how to make an herbal tincture

How to Make an Herbal Tincture

How to Make Herbal Tincture

An herbal tincture is essentially herb-infused alcohol. While herbs and oil will eventually get you essential oils, herbs and alcohol will get you tinctures.

Herbal tinctures are an excellent way to benefit from medicinal herbs. They are easy to put together and are shelf-stable for years. The easiest way to make an herbal tincture is through the process of maceration. Maceration is the process of soaking herbs in liquid (water or alcohol) for several weeks; it is the go-to tincture method for at-home herbalists. 

What is Menstrum?

Menstrum is the liquid portion of a tincture. The menstrum will extract the properties from the herb. It can be water, alcohol, vinegar, or, sometimes, glycerine. Most folks use vodka or everclear. 

Calculating the amount and ratio of menstrum to herb can be as easy or as complicated as you'd like to make it. However, most herbalists use a 50% water and 50% alcohol as their menstrum and that will get you an effective tincture with no issues.

While there are plenty of resources for getting very specific with your menstrum ratios depending on the types of herbs and accounting for loss, we are going to keep it simple in this guide and use dependable ratios to get us a solid product each time. 

Menstrum to Herb Ratio

Most herbalists will use the following ratios: 

  • Fresh Plant Tinctures 1:2 ratio, with 95% ABV menstrum
  • Dry Plant Tinctures 1:5 ratio, with 50-65% ABV mentrum

When making fresh plant tinctures, each 1 gram of fresh herb is macerated (soaked) in 2 milliliters of almost pure alcohol (Everclear) for optimal extraction.

For tinctures made from dry plant materials, each 1 gram of herb is macerated in 5 milliliters of menstruum with an alcohol content of between 50 and 65% (double-proof vodka).

Herb Preparation

Dried Herbs

Chop your dried herbs into small pieces, they do not need to be powdered.

Kitchen shears are the best tool for this. When using barks, roots, berries, or mushrooms that are difficult to cut with shears, put them into the blender for a few seconds, just enough to break them up. 

Fresh Herbs

Typically, you'll only need the leaves. Be sure to wash and dry them before use. Roughly chop the herbs. Refer to ratios above. 

How to Make an Herbal Tincture - Lemon Balm

In this guide we will make a lemon balm tincture. Lemon balm is incredibly easy to grow, as it is in the mint family. It calms anxiety, promotes sleep, and aids in digestion. 

Lemon balm is an incredible tincture to have on hand postpartum. It eases the night-scaries and mild anxious feelings and belly discomfort that come with postpartum. Lord knows we need help with in the sleep department, too. 

how to make an herbal tincture

How to Make an Herbal Tincture

Ingredients

  • Half pint jar with lid
  • Measuring cups
  • Metal strainer
  • Cheesecloth
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon balm leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup everclear

Instructions

  1. Fill jar with herbs
  2. Pour in everclear, be sure alcohol is covering herbs completely
  3. That's it, put the lid on.
  4. Put in a cool dark place for four weeks, give a gentle shake once a week.
  5. Place cheesecloth inside metal strainer on top of a clean empty jar and strain out herb leaves.
  6. Label clearly and take one dropper as needed.

Disclaimer: This information is intended only as education and is not a replacement for professional health advice. 

 


clean your wood cutting board

How to Clean Your Wood Cutting Board

How to Clean Your Wood Cutting Board

We use our wood cutting board for everything. I snagged a gorgeous, heavy, heirloom-style cutting board from a local woodworker and I've never looked back. I vowed that I would put time and effort into cleaning my wood cutting board since we all know that funk can get trapped in the grooves.

I've only ever used soapy hot water, until I learned that that's not cutting it - pun intended. When you make grooves in the wood, bacteria can get trapped underneath. If you're using one cutting board or cutting meat where you cut your vegetables, bacteria can easily form in your cutting boards. 

I love a beautiful wood cutting board. It ranks up there with my cast iron in my favorite kitchen items. Like cast iron, if you take care of it, you can ensure it is clean and extend its life dramatically. 

Here is a simple way to clean and sanitize your wood cutting board. This is great to do every couple of months to ensure your wood cutting board is clean and in good shape for long term use. 

Step-by-step to cleaning your wood cutting board

First, wash and scrub your cutting board with hot soapy water. 

Next, pat dry and spray your cutting board with white distilled vinegar. If you don't have vinegar in a spray bottle, simply pour some on and wipe it around. 

Third, pat it dry again and sprinkle your board with salt. I use a coarse celtic sea salt

Next, cut a lemon or lime in half and rub the salt into the board with your citrus. Small circles. You'll find out if you have any cuts on your hands now. Do this until most, if not all, of the salt is dissolved. 

Then, pour on some olive oil and rub all over the board. 

Let your board completely dry, then brush off any excess salt. 

If you want to take it a step further, you can add a bee's wax based board balm after your board is completely dry and cleaned off. I like to use a bee's wax board balm since it is all natural and very effective at sealing the wood to prevent moisture and bacteria from hanging out in the grooves of your board. 


humidify your home

Low Cost Ways to Humidify Your Home

Low Cost Ways to Humidify Your Home

Using a few of these simple, low-cost tricks, you can easily add moisture to your interior air every day and humidify your home without expensive humidifiers.

During the dry winter days, humidity in your home can drop significantly. When indoor humidity drops below 30 percent, people are likely to experience chapped skin and irritated, sinuses, eyes and nose. When indoor humidity is low and then you mix in cool dry air and wind, our bodies can react with dry skin and lips.

Using heat sources, you'll be able to transfer water vapor into the air easily without an expensive humidifier. While humidifiers are extremely useful, they are often expensive. Especially so if you chose one that doesn't have internal valves, as humidifiers are notorious for getting moldy. 

Benefits of Increasing Humidity in Your Home

Not only will increasing the humidity in your home keep your chapped lips and dry skin at bay, but it will also help prevent illnesses. Keeping the mucus membranes moise in your eyes, nose, and throat create a natural barrier to prevent infection from seeping in.  

Bowls of Water

Place bowls of water on surfaces around your home to increase humidity in each room. Putting these bowls on window sills is ideal, as the sun coming in will help evaporate the air faster. Be sure to keep these bowls away from high traffic areas and keep them up high so children and pets cannot reach them and cause accidental spills. See, now all of those cups of water by your bed are actually for good use. 

Use Your Radiators or Vents

If you have built-in radiators in your home instead of central heating, use these radiant heat sources by placing your bowls of water on top of the unit to humidify the rooms in your home. Be careful, as bowls may get hot. If you do have central heat, place bowls near the vents in your home so that the air can blow the additional moisture around the room. Be sure that these are safely away from electrical outlets or an area where they will be spilled. 

Boil Water on Your Stove

Boiling water on your stove quickly evaporates water to boost humidity in your home. You can even add a few essential oils if you'd like. Be sure that you keep an eye on the pot and never leave it unattended. Set a timer in case you are doing a few things around the house, so that you don't forget. 

Leave the Bathroom Door Open

While you take a shower, leave the bathroom door open to let the humidity flow throughout the home. If you prefer to take baths, don't drain the water immediately. Instead, leave it in the tub until it cools and then drain it. 

 


canning mistakes

Top 10 Canning Mistakes

Top 10 Canning Mistakes

Even the most seasoned homemaker can make these common canning mistakes. Just starting out or need a refresh? Review these top canning mistakes to be sure you are getting the most out of your hard work and keeping everything safe for your family. 

1. Not Sterilizing Jars and Lids

Prior to placing any of your foodstuffs in jars, you'll want to be sure that all of your jars and lids are sterilized. To do this, take your canning pot, fill it with water and place your jars and lids inside. Get the water up to a boil and let the jars and lids boil for 5 to 10 minutes. 

2. Not Adjusting Canning Pressure Based on Altitude

The processing time for water bath canning and pounds of pressure for pressure canning needs to be increased at higher altitudes to destroy heat-resistant bacteria and to ensure home-preserved food products are safe to enjoy.

3. Using Incorrect Canning Method

For acidic foodstuffs like tomatoes, pickles, peaches, salsa, pickled peppers, and more of the like, you'll use the water bath method for canning. For non-acidic foodstuffs like broth, beans, meat, and more, you'll use the pressure canning method. 

4. Overfilling Jars

Always leave a 1/2 inch of headspace, minimum. Headspace is needed because foods expand as jars are heated. The air in a food, its starch content and the processing temperature determine how much a food will expand. Air expands greatly when heated to high temperatures; the higher the temperature, the greater the expansion.

5. Not Wiping Jar Rims

Any liquid, oils, or debris on the rim can prevent the lid from making an airtight seal. Use a clean rag to wipe the rim of all jars. 

6. Leaving Air Bubbles

Removing extra air and leaving only the proper headspace amount is important to ensuring a proper seal. As the hot air escapes the jar, it removes the oxygen from the jar and creates a vacuum seal. Too much headspace, due to trapped bubbles rising to the top, can reduce the seal's success. 

7. Reusing Canning Lids

Lids are only meant to be used once. Save used lids for dried goods like teas and herbs, ferments, oils, and storage. 

8. Overtightening Lids

When tightening your lids before dropping them in, be sure to only finger-tighten the rings. Overtightening the lids will prevent air from escaping through the top. This is how the bottom of the jar may pop off. 

9. Moving Jars Too Early

Once removed, let jars sit and rest, completely undisturbed, for a minimum of 12 hours. After 12 hours, check to see that lids sealed, remove bands, and place the jars in storage. 

10. Leaving Rings on Jars During Storage

By removing the rings, failed lids are easier to spot. Without the rings, you will be able to see mold and rust much easier. 


bone broth

Herbal Bone Broth

Nourish your body with this delicious nutrient-dense bone broth. All of that gelatinous goodness will fuel your body. Warm bone broth in a large coffee mug was my go-to during those early postpartum months to get my mineral stores back in a good place and re-hydrate. After pregnancy, birth, and nursing - your minerals really take a hit. 

Sourcing quality products is what you'll want to focus on when making bone broth. This version is a little extra. Feel free to add or subtract what you have on hand. My best bone broth hack is to add vegetable and bone scraps to a bag in my freezer for a few weeks as I use them for dinners. Once the bag is full, it's time to make broth. 

Try fire cider for another option to boost that immunity. 

bone broth

Herbal Bone Broth

Ingredients

  • 2lbs bones
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 sheet of seaweed
  • 1 tablespoon of ghee or butter
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Instructions

1. Roast bones on 375 degrees F for 30 minutes.

2. Simmer in a large pot with water overnight, or for eight hours.

3. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for six more hours.

4. Let cool.

5. Pour into jars to process or store flat in freezer bags (see note)

Notes

While using plastic freezer bags isn't ideal, this is often the easiest and best option for some. Once broth has completely cooled, measure desired amount into bag. Remove air and seal bag, lay bag flat on baking sheet. Label with marker. Stack multiple bags on top of baking sheet and place in freezer. When frozen, take bags off baking sheet for storage. I recommend storing in 2-4 cup increments.


cast iron care

Cast Iron Care

Cast Iron Care

Ahhhh, yes. Cast iron. The staple of a homestead kitchen. Much like sourdough, cast iron care is one of those things that folks are terrified of and don't know where to even start. Much like sourdough, again, cast iron is very forgiving. Keeping in mind how these pans were used by your grandma is helpful when approaching your cast iron today. 

How Grandma Used To Do It

First, a single pan or dutch oven, or a pair of each, was likely used for every single meal, every single day. This means they got a lot of work and if you know anything about cast iron, it's that it gets better the more you use it. 

Second and related, your grandma probably didn't have to go through the hump of seasoning it enough for use. Cast iron is incredibly durable, so it was likely passed down from generation to generation. That's a lot of meals. Getting a cast iron now means you're likely buying one brand new. If you can find one at an antique or second-hand store that is in good shape, snag it. 

Third, cooking fats used then were very different than cooking fats now. Now, the American kitchen uses a lot of oil. Your grandma likely cooked every meal by starting that pan with a heaping scoop of butter or lard (pork fat), instead of the more lean options like olive oil.

Fourth, cast iron care isn't a skill that is passed down anymore. Folks, mostly women, don't know how to care for their cast iron and when non-stick requires literally zero care and you can throw it into the dishwasher, why wouldn't you go that route?  

You just bought your first cast iron. Now what?

Alright, congrats! You're doing this. I believe in you! Everyone says you need to "season" your cast iron. But, what does that really mean? To me, season just means to build grease over time. When you buy new, you're starting with a blank slate. Without enough extra fat or oil, things are going to stick to your pan. Stick with it though, pun intended! The more you use your cast iron, the better it will be. 

Take it out of the box and wash it well with soap and hot water. You're starting with a blank slate. Even though some say that are "seasoned", they likely haven't been, so it's better to get a good clean to start off right. 

Next, set your oven to 350 degrees F. Put your pan on the stovetop and turn it on low. Take a tablespoon of lard or butter, drop it in the center of the pan. Let it melt a little so that it will easily spread. Remove it from the heat and use your hands to grease the entire pan. Once the oven hits 350 degrees F. Put the pan in and turn the oven off. Come back later in the day after the pan has cooled and wipe it with a dry paper towel and store it. 

Ideally, you would do this multiple times before you actually cook on it. I like to do this every so often when my pan needs a little extra TLC.  

If you want to start cooking, just use extra cooking fat (butter, lard, oil) to keep things from sticking. 

Tips

  • It's always, always, always way easier to clean cast iron when it's warm.
  • The only care item you truly will need is chain mail. Think of it as your cast iron's own personal dish sponge. This will help get 99% of the gunk off with water alone. 
  • You really don't want to use soap, ever. Unless you have something terribly stuck on and nothing below is doing the trick. Use some soap. The soap removes the grease that you've been working so hard to build. Best to use it sparingly. 
  • The handle gets hot, grab a handle cover or two. 
  • Besides my heirloom cast iron pieces, I really like Lodge cast iron. It's durable, reliable, and affordable.
  • There's nothing better than cranking up the temp, smoking up the kitchen, and getting an incredible cast iron sear on a steak. 

No-Time-To-Care Care

It's Wednesday night, you threw together dinner and have to get everyone cleaned up and ready for bed. The last thing you can do is care for one more thing.

If your cast iron is warm, bring it to the sink. Use the chain mail and hot water to get everything out from dinner. Throw it on a drying rack or towel and you're done. 

If your cast iron is cold, pour some water in the pan on top of dinner remnants. Put the cast iron on the burner and bring it back up to medium while you clean up other items from dinner. Trust me, this is better than fighting the cold stuck-on bits. Grab the warm pan and bring it to the sink. Use the chain mail and hot water to get everything out. Now is a good time for your drain catch to shine. Throw your cast iron on the drying rack or towel and you're done.

A-Few-Minutes-To-Spare Care

You've done the steps above from "No-Time-To-Care Care" and have your cast iron cleaned out and wet. Put your pan on the stovetop on medium-low, dry or wet. Clean up the rest of dinner. Turn the burner off and leave the pan until tomorrow. 

Dad-Has-Bedtime-Covered-Tonight Care

Before you start cleaning up dinner, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You've done the steps above from "No-Time-To-Care Care" and have your cast iron cleaned out and wet. Dry off your cast iron with a dish towel. Pour or place a tablespoon of oil, butter or lard in your pan and put it on your stove top on medium. When the butter/lard just  starts to melt or the oil starts to spread and shine, remove the pan from the heat. Take a paper towel, fold it up to protect your fingers, and rub the oil or fat all over the inside and outside of your pan. When your oven is preheated, put the pan inside and turn the oven off to let it cool as the oven cools. Remove the pan tomorrow before you cook again.

Grab a glass of wine, run the sink periodically, bang a couple dishes around, get into your secret chocolate stash. He's got this, take the breather. 

Tough Spots

My go-to approach is to fill the cast iron with water, typically an inch, but feel free to add more depending on where the sticky gunk is. Bring the water to a boil. Turn the burner off and safely and carefully pour the water into the sink. Again, let that drain catch do its thing. With more hot water and your chain mail, scrub the bits. 

My last resort is to add a little soap to a sponge and spot treat stuck on areas, rather than putting soap in the entire pan. If you have to use a little soap in the entire pan this one time, it won't be the end of the world. 


Benefits, Uses, and Selecting Compost Manure

Benefits, Uses, and Selecting Compost Manure

It's no secret that there are many benefits to compost manure in your vegetable garden, flower beds, hay fields, your yard, even those indoor plants that are always trying to die. 

Benefits

Aged compost manure provides an incredible amount of diversity into the soil. Bacteria, fungi, insects, worms, and micronutrients. All come together to support plant growth and defend against pests and disease. It greatly enriches and conditions the soil and allows sandy soils to retain moisture - hello less watering! It also gives taxed and depleted soils plenty of nutrients. Adding it generously to compacted soil will help loosen the soil. 

Uses In the Garden

The best time to place manure in the garden is in the fall and winter, each year. After a long growing season, soil in the garden is depleted of many nutrients as they are absorbed by plants. Replenishing the soil each year is critical to maintaining good soil health. While a neutral compost manure can be used in large amounts in the garden, it's important to consider your crops in determining where you will be more heavy handed with it. 

Some plants are high nitrogen feeders, while other plants are nitrogen producers. Vegetable plants like lettuce, kale, spinach, and cabbage are high nitrogen feeders, meaning they require soil with high nitrogen. Crops like green beans and peas are nitrogen producers, meaning they make their own nitrogen and don't need as much in the soil. 

Using compost manure in a larger amount in high nitrogen feeders will really make these leafy veggies thrive. Using compost manure sparingly in beds with high nitrogen producers will promote more "fruit growth" rather than producing bushy leaves. Alternatively, you could lay down a neutral compost manure, like aged and composted horse manure and top dress with poultry litter in your nitrogen feeder beds. 

compost manure garden

Selecting Compost

Compost manure that is fresh will be too "hot" and will burn plants. The term hot refers to the nitrogen. The higher the nitrogen, the "hotter" the compost. Poultry manure is very high in nitrogen. We choose horse manure, as it tends to be a little more neutral for the garden beds and customers. We use turkey and horse manure for our hay fields. The turkey litter, high in nitrogen, promotes dense pasture growth, where horse manure provides biodiversity. 

When purchasing compost manure, you want to look for an aging period of six months or longer. The composting process also breaks down the "hotness" of the nitrogen, making it more neutral and eliminates the possibility of burning plants. 

You can find compost manure at your local garden center or Home Depot/Lowes but more often than not, farmers (like us!) and horse farms will be happy to sell for a discounted price.