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24 December 2008

         Ernestina Parziale CH

The Backyard Herbalist




Making laundry soap



Seed Germination Chart
Quick Garden Planner

Herbal Glossary
Health Conditions A-Z
Herbal Remedies
Herbs A-Z with Images
Where to buy
How to Harvest, Dry & Store
Cooking with Herbs & Wild Foods
Quick Garden Planner

Toxic/Dangerous Plants Lists

Getting Organized
Non-toxic Cleaning


SOUPS: Nothing satifies in winter like a good hearty soup. Unfortunately, most recipes don't have a lot of taste or don't fill you up. The three recipes here fill my requirements for a good soup: Vegetable-Beef, Chicken, and Vegetable Stock (which can be used for a number of things, including more soup).

GADGETS AND GIZMOS AND A REVIEW: I freely admit to being intrigued by gadgets and gizmos. But I'm also old enough to be able to pick out the flaws in most of them and realize how useless the majority of them are. However, I was intrigued recently by the H20 mop by Thane. In essence it cleans with nothing more than steam. Which means it also disinfects. So I bit. I tested it out on my ceramic tile kitchen floor and was delighted with the way it cleaned the grout. My machine never did the job properly. It works on most any kind of flooring, including sealed hard wood. You can also do carpets with this. It's light weight and so easy to clean even I was surprised. So for whatever it's worth, I give this product a thumb's up on all scores.

THE GREEN CHANNEL. If you haven't tuned into this one yet, you're missing a whole lot. Our eco-friend Ed Begley, Jr. has his show here as well as our old friend Steve Thomas from "This Old House"; he's back with a new show called "Renovation Nation".

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY. I've been doing some Googling this past month on this subject and found some fascinating applications. My favorite is the roof top vertical axis wind turbine. One example is Pacwind.

MY FAVORITE RECIPE for Face and Hand Cream.

BACK ON THE SUBJECT OF BREAD the directions always tell you to put the dough in a 'warm' place to rise. What exactly is warm? What exactly is warm in numbers I can understand? Okay - here it is - the ideal rising temperature for bread is between 75º and 85º. And now you know. I find my oven works fine when I need to raise dough. Draft-free, there's little temperature variation there. To actually make the dough though, I use my bread machine on the 'dough' cycle. Here's a tip: Using the basic 2-lb recipe for white bread on the dough cycle, add dried fruit (like raisins, cranberries, apricots, etc) and a pinch or so of cinnamon. When you remove the dough from the machine, cut into 4 equal parts. Place each part in a tiny/small loaf pan (about 6"x6"x2"), let rise, then bake at 375º for 35 minutes (or till done which could be up to 40 minutes depending on your oven). Make a small amount of confectioner's icing and drizzle over 1 loaf. The other 3 loaves can be frozen for future use and iced just before serving.

BACK IN THE OLD, OLD DAYS not only before television, but before Moses, how did they make bread? Obvious answer is sourdough starter. But how did they make the starter if there was no yeast? Because if you read any recipe for making a starter these days, they include yeast. Seems as though making your own starter would be a handy piece of information in case of, oh, I don't know, the world coming to an end as we know it sort of scenario. Or maybe just getting snowed in for a month. Read how it's done.

"THE GOVERNMENT DOESN'T WANT YOU TO KNOW!" or "THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW!" or "I'm a doctor and I want you to know!" The implication in those statements is that the people bringing you this message are stand-up guys, soldiers on the front lines, resistance fighers. Of course, what they are really saying is "Boy, have I got something to sell you!" If the government or the ubiquitous 'they' REALLY didn't want you to know, these sites would be taken down faster than a mouse click. Alternative medicine sites are full of this type of claim. It's the modern day version of the patent medicine man, the snake oil salesman, your 'hey-I'm-looking-out-for-you' buddy. Claims that some mysterous herb/substance/nutrient will get you to lose weight, cure your diabetes, cure your cancer and all you have to do is send a significant amount of money to obtain a report on just what the name of this mysterious substance is, and then (of course), you can buy it through them (or some other source whom they 'endorse'). When you see that type of rhetoric, move on to another site. This doesn't mean some of their claims aren't legitimate, just not to the miracle status they give them, but all hyperbole is built on a kernal of truth. And if these folks are such crusaders on your behalf, why isn't the information out there for FREE (excuse me, that's probably an insane concept to some people). If something cures serious disease, let's see the studies - legitimate studies - which PROVE these claims (Europe does a lot of research in this area). Beware of hucksters selling products of which only THEY have the purest source. I'm a certified herbalist, so you have to assume I have some idea of what herbs can and cannot do. What they can't do is perform miracles. Good health starts with a good diet. A balance of healthful foods, low fat meats in reasonable quantities, and at least a 20 minute daily walk are a lifestyle that supports good health. (An unpolluted environment would also be nice, but we need to work on that one by adopting new energy policies in this country and getting a handle on the chemicals used on everything around us and in our food, covering our foods, covering things that go in our mouth, being sucked up through our skin when we clean house, the car, bathe, get the point. ) Herbs and specific nutrients can help bring a person back to good health, either used alone or as an adjunct to conventional medicine, but they cannot be relied upon in emergencies or stand by themselves in serious organic illness. I know I tend to harp on this subject, but I am genuinely distressed by money-making schemes targeted at desperate pople. One site with down-to-earth approach is Dr Weil. He's a real MD with a practical approach to a natural lifestyle and alternative medicine. Check it out and look for others like it.

GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD . Up to 80% (or more) of what's out there on the grocery shelves today contains foods that have been genetically modified. Concerned? I am. I want any food product or produce containing these GM foods to be labeled. I'm an American. I get to choose. Right? Currently, the answer is no. The US Congress thinks it's more intelligent than I am and is going to strip me of that right even though these new technolgies have yet to be proven to MY satisfaction. Besides, GM crops are known to cross with normal crops and that could destroy our whole gene pool of existing plants. And the court is still out on whether or not these GM crops are responsible for a lot of the problem with honeybees. And if animals snub their noses at GM crops (tests like this have been done), why should I eat them? Next is cloned meat. And there will be no labels on those products either! That's already a done deal! Permission has already been given for those products to hit the market. If you care, Google for organizations that are fighting this. My favorite is Center for Food Safety.

ENVIROMENTAL ISSUES: Sometimes it seems progress on this front is moving at a snail's pace. Then some bit of news reaches me that makes me think FINALLY, something is being done. Check out Verdant Power for a future that is already here. May not be the whole answer, but is certainly part of it. Then there's E The Environmental Magazine that provides a comprehensive understanding on all aspects of the issues facing us today.

HERB QUALITY: How do you know the product you are getting is any good? I have put together a page with photos that I hope will assist you in learning about WHAT TO LOOK FOR.

NEW DATABASES. Two of them that work off of each other to make your search that much more thorough. And, since this is an information site, and because it's grown so large over the years, I have created several linked maps to help you find exactly what you're looking for on the herbs pages (look under 'What to Know & How To Do It' for links to the new database maps).

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT A TEENAGER'S ROOM that wrinkles the nose upon entering. Like a scaled down version of a locker room. It's hormones of course. The poor dears can't help it. Boys are slightly worse than girls. Sort of on the order of Billy Goat Gruff. You who have teenage boys know what I'm saying. When washing their clothes, bedding, and even their curtains use 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda in the wash cycle. It's even more helpful to use 1 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle as well rather than fabric softener. It really helps neutralize odor.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER! mix prescription medications and herbs. They can work to cross purposes. It's not often you find an M.D. you can work with in combining alternative approaches to your problem, but you can usually locate a Doctor of Naturopathy who can help you sort it all out and provide a number of ways to compliment what your primary physician is doing and (hopefully) work with him/her. Even better, if you're really lucky, you can locate an M.D. who's also an N.D. For more info along these lines, check out Dr. Weil.


HERBAL GLOSSARY with definitions and lists of associated natural agents.

OKAY, YOU'RE IN LOVE WITH THE IDEA OF MAKING YOUR OWN BREAD. You even went out and bought a bread machine and, hey, okay, it makes a pretty decent loaf of bread,'s just not fluffy enough or doesn't have the texture you want, the one with the .(read more)

IF YOU HAVE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, did you know about baking powder? It carries a whopping 440 mg of sodium per teaspoon. Multiply that times the 3 tsp in an average batch of pancakes or a batch of muffins. So watching the baked goods containing baking powder (you probably already know about baking soda) that you eat can make a big difference at the end of the day in how much sodium you're consuming. Check out the bread recipe above for a healthy alternative. Oh, and if you do change your diet to exclude these types of baked goods, especially if you eat them daily, you'll need to monitor your blood pressure and check with the doctor if it seems the strength of your medication needs adjusting downward.

FOR THOSE OF YOU LIVING IN THE SOUTHWEST growing herbs has some seasonal differences in optimal timing and positioning as to sun/shade and other variables. For information and links to help better grow herbs in these areas check out The Herb Lady. There is also a good deal of culinary information for those wanting to make the most of mealtimes.

CANNING JARS and HERBALWARE: You'd like them to be attractive, reasonably priced, and highly functional. A good source is SKS Bottle. For more specific links to herbalware, see the Links page.

35 YEARS AGO there were no organic cleaning products being produced. However, the Hippie movement and the back-to-the-landers grew up and became business people, but kept their Earth concerns. So now there are choices I didn't have back then. I have a particular preference for the Ecover brand which is made in England, but there are many new brands out there for you to choose from. A Google search (or other search engine) will bring up a number of sites where you can purchase these products. For price and good service I've found KOKOPELLI'S GREEN MARKET to be best, but I'm sure I haven't hit all of them. Still, my order usually arrives in 2 business days which is something I like. Fortunately, most of the supermarkets have begun to carry environmentally friendly products as well so you may be able to find what you're looking for there. And remember, it isn't just about the environment - it's about you and your health and the health of your family. Due to chemical cleaners and synthetic this and that (although some of them have made our lives better, we just need to make sure they are safe), the home may be the most toxic environment we need to consider. Get the toxins out of homes and maybe someday the rest of the world. And the person most affected in the end is no other than you, the one wielding the rag and mop.
UPDATE 8/7/06: For those seeking more information on keeping a home using natural products and for shopping resources the following two sites just about have it all: Natural Family Online and Debra Lynn Dadd's site (voted the Queen of Green and has a very informative site). Also check boxes such as Baking Soda and Washing Soda boxes; many companies offer booklets by mail full of tips on how to use their products around the home.

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS: You won't see me do this very often unless it's exceptional, but if you are taking herbs or contemplating the idea, or seriously into herbs and/or botanical medicine, then you need this reference book at hand - Herb Contraindications & Drug Interactions by Francis Brinker, N.D. And if you are into gardening without chemicals, Jerry Baker's Giant Book of Garden Solutions is a good place to start.

DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR OR READ ABOUT HERBS! Check out the facts. Herbal healing is a wholistic integrated art form that doesn't just throw herbs at a problem, but considers the entire person on all levels of their existence. And not all herbalists are healers. Just as in any form of medicine, there are those good at diagnoses and others that specialize in growing the herbs and knowing exactly when to harvest them. Still others have a talent for making the best medicines. And everyone who has an axe to grind (or a buck to make), whether pro or con is putting it on the web and trying to sell their point of view. I don't disparage any motives because most of them probably believe in what they're saying. I'm simply pointing out the need to take a balanced view and be skeptical enough to dismiss at least 25% of what is being said. A couple of sites are worth reading though. One is HERBILOGICAL which naturally has a bias toward herbs, but seems to favor a standard medical approach. The other is QUACKWATCH which seems to have a bias against modalities of healing other than what the AMA approves, but has some good information in general. BE ASTUTE! The world needs lots more stutes.

CRAFTY IDEAS: If you've wanted to try your hand at a fruit pomander the directions are given HERE.

Do the phases of the moon have an interest for you? Gardening, hunting, research, religious, weather, and a lot of other reasons are why many people like to keep track of the moon phases. If you are one of those, check out this MOON PHASES CALENDAR.

GINGKO, GENSENG, and ST.JOHNSWORT don't mix well with some types of medications. For instance, THEY CAN REACT BADLY WITH MIGRAINE MEDS!

IMPORTANT! HOW TO DETERMINE Your Personal Sensitivity to Herbs!

GUILT FREE PASTRY DOUGH! Can you dig it? And how about a recipe for LOW SUGAR APPLE PIE? A couple of somethings to make any day brighter.


Making a home is more than just blowing the dust off the knicknacks once a week, or hauling out the vacuum cleaner before the in-laws descend on you like an army of advancing Huns with white gloves and suspicious eyeballs. It means juggling the finances with whatever funds are available, organizing every aspect of human endeavor in a square footage that often seems more like a school locker than a home, and engaging in a battle with mighty germs and sneaky chemicals to keep yourself and every member of your family in reasonably good health. Then there's the backyard garden that just might provide a break from genetically engineered vegetables, if the weather gods smile and backs hold up.

It's a lousy job, but someone has to do it. And the perq's really aren't all that bad. By the time the kids are grown, you can ace an SAT test, get back into college for that deferred education and take on a second career, if you want. Either that, or begin to fully develop those latent talents that seem to start popping up like mushrooms in the fertile soil of a de-stressed brain.

One of the most useful tools you own is staring you in the face. If you have a MicroSoft word processing program, check it out. There are numerous forms and checklists you can print out (or not) to assist you in household management, small business, moving, hosting a party, etc.

If you've decided to get your life in order, check out the Overview pages. If keeping a clean house with a miminum of fuss and an eye to avoiding chemicals piques your interest, you'll find plenty of information here. Herbs get a lot of space on these pages as well. The Bookshelf is loaded with personal selections of those which have provided the best of the basics over the years. And don't forget the Links page. If you can't find it here, you might find it there.

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©1998 - 2008 by Ernestina Parziale