Five Organic Gardening Tips

Quote of the week:

Garden work is satisfying to the body and soul, as is the harvest.” ~Dr Bowling

Hello, from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you’ve been blessed with awesome weather for your gardens! It’s been very dry in the mountains. Our garden is growing and we’re picking, but a lot of hard work has been involved with watering by hand through the month of June. Needless to say, we’ve decided to invest in ground soaking hoses that will water the ground when we want it, or as we need it. For a garden of our size, I’m not sure why we hadn’t already thought about this. I’m often asked questions about the difficulties involved with organic gardening. So, I decided to share five organic tips that can beneficial for your garden at this time of the year.

Love eating from the land… even though it’s a lot of hard work.

Tip One: We’ve also dealt with low calcium in the soil through this very dry beginning to summer. So, through research and back work, we’ve added ground organic oyster shells to the soil around the squash and zucchini. As well as eggs shells and diatomaceous earth. Thankfully the rotting squash and zucchini have come to a stop and we’re back to picking our fill and then some of both fruits!

A few of the straight neck summer squash from our garden.

Tip Two: to add a little extra fertilizer to our herb garden, I’ve been saving organic tea bags and reboiling the bags for a weaker tea and watering the herbs. This is a game-changer for herbs. My favorites are chamomile, mint, and black tea. The plant feed on the rich antioxidants, and the the tea bags are added to the garden as the bags are biodegradable. We add the spicy cinnamon black tea bags around the garden for an additional deer repellent.

Nothing better than fresh herbs to cook with.

Tip Three: in the battle against those pesky beetles on beans, cucumbers, and squash plants. In a spray bottle we mix a spray of 10 drops of lavender essential oil, 10 drops of peppermint essential oil, and 10’drops of citronella essential oil, with a tsp of organic plant based dish detergent. Then fill the bottle with water. This makes a great spay to repel all kinds of munching little friends. We also dust our plants with organic food grade diatomaceous earth for an extra layer of protection.

Tip Four: adding a little potassium to tomatoes while repurposing banana peels. A lot of bananas are consumed at our house. I eat two a day most days. I love organic bananas for oatmeal, baked oatmeal, and as a snack and frozen ones in smoothies. So I’ve learned that not only roses like bananas, do do tomatoes in the form of a tea. To make tea, keep a pitcher of water in the fridge. The pitcher should be about half full to allow for room as you add banana peels. Once you’ve peeled the bananas, add them to the water. You can cut the peels, but don’t have to. There’s no need to cover the pitcher. After a week, take the bananas out and add one part banana tea to five parts water. Use this transit the base of tomatoes. It provides potassium to the soil. This will help produce stronger roots, stems, and great fruit. Banana tea can also be added beside of pepper plants as well.

Banana peel tea.

Tip Five: Begin saving egg shells a couple of weeks prior to planting tomatoes. When it’s time to plant, place an egg shell in the hole before putting the plant in the ground. Egg shells are loaded with calcium and will feed the soil at the roots of the tomatoes and help prevent blossom rot and what some of the old timers called, the blight.

I hope that you find these tips helpful and you have success with your garden this year and for years to come. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I love to hear from my readers. Well, it’s time to go pick a while and reap the joys of our labors. God bless from the mountains of Kentucky.

Harvesting Mint for Teas

Good Morning from the mountains of Kentucky. I hope your morning is off to a great start on this beautiful Saturday. We’ve been hammered with extreme temps this week, so today’s high seventies is a welcomed relief. It’s that time of year when the garden needs to be hoed, the weeds need to be pulled, herbs are coming in like crazy, and the harvesting and drying have begun. I took advantage of the cooler temps this morning to prune my herb garden, which desperately needed a trim. I like to trim my herbs in the early morning hours while the dew is still on the ground, and clinging to the leaves. I also like the cool temperatures as it is easier on me and on the herbs.

This is about a fourth of our vegetable garden.
Spearmint for teas and salads.

I have been enjoying mint-infused water this summer, and quite a bit of mint tea. I have already dried two cuttings of various types of mint, as well as other herbs. They’re carefully tucked away in my kitchen herb cabinet in glass jars in the kitchen. Glass jars with air-tight lids are the best method of storing dried herbs. I have had several questions about how I harvest mint. It’s actually quite easy. As I mentioned above, I trim herbs before they become leggy. Trimming herbs actually causes the herbs to take on a more bushy consistency.

Lemon balm for cooking, teas, and health.

As I trim the mint, I place the fresh-cut mint on large cookie sheets lined with a white paper towel or butcher paper. This allows me to keep the mints separated and labeled if necessary. I rinse the mint to ensure there are no ticks or other small pests. While the mint is draining in the sink, I inspect the mint for the best leaves. I try to pick the mint that is void of holes where insects may have nibbled, dark spots, or any other imperfections. I gently pat the leaves dry and place them on a clean, lined cookie sheet and place them where they are not in direct sunlight. It doesn’t take as long for the herbs to dry with this method.

Chocolate mint tea drying in the kitchen.

A second method I use is to follow the above steps, except do not remove leaves from stems. I pat the stems of aromatic leaves dry, gather the mint into a bunch, and wind cotton twine around the stems to tie the mint in a bunch to hang dry. I hang the mint in an area that is not directly exposed to windows or sunlight. It takes a little longer for the mint to dry by this method, but it allows you to harvest the stems as well as the leaves, while also filling the kitchen with a nice fresh mint aroma.

Once the mint in the tray is dry, you may either crumble the mint and add the mint to the mint jar or simply store the leaves in the jar. I use both methods. I like the crushed mint for baking and the whole leaves for tea. You may use either method of storing the dried bundle.

Chocolate mint leaves drying for tea.

A second question that is often asked is; what type of mint do you grow? To answer that, I respond as much as possible. Then I elaborate and explain that I grow peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, apple mint, lemon mint, and strawberry mint. I always reply that spearmint and chocolate mint are my favorites.

Finally, the third most asked question is; how do you make your tea? I tell them that I enjoy iced teas and also hot teas, depending on my mood and seasonal temperature at the time. For hot teas, I will typically place an organic black tea bag in my cup, put the water on to boil, choose the flavor of mint I want to have in my tea, and then add the mint to my tea ball. Once the water has reached the right temperature, I pour the water into the cup and allow the black tea and mint in the tea ball to steep for three to four minutes. I add a tiny bit of organic agave to the tea, stir and enjoy. You may add milk if you like your tea milky. I occasionally add almond milk or oat milk to mine.

Small jar of dried chocolate mint.

For cold tea, I boil enough water for a quart jar. I add two black tea bags, and if you like green tea, you can add green tea bags instead of black. I also add a larger tea ball filled with my choice of dried mint or even a mix of mints. Allow the tea bags and the tea ball to steep for forty-five minutes to an hour in the glass quart jar. Stir occasionally, and once the tea has darkened and cooled, you can pour tea over ice and add a little lemon, agave, and fresh mint leaves. This is an awesome drink, that is refreshing, full of antioxidants, and tastes great!

Tips of the week: you can pot various types of mint in flower pots to prevent the mint from taking over your garden, or if you have the room, you can isolate each type of mint in separate herb beds. Mint has a way of being intrusive and will quickly take over and can smother other herbs out. I like to do both pots and beds. My second tip is; as you know, I am a doTERRA essential oil consultant and recently I discovered that one drop of peppermint essential oil takes my peppermint tea to a totally new level. One drop of spearmint essential oil can be added to spearmint tea as well. Do not add essential oils from typical over-the-counter, or aromatherapy blends. doTERRA oils that are identified as supplemental can be added for internal use and wonderful internal benefits.

Lavender awaiting plant butter, teas, or cookies.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about how I harvest mints for teas. I encourage you to grow mint, as it is probably the easiest herb to grow. It is also a very versatile herb that can be used for bee stings, headaches, bruising, as a natural pesticide, and also baking and delicious teas. Comments, ideas, and questions are welcomed. For now, God bless, from the mountains of Kentucky. Remember, God has given us an abundant supply of plants that will help sustain us.

Taking Flavor and Holistic living to a Higher Level

Hello, from the mountains of Kentucky! I hope you had an adventurous and restful weekend and that your week is off to a great start. Saturday morning’s is typically time for me to catch up on housework, laundry, and also time to work in my herb garden. But, sometimes the craving for an adventure stirs within me. I love a good adventure as much as the next person! I tell my grandchildren that adventure is in the eye of the beholder and that adventures are everywhere. The mountains of Kentucky are are the perfect place for adventures. Saturday’s are typically a time of catching up on work around the house, last Saturday I felt the craving for an adventure. So, we decided to trail ride in our side by side with our family. We set off for the mountain trails to enjoy the view, recall stories, and enjoy quality family time. Who knew what kind of adventure awaited us! Remember, adventure is in the eye of the beholder! I have always loved the mountains of Kentucky. They provided countless hours of playtime for us when we were growing up. We would build forts, hike, picnic, pretend to be cowboys and Indians, and rugged pioneers surviving the elements. Sometimes, we just enjoyed sitting beneath the trees and cloud watching. Nevertheless, the mountains have always called my name.

Large rocks at the top of the mountain known as the Rat Rocks.

When we were growing up in the hills of Kentucky, we spent hours hiking to the top of the mountains behind our grandparents house. We’d walk until we arrived at the large rocks. Many days were spent enjoying a simple picnic on top of the rocks that pictured above. While we ate we would often retell the story of the man that froze to death one night when a sudden snow storm came while he was traveling. His vision was blurred by the heavy snow and he lost his way. Legend has it that the man sought shelter from the storm near one of the large rock formations. Days passed before he was found in the mountains where he had frozen to death. I’m not sure that we ever grew tired of telling stories, finding arrow heads, pretending to be pioneers, or just waking and enjoying the bounties of nature. We also loved the simple days and afternoons of sitting outside on the porch and listening to our grandparents and relatives tell the mountain stories time and time again. I miss those days and think of them often. So, enough about mountain legends! I have a new recipe that I’m super excited to share with you!

I have always loved growing, drying, and cooking with herbs. I love their smell, their health benefits, and their taste. I also love to make teas from my herbs, which is loaded with health benefits. I also love essential oils. Together they make a wonderful partnership! Recently I decided to become a doTERRA essential oil advocate. It only made sense to me since I have enjoyed diffusing the oils and using them for various other purposes for many years. Essential oils and herbs go hand in hand and are both all natural and healthy. I like to refer to them as God’s blessings. I recently learned that some of the doTERRA oils also offer even more health benefits than topical and diffusion benefits. I learned about their internal health benefits, and also that many of them can be used to flavor some of our favorite dishes. This all intrigued me as I have enjoyed a more holistic way of life with plant-based cleaning products, laundry detergent, and through following a plant-based diet for nearly four years. I edged my way forward from clean eating, to vegetarian, and from vegetarian, to vegan. The rewards and health benefits of a holistic lifestyle are amazing! So discovering even more natural health benefits of essential oils… I was all in!

Enjoying the benefits of diffusing essential oils.

Some of you may have tried the wild orange orange essential oil. It is one of my favorite oils to diffuse in the house late evenings. It smells amazing and provides a calming and relaxing atmosphere. Wild orange is also one of the many oils that can be used in sauces, teas, smoothies, and it’s also great in homemade cleaning products. A couple of drops of wild orange on wool dryer balls provides an amazing fresh scent in your laundry as it is drying. Also, two drops in a chocolate smoothie tastes absolutely amazing! After I discovered this delicious taste, I decided to add a couple of drops to my vegan chocolate protein balls. Can I say, SCORE!!! I am so anxious for you to try this recipe. If you love those cream filled bites of chocolate goodness in flavored assorted chocolates, I think you’ll love these protein balls. However, unlike chocolate candies, protein balls are healthy, vegan, and delicious!

One of my favorites oils!

Ingredients:

• 2 scoops of chocolate plant-based chocolate protein powder (I prefer orgain)

• 1 tbs of good natural smooth organic peanut butter

• 1 tsp cinnamon

• 1 tbs finely chopped walnuts

• 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (can be ground for a finer texture, but doesn’t have to be)

• 1 tsp organic ground flax seed.

• 1 tsp of organic chia seeds. (I measure with the small scoop that came with the chia seeds.)

• 1 tbs of organic agave

• 1 tbs of vegan chocolate chips

• 4 drops of doTERRA wild orange essential oil. (aromatherapy grade oils are not suggested for internal use)

Process:

Mix dry ingredients and add moist ingredients to the mixture. Mixture will be stiff, but keep working it. You may add a tsp of agave if needed to make the mixture easier to work up. Once mixture is mixed, use a small scoop or spoon and dip the desired amount into your hands. Roll the mixture into a ball and place in a dish. Continue working the mixture up until all of the mix has been used. I typically have 12–14 protein balls. Refrigerate for two hours to allow balls to set.

You can experiment and try different toppings or coatings. You may add ground coconut to the balls for an additional burst of flavor. I like them either way! I have also tried them with dates instead of peanut butter, which are delicious too, but I’m a peanut butter-aholic, plus the peanut butter gives them a bit of candy bar taste!

Store the balls in a covered container and keep refrigerated for best texture. They will last for days and days in the fridge, if you can resist eating them in larger quantities. I try to limit myself to two per day.

I rolled this batch in fine unsweetened shredded coconut for an added flavor! Yum!!!

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. My grandkids love them too. They think they taste like brownies. I love that they enjoy them because this allows them to avoid added sugars and butter, which are both ingredients to traditional candies, cookies, and brownies. Feel free to leave a comment. I love hearing from my readers. If you’re interested in doTERRA oils, leave a comment with your email and I’ll be happy to send you a direct link so you can explore and begin enjoying the many benefits essential oils provide. For now, I’m off to care for my herbs before the rain comes today. From the mountains of Kentucky , God bless each of you.