Category Archives: korilus

Ostara eggs

IMG_2092Before each Ostara, or Easter, I go through net searching for interesting ideas for decorating eggs. I have several books on my shelf explaining how to paint colorful eggs with different natural ways. Around here we still dye the eggs ourselves rather than buying chocolate eggs from shops. Chocolate is nice, but I don’t think it goes together with Ostara at all, but well, that’s how we’ve brought up.

With all the good information around, there is still one method that we love around here, but that is more local. Yet I think it is a wonderful way to celebrate Ostara and thus we make them every year for ourselves and for giving away.

Every nature witch knows that you can paint Easter eggs yellow by using onion peels. Well, how about going a step further?

For this method you need to begin earlier by collecting the outer dried out peels of onions. We usually begin after Three Kings Day (I know that’s Christian, but it’s traditional end here for Yule festivities), because we’re not that big onion eaters to gulp down enough a month earlier. The best painters are the ones with darkest golden glow.  You can also collect herbs that dye different colors, but like with every holiday you need to think ahead and thus collect them ahead too. Also, you need clean stockings that don’t need to be new, but MUST be clean. You cut them about hand size pieces.  Raw white eggs are also must have. Around here the hunt for them begins about two weeks before, even in modern times with good shops. Browns will be rather plain-looking.

The process is quite simple and can be seen on the images below. You first place on your hand piece of stocking (it can be cheese cloth, important is that it lets lots of water through). Then you take few peels of onion peels and put them on it, followed by egg.  Then you do your best to cover the egg with peels and other herbs before pulling the stocking tightly together and rolling strong thread around it all.

The idea is that you don’t see any white spots when you close the “pocket” and you need enough thread that it doesn’t run open easily. CAREFUL! You are dealing with raw eggs! Too much pressure and you crack it and then there’s no fun left in the game.

After all the eggs are wrapped, you put them in a pot, add water so all of them are covered, add a soup spoonful of salt and large drop of vinegar. Yes it stinks, but it won’t stick to the eggs, I promise. Salt helps to keep the eggs intact and vinegar is natural way to fix the dye on the eggs. You let it all to come for a boil and then boil them for 10 minutes. Sometimes happens that they boil 15 or even 20 minutes. Don’t worry. They will get slightly blue around yolk, but that’s about it.

After erupt cooling (cool enough to handle), like you always do with eggs, you need to cut them up again and wash. We use very sharp small scissors for this. Again, CAUTION! It is very easy to crack the eggs.

After all this you dry them and that’s pretty much it! To make them shiny we usually put small drop of oil on our hands, blend it in our palms a pit and then brush over all the eggs. If they are still a bit warm, it will dry enough that it doesn’t make them slippery or stain your fingers later on.

Sounds complicated? Perhaps on the first year. It takes few tries to get the stockings stay around the egg. But after the first, on the next year you already know how to do it and really fun thing to do with children from 7 and up.

I can tell you, they are worth the effort. Better than kinder surprise eggs, because each egg you get is unique and they look lovely.

Oh! The game! We have the tradition that on Easter morning, everyone take one egg. Then they knock them together large end with large and narrow tip with narrow one. Wins, who has both ends still intact when knocking ends or at least one end intact.

For another game we build a hill with runway. Everyone have their own eggs. The rules are pretty much same with marble games – who touches the other’s egg will get the egg. Wins, who has the most eggs.

The egg that survives the last we usually keep over the year until next year.  I don’t even know the reason, but it’s just something my great grandmother did, then grandma, then mom and now us. I guess it is related with fertility, but even if its not, it’s tradition and I see to it that it is continued. Nothing happens to that egg if you keep it in cool place and it is totally intact.

And now, if this talk is hard to remember – here are the pictures of our Ostara eggs. Happy Easter, everyone!

pilt

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Filed under Family Recipes, Handwork, korilus, Toidukultuur

Dandelion syrup

The fields were blooming in sun-bright yellow and fragrant for honey. Who wouldn’t, in such conditions think of fresh honey? I wanted a way to save this part of fresh honey sensation for little longer than just the few weeks, so I searched the net for recipes. When it comes to using flowers, I’ve noticed that you can’t save them up forever without the taste or smell to change, but for short spring time prep to get you out of the spring blues (which is kind of common around here), it would be perfect addition to your medical cabinet. Given, naturally, that you are not allergic to dandelions or pollen.

To make the syrup, or honey as it is also called, you will need:

250 dandelion blossoms
4 cups of water
1 lemon
900 grams of sugar

First you need to gather the blossoms. Should be done when they are fully open, on a sunny day. I’d say – go out and get yourself huge bouquet of dandelions. That’s the easiest way to collect them. You can toss the stems away later, but they will be easier to clean if you have them on stems.

Then comes the fun part – the separation. You need to separate the green from the yellow. Exactly like it says. Green is the one that adds bitterness to the taste, so you don’t want the green at all. I can’t explain you the process itself, but I can say that after few practicing rounds, you’ll get the hang of it and it will go smoothly. This is, however, the most laborious part of the job, so take some time for it. The number 250 here is give-or-take. I counted the blossoms, because I wanted to follow the recipe exactly. I liked these proportions. Little tip: count the blossoms before cleaning them in little piles. Then you don’t have to keep the count while cleaning process. Tip nr 2: clean the blossoms straight in the pot you will be using. This way you won’t lose the pollen so much and the syrup comes more honey-like.

The rest is easier. Take your yellow blossoms in a pot, add the 4 cusp of water and heat it to boil. Once it has started to boil, take it from heat and let it sit/cool in a separated place for at least 6 hours. In such concoctions I prefer if they sit overnight. Then strain the tea, get rid of the blossoms (perfect for compost) and put the tea back on heating. Bring to light boil and add sugar and the juice of one lemon. Stir until the sugar melts and keep boiling it on low heat until the syrup is thick to your liking. I prefer something similar to maple syrup, some like it as honey. According to that you will be boiling it, too. To get the the thickness I desired, I had to keep it boiling for about an hour.

In some parts of the world the dandelions are yet to start their blooming victory, so I encourage you to try this one out. It will consist all the rich chemical lab the dandelions are and it goes marvelous with pancakes.

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Filed under foraging, korilus, Preserves, Remedies, Sweets

Rhubarb juice and jam

 Remember I mentioned I needed to make rhubarb juice few posts back? No need to go check, but well, as I didn’t get to do it when it was the time, I did it on Sunday and Monday instead.

 Rhubarb is the first crop of the season in our garden. There’s usually plenty of it and half of it we simply give away to family and friends, because we can’t consume it all by ourselves and we simply haven’t had time to take up the task of juicing it. Mostly, because when we finally get the time, it has already wooden up and after that it doesn’t give much juice anyway.

If you plan to make juice out of rhubarb, there are few things to keep in mind:

  1. Keep close eye on the flower stem. The best time to make the juice is when the petioles have grown to it’s max and the blossom stem has just formed.
  2. Never try cooking petioles with cooking soda to reduce the acidy taste! I should put this in bold. That’s because the acid toxin that rhubarb has turns to something heavier through chemical reaction. I don’t know what it is, never researched it, but that’s one thing you learn first hand. Soda and rhubarb do not mix. Otherwise you are on the safe side, because you would have to consume rhubarb in about 5 kilo quantity first to get poisoned and, well, no one ever eats it in such quantities.
  3. Make juice some time in late spring and early summer (ideal month – May) . The older the stems get, the more it collects nitrates in its body and that’s hazardous – you can simply poison yourself.

 Keeping all this in mind, I decided this year to plan it out right and make some rhubarb juice.  So when I got home on Sunday it was good enough weather and instead of going to bed, I got myself a sheet we use to carry off leafs in autumn (much easier than with wheelbarrow), nice and clean wheelbarrow for the petioles, freshly sharpened knife and headed to the bush of rhubarb. I do mean bush, because they grow here up to chest and we have about 2-3 meterlong bed. Traditionally when we clean the petioles from the leaf on top, we lay it under the others, but with what I had in mind, it would have been too much.

Also, be prepared for surprises. I got two wheelbarrows full of rhubarbs. I should have taken picture of this, too. Sharp knife means few cuts in your fingers, so be prepared for that.

 Rhubarb juice making

Preparations are always the same: cut the leaf  and clean the dirt.Wash.With bottom I always see pictures that the pink part is always cut off. I don’t do that, it doesn’t hold any reason. I do remove the leafy dried part. Some tell you to peel the petioles. I don’t do that either. The color in the peel is what gives the juice its pink color. If you see that you can’t cut through the peel, then yes, it’s natural to pull it off. But otherwise it’s unnecessary.

 There are three methods to do the juice:

  1. Cut the petioles in thin, layer with sugar in a bowl. Let it sit overnight or two and do it’s magic. Then sieve the juice and bottle. For longer period you need to heat it up, sieve the dirt and then bottle. This version is good if you want thicker syrup – you simply need to add more sugar and boil it down.
  2. Cut the petioles in longer pieces (2 cm), put them in a pot and add little water (for 1 kgof rhubarb about 4-6 dlof water). Bring this to boil and then drain on cheesecloth unpressured. Gather the juice in a pot and reheat it, adding according to your taste about 3 to 5 dlof sugar. Skim the dirt and bottle.
  3. Steaming. Cut the petioles in longer pieces, put the steamer up. Everyone’s different, so I will write what I had. Add the rhubarb to the steamer and let it do it’s work. You can add handful of sugar to get the juice out faster, but this time I didn’t need to. After they have sunk a bit, you can add some on top of the patch. Let the steamer do its work and let the juice out.

 I chose the latter and spent the rest of the day making juice. I ended with30 litersof pure, unsweetened juice. That’s 60 half a liter bottles. Then we reheated it, added sugar by taste (which was way less than we expected) and bottled them.

 Because we don’t have many in our family, who actually like rhubarb jam, I only did about 2 litersof that, divided in small jars. For this I simply cut the last punch of petioles into1 cmlogs (got about 5 literbowl full) and steamed it separately from everything else. The juice I added to the rest, but the left over “jam” I put in a pot, and continued heating it. I grated the skin of one big orange, peeled the white part off, and cut the orange into smaller pieces. After collecting the juice, too, I added the entire orange to the rhubarb. Added 500 gramsof sugar and let it all rise to boil. Careful! It can burst bubbles quite far, so keep any pets, children and yourself off the way. Sterilized the jars and put it in there.

 So all this in just 2 days. Sounds simple? It sure tastes good and simple  🙂

 

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Filed under Drinks, Family Recipes, gardening, korilus, Preserves

Some help for Dyshidrotic Eczema sufferers

 As nasty as it sounds, it is surprisingly common – you get small blisters under the skin of your fingertips. It looks ugly, but it doesn’t itch. That is until they break and suddenly you wake up in the middle of the night realizing you are just about to scratch your fingers off. If that happens, they multiply and soon after infection gets in and it gets far worse.

I get it every spring like clock work since I was 8. So far nothing has helped and for two weeks up to a month I get irritated, because nothing helps – no expensive cream, no hiding from the weather, no nothing.

Until a week ago, when it started itching again and I was ready to put it under scorching flame just to get it stop and rampaged through my essential oil box for anything that would make it burn so I could get some sleep. I was thinking on oregano, eucalypt – anything! It’s not fungus infection, I know that already, but I figured they should at least ease the infection.

I found Tea tree instead. Tapped a bit on the finger and it soothed down the burning sensation, but didn’t make the bubbles go. The infection went down, though.

Then, while being in sauna and staring at the painful bubbling finger, I had epiphany.

 1 teaspoon propolis
(1 teaspoon liquid honey)
10 drops of Tea tree essential oil
10 drops of Sage oil
10 drops of Rosemary oil
1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
1 teaspoon of Calendula petals or Calendula oil
2-3 cm of wax – candle or beeswax, doesn’t matter as long as its natural

 Melt in one small pot (I use old metal cup) together propolis, Calendula petal powder and beeswax. I would recommend using Calendula oil which you can make very well yourself by infusing dried Calendula with equal amount of oil for 2 weeks in dark place, shaking it through once each day. Add glycerin, essential oil and if you wish, some honey. Only, I think the honey made it granulated, so I’m thinking of skipping it. Immediately put in the small container and stir it a bit while it cools. That will help to keep it better mixed. After cooled, store in cool dark place and apply 2-3 times a day until completely healed. 

 Half an hour later – the bubbles were gone, the itching was gone and the skin was almost normal! By normal I mean the tiny scars were there, but the red inflammation is gone, there is no fluid in the bubbles and it does not itch.  Seriously – no itching! That is so weird I keep touching the place, just to check if there are still nerves in that area.

Fantastic!

So if you have problems with bubbly fingers and don’t have allergy to beeproducts – it might help you too. Took me less than 5 minutes with warming the stove and it worked far better than I hoped for.

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Things one ought to consider when choosing herb remedy

I have been trying to start working, but as usually the hardest thing is to start and I don’t think I’ll be doing it tonight as my brain isn’t co-operating on that level.

Which gives me good reason to finish an article on a very hot topic to me:

Things one ought to consider when choosing herb remedy

 There is disturbing trend with new users of herbal medicine, which I think is very wrong and can do more damage. The trend is that they like choosing the herb to clear them from whatnot problem like they choose the chemical medicine. This is so false I don’t even know where to start.

Lets start by thinking on what you can find in chemical medicine and what in a herb. Chemical medicine consists usually of 1 or more chemical compounds that do the actual work and fillers that will either help to ease the side effects or just give some shape to the pill as the actual medicine might not be big amount itself to make up a pill.

When you choose  a herb, you need to understand that it isn’t controlled science – it’s entire chemical lab in one plant and most of them are no fillers, but active compounds themselves. This means that for example if you decide to use dandelion, then the seeds, the blossom, the leaves, the root – all of them are filled with things that will react with your body one way or the other.

This “one way or the other” is the problem that makes me winch each time I’m presented with solution they want to try out. It wouldn’t be so bad if they would come to me in style “I will useSt. John’swort for depression” and then they show bag they have purchased from the seller. It then can consist entire plant hacked up and dried.

Alarm bells!

Why?

  1. There are plants that can be used entirely. With them you have no problem, however:
  2. Different parts of plants have different effects. If you buy your plant in whole, you must know in advance that this plant is usable entirely with no problems!
  3. Many herbs that have edible blossoms and leaves can have lethal berries and roots. If you purchase the entire plant you should be aware that you won’t find those parts in the bag.
  4. You need to know when the plant was harvested. Blossoms for example are best to harvest when they are very small, merely open. Leaves can have one effect when they are young and small, if they have been out for a week and a whole different effect if they are collected in their absolute prime as there are plants that change their chemical compounds in the leaves throughout the entire growing time. That’s why, for example, you can eat dandelion leaves without problem before blossoms are created, but they turn bitter afterwards. If you buy plant that you know can be harvested only before blossoms and you see nearly open buds, then you should think over taking this. Also, the best herbalists write down the weather. If collected on dry weather, the leaves hold much more essential oils in while before rain they open up the pores in expectation of rain thus less ability to keep the essential oils in and the effect won’t be maximum.
  5. Because the plant often has more than one thing it is used for, then you should know as much as possible about the plant before you get it. Common knotweed is by the way good for your bladder as it helps to clear them. However, did you know that if you take knotweed for more than two weeks, you can risk serious liver damage? Same thing if you make too strong tea from it.
  6. You need to be tuned with your own body or the body of the individual you decide to offer the herb to. Are you sure that they don’t have condition that this plant will make worse? How old is the sick person? If they are kids, then you better be very good knowing what you can use and what not. There are very few plants that you can help to aid toddlers. If they are elderly, you must know the risks too as with their weaker body type you can’t use everything, especially things that would have side effect on heart or can cause breathing problems.
  7. If the plant is collected in rain – it will spoil fast and the general rule is you don’t collect anything on a rainy day that you wish to dry. It’s ok if you will use it immediately, but in longer perspective, no.
  8. The amounts that you need to take the herb. The general rule is 1 teaspoon per cup. By cup, take notice, the typical measure is 200 ml. Danger arises if you make tea with small cup and without thinking twice, you put the advised amount of herbal mixture in the cup. Make the tea too strong and you risk with your health, too light and the effect won’t be as strong, because you might not get enough components in your body for it to have affect.
    The temperature of the water is generally 80 degrees of Celsius, so right on the edge of starting to boil heavily, as Chinese friend told me – the bubbles on the bottom of the kettle look like sea pearls.

How to avoid the mistakes?

  1. Research! Be sure you know the risks through and through. Exclude internet as liable information source! Go for library instead and search different authors and get your information from several sources. That you know what your plant helps you with, but you can be sure that if you give it to someone, you are prepared for surprises and if emergency rises, you know to instruct the doctors, too. It wouldn’t hurt to check if there is any information if the plant reacts with other elements or plants. For example Nettle is pretty universal, when it comes preparing it, but as it is high in Iron, it would be better not to infuse it in honey as those two don’t mix well.
  2. Never use plant that was recommended by a friend without researching it first. What works for your friend, doesn’t always work you and can be actually dangerous. I’m grateful if someone can recommend me something to my problem, but I do not ever take in anything I haven’t checked before. You can’t blame anyone else if it kills you.
  3. Buy your plants so you get different parts of the plants separately if possible. It may seem like waste, but you can always mix the plant back together if you need, but separating them from each other is a whole new experience. If you can buy your plant as intact herb, then it will ease your work – you might need to package it yourself, but you can do it so those parts are separated.
  4. Buy your plants separately. Same thing – you can always make mixes according to your needs, but there is no need to use highly prized tea mix for only one component. If you don’t need the other components, don’t consume them. The only mixes I keep at home are those that I know I use more and are mixed in small amounts.
  5. Buy herbs as complete as possible. Blossoms look like blossoms, leaves as hole as possible. Routs are often grinded and barks, but that’s natural. The more intact the plant is in the bag, the longer it will last.
  6. Don’t use the drug if it smells like hay (unless it is some sort of grass) and if you hold it in your hand, it turns into dust. When they dry herbs, it never means you drain it absolutely. It usually keeps some humidity and you should be able to feel it with your fingers. Though crumbly, the leafs and blossoms should have some velocity left. It is normal that dried herb has about 2 years of shelf life. So don’t get what you don’t need or if you plan to harvest them yourself, be regular about it.
    You can keep this rules in mind also if purchasing regular black or green tea and your taste buds will thank you.
  7. Follow instructions and use your head. Tint the recipe amounts accordingly and you will be fine. The usual time to take medicine is around 2 weeks. It is usual that after that one ought to pause and let the body rest or stop altogether. If it says in the book that you need to use it sparingly – do that! If it says – only before dinner then that’s how you will take it.
  8. Classical mistake: “doctor told me to take it 3 times per day”. This means the entire 24 hour cycle, not the time you are awake. So if they say you need to take 3 times, it means you need to take it in every 8 hours, so the best times would be for example7 inthe morning, 1 near lunch and9 inthe evening. If you are working regularly, this would be good time plan.
  9. If you see problematic side effects, stop taking it immediately. If the signs are problematic – contact doctor immediately. Keep the package from the seller. Weird recommendation? No, but will help you get help sooner. If you need to re-pack, the best would be paper bags. Always write the common name AND the Latin name on the bag! Latin names are universal, common names can be known only to you and your granny.
  10. Besides children and animals, if you make tinctures – keep them away from any alcoholic. I once nearly got heart attack when I discovered that while I was away, father had used my pot marigold tincture to help his sour throat. He isn’t alcoholic, but he used the tincture as he uses any other vodka and that made me realize that this should be on every tincture bottle – you do not use it like vodka! Had he mixed up the bottles, he would have ended up with White Clover tincture and with it’s function to relief cramps and make your blood flow easier, deducing blood clotting, I would have ended with murder charge. So keep your stash in place where all sorts of wonder minds can’t get to them without asking you first.
  11. If all else fails – ask the one selling you the herb or anyone wise enough. Ask from professional. They will probably tell you to go through tests before using any herb and they are right to say this. Still – put up with it and ask. Better their advice than your own stupidity.

I could go on few more pages, but in reality it’s quite simple: Reduce risks with research, get your plants separated by plants and plant parts and know exactly how to use it.

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Filed under foraging, House Chemistry, korilus, Remedies, Toidukultuur, Year and a Day

My chopped off green fingers

I realized I’ve got a huge part of my education missing – gardening. With this I’ve already said that I’ve taken deaper interest in wild plants, but knowing it isn’t making things easier. I don’t like that I’ve lost contact with it.

I started easy by knowingly watering the plants that I do have. I’m no green finger – even doing that has taken hard commitment, not forgetting to do that. I started by buying myself one of my favorite plants – common ivy (should be Hedera Helix by the looks of the leafage). I can’t imagine house without it, it being one of those plants that didn’t survive moving in our new place. But where I have it right now, it seems to like it. So now I’ve gone for nearly half a year developing the skill of not forgetting to water my plants.

Watering unfortunately isn’t the only aspect in gardening, so now I’m looking into growing some simple things from the seeds as next experiment. Having come from country, it wouldn’t be the first time and I’ve tried now and then, but never taken it that serious. This time I just might. I’ve got two candidates to start from – one is Iris Germanica florentina (the one that I rattled on not getting my hands on) and the other lavender. Naturally I’m not gonna try growing them from seed, that would be too over my head for first try, but I know where I can get the roots and there’s a shop that sells lavender plants and mom agreed that it would make nice pot plant. Though lavender would survive if covered on open land here, it wouldn’t be true for our garden. The temperature gets too low. Except this year, which is so annoying I could bite the Father Frost for this!

From seeds I was thinking of calendula, till, few salads, kale (the plant intrigues me) and perhaps few other things. Peppermint for sure. If the plant on sis’ window survives the winter, it will go in soil. I am too much in love of the mead-like lemonade. I’m not sure the wild peppermint will survive.

I think what got me more interested in this gardening business, is the fact that we are renewing our fruit trees and evergreens. They are getting too old and too dangerous. I’m glad that the linden trees are showing signs of surviving the horrific beheading. I’m not glad that they took down maple though – I miss the juice already. But renewing means we can pick the fruits going in the garden. Like apples that we can actually eat and make juice or jam from or marinate, pears, prunes, dolgo, … that are pretty much it. Some peaches, Chinese apricots, figs (wouldn’t that be a dream?), grapes (we need a good site and very stern plant), persimmon (I’m not keen on the fruit at all), too. Weird is I like peaches, yet I can’t eat more than one or two plums per season. I’m probably pushing through adding juniper in the punch, as well as black elderberry and without a doubt they’ll be joined by rowan. We’ve already got cherries and some plums, but that is not enough. If I get my own place, this will stand true, too. Except plums, which I really have no good use for. Perhaps just the best tasting one, a yellow type.

Were in gardening zone 5. Good to remember next time I seek internet information.

Yesterday, I got myself RHS New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques: The Essential Practical Guide (Estonian version). Not to go over the edge and make a jump start, but to have it at home. They were selling it close to 50 percent off price, so I didn’t even have bad feeling for putting the money out. It’s one of those things I rather have at home than miss it when I have one of those elaborated beginner moments and can’t decide the correct action and give up. The same place with the ABC of Estonian Wild Plants and The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual. The latter two have proved more useful than one would think on first glance. I might not take them out every day, but I have been more than glad that I decided to buy them.

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Filed under foraging, korilus, survival of the fittest

Conkers gel final

How can someone read so wrong something so simple?
I got myself vegetable glycerine. Logical, right? I’ll need it in the future, so don’t mind getting it. But what I needed for this gel is gelatine! I remembered it correctly then :D. But trusting not my own brain, I had to go and do a little scandal. Oh hell, anyway, I learned a lot of good info between all this.

But this means I’ve now got everything I need and I can’t wait to get home and do it.

If this works, there will plenty of new stuff to do.

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