressure, improved blood flow and showed mild anti-clotting effects and for your arteries, well, it just may help prevent plaque formation.

Because of these amazing findings, more research is being done on chocolate's potential cancer-fighting abilities and it's ability to improve cognitive function.

And believe it or not, dark chocolate has a low glycemic index similar to that of oatmeal.  That is good, because it does not send your blood sugar spiking!

This was probably the most interesting health benefit....Chocolate boosts serotonin and endorphin levels, relieving pain and boosting your mood.  In a chocolate/sex study, urologists from Milan's San Raffaele hospital questioned 163 women about their consumption of chocolate and their sexual fulfillment.  "Women who have a daily intake of chocolate showed high levels of desire than women who did not have this habit," the study found.  "Chocolate can have a positive physiological impact on a woman's sexuality."

So, fellas, go ahead and get those pretty roses for Valentine's Day, but buy your gal chocolate regularly!

Let me share my favorite chocolate recipe with you.  I have family members that beg for these no bake cookies.  This recipe is so old, I am pretty sure my mother made these cookies when I was a kid.

Susan's Favorite No-Bake Chocolate Cookies

No-Bake Chocolate Cookies!
2 C. sugar
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. cocoa
1 stick butter

Boil 1 minute, take off heat, add 1/2 cup peanut butter, 3 cups quick oats (I use old-fashioned) and 1 tsp. Vanilla.  As a bonus treat, I add 1/2 c. shredded coconut.

Drop on wax paper.

I only make 1/2 this recipe if Cousin Sandra or I are having a chocolate craving.  But, when family shows up and clamors for these I make the whole recipe.  Sometimes I have had to make these several times during family visits!

Well, it is time to sign off and get something done around here.  Like bake some Sourdough bread or maybe, make a batch of No-Bake cookies for Valentine's Day.

Until next time, have a sweet Valentine's Day.....Susan

We're all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness - and call it love - true love. ~Robert Fulghum, True Love


Monday, February 6, 2012

Pine Needle Tea and no, it doesn't taste like turpentine!

Yellow Pine
Pinus Plustris or Pinus Elliotti
Thank you to my neighbor Harold
for letting me take photos and
gather pine needles and pitch from
his lovely trees!
Last week we talked about Tea (the black and/or green kind) and I included a couple herbal recipes.  I would like to introduce you to a tea (tisane) that you might never have thought of trying and hey, since we live in the Pineywoods of Texas, well you just might have one growing in your back yard.

And that would be Pine Needle Tea.  Okay, before you start thinking "Oh, Yuck!", keep an open mind let me tell you about the health benefits of Pine.

Pine needle tea is supposed to have 8 times the Vitamin C as an equivalent amount of orange juice.  Vitamin C is an essential vitamin, and a deficiency of C can cause scurvy.  "Scurvy often presents itself initially as symptoms of malaise and lethargy, followed by formation of spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from the mucous membranes. Spots are most abundant on the thighs and legs, and a person with the ailment looks pale, feels depressed, and is partially immobilized. As scurvy advances, there can be open, suppurating wounds, loss of teeth, jaundice, fever, neuropathy and death."  wikipedia
Photo by
If you so desire, google images of
Scurvy!  OMG!
"According to the Manataka American Indian Council, pine needle tea is a centuries-old healing remedy for Native Americans.  When European settlers came to the continent and were suffering from scurvy due to lack of vitamin C, The Native Americans introduced them to pine needle tea.  Today, Native Americans still drink pine needle tea to treat coughs and colds."  www.livestrong.com/article/300039-the-health-benefits-of-pine-needle-tea.

If you choose to embark on this tea making adventure PLEASE make sure you properly identify any tree or plant that you are planning to use as a tea or wild food!  Pines are safe to use for tea,  but PLEASE make sure you are not using a Yew tree or a Texas Cedar (Juniper).
The Japanese yew tree at Grace Episcopal Church
1115 36th St. in Galveston
is confirmed by the Texas Forest Service
to be the largest of its kind in the state.

Pine Needle Tea

 You will need, give or take a handful of Pine needles.  Make sure you get them fresh off the tree...those on the ground are great for basket weaving.  Also, make sure that you never harvest from any plant that has been sprayed with any chemicals!

1 quart very hot water.  Boiling the pine needles would/could destroy the Vitamin C.

Put the kettle on
and brew yourself
a cup of Pine Needle Tea!
Chop up your needles.  I used a handful of pine needles, but for the first time, you might not want to be so generous.

About a handful!

Put chopped needles into a sauce pan and pour the hot water over the needles.  Let steep 20 minutes.

Ummmm, smell the aroma of Pine!
Strain the tea into your favorite cup and sip slowly to savor the pleasant wild flavor!

Pine needle tea has a piney citrusy taste.  And no, it does not taste like turpentine!

Any leftover tea does need to go into the frig.  The tea can be used as a broth, say for soup or my favorite, rice.

A strong brew of Pine Needles should act as an expectorant to bring up congested mucous in the Lungs.
Wish you were here!
Totally enjoyed this cup of
Pine Needle Tea with
a homemade Coconut Chocolate
Chip Cookie.
Personally, I love Pine Needle tea.  I put a little honey in mine, and, well, just about anything tastes good with my healthy version of Coconut Chocolate Chip cookies.  But we will save that recipe for another time.

Now if you are stuck out in the woods with a bad cold, and I sincerely hope this never happens to you or me, you could chew on pine needles to extract the Vitamin C.  Do spit out the needles, they would be really hard on your stomach lining!  Cold remedies can be made from the pine sap resin.  These remedies slightly irritate the lungs, kill bacterial infections, increase the effectiveness of coughs, halt coughing (herbs are amazing because they are actually capable of opposite actions at the same time!) and improve breathing.

Pine Brothers Cough Drops
Photo by
Have you ever seen “Pine Brother’s” cough drops?  These cough drops are still sold but unfortunately no longer contain pine.

Well, I need to close.  Definitely need to get out in the garden today.  The Henbit is taking over my Cilantro patch.  That actually isn't a bad thing because Henbit is an edible and medicinal plant.  Which means that as I clean out the bed, I will be saving the weeds to use for some herbal concoction!  The other day, I actually weeded around the baby Dandelion plants.  The neighbor (remember Omer?) would have shaken his head in disbelief watching me pull up the grass and leave the Dandelions. 

Hmmm, I guess next week we may have a blog about Henbit, no wait a minute, next week is Valentine's Day!  Love and Chocolate!  And yes, cocoa is an herb!  But, we will see.....you never know what is going to happen around here from one week to the next!  Until then, pinely yours, Susan

I don't understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine's Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon. ~Author Unknown
Cowgirl Cupid

photo by