Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Cleaning with Natural Products - Starting out

The pleasure of working with herbs, not only in the garden but in my home, everyday give me tremendous fulfillment.  From cooking with herbs, to herbal teas, to bath items I can use without worry, they are everywhere in my life.  

This time I year I really enjoy the fact that I can create herbal recipes to sweeten, freshen and disinfect my home.  Herbs, along with essential oils, have been part of my cleaning ritual for so long I cannot imagine not using them.  I’ve added herbs to bath and shower disinfectants, floor cleaners, and carpet fresheners.  

I have done a number of different herb programs, but one of my most popular is a “Green Cleaning” program that details ways to clean, disinfect and freshen your home using herbs.

I recommend starting your natural cleaning supply shelf for your herbal natural cleaning recipes with... a bottle of Castile Soap, some straight borax, baking soda, vinegar, ammonia, and the following essential oils: thyme, pine, lavender, tea tree, and a citrus oil like lemon or orange.  With these and a few other ingredients you can craft simple and effective cleaning supplies for little money and with little effort.

At the bottom of this post and several other times this moth, I will share a few items you can craft at home.  This starter article with give you the details for what supplies you need and where to find them. 

Where to get your Supplies

Borax is available in the cleaning aisle of the grocery store as well as at the drug store and sometimes the hardware store.

Baking soda is most commonly used in cooking so look for it not only in the laundry aisle at the grocery store but also with the baking supplies like flour and baking powder.

Vinegar is in the salad dressing aisle of the grocery store.

Castile Soap which is a vegetable-based liquid soap is made by many companies the most common is Mrs. Meyers and Dr. Bonners.  I some areas you will find these only in specialty health food and whole food stores, but in other more urban areas, you will find it in the soap aisle, laundry aisle or the beauty aisle of your local hardware or Walmart.

Herbs and Essential Oils to Use

The herbs and essential oils that you’ll find most useful for various household tasks include those that inhibit the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. Others are also good for cutting grease and removing stains. You must obtain your essential oils from a reputable source and there are many,  If you want them reasonably priced and of good quality, I recommend NOW brand, founded in 1968 they are one of the only companies to be doing this for more than 50 years.  Located here in Illinois with me, I can find now in the local Fruitful Yield chain, but they are also available in health food stores nationwide and online.  The following lists of herbs is a guide to making your own formulas.

Herbs that inhibit microorganisms: basil, bay, benzoin, bergamot, camphor, cardamom, chamomile, cinnamon, clary sage, clove, eucalyptus, fir, ginger, grapefruit, juniper, lavender, lemon, lemon balm, meadowsweet, myrrh, myrtle, nutmeg, orange, oregano, patchouli, peppermint, Peru balsam, pine, rose-scented geranium, rosemary sage, sandalwood, savory, spearmint, spruce, tea tree, and thyme.

Herbs that work on dirt and stains: balsam. cedar, cedarwood, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, orange, pine, rosemary, spruce, thyme


Essential Oil Scouring Powder

This scouring powder works wonders on tile grout stains, bathroom & kitchen sinks, and showers.  A soft sponge will work on mild stains and a nylon scrubber used with this will lift tough stains. Adding essential oils gives it the power to cut greasy dirt, battle microbes, while adding an appealing scent.

1/2 cup borax 
1/2 cup baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons each essential oils of lemon, orange, and grapefruit

Pour the borax and baking soda into a glass bowl. Stir in the lemon, orange, and grapefruit oils, mashing any lumps with a fork. Store in a glass or metal jar with a lid. Wear gloves when you use this cleanser.

Herbal Rug Fragrance

When our living-room rug smells musty, I hear about it right away from my husband, who does his morning exercises on it. Here’s a simple herbal solution. (If fleas are a problem in your house, add 2 cups of chopped, dried orange peel or pennyroyal leaf to the recipe.)

3 cups dried lavender flowers or leaves
2 cups dried rosemary leaves
3 pounds baking soda

In a large glass, earthenware, or stainless-steel bowl, blend the lavender flowers, rosemary leaves, and baking soda. Sprinkle the mix over a freshly vacuumed rug and leave overnight. Then vacuum again. Makes enough for an 8- by 11-foot rug/room. 

Herby Soft Scrub
12 oz glass jar with lid
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup castile soap
15 drops of antimicrobial essential oils like rosemary and sage

Mix well until you have a nice consistency like cake frosting. If you have leftovers, add 1 tsp vegetable glycerin to keep the blend nice and moist.

Mop-It-Up Formula
1/4 cup castile soap
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
20 drops of tea tree essential oil
20 drops of sweet orange essential oil

This is the perfect liquid cleaner for tile floors, vinyl, or linoleum.  Mix the ingredients together in a glass jar, then add the entire solution with 2 gallons of hot water and use it to mop away dirt and grime on all types of floor surfaces.

When making your own cleaning supplies you must still remember the rule NEVER mix cleaning products.  Mixing anything that contains chlorine bleach with cleaners having vinegar or ammonia will create toxic chlorine gas 

I will be giving a few more tips on herbs and oils to use, a couple specialty recipes and several other cleaning recommendations in the coming weeks.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Cocoa Butter Lip Balm - Monthly Bath Blend

I did a program on using botanicals to create body and spa items for the Schaumburg Library back on May 1.  The program was designed for 50 people, but enrollment filled and we expanded it to 75 people.  I think there were still a few more that wanted to get in, proving there is a desire to know how to make beauty items with herbs.  Every month I share a bath related recipe and thins month I thought I would do something similar to the one in the program.

Then, because of the popularity of Body Botanicals, I thought I would share a few recipes and also go though, in the next few months, how to use your fresh herbs to create bath related items.

Look for a series later this month I am calling "Getting Started Using Herbs." 

Cocoa Butter Lip Balm

1 Tbls jojoba oil
1 tsp cocoa butter
1 tsp beeswax
essential oil

Melt the beeswax along with the oil and butter in a double boiler. Add any flavoring you might like at this stage. Pour into small tubes, pots, or slip-tins and allow to set-up.

A drop of lavender is really nice on chapped lips! Alcohol based flavorings will not incorporate. A drop or two of various essential oils will. Rose, lavender, orange, grapefruit, or lime all work well.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Hidden Hill Nursery - National Garden Month Series

If you like eclectic and unusual garden art and large scale garden presentation, then you will love Hidden Hill Nursery in Utica, Indiana.

I found this nursery when we were travelling to Evansville, Indiana and needed a stop over on the way home. This was a commercial business with display gardens overflowing with art.  In fall 2018 they closed down nursery operations and simply have the 8 acre forested garden area available.  I do not know the hours of operation, but you may find what you need on their Facebook page.

When we went to visit in 2014 after our quest to Evansville, Indiana to see an LST (Landing Ship Tank - a troop and equipment transport from WWII) we stopped by because it was open on a Sunday when many other things were not.  The garden art is worth trekking the back roads of Utica Indiana to find it.

The promotional shot for the place has this man made out of salvaged metal parts, but the one made out of milk crates I found while wondering was much more to my liking.

My husband liked the walk under the string arbor covered with vines that was tall enough for his six foot 8 frame to fit under.

and he identified all the implements where the parts were used to decorate this flower border filled with metal flowers made from old farm implements.

There was a stream populated by gnomes.

A giant Squash made out of old tires.

A bathtub in the middle of a woodland.

A stone stacking area where you could stack stones and meditate.

The butterfly garden sported a butterfly bench.

And the largest succulents I have ever seen grew in a vertical pallet garden with a smaller one filled with herbs nearby.

A prairie space covered with black-eyed Susan had a wonderful wind sculpture,

and in the same area was a dragon made out of an oat conveyor.

The fountain garden had some of the most interesting tile.

And the gate / door into the prairie was just cool.

I took one of my best art photos here too:


Hidden Hill Nursery was a wonderful little hidden Gem.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Crispy Seasoned Shrimp on the Grill - Weekend Recipe

With the weather the way it has been, I feel like I am rushing things by suggesting you get out the grill, but seriously it is Spring and we need some outdoor time.  This light flavorful shrimp dish is perfect.  Serve the skewers over a bed of couscous or quinoa or Arborio rice and enjoy with a side salad.

Crispy Seasoned Shrimp on the Grill

2 lbs. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 Tbls. olive oil, divided

2 Tbls. vegetable oil
1/2-1 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2-1 tsp. salt, optional
1/4-1/2 tsp. black pepper, fresh ground
1 cup bread crumbs
16-24 wooden skewers, depending on shrimp size

Place the shrimp in a bowl. Add the vegetable oil and 1 TB. olive oil and toss to coat. Add the Herb Seasonings, garlic, salt and pepper and mix well. Add the bread crumbs and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2-6 hours. So the ends of the skewers don’t burn off, soak them in water for the last hour the shrimp are in the fridge. Spray or brush the grill grate with oil before heating the grill so the breading doesn’t stick. Thread the shrimp onto the skewers. Use 4 shrimp per skewer. Be careful that the bread crumbs don’t fall off while skewering. If there is a lot of breading leftover in the bowl, press it into the shrimp wherever it looks to need some. Sprinkle the skewers with the remaining olive oil and grill over medium coals until thoroughly cooked, 6-8 minutes, turning the skewers at least once to cook evenly.

Each month a theme is chosen and a number of recipes on that theme from my massive archive will be shared.  This year we have 12 new topics, different from the topics of last year.  To find the recipes of last year, check out this recipe link or search the blog with the topic Recipe2018

You can search the monthly theme by looking for the theme keyword in the search box and it will pull up the recipes on that theme as posted, so look at the bottom of the recipe in each posting for the KEYWORD in the () to search for each  month.  All recipes this year will be tagged Recipe2019 so you can find them all.

The themes are:
Jan 2019 – Chicken and Dumplings (CDumpsJan)
Feb 2019 - Pasta Dishes (PastaFeb)
March 2019 - Edible Flowers (FlowerMar)
April 2019 - Seafood Recipes (SeafoodApr)
May 2019 - Cajun And Creole
June 2019 - Vegetarian Dishes
July 2019 - Zucchini Recipes
August 2019 - National Mustard Day – mustard recipes
September 2019 - Quiche
October 2019 - Crock Pot meals
November 2019 - Pies
December 2019 - Mocktails

Thursday, April 25, 2019

LaSalle County Historical Society and Illinois Valley Herb Guild Garden - National Garden Month

It is rare to find a public garden that is only there to be an herb garden. I find one every now and then but most gardens we visit have herb gardens as part of a larger garden, rather than the main focus of the experience.  The garden I am focusing on today is just an herb garden.  It focuses on many useful aspects of herbs but it is only an herb garden.

taken March 2015, the garden is still asleep
Located near the one room school house of the LaSalle County (Illinois)Historical Society I have visited this garden many times starting in 2015.  I took photos of it when it was still dormant and cold in March, another time in June during early growth in a rain storm and finally in 2016 when it was the end of the season in October.

This garden is maintained by volunteers so sometimes when I visit it is overgrown and untrimmed, but it is obviously well cared for by the Illinois Valley Herb Guild

taken 6-25-15
The Guilds’ herb garden is planted in a traditional homesteading style in four beds defined by the major uses for which the plants were grown in the 1800s. Dyes, Culinary, Medicine and Fragrance are the themes used in the garden.  I like the four-square design and plants included.  I think all the plants used in the garden have roots in the 1800s, but I think not all would be found on the 'frontier.'  But I am not certain what definition of frontier they are using, so I could be wrong. 

Since this garden is only about 12 by 24 feet, constructed with a center X path dividing the plot into 4 rectangular beds.  There is no need for a tour, so instead I thought I would show some of the variety of plants they have in the garden.  

Taken 10-28-16 
This garden was planted probably around 2010 and as a result has some age and many of the plants have reached some spread and have taken hold in their locations and flourished.  It is a joy to walk through and see the plants and touch the scented leaves.  A booklet was published detailing many of the plants in the garden back in 2011 and you can get it from the LaSalle County Historical Society in Utica, Illinois.

I love the groupings and the way the plants are labeled.  I think someone made the labels by hand.

There were several plants I had never grown before in the beds which allowed me to see the mature look of the plant as you rarely can in a nursery setting.  Lady's Bed Straw and Germander are historically interesting plants and to see them in a garden bed was a joy, especially since I have never grown them myself..

Flowering Lady's Bed Straw in June
Lady's Bed Straw is named so because it is thought to be the plant used in the Manger for the Baby Jesus. In the Galium family it is a cousin of Sweet Woodruff, and is another European introduced plant that grows well in Northern Illinois. When in flower they are highly fragrant and hold their scent while dry.  There is a chemical in Lay's Bed Straw that will curdle milk causing it to be used as an ingredient in the making of cheese.  The flowers can be used for making yellow dye and was used to color butter.  It is an all purpose herb which is perfect for a frontier garden.

Germander just getting serious in June.
Germander is used these days as a scented ornamental wreath plant, but traditionally it was used as a treatment for gout.  It is an Mediterranean plant and would have been brought to the US by European settlers. This is probably the creeping versus upright variety due to the short stature and it works as a lawn substitute and grows well in shade and with drought conditions.  I am thinking of adding it to my side yard which is both shaded and dry.  It flowers purple in summer.

Flowering from June to frost, this was enjoying the summer when I snapped this photo

Thread leaf tickseed was popular in 19th century ornamental gardens, but although you can use it as a dye in certain circumstances I think it was less a frontier herb as a landscape plant in more urban areas, especially along the east coast in the 1900s.  I love to grow this, but it is a serious self-seeder, so I put it in pots rather than in the ground to keep the seeds contained.

Clary Sage
I got the best picture of Clary Sage I have ever taken while at this garden.  Even the one in my own garden never looked as nice as this one. Clary Sage is an old plant.  Used by the Quakers in PA, it is a perfect frontier plant.  The aromatherapy benefits include reduction of stress and anxiety.  It is also an anti-inflammatory herb and an antibacterial.

Winter Savory in flower in June
Winter Savory is always a good edge plant and this garden placed on the edge.  I suspect someone came by and trimmed it up shortly after I took this photo.  Winter savory takes on a nice shape if kept trimmed.  And being a perennial it only gets better with time.

St John's Wort flowers look bright even on a cloudy rainy day.
This plant flowers around the Summer solstice in June, (near St. John's Day on the 24th) which is how it gets the name St. John's Wort.  The flowers make a great herbal tincture that is red in color rather than yellow as the flowers might suggest.  The infused alcohol can then be used to treat various ailments, including anxiety and depression.   Historically it was believed to be a panacea that could cure almost anything.
Sorrel going strong in October
French Sorrel is an herb I have never grown.  Considered one of the bitter herbs, it was used by the Egyptians and the Romans to impart a bitterness or acidity to foods, much like we do with lemon juice today.  It can be eaten as a green, with a taste similar to a sour green apple it is in nice counter part to other sweeter foods. 

Flax in October, not tall enough to harvest
Flax is also part of the garden, but my guess is this plant would not have been in the garden as much as it would have been in a field nearby.  Flax was grown extensively in Illinois as a crop for making linen fabric.  To process flax you need a good flowing water source.  This garden is right along a canal which makes it a great place to grow flax but more abundance would give you the flax you needed to weave into cloth.  The process for making fiber from flax to create linen is very harsh and hard on people and the environment, so once cotton was more easily available Flax was abandoned as a cash crop.
taken 10-26-16
After my second visit we stopped in the nearby museum and I picked up a little booklet called "The LaSalle County Historical Society's Settler's Herb Garden" which details photographically many of the plants in the garden with a short one or two sentence description of the use of the plant.  The only thing the book is missing is a bit of information on why they chose the plants they did for the garden, as I am curious.

This garden is near Seneca, Illinois, where my husband and I intend to retire and raise herbs in the next few years, so I will be visiting this garden again, and I recommend you do as well if you are ever along the I&M canal or the Illinois River near Starved Rock.  The address of the museum is 101 E Canal Street, North Utica, Illinois and the garden is east of the parking area beside the one-room school house building.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Green Bean Seafood Stew - April Recipe Series

Seafood stews are generally not long cooking and are an easy way to make dinner when time is short.  This recipe called for saffron which is a rare herb that costs quite a bit, but you only need a couple threads if you can find them in your local cooking specialty store.

Green Bean Seafood Stew

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of crumbled saffron threads
1 cup diced tomatoes, with juice
1/4 cup vegetable broth
4 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces bay scallops, tough muscle removed
4 ounces small shrimp, (41-50 per pound), peeled and deveined


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, fennel seed, salt, pepper and saffron; cook for 20 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes, broth and green beans. Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

Increase heat to medium, stir in scallops and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes more. 2 servings, 1 3/4 cups each.

Each month a theme is chosen and a number of recipes on that theme from my massive archive will be shared.  This year we have 12 new topics, different from the topics of last year.  To find the recipes of last year, check out this recipe link or search the blog with the topic Recipe2018

You can search the monthly theme by looking for the theme keyword in the search box and it will pull up the recipes on that theme as posted, so look at the bottom of the recipe in each posting for the KEYWORD in the () to search for each  month.  All recipes this year will be tagged Recipe2019 so you can find them all.

The themes are:
Jan 2019 – Chicken and Dumplings (CDumpsJan)
Feb 2019 - Pasta Dishes (PastaFeb)
March 2019 - Edible Flowers (FlowerMar)
April 2019 - Seafood Recipes (SeafoodApr)
May 2019 - Cajun And Creole
June 2019 - Vegetarian Dishes
July 2019 - Zucchini Recipes
August 2019 - National Mustard Day – mustard recipes
September 2019 - Quiche
October 2019 - Crock Pot meals
November 2019 - Pies
December 2019 - Mocktails

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...