Our Mission:

Our Mission: To enable individuals and communities to take an active part in the cultivation of systems that provide the highest quality fruits, vegetables, herbs and other yields, in a way that benefits themselves, cares for the land and environment, and provides a surplus to use, share and reinvest into the system.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Purple Coneflower of the Prairie - Echinacea

The most widely used wildflower in "Native Plantings" is probably the Purple Coneflower, and for good reason.  The lavender to purple, or on rare occasions white, blooms are large and long lasting.  The flowers sit singly on each stem, of which there are plenty per plant.  The leaves are rough edged and shaped like a spear tip.  The coneflower grows 2-3, or even up to 5 feet tall.  This makes it a showy addition in the back of displays, or near the center of planting islands.
Hardy Perennial
Easy to grow, it is native to all 48 of the lower United States.  It prefers well-drained soil, but grows well in almost all soil types, and is drought tolerant.  As you would expect from a prairie wildflower it prefers full sun, but as you can see in the picture to the right it also does well in part-shade.  This is a first year plant in my home forest garden, although most plants won't bloom until the second year.  Purple Coneflowers are usually started from seed which is easily found in most garden centers, collected on your own from plants in the fall, or traded with friends in a seed exchange.  Plant these seeds, which may benefit from a 60 day cool-moist stratification, in the Spring.  You can also divide the roots in the early Spring, and it can spread aggressively on its own.
Companion Planting
Using this plant in your landscape has many benefits besides being showy and easy to grow.  It is a Native plant and as such fits perfectly in native prairie plantings.  It is a great plant to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, so is one of the key plants in our Butterfly Gardens.  It is particularly beneficial to native bees and other pollinator species, and can provide habitat to boost populations of predators of many garden and crop pests.

Medicinal Herb
Beyond the companion planting benefits, Echinacea is a powerful medicinal herb.  The flowers, and sometimes the whole plant, are dried and used to make a popular herbal tea claimed to support a healthy immune system.  The roots have been used in a similar manner, harvested in the fall after the plants have gone to seed.  Roots should come from a plant at least a couple years old to be big enough to harvest. 

Infusions can be made with water or Tinctures with alcohol, with different compounds resulting from each.  These are also widely available commercially.  The internet is full of recipes and vendors.

Here is more information from the USDA plant guide on Echinacea.
Echinacea is widely used as an herbal remedy today. A purple coneflower product containing the juice of the fresh aerial parts of Echinacea purpurea was found to make mouse cells 50-80 percent resistant to influenza, herpes, and vesicular somatitis viruses. This product was available in Germany in 1978 (Wacker and Hilbig 1978). Perhaps the most important finding so far is the discovery of immuno-stimulatory properties in Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia (Wagner and Proksch 1985, Wagner et al. 1985). Stimulation of the immune system appears to be strongly influenced by dose level. Recent pharmacological studies indicate that a 10-mg/kg daily dose of the polysaccharide over a ten-day period is effective as an immuno-stimulant. Increases in the daily dosage beyond this level, however, resulted in "markedly decreased pharmacological activity" (Wagner and Proksch 1985, Wagner et al. 1985). Other research has shown that the purple coneflower produces an anti-inflammatory effect and has therapeutic value in urology, gynecology, internal medicine, and dermatology (Wagner and Proksch 1985).  Emphasis added
For Everyone
Echinacea or Purple Coneflower should be a part of everyone's gardens or property.  With its decorative appearance, synergistic benefits and its herbal value it can be an integral part of your sustainable and resilient landscape.
As always, if you need help installing butterfly habitat, native plantings or any other of our services contact us at AbundantDesign@Hotmail.com

Fall is actually a perfect time to get  raised beds and soils prepped, designs started, and plants ordered for Spring.  Don't hesitate, get a head start today!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ready for Fall?

Fall is Upon Us
Seems like I just blinked and June was over, now the Autumnal Equinox has come and gone!  And if you thought the days were getting shorter before... look out!

Apples are Ready, Homemade Soda Recipes
I let one of my boys pick a Macoun apple from our backyard and as we were walking away <plop, plop...plop> several more hit the ground.  I had already picked a few Jonathon's because they each had a single wormhole :(  After a little worm eviction and trimming & slicing, they were ready for the pot.  1 cup of sugar, 1 cup apple cider vinegar and 1 cup (well, I used a whole bunch because the vinegar smelled pretty strong) apple pieces.  I brought this to a boil per the instructions for homegrown flavored waters and soda from Mother Earth News, as I am really trying to stop drinking regular soda/pop.  "What is that awful smell?!?!" I hear from upstairs.  The top of our stairway is the best place to be when something delicious is baking, but evidently not so good when you are boiling vinegar.  The finished syrup was ok, but when diluted with carbonated water from the Soda Stream, it left something to be desired.  I kept trying to like it but just couldn't get past the vinegar taste.  Maybe I just have an aversion to vinegar.  (I don't like Tobasco sauce either, with its overpowering vinegar taste, even though I love spicy food)  I've kept the syrup, and will try it again; I don't think the kids will give it another chance though.  If I do try the recipe again I will skip the vinegar or add just a few tablespoons for the acidity; or maybe just try this one instead - Pop Culture: How to Make Soda Syrups, 3 Ways.

September is International Homesteading Month
Leave a comment and tell how you are "celebrating."  I have plans for a Sumac tree in the foundation planting at the corner of the house.

Special Deal!
I have also acquired some used cedar siding.  It passed the 3M test for lead paint and some was used to build my nursery beds.  I can give a great deal to anyone interested in a project using these boards.  They would be perfect for raised beds or compost bins! 

3M Lead√Check™ swab test results photos
No Red = No Lead

QC check looks good
Enjoy this time of year as another growing season winds down and the trees put on their colorful displays. 
Have a great week!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Half-hearted Fanatic

Although not exactly a hero of mine, sad the way the more you learn about people that can happen, I do still like Edward Abbey.  His quote at the end is one of my favorites, and was in my mind today. 

I had been working through several ideas all week for this weekend's post, without settling on any one thing.  I got some business things done with the start-up; temporary business cards made and a visit with the Small Business Development Center - as well as my regular FT job.  Fought off an insidious chigger attack with lots of help from my wife's essential oils magic.  I must have picked those buggers up at a consultation I did near Winterset.  Started teaching 3&4th graders at church, and my own boys had a touch of a stomach bug.  I also made some progress on my nursery beds this weekend so I will be able to supply harder to source plants locally for clients in the future. 

And although I got that done, I did not make time for a real informative post.  Instead I took Edward Abbey's advice and took the family out to the Brenton Arboretum, where we "messed around" and "rambled out yonder".  We played for a long time on the natural playscape they have there, and got in a short walk around the "Vanishing Acts" trail.  The girls found a bright green Copes (could have been eastern) gray tree frog in the port-a-potty, which we caught and moved to less odoriferous settings by an oak tree outside.  Although I had feared it was traumatized by all the squealing, by the time we left it had already found a meal of something with very long legs!  Sadly, the camera battery was dead by then.

So I leave you with this...

One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast...a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.
Edward Abbey (1927 - 1989)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Campfire - What to do when it is all done

What wonderful weather for being outside this weekend!

Today I prepped a new bed making the area between our gate and garden spot easier to mow, dug a few potatoes, helped one of my little gardeners find herbs for mommy's homemade lasagna and chimichurri monkey bread, and planted a few bushes to allow the roots to get going before winter.  I also picked and ate a Macoun apple from my favorite tree.  It wasn't quite ripe (think Atomic Warhead sour) but the anticipation for an apple from the yard got the better of me.  It was still delicious, Ha!

Last night we spent the evening around our fire pit.  The warmth was perfect with the foreshadowing chill in the air.  Stars were twinkling, the moon was overhead.  The drifting wood smoke conjured memories of bonfires past, as well as kept the mosquitos at bay.  A few marshmallows were toasted before we let the glowing embers fade.

Now, what to do with the leftover coals and ash...

You could always just leave them for next time, or until one of the little ones reenacts scenes from old war movies where commandos blacken their faces for a night mission, or the rain turns it into a drain hole clogging slurry.  You could also just give it a toss in the yard, trash or elsewhere but what a waste of valuable resources.

Wood Ash
The white wood ash is a good source of potassium for your plants.  It can also be used to make lye soap when mixed with fats.  If you've ever had cleanup duty while camping you might have put some woods ashes into your bacon grease to scrub the worst dirt off the dishes.  Well, this lye is basic, meaning it will raise the pH of your soil, and if not used in moderation it can spell trouble for your garden.  Blueberries, strawberries, roses, azaleas and other acid loving plants are very sensitive to raises in soil pH.  I mentioned I planted a few bushes earlier, they were Goji Berry (Chinese Wolf Berry) bushes I grew from seed this Spring.  I put these in an area where the Sunflowers have just past their prime.  Both of these species, as well as asparagus, cherry and plum, don't mind or even prefer a higher pH soil, so that's where the wood ashes went, along with a little biochar.

What is biochar?  Biochar is similar to charcoal except it is purposely made for agricultural purposes.  Although the leftover coals from our fire were not made for "biochar" I will call it that since that is how I'll use it now.  These dark coal like pieces are full of cracks and pores that can hold nutrients and provide places for microorganisms to live.  This helps to reduce fertility inputs and increase soil life.  Another benefit of biochar is that it holds carbon for a long, long time (100s to 1000s of years) which is why it is often touted as a way to reduce greenhouses gases and global warming. 

While applying to my garden areas, I like to separate the coals from the ash.  That way I can add some biochar to all of my beds and reserve the white ash for my plants that can appreciate the higher pH.

If you would like an herb spiral, apple tree or guild or edible & sustainable landscaping project at your home contact me at abundantdesign@hotmail.com and we can get together to talk about a plan.

Thanks for stopping by & have a great weekend!