Tea with Dragonflies

When we first moved out here three years ago, the land was completely overrun with trees and weeds whose heights could easily lead one to believe they too were trees. An unkempt pond in the front created a small swampy environment. Amphiumas inhabited the land where it was most moist. Three years of vacancy did not help the land flourish. It was very easy to just want to tear everything out. And, in some sad ways, that’s mostly what was done. Although most involved with the task were very excited about the end result, I had a very heavy heart whenever I witnessed a fleeing snake or a random fish pop up in the yard, trapped, as we destroyed its watery home. In the process of destruction to build new, I had personally rescued three fish and two Jerky McJerkface Creepy Snake Fish amphiumas. My husband and I worked together to move a huge softshell turtle. Later that year, we Taz–our Weimaraner–brought us a baby softshell turtle. He did not harm the baby, but probably rescued it from the huskies. That warmed all of our hearts.

As we cleared practically everything we clearly got a good look at two trees. One right out front of the house and the other near the front of our property. I had fallen in love with the tree by the house, and my husband was fond of the one near the front of the property. We’re unsure of what the trees actually are, but they were too gorgeous to get rid of.

The tree right outside the house provides plenty of shade. In seeking a moment to myself one afternoon, I decided to finish off a cup of hot tea I had steeped. I know it’s summer, but I do love my hot drinks. I held my knees to my chest as I leaned against the tree. A dragonfly landed on my bare foot. I continued my tea.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

Another one, green, landed to my left. Then another to my right. One bumped into my right ear. Another landed on a twig above me to enjoy a snack. I closed my eyes and listened to them. They don’t buzz like bees, though there were a few working in the shade as well. They didn’t mind my presence so I continued to share their space. Listening to them fly and land nearby was tranquil.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

I allowed myself a moment to feel young again; a little girl with butterfly wings, pretending these gentle beasts came to visit me from a faery realm. Smiling at them as they ate in close proximity of me. Blue, green, and yellow.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman

I finished off my tea and returned to work. Later in the evening I visited my friends again with the camera. I couldn’t resist documenting–to an extent–our interaction. I took advantage of how undisturbed they were by my presence and thoroughly enjoyed our little photo shoot. At the end of the day, with the amount of work I got done, I was most proud of enjoying tea and socializing with the local neighbors in our tree.

Take time for yourself; even if it’s not everyday.

Take time to acknowledge and enjoy the peace around you presently; even if you had to cause destruction to get there.

And despite past destructions and chaos, never stop growing and helping the growth around you.

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Photographed by Amanda Harman
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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.

Mint

Mint is an easy to grow herb that smells and tastes great. I commonly pull a leaf to chew when I’m outside. It’s a favorite here to use to steep as tea, even just for the flavor. There are several benefits to consuming and using mint, other than its pleasant taste.

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Nausea

We often hear of how ginger is used for any stomach issues, but mint does a pretty decent job in dealing with nausea and other digestive discomforts. I steep it with ginger when my stomach is mildly bothering me. It’s not an instant fix, but it does help.

Headaches

Another way mint aids us is with headaches. For me, just smelling some essential oil or a fresh cup of tea brings a great deal of comfort when I have a headache.

Congestion

Believe it or not, this herb’s cooling effects help with congestion. I like to drink it on its own as a tea, but if I’m severely ill, I will mix it with mullein (fantastic herb used to help clear out actual congestion).

If you have chronic issues with minor headaches or stomach problems, you can make a tincture out of mint to take on a consistent basis. Teas are great and I love tea, but tinctures can be a bit stronger if that’s what we need. There are other herbs to use for these problems, but in more severe cases. Mint is also great to use in conjunction with other stronger herbs to help with taste.

Cooling and Pain Relief

But, if I’m being honest, the coolest thing I love about mint are the different body butters, salves, and balms I can make with it. I have a muscle pain salve I make with cayenne. Cayenne does most of the hard work for this task, but the mint provides a nice cooling effect to counter the heat when applied to the skin. Cracked feet? A body butter with shea butter and mint help heal and soothe.

Tea

The most common method of using mint is as a tea. I made some with fresh leaves this week for my son’s congestion.

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First, you harvest this amazing creature.

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If you’re using fresh leaves you do need to chop it. There are many methods to this. This time around, I chose to put some in a small cup and simply cut it.

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I like using tea balls for steeping. They’re easy to use and store. I pack two of these full of fresh chopped mint.

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I boil water in an electric kettle. Once it is done and the bubbles from boiling disappear, I add the water to my favorite tea kettle with the tea balls. The kettle holds 1 liter of water. To get health benefits from the herb, you cannot just steep it for five minutes. You need to do a good 30-45 minutes.

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After that, enjoy!

Want to learn about other herbs we grow and use? Visit this page to learn more! We will be adding more posts about each herb, but if you see a herb you’re curious about and there’s no post, do not hesitate to get a hold of us!