On the top of a hill in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Floyd, VA sits a sanctuary devoted to bringing and allowing bees to function and exist as their nature intended. Gardens grace the land with seven types of hives placed in a circle in the midst of plants that support their needs. Though mist and a gentle rain surrounded the day work continued and I was grateful to be of some help at the Spikenard Farm and Bee Sanctuary.
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit this farm and bee sanctuary recently. Lending a hand where needed I met Gunther and Vivien Hauk, author and the founders of the sanctuary. I also met Jane, Summer and Rick sanctuary staff members. Together we planted an annual garden bed working side by side sowing seeds such as flax, poppy, zinnia, and sunflowers to name a few. Together we lightly hoed to tamp the seeds into the turned earth. It is said that “many hands make light work”. It’s true. We had this area seeded and hoed in no time working cooperatively. Teaching, learning, helping got the job done in a pleasurable way. I couldn’t help but wonder what songs my Native American ancestors would sing while getting the job done!
The intentions of supporting and sharing the healing of the bees and supporting the land were part of my purpose in going. After weeding in the vegetable gardens we broke bread, shared stories. Then Gunther and I walked the property edges. He showed me future plans for expansion all in keeping with the concepts of biodynamic farming and beekeeping.
Before I left we checked on a recent swarm. Beautiful combs were formed on the hive slats. I was in awe of the gentleness and caring he and his
staff showed. Vital, intense, committed to giving to the whole is the dynamic of a hive. It was a pleasure and a privilege to visit this lovely and well cared for ground.
I have mentioned the plight of our honeybees in previous articles and discussed the concept of relationships in some measure. Biodynamic farming builds and enriches the soil. Biodynamic beekeeping cooperates with the natural order of the Hive, maintaining the integrity and health of these beautiful creatures. We can co-create with the resources beneath our feet and share these resources supporting the dynamic of respectful partnership.
I highly recommend 2 documentaries:
Queen of the Sun
Vanishing of the Bees
Also, Gunther and his wife are Waldorf School trained teachers. The Biodynamic way of farming comes from Rudolph Steiner as does this education model. For more information on Rudolph Steiner’s model for teaching and Biodynamic farming methods and philosophy visit the highlighted link.
Spikenard Farm relies on the support and donations of you and I. I ask all of you dear family and friends to consider donating to this worthwhile model.
“Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary
445 Floyd Highway North
Floyd, VA 24091
For donations in stock please email us firstname.lastname@example.org
All donations are fully tax deductible.
We thank you in advance for your investment in the future of the earth and our life with the bees.”
So many of my podcasts are concerned with growing good soils. Nettles pops up as a great plant, a must in fact for growing good soils and for adding nutrition to our spring diet. If you don’t have any nettles, can you think about dedicating an area just for them? A new addition that will contribute so much to your garden? Seeds are available too if you can’t find a neighboring gardener willing to share.
Nettles are one of my favorite spring herbs. Their reputation to “sting” usually makes many wary or loathe this plant. Yet they are a powerhouse of nutrients not only for the soil but for us too. In biodynamic farming, nettle is a major player in composting. Why?
Biodynamic farming, founded by Rudolph Steiner, encourages its farmers to use nettles in a preparation called BD504. “Stinging Nettle has enormous healing potential. Working in conjunction with Mars, (Steiner worked with the planets, moon cycles etc) BD504 plays a huge role in resolving soils with an imbalance of iron, magnesium, and sulfur. Excess iron can cause many problems and often presents itself in the form of very tight soil with hardpan or crust. This tightness locks in the iron and other trace minerals, which in turn exacerbates the problem. BD504 preparation loosens the soil texture allowing the nutrients to release, disperse and be absorbed by plants.”
This plant also contains formic acid, phosphorus, and a trace of iron. The square and downy stems are covered with tiny sharp spikes that release an acrid fluid when touched much like a bee sting. Interestingly the juice of the crushed nettle leaves can be rubbed on the sting for relief. Each of these spikes or spines is composed of small cells that contain this fluid. Once dried or cooked the sting is neutralized. However once discovered and tried it makes for a nutritious pot herb or tea.
Name: Stinging Nettles: Urtica dioca
Parts Used: the whole plant
Where Found: Nettles are found in most temperate regions and seem to follow man’s migrations. Nettles can indicate a soil rich in Nitrogen.
Young Shoots: Nettles are best gathered in the early spring when they are less than one foot tall. Later in the season they get gritty and accumulate crystals, cystoliths that make them unpalatable to eat. I gather for two reasons, one to cook and eat that day, or two, to make a pot of tea with the fresh herb or two, and then dry the rest for later use including winter.
Stems: Nettles have been valued for its fiber. While in herb school we separated the fibers found using the cut and dried stems gathered late in the summer. We then wove our own cordage. This fiber was also used in clothing, sailcloth and sacking material.
Compost tea: after I gather young nettles for kitchen use, pot herb and tea making, I gather some and place in 5-gallon bucket. I cover about 3/4 full with water. I stir it frequently for about 3 weeks. At the end of three weeks, I add molasses, about a tablespoon to 1/4 cup and let it ferment a bit. When done I dilute the tea 1:10 with water. Then I give each plant a cupful. You can also dilute the tea 1:20, 1 part tea to 20 parts water and use as a foliar spray which can deter bugs and even fungi, such as powdery mildew.
At the end of the season, plants are cut back to the ground and added to the compost pile.
Recipe for nettles as a potherb and/or tea:
- Gather tender aerial parts in spring
- Wash and chop, wear gloves as they will sting
- Place in a pot, about 1 handful and cover with water. Bring ot a boil and simmer a couple of minutes.
- Drink the tea water and add the greens to rice, veggies, pasta dishes.
My podcast guest this week, Craig Floyd, manager for the Coogan Farm in Mystic CT celebrates all plants including nettles. Bright green parts poke up at the beginning of spring offering nourishment both for us and our soils, a treat after winter’s greys and browns. Nettles has been a part of my garden. I wouldn’t be without them. I encourage you to appreciate this little stinging plant more for it offers much. The sting reminds us to quiet down and approach them with respect.
Enjoy perusing the seed catalogs and consider nettles.
My podcast guest this week, Joan Palmer, founder of The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition, or TIOSN, reminded me how important it is to use the food we grow in our kitchens. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But, we get busy with work, household chores, children’s schedules, all can claim our time. Plants too, have their own agendas, ones they follow regardless of our attention or inattention. They have a schedule of peak growth and then they wane. If our attention is elsewhere, we lose harvest time.
So I thought, let me share 2 easy recipes for using garden thyme in particular and other culinary herbs you may have dried or stored,
Food Alert: many herbs can be irradiated as they come into our country.
“The USA has the most advanced commercial food irradiation program in the
world and the volume of irradiated food consumed in the US is second only
to China. Information on the current status of irradiation in the USA can be
obtained at www.foodirradiation.org or from the Food Irradiation Update
Newsletter published by the author.
A significant amount of the international trade in irradiated food has been
driven by consumer acceptance of irradiated food in the US and access to
that large and lucrative market. More than ten countries currently export
produce to US retailers.
Food products irradiated or marketed in the US during 2015 included
approximately 68 000 tons of spices, 30 000 tons of fruits and vegetables, and
an estimated 12 500 tons of meat, poultry, and live oysters.” ( from foodiradiation.org)
Herbs de Provence is a traditional herb mix often used in European cooking. Drying culinary herbs gives us an opportunity to create flavorful mixtures as fall and winter approach. As Joan states in the podcast, “use real food.” Food from our gardens is not irradiated, hopefully organic. We know the source, we grow it locally, we eat what we grow by our own hands.
So here are 2 Easy Recipes you can easily make. If you don’t have the herbs mentioned I hope you will buy organic.
Recipe: Herbes de Provence:
- 3 Tablespoons dried marjoram
- 3 Tablespoons dried thyme
- 3 Tablespoons dried savory
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Combine marjoram, thyme, savory, basil, rosemary, sage, and fennel. Mix well and spoon into a tightly-lidded jar. Store in a cool, dark place up to 4 months. Add to soups, stews, roasts, fish etc all to your tastes.
Here’s a recipe using Herbs de Provence:
Chicken with Herbes de Provence Recipe
Recipe Type: Poultry, Chicken
Yields: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min
4 chicken boneless breast halves (with skin)*
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence**
* Do not remove skin until after baking, as the skin helps to retain moisture in the meat.
Place chicken breasts, single layer, into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking dish.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine olive oil and the herbes de Provence together. Pour marinade over chicken breasts. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes or refrigerate to marinate longer (turning meat over several times).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (juices will run clear when cut with the tip of a knife); basting several times during cooking. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Have fun trying a new recipe. Do you have any favorites using thyme? All comments are appreciated.
Bon Appetit! Judith
Description: Ayurveda means the science of life. Ayurvedic Medicine developed and recorded over 4000 years ago, based on the keen observation of the outside world and how it relates to our inside world, is a great example of a holistic medical model. My guest this week, Dr. Scott Gerson, is licensed as an Ayurvedic physician and a Medical Physician practicing in NY and Florida. He seeks to build bridges between both worlds. Dr. Gerson gives us several practical tips and guidance for improving immunity and resistance, all perfect for the upcoming holiday season.
About My guest: Scott Gerson, M.D., Ph.D. (Ayurveda) is one of the world’s leading Ayurvedic primary-care physicians and is a prolific researcher in Ayurvedic Medicine who is well-versed in virtually all modalities of integrative medicine. He is the Medical Director of the Dept. of Integrative Medicine, Division of Research and Education at Jupiter Medical Center and Chief Physician at The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine in Lake Mary, Florida where he treats patients through merging authentic Ayurveda, integrative medicine, and conventional medical approaches. Dr. Gerson is an Associate Professor at Tilak Ayurved Mahavidyalaya, Department of Kayachikitsa (Internal Medicine), where he earned his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Ayurvedic Medicine, a Clinical Assistant Professor, Dept. of Community and Preventive Medicine, New York Medical College, and founder of the Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine (est. 1982)
Transcript: #36 Dr. Scott Gerson
Autumn’s chill, holidays and colds seem to come at the same time. We bundle up, turn on the heat, stay indoors. with school parties and adult parties, maybe too much eating, lots of sweets. We seem to get a cold more easily this time of year, suffer from indigestion too.
My podcast guest this week, Janet Pagan, Ayurvedic Nutritionist, suggests a few simple remedies to ward off the beginning of a cold, soothe digestion. Ayurveda uses many plants to balance our dosha type. One ayurvedic tea, CCF, is quite helpful for balancing our digestive system. What I have learned in my herbal studies is that when our digestion is more balanced we feel better, we sleep better and our immune system is supported.
CCF stands for Cumin seed, Coriander seed, Fennel seed tea.
Cumin: Cumino aigro, is a small, herbaceous plant that grows to about 10″ in height. This plant is indigenous to Upper Egypt but found in many far eastern countries. Medicinal and popular in the Middle Ages for its medicinal properties, it was grown, used and sought after. But it does not have popular flavor and so was blended with other herbs. It has a carminative action, which means it aids in digestion.
Coriander: Coriandrum sativum, also known as cilantro, (coriander is the Spanish name for cilantro), is indigenous to Egyptian area. Tall, growing to a height of about 2′, its an easy addition to most gardens. Coriander is also a carminative and masks the flavor of cumin. I like to add it to my summertime vegetable juices. When it goes to seed, gather them and dry them. They keep well and you can begin to make your own tea blends.
Fennel: Foeniculum vulgare ( wild variety), a tall, hardy, perennial, growing to 4-5′, stems are often cut down for flavoring and even garnishing. Fennel grows for years and easily propagates from seed. It originates in the Mediterranean. Fragrant, a softer licorice-like flavor makes fennel a great choice to mask other flavors, such as cumin.
These three seeds are known to aid in digestive disorders from relieving flatulence, colic, diarrhea, cramps, even acid indigestion. They also stimulate our digestive juices which support the efficacy of nutrient breakdown in our stomachs and small intestines. Three well-known seeds, form easy to grow plants, can be added to your garden wish list for 2019. In the meantime, get some seeds, make your own tea. When our constitution is strong we can handle the changes in weather, the changes in diet, company, and parties with more ease.
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
Add to 4 cups of boiling water. Let sit a few minutes. Sweeten if needed to taste. I recommend honey, maple syrup, or stevia but you may find you enjoy the flavors on their own. Try it plain first. Sweeten only if needed.
Ayurveda, as a recognized medical model, offers many simple remedies that work. I hope you get a chance to make this tea, enjoy its flavors. Wishing you good health.
“As long as we are not living in harmony with nature and our constitution, we cannot expect ourselves to be really healed. Ayurveda gives us the means.” David Frawley, Hindu teacher, author, speaker.
Goldenrod, sweet goldenrod, also known as blue mountain tea, fills the countryside with golden yellow color as summer moves into its third act. These flowers are attractive sources of nectar for bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies. It plays host to many beneficial insects and repels pests. Most species are native to North America.
Did you know that Thomas Edison studied goldenrod extensively in his search for native plants with rubber content? It seems he was asked to find a more “local” source of rubber for his friends, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. At that time, in the 1920’s, these entrepreneurs and automobile pioneers had to rely on tropical sources of rubber which could be a problem if strife hit those countries. Unfortunately, Thomas Edison could not extract enough rubber-like substance from goldenrod to make the endeavor worthwhile.
Here is in this country Goldenrod was used by the Native Americans to treat wounds. The early settlers used it for several types of ailments as well. I make a salve using goldenrod flowers and leaves. Its one of several ingredients in my salve and I have a lot of testimonials for its effectiveness.
Botanical name: Solidago sps: Solidago has about 100 species of flowering plants in the family Asteracaea
Parts Used: aerial parts; does not usually flower till the second year; blooms continuously from July through fall in most regions;
Where Found: native to North America; one species, Solidago virgaurea is the only one native to Great Britain.
Uses: aromatic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, diuretic, astringent, One of the chemical components in goldenrod, the saponins, seem to be helpful with the Candida fungus which produces various types of fungal infections and thrush. Goldenrod leaves are most commonly used in tea form. Note it is difficult to find goldenrod in the health food industry as a tincture or capsule. This plant has an unfounded reputation as being the cause of hay fever. Please note:
“Toxicity: None known. Goldenrods are often blamed for causing hay fever because they flower during allergy season. However, the true culprits are ragweeds (Ambrosia spp.). Goldenrod flowers are mainly insect pollinated, so the flowers are showy to attract insects and pollen is relatively heavy and sticky compared to that of ragweed. It is unlikely that the wind-blown allergens affecting hay fever sufferers include appreciable amounts of goldenrod pollen.”
Ragweed is wind-dispersed and makes it the likely culprit for hay fever. So many folks insist that goldenrod is the culprit for their hay fever allergies. Yet the seed patterns do not seem to support this claim.
Whenever I take students on field walks I can usually find ragweed nearby, thriving next to goldenrods.
Goldenrod and others support wildlife and diversity. Galls form on stems and when left alone after summer bloom, they can provide homes and food to other wildlife. Downy woodpeckers and Chickadees, in particular, search for galls for winter food. Many bugs form the galls for their young. When deadened stems are left in fields, they provide food for many.
My podcast guest this week, Jane Seymour, describes and educates us on the role many meadow plants play in maintaining a holistic ecosystem. Meadows, fields demonstrate that many parts play a role in supporting the whole. Remember fields, whose appearance seems messy and haphazard, have a beneficial focus, most of which is hard to see. However, in my backyard meadow, I sit and listen to various bees create a hum that’s soothing on a hot summer’s day. I love the deep mustard yellows of goldenrods too, placed among the pinky purples of joe-pye weed and the purples of woodland asters as if some invisible impressionist painter stole in during the night. And, I watch the wildlife, the birds and other critters who hide out here.
Food, shelter, habitat, goldenrod fulfills an invaluable service to our community. For without our plants and plant communities, our insects suffer. If they suffer then we will too. We are all connected by an invisible web and while mysterious and splendid, we have much to learn. Nature is here to teach us.
We appreciate your comments. Please share. Thanks.
Enjoy your day. Judith