Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Coral Castle: Megaliths in Paradise

I am just home from a short trip to Miami and Homestead, Florida, where we visited the Coral Castle. The Coral Castle is the life work of Ed Leedskalnin, who worked secretly to build this monument to his lost love. The castle was made with limestone megalithic stones, the largest of which were bigger than those used to construct the Great Pyramid of Giza. Ed said that he had "discovered the secrets of the pyramids."

The crescent moon on the bottom right of the above photo is one of two crescents behind the moon pool pictured below.

Moira in the reclining megalith. One of the many chairs found in the castle.

Do you think I could resist the baby chair?

Tessa had to try is out.

Moira exploring the grounds.

Billy Idol's song "Sweet Sixteen" was inspired by the coral castle.

Ancient Animals

Plants find a home among the stones.

Thanks for looking at my pictures! Now I need to get back to work! I have much to do to get my holiday inventory ready and am preparing for Hallogreen this coming Saturday!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Earth Apple: The Bittersweet Medicine of Chamomile by Kiva Rose

The following article is by herbalist Kiva Rose, a well-known herbal blogger, and co-founder of the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference. She is someone who I have known and traded with for a few years now.

Kiva's plant monographs, like the one below, are famous for their deep exploration into herbs that you will not find in other places.

Kiva is now offering a plant energetics course. Here is a sneak preview below for chamomile. You can learn more about her upcoming correspondence class here: Herb Energetics with Kiva Rose

Earth Apple: The Bittersweet Medicine of Chamomile

By Kiva Rose

I am excited to finally be able to go deeper into explaining herbal energetics in my upcoming course, Herb Energetics with Kiva Rose

Let’s begin with an herb we all know and love, chamomile.

However, do you REALLY know Chamomile?

Chamomile means “earth apple” which is easy to understand when we accidentally trample the flowers and underfoot and suddenly smell the welcome fragrance of apples rising from the earth. In the same way, Spanish speaking peoples often use the name Manzanilla, literally meaning “little apple”.

Even for those largely unfamiliar with herbs, the distinctive sweet scent of Chamomile is often both familiar and comforting. This plant is many people’s first and perhaps only introduction to herbalism, often from a cup of honey-sweetened and belly-calming tea from their grandmother.

Many children enjoy eating the buds or just opened flowers, savoring the sweet aromatic taste of the plant, and rarely seeming to mind the slightly bitter aftertaste. Some patches of Chamomile, depending on phase of flowering and availability of moisture, are much more bitter than others but the fragrant sweetness persists even in the most bitter batches.

Far from irrelevant, these signature sensory characteristics of Chamomile that make the plant memorable in our minds are also the primary keys to understanding how to work with Matricaria as a medicine.

As with almost any herb, the taste and scent of Matricaria tells us a great deal about its properties, allowing us to use our senses to listen to the plant and understand its essence as a medicine. That blissfully apple-like scent that children so love to breathe in from the flowers tends to bring relaxed smiles to their faces and anyone who’s ever drank a cup of the tea can testify to the relaxing, tension alleviating effects of the plant.

That aromatic component, stemming from the plant’s high volatile oil content, is predictably nervine, meaning that it has a discernible effect on the nervous system. In this case, a specific relaxing, calming effect. Additionally, that same volatile oil content is responsible for Chamomile’s actions as a carminative, relieving digestive stagnation in the form of gas, gut cramping and mild constipation. A traditional remedy by several North American indigenous tribes for the uterine cramps of girls just beginning their menstrual cycles, Chamomile is a mild relaxant for the smooth muscles of the gut, uterus, bladder and respiratory tract with a specific affinity for the gut.

Matricaria is not just aromatic, even in the sweetest Chamomile flowers we find a notably bitter aftertaste. Rather than ruining the flavor of an otherwise tasty herb, that bitter element enhances and expands the medicinal properties of the plant. The bitter flavor tells us that it has a distinct effect on the digestive system, even beyond the aromatic/carminative qualities.

The bitterness increases the secretion of digestive juices and enzymes in the gut, thereby improving digestion wherever there is a lack of secretions, which is a common cause of heartburn and many cases of general gut discomfort. This combined with its obvious nervine properties; Matricaria excels at treating what is commonly known as a “nervous stomach”, which generally implies digestive upset concurrent with anxiety and nervous tension.

Volatile oils and bitter principles together make for a powerful ability to reduce inflammation and promote healing, especially in the gut. I rarely create a formula for those with leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome or even Crohn’s disease that doesn’t contain some proportion of Chamomile. Even as a simple, this pleasant tasting plant can very effectively reduce gut inflammation, pain and cramping while promoting healing of the mucosa and improving overall digestion. And of course, reducing any anxiety that may be aggravating or triggering the gut issues in the first place.

Just as it soothes and heals internally, Matricaria is also a first-rate external application for almost any case of inflammation, irritation, swelling and even potential infection. It finds its way into many of my compress formulas for eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and other common inflammatory skin conditions.

Steams, baths and infused oil are other effective ways of utilizing the calming, decongestive and healing properties of the herb. It’s also the first plant I think of in addressing the discomfort, irritability, insomnia, belly upset and fever of teething in small children.

Chamomile is one of my favorite remedies for all sorts of eye inflammations and infections. It can be used as a warm compress or saline eyewash to reduce inflammation, possible infection and pain in the treatment of styes, conjunctivitis, pink eye and similar maladies.

It teams up especially well with any Rosa spp. petals where there is a great deal of redness, irritation and swelling in the eye and the surrounding area. Just be sure to strain all those tiny (and potentially irritating) bits of Chamomile flower before using as an eyewash.

Chamomile has a well-deserved reputation as an archetypal remedy for children (or as Matthew Wood says “children of any age”), especially where there is fussiness, restlessness, frequent digestive upset and a tendency to react strongly to any irritant or discomfort. If one were to read the first dozen monograph on Matricaria they came across, the word “soothing” would be likely to show up in nearly every one. While now a somewhat clich├ęd representation of this common herb, it is nonetheless very accurate.

There’s a tendency by some of us to be less interested in the classic gentle herbs whose effects seem obvious, mild and less than profound. And yet, Chamomile has retained it’s popularity and reputation over the years for a very a specific reason. It works. It’s an effective, widely applicable, safe medicine well-loved by countless generations of mothers, herbalists and more recently, even medical doctors. This small but fragrant apple of the earth remains an invaluable medicine for all of us. Through both sweet and the bitter tastes, Chamomile provides us with a simple yet essential remedy.

Considerations: People with sensitivities to plants in the Aster family may have similar problems with Matricaria. Also note that Pineapple Weed (M. discoidea) often has a stronger bitter component and overall action than the common garden grown M. recutita.

The low down…

Common Name: Chamomile, Manzanilla, Pineapple Weed
Botanical Name: Matricaria recutita (as well as M. discoidea)
Botanical Family: Asteraceae

Taste: Aromatic, sweet, bitter

Vital Actions: relaxant nervine, relaxant diaphoretic, aromatic bitter/carminative, vulnerary,

Specific Indications: Irritability, tension, heat, hypersensitivity to pain

Energetics: sl. Cool, dry

So, exactly how does Kiva learn about plants by using her senses?

Just click here Herb Energetics with Kiva Rose

A Fun Garden Treasury and Update About Free Seeds With Purchase From My Shop

My Genovese Basil Seeds were just included in this fun garden treasury on Etsy. Be sure to click to check out your favorite items.

This is good timing, because I need to make an announcement about my Seeds section in my Etsy Shop. I recently changed the way I list the seeds for a couple of reasons. What you will find now is that the seeds are listed for 20 cents each plus shipping. This makes it more fair to Etsy (they get the 20 cent fee) and Etsy seed sellers, and it also prevents people from asking me to spend an hour or so packing every single seed type from my shop with a single soap order. Unfortunately I don't have time to do that. So now I have in my shop announcement that you can request a free seed pack with your purchase. The bottom line is you can still you just can leave a comment at check out to request free seed. That part hasn't changed. Or you can select more one package by simply adding the seeds to your shopping cart. Enjoy.

Speaking of allotments, I will post to the blog soon about my most recent adventures at Maggies Herb Farm in Saint Augustine. I just taught my first post-partum herbal class there this weekend and it was a great success. I am considering to offer the same class here in Daytona if there is demand. It is a Cold and Flu Season Herbal Class.

'Down the allotment' by LifeCovers

So much work to be done in the garden at this time of year getting it ready for winter

















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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tips for Basil Cultivation

I have had some growing questions from Etsy customers about cultivating various plants from my Free Seeds with Purchase section.  So I will do my best to give you all the tips you need for growing successfully as needed, starting here with the Basils.  I have 4 types of Basil in my Etsy shop presently: Thai Basil (pictured above), Holy Basil (Rama & Vana varieties), and Genovese.  The directions apply to all the basils.  I am a Central Florida gardener so I planting times I will leave out, except to say that I am lucky enough to grow it year round here (I just cover the plants with a sheet when a freeze is coming).  If you live in a more temperate area, then wait until after the last frost to plant outside.  

The first step for growing basil is a rich soil and a large pot.  For seeds that I haven't grown before I like to start them in large plastic or glazed ceramic pots.  Orange clay pots are too drying for basil in general and other seedlings.  I fill the pots with homemade or store bought organic potting soil or top soil.  Fill the pots to the top with this soil.  The next step is optional, but sometimes I like to soak my seeds in water before planting; rain or well water is best.  If you want to soak your basil seed just a few hours is sufficient.  I sprinkle the basil seeds evenly over a container and then gently shake a handful of soil just barely covering the seed.  Put the pot in full or partial sun and keep watered daily.  You can put a catch pan of water underneath the pot to keep the soil moist.  When the plants start to come up you may want to thin them in case some of them come up right next to each other.  Next the plants will start getting tall and leafy.  When there are about six leaves I pinch off the top two leaves so they can bush out.  From this point on you will be in harvesting mode for a while.  If they over grow their pot you may have to divide them and put them into the ground or more pots.  Keep collecting the nice fresh big leaves and flowers to use.  You will want to keep the plants well watered during this time.  You can add small amounts of coffee grounds or composted manure at the edge of the pot during this time too (once or twice during the harvesting period).  The harvesting period can go on for months depending on your growing zone, and you can continue to pinch them back to encourage growth and bushiness.  It is very important that you keep picking off the flowers during the harvesting phase.  Once the flowers go to seed then the plant dies back.  Eventually though the plants will start to get more woody rather than tender stems, and the leaves will become smaller and smaller.  At this stage, I let the plants flower and go to seed.   Snip off the long stalk when the seed pods turn completely brown.  Rub the pods gently to get the seeds out.  Put the seeds in envelopes to save them with the date and store them in a dry place for next year.  

Good luck with your basil plants!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hallogreen at the Farmer's Market October 30th in Daytona Beach

I hope you can join me Saturday October 30th at the Daytona Beach farmer's market on City Island for Hallogreen.  This is a fundraiser for the Fair Share Garden in Daytona Beach.  I will be setting up there with my soaps and jewelry.  I will have my Black Magic Clarifying Charcoal soap ready for this event.  This awesome facial soap for oily or acne skin types is featured below in this treasury at the event.  Makes a great Halloween Treat for a Teen.

'Black Magic Woman - Treasury Challenge' by myhideaway

Curation Nation Treasury Challenge. Anyone can enter

















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