BYG: Beat the Heat with Mint Tea

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I've never been a fan of mint.  I love the smell, I love the color, but I don't love the taste.  I found a reason to get over it when I took a homesteading class.  I was standing in the middle of a sweltering herb class when we were offered a glass of mint tea.  Minding my manners like my mother taught me, I took the glass of tea and drank it despite my dislike for mint.  Five minutes later the air felt as if the temperature had dropped ten degrees.  My body felt cool.  I could breath deeper.  I asked our instructor what was in the tea and her answer was simply peppermint leaves.
She said during the heat months our bodies, especially the digestive system actually heat up, and not because of the season.  It's important to cool our systems during this cycle because excessive heat in the system can burn out the adrenal glands and trigger inflammation.  All culprits that make us irritable.  Herbs have healing properties and mint in particular has a calming effect on our system as well as cooling agents.

She went on to tell us that peppermint tea was the best drink in the summer because it will actually cool us from the inside out.  After having experienced what she was saying, I prefer mint tea that is slightly chilled on a hot day to a glass of ice water.

Mint is making its way up my list of favorites (i.e. vinegar, honey, baking soda, etc).  As a bonus, growing mint to harvest for tea also has an impact in your yard.  It's a great insect repellent. 


MINT TEA

Yield: 2 cups
Ingredients:

1 handful of fresh mint (any variety)
2 cups of boiling water

First, wash the mint leaves in a little white vinegar and water to clean them. Roughly cut or tear the mint leaves and add to a pot of boiling water and cover or use a coffee press. Allow to steep for about 3-7 minutes, depending on how strong you want your tea.  There really is no particular recipe, and adding honey or other herbs adds a nice touch. 
Enjoy and stay cool. 

DIY Natural Bug Repellents for Your Body

You stink!  That's what you want a bug to think of you.  It's a strange concept to think about, but bugs are either attracted or unattracted by scent.  As mentioned in the August 4(for) Green Acres challenge, mosquitoes carry the highest amount of the west nile virus in August and September.  It's important to arm our bodies so we can continue to enjoy the outdoors, and it's as easy as applying the right scent.

Lavender and mint are two herbs that mosquitoes are especially repelled by.  You will find in the recipes below that one or both of these herbs are found in the ingredient list.  While I'm mostly dealing with mosquitoes because of the serious health risk, you can also combat other pests at the same time. Here is a list of herbs and what insects they help repel.  Essential oils can be found for all of them.


As you begin to mix and use your sprays or gel keep these important tips in mind.

1.  Use the purest ingredients you can find.  Ingredients that you don't grow yourself or you don't have on hand purchase in a health food store or at a farmers market.  Read the list of ingredients to make sure they don't have a lot of additives.  We are fighting nature with nature so stick as close to it as you can.

2.  Remember to be diligent with reapplying.  Our homemade versions are not waterproof or sweat proof.  Nor do they have agents that will stay on your skin for quite some time.  By adding a conditioning agent like an oil they will be able to stay on your skin longer.

3.  Essential oils are very potent and should never be applied directly to your skin.  They could burn.  They must be diluted with water or witch hazel prior to application.

4.  These repellents do not have a long shelf life.  Over time the scent starts to diminish and scent is the key ingredient in making these work.  If you find you're losing scent you can add a few drops of essential oil to the bottle or gel and shake or mix well.





Ingredients

  • Essential oils: rosemary, tea tree, eucalyptus, cedar, lavender, catnip, citronella, mint, etc.
  • Witch Hazel, rubbing alcohol, or vodka (whatever you have on hand)
  • Water that has been boiled or distilled water
  • Olive Oil (optional)*  

Supplies
small spray bottle

Instructions

  1. Fill the spray bottle half way with water.
  2. Add the witch hazel to fill almost to the top.
  3. If using olive oil add 1/2 tsp.
  4. Add 30-50 drops of essential oils to desired scent.  The more you use the stronger the scent will be.  Mix and match the oils for a customized scent.
  5. Store in the refrigerator to keep it fresh longer.
  6. Spray on exposed skin and clothing* 

*Be sure to test the spray on a discrete place on your clothing to ensure it does not stain or damage.






Ingredients

  • Fresh or Dried herbs: mint, citronella, lavender, catnip, eucalyptus, etc.
  • Witch Hazel, rubbing alcohol, or vodka
  • Water for boiling

Supplies
small spray bottle

Instructions

  1. Boil 1 cup of water and add 3-4 TBSP of any combination of dried herbs.  If using fresh herbs add more.  Fresh is less potent than dried.  If you feel your mix is too strong you can always dilute it later.  
  2. Take off the heat, mix well, and cover to cool.  Be sure to keep the lid on so the oils (scent) don't evaporate.
  3. When cooled, strain the herbs out and mix 1 cup of witch hazel, rubbing alcohol or vodka and funnel the mixture into a spray bottle.
  4. Store in the refrigerator to keep it fresh longer.
  5. Spray on exposed skin and clothing*  
*Be sure to test the spray on a discrete place on your clothing to ensure it does not stain or damage.






Ingredients

  • 2 cups of clear aloe vera gel (not dyed green)
  • 2 tsp tea tree oil
  • 2 tsp citronella oil
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary oil
  • 1/2 tsp local honey (optional) - honey has antibacterial components and also adds moisture to the gel.  It will not make the gel sticky. 
Note: The oils above can be exchanged for other oils depending on what insects you are trying to repel.  I would trade out peppermint or lavender for tea tree oil to work better on mosquitoes.  


Supplies
Small jelly jar or baby food jar

Instructions

  1. Pour the aloe vera into a bowl. 
  2. Add the essential oils and honey if you are using it and mix well.  The gel may look slightly creamy.
  3. Spoon into a jar and cover with a lid. 
  4. Store in the refrigerator to keep it fresh longer.
  5. Slather on exposed skin.










  • Rub vanilla extract (not imitation) on your skin with a cotton ball on the hot parts of your body: behind your ears, underarms, the crease of your elbow, behind your knees, etc.  You can also add vanilla to any of the receipts above.
  • Rub the leaves and flowers from fresh herbs all over the skin, especially anything in the mint family.


What to Do When You Want to Give Up


There are some days I wake up and wonder why I garden.  To my amazement, something always grows even when I'm neglectful.  Gardening is work.  Not that I'm afraid of work, but I can't help but ask what it's all for occasionally. 

The mockingbirds are eating my tomatoes, the ants have annihilated my strawberries, and the cabbage loopers, well, they are an annual problem.  Not to mention all the weeds that keep finding their way into my delicious soil.

But then, there are the rare moments when it all comes together.  When halfway through eating supper it hits me that all but two of the ingredients on my plate came out of my garden.  As if eating the food my very hands grew was almost rote.  I blossomed with excitement.  This is the pinnacle I've been trying to reach.  I am far from feeding my family 100%, but the idea that eating what we have available takes me one step closer to reaching my goal.  Plus there is the fact that I didn't even think about it.  

However hard the process is, I can assure you it is all worth it.  Just knowing what I'm feeding my body isn't full of pesticides or other chemicals, genetically modified, or is processed seriously makes me giddy.  I'm slowly learning it's about trial and error.  To be cliche, Rome wasn't built in a day, and I'm coming to terms with the fact that the perfect (to me) homestead cannot be built in a season.  I needed the reminder too, and it tasted like real food. 

So my advice to you is - keep moving - keep growing.  If one tomato is all you end up with, so be it.  It's about the journey, not the destination.

By the way, the meal was...
sausage* and sauteed onions
steamed purple carrots
roasted rosemary potatoes
tomato & basil salad with vinaigrette*
strawberries, peaches, and blackberries for dessert

*not from the garden

BYG: Early Harvest



They say you are not supposed to apologize for all of a sudden abandoning your blog for days. It is your blog after all and you set the schedule, but here I am about to grovel.

I have been busy. That part is true. I'm settling into a different sort of life and trying to make my relationship a little more front and center. The "good at relationships" gene seemed to skip me. And while this post is to show you how busy I am in the garden, it's also a confession. Periodically I comb through the questions of do I really want to keep blogging, and what is my point exactly? Until that gets sorted out in my head I abandon this space.

Additionally, while I try to get my garden to produce something cc's dad's garden is growing like crazy. I have a mess of beans to freeze, and squash to pickle for him. I made homemade runzas last weekend with this cabbage.

In my own garden I've been dealing with cabbage loopers and ferocious ants.  All of which are out to destroy my garden.  So I've been in the yard, and studying up in books on how to take care of the destroyers naturally. 


On top of that the weather in Texas is grand right now and I'm taking full advantage.  Instead of sitting in my studio on a computer I'm spending time outside, which limits blog posts.  Also, my busiest season to about to hit, so fair warning there will soon be summer vacation over here at indigo 26.  Maybe I'll find reason to keep this space when it's over. 

So yes I've been busy and I'm sorry to have been gone so long, but I'm also wondering why you return to this space.  What do you enjoy?  What would you like to see more of?  Less of?  I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Using Ladybugs As Natural Pesticide


When I started my garden this year I knew I would have to keep an eye on my leafy veggies.  Without close observation they can be decimated by a little pests that are hard to see.  Organic gardening requires diligence, but there are resources to help fight the pests.  Ladybugs are one such example. 

Ladybugs are beetles that are beneficial to any garden.  They will munch on aphids, mites, scales, and whiteflies, all of which are annoying in your garden.  You can actually order them in the mail to get a jump start on your yard. 

I recently ordered 4,500 of the little ladies, and gents, from Planet Natural.  They have great instructions on how to release them into your garden to minimize mortality and they provide tips on how to keep them from flying away.


When the box arrived on my doorstep it was in the afternoon, which is not a good time to release them. So, as instructed, I put them in the refrigerator until it was time.

The next morning I made sure my lawn and garden had plenty of water.  The grass still had the morning dew but I watered a few of the vegetables.  Then I took the cloth bag out of the box and opened it near the food source.  At first, they were a little hesitant, maybe lethargic from the chill of the refrigerator. 


Then they started pouring out of the bag.  I moved it to several different locations in my garden to ensure the little ladies and gents had enough food and water. 

They were very thirsty after their long journey.  I found several of them sucking on water droplets.

I wanted them to stick around my yard so prior to the release I made sure they had places to live.  They need holes and other hollow spaces to nest in.  I have several fireplace logs that are rotting in my back yard so I stacked them in a quiet corner near the garden.  I also made a few habitats similar to this to put around the yard.  They love daisies, yarrow, and tansy and frequent gardens that have these plants so I made sure I planted these flowers as well. 


I have always loved ladybugs as my garden shoes would indicate.  I remember as a child picking them up and letting them crawl all over my arms.  It's fun to see them in my yard because I know they are hard at work.  They are my little organic garden warriors!