Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Big, Fat LOL

Thanks for understanding, Helen. :)

Preparing for Baby

Rasberry leaves (Rubra idaeus 'Red Latham') on a rock after early morning harvest.

My method of harvest: I like to prune a stray branch off of the raspberry bush and snip off the triple leaves to ensure there's an easy stem for hang-drying. I leave the new growth leaves at the top of the cut stem and stick the stem back into the ground where I want a new bush, making sure to push it deep enough that several of the places where I'd cut off leaves are buried. Later, I'll have a new bush. Many like to spread the leaves out on a cotton sheet or hot rock to dry, but I have limited space, so I hang them just like any other herb.

Why raspberry leaves?: Raspberry leaves contain fragrine, an alkaloid which works to tone the muscles of the pelvis. The leaves are also rich in Vitamin C, contain some Vitamin E, and calcium and iron which are easily assimilated by the body.

Pregnancy uses: (taken from a variety of sources and altered to my own needs and anatomical idiosyncracies) I use a tea in the first and second trimesters (1 cup/day) to tone my uterus and give me SLIGHT relief from morning sickness. I still get nauseus, but mostly just when I wake in the morning or from a nap (yeah, right). The biggest benefit I get from raspberry leaf tea at this time is nourishment. I'm prone to slight anemia during my pregnancies, and I much prefer the subtle taste of raspberry leaf tea to the heavy metal taste of iron pills. If I do end up anemic, well, that's another post.

After the second trimester, I switch to an infusion of the leaves. I've had problems previously with my uterus "being lazy" after birth. The toning qualities of this herb are much needed in my third trimester to get things into shape.

Some women have good luck with raspberry leaf making their breast milk more plentiful, but I haven't had that experience. I'll be switching to other herbs postpartum for that purpose.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yesterday's Morning News


and pregnant.

I'm still processing...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Going Debt-Free

Homesteading is not cheap. At least, not in the beginning. There are seeds to buy, alternative energy sources to fund, animals to feed, etc, etc, etc. Yet, one of the dreams or goals or sometimes realities of every homesteader I know is to live debt-free.

I know what you're thinking. Aren't homesteaders that crazy bunch of people who do everything themselves and can rig up just about any invention from scrap PVC and recycled aluminum cans? Don't y'all get everything you need by patiently waiting it out on freecycle? Ummm, maybe there are some homesteaders out there who do just that, but I've yet to see solar panels listed on our local freecycle and I'm not nearly enough of a genius to rig them up myself from... anything. Shhh! Don't tell The Husband.

So while I've been pondering and fretting over all the steps we have yet to take to become more self-sufficient and more evironmentally friendly, I've been ignoring the number one step in becoming more self-sufficient: getting out of debt completely. No mortgage, no credit cards, no nothin'. That's right. I'm using double negatives. I mean business, people!

Once upon a time, before we had kids, The Husband and I were completely debt-free. We even discussed purchasing a house with cash. Then I got pregnant with twins and The Husband lost his job and I had to quit my job when I went into premature labor so that I could do three months of hell bedrest at home. The inheritance I'd gotten from the early death of my mother was soaked up in an instant. House money? Gone. I think we even had to borrow a bit of money from The Husband's mom to get by until The Husband got a job... when the twins were 4 months old. Then came the student loans when The Husband went back to school so that he could get a better job, which never happened. Anyway, you get the picture, right? We're knee-deep in it.

We do have one thing under control. We have no car payment. I paid cash for the car that The Husband drives to work each day. It's a 1990 Carolla, and we bought it from a little old lady who used it once a year. The other vehicle, which we use only for the rare family outing, was an even trade for our pre-baby car. Other than that, we're pretty average in our debt.

Now the question is, how do we get out of it? There are a million financial gurus out there, each with their own plan for becoming debt-free. Most that I've seen are pretty much the same. There are small differences here and there, but the basic premise is the same: control your spending, pay off your highest rate debts first, pay more than the minimum, and build an emergency fund quickly that makes up 3-6 months worth of living expenses.

One of the currently popular plans for relieving yourself of debt is Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps. It's a good place to start, but there are things I disagree with. Nevertheless, I'm going to use a slightly tweaked version of it to get the ball rolling here. I recommend that you tailor any plan you choose to follow to your individual needs and personality. This is going to be my primary focus for quite some time. Getting out of debt and living life oweing to no one else can be a very long process, but it really is, in my mind, the most important step in self-sufficiency.

What's Blooming in My Garden-- July 16, 2008

Scarlett Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus) is putting out blooms now. I can't wait to taste those big, fat beans!

Volunteer calendula (Calendula officinalis) reseeded from last year. These blossoms make me so insanely happy, and I can't wait to start using them for some new skin cream.

Bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) blooming for the first time ever in my garden. I had to seriously nurse this plant. Out of an entire packet of seeds that I planted last year, this was the only one to come up. At the end of the season last year, it caught some powdery mildew, and I was desperately afraid that it would kick the bucket, but, well, you can see here that it's starting to make its own way.

My daylily (Hemerocallis spp.), cultivar 'Pandora's Box', is finally bursting with tasty blossoms weeks after the rest of the town's daylilies. Daylily salad anyone?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Urban Homesteader Idiotic Moment of the Day

I will swear up and down I read somewhere that white mulberries (Morus alba) are ornamental only and that the berries, though edible, had no appealing flavor.

Um, NOT! Yes, I'm an idiot.

I decided a week or so ago that I was going to do some more research to see if the mulberries were at least eaten by birds or other animals that I might want to keep around. If these plants were purely ornamental, the bad girl in the following picture was going to be coming down.

Immediately in my research I realized that whatever it was I had read before was dead wrong. These berries are bursting with flavor, and birds and humans alike love 'em. I immediately ran outside to have a taste, knowing that just a couple days before my much larger white mulberry tree in the back had been full of fruit (the one in the picture is not yet fruiting; I don't know how old it is, but it's at least 3 years old. Perhaps it's one of the fruitless cultivars? Not likely. Mulberries can take up to 10 years to bear.). Of course, I get out there and there are only a few, mostly unripe berries left on the tree. I search and search and finally find two plump, creamy-colored berries to pop into my mouth. Heaven...

Next year: white mulberry jam, white mulberry pie, white mulberry wine, white mulberry cobbler, white mulberry muffins, mulberry sauce, mulberry pancakes... You get the picture. :D

As a child, I spent most of my time at my grandma's house, and her entire block was surrounded by mulberry trees (Morus rubra). My best childhood friend and I would climb up into their canopies and feast, staining our fingers, faces, feet, and clothing with the deep purple of the berries. It was glorious for us, but I'm sure our parents weren't thrilled about the mess we always made of ourselves. Lucky me, the white mulberries don't stain! My children can climb our two trees and gorge themselves without making mountains of laundry for me! Man, I'm lovin' these trees more and more...

And if the tarnish free characteristic isn't enough for you homesteaders, consider the fact that the white mulberry is the native and preferred food source of silkworms. That's right, folks. You can grow your own silk. Another post on that to come later.

I guess, in the throes of white mulberry passion, this is a bad time to mention that the white mulberry is considered an invasive species. It is apparently killing the native red mulberry by spreading a root disease to the native species and displacing the reds. So the question remains whether to remove the non-fruiting mulberry or not. I'm okay with the large mulberry, partly because it's fruiting, partly because it's far outside my gardening area, and partly because I don't want to have to deal with the neighbors whose property it is partially on. I don't think I'll remove the smaller one this year. I have more to ponder.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I'm still recovering from birthday party bliss, so I'm taking a break from blogging today. Okay, okay, I'm taking a break because I was up until 6am cleaning the night before the party and 3am the night of the party to clean up afterwards. My brain's quite fuzzy today, even without having consumed even one drop of alchohol! ;) I realize I haven't done my Independence Days Challenge update. I'm naughty.

So today I leave you with gratuitous Japanese beetle sex. On my corn. Enjoy. I know it's exactly what you always wanted.