Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Makin' stuff....

A Pocket Tote Bag  & A Patriotic Wreath
(The Bakery, where I buy my fabric goodies)
There's been more to life lately than just makin' stuff in my workshop, but before I let them slip by, I wanted to post about two fun projects I made.  I love quick-ish projects and these were fairly easy to do.  OnlyDaughter found a grouping of 12 free handbag patterns on Pinterest and the pocket tote  caught my eye.  We went to The Bakery, our local and wonderful fabric store, to get the goods.  You've heard me talk about it and I even gave you a tour of it here, so if you care to walk in a look around, you can.  We girls found a fun laminated fabric for the outside of the bag and gray chevron lining for the inside of the bag.  We used a charcoal gray trim for the edges and strap.  The tutorial for the DIY pocket handbag is found at Flamingo Toes.  It's a great little blog for sewing projects and tutorials.  OnlyDaughter likes her new, plenty-o-pockets, summer tote.

The next project on my crafty to-do list was this Patriotic Wreath, another Pinterest find by OnlyDaughter.  The wreath base is a pool noodle that is taped together with packing tape and then  wrapped with torn blue jeans.  The flowers are made with denim and red and white fabric scraps I had.  It's all hot glue gun work so that made it pretty simple to make. I added some denim flowers to my wreath which weren't a part of the original "recipe" but I liked them.  Here's a link for some denim flowers to try.  My flowers are smaller than this tutorial's. This wreath should take our front door all the way through summer.  What kinds of creative projects are you working on?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hermit Thrush...

A sweet little bunch of birdies has come to live in my yard and sometimes hops on my front porch and lets me get close.  I'm not sure why, but this li'l fella let me get right up close and personal with him.  Last night one of them hit the window and I went out to take a look and set it out in the lawn until it came out of its concussion (or whatever birds have when they crash into the windows).  Maybe it wanted to thank me tonight by letting me get so close.

I have seen these little birds before.  They look very much like robins, but they are smaller, speckled on the breast, and have a white eye ring.  I have come to learn that this particular thrush is a Hermit Thrush.  You can learn more about it here and listen to its song and learn of its habits.  These particular thrushes don't seem all that afraid of me.  I hope they stay and nest here.

The goldfinches have finally changed into their yellow tuxedos just in time to blend in with all the dandelions that have popped up.  I'm receiving handfuls of dandelion bouquets from Toodles lately.  She is really into picking flowers -- both dandelions and my tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.  Ah well, she is so thrilled and proud to hand a flower bouquet to me, that it melts my heart.

The moon is full tonight!  I hope you look for it!

Monday, May 12, 2014

C'mon baby....

I watched from my front porch as the men were trying to bring this cow and her calf to the barn.  I love seeing a mother cow talking to her baby, coaxing it to follow along behind.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Early prairie flowers...


 (Common Starlily)

 (Missouri vetch)

(Hood plox) 
(a tiny prairie onion bud is pink)

This one is still a mystery to me, although I think it might be of the plantain family.
Any guesses at it?

The prairie is about transform into a mass of blooms, but as of yet, it is still very cold and nothing's really coming out in full force yet.  Not even the grass.  It's there.  It's green.  But it is slow coming.  The short grass makes it a little easier for me to get a good look at the low-growing flowers of the prairie.  Many of them either hug the ground or else poke up just 6" or so at the most.  The goldenpea, a flower of the legume family, is famous for coming out just in time for Mother's Day.  Right on schedule, my Dear Man went out and found the very few that were in bloom and brought them in to me a couple days ago.  Today I found a few bluebells and tucked them into my bouquet.  Bluebells are sometimes hard to find because they are also a low-growing flower that is always tucked in amongst the grasses.  With all the snows of winter and the rains of this spring, the prairie is sure to be a riot of color when it comes in bloom full-tilt!
I hope you had a Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

20,000 Secrets of Tea (and more)

Hello Friends!
It's beginning to turn very spring-esque here on the prairie, but we are staying so cool and wet that the grass and flowers are slow coming.  The landscape is turning emerald green here which is a very welcomed sight after a white winter.  The colors of our prairie are most often white and brown, so green -- especially greengrass green -- is very lovely to see.

I've had many thoughts running around in my mind that I could make a blogpost about and so I'll start with one, Herb Teas, and see how far I get with the other thoughts churning in my head.  First off, I started out this winter learning about various essential oils which are made from herbs and leaves and bark and fruits and things.  I like essential oils very much, and they have led me to learning more about drinking natural healing herbs by way of making them into tea.  I'm a long way off from knowing a lot about herbs and their effective ways, but I'm learning.  I bought myself a book called 20,000 Secrets of Tea by Victoria Zak.  I've been bouncing my way through it, leaning back here and skipping up there.  The contents look like this:
The Wonders of Tea
The history of herbal teas from the discovery of the first tea to their popularity on a global scale.
Sympathetic Recipes
Down-to-earth methods of adding herbal treatments to your daily menu, with step-by-step instructions for using herbs as teas.
The Bounty of Blends
A simple formula to help you make your own inspirational blends of herbal teas at home as well as fabulous recipes for bountiful blends, with guidelines to evaluate commercial blends.
Teas and Specialties
A cornucopia of special uses for teas:  teas to cut your sugar consumption, teas for slimming, healing waters for botanical baths, and suggestions for setting up a modern medicinal kitchen with herbal teas.
Herbal Guide to Health
An A-Z guide to common health problems and health-oriented issues, followed by the herbal teas that are best used to treat them.
A Modern Herbal Tea Garden
More than 100 herbs are treated individually, with their official names, descriptions of the plants, stories and lore, uses in history, studies that reveal their unique nature, cautions to consider, properties and values, and proper parts to use.

So far, I'm trying to get a solid grasp on some basic teas that I want to try and how best to blend them to taste acceptable to me.  First off, I'm truly a coffee drinker at heart, but I have drunk a few teas that I liked.  I never have liked green tea (the tea bag varieties) so I wondered if there would be any of these herbal teas that I would drink with joy.  So far I have decided that I like peppermint tea along with the other herbs.  The peppermint gives that zing and energy that can cover some greener flavors that are not as appealing.  I'm also finding that I like these herbal teas best over ice.  For best results, the author suggests you steep herbs 5-10 minutes.  I do that, and then leave the tea ball in my drink even if I'm drinking it chilled so the tea can continue to infuse its health benefits long after the steep time.

I was surprised to learn how many vitamins and minerals one can get from a cup of herbal tea.  Let's take peppermint tea for an example.  Here are its beneficial properties:  Volatile oil of peppermint, good source of vitamins A and B-complex, C; carotenoids, betaine, choline, flavonoids, minerals, phytol, tocpherols, azulenes, rosmarinic acid, tannin.   It's values are:  Stimulant, antispasmodic, stomachic, diaphoretic, antiemetic,nervine, antiseptic, analgesic, astringent, decongestant, tonic, bitter.  What I like about this tea is that it is a stress-relieving tea that doesn't make you sleepy because of the menthol zing.  It's also great to calm an upset tummy.

Another couple of teas I'm trying are stinging nettle (sounds like something in a witches brew) and raspberry.  I like them just ok by themselves, but I sometimes mix them with my favorite black tea (Yorkshire Gold) or with peppermint tea.  Stinging nettle is said to stimulate the circulatory system, build energy and is an antiseptic which fights infections and respiratory weakness.  It also has serotonin for healthy brain function and regulate moods.  Check out the vitamins and minerals!  It includes vitamins A, C, D, and K; choline, lecithin, silica, iron (red blood builder).    Red raspberry leaf tea is said to help in womanly issues or lower body organs,  relieves difficulties including pelvic muscles and and uterine disorders and also strengthens kidneys and urinary tract.  It is also known to help with canker sores, bleeding gums, and extreme diarrhea.  Nutritional values:  vitamins A, B-complex, C, E;  citric and malic acids, calcium, niacin, iron, magnesium, pectin, potassium, selenium, silicon, sodium, zinc.
(Grape hiacinth coming up in my garden for a little splash of spring!)

I thought I'd try alfalfa tea since we grow our own alfalfa for hay for our livestock, and I must say, I like it!  It's refreshing iced.  The legume plant was first discovered by the Arabians.  When they saw that alfalfa made their horses swift and strong, the Arabians began to take alfalfa themselves.  The herb became known as The Father of All Foods.  The book suggested Alfalfa-Mint Tea which is a super brew used for energy and staying power.  The peppermint brings flavor and synergy to the tea.  It is recommended to use one tea bag of alfalfa and one tea bag of peppermint, steeping them together and pouring the blend in a tall glass with ice.  I do have some peppermint tea bags, but I pulled some leaves off our good alfalfa hay and put it in a tea ball when I made my tea.  Just for good measure, I rinsed off the leaves under cool water first before I steeped it.  Nutritional values:  vitamins A, E, K, B, D; phosphorus, iron, potassium, chlorine, sodium, silicon, magnesium, and beta carotene along with eight essential amino acids.

Many of the teas can also be used topically in baths or directly on the skin for soothing or deodorizing.  Peppermint, for example, can take on tough or lingering cases of body odor by taking it internally and adding peppermint tea bags bath water for an herbal bath.  Plantain (the weed most of us have in our lawns or in road ditches) is a great healing plant.  The leaves can be laid right on skin abrasions, wounds, or burns and bring relief.  A plantain bath stops itching and prevents the spread of poison ivy.  It dries and heals.  When you're not feeling well, with colds, flu, mucous infections and inflammations, plantain tea is a good one for you.  I have this pesky, healing plantain herb growing just behind my backyard.  I've infused it into oils for my healing ointments.

As you can see, there is a whole lot about herb teas that I could write, and I've only just touched the surface.  20,000 Secrets of Tea will be one of those resources that I will have handy, within reach, so that I can refer to it often for health and for treating ills.  I love the size of this little book,  4x7",  which makes it easy to carry in a purse or to slide in the tea/coffee cupboard for quick reference.

One more thing I want to share with you.  You can go to your grocery store and find some of these herb teas, but do check the ingredient labels.  Many are just flavored with oils and do not use the actual herbs.  I have also noticed that many herbal teas are blends, which are nice too, but if you want to try just one herb or two, the blends have too many herbs to get a good dose of a single herb or two.  I went to my health food store and found individual herbs bundled in smallish amounts, and they were a very inexpensive way to try out herb teas.  They were not sold as "tea" but just as the crushed, dried herbs.  I bought the nettle and red raspberry leaf  herbs for just $1.25 each.  The comparison to 16 tea bags of a blended Yogi tea, for instance, was about $5.  I'll probably get several more than 16 teaspoons (1 tsp. is a tea bag amount) out of my little buck twenty-five herbs.  That's quite a savings.  I also plan to collect and harvest some of the herbs we grow naturally around the ranch this summer and fall.  Rosehips, for instance, grow wild and are very nutritious and delicious in teas.

Do you drink herb teas?  If so, what kinds do you like, and how do you use herbal teas for your health?

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Can you ID this bird?

I spotted this wee bird on my front porch recently.  
It's tiny, maybe 4 1/2" or 5".
I didn't hear it's song.
I didn't see any wing bars.
If you enlarge the pic, it appears to have a slight eye ring.
It twitched its shoulders up and down, but I didn't see tail flicking.
I've seen it before in springs past and still could never properly ID the bird.

I think it could be a type of gnatcatcher, flycatcher, or perhaps an immature house wren.
What do you think?
Please enlarge to see it a little closer.  
The photo isn't crystal clear.  Sorry.
Thanks for your help.


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