Sunday, March 29, 2015

How to make dandelion root tea, and why everyone should drink it

There are many reasons to drink dandelion root tea, and it's fun and easy to dig your own roots, dry them, and make them into a delicious drink – even use it as a coffee substitute! You can use the whole plant: roots for tea, greens for salads and soups, flowers in wine and syrup.

It's no wonder dandelion is one of the top six herbs in the Chinese herbal medicine chest. Why? It is packed with vitamins A, C, D and B complex, many minerals like zinc, iron and potassium, and is super high in calcium. It's a famous liver tonic, healing and nourishing this important organ. It is celebrated as a great blood builder and is often used as a treatment for anemia because it's so high in iron and zinc. Dandelion helps maintain regularity because of its mild laxative properties, helps skin problems, detoxifies poisons and toxins, and helps digestive problems. It even lowers cholesterol! Some people use dandelion for viral infections and cancer.

Wow, right?

When she was pregnant with me, my mother was hospitalized for three months because of jaundice. Talk about liver issues! Every single acupuncturist I've ever visited says that I have weak liver chi and a blood deficiency. Some of this is probably genetic (thanks, Mom!), and some of it has to do with the fact that I gave birth to three children. So whatever I can do to build up my blood and nourish my liver, count me in!
Enter the lowly dandelion. Although many consider it a weed, healers respect and love it.  I like its German name so much better: Loewenzahn, which means lion's tooth, implying its power.  I love dandelion root tea and drink it daily. So instead of ordering it at Mountain Rose Herbs, which I have done for years, I wanted to dig and prepare my own this spring.

Let me show you how.

The good news is that dandelion grows everywhere - you can see it growing in the crack of sidewalks.  Find a spot where no pesticides were sprayed.  I am fortunate to live in the wilderness where everything is pristine, so I visited my friends who have a huge organic pasture, framed by gorgeous mountains.  It was hard to dig dandelions, because all I wanted to do was pet the little piglets that watched me.

I think digging is easiest when the soil is wet, because the shovel inserts easier and the root can be separated from the soil better, but it definitely is muckier.  Never mind!  Nutrients from this muddy mess were absorbed into the lovely dandelion roots, which we will absorb into our bodies!  
Dig right next to the leaves and lift up, teasing out the tap root.  Dig as many roots as you can.  It helps to have other people digging nearby, so you can catch up on gossip.  It also helps to have piggies watch you while you dig.  Resist the urge to pet the pigs every five minutes.  You came here to dig dandelion roots, didn't you?

The next step is washing all the mud off.  It's nice to do it outside so mud doesn't get splattered all over your sink.  Just drop the plants into a bucket with cold water and slosh things around.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Do it as often as you have to do make the water run clear-ish.

At that point, I cut off the green dandelion leaves and put them in a different container to dry them separately (for tea and soup).  I scrub the roots with a sponge, but you can also use a brush.  Whatever is easiest to get most of the dirt off.

Now the roots go into my Cuisinart food processor (or cut them by hand, but seriously?  If you have a machine, use it).  Pulse them til they are cut into small pieces, preferably kind of uniform size, but if not, don't sweat it.

After the roots are nicely chopped, spread out this mess on a cookie sheet.  Put it in the oven at 250 degrees and leave the oven door open so that moisture can exit.  Stir the roots every half hour.  It takes about two hours to dry and roast them this way.  Don't let them burn.

You don't have to chop them up or roast them, by the way.  When I did my first batch, I washed and scrubbed the roots and put them in a food dehydrator whole.  I dried them on medium heat (about 130 degrees) for several hours.  You know they are ready when the roots easily snap into pieces when you break them.  

I like the oven method because it roasts the roots and gives them a deeper color and flavor.  You can run them through a coffee grinder if you want everything to be ground - remember, it's a coffee substitute.

To make the tea, put about 2 Tablespoons of root in a pot with four cups of water.  Some people say to use 1/3 cup of root to 4 cups of water.  It depends on how strong you want your tea.  Cover with a lid, bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or longer.  

Pour this tea through a strainer, put some honey and cream or rice/almond/soy milk in the drink, sit down by the wood stove, put your feet up, and enjoy.  Know that your liver and blood are being strengthened as you sip!

PS: I dry the leaves as well, then use them dried in soups and tea.  Use your preferred method of drying: I put them in the food dehydrator on low heat for a few hours, and that did the trick.

What is your favorite way to detox in the spring?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Goat triplets! Why it is a good idea to have seven midwifes attend a goat birth...

The other day, we visited our friend Loren, who bought my goat Quasar last year.  We stopped by because we wanted to fawn over the babies that were born to a different goat a few days earlier.  Our friend Auburn was there with her two daughters.  As we bottle fed and played with the babies, Quasar shifted into active labor, so we got to be midwifes.  There were seven of us crowded into the little birthing pen - four adults and three daughters ranging from five to eleven years.  Even will all these people, the energy felt beautiful, calm and sacred.  Quasar wanted to rest on someone's lap the whole time, so we took turns comforting her.  Once her water burst, the three babies came fast and furious, and it was a good thing all of us were there to help towel the babies off, clear their breathing passages, dip umbilical cords, milk the mama to fill bottles, and feed the babies.
I don't have any close-up pictures of the newborns because I was too busy helping.  Besides, my hands were covered in slimy amniotic fluid, and I didn't want to touch my camera.  Ahem.

Here are some of the babies a couple of days later, thriving and well, with a very attentive mother.  Oh, how I love this goat!

Other news on the homestead: We are trying to capture bees.  Yep, that's right: we are thinking of adding more animals to the farm.  Here are some beehives a friend brought over, filled with honeycomb and baited with lemongrass essential oil, hopefully attracting and wooing a swarm of bees in search of a new home.  All it takes is one scouting bee who deems our place a worthwhile domicile.  Maybe it will work. Maybe not.

The pigs?  They're happy.  They are doing what pigs are supposed to do: eat, root up (and hopefully eat some) pasture, and wiggle their curly tails in ecstasy when they see us coming with a slop bucket.  They have quickly learned that humans are their friends.

We are currently incubating seven duck eggs in our friend's incubator.  We'll see what happens with that...

With all the work that has to get done in spring, we try to find balance by goofing off by the river, or to lounge on the sofa to read.
What are you doing to keep balance in spring?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I'm getting goats again! And piglets!

A few months ago, I sold my goats, after having raised and milked them for over a decade, because I thought I needed a break from milking, breeding, birthing, feeding and worrying about them. Besides, our family was leaving on a five week road trip, which would leave the rest of our farm and critters attended by a house sitter. Caring for goats would be a lot to ask of a house sitter, so the timing of selling my goats worked out perfectly.  It broke my heart.

However. It is now spring, and all of my friends' goats are having babies. I am getting baby goat fever. I think I'm annoying my goat-owning friends by pushily volunteering my help when a doe goes into labor. “Call me anytime!” I tell them. “I'll keep my phone by the bed side in case there's a goat birthing emergency.” Or I drop by their barns and inspect the does' tails to see if the babies have dropped and labor has started. I just want to be there, immersed in the messy miracle of birth, amniotic fluid, and cute goat babies.  Two of my friends just called me a couple of hours ago AS THEIR GOAT GAVE BIRTH, and I got to "witness" the whole thing over the phone.  I love my friends! 

So I decided to get goats again. This time, I will not push for maximum milk production so I don't have to make hard cheese from ten gallons of milk every four or five days. This time I will attempt to milk once a day (and leave the babies on the mamas), and then just make easy stuff like yogurt, kefir, chevre and the occasional Gouda, Tomme, Cheddar or Manchego. I think it's doable. What do you think?

I've been working frantically to get the goat barn ready.  Steve built it over a decade ago out of recycled and salvaged materials and poured concrete on half of the floor for easy cleaning.  Last week, I cleaned up the messes that have accumulated in it over time.  I washed the milking stand, and mucked out the bedding I didn't remove after I sold my goats because I was too depressed about them being gone. I also shoveled a bunch of compost made with their manure to spread on the garden. 

It might not look pretty to you, but it is so much better than before.  The milk stand will be on the left.

Steve helped with the scraping.  Notice the bare upper bodies?  In March?  Crazy, right?

I'm pretending to milk a goat.  Soon.  Soon.
Oh yeah!  The garden is gonna like this!

Now let me show you the piglets.  We got four this year, and they like to curl up in their food dish to take a nap.  Ahhh, pigs!  We have a great system with our moveable pig pen and electric fence.  They get moved to fresh pasture regularly, doing a good job of eating grass and rooting in it.  Since we only have five acres, all this happens on our neighbor's pasture.

With all this cleaning, mucking, shoveling and digging, we managed to get some bike rides in as well.  You gotta take advantage of this weather.  So one day, I got on the bike with my ten year old son for a little ride, and we accidentally biked 22 miles, to be met by the rest of the family at the bakery in town.  And the day after, we tried out the tag-along ride-behind bike that was given to us.  Eva rode 8 miles on it on her maiden voyage!  As a reward, we biked to the river.  What a life!  What are you feeling blessed by this week?

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