How to Easily Make Comfrey Ointment

How to Make Comfrey Ointment
With the Comfrey plants almost reaching tree like proportions, it is well past time for me to be harvesting it. Usually before now I have been harvesting the first cut for making comfrey infusion for the greenhouse but I have been a little lax this year so now I have a huge first harvest instead.

Most of the leaves harvested will be used to make comfrey infusion, which basically involved steeping the leaves in a huge bucket of water to make a horrid smelly liquid which the tomatoes love. But comfrey ointment for this years stock will be made with some of the leaves first.

Comfrey has long been used traditionally as a healing plant, and scientific studies show that the plant contains a small molecule called 'allantion' which repairs cells and decreases inflammation making it excellent for skin wounds.

Making comfrey ointment is really easy and one of the quickest I find to make.

How to Make Comfrey Ointment

How to Make Comfrey Ointment


Fresh picked comfrey leaves
Either.... Olive oil (or another preferred oil such as almond/sunflower etc) and Beeswax
OR …... Coconut oil
Labelled jars or pots to store

* Roughly chop comfrey leaves and place in a saucepan
* Cover with oil (if you are using coconut oil you may need to melt it first)
* Heat very very gently just so that you are getting the oil not quite hot, you do not want to Fry your comfrey (although I have been know to accidentally do this myself).
* Turn off the heat and allow to comfrey to infuse in the warm oil for around an hour in a warm place.
* Strain your oil through a sieve into a measuring jug squeezing the leaves with the back of a spoon to keep as much of the oil as you can, then allow to stand for another hour in a warm place.
* If you are using coconut you are now finished and can carefully pour your ointment into jars or pots leaving any sediment behind in the jug and store in a cool place.
* If you are using beeswax you need to measure how much oil you have before carefully pouring back into your wiped out comfrey pan leaving the sediment behind in the jug.
* Add beeswax to your pan using roughly 10grams (½ oz) of beeswax for every 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) of oil,  heat gently to melt and mix, then pour into pots or jars.

And that's it, easy done in a morning.

Comfrey Trees are blossoming

The fabulous weather we have been having on the island recently has sent the comfrey into a serious growth spurt. It self seeds itself and pops up like a weed, but I don't mind in the slightest as it is so useful both in the Stillroom and on the plot, and we use the ones that pop up in completely the wrong places by harvesting them.

For healing it is one of my favourite herbs for broken skin, and those that are slow to mend, e.g. John managed to come out in blisters on his forearms from strimming hogweed, nasty and burn-like and I've been told can scar, so comfrey ointment is being used liberally.

We have several huge clumps dotted about the property which I suspect were originally planted as a source of nitrogen and potassium compost for the garden as it makes a wonderful liquid plant food when made into comfrey tea excellent news for our tomatoes.

If nothing else it makes a fine meal for the bees, they love it and to fills a gap with a pretty plant.

Top Tips for Harvesting Dandelion Flowers

top tips for harvesting dandelion flowers

I've been harvesting dandelion flowers for various uses for several years now, and there are a few tricks I have learnt along the way, so whether you are collecting them for remedies, dying yarn, brewing wine or just to add to a salad, here are a few tips for you :)

Before You Pick Your Flower Petals

  • Picking dandelions will stain your finger tips and nails and although this will be removed from your skin within a couple of washes, the nails can take a bit longer. One way of reducing this is to dig your nails into a bar of soap and wipe off the excess before going to harvest your dandelions.
  • If you intend to use your dandelions for food, remedies, brewing etc avoid harvesting them from the roadside where they will have absorbed excess amounts of heavy metals from car fumes. Also avoid the main parts of your lawn unless you know they haven't been trampled on or peed on by pet dogs, and from the corners of garden walls where they may have been sprayed on by the local tom cat.
  • If you are using your dandelions to dye yarn, fleece etc the above point is not important so use the possibly contaminated ones for this purpose.
  • Choose a dry sunny day to harvest your flowers, the sun will encourage more flowers to open, and being dry before harvesting means less chance of spoiling your recipe, especially if infusing in oil for remedies. Also it is best to finish harvesting before mid afternoon as the flowers will begin to close up for the day making them harder to pick.

top tips for harvesting dandelion flowers

Harvesting Your Dandelion Flowers

It used to take me ages to harvest enough petals for a batch of wine, as I would pull a load of flower heads off before sitting down in the sun and one by one pick all the green backs off the petals to go in the compost, it took twice as long as the way I do it now, plus my hands would be a mess for days.
  • First grab your dandelion flower head by the green part at the back tightly, pinch together all of the petals in the fingers in the other hand, then firmly pull out the yellow petals, if a few bits of green sneak in it wont matter. When you have done this a couple of times you can work really quickly filling your measuring jug.
  • If there is any little bugs or flies on the flower head, just gently bend over the stalk and tap them out.
  • When measuring your flower petals for a recipe, firmly press them down in your jug, but not so hard that the are tightly rammed in.
I hope you find these tips helpful :) 

So tell me what is your favorite use is for the humble dandelion?

Eulogy to a beloved Chook

This morning dawned and so ended an era, our old ex-battery chicken 'Scruff' had passed away in the night. We knew the day was coming soon, she had taken to spending most of her time sleeping in the sun and long lie-ins in the mornings, though she was still sprightly enough when treats were offered.

She originally came to us through a friend of John's at work who had several ex battery chickens, along with a few of her friends, this was many years ago when we were still living in Derbyshire. The other ladies passed on before we moved here so only Scruff (so called as she was the scraggiest, scrawniest bottom of the pecking order one) remained to make the long journey North.

Being on her own for a time before the move she made friends with one of the local Blackbirds and they would peck around in the back garden together. I will never forget the day I looked out of the patio doors and saw what I thought was a dead chook and blackbird lying on the lawn, but was instead the pair of the sunbathing together, yes she had taught a blackbird to sprawl out on the lawn, legs and wings everywhere to sunbathe.

Making the move north with John in the van, riding happily in the cat carrier on the passenger seat all the way, taking a break at Inverness services to stretch her legs and have a scratch in the woodland car park before further north and a ferry ride.

She soon settled into her new life with much more land to roam and it makes us happy to know she had a good life here with us.

She leaves behind her companion 'Scrit' who although seemed unhappy this morning, seems to have made a new friend in one of the new chooks that keeps escaping from the run.

RIP Scruff   2007 ?? ---- 2014

Easy Dandelion Flower Wine Recipe

Easy Dandelion Flower Wine Recipe
The Dandelion season is in full swing right now and the first big flush of flowers ends up fermented.
This year I am experienting with a new Mead recipe I've made but until it has been tested I will keep that one in my notebook.
Our usual recipe, and the one we used for the wine at our own Handfasting, comes from one of my favourite wild food books for uses in the kitchen.
Wild Food: A Complete Guide for Foragers 

Easy Dandelion Flower Wine Recipe - Makes 1 Gallon

2 pints of Dandelion Petals
1kg (2.2lb) White Sugar
2 Oranges
3 Level Teaspoons of Dried Yeast
Demijohn (carboy) and airlock

Harvest and measure 2 pints of dandelion petals discarding the green backs of the flower heads.
Place the petals in a large container or pan with a tight fitting lid, then pour over 2 litres (1/2 gallon) of boiling water. Cover and leave to stand for 3 days.

After the petals have had their steeping time, strain through a sieve and add the liquid to your demijohn along with the jest and juice of the 2 oranges, a large funnel helps with this.

Add the yeast to a cup half filled with warm previously boiled water and a teaspoon of the sugar and stir, in a few minutes it will begin to froth, stir again and add to the demijohn.

In a jug place half the sugar and dissolve with boiling water, allow this to cool down till it it just warm before adding to the demijohn, repeat with the remaining sugar.

Give it all a swirl and your done. Add the airlock half filled with water, then a small cotton wool ball to the top of the airlock to keep flies out. Put away somewhere to forget about for the next few months. In around a year it should be ready for bottling.

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Meet the Flockers !!!

Meet the new feathered members of the family !!!! We now have a much extended flock of chooks, and our first ducks, we have re-homed them due to a family bereavement and they are slowly settling in :)

Top left we have Charlie Drake (the cute little white cartoon duck) smallest and ruler of the flock, with his missus Jemima (head female duck). Charlie and our other drake seem to have no problem sharing their harem except when it comes to Jemima, she is his Lady :) and Charlie puts him in his place damn quick even though he is half his size.

Bottom left we have our second in command and kept in his place Rhode Island Red. Big Red as he is called, apparently was a bit of a piece of work until having an incident with a car, now he has a limp and comes second place to his older more laid back commander.

Bottom middle we have Curly with one of the younger ladies of the flock. Curly's tail feathers have this adorable way of curling up, he can get quite boorish when it comes to feeding time and is rather bossy with the ladies, but bows down to Charlie's command.

Bottom right we have Mr and Mrs Maran. Mrs Maran is top of the ladies pecking order but is laid back and doesn't seem to need to enforce her place much, and it is rare if she is not by her hubby's side.

Mr Maran is top chook, he is laid back with everyone, keeps Big Red in his place simply by chasing him every so often, other than the other evening when Red tried it on with Mrs Maran and he took exception. A brief fight later and the sparrows were happy with their fresh supply of nest feathers, and Mr Maran kept reminding Red who was in-charge for the next 24 hours.

Top right we have one of our young lady ducks of which there is 7 not including the two drakes and Jemima. The only one named so far is our special needs duck Tilly.

And the final picture on the middle right, is one of our new little red hens. There are 8 of these girls but only two have names, Mona who we have taken out of the run and homed with our 2 older chooks as she was getting severely picked on and is our depressed chook.

We also have Peggy, so named due to her dodgy leg which means she has a limp, but she is actually the least flighty of all the birds and will come right up to you no problem.

We now seem to be inundated with eggs, good job we like quiche, and omlettes, and scrambled egg, egg custard, dippy eggs, egg mayonaise, meringue........

Our Handfasting Anniversary - 3 Years and Counting

pagan handfasting cords
The past Four and a half years have gone so quickly since we moved here to the cottage, lots of changes endings and beginnings. One of those beginnings was the start of a new phase in mine and John's relationship when we (literally) tied the knot three years ago on our land with a Handfasting.

A small group of family and friends joined us for a quiet simple ceremony in the garden performed by friends of ours who are registered pagan celebrants, making the whole thing legal and without a separate registry office event.

This patch of land we are caretakers of already holds many memories for us, how many more will it hold in three, ten or twenty years from now?

Sometimes when the wind is howling around the roof, or when it's so cold you need to light the woodburner in august, moving to a warmer location feels a blissful daydream; but we are now bound to this land, it is a part of us as we are a part of it, together Handfasted.

pagan handfasting

May Day Blessings 2014

The brighter half of the year is here at last, time to take down the winter drapes and cover the beds with summer linens.

May day, or Beltane really does seem to make the beginning of the busy season on the smallholding, it is when foraging and harvesting really start for us.

The dandelions are in full bloom this week, encouraged out by some of the glorious weather we had at the weekend. They really are such a wonderful and useful flower it seems almost shameful to call them weeds, but I admit they are very rampant (appropriate for a festival season of fertility). I will be sharing some of my favorite uses for them very soon.

I even had some help for one of our two remaining chooks. The character above is the not so young anymore Scrit, and off camera is our rather old for an ex-battery hen Scruff, so named as she was such as mess when we got her 5 years ago, very old indeed for a hybrid.

They wont be alone for long though, the next couple of weeks are going to be crazy as we introduce nearly 2 dozen hens and ducks to our flock (I know seems very disproportionate). They needed a new home quickly and hubby volunteered us for the job as we were looking to expand anyway. I will post some piccies after the weekend :)

In the meantime I have some mead to set away before starting dinner so will leave you with a random photo, just because I like it :)

Living our Childhood Dreams (or Life Lessons from Xena Warrior Princess)

Making our Childhood Dreams a Reality

When I was a child I used to daydream about what life would be like as an adult. I would picture myself riding my Clydesdale horse to the nearest village to pick up supplies, long hair flowing, full-length woolen dress and cloak, basket on my arm.

I imagined friends and neighbors coming to me for help with their ailments, a herbal remedies and ointment for aches, a charm or talisman for the home, a cup of tea and a slice of chocolate cake to offload, all conducted in my cosy cottage by candle light, the smell of incense in the air.

A romantic fairytale image perhaps.

I used to imagine what it would be like to live in a huge house like Misselthwaite Manor from The Secret Garden, but mostly I imagined the secret passageways and rooms, and of course the secret garden itself.

I would devour books which had the wise woman character in them, ones that would touch some inner spark in me, guiding me gently towards my passions in life.

I have a great love of mathematics and science, logic brained am I, and had other fantasies of being some sort of scientist.

growing natural herbal remedies

How can Xena Warrior Princess give us career advice?

Sometimes we look back on our childhood dreams with nostalgia, or scorn or perhaps bitterness, but I believe our childhood dreams give us insights as to the person or life we are truly meant to be.

I don't necessarily mean we are supposed to be modern day Xena Warrior Princesses, but certain elements of our fantasies show us our true soul needs.

For example, if I had big dreams of growing up like Xena, I would mull that over and pick apart what it was about being Xena that I loved so much. 
Was it the kicking ass part? Perhaps I would be in my element being a martial arts expert or a cage fighter.
Was it the saving the day part? Perhaps I would be better as a police officer or working for womens refuge.

Perhaps that is putting it a bit too simplistic, perhaps I am so off the mark, but perhaps it may help someone?

making natural herbal remedies

How I made my dreams into my reality

Looking back on my own childhood dreams shows me a lot about the person I was always meant to grow up to be.

I was destined to be a country girl, the city was never meant to be a happy place for me, a simple quiet life is what I crave and where I am most in my element even if I no longer have the urge to ride across the hills in my tartan dress like Lorna Doone.

Studying natural remedies and the craft was also where my heart lay, and is still where I am at my most confident, but I also have a need to back up the reasoning for why a remedy works with science too, not to the point of dismissing something which I know works, but it makes me want to do a happy dance when I can back up with science something I already know to work.

And as for The Secret Garden and Misselthwaite Manor with its mysteries, well John built me a secret bookcase door, I know I can't believe it, it makes me so happy, childhood dreams made into reality !!!!

The First Drop

It's turning out to be another one of those busy but not really busy sort of weeks. Seem to be on the go all the time, but nothing overly exciting happening.

We're plodding on with the renovation and today I managed to start hanging the wallpaper in the hallway at last, it is one of only two rooms we have done in the cottage which has a patterned paper for a feature wall, I wasn't sure how it would look not being a lover of plain walls but I think it will turn out just fine.

I'm thinking I may do a blog post on wallpaper hanging tips, I have done enough papering over the years you'd think I would be an expert, I can assure you I am not but there is some stuff I have learned over the years which could be helpful to someone else, could be fun :)

P.S. I couldn't resist posting another picture of the lambs in the paddock, they are just so darned cute!!

#100happydays Round-up 3rd-14th April

Spent a lovely day with my good friend Pam and meeting her lovely pup Axell 7th April

The view from my laptop (and a kitty photobomb) 8th April

Getting all my hair chopped off at the hairdressers 9th April

First of this seasons lambs in the paddock 10th April

Endless blue skies on the way home from shopping 12th April

Drinking Chai in the afternoon 14th April

Knitted and Crochet Ripple Blankets, Which to Choose?

There may be signs of spring around the garden, and there may be warmth in that sunlight beaming down, but the wind is still cold here at the cottage. I wonder if had we still lived in Derbyshire would I be pottering in the garden more often? Sometimes imagine what is must be like to live in Arizona like Vanessa, picking strawberries in April. As it is I think I will be playing catch up again in a few weeks. Instead I fill my days with indoor projects, working on the cottage, yarny projects and so on.

These two lap blankets I made a few weeks ago (please excuse their unblocked disheveldness), as part of Heather from Beauty that moves Hibernate workshop, there was a pattern for a knitted dishcloth. I'm not normally a knitter preferring a hook myself, but looking at the pattern I realised just how easy it was to create.

Having no current need for some dishcloths I thought the pattern would work well using some super duper extra chunky yarn from my stash and big needles. I'm really very pleased with how it worked out, also using some hooky edging to finish off too.

I still had plenty of cream yarn left over, plus the blue which I had got at a bargain price whilst at hobbycraft in Aberdeen, so decided to have a go at a ripple using Lucy's pattern from Attic24, love this one also, although for someone who prefers to crochet I think I may like the knitted one best!!

So which do you think, the Blue or the Mint One?

We are Golden

I love the light at this time of year, the sun hanging so low in the sky casting a golden glow everywhere. The flowers all seem to be within the gold spectrum too, I've certainly come to associate spring with yellow.

The daffodils are putting on a fine display, usually they flower sporadically, but I think the mild weather we have had this year has had something to do with it, causing them to burst into bloom together.

Another sign of spring in these parts is lambs in the paddock behind us. I may or may not have a wee squealy moment every year when I spy the first lambs of the season, they are just so tiny.

Today had been a day for new life, the first three lambs of the year appeared around lunch time, as did my ex husband and his wife's new son who was also born around lunch time.
Spring, flowers, babies.

On The Mend

Well fortunately Poppy appears to be on the mend thank goodness. 
She has had us worried sick.
 I still blame her for eating too many rodents but she is a country cat afterall. 

The Family Knit and Natter

 Last year we (aka me, mum and sis) decided to start meeting up once a week for our own crafting bee. I don't drive and don't get out much so it makes for a nice social event at our place.
Truth be told we usually end up gossiping so much that not an awful lot of crafting gets done but it's good.
Mum usually gets set up on the wheel or carding, although today she was knitting too.
 Baby sis is usually knitting away on some commision or other for her Drifting Gipsy facebook page.
Last week she was working on a scarf for a friend, this week a pair of legwarmers for a member of her OU tutor group.

I'm still nibbling away at a hat I am knitting for myself, it is a slow going project which perhaps will be ready next winter.

But most of my time this last half of the week has been nursing this little one above. Poppy cat is under the weather right now, I think it's eating too many Orkney voles, but it is rather like having a newborn in the house again !!

In fact it is time for another feed before I get dinner on for John, so I will sign off for now but any positive thoughts sent this way for Poppy would be welcome, thank you x

#100happydays Round-up 26th-2nd April

Photoshoot at the Ring of Brodgar 26th March

Poppy cat hunting in the garden 27th March

Mrs Blackbird watching me, watching her 28th March

First bunch of daffodils from the garden picked by John 30th March

It may be cold out but it is sunny and the fire is warm 2nd April

Well I didn't manage to remember to take a pic everyday so I have thrown in a couple of extras from the week. 
First a male pheasant who has been hanging around lately.

A little wren stopped by in the garden for a few days.

And this Redwing followed John home up the drive.

It has been a busy week for birds in our garden :)


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