How to Make Herbal Salve

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Two of my favorite medicinal (topical) herbs are plantain and comfrey. And that’s basically what the above picture is – the healing properties of plantain and comfrey in a portable, stable form! What are the healing properties of plantain and comfrey, you ask? Good question.

Plantain reduces inflammation and acts as an astringent, making it wonderful for use on stings and insect bites, as well as rashes and burns. It is commonly known as a weed, and can be found almost anywhere.

Comfrey is also known as “knit bone” because of its ability to speed healing of wounds by encouraging new cell growth, as well as being anti-inflammatory and acting as an astringent.

Herbal salves are awesomeness. They condense all the healing goodness of the herbs into concentrated, spreadable green stuff that’s easy to store and use. Who wouldn’t want that? Here’s how you can make a healing herbal salve!

Healing Herbal Salve

You’ll need:

  • a crock pot
  • glass jars
  • cheescloth or another kind of fabric for straining
  • olive oil
  • vitamin E oil
  • beeswax
  • dried or fresh herbs
  1. Gather and dry whatever medicinal herbs you have/want to use. You can do your own research, but some ideas to get you started (besides plantain and comfrey) are echinacea, jewelweed, or calendula. You will need a lot of dried herbs.
  2. Crumble the herbs and fill a jar 2/3 full. Unless you have a super tall crock pot, you’ll probably have to use pint jars so they can be nearly submerged in the crock pot. Side note: the full jar in the picture is probably too full. 20160916_183410
  3. Fill the jar with olive oil so it has about 1 inch of headspace, and put a lid on it.20160916_183814.jpg
  4. Place it on a fabric scrap or rag in the bottom of a crock pot (I’ve always done this, but I’m not sure if it’s necessary… that’s what happens when you learn a skill when you’re 13… six years later I’m not sure if I made that part up or not.  😉 ) and place the jar inside. Fill the crock pot with water and heat on low for 2-3 days. Keep the water level as high as you can. The water should not be boiling, as this diminishes the properties of the herbs. This is called infusing your oil. 20160916_184104.jpg
  5. Let the infused oil cool a bit, and strain out the herbs with cheesecloth. 20160920_201128.jpg Discard the herbs and put the oil in a double boiler so it maintains a warm temperature.
  6. Add a dash of vitamin E oil and beeswax. A rough estimate of how much beeswax to use is 1 oz beeswax for 8 oz infused oil. 20160920_203638.jpgWhen the beeswax is melted into the oil, take a spoonful out and let it cool in the fridge for a few minutes. Once it is set up, test the consistency. If it’s too soft, add more beeswax. If it’s too hard.. either make more infused oil to balance out the amount of beeswax you put in, or deal with it. From experience, hard salve is better than runny salve! You can melt hard salve with your finger, but runny salve can escape from tins and get pretty messy. Keep testing until you get it right!
  7. Once the consistency in your cooled spoonful is right, pour the salve into labeled containers to cool. And that’s it! This stuff seriously works, guys. Go have some adventures and know that your salve has got your back in case you get a tad too adventuresome. 😉

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Strategic Timing and Spacing Plus a Comfrey Fertilizer Experiment

5/2/16 – 5/20/16 | Headlines of the past 2.5 weeks:

  • First Farmers Markets!
  • Lots of hand hoeing
  • Planting lettuce, basil, cilantro, butternut squash, green beans, sweet potatoes, cayenne peppers, tomatoes, and sunflowers
  • Preparing for chicks!!

The first Farmers Market was a resounding success! Jan and Andy sold out super quick of all their gorgeous veggies (and they had a lot, especially for the first weekend in May!).

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Since I didn’t have a medium-sized tiller and since I hadn’t mulched last fall, I ended up doing a lot of hoeing in order to get rid of the weeds and loosen up the soil so I could plant lettuce, basil, cilantro, butternut squash, green beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and sunflowers. In the past I’ve never bothered about multiple plantings to get a steady supply of one kind of produce (for example, if I wanted to have cilantro every week for the market I would basically have to plant it every week), but I’ve realized how important that is! So instead of planting my entire garden in a few days, I started sooner and will be stretching it out a lot more.

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Besides strategic timing, I’m also experimenting with my spacing. For example, I planted rows of lettuce seeds between some of my transplanted lettuce rows. The idea is that the bigger lettuce will be harvested before the next planting needs that extra space, and as a result I have less unused space.

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In the next picture you can see strategic spacing in action again and the start of my mulching. The white marker in the circle of bare soil is where I planted butternut squash. The lettuce is pretty close, but again, that lettuce will be out of the way by the time the butternut reaches it (in theory). And then the messy mulching job is the result of pulling up a bunch of tall grass and grass clippings. I will cover as much bare ground with mulch like this as I can in the coming weeks, and I figured I might as well start somewhere!

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A few weeks ago I started cayenne peppers inside – a bit late, but we’ll see what comes of it.

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When they seedlings were about an inch tall the leaves started to curl at the ends. Jan had mentioned something similar with her own pepper seedlings, and said it was probably a nutrient deficiency (or something along those lines). A bit of fertilizer made them shape right up, she said. I brainstormed about some kind of fertilizer I could use and remembered that comfrey, one of my favorite herbs, is jam-packed full of  nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium (to name a few). It can be used as fertilizer, either in the form of decomposing leaves or “tea.” Comfrey tea is typically made by letting the leaves decompose in water for a few weeks, but I needed fertilizer right then and was willing to try something new. I heated up some water, let fresh comfrey leaves steep all night, and strained them off in the morning. I used that on the plants for the next few days. The leaves uncurled and are growing at a nice rate! I’ll probably never know if it was the tea that did the trick… but I have my suspicions.

And finally: I’ve been brainstorming and stocking up on supplies for my chicks! I’ve got a shipment of 77 little fluff balls due to arrive May 31st, so I’ll be setting up their brooder soon. Here are a few of my supplies: wood shavings for bedding (I’ve got more than just this), feed scoops, chick feeders, one of my homemade chick waterers, heat lamp bulbs, and buckets.

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Congratulations, my friend! You have reached the end of this update! Feast your eyes on some lovely oregano blossoms (doesn’t it seem strange that if you rubbed the flowers in this picture it would smell like pizza? If the flowers themselves have a smell it’s overpowered by the fragrance of the leaves), and have a fantastic rest of your week!

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