chickweed flower

Chickweed: Materia Medica


Botanical name: Stellaria media

Pertinent Information on the Plant

  • Skin irritations
  • Eye inflammation (poultice for Glaucoma inflammation)
  • Mild diuretic (increases urine flow)
  • Kidney disorders
  • Vulneraries
  • Anti-microbials (destructive to microbes)
  • Anti inflammatory
  • Demulcent (soothing action on inflammation, especially of mucous membranes)
  • Emollient (softens and soothes the skin)
  • Anti rheumatic
  • Alterative (blood purifier)
  • Antipyretics (reduce or prevent fevers)
  • Expectorant (facilitates removal of secretions)
  • Antitussive (controlling or preventing cough)
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Acne
  • Can be used as an ointment (combines especially well with marshmallow)
  • Cuts and wounds
  • Lungs
  • Stomach
  • Nutritive (rich in vitamins and minerals; a source of easily assimilated nutrients)
  • High in calcium, potassium and iron
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Curbs obesity

Habitat and Growing area

  • Native to Eurasia, especially anywhere moist cultivate soil
  • Naturalized in North America

Extra Notes

  • Chickweed is a remedy to use in times of transition. It supports a person in the first stages of grief, helping to assimilate a situation that is unexpected or where the circumstances are unforeseen. It is gentle and unassuming, yet surprisingly strong and insistent.

(Photos of Giant Chickweed)

chickweed close up

chickweed patch

Reference Books:

Holistic Herbal, by David Hoffmann

Pages: 77-79, 138, 145, 160, 177, 191, 242

 The Way of Herbs, by Michael Tierra

Pages: 13, 33, 34, 35, 118, 119

 The Complete Encyclopedia of Herbs, by Nico Vermeulen

Page: 299

 Family Herbal, by Rosemary Gladstar

Pages: 19, 55, 100, 102, 103, 105, 227, 284, 303, 323

 Peterson Field Guide: Easter/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke

Pages: 48, 49

chickweed flower

Tree Branch

The Tradition of "Love Trees"

Old timers can remember the tradition of ‘Husband and Wife Trees’ well.

They recall a time when the vows had all been said and family and friends would all help plant two healthy young trees near the entrance of the farmhouse. One for the bride, and the other for the groom. Everyone participating in this happy day would help to dig the hole, plant the trees and water – and we can’t forget the secret ingredient when planting: infusing with love.

Side by side, they would grow. Basking in the warm sunshine and quenching rains. Sometimes storms would brew, but weathering these storms of life together made them stronger, more rooted because of them.

Sometimes they are close enough that eventually their branches touch, embrace even. Some never do – staying just out of reach of one another – but beneath the surface there is a bond that is so entwined we do not know where one begins and the other ends. Their roots, plant roots and mycelium are all entangled with one another, just like our families and friends are entangled with us. Helping one another, sharing water, nutrients and immunity, keeping one another strong and healthy.

But times have changed, couples have changed, and with it many traditions have become outdated. This traditional planting is slowly fading from our minds like mist on a bright sunny morning.

In this season of love, consider gifting your lover the tradition of ‘Love Trees’. Order a couple of trees and make a special date to plant this spring. A pair of trees that will represent your deep bond and commitment to one another. We have come along way from the traditional partnership of marriage – lets embrace ALL LOVE!


Tree Branch

Photo provided by Serena Mor

Flaming Caesar Fire Cider Recipe

Fire Cider

What is it? Commonly an apple cider vinegar based infusion that can be made with many different variations and ingredients. Most common ingredients include; horseradish, onions, garlic, hot peppers, ginger.

Fire Cider glowing

What is a Caesar?

To my American and Canadian friends, this is for you!

The wildly popular Caesar Cocktail was invented in Calgary, Alberta in 1969!  It quickly became beloved by Canadians where over 350 million Caesars are consumed annually. It typically contains vodka and Caesar mix (a blend of tomato juice and clam broth, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, and is served over ice in a large celery salt-rimmed glass. Take a lick of the celery salt and then a drink of the Caesar through the straw.

This is my personal favourite drink! The recipe here, using our Flaming Caesar fire cider, puts it over the top for me!


Horse radish

Caesar Recipe

  • 8 oz of Clamato juice (may substitute with tomato juice)
  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1-2 tsp Flaming Caesar Fire Cider (our secret ingredient! See below to make) Top with any of these classic toppings: Celery stick, olives, pickles, pickled asparagus or beans. Many carnivores even enjoy a meat stick. Rim with celery salt. My personal favourite addition in the summer is a straw made with a hollow Lovage stalk. (Lovage plants are available in stores or online, at Richter’s Herbs)

Flaming Fire Cider Recipe


  • ½ cup chopped Horseradish (freshly dug is best)
  • 1/8 cup garlic chopped
  • ½ cup chopped Onion
  • 1 Lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1 Lime (zest and juice)
  • 1-2 slices Jalapeno pepper
  • ¼ tsp Mustard seed
  • ½ tsp Red Pepper flakes
  • 1 pinch Sea Salt
  • 1 pinch Black Pepper
  • 2-3 tsp. Celery Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Paprika
  • ½ tsp. Turmeric
  • 2 tsp. Oregano
  • 1 tbsp. Pickle juice
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire
  • Apple Cider Vinegar

How to Make:

  • Chop your roots, and place in jar.
  • Cover with vinegar.
  • Add all other ingredients and shake well.
  • Store jar in cool dark place for one month. Shake lovingly each day!
  • Strain mixture through cheese cloth into a clean jar and label.

*Note: Organic ingredients or farm fresh are always preferred!



AKA: Solidago

Goldenrod with Echinacea


  • Used for kidney stones, urinary tract infections, bladder inflammation, digestive problems, colds and flu, sore throat, congestion, laryngitis, fatigue and surprisingly hay fever and allergies.
  • Indigenous peoples boiled leaves and used them topically as an antiseptic and astringent for wound healing and relief from eczema, arthritis and rheumatism

A Little About Goldenrod

  • This beautiful herb grows in plant colonies, some are 100 years old! Older, central plants may eventually die back, creating a ring, but usually colonies are too dense for other plants to invade. Surprisingly, Goldenrod has no allergens. It is not goldenrod that brings on fits of sneezing in the fall, but the inconspicuous ragweed that grows in the same conditions, the same area, and at the same time. The heavy sticky pollen of goldenrod is not wind-borne, because many different insects take over the task of its pollination.


  • After the Boston Tea Party, when American colonists had dumped all the tea into Boston Harbor, they discovered they had lost their favorite beverage. Not to be deterred for very long, they found that an excellent tea could be made from the leaves of the North American goldenrod, and they named it Liberty Tea.
  • The stiff stem of the plant was historically used as a divining rod, but that was only successful if used by the right person.
  • Another belief is whenever golden rod grows near a house, its occupants will have good fortune. Still another holds that wherever goldenrod grows, there can be found buried treasure.
  • There is also a legend about two little girls that were very close friends; one was golden blonde and the other was dark haired with beautiful blue eyes. They were afraid that when they grew up they might be parted from each other so they didn’t want to grow up. To solve their problem, the two little girls set out one day to visit the good witch who lived across the field far away. They came to the good witch after a long day of travel and told her of their wish to always be together. The little girls were never seen again, but whenever you see the golden yellow bloom of the goldenrod you will be sure to find the sweet blue aster always beside her.

Valerian flower head

Valerian: Materia Medica


Botanical name: Valerian officinalis

Pertinent Information on the Plant

  • Nervine (relaxant, sedative)

  • Good for stress and anxiety

  • Great for cardiovascular problems

  • Nervous tachycardia (speeding up of heart rate due to stress, tension and anxiety can be helped)

  • Hypnotic (will induce sleep)

  • Anti-spasmodic (digestive spasms or colic can be relieved)

  • Sedative (calm the nervous system and reduce stress and nervousness throughout the body)

  • Headaches (Stress related, vascular)

  • Anti-depressant

  • Indigestion – due to stress

  • Gastritis – due to stress

  • Colitis – due to stress

  • Analgesics (Pain reliever for muscular, tooth ache, burns, Gall bladder, cuts, wounds, sore throat etc)

  • Dysphagia – problem with swallowing

  • Premenstrual tension

  • Menstrual cramps

  • Insomnia

  • Regulates sleep and restfulness

  • Shingles

  • Psoriasis

  • Menopause – anxiety or depression

  • Reduce sexual drive (sexual energy)

  • Carminative

  • Itching and skin rash (with burdock and Echinacea)

  • Itching from Poison ivy and poison oak

  • Strengthens and tones heart (hypertension and irregular and rapid heartbeat)

  • Herb is non addictive

  • Herb can be used long term

Habitat and Growing area

  • Widespread in damp meadows throughout Europe and is often on banks beside freshwater ponds and streams. I have many growing on our farm in Ontario. Can also be found locally on many roadsides.

Extra Notes

  • Some people compare the smell of its flowers to dirty socks!
  • A good ingredient in teas, especially bed time blends.


Reference Books:

Holistic Herbal, by David Hoffmann

Pages: 27, 28, 39, 53, 54, 56-60, 62, 65, 70-72, 74, 78, 86, 87, 95, 99, 101, 104, 105, 140, 143-146,159, 186, 194, 108 210, 221, 233, 238, 241

 The Way of Herbs, by Michael Tierra

Pages: 12, 20, 26, 32, 34, 36, 202,

 The Complete Encyclopedia of Herbs, by Nico Vermeulen

Page: 299

 Family Herbal, by Rosemary Gladstar

Pages: 50, 86, 26, 48, 49, 61, 63, 69, 75, 79, 85, 88, 96, 98, 99, 101, 111, 187, 261, 277, 295, 368-70

 Peterson Field Guide: Easter/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke

Rhubarb Shrub Recipe and Companion Plants

The Mighty Plant: Rhubarb!

Just say the word Rhubarb, and childhood memories come flooding back! My sister and I barefoot in the garden on a sunny morning, with a tin cup of sugar, picking just the right piece of rhubarb for our tasty spring treat. Ah that first bite, crunch! Oh so tart! then dip, and oh, so sweet! We waited all year for these special garden moments 😊

Rhubarb is most often thought of as a vibrant fruit because of its sweet, tart taste, and is often found in home baking, such as a rhubarb pie, but did you know that it’s actually a vegetable? Cross my heart! Come to think of it, there is a strong resemblance to celery. While technically it is a vegetable, legally it’s considered a fruit due to a 1947 court ruling in America. Interesting eh?

Rhubarb, part of the Polygonaceae family of plants (perennial), is a unique looking plant with a remarkably interesting history. The rhubarb plant was originally used in many forms of traditional medicine, first showing up in Europe over 400 years ago. It’s fascinating to share that there are records showing rhubarb among the medicines traded along the Silk Road. Scientifically, it is an herbaceous perennial with leaves growing off the top of a thick rhizome. The leaf stalks and seeds are the only parts of the plant consumed. The heart-shaped, wide-veined leaves contain oxalic acid, which can be toxic when consumed in large quantities, so discard them before you use or store the stalks.  As a gardener I love the beautiful addition rhubarb offers the landscape thanks to these large leaves and colourful stalks.


Rhubarb season runs from April through June. When harvesting, the stalks are carefully pulled or cut from the rhizome, and the toxic leaves are removed right away. Plants can generally be harvested for a four-week period in the third year and for around eight to 10 weeks in subsequent years.

How to Freeze Rhubarb? Simply pick and chop off the leaves,  wash and pat dry the stalks. Chop into small even pieces. Put in a freezer bag and empty it of all the air (I measure 4 cup amounts because this is how much we need to bake a 9 inch pie). Put in a freezer and use throughout the year. Make sure to thaw and drain the frozen rhubarb before using it!

So, What is a “Shrub” Anyway?

It sounds all fancy dancy, but a Shrub is a super easy way of preserving fruit. Before we had refrigerators, our grandmothers were using many ways to preserve nature’s bounty. Canning, curing, smoking and dehydrating (which all sound very familiar) , but shrubs – also known as drinking vinegar – might be something new to you. A shrub is just a simple fruit syrup fortified with vinegar instead of water for preserving the essence and flavour of the plants being used. The vinegar continues to work with the sugars, and over time, creates a twist … mellowing and melding into a wonderful concoction. The tangy rhubarb shrub can be added to water, mineral water, sodas, or spirits for a refreshing tart drink. I also like to add a kick of ginger or some heavenly mint from the garden! Be inventive; try adding a splash of fruit juice, herb and spices to make a new drink each time.

Shrubs were popular during 1600s, 1700s and 1800s and has been making a come back for some time. Now appearing in specialty shops being used most commonly in craft cocktails, or mocktails. I LOVE the saying, “everything old is new again”. Ain’t that the truth!

This traditional treat is welcomed on a hot summer day or makes a lovely gift!


rhubarb shrub drink

My Mom’s Rhubarb Shrub Recipe


  • 6 cups of freshly picked Rhubarb
  • 1 ½ tsp dried ginger (optional)
  • ¾ cup apple cider vinegar (can also use white or red wine vinegar or water)
  • 3 hand sized pieces of Sweet Cicely leaf
  • ¾ cup sugar (if not using Sweet Cicely, sugar should be 1 ¼ cups)




Wash rhubarb and sweet cicely. Combine chopped rhubarb, sweet cicely, sugar, ginger, and vinegar in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is completely broken down and strands are visible, 15 minutes.

Use a fine mesh sieve or colander lined with cheese cloth and strain mixture into a glass container. Let cool and then chill.

Voila! Shrub is ready to use.

For a refreshing drink simply add 1/8th cup (1 oz) of shrub to the bottom of a tall glass, fill with ice and top with water or sparkling water. Top with a mint leaf and small stalk of rhubarb. Optional: add a splash of juice, vodka, gin, gin smash or Tom Collins.

** Note: Any left over rhubarb can be frozen for later use. I always pick extra and bag up 4 cups of cut rhubarb with a leaf of sweet cicely for baking a pie or crisp when rhubarb is out of season.

Companion Plant Pairings for Your Garden: Rhubarb and Sweet Cicely

Plants grow better with a little help from their friends. The practice of planting different varieties of plants together is known as companion planting and can help ensure a healthy harvest of both crops. Rhubarb and Sweet Cicely are a perfect pair. They have been growing harmoniously side by side in my old vegetable garden for years. But the best part is they are ready at the same time! They are a delight to any gardener who loves Rhubarb but does not want a ton of sugary desserts.  Sweet Cicely helps you to cut the amount of sugar in any given recipe by almost half. AMAZING!

Other kitchen pairings:

Sweet shrubs: strawberries or blackberries with mint, sweet cicely seeds with pineapple, or peaches with basil.

Savory shrubs: tomato shrub infused with chilies and cilantro, cucumber with fresh ginger, or celery and caraway seeds.

Medicinal Information

Sweet Cicely

  1. Aromatic, stomachic, carminative and expectorant. Possible diuretic
  2. Useful in coughs and pleurisy
  3. Gentle stimulant for debilitated stomachs. Useful in flatulence
  4. The fresh root may be eaten freely or used in infusion with brandy or water. A valuable tonic for girls from 15 to 18 years of age
  5. The roots are antiseptic, and a decoction is used for bites of all kinds through bugs to animal
  6. The essence to be aphrodisiac
  7. The decoction of roots in alcohol is also said to be effective for consumption
  8. Ointment made eases the pain of gout


  1. Eases digestion: the fiber in rhubarb promotes a healthy and normal digestion process and eases abdominal discomfort such as bloating and cramping
  2. Bone health: the vitamin k, combined with the rich amount of calcium and other minerals found in rhubarb, promote bone protection and strengthening. The high amounts of vitamin K also promotes osteotropic activity, meaning that it stimulates bone growth and repair
  3. Brain health: protecting the brain from neurological damage and disorders, such as Alzheimer’s
  4. Antioxidant: fights free radicals and keeps inflammation in check
  5. Relieves constipation and diarrhea: as it eases digestion, it can also relieve constipation and diarrhea
  6. Lowers Inflammation: the antiviral effects of rhubarb also help inhibit inflammation, making it an effective anti-inflammatory
  7. Aides Perimenopause and Menopause symptoms such as hot flashes.
  8. Menstrual cramps
  9. Nutrient: containing calcium, vitamin K, A and C, potassium and manganese.
  10. Weight loss: rhubarb is very low in calories and the high fiber content helps you feel full faster
  11. Heart Diseases: the high fiber content is extremely useful in lowering cholesterol levels

Rhubarb Stalk

Ants Carrying Spider

Thoughts About Ants

We Are All Connected in This Deep Web of Life…

I thought it was important to appreciate the hard work of other ‘beings’ who give so much to this great tapestry called Earth, a work of art that Mother Nature weaves continuously.

So today we are sending a short shout out to Ants! They have been a welcomed sight in our rewilding fields and sanctuary over the past thirty years.

Ant Hill

Building amazing hills over a foot high. Within these hills and far below is a labyrinth of tunnels that aerate the soil and allow moisture to get to the roots of surrounding vegetation.

The ants – these amazing decomposers — bring other insects and leaves deep into their nest, which will decay and fertilize the neighboring plants. Ants are one of our beloved pollinators and seed distributors, working their magic throughout our gardens and fields. Ants are also an important source of food for many other essential insects, birds, and mammals.

Just the kind of insect these fields longed for – connected to the pulse of creating life and sustaining life.

Crocus in Spring

Preparing for Allergy Season

Spring is Almost Here!

Now is the perfect time to get a jump-start on your seasonal allergies! Stinging Nettle season will be soon upon us and we can make great use of this amazing herb and some honey from our own cupboards. First, some information on allergies, the herbs and nutritional supplements to aid allergy sufferers, tincture formulas and nettle soup recipes. For more information on Stinging Nettle, we’ll be posting a Materia medica soon!.

The Gut and Allergy Connection

All of the symptoms associated with allergies are signs of inflammation: redness, swelling, and itching. To help get rid of allergies, you have to get rid of inflammation and hyper-reactivity. The place to start is in your gut.

One of the major jobs of your digestive system is to provide an interface between the external world (foods, allergens, bacteria, etc.) and your blood stream. It does this in the stomach by using natural digestive acids to break down potentially allergenic proteins and in the intestines via a layer of barrier cells that prevents these proteins from getting into your blood stream. You also have a whole host of special bacteria in your gut, as well as immune cells, whose job it is to break down and get rid of proteins and other molecules that can cause you to get sensitized to them, leading to gut – and systemic – inflammation.

How to restore your gut:

  1. Clean Up Your DietRemember to eat lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, seed and nuts. Eliminate sugar, soda, preservatives, additives, dyes and other non-food junk, and drastically decrease dairy intake (yes, if you want your allergies to go away forever, you will have to do this – sorry). Part of cleaning up your diet is to eat foods with as few chemicals and additives as possible. I highly recommend buying organic or visiting your local farmers market.
  2. Heal Your Gut 
    1. This is done with an Elimination Diet. An elimination diet is 2 weeks of eating a simple diet from which you have removed the most common food triggers including gluten, sugar, dairy, eggs, soy, coffee, soda, and artificial ingredients – as well as anything you typically crave (i.e., sugar, carbs, salty snacks).
    2. If you have constipation, you’ll want to deal with this now. Get plenty of fiber in your diet and drink ample water, too. Supplements such as flax seed, psyllium, and magnesium citrate are safe for most people to take daily. For kids, slippery elm, which tastes like maple syrup, may be used, 1-2 tsp daily in oatmeal or a smoothie. The goal is 1 healthy bowel movement every day.
    3. After 2 weeks on the Elimination Diet, start taking a good quality digestive enzyme product (you can give these to kids over 4 yrs, too). This is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, too.
    4. After another week, add in a good quality probiotic. Also safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and for kids.
    5. The following supplements can now be taken for about a month (up to 6 months) to help to heal the intestinal lining: Tumeric, Aloe Vera, and Marshmallow root; (these are fine for children) are some of the most effective herbs for healing the gut lining.
    6. Zinc: 5-10 mg/day for children 4-7 years, 10-20 mg/day for children to age 12, 25-40 mg/day for older children and adults
    7. An antioxidant supplement containing vitamins A and carotenoids, C, E, and selenium. These are often found in a multivitamin. Pregnant women should get these from their prenatal vitamin only.
    8. Fish oil: Personally, I have taken daily for years, love it! For kids you can put the oil into smoothies. Fish oil is important for general health in pregnancy and breastfeeding, too.
    9. Please visit your doctor when necessary!

fresh salad

Detox The Liver

The liver removes many of the body’s major toxins and affects allergies. Martin Healy says that key ways to boost your liver function include cutting out alcohol, smoking, caffeine and embarking on a detox program.

A glass of water containing freshly squeezed lemon each morning will help. Antioxidants and vitamins found in fresh fruits and vegetables will reduce liver inflammation and boost immune function, while foods like brussels sprouts will increase the activity of important liver enzymes.

Herbs and Nutritional Supplements for Seasonal Allergies


These herbs and nutritional supplements are best taken on a daily basis. Taking them before allergy season even starts, can prevent symptoms altogether. They can also be used as needed.


  • Stinging Nettle: Nettles are used as spring tonics and a general detoxifying remedy. In some cases of rheumatism and arthritis, nettles can be astoundingly successful. In childhood eczema nettles are a specific remedy and are beneficial in all the varieties of this condition especially in nervous eczema.

Nettles in high doses can have amazing results for allergy sufferers. It has been used for centuries to treat allergy symptoms – particularly hay fever – which is the most common allergy problem. It contains biologically active compounds that reduce inflammation. Dr. Andrew Wiel M.D. author of Natural Health/Natural Medicine says he knows of nothing more effective than nettle for allergy relief.  This statement is backed up by studies at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon.  Decongestants, antihistamines, allergy shots and even prescription medications such as Allegra and Claritin treat only the symptoms of allergies and tend to lose effectiveness over a period of time. They can also cause drowsiness, dry sinuses, insomnia and high blood pressure. Nettle has none of these side effects. It can be used on a regular basis and has an impressive number of other benefits most notably as a treatment for prostate enlargement. Nettle is easily available in tea and tincture form, and also can be eaten like spinach in the spring, made into soups and smoothies. Nettles are prized for being highly nutritional.

  • Raw Local Honey: Raw honey is great, but raw local honey is even better! Raw local honey contains pollen that is specific to your area and therefore can really help those local seasonal allergies. Taking a spoonful of raw honey once or twice a day is a great help. It is also advised to begin taking local honey a few months prior to the allergy season; this gets the pollen introduced into the body and gradually builds up the body’s tolerance to seasonal allergies. Honey is not recommended for babies under 12 months, due to infant botulism.
  • Vitamin C:  To assist with a malfunctioning immune system try lemon water and orange water (not juice – no sugar), cultured vegetables and strawberries.
  • Quercetin: 500 mg daily (half that for kids). Quercetin is a plant pigment found in many common herbs and foods, and a very reliable anti-inflammatory nutritional supplement. It helps with gut repair, boosts the immunity in your mucus membranes reducing reactivity to seasonal allergens, and also helps reduce food allergies. There is conflicting data on whether it is safe in pregnancy, therefore I would not recommend it for those who are pregnant.
  • Zinc: Take an age appropriate dose daily.
  • Please visit your doctor when necessary!

Traditional Allergy Tincture Blend

  • Nettle (Urtica dioica, spring tops) 0.30 ml
  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus, root) 0.25 ml
  • Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum, thallus) 0.14 ml
  • Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis, fruit) 0.14 ml
  • Southern Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis, bark) 0.07 ml

Keep an eye out for another blog full of Stinging Nettle Recipes soon!

fall maple leaves

Talking About Maple Syrup

Spring is on it's way...

My first experience with making maple syrup by myself was for my son’s science fair project on evaporation. That was over 25 years ago! I had as much fun as the boys. First, we tapped a couple of old sugar maples. Then waited anxiously for the sap to flow. When it was time to begin our experiment, we evaporated just enough sap to make syrup and then continued the evaporation process till we make Maple Candy, such a yummy experiment!

Believe it or not, but I personally go through a 4L jug of syrup per year! We LOVE it!

When is maple syrup tapping and harvesting season?

Maple sugar season in Ontario normally starts in the late winter and ends in the early spring. The sugar maple’s sap starts to flow after a hard freeze. The best time for maple sap collection is when nights are freezing cold and are followed by sunny and rather warm days that are between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. On days when these conditions are not reached, the flow of sap will be slow. When optimum conditions are reached, the sap will flow quickly, on these days, we should check often so that the buckets don’t run over! The entire sap collection season only lasts from three to four weeks. When the temperature remains above freezing, or when the maple trees begin to form buds, it’s time to stop collecting sap from the trees. If maple syrup is made from sap collected once buds have begun to form on the maple trees, the syrup will smell bad and have a poor flavor.

maple syrup tapping

How long does maple syrup last?

Maple syrup never spoils! This is due to the high concentration of sugar in maple syrup. Maple syrup should be kept in the refrigerator once it’s opened to discourage mold from growing on the syrup. Should mold grow on maple syrup, it’s safe and easy to remove. Just scoop the mold off the top of the syrup with a spoon and discard the mold or strain the maple syrup into a clean container through a piece of cheesecloth. Maple syrup kept in a cold place such as a refrigerator is less likely to grow mold than maple syrup kept in a cupboard or other warm place.

How do you know when the maple syrup is done?

We have chosen to use a very simple method, the spoon test. Dip a spoon into the boiling sap and watch the sap drip back into the pan. If the sap still needs to boil more, the sap will fall off the spoon in separate droplets. When the syrup starts to run off the spoon in a sheet or a stream, then it’s almost done. It will also start to look more like syrup and less like sap at this point. If you think the syrup is done, take it off the fire and let it cool a bit. As it cools it should start to thicken if it has turned into syrup. If the syrup is still not thick enough it can be returned to the heat and boiled some more.

Red Maple Leaves and a Blue sky

Which maple tree do you get syrup from?

There are three different species of maple that produce the kind of sap from which maple syrup is usually made, Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), the Black Maple (Acer nigrum), and the Red Maple (Acer rubrum). These three species of maple have very high sugar contents in their sap. Red Maples offer a shorter sugar season because they tend to bud earlier than either Sugar or Black Maples. You can also tap the Manitoba Maple (Acer negrundo), the Silver Maple (Acer sacharinum), and the Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum). Birch and Black Walnut trees can be tapped for syrup. Next year I am going to try Black Walnut just for fun!

Does maple syrup have potassium in it?

One tablespoon of maple syrup contains 42 mg of potassium. Not only does maple syrup contain potassium, but it also contains calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and iron. The darker the maple syrup, the more of these minerals it contains. Maple syrup also contains trace amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, biotin and folic acid.

Gus the dog sitting in grass.

Natural Bug Repellents For You and Your Pet

Natural Bug Repellents For You and Your Pet

There’s nothing like the great outdoors! You and your pets are outside enjoying the fresh air, and along come those pesky, biting creepy-crawlies. How do we protect ourselves and our pets from not only bites from fleas, but the mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus and the dreaded Lyme’s carried by Ticks! Most mainstream repellents, such as OFF, contain harsh toxins that negatively affect the body – why expose yourself to such things when there are natural bug repellents that are even more effective than the mainstream ones?

Did you know? only female mosquitoes bite (males feed on flower nectar) because they require blood to produce eggs. Their mouth-parts are constructed so that they pierce the skin, literally sucking the blood out. Their saliva lubricates the opening.

What’s So Bad about Mainstream Repellents?

Mainstream repellents usually contain DEET, which is so strong that upon contact, it melts plastic! Who wants this absorbed into their bodies or their pets?

After 30 years of studies, the following adverse health effects of DEET were:

• Impaired brain cell function
• Memory loss
• Seizures
• Hypo-tension
• Nausea and vomiting
• Headaches
• Skin irritation, hives, blistering
• Shortness of breath
• Muscle weakness
• Muscle and joint pain
• Pain, irritation, and watering eyes
• Tremors

Keep in mind that children’s skin and some animals are more absorbent, which makes chemicals exert more potent effects. Pregnant woman should also be very careful applying DEET. Why would we choose to put poison on our skin or that of our pets?


Pet House Keeping – Prevent Lice, Mites and Fleas

Clean your pets bedding regularly; whether it’s a stall, pen, cage, run or kennel.  It would be ideal to have a pen used six months on and six months off.  After cleaning out my chicken coop and dog run I sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth. It truly is a MUST HAVE for any pet owner! I LOVE it!

Also, you can try Rotenone. It is an odorless, colorless, crystalline isoflavone used as a broad-spectrum insecticide, and pesticide.  It occurs naturally in the seeds and stems of several plants, such as the jicama vine plant, and the roots of several members of Fabaceae. It was the first described member of the family of chemical compounds known as rotenoids.

Cayenne pepper tincture in a spray bottle can also be used to fumigate.

Homemade Natural Bug Repellents Using Essential Oils

While Essential Oils (EO) are amazing, they are not our first choice in repellents, a vinegar base is.  Many animals simply can not tolerate EO.  We have provided a couple recipes containing EO for those of you who tolerate well and further below is our vinegar recipe.

Recipe 1 (For Humans)


  • ½ cup witch hazel
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 40 drops essential oils (eucalyptus, lemongrass, citronella, tea tree or rosemary)
  • one 8-ounce glass spray bottle


  1. Mix witch hazel, apple cider vinegar and essential oils in 8-ounce glass spray bottle.
  2. Spray over all portions of the body but avoid repellent in eyes and mouth.

Recipe 2 (For Humans)


  • 30 drops geranium essential oil
  • 20 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
  • 20 drops lavender essential oil
  • 10 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vodka or rubbing alcohol
  • 1/2 cup Witch Hazel
  • 1/2 cup water (or vinegar)


  1. Place essential oils in glass spray bottle. Add vodka or alcohol and shake well to combine.
  2. Pour in witch hazel and shake to combine.
  3. Add 1/2 tsp vegetable glycerin if using. This is not necessary but helps everything stay combined.
  4. Add water and shake again. Shake before each use as the oils and water will naturally separate some over time.


Natural Lemon Skin Tonic/Repellent

The following tonic is from our favourite animal herbalist, Juliette de Bairacli-Levy. Much success has been found as a general skin toner, parasite repellent, and treatment for mange.


  • 1 lemon, including peel
  • 1-pint water


  1. Thinly slice a whole lemon, including the peel
  2. Add to a 1-pint of near-boiling water and let it steep overnight
  3. Strain out lemons
  4. Sponge the solution onto the animal’s skin and let it dry. Can be used daily for severe skin problems involving fleas.

Natural Bug Repellents Using Vinegar

Family and Pet Natural Bug Repellent and After Bite Spray!

While the formulas above look great, we have chosen a vinegar-based formula for our furry friends, whose bodies cannot break down certain essential oils. This formula will work for our pets; including dogs, cats, bunnies, horses and even our own family!


  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh lavender flowers
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh anise hyssop
  • 4 cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)
  • 1-quart white wine or apple cider vinegar (preferably raw)


  1. Toss herbs and garlic together in a one-quart mason jar, cover with vinegar and allow them to marinate for seven to ten days in a sunny location. After ~6 weeks, strain the vinegar through a fine-mesh sieve into a second, clean glass jar.
  2. Store at room temperature until ready to use, bottle and label.

Cautionary: Sage Contraindications – if you are currently taking diabetes, anticonvulsant or sedative medications.


This specific vinegar composition is said to have been used during Black Plague to prevent the catching of this dreaded disease, yes, this is Four Thieves Vinegar! Other similar types of herbal vinegars have been used as medicine since the time of Hippocrates.

Many herbalists appreciate its antiviral and antibacterial properties. It can also be used as a tincture for various illnesses. The apple cider vinegar on its own is good as a coat conditioner, balance PH, skin toner, good for tendons and ligaments, nail fungus and repels fleas, ticks and mosquitos.

It can also be used as a spray cleansing agent – to clean and sterilize kitchen counters or bathrooms; indeed, many of the herbs possess strong antimicrobial effects and vinegar, in any case, makes an excellent natural cleanser.

This beautiful combination of herbs combines a vibrantly herbaceous and slightly floral concoction to enliven plates of freshly picked salad greens, edible flowers, sweet lettuces and other summer greens. Simply mix with a good quality olive oil in a simple vinaigrette for a delightful salad. It also makes an excellent seasoning for braised meats and vegetables.

Ideal for camping – in one bottle you have a cornucopia of medicinal actions and uses, that’s the beauty of natural medicine!

Vinegar is medicine in its own right! Used to maintain healthy coats and skin; astringent and alkalizing.  Vinegar repels lice and is great as a afterbite. I use it directly in my bath water, it leaves your skin feeling soft and rejuvenated!