Herbal spotlight: Echinacea (purple Coneflower)

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Bumble bee on one of our Echinacea blooms.

Here at Whimsical Moon Farm, we grow many of the herbs that we use in our handcrafted soaps. We also grow herbs for culinary uses, health and healing, and for the pollinators. We enjoy attracting honey bees, butterflies, and many different bird species. Among the herbs you can find in our gardens, we grow sage, rosemary, oregano, parsley, thyme, chamomile, lavender (lots!), and Echinacea.

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Echinacea purpurea flower with butterfly.

One of my favorite herbs is Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia. It loves the sun and is a native wildflower here in the United States. Not only does it produce beautiful flowers that attract all types of pollinators, but it is an excellent support for the body’s immunity. Tinctured roots and teas made from its leaves and stem help strengthen the body’s ability to resist infection.

With flu season upon us, I always try to have on hand Echinacea capsules, teas containing Echinacea, and lots of tincture from last Fall’s root harvest. At the first sign of a tickle in my throat or a drippy nose, I begin taking the capsules as directed on the bottle or dosing myself with a dropper-full of tincture with each meal. (Dose 1 – 3 ml, up to 5 times a day.)

The roots of the plant can be harvested around the second or third year. I usually take a piece or two off of each plant in the Fall when I divide the root clumps. The fresh root can be chopped up and placed in a pint or quart mason jar. I cover the root pieces with 80 proof, or higher, Vodka making sure the pieces are completely covered. I cap the jar tightly and store in a cupboard, away from sunlight. I try to give the jar a shake each day for 14 to 21 days. When it’s time to decant, I pour the liquid through cheese cloth into a clean bowl, making sure to press the remaining pulp to get all of the good medicine.

I prefer storing the tincture in small brown or blue bottles with dropper caps. These can be purchased from many sources, but I usually get mine from Mountain Rose HerbsBe sure to cap tightly and label with what the tincture is and when it was bottled. The shelf life for the tincture is 1 to 3 years, but many herbalists believe it stays good for many years, if kept tightly capped and stored in a cool, dark place.

I often dry the flowers to use in my handcrafted soaps as they add beautiful bits of color to the bars. But more often than not, I allow the flowers to remain on the plant for the butterflies and bees flitting around the gardens in the Fall to enjoy.

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Echinacea purpurea

May this season be a healthy and vibrant time of year for you!

Please check out our handcrafted soaps at Whimsical Moon Farm.

 

 

Mischief, Mayhem, and Chaos on the Farm!

The three Furies (although furry, as well) Ichabod, Ozzy, and Piscus.

Yes, it has been a busy Autumn. Beside the usual fall chores around the homestead, we have acquired a few new residents to our farm. When Bella lost her sister, Pookie, a few months ago, she seemed inconsolable. Of course, I figured she needed a buddy. We visited our local animal shelter, and well….found a sweet little kitten. With two other siblings we just couldn’t separate.

A few weeks later, there was a knock at the door and two young ladies stood on my porch with a tiny black kitten. “Is this yours?”

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Ophelia. The little princess that rounds out the bunch.

As soon as she was placed on the floor, she claimed our home as hers. She immediately made her way to the food dish. The boys clamored around her and impatiently waited for her highness to finish eating. She licked her paws, cleaned her face, and promptly fell asleep in the dog’s bed.

The kittens grow daily, it seems, as they create chaos, mayhem, and mischief all throughout the house. Bella is fine, as long as they stay out of her way. She has taken a special liking, though, to the little princess, Ophelia.

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Bella, the matriarch of the bunch, seems nonplussed with the new additions. As long as they stay out of HER chair.

Early in August, we noticed a sign at our local Tractor Supply store. Fall chicks are here! We had already considered adding a few more chickens to our flock as we wanted to continue our small egg business next spring. I already had an idea of what breeds I would like to try, and we were happy with the chicks available. We came home with six new additions.

We purchased 3 Silver Wyandottes (or so we thought!), 1 Black Austrolorp, and 2 Brown Isas. Good future egg layers with sweet temperaments.

As the chickens quickly matured, we realized that our Silver Wyandottes were displaying unusual feather manifestations on the top of their little heads. After considerable research (thank you Google), I discovered our Silver Wyandottes were not what they seemed.

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They are actually, ahem, Silver Polish chickens. The ‘punk rockers’ of the chicken world.

https://www.mypetchicken.com

This is what our chickens will eventually grow up to look like. (Image from mypetchicken.com)

Not exactly what I originally had in mind, but I laugh every time I go out to their chicken coop to attend to them. They are flighty, erratic birds with friendly dispositions when they settle down. They lay white eggs, instead of my favorite brown eggs, and are not known to be as productive of layers as I had hoped, but they certainly do bring a particular ‘Whimsy’ to our farm.

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The young pullets graduating to their new home.

So, Whimsical Moon Farm continues to grow with each season. Signs of Autumn surround us as the raised garden beds slowly get cleaned out and orange and red leaves fall from our maple and locust trees around the property. Mornings are cool and misty and the days grow shorter and less intense.

A fat, pumpkin colored spider, bumblebee on a late Echinacea bloom, and Mosey inspecting newly harvested corn field.

Autumn has always been my favorite season of the year. As always, I look forward to the cooler weather, sitting around the fire pit drinking hot cocoa of an evening, and finding quiet, less frenzied moments to curl up with good books and write in my journal.

Here’s to a Whimsical Moon Farm Autumn season.

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Autumn, ready for Autumn.

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