Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

Mosquitoes are the first thing to ruin a nice, peaceful evening of relaxing and watching the sun set. Sure, there are other annoying bugs, but the mosquitos are, in my opinion, the very worst of all. Buzzing in your ears then dodging your strike and sucking your blood covering you in itchy red bumps from head to toe. There are plenty of bug repellents that you can spray or rub all over you if you want to be covered in greasy, chemically, smelly oils that help keep them away. There are also plenty of gadgets you can hang around you patio to catch the mosquitoes and candles you can light. I am trying something different that doesn’t involve constantly spending money on commercial products that still leave me annoyed and running for the house.


I plan to grow herbs all over the place, each with their own benefits. There are plenty of these herbs that are deterrents to mosquitos and other pests in addition to the other benefits they provide. Why not plant the pest deterrents in areas where we will be spending time? Maybe if I plant enough of these plants around the outside cook and play areas, I won’t have to spend so much time and money spraying bug spray.


My list of mosquito repellent plants that I bought from the herb farm:



Bee Balm






Lemon Balm


This is a short list of plants that are easy for me to grow. I bet you can come up with use for most of these herbs without even thinking about it. These herbs will be spread around the property in various places. I will make tire planters near the kids play area and plant the lemon balm and spearmint. These plants hopefully will handle the beating the kids may give them when I’m not looking. Peppermint and thyme will go in tire planters near the outdoor kitchen, where I can pick them often. The basil and rosemary will also go with the kitchen garden, among the tomatoes. The lavender, bee balm, and catmint will go in the butterfly garden.

Click these links for some more information on mosquito and pest repelling plants.

Homestead Survival

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My next project for the kids will be putting up swings, just next to this path.



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DIY Tire Planters

There are many herbs that can grow out of control if you let them. A little bit of containment goes a long way for your frustrations if you want to grow these herbs. Things like mints and lemon balm are very useful herbs to have growing for many reasons, but they get out of control very quickly. I hate to spend money on things like flower pots. They are far more expensive than they need to be, I think. So I set out on my way to find the perfect containment for my wonderful herbs.tire2

Old tires, of course! They cost money to get rid of and people don’t generally want them around, so they are easy to come by. I have 8 tires so far and I will get 4 planters out of them. The whole thing is very simple. All you have to do is fill the tires with dirt for the herbs to grow in. I chose to use sticks and leaves to help to fill my tires for the organic matter. This will eventually settle as the leaves rot, but I don’t mind having to add more later, and I will likely have to add a lot. The herbs I will be planting are quite hardy and will tolerate being replanted. Try to stuff the walls of the tires the best you can so that you don’t have air pockets for critters to live. And that’s it! Yes, old tires are ugly, I know. I don’t mind looking at them if I have some nice bushy plants growing in them. You can also paint them if you want to.



I’m not attempting to be an environmentalist, but there are old tires everywhere. There are too many tires in the landfills to ever get rid of them all. It is a wonderful idea to try to use the tires for free building materials rather than buying new things that will also eventually end up in a landfill. There are many websites out there with many ideas on fantastic projects that you can do with old tires. From these tire planters, to playgrounds, to houses. Please, check it out!

Check out my post on junk collecting!

Another great junk project I will be doing is building an outdoor shower. Here is the site I have started preparing:

shower spot

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I have had a great month for injuries.  I sprained my knee at work and then sprained my wrist moving logs (doing it the stupid way, of course).  I was in total agony after the wrist injury, it was a really good one.  But the post is not about the injury, it’s about the healing.

I believe that part of permaculture is to get as much as you can from nature, including medicines.  I avoid medicine at all costs, but when I can heal with herbs, that is another story.  I am totally amazed at how well some herbs really work.  I know not everything works as well as popping a pill, but the side effects of the pill are not worth the quick and easy result you get.  But again, that is not what this post is about.  It is about comfrey as a healer.

I had some huge comfrey plants in my garden that I had planted for S&Gs.  We dried some of the leaves a while back, just because we could.  They have been sitting in a paper bag stored away for a while.  Then the man was doing some reading about what to do for the agony that I was in.  Make a compress out of comfrey.  I made comfrey tea and let it steep for a half hour.  Then I soaked a small wash cloth in the tea and let it cool just enough to wrap around my wrist.  I held it place with an ace bandage.  I used the compresses for about five days.  The first day I could not even move my wrist it hurt so bad.  It hurt tremendously even if I didn’t moved it.  By the fifth day I could use my wrist for everything but twisting off caps or anything like that.  I can do this motion alright, but it’s a little sore.  I am thrilled that this worked so well so fast.  It should have taken this sprain three weeks to heal.  I need to have function of my hands right now for all the work we are trying to get done before the snow.  I can’t afford an injury.  This worked great and cost absolutely nothing.  I will have a huge supply of dried comfrey around this year for sure!

Comfrey with flowers

Comfrey with flowers

We also have a neighbor down the road that grows comfrey in his garden.  He broke some ribs and came to ask for my opinion on what to do since he knew I was a nurse.  We told him about the comfrey’s medicinal use and said we hadn’t tried it yet.  He came back a week later and thanked us for the comfrey advice.  He said that as long as he had the compress in place, the pain from his multiple broken ribs was significantly lessened.

I know there are quite a few people out there that don’t believe in herbal medicine.  Plenty of people just tell me I am a crazy hippie because I use herbs.  That’s alright.  They are missing out on a lot and I’m not.  I have given up trying to convince people I’m not crazy.  Maybe I am, but my wrist works just fine.

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Also called purple coneflower, echinacea is a beautiful and very useful flower to add to echinacea your garden.  I’m sure you have heard of taking echinacea as a vitamin for good immune health, but there are many other uses.  You don’t need to go out and buy supplements either, just grow the flower in your own garden.

Echinacea is a wonderful flower to attract pollinators to your garden.  Butterflies and bees love the flower and I often find them all over mine out in the garden.  They attract many types of beneficial insects to your garden which are vital to maintaining an organic garden.  The seeds are also loved by finches, which eat the seeds and the bugs in your garden.

echinaceasEchinacea root is loaded with antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.  Western societies use echinacea as an immune system stimulant while traditionally, echinacea is used to treat acne, blood poisoning, cuts and sores, and fever.  The leaves have some of these properties as well, but the greater concentration can be found in the roots.  The roots and leaves are both fairly simple to harvest and store so that you will have plenty you can put in storage to last you all year.

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As I had mentioned before, a flower garden can be a form of organic pest control if you plant the right flowers.  So what are the right kinds of flowers to plant?  Angelica is the first flower I started in my garden.  Initially, I chose this flower because I wanted some perennials that could grow in partial shade and attract beneficial insects, and these were on sale.  It turns out that these were a great choice for me.

angelicabeeAngelica is a biennial plant which means that it will grow for about two seasons.  It likes partial shade and loamy soil (although mine is growing quite well in the clay that I have).  They like cool moist climates and can get from 4-6 feet tall.  The small flowers are white or greenish white and grow in large clusters.  It is part of the Apiaceae family along with dill, caraway, queen anne’s lace and chevril.  There are also a couple of poisonous plants that are very similar to these plants, so be careful if you find it wild.  

Angelica can be eaten in many ways.  The leaves have a sort of celery flavor and can be used in place of lovage in many recipes.  The stalks are slightly sweet almost licorice like and are often candied when harvested young.  The stalks are also good to flavor liquor and the leaves go well with rhubarb.  Even the roots can be eaten.  Check out this site for a couple of angelica recipes: http://www.mountainvalleygrowers.com/angarchangelica.htm

Angelica is also part of the grouping Dong-quai, second most common herb used in China, second to ginseng.  Angelica contains compounds called coumarins.  Coumarins can be used to reduce swelling, especially in the lymph nodes and associated with arthritis.  Angelica can be used for women to help relieve symptoms of PMS and hot flashes.  You should not take angelica if you are pregnant!  Angelica contains bergapten, which can be used to treat skin conditions and linalool and borneol which are antibacterial and antifungal.  The boiled roots can be used to speed up healing.  It also increases immunity and circulation, stimulates appetite, relaxes muscles and many other things.  

When I bought my first few angelica plants, I did not know any of this.  All I really knew about it was that it was good for attracting beneficial insects.  It’s tiny flowers make it easy for small bugs like parasitic wasps to get to the pollen.  Parasitic wasps are good for your garden because they use big bugs like tomato horn worm to grow their babies.  This is turn kills the tomato horn worm, organically protecting your garden from them.  There are also many pollinators that will be attracted to your flower garden and angelica.  I was happy to see that they bloomed in early spring which helps to get the pollinators to your garden right away.  I now need to add some flowers that will bloom right after the angelica to keep the pollinators around.

Now that I know all I do about angelica, I will be able to take full advantage of the plants next year.  I plan on saving seed (I’ll talk about this later) and learning how to use all the parts of the angelica plant to their full potential.  I can’t believe I was so lucky to stumble across such a great plant!

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