Tagged: Organic gardening

Honeysuckle Magic

20130620-215221.jpg Oh, the scent of honeysuckle. The aroma floating on the breeze that says “Put away your sweaters and long johns. The sun is high, the wind is warm. Come outside and play.”

Thanks to Elizabeth Barrial at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab I heard that honeysuckle is supposed to help with self-control. I’m not sure how it should be used to gain that effect, but in one of those weird ways that everything seems to tie together, I learned this little tidbit after I had begun my own little Kitchen Witchery experiment featuring Lonicera japonica, or Japanese Honeysuckle. This species of honeysuckle is considered a noxious weed in many areas . It’s nearly impossible to eradicate once established and it spreads like wildfire in marginal areas, but boy-oh-boy does it smell heavenly.

I wanted to capture that scent so I could get a hit of Southern Summer whenever I needed it and share it with others through my Etsy shop, Two Horse Shoe, if it turned out well. I went out to my side yard to our HUGE honeysuckle bush. We’ve tried to dig it out at least twice in 4 years, but its currently about 12 feet tall. I clipped the most blossom laden branches I could find. Then, I sat down and plucked only the peak blossoms, being careful not to include any stem or leaves. It took 2 hours of plucking to fill the jar. After I filled the jar with blossoms, I poured some vodka over them.

I wish I could tell you that it was organic, non-gmo, artisanal vodka. But I’m not gonna lie. It was the cheapest bottle I could find.

I left the creamy white and buttery yellow blossoms to infuse for a few days. Then, I strained out the blossoms and left it to settle for a while.

Then, nerd that I am, I did it all again.

Unfortunately, I had some issues during the process, which you can read about here, if you’ve got a strong constitution and want a little TMI about me. So I really didn’t want to fool with it for a few weeks. Otherwise, I would have done several more infusions.

Last week, the infusion had been sitting, to rest and let some vodka evaporate, for about a month. When I finally smelled it… well… People, it was a bit of a let down. I’d spent at least 6 hours on this stuff. It was a gorgeous yellow-amber color. But the scent was… meh. There was ~something~ there, but the vodka was still way strong and the other aroma was very green and vegetal rather than heady, sweet, white floral. There was a hint of the floral, lurking in the top notes. I’d get a whiff when I splashed some on my skin, but not strong enough to overcome the vodka.

So I’ve changed the focus of the infusion a bit. Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I’ve been adding a bit of this and a bit of that. I’ve got some chamomile that volunteered from last years blossoms gone to seed, so I’ve been popping German chamomile blossoms in there as they bloom.


I’ve also got some pretty, deep burgundy Bachelor Buttons growing. I’ve thrown a few of those in for color. Then, I really threw caution to the wind! I stuffed in a big bunch of Golden Delicious Sage, which smells just like apples and has lovely, bright yellow-green, fuzzy leaves.


And because they looked and smelled so light and refreshing, I added Peace Rose (top) and Tiffany Rose (bottom) blooms.



Next, I added a small handful of my favorite herb, lemon thyme, and several Moldavian Dragonhead leaves, both of which have a bright, crisp, lemon scent.


Then to make things super fresh and a bit unusual, I put in several large sprigs of chocolate mint.


We were out on a walk last night, when a familiar, candy-sweet, heady floral fragrance drifted by. Mmmmm-mlmosa. Also known as Persian Silk Floss Tree. Yet another heavenly smelling, noxious weed. The bright pink, fluffy flowers look like they belong in a Dr. Suess illustration. Of course, I added some. Must remember to add more.

(Source: Wikipedia)

So now, it looks like this:


It’s sitting in my Cabinet of Curiosities… infusing. All the different aroma components rubbing up against one another in that Honeysuckle Vodka. Whooo-hoo. Sexy, wild times on the Suburban Homestead.

As the summer progresses, I will add whatever strikes my fancy. I’ve got some Sweet Woodruff drying. It has kind of an unusual fragrance right now, when it’s still green. But it is supposed to smell sweetly of vanilla-ish hay when dried and is customarily used to scent alcohol. In Germany, it’s called Waldmeister, “Master of the Woods”. The Germans mix Waldmeister syrup with vodka to make a special party drink. It sounds so “Black Forest”, primeval woods.

(Source: Wikipedia Commons)


Will it smell nice? Will it make a refreshing beverage? Will it be good for skin? I’ll let you know as Honeysuckle Magic evolves over the summer.


Edible Flowers Reference Angelica to Fuchsia with Photos

I had hoped to get started on this a few days ago, but thanks to the little germ factories otherwise known as my children’s classmates, I have been holed up in bed, wishing for death or at least some decent codeine cold medicine.

So without further ado…

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) Flavor: Celery

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) Flavor: Anise / Licorice

Apple (Malus species). Flavor: Delicate Floral

Arugula (Eruca vesicaria) Flavor: Spicy, Peppery

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Flavor: Basil, flavored like the variety of basil i.e. lemon, cinnamon, etc.

Bee Balm (Monarda species) Flavor: Bergamot / Earl Grey Tea (like Fruit Loops, IMO)

Borage (Borago officinalis) Flavor: Light cucumber

Burnet (Sanguisorba minor) Flavor: Light cucumber

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) Flavor: Saffron, spicy, peppery


German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) / Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Flavor: Faint apple

Garden Chives (Allium schoenoprasum). Flavor: Mild onion

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum). Flavor: Garlic

Citrus (Citrus species). Flavor: Strong waxy floral


Red / White Clover (Trifolium species). Flavor: Mildly sweet (use sparingly, difficult to digest)

Coriander / Cilantro (Coriander sativum). Flavor: Strong, slightly soapy. Used to flavor Salsa

Cornflower / Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea cynaus). Flavor: Sweetly spicy clove

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis). Flavor: Mushroom like when fried in butter

Day Lily (Hemerocallis species). Flavor: Crisp, lettuce or green bean. *** Oriental Lilies (Lillium species) are NOT edible. ***


Dianthus / Carnations / Clove Pinks (Dianthus caryophyllus). Flavor: Sweetly Spicy clove

Dill (Anthem graveolens). Flavor: Dill

English Daisy (Bellis perrenis). Flavor: Crisp and leafy

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgaris) Flavor: Mild anise / licorice

Fuchsia (Fuchsia X hybridis). Flavor: Crisp, bland to mildly tart. Fricken gorgeous in salads!

(Source: http://homecooking.about.com/library/weekly/blflowers.htm, photo sources: Wikipedia Commons)

Edible Flowers

Today’s post is about edible flowers! I first got interested in edible flowers when I started the Armagarden. That’s my mash-up of Armageddon and Garden. It’s what I jokingly call my Veggie/Edibles Garden, since Hubs (also jokingly) says it is what will help sustain us once we run out of gasoline and enter Mad Max Times.

We live on a large corner lot at a busy intersection. My kids rake in the dough at the lemonade and art & artifact stands they set up throughout the year, but that’s a post for another time. My point is that our yard is highly visible from all four sides of our house.

Hubs thinks that Veggie Gardens are kind of ugly. I completely disagree, but I digress, again. Since he wasn’t all that excited about having a Veggie Garden visible to everyone that passed by our house, I decided to pretty it up for him by adding edible flowers and other ornamental edibles / edible ornamentals.

I planted several varieties and they filled our salads, garnished our plates, and amazed our potluck participants. They add loads of color and nutrition to your plate and they are so much fun, they even encouraged my kids to eat more salads and healthy whatnots. So I decided to share the joy with you, friends!

There are tons of recipes on the interwebs using edible flowers (I mostly used them for green salads, potato salads, pasta salads, all kinds of salads), but first I should share a few warnings…

1. Don’t eat flowers that have been treated with pesticides, including any flowers purchased at florists, grocery stores, etc. unless they are specifically marked “edible”. Regardless of your thoughts about using commercial pesticides on your veggie garden, the pesticides used for ornamental flowers are NOT tested for consumption and could be considerably stronger and much more dangerous.

2. Don’t eat flowers unless you are certain of their identity. A few edible flowers closely resemble poisonous varieties. Not many, but still… Err on the side of safety.

3. If you have pollen allergies, use caution when eating edible flowers. You are likely to also have an allergic reaction to eating the pollen if you have a reaction to breathing it. I have pollen allergies that are pretty easily controlled by OTC allergy medicines like Zyrtec and Claritin and I’ve never had any problems. But if you go into anaphylactic shock when you sniff a daisy, you probably shouldn’t eat one.

4. If you have any doubts about any of the above warnings, don’t eat them! I play things a little fast and loose and haven’t had any issues, but I refuse to be responsible for your poisoning yourself! Do some extra research if you have any doubts whatsoever. Seriously.

I will be posting a pretty exhaustive list of edible flowers with photos shortly, so stay tuned!

Fluffy Tree Rats Strike Again

Every morning in spring, after I see the girls off to school on the bus, I head over to my little garden patch to see what new seedling or other new treasure awaits. Yes, I’m easily pleased these days.

This morning… It was planticide. The effing tree rats (i.e. squirrels) strike again.


These were sweet peppers. Luckily, I have two others which were untouched. For now.

This was a sunflower. There were two, but I couldn’t even find the ravaged stalk of the other one. This is my FOURTH planting of sunflowers. In the original photo, you can see a tiny drop of plant blood oozing from the dismembered stump.

The first was dug up and eaten before they even had a chance to sprout. All I found were the empty seed hulls scattered carelessly on the ground. Plantings two and three were eaten before they could even sprout their first leaves. I blamed Hubs for reckless mower etiquette for #2. After finding planting number three decimated, I decided to get serious. I raised the tender seedlings under glass cloches (also known as appropriated beer pint glasses) until they had a few sets of true leaves.

The filthy rat pirates just waited.


Artist’s rendition of their greedy squirrel rat faces stuffed with seedlings from my garden. Notice the rabid, bloodthirsty eyes and murderous smile.

So, the question is… Do I plant more sunflowers? Do I surround them with electrified razor wire and half-starved wolf-dogs with distemper? Or do I take 57 No-Doze and wait up all night with my slingshot and Habanero-coated BBs? Maybe I can just ask them politely.

Seedling Reference Photos

I’m posting some photos of seedlings because I searched for this kind of thing when I first started my garden. Hope someone finds them helpful.

Asparagus – Not really a seedling. This is a spear growing from 3rd year root planting. But Hubs like to mow this kind of thing down.

Marigold seedling

German Chamomile seedling (a volunteer from last year’s garden!)

Broccoli/Cauliflower seedling (they both look pretty much the same). This one has its first true leaf.

Nasturtium seedling in the lower right corner. The larger purple plant is Purple Basil.

Dill seedling (another volunteer)

Bachelor Button Seedlings. They are the silvery, fuzzier ones with the longer, thinner leaves. The others could be something I planted, or they could be wild violets which would take over the world if I let them.

Red Stem Malabar Spinach seedling

Convolvulus seedling.

Roman Chamomile seedlings. I believe these are the teeny-tiny yellow-green seedlings sprinkled throughout the photo, but I’m not totally certain yet since I haven’t grown them before.

Gourmet Squirrels

A few years ago, before I “put in” my garden beds, I decided to grow a small herb container garden.  I bought a large plastic pot (I even sprang for the matching saucer!) and filled it with dirt and plants.  I planted lemon thyme, cheddar pinks, and a sad looking little basil plant I bought in the produce section of my grocery store.

As the plants grew, I introduced my young daughters to the joys of plucking a fresh herb leaf, crushing it between fingers, and taking a big whiff.  They loved it!  I like to imagine that helped them learn to enjoy their senses and live in the moment.

When the basil was getting nice and lush and tall, I went out one day to find one of the tops of the stalks snapped off.  I looked around for the top, assuming that one of the girls had pulled it off to sniff and just tossed it to the ground after, as we usually did.  But it was nowhere to be found.  Oh well, no biggie.  They must have carried it arouBedford a bit before dropping it.

The next day, more leaves are stripped off.  A couple of naked twigs struck up from the mass of leaves.  I gave the girls a gentle lecture about only taking a leaf or two to sniff.  They nodded and agreed, looking a little confused.

A few days later, I walked out to see the plants stripped absolutely bare.  Not a single leaf was left, just several pathetic twigs sticking up from the dirt.  For some reason, I didn’t say anything to the kids, but mentioned it to Hubs that evening.

“Squirrels” was his reply.  He told me that he had seen a squirrel messing around in the pit several days previous, eating some leaves. But he had assumed that the squirrel would lose interest after a mouthful of the spicy, pungent plants.  Well, apparently not.  I assume the stuffed their greedy cheeks full of my prized basil, scampered back to their little squirrel nests and made walnut pesto from the black walnuts the gathered in our yard.  Seriously?  Gourmet squirrels.

The Edible Garden

The Edible Garden

This is a photo of my edible garden space. I call it the “Armeggarden”. Hubs is about halfway convinced that Mad Max times are coming and that we need to be prepared. Ok. Whatever. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of living ~comfortably~ off the grid, so this is a first step!

We found out a couple of years ago, when we had to get a 10 foot deep chasm in our yard to connect to the city sewer line, that our yard was filled with top soil when they built the house. For the uninitiated to Tennessee red clay and hard pan, it means luscious, dark brown soil, 10 fricken’ feet deep! I can dig it up with a garden fork instead of having to rent a gas powered tiller (and still having to bust my butt to get it decently tilled) and it is filled with big, fat, healthy earthworms.

The space pictured is a little over 2 feet deep and about 23 feet long. In that space, I can actually grow quite a bit! Last year, I got well over 20 lbs of tomatoes, county fair prize-winning sized cucumbers, 7 kinds of basil, and tons more.

I’ve expanded this year and gotten most of my seeds planted. If all goes well, I will have:
Dragon Tongue Beans
Purple Pole Beans
Sugar Snap Peas
Purple Onions
Evergreen Bunching Onions
Several colors of Nasturtiums
Orange, Yellow, Red, White, and Purple carrots
7 or more varieties of lettuce
Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Romanesco Broccoli
German Chamomile,
Pink and Red Dianthus
Blue and Black Bachelor Buttons
Tiger Eyes Marigolds
Cherry Tomatoes
Cherokee Purple Tomatoes
Pink Brandywine Tomatoes
Malabar Spinach
Love-lies-bleeding Amaranth
Cherry Belle and Rattail radishes
Strawberry Spinach
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Regular and Garlic Chives
Roman Chamomile
Salad Burnet
Vit Corn Salad
Mammoth Sunflowers
Lemon cucumbers
Birdhouse gourds,
Day lillies
Citrus and Chocolate Mint
White Lilacs
Strawberry Spinach
Sweet Woodruff
Lemon Balm
Lemon, lime, Genovese, purple, and globe basil
Tiffany, Electra, and Peace roses
Sweet Peppers
Moldavian Dragonhead
Cutting Celery
And Peaches

And those are just the edible ones! I have a few more that are strictly ornamental, but I will get into those another day.

In my main beds, I use soaker hoses on a timer during the hottest part of the summer. I use Amdro slug baits to control our slug and snail infestation and plain dish soap/water solution for other bugs. I use compost and fish emulsion for fertilizer.

Right now, I’m having problems with aphids on my peas and either squirrels or rabbits are eating my bean and sunflower sprouts. I’ll write more tomorrow about how I’m dealing with these annoyances.