“Forest Garden” Is Solid Permaculture Step At Organic Farm

The Holistic Orchard at Lehmans.com.

Interested in permaculture? Check out The Holistic Orchard for a great discussion. At Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or Lehmans.com

In addition to tending our family vegetable garden, I’m keeping my hoe in shape by tackling a new project, my forest garden.

In “permaculture” language, this is an area planted with mainly perennial plantings of differing heights including trees, bushes, herbs and flowers that are arranged so they all benefit each other. The idea is that the grouping provides a good assortment of food, mulch crops, insect pollinators, etc. with minimal outside inputs or on-going planting. I’ve had this project in my head for years and even had an area set aside and cover cropped with rye for two years. Finally, I’ve started in with the shovel to make it into reality.

The area I chose on the farm already had a snow peach tree, a young sweet yellow cherry and locust tree growing so that gave me a foundation to start with. I may add a few more small fruit trees in the future as I see how the space develops. Continue reading

Forage in Your Own Yard for Delicious, Nutritious Purslane

Simply in Season Expanded Edition Cookbook

Simply in Season Expanded Edition Cookbook

During my Thursday garden demos in Lehman’s retail store in Kidron, Ohio, I stock my table display with conversation starters and educational tools from our farm. Churning butter prompts stories from folks who churned many a batch in their youth. On the plate of freshly harvested veggies, people often inquire about the bright yellow pattypan squash or the unique Mexican Sour Gherkins and in the bouquet of flowers, Bells of Ireland are the main attraction.

Even with all these fun things, the most popular display is likely my humble plate of edible weeds. Unless you have a perfectly landscaped and chemical-sprayed yard, everyone grows weeds and is curious to learn which ones they can safely put on the supper table. Continue reading

Kale Is The King of Cold Weather Greens

Russian Red Kale in cold frames, December 2012.

Russian Red Kale in cold frames, December 2012.

It’s time for a tasty and versatile seasonal goodie – kale! Cold weather is when kale comes into its glory and following our recent holiday feasting, it is a healthy addition to the menu.

Kale, like most greens, is happiest in cool weather and a frost will make it much sweeter as starches turn to sugars. As late as last December, the Red Russian Kale was still flourishing in my various cold frames (see photo) and depending on the temperatures, I normally can continue harvesting this hardy green through the dead of winter. Continue reading

Karen’s Kitchen Remedies May Beat Winter’s Germs

Mint Teas

Sometimes, a mint tea can soothe upset tummies. You can find locally grown Mint Brooks’ Tea mixes at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, OH.

I am a big fan of letting our food be our medicine and winter is a great time to put that into practice. When dealing with minor ailments for family members, my first choice is searching for things in my kitchen cupboards or from the garden rather than unpronounceable chemicals found in drug store aisles. Since it is the season for winter yuck, I have gathered some of the basic remedies our family uses this time of year.

Flu Tea:
When any of my children feel slightly ill the first thing they ask for is tea. My shelves are full of dried herbs from the garden plus some purchased varieties from our favorite local Amish bulk herb shop.  One of the most useful ones is Flu Tea which is both helpful for the sick ones and for keeping healthy family members from catching the bug. I mix up a big batch and keep a quart jar of the blend handy to add to hot water plus a few leaves of homegrown dried stevia to sweeten. The herbs have helpful properties plus the warmth of the tea signals the body’s immune forces to go into action.

Flu Tea:

3 parts red raspberry leaves, 2 parts peppermint leaves, 1 part alfalfa leaf, 1 part stinging nettle leaf and ¼ part yarrow flower. (Make your ‘one part’ equal to ½ cup, and it all should fit into a quart jar.) Use about 1Tbsp of dried mix to one cup of boiling water.

Sore Throats And Ouchy Ears:
For sore throats, our first defense is the age old practice of gargling with warm salt water which helps knock out germs and loosen phlegm. The next concoction that I prepare for the patient is what we call spicy honey. I take about 1 Tablespoon raw honey and mix in one clove of finely minced garlic and 1/2-1tsp of powdered cayenne pepper. Taking small licks throughout the day and letting it coat the throat provides the antibacterial action of garlic and honey plus the cayenne stimulates circulation to the affected area. I recently found a recipe for a sage tea gargle that I want to try on the next cough victim–er, volunteer– at our house.

When ear infections strike, I grab my bottle of garlic infused oil and suck some up into an eyedropper. I warm the dropper and oil by running the dropper under hot water. The warm oil goes into the affected ear and several drops go on the outside of the ear and is gently massaged in. This is all topped off with a warm wash cloth since warmth is very soothing to ear maladies.

Measure all your remedies accurately! Sterilizable stainless steel spoons available at Lehman's in Kidron or Lehmans.com.

Measure all your remedies accurately! Sterilizable stainless steel spoons available at Lehman’s in Kidron or Lehmans.com.

Super Tonic And Tinctures
Another favorite remedy that we have made for many years is what we call “Super Tonic.” This is the remedy my husband and I go for the minute we feel a tickle in our throat or a stuffy head coming

Every fall I chop up equal parts fresh garlic, onion, horseradish, cayenne pepper and ginger root and fill a glass jar (quart size or larger) ¾ full of the chopped ingredients and then cover with raw apple cider vinegar. I set the jar in a dark cupboard and try to shake it daily for 2-3 weeks before straining. It is quite potent and can be diluted for children with a bit of honey or juice. You can take up to a teaspoon every hour when battling sinus, throat or flu issues. You can really feel it work in opening up passages and the only side effect is a lovely odor! My kids won’t come asking for this one unless they are completely miserable.

Echinacea is another great immune booster and I’m excited to try out the Tasty Echinacea tincture I made from my mature echinacea roots this fall. And don’t forget the wonderful healing effects of good old fashioned chicken soup full of homemade broth and again, with plenty of garlic. Sauerkraut and fermented foods are another thing on our healing menu as they help restore digestion and good intestinal bacteria.

Learn more about home remedies! Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, OH.

Learn more about home remedies! Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, OH.

Using basic herbs and kitchen items can be effective in fighting illness but it is important to remember that they are not as concentrated as what you might buy at the drug store. So taking remedies several times throughout the day is important and since they are whole foods, there is not danger of overloading. One cup of weak tea won’t make much difference but combining several natural options with plenty of rest may get you back on your feet sooner.

Follow herbal remedy making and taking directions closely.

Karen Geiser is a regular blogger for CountryLife. She owns and operates an organic farm in Wayne County, Ohio, and is a frequent demonstrator and lecturer discussing organic foods and healthy lifestyles at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Easy Countertop Sauerkraut

Our organic gardener, Karen Geiser, is sharing this recipe during her frequent seminars at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio. For those of you who might not be able to make it to the store, here’s her easy recipe for flavorful fermented sauerkraut. If you’ve been curious about fermented foods, but aren’t sure where to start, this is the ideal recipe for you!

Continue reading

Summer Pizza 3: Pizza al Fresco

Pizza Peel

This pizza peel is available at www.lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

The other evening our family made a quick trip to Italy. No pricey airline tickets, just a quick ride around the corner to the home of one of my veggie customers who built an outdoor cement oven. But the food tasted like we were an ocean away. Continue reading

Family Birthdays Honor the Seasons

Here on the farm, our life revolves around the seasons. Our work attire, job list and even what is on our supper plate is determined by the weather and the time of year. Even the way we celebrate birthdays is dictated by the seasons.

Our family doesn’t give birthday presents but our tradition is to serve a birthday supper where the honoree chooses the menu. Most of the food for these birthday feasts comes right from the farm and our children dream and plan their menus months in advance. Continue reading