Is this a gross spider or what?  Yup!  Found it in my basil a week or two ago and had to take a photo.  It was HUGE!  It's also known as a black & yellow garden spider.

            The females are larger than the males and this one was almost full grown I think....it was about 1-1/2" big!  After reading up on them a bit I found out that the male spider will be somewhere close...and he was....he was about a foot away in another part of the basil, but he's just a brown spider and alot smaller...about 3/4" long.  I thought this was unusual because isn't it usually the female (birds anyway) that are the plain looking ones and the males are gorgeous colours?

            Both of them were spinning cone-like webs and the news I found out next freaked me out slightly.  The female lays about one thousand eggs and they hatch in the fall!  At this point I turned to Dan and said "Get that outta my garden!" or I'll be overrun with them next year and I know they don't bite and they're awesome because they eat all those nasty aphids and mosquitos, but really...do I want to be brushing up against them in every plant?  Unfortunately (well, depending on which way you look at it)  the female spider dies after laying her eggs into a sac.  The sac hatches with all the offspring in the fall, but they stay inside the sac until Spring!  That gives Dan a few months to take it to the river side of the house!  Hahaha!

            I'm really not a big spider fan, and not only are these precious little things out front, but down at the river we have giant dock spiders...even worse....they bite!  I'll try to catch a photo of one soon, but they are pretty quick!  They can swim too! 

            City girl meets country bugs......ew, ew, ew!

             Next to Lavender, basil is my absolute most favoured fragranced herb.  Whether I cut it from my crop or buy it in the grocery store, for the first 1/2 hr, I swear, all I do is try to take the very essence out of the leaves, holding them up to my nose and inhaling like a crazy beast!  I know...pretty visual huh?

          Each year, I plant about 5-6 small plants into a very deep planter like the one shown here.  It's important to have a deep planter for the roots.  I've found if I plant in a shallow planter, the plant is sparse and just doesn't have that volume one gets from a large planter.  Now, I've always pruned the flowers off when it starts to bloom, just by nipping them with your fingers at the base of the vertical flower and that seems to thicken it up.  But, recently, someone told me that they read you should lop off about 6" down the branch of leaves?  If anyone has any input about this, please comment or contact me.  Other than watering and getting rid of those hideous japanese beetles, basil is very easy to care for.

          The best thing to do with basil, in my world, is to make Pesto out of it!  Pesto is a wondrous food that I personally like to make a huge batch of every year and freeze.  The secret to freezing pesto is to not add the parmesan cheese into the recipe and after you load into small 4oz jars, put a layer of olive oil on top.  The olive oil helps the pesto to retain it's colour.  The drawback of basil is that it goes brown very quickly and the olive oil acts as a protective coating on it. 

          Basil is primarily a fabulous additive to food, however in Italy was used to symbolize courting.  A man would give a woman  he was interested in a sprig of basil to show his intentions.  We all know how much Italians use basil in their foods...I think they found the secret of cooking with this herb!

          You can also use basil leaves and rub them on insect bites to reduce inflammation and itchiness.  If you pour boiling water onto the leaves in a pot and inhale, it will help the common cold because basil fights infection and clears mucus.  It can aid digestion, help expel gas, prevent constipation and relieve stomach upset.  The only precaution given for basil is not to use if pregnant because it can stimulate menstrual flow and has actually been used to assist with expulsion of the placenta after birth, so definitely, don't use in tinctures, teas, etc if you are pregnant!

          If you do nothing else with it, just pick up a bunch at the beginning of your cruise around the grocery store next time and inhale as you push the buggy....I guarantee by the time you get to the checkout, you'll feel so rejuvenated....it actually will clear your head, make your concentration better and give you an all round sense of well-being.

             I can't believe it's Thursday again (Herb day on my blog) so soon!  In our house, garlic is a staple used in so many recipes brought to our table.  How can you not love garlic?  My favourite way to have garlic is to just roast it in the oven with olive oil drizzled over it (tops cut off the whole head) in a small covered casserole dish.  If you serve up the roasted garlic to be smeared on french bread toasts with melted brie and a jam or jelly of your choice...you will think you're in heaven!   I first had this mouthwatering dish at the Rude Native when it was in Hamilton and Dan & I rushed home to recreate this for friends! 

            Garlic is an amazing medicinal food in that it acts as an antibiotic, reduces blood pressure, it's an anticoagulant, lowers cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels and also can be an antihistamine.  As a decongestant, garlic is extremely effective in treating bronchitis.  If you eat raw cloves daily it can assist with digestion disorders and infections, while still maintaining beneficial flora in the intestines.  Some pharmaceutical antibiotics used for stomach disorders can kill off the beneficial flora.   My Aunt Linda drinks tomato juice with minced fresh garlic in it daily!  I tried it and it's not for me....something about garlic in the morning just doesn't go over well with my senses...but perhaps I should start drinking it at dinnertime?!

            You can buy garlic in capsule form and by taking this daily, it's been proven to prevent further heart attacks in people who have already had a heart attack...as well as fight infections in the body.  Using garlic topically (directly rubbing on the skin)  on acne will help clear your complexion, but I'd suggest using the garlic "pearls" which can be broken up like Vitamin E and don't have the smell associated with garlic.   You could also use it mashed up on warts or corns.  Digesting it in it's raw form (as my Aunt does) is best, but you will notice that your breath may be horrid the next morning or you smell bad!  This is because it travels through your system so quickly.  If you rubbed garlic on your feet, you'd be able to taste it 10 minutes later!  To get rid of that sharp taste in your mouth the next morning, regardless of how you ingest it, you can eat some parsley which should nullify it.

             Planting garlic in your garden among your other plants, rather than just in a row, acts as a natural insecticide, much as the marigolds I spoke of last week in my blog.  And, there's nothing like pulling fresh garlic out of your garden just before a meal....talk about fresh!

            Don't forget about how great it is for warding off Vampires!  Enjoy your "bite" of garlic today!

            Recently I bought this beautiful Japanese Willow plant at The Potting Shed in Dunnville!  I had seen it at a relative's home and tried to start it from a cutting, but I'm pretty sure the cutting has had the biscuit...although, I'll just wait a little longer to make sure.  This will grow up to 18 feet high apparently.  This one in the photo is in bloom right now (that was July).  They bloom for approximately 6 weeks and it's actually the variegated leaves that change to a beautiful powder pink colour during that time period...not an actual flower!  If you trim them in spring or fall, you can train them to stay as small bushes.  Breathtaking!

            Calendula, otherwise known as Marigolds, are an extremely versatile flower.  I actually think they should have been an herb because of it's many utilizations.  It is edible, can be used for medicine and beauty products and is a natural bug repellent in your vegetable garden.  How great is that?  Never mind the fact that it's gorgeous orange flowers can cheer you up and just looking at it can "clear" your head.  At the end of this blog reading, I hope you're going to want to rush out and get some marigolds to possibly experiment with in your cooking or beauty regiment!

            Let's start with usiing them as an edible plant.  The only thing you need to be careful about with buying or growing calendula is to ensure it is Calendula and not Tagetes, which is an African Marigold and often is mixed up by buyers and sellers.  Anything Calendula is okay unless it is even shown on the tag together with Tagetes, which is an oil with high levels of ketones.  Signet Marigold and Pot Marigold are best in flavour for recipes.  That said....because it would be bad if my blog hurt you!...you can use different parts of the flower for cooking.  If you use the flower, be sure to either pick it just before using or keep in a vase until ready to trim up and use because the petals don't last very well after being plucked, even in the fridge.  You can just pat any moisture out of the petals on paper towelling after rinsing.  Petals are great in salads for colour and you can use in cookies or stir fries as well.  Small leaves of the plant may be used like spinach and be boiled while fresh.  Check out "The Atlantic - What's for Dinner" and find a few interesting ideas for using marigolds at your table!

        As far as medicinal uses are concerned, marigolds have been used for centuries for skin problems like cracked skin and inflammations in the cream form.  It can be used in the form of a tea for gastric problems with just 1 cup of boiled water poured on 2tsp of flowers.  Infused oils can be used on broken capillaries or varicose veins. 

         To make an infused oil (which you would use to make a cream form as well) all you need to do is pick whole flower heads of Pot Marigolds and only use good parts...no eaten sections or brown bits.  You won't be washing them, because that could cause a mold to form.  Bruise the petals and break the flowers up lightly and then pack them tightly into a canning jar.  Top up the jar with a light oil, such as grapeseed or safflower, (cold pressed) to the brim and place the jar in a sunny window for approx. 10-12 days.  Strain this mixture through cheesecloth and save the oil.  Pack new flowers all over again into the jar with the oil in it and top it up to the brim with fresh oil.  Once again, strain after 10-12 days in the sunshine and pour into a coloured jar or bottle and label!

         Medicinal and Beauty issues are closely related with Marigolds as you just learned with the calming bath aspect.  The oil or cream, used daily, can also help to reduce scars.  Due to the wonderful skin healing character of marigolds, it makes it a crossover cream or oil for skincare in general.

        I just want to tell you how I use them in my garden.  If you plant them around the outer edges of your veggie garden, they repel aphids from your plants and cabbage butterflies as well.  This really does work! 

        If anyone has any other thoughts or ideas of uses for calendula please comment and let me know as well!

Start picking now!

              These little pests are something new to me since living out here on the Grand.  I had never seen them before and last year was my first experience with them.  They will land on your basil as well as  roses, cucumber, okra and beans.  The fact that they land on edible plants prompted me to search for an organic method of dealing with them and I found one last year. 

          Brew very, very strong coffee....either espresso or just triple the amount of coffee granules you put in your maker.  Pour into a spray bottle and if using espresso...I add some water to it, because I have a Tassimo and the wee cups it makes are just not enough.  Add just a quick squeeze of dishsoap and shake.  Spray all over the leaves of your plant and respray after a rainfall.  They just fly away and maybe the odd one you'll have to flick off, but it seems to work very well for me!


             This butterfly gorged I do believe on my blanket flowers.  Honestly....he didn't move for at least an hour....just spread his wings periodically and continued to feast!  I think he found his happy place.  We should all be so lucky!

              My Aunt Linda gave me this recipe and it's basically the same as any others in my numerous herb books.  It's very easy to make infused calendula oil and rose oil works on the same premise.    These jars here look quite lovely don't they?  Well, wait until you see them in 10-12 days....GROSS!!  Then they are all brown and slimy looking inside and have lost their gorgeous colours.  They look like something you'd see in a witch's kitchen at that point.  They'll have been sitting in a sunny window ledge  all that time actually fermenting in the safflower oil.  It's so worth it in the end though because you'll have a wonderful, natural homemade remedy and some bath oil!  And, the colour doesn't really matter in the end because it will be clearer and stored in a coloured bottle or jar.

Calendula (Marigold) and Rose Oil

Pick  bowls of flowers
Break off the petals and rub (bruise) the them as you fill a canning jar.  Push them down.
Pour in Cold-Pressed Safflower Oil to cover the petals.
Seal and place on a windowsill in a sunny spot.
Leave for 10-12 days.
Fill another jar tightly with bruised flowers (after the 10-12 days).
Strain the calendula mixture that's been sitting through cheesecloth into the new jar.
Top up with more Cold-Pressed Safflower Oil to cover.
Repeat  standing time on the windowsill for another 10-12 days in the new jar.
Repeat straining process.
Store in a coloured glass bottle or jar for up to a year in a cool, dark place....no...not your mind!

            The Calendula oil can be used as described in last weeks blog Calendula and the infused Rose Oil can be used similarly in hand and body creams or I like to put a few drops of Lavender Essential Oil into the tub with some of the Rose Oil...I love the combination of these two scents! 

Calendula (Marigold) Salve

Wash 4 small 1/2 cup jars in hot soapy water and dry well.
Pour 1 cup infused oil into the top of a double boiler that has hot (not boiling, just hot) water in the bottom of it             and heat the oil until it's warm...not hot.
Add 5 Tbsp. grated beeswax slowly and keep stirring until it melts.
Add 4 tsp. aloe vera gel if you have it.
Test the consistency of the creamy salve by dabbing some on a plate with a spoon and letting it cool.  If it seems             to be the thickness you want, then it's ready.  If not, add a little more beeswax.
You can also add 5-20 drops of Lavender Essential Oil (also a healer) into the mixture for added scent.
Remove from heat and pour into jars labelled and dated.
Store in a dark, cool place for up to a year.
(rule of thumb: 4 parts oil, 1 part beeswax)

            You can add almost any ingredients you like to this salve.  If you add some drops of tea tree oil as well because it is antifungal and antiseptic, it will only enhance your homemade salve.  Calendula is great on cracked skin and for healing cuts.

            Obviously I won't be making my creams for a few weeks, but if you want to start doing the first step, do it now!  Get the flowers infusing in the oil on your windowsill!   Don't wait to see my finished product or it will be too late for you!

             Is there truly any scent more relaxing, more calming, more....feel like lying in a field of it, than lavender?  I'm not sure if it's just me, but as soon as I smell this divinity,  I feel all the stress being released from my body and soul.  Okay....maybe just most of it, but you understand what I'm saying?  Lavender is truly my favourite scented herb of all the herbs.  I've made lavender bath bombs, soap, bath bags, salts, linen sprays and I can't get enough of it!  You can ingest it internally in teas or food or externally with the oil, but whatever you do with it...it's going to help at the very least with your mindset. 

     Just the inhalation of lavender will help a headache related to stress especially.  It can induce you to a peaceful sleep by just having a sachet under your pillow or spraying your pillowcase with lavender linen spray.  Lavender oil can be used externally to soothe aches and pains by rubbing some oil on the area affected.

          Beauty wise, it can be used for acne flare ups and as a balm for sunburn just by mixing a few drops to a little water and then rubbing it on the affected area as well.   You can rub the oil undiluted onto insect bites and stings. Also...I know, but wait!  Lavender can help repair damaged hair too!

          If you want to dry lavender, collect it when the flowers start to fade...at the end stage of flowering and hang upside down in a cool place, in a paper bag.  This way when the flowers fall off, you can collect them!

            Hi everyone!  As I stated on my home page, I'm re-formatting my site to ease the navigational abilities.  Now you'll be able to click on the "Categories" in the side-bar to be in the section you want to be in!  And, I'll be able to organize the herbs, flowers, helpful tips and preparations more fluidly.  It'll just take me a short time to transfer over the herbs and flowers from my other pages.  Thanks for reading up on herbs I love! 

Wendy :)
    Aunt Ethel's Gardening Hands. Isn't Life perfect?


            Years ago I took a distance learning course (in my not so free time) and received a certificate as a Natural Health Consultant.  I've always had a love of herbs, growing and using them and recently I've delved more into flower gardening.  If you have anything to add to my posts, please comment so others can gain your knowledge too!


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