Herbal Infusions and Decoctions

Tea.

There is a difference between a medicinal tea and a beverage tea. When making a beverage tea, I’m looking at flavor. When making a medicinal tea I’m looking at how I can harness the healing powers of the plant I’m using to my benefit.

When I’m trying to make a medicinal tea for cold and flu season as a preventative or if someone suddenly gets a stomach bug I have a different process and sometimes different equipment I use to get the full benefits of the medicinal plant or food that I am using.

A medicinal tea can be flavorful at times, but taste is obviously not the driving factor. And sometimes what is created, even with added flavors, is downright awful.

When making a tea for medicinal purposes, I recommend making at least a quart at a time (unless more than one person in the household needs it). Making a cup at a time is a waste as this is not the fastest process. Most teas can be kept at room temperature for a day or two, but I do recommend refrigeration. Our house personally loves cold tea anyways (even some of the herbal blends), but it does last longer in the fridge. If the taste is off or you see bubbles forming at the top, toss it and make new tea if needed.

Medicinal teas actually have different terminology for the methods of making it. The method you use is dependent upon the parts of the plant you use. Let’s explore the art of infusions and decoctions. Both are simple, but more time-consuming than heating water and steeping herbs for five minutes.

When making an infusion, you are using the leaves and/or flowers of a plant. This is a gentler process than a decoction, which is important in not destroying the enzymes, vitamins, and essential oils of the plant.  Steeping a plant in boiling water (or heated but NOT boiling in some cases), is an infusion. Making a tea, or infusion, for beverage purposes is fairly quick, as most blends call for a five-minute steeping time. Making an infusion  for medicinal purposes is quite a bit longer. To make an infusion:

20180502_104634.jpgPut 4-6 tablespoons of dried herb (6-8 tablespoons of chopped fresh herb) into a quart jar.

20180501_195231.jpgPour boiling water over the herbs, filling the jar. Steep for 30-45 minutes, covered.

20180501_195404.jpgStrain.

20180502_104328.jpgAnd drink.

Decoctions are what you make if you’re using the bark or root of a plant. For decoctions, you want to simmer roots or bark in already boiling water. Bark and roots take a little extra elbow grease to get the full benefits. To make a decoction:

20180502_104443.jpgPut 4-6 tablespoons of dried root/bark (6-8 tablespoons of chopped fresh root/bark) in a small saucepan with 1 quart of cold water. Bring mixture to a simmer on low heat. Cover and let simmer for 25-45 minutes. For a stronger decoction, simmer for 20-30 minutes then put into a quart jar to infuse overnight.

20180502_104307.jpgStrain.

20180501_205433.jpgAnd drink.

The process really is simple, but it does take time. Time is the biggest struggle because we’re all very busy. I try to take a proactive step because of this at certain times of the year, especially flu season.

Check out our medicinal herb page to see what we grow for our own medicinal purposes on the farm. We have a lot we work with.

On a similar note, before bringing this to close, I am going to b investing my time in a few courses over the summer in the herbalist field. I’ve been making infusions, salves, and tinctures for years and am now dabbling in hydrosols and essential oils. I have already invested time and some money in books and research but am ready to invest even more to work with teachers and really expand my knowledge even further. I am very excited about this opportunity and hope to gain a wealth of new information to use.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Our Mother’s Day weekend turned out to be quite busy. My son is 7 and was very proud of himself for his efforts.

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He and his sister had made cakes at school so I got TWO cakes. They’re actually very good, too. We enjoyed them immensely all weekend. A small bite here, a small bite there. My 5-year-old daughter was very excited because she loves to bake.

She also made me this adorable teacup card where she wrote she loves me because I help her. It also included a tea bag. I love tea, so she did well. She knows I’m an avid tea drinker so she was very excited about the teacup card.

My husband also took the kids out to get cards. My daughter picked this card out because it has a flower and it plays music.

My son picked this card out and it was perfect because this kid loves TV, sports, AND LOTS OF FOOD.

We went out to eat Saturday instead of Sunday to avoid potential crowded restaurants. The food was good and we had a lot of fun.

But the most exciting fun did not happen until we got home to discover the AC unit for upstairs wasn’t working.

We deemed the motor wasn’t working properly so we spent HOURS trying to switch matching motors out to absolutely no avail. Nothing worked. We finally called it quits. We should be getting it fixed this week.

 

Sunday rolled around and I got to hang out with the kids. We played many games of Jenga with the giant blocks and they helped me clean. It’s difficult to stay too slack for me unless I’m actually out doing something else. I get very antsy if I feel like I’m getting behind.

All in all, other than the AC failing, we had a great time. I got to spend time with two kids that I not only love, but genuinely enjoy spending time with because they really are smart, compassionate, cool kids.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone. I hope everyone enjoyed some time with loved ones.

When Healthy Eating Backfires

I visit various areas of solicitude when my mind wanders. When I reflect on our state as a society I come across several areas of concern, one of them being society’s attitude and handling of food. The need for instant gratification combined with a lack of knowledge–or caring in some instances–on where food actually comes from in today’s world creates a battleground full of controversy and ill-informed decisions made with good intent.

Ask a young child where food comes from and, for the most part, you’ll find the answer revolves around a grocery store. Further probing may reveal that the child knows meat comes from animals, eggs from chickens, milk from cows and goats, fruit and vegetables from plants, etc. And even the ones that know this, may not understand this. The two don’t always coincide, even with adults.

Ask a young adult where food comes from and they answer with a little more confidence, truly believing they understand the whole concept of a farm growing produce and raising animals. Because really, the image they have of a farm probably reflects our farm on a larger scale.

In reality, the majority of our food comes from factory farms. Clever advertisements on some of the products these companies sell depict houses sporting the stereotypical farmhouse or fresh green pastures. Happy animals are seen on logos, sometimes outside in said green pasture imagery.

Visit a chicken factory farm and you find close quarter living arrangements. Chickens end up with little room to wander and forage as nature intended, which also means chicken waste ends up on other chickens and in their living space. This results in birds that suffer from respiratory infections caused by injured mucous membranes. Injured mucous membranes (caused by the ammonia the chickens can’t escape) makes it easier for bacteria and viruses to enter the chicken’s lungs and air sacs. Chickens poo everywhere. It’s not so much of an issue if there isn’t overcrowding and they’re pasture raised. Take a factory farm setting where there’s barely room to move and you get some pretty sick poultry. Which is why we see an increased level of antibiotics being used, overused, and misused. It’s more profitable than to house chickens correctly.

Some factory farms are partaking in “movements” by opening windows to the barns the chickens are housed in, or making sure the lights are out at night. That’s a start, but the birds need to be out. It’s in their nature to scratch and forage for food. That brings me to another “improvement” where many companies boast about their feed. Again, great, but access to fresh grass and produce is vital, too, as well as bugs. I’ve seen my chickens eat small snakes even.

This is not something that can easily be done. The demand for food is partly responsible for the birth of the factory farm. So even large-scale farms don’t have the room. Be wary of your labels; if it says free range, that’s SOME outside time–in pens with several other chickens. An improvement, yes, but still unacceptable.

All of our birds are pasture raised and are socialized with people. They are not afraid of were they live and have access to forage all day, take dust baths as they see fit, and socialize. Yes, the birds socialize. They have their own group of friends they even hang out with. This is how domesticated chickens (and other birds) should live.

This background information leads up to my actual rant about food contamination. These birds are living in the very thing that is responsible for outbreaks of salmonella, Listeria, and e. coli. Poop. Your meat chickens are living in it. Your egg laying hens are sitting in it. Our chickens naturally do not lay eggs where they use the bathroom. They have the space to lay, roam, forage, and do their business.

The big foodborne illnesses we hear about on a consistent basis lives in the gut of these animals. If they’re not allowed the space to respond to nature’s call, contamination and harsh cleaning processes take place, neither of which are beneficial for anyone.

Dairy and other cattle factory farms are not much different. Antibiotics are the response to overcrowded living conditions instead of happy, healthy environments. In fact, over half of the antibiotic use is for agricultural purposes. The antibiotic use is abuse (I understand that’s technically my opinion) because it’s used as a preventative, which is not the intended idea behind the antibiotic. So even families who actively make it a point to avoid overusing antibiotics for something like the common cold, are still being exposed to the overuse of antibiotics into their systems. Cows are also given Bovine Growth Hormone to produce even more milk (even though the cows are kept pregnant, birthing, or milking with little to no break in between).

We do not have a cow (yet). Once we expand more we will be looking into getting a cow. Right now, we do have have a herd of miniature donkeys and mixed breed goats. They are pasture raised as well. We have grown to have two males for breeding and two different milking pairs. One pair will be pregnant and lactating, while the other pair will have a break so their bodies can recover. Antibiotics are only used if the animal is sick (we wait for it to be out of their system before milk is used) and no growth hormones are added. They’re social animals so they’re also allowed the right to socialize, grow, and spend time with their family (human and animal alike). This is how it should be.

With all of that information, it’s no wonder we get so sick. That’s not the surprising part though. What’s surprising is more foodborne illnesses come from fresh vegetables. I think this is a really big eye opener for how our food is handled. Our meats are exposed to the same contamination (Listeria, salmonella, e. coli), but the antibiotic “preventative” and harsh cleaning procedures hide this. You’re eating dirty meat that has been washed with chlorine.

So, why vegetables? Well, in an attempt to be healthier many people are seeking fresh produce. Makes sense as quite a few veggies are healthier when consumed raw and salads are a great way to pack in essential nutrients when you’re being health conscious and are short on time. It makes sense. I get it. Although fresh produce is also washed with water and chlorine, the leafy greens you’re hearing about on the news likely wasn’t cooked. Because who cooks their lettuce? Water that is contaminated and used to wash vegetables could be a source for foods carrying these bacteria, especially if it’s exposed to any fecal matter or fertilizers. Which also means water used to clean your chicken could also be contaminated, but heating foods to proper temperatures can sometimes help with that nasty fact.

A clean environment is the best preventative to these illnesses. Our hydroponic produce is separated from our animals and clean water is used on them.

It is near impossible–unless I’m not seeing it–to break free from this. Growing your own food and raising small family homesteads is becoming a lost art and we can’t let people starve. The best way to avoid this is to have your own garden and your own meat, but that’s not a viable option for everyone. Your next best bet is purchasing locally, a little easier to do with produce than meat. Check out local markets and talk to vendors. There are smaller establishments that make sure their animals are living healthy and happy lives.

We’re not meant to be cooped up, although many people force themselves to live like some animals on these factory farms: eat, sit on the couch all day, stay indoors, sleep. It’s not good for us. It makes sense that it’s also not good for these animals and it affects our food. Factory farms are in this for profit and to fill that high demand. People don’t realize that’s where their food comes from. And it gets worse. Any meals, canned soups, processed foods you purchase at the store get their meat and produce from these factory farms.

Grow more edible plants at home if it’s possible. Shop local. Take baby steps. We’re trying our best as well. We just got to where we have a pretty steady meat source for us. I cannot remember the last time we went to the grocery store for meat or produce. What we don’t grow, we purchase or trade from local farms. We’re taking baby steps, too, but we’re getting there.

What steps do you take to truly know the source of your food? What do you recommend for other people looking to educate themselves in food handling and appropriate animal raising?

Leave comments below and remember to follow us to get updates on our blog and/or meat processing that we do. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Concrete and Expansion

Some very exciting movements are happening on the farm! We just poured concrete , all under roof. It’s actually amazing  how much cooler everything is under shade.

This is wonderful progress. With all the rearranging we did along with pouring the concrete, we will have more pasture for our meat chickens. Just as I stated before in my egg post, being forced to share small spaces with several other birds is detrimental to their health. And if that isn’t reason enough to be infuriated (it is for us), unhealthy animals leads to unhealthy food.

This increased space also means additional room for processing meats. My husband will either deny it or have no comment to it, but I’m pretty sure that means if he finds new meat processing “toys” we’ll actually have a place to put them.

This will provide extra storage. This makes me happy because that will free up some of MY space I use.

The most exciting opportunity this expansion creates is the ability to teach classes. In the future, my husband and the butcher we work with would love to teach meat processing classes. I am looking into providing classes based around creating and storing herbal remedies.

And may I just add…

Doesn’t it just look great? We’re very excited. We’re looking at other future expansions, but this is a good start.

In the future, we would love to add space on our property to efficiently and safely make soap. I would love to have my own little “witch’s cottage” to keep my herbal remedies in one organized space, with space to make them as well.

Follow us as we update more on how we organize and expand our space on the farm. With expansion comes more opportunities

Eggs–What’s Going On?

This is going to be a dual purposed post. We’re going to be exploring eggs and the different birds we have who lay eggs as well as their contribution to healthy balanced meal. In light of recent news spreading on social media about all this different food (not just eggs) being recalled due to e. coli or salmonella, I felt there was a need to explore how this happens and why we’re seeing several recalls from pretty large distributors of this food.

Let’s start off light. Eggs are generally fantastic. Different eggs have different nutritional values and although all of the eggs we sell are edible, I do use them for other purposes.

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We’re going to go over chicken, duck, and goose eggs.

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Pictured above are the various types of chicken eggs we use and sell from our farm. I love gathering them because they’re just so pleasing to the eye. Aren’t they gorgeous? I cannot get over just looking at them. When I have to cook several I also use as varied colors as possible. It makes no difference in taste. I just can’t help it. I use chicken eggs very frequently. If I am cooking eggs just to eat, this is the egg I use because I am a rare breed of person who cannot handle duck or goose eggs. We’ll go more into that later though. One of my favorite quick meals to do at home is omeletts. We have eggs from our chickens, often homemade cheese, and fresh produce from our garden. So it’s all very quick, delicious, and healthy.

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Ducks are fun creatures. We have mostly Pekin and we have two types of layer personalities. We have the “leave them where they drop” layers and the “I might want to be a mother some day, but I’m unsure” layers. Duck eggs that are isolated and/or in weird out in the open areas are the “leave them where they drop.”  The picture above is the “kinda-sorta-maybe-wannabe-mama.” She does what nature says she should do. She gathers the eggs (in this case, a perfect circle) and she gets the eggs dirty to try to blend in with the environment. This is an important task because it allows the eggs to stay camouflaged when the duck leaves to eat, drink, and wash. We have only ever had one broody duck. All of my others, even after beginning what looks like a nest, quit pretty quickly. In fact, my one broody girl isn’t even a Pekin. She is an Appleyard mix. Duck eggs have more nutritional value than chicken eggs. This is how they contrast in daily value percentages (keep in mind, there is no way this can be EXACT because eggs are created in different sizes and sometimes shapes):

Chicken Egg Duck Egg
Iron (mg) .9 (5%) 2.7 (15%)
Phosphorous (mg) 95.5 (10%) 154 (15%)
Zinc (mg) .6 (4%) 1 (7%)
Selenium (mcg) 15.8 (23%) 25.5 (36%)
Vitamin A (IU) 244 (5%) 472 (9%)
Vitamin E (mg) .5 (2%) .9 (5%)
Thiamin/Vitamin B1 (mg) .02 (2%) .1 (7%)
Riboflavin/Vitamin B2 (mg) .2 (14%) .3 (17%)
Vitamin B6 (mg) .1 (4%) .2 (9%)
Folate/Vitamin B9 (mcg) 23.5 (6%) 56 (14%)
Vitamin B12 (mcg) .6 (11%) 3.8 (63%)
Pantothenic Acid/Vitamin B5 (mg) .7 (7%) 1.3 (13%)
Choline (mg)* 126 184
Total Omega-3s (mg)* 37 71.4
Total Protein (grams)* 6.28 8.97

*No current daily value percentage.

Click here to view the nutritional value chart this is adapted from and read further on.

Duck eggs are also great for baking cake and bread items. The extra fat in the yolk and extra protein in the whites help create a fluffier baked good.

Most people who have difficulty consuming chicken eggs can enjoy duck eggs with no issues.

People who are allergic to chicken eggs can sometimes consume duck eggs without problems. This can also be true the other way around. My family loves duck eggs. They are richer and pack more nutrients than chicken eggs. I love them, and although I can and do bake with them, I cannot eat just duck eggs. Within 30 minutes I am severely ill and trying to keep myself hydrated, with no success–if you catch my meaning. It’s very sad.

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Goose eggs! These are so cool! They’re huge! They’re around 266 calories per egg, with almost 20 g of protein. And you generally only need one for an omlette.

Now onto a serious topic. April has been hell on recalled food items, including eggs.

We’ve seen it on social media and other resources like the National Food Safety Foundation. The FDA posted details about the egg recall here.

Many people believe that they are less likely to get ill from a store-bought egg than buying from local farms or homesteads. The treatment factory farm eggs and hens is not how we handle our eggs and hens, and with several good reasons.

Just to sum up this article, chicken fecal matter is a huge cause for concern. Birds kept in cages all day, with nowhere to go, end up crapping where they lay. Without proper attention, eggs can be contaminated. Egg shells are porous, but do have a protective bloom. However, if it’s sitting in crap all day, the ammonia will eat through it.

People buy “free range” eggs thinking they’re getting better eggs, but they’re really not. “Free range” is not the same as “pasture raised.” Free range birds have outside access to food and water, but it’s still a relatively small enclosure, shared with hens.

Pasture raised eggs the chickens are actually out and about. We are pasture raised. The hens have shelter, and they use it at night or to lay eggs, but they have free access. We don’t actually lock them up in their enclosures, unless there’s a hurricane coming. They are outside. Although they’re fed and given water, they have access to plants, bugs, small reptiles and amphibians, fish (the ducks and geese hunt and eat these), and leftover produce. They get exercise and have opportunities to socialize with their friends (yes, they have their own groups they hang out with).

Then there’s the cleaning process these industrialized farms use. An egg that has not been sitting in shit all day and has not been washed can stay on the counter for a couple of weeks (they never last that long here–they’re too yummy). They don’t need to be kept cool unless you need to keep them for long-term or you wash that protective bloom off. Factory farms use chemicals, such as chlorine, to “clean” the eggs. This also means, since the shell is porous, that the chemicals then enter the egg as well. During the harsh cleaning process, if the eggs are not totally dry in the end, bacteria thrives and can penetrate the shell as well because the bloom is gone.

We have had an increase of consumers seeking us out to purchase eggs after getting sick from store bough eggs recently. Truth is, most people handle salmonella well if they’re generally healthy. They’ll fall very ill, but most recover. Anyone with compromised immune systems, or the elderly and young, are most affected and can die. Even without salmonella, long-term exposure to the chemicals used in cleaning the eggs from factory farms is harmful. And I cannot imagine any of my birds, even the ones raised for meat, being kept in such harsh and stressful conditions. It’s understood that these birds have a clear purpose for humans, but it does not mean that their lives should be that dreadful. Whether they’re living for eight weeks or five years, it’s unacceptable.

We’re happy to see an increase in others doing their own research and making their own decisions in purchasing food. Knowing where your food comes from is so important. Raising happy and healthy animals, even if it’s just for food, matters.

Want to learn more about the animals we have on the farm? Click out here.