Entirely Too Soon for Winter

Yesterday was bad enough, but today was brutal. 18 degrees when I went to walk, with a positively bone freezing western wind (thank you, lake effect).  the sun was peeking through the clouds; occasionally it would come out entirely and there’d be some pretty (but frigid) blue sky, but largely, it was partly sunny.

Despite the frigidity, the woodland path was glorious to walk over. I love to see all of the little paw prints in the snow – unsurprisingly, no deer tracks; we’re two days into gun hunting season and they’ve all found a safe hidey hole where they can try to ride it out. The bunnies and squirrels, and yes, walked dogs, are still very active and doing their thing, so a lot of bunny and squirrel tracks.

Sunset tonight was a typical soft pastel sunset, with heavy cloud cover moving in from the North. It’s supposed to get down to 6 degrees tonight, so the cloud cover is welcomed.

I’m going to bottle bitters tonight to send off to friends and give to a few local friends here. I need to get more bottles though – I have a lot of bitters in mason jars downstairs. I was hoping to get through all my herbal ‘manufacture’ today, but was interrupted in the middle of making cat food for Tuppence. He was not pleased that I was interrupted and kept figure-eighting around and crying for some of the yummy tasty bird mix on the stove. I’m putting him on a very high protein diet in an attempt to get more weight on his bones. He’s entering that phase of an old cat’s life where he loses flesh and start feeling like petting a skeleton.  He was certainly eager and willing to scarf it down, so hopefully with the higher protein, the magic powder and the herbal supplementation we’ll eke a few more years out of him.

I also need to get the herbal cough drops done. Not that I have a need (now) but one never knows, and it’s good to have them done.  The infusion is ready, I have reduced the volume to the correct amount and now all I need to do is cook them up and, well, everything else.

Also, the spiced pickled cranberries are on my list. I have 2 1/2 pounds of local, organic Michigan cranberries to cook up. My recipe is based on a recipe I first experienced at Prairie, in Chicago.  It features a ton of spices, plus sugar, vinegar and of course, cranberries! I’ve changed the recipe to use apple cider vinegar rather than malt vinegar, and I increase the amount of spice. I have yet to figure out how to dump the corn syrup (SO bad for you!!!) but I am sure that will come. Cranberries are so wonderfully healthy – packed full of antioxidants and other good stuff.  Today listening to Dr. Tom O’Bryan talking about how to reduce inflammation in the body, he said a cup of blueberries a day will help to reduce inflammation throughout the body. I don’t like raw blueberries, so I do wonder if I could use my cranberry recipe to make them more palatable. This may be worth the try!


So really, Winter, Already?!?

A seriously brisk 24 degrees and an even more serious windchill factor as that howling west wind made itself known. We’re expecting somewhere between 0-5″ of snow – oh happy joy.

Out in the woods, it was a lot warmer just because the wind was blocked by the trees. The path is frozen (not solid but hard) although the turf is still soft and spongy. The trees all had this dusting of powder sugar like snow over them which made them look so pretty. I’m really trying to keep to my exercise schedule so  I can train for this 5K in April. It was so cold out there today though, I will definitely need long johns to try to do that.

So, I learned over the weekend that I just really Do Not Like Elderberry anything. I made Elderberry syrup and Elderberry immune drops…they smelt horrid decocting and they taste worse. The Elderberry drops were unrescuable – I made them per a recioe from an herbal class I took earlier this year and they tasted bad, had way too much sugar, and had a god awful horrid mouth feel AND to add insult to injury…when I poured them out on the prepared pan…they looked like coagulated blood. It was quite disgusting. The Elderberry syrup I rescued by virtue of adding a Lemon, 3″ of fresh Ginger, and a couple of Cinnamon sticks.  That made it somewhat less horrid. Oddly, I love St. Germaine. But Elderberries…not so much.  Maybe fresh Elderberries taste different. I’ll try to pick some next summer and see.

My November Herbal Studies homework is largely completed. I am deeply grateful for that. I just have to finish my case studies and get it in themail on Friday.  I’ve already picked up and started December’s efforts. It seems less complicated than this month’s, largely perhaps because skin & hair are things everyone in my family are concerned about, whereas the reproductive system, we’re far less so.

The Digestion Series continues to be really amazing. I was pretty concerned about GMO food before, and now I am even more so after listening to some of the speakers. I’m not terribly alarmist, but it makes no sense to me that GMO food could ever be good for us. We weren’t co-engineered along with it – not I’m sure, because Monsanto didn’t try, but largely because non-engineered humans eating engineered food means more bucks in the pockets of big Pharma when the system breaks down. Thanks, guys.

I feel like it is more and more challenging to find things to eat that won’t kill you slowly and with great pain and loss of dignity. We went out to dinner and I ordered what should have been a simple and straightforward meal of grilled chicken, salad and rice pilaf. The salad came with a hearty helping of ‘lovely’ Florida winter tomatoes and some sort of questionable ‘cheese food shred’. They both got picked out and move to one side. The chicken was bad. I took one bite and sent it back immediately. I ordered a potato in the end but it just all left a bad taste in my mouth. In the meantime, there’s some luscious, sugar-laden GMO wheat rolls sitting there in front of me; the manager offered to buy us dessert for my trauma but it was like, oh, can I please have some toxins after my chicken experience? Thanks, but no.

I can see myself increasingly refusing to eat out. The caloric intake coupled with the questionable food quality made with heavily processed foods is just offputting. All around me overweight to outright obese people were shoveling it in. I don’t want to be like that. so, guess I’ll skip the eating out. :/


Just Frigging Cold With Dainty Frills of Snow

What a Friday – 33 degrees, cold and gray. It never went above 33 degrees on this blustery November 14th, and to add injury to insult, there was a fairly brisk West wind plus occasional scattering ultra fine snow flakes. Very pretty (the snow flakes) but no fun to be out in.  I passed an older couple out doing their morning constitutional and I said “We are insane, don’t you think.” and she gasped out, “We just walk faster.”

I took that advice to heart and stepped faster myself.

The wetlands are totally brown now, except for the deep rich ruby of the Sumac berries.  This time of year you can really see why it is also called Staghorn, because the base stems are so thick and soft with velvety hair, not unlike a buck’s horns in velvet. Of course, by now the bucks have beaten the velvet off their horns and are ready to do battle with one another for the favors of all the lady deer out there.  Hunting season (with guns) starts tomorrow (the 15th), so the deer are nervier than usual.

My Coursera courses are all really great resources. What Plants Know is pretty intense although this week was easier because it delved more into the biochemistry of how plants exchange information. Which for me is always good. I also managed to sneak in under the wire for the ‘effect of chemicals on our bodies’ course, even tho technically it’s done, I made the registration so I still have access to the class. It is also quite good.

Today I worked more on the JERF/Hippocratean aspect of Herbalism and made some things with of course, real foods.  I made some Fig/Olive tapenade using a recipe from epicurious, a reasonably ok gluten-free Walnut cracker from  Elana’s Pantry, and a roasted Fall vegetable salad from myfitness.  I wouldn’t remake the salad – it sounds awesome (what’s not to like about roasted Fall vegetables?) but it rather failed in the end for the amount of prep and time it takes to make.  I’d rather have just roasted the beets, sprinkled some chevre on it and called it a day.  The crackers used oil to bring it together and I think I might opt for butter or Coconut oil next time and add some other seeds such as sesame. I would also make it with black walnuts and grind them finer, into more of a flour.  The tapenade was unfortunately very good. I say unfortunately because it was decidedly not a low cal option. I’ll be adding some mileage to make up for the unfortunate consequences to my D&E.

Three more weeks of Gardener class to go. I have four additional sections I need to read. I also need to identify a garden where I can find a plot to practice what I preach.  I like the class but of course, it’s that annoying homestretch of the class – I think everyone is glad there will be a break for Thanksgiving. I’m starting to design a couple of garden plots. One for the Herbal Studies Course and one for my soon-to-be plot.

I’ve been knitting whilst listening to the Digestion Series. I have the back of a sweater completed and half of the front.  It’s a great way to multi-task I find.  By the time the series is done, I’ll have acquired a ton of new knowledge, AND I’ll have an awesome new sweater.

A Shivery November 13…Blustery and Snow

We’re on the edge of getting some snow headed our way, but in the meantime, Michigan weather cannot decide exactly what it wants to do. While on my daily constitutional, the weather flipped from frigid and blustery (but no snow) to sunny and bright with no wind, to finally blustery and snow.  It has kept this up all day…wind-clouds/sun/no wind/snow-wind.

However, when the sun does shine on the woodland path, it was quite magically beautiful, with a pinkish-tan layer of fallen leaves carpeting the ground, with squirrels scampering madly around trying to get the last few Acorns for addition to their nest or to bury (because Of Course it will remember where all of the 100s of nuts it buried are, right?) In any event, the first 1/2 mile was brutal but things started perking along a little after that.

I’m almost done with my November homework for my Herbal Studies Class. No real rest for the wicked as all that does is give me a bit more space to work on December (and I believe I will need it, what with 2 holidays landing in there).

The Vanilla bitters are coming along wonderfully, and the Cherry bitters smell so good. I can’t wait till Thanksgiving (can I hold out that long…maybe?) I need to  bottle some up but still waiting on Amazon to get it in gear and get me my new Kindle and the glassware I ordered.

Almost time to head out for Master Gardener class – we’re getting one of those pale winter sunsets that Michigan is so memorable for – pale pink at the horizon and soft blue deepening into a rich, well, in this case, a stark sterling gray cloud cover. Oh well.

Snow! Wind! and November 12

Amazing. I actually am writing (and hopefully) posting on the correct day, as opposed to the day after.

Yesterday’s cold got ugly today with a dip of the mercury to 34 degrees (Fahrenheit). Combined with the wind it was more than a little brisk on my trek through the woodland path.  About 1/2 mile in it started dropping a snowflake…here….then…slowly…another one. And then by the time was at my mid-point, it was actually doing a little snow shower of sorts.  Small, hard little snow pellets under heavy leaden gray skies. Nothing moving really in the woods – I feel sure even the squirrels are buried in their leaf nests you can see high in the tips of the trees.  I kind of wonder how well those work out when the gales of November come early (my apologies to Gordon Lightfoot).

Today I got most of my herbal bitters decanted and filtered. It’s really quite amazing how the herbs and spices meld together to create an almost magical blend. A little of the woodland bitters splashed onto my hand and so (of course) I gave it a little lick…and almost derailed the bitters train entirely. It was so good I wanted to go make myself a little cocktail (ok, I LOVE bitters anyway, but still).

I added more of the aromatic/bittering agents to the Cherry bitters and checked on the Vanilla bitters (oh…..yum).  Started some Echinacea tinture – interestingly the menstruum is already working on dissolving some of the active ingredients and pulling them out into solution.  The Kyphi incense is getting slowly lighter in color. It doesn’t have as strong a smell as it originally had. Having never done this before I have no idea if this is how it’s supposed to work or not. I guess the test is in the burning.

The on-line seminar I’m taking, the Digestion Series, is amazing. I’ve learned so much already about how to make myself healthier, and eventually of course, to helping my future clients become healthier and well. I have had a suspicion for some time that GMO foods are just plain not good for us, but I got the actual science to show me why this is so.  It makes sense of course – it was modified, but we weren’t co-modified to be able to digest these new foods. So of course there would be issues, but I had no idea how toxic they really are. I had already pretty much cut the gluten out of my diet (with an occasional trip off the wagon, like the Cinnamon doughnut of Sunday) but I’m going to be even more aggressive about getting cereals out of my diet. The sugar is much harder to kick, of course. I have a sweet tooth – or maybe I should say my gut microbiome has a sweet tooth – but in any case I find sugar addiction really hard to break. It helps that I largely avoid processed food. Buying stuff in boxes to ‘home make’ something makes zero sense to me. But that’s just me. I’d rather attempt and butcher something where I know the ingredients than make ‘perfect’ cupcake from a box full of preservatives. Yuck.

I made a new immune tea today and started testing it.  It includes Elderberries, Rose hips, Astragalus, Elder flowers, Licorice root, Echinacea, Melissa and Peppermint.  It makes up into a purplish, rather toxic looking brew and it tastes mostly of mint but has a very astringent/bitter aftertaste that made it (to me at least, at least) initially unpotable. Then I added some raw honey to sweeten the matters (sweet tooth saves this day).  It still has a very ‘rooty’ aftertaste, but now it’s tolerable.

November 11, cloudy, cold and RAIN! ARGH!

My walk today was truncated courtesy of the very inclement weather. Of course once I got out there it was fine but I was decidedly happy to turn back and head into the warm house.

Then off to ferry Miss Daisy to Jo-Ann’s, where I followed her around and wished I’d remembered a book before I purchased some complementing yarn to make a combination hoodie/cowl for the forthcoming winter months. We ended up on the Aisle of Heinous Synthetic Candle Smells – which is as bad as it sounds. Every synthetic ‘aroma’ in the book. I absolutely cannot stand, abhor, despise most of the ‘white’ scents like Jasmine, Gardenia, and so on. In the synthetic version they are, if possible, worse. My sister says she can’t stand the ‘smell of vanilla’, but I think she has smelled enough real vanilla to know that the difference between real vanilla and the fake crap is worlds apart. I have some 8x Vanilla extract and some Vanilla bitters currently macerating and I think I’ll show her the difference at Thanksgiving.

The temperature was dropping by the time we came out so I think snow soon. The Oaks and Norway Maples were all tossing their leaves off with mad abandon in the wind so Autumn is definitely in its middle period. Ground is still soft, though, so any snow we get won’t stick.

Gray Lightening to Sweet Sunny Blue

Of sorts. Michigan weather is so odd. Sunday we had that long, ropy grey low cloud cover that looked like snow, today we have a lighter cloud cover, higher up that gradually broke to a little patchy sun through veils of silvery stratus up high. Combined with positively balmy middle 50 degree temperatures, and it made for a really warm walk through the woods on this Monday, November 10.

I almost have our Master Mind group set up with a private WordPress site. One more person to get properly added and her goals put in as a permanent page and we’re ready to roll.  I’m so excited  for all of us and I know we will all accomplish great things this year with the loving support of our triune of strong, intelligent, creative women.

Of course, that yummy doughnut yesterday made me pay today. I rolled out of bed slightly achy and with, yes, brain fog. It doesn’t help that I was not good with my hydration, so dealing with some issues related to that. I finally gave in and made an extra strong cup of an herbal cure and then pushed more water. Why did I wait so long? the herbal cure works, very very effectively, but, it also leaves me a little queasy and with abdominal cramps. There’s never any doubt in my mind as to whether or not herbs work. They definitely do!

I bought some Beets at the farmer’s market today to use in a roasted vegetable salad.  I’ll put that in to cook this afternoon (probably about the same time mom asks me to bake her carrot cake. She gets the cred for her buddies, I get to bake. Win, win.)

Our three little dwarf Apple trees are looking increasingly bare. The water shoots are about the only thing still with leaves on, bravely attempting to give the tree a last shot of energy from its still-green leaves. I guess no one told them they’ve already formed their abscission layer and all that is left no is a slow and gradual death.  I always feel so bad for those trees. They just really have a horrible location – heavy, wet soil and not enough hours of sun. They spend their lives desperately sending up water sprout after water sprout after water sprout trying to get some sun. They are a classic point of planting without thinking about how the (then tiny) Spruce trees to the south of it would grow and overshadow the Apple trees.

Today I must decant and filter bitters, as well as decant some other things like some tinctures and the Arnica oil I’ve had infusing. Arnica is good for bumps and bruises and I have oldsters who need some nice Arnica salve in their life.