Monday, May 18, 2009

Easy to Make Bug Spray for Horses and Cattle

The Three Horses
We’re getting into bug season soon and it seems as though the horses and cows suffer as much as we do. The flies can be terrible for them, and being good owners, we want to ease their discomfort.

Here is a recipe that a friend gave us last summer that has worked quite well on both horses and cattle.

1 gallon water
½ cup Murphy’s Oil Soap
¼ cup vinegar (we use homemade apple cider vinegar in ours, but regular vinegar works fine, too)

Place in spray bottle, mix well and apply as needed, taking care around the eyes.

Wild Strawberries

wild stawberry blossoms
There is more to the wild strawberry plant than just tasty berries. The leaves and roots can be used as well as part of your garden pharmacy.

Many forms of the wild strawberry exist, and all are very tasty and useful. We love our wild strawberry plants- no work to keeping them, no cost involved, just lots of tasty little berries. We have moved a few of ours around and have cut a few bushes growing in the patch, but there is so little work involved that it doesn’t feel like work.

Each spring we look forward to all the white blossoms (as do the bees) knowing that in June we will have the sweetest tasting berries you could ask for. They may be small, but they make up for their size with flavor.

Wild strawberries that are growing in an inconvenient location can be moved, and they will also grow in containers (however they may not come back the following spring if the container is too small). They are lovely in hanging baskets.

Uses for Wild Strawberry:

It is best to pick the leaves for drying before the fruit sets.

Leaves can be used to make a mouthwash for sore gums--mix about ¼ cup of leaves to ½ cup boiling water. Let steep 30 minutes, cool and use twice a day.

Add fresh or dried leaves to your bath water for a relaxing bath.

A tea from the leaves is said to strengthen the blood.

Leaves and flowers are a good tonic for nervous livestock. They are used for treating diarrhea, impure blood and are good for fever. Sheep and goats love them, as do most livestock.

Dried leaves can be used in potpourri.

Dried roots can be used as a tea to relieve diarrhea.

Roots can be used in making toothpaste.

Crushed berries can be applied to sunburn (cover with a damp cloth). Let sit about 15 minutes and then rinse off the berries with warm water.

The fruit is high in Vitamin C.

To help remove stains from your teeth, rub strawberries over them.
Dry the berries and use in herbal wreath making.

The fruit has many uses: add to cereal, salads, eat with cream, or do as we do-- pick a spot within easy reach of the berries, sit down and start eating!


No homestead should be without the plant, comfrey. Its uses are endless and range from fertilizer to bone mender. We have comfrey growing all over the place, and add more each year.

Comfrey roots grow deep into the soil, therefore be sure to think about where you want to plant it, it will be there to stay. Also, comfrey can grow quite tall (up to 3 feet) and wide. It makes a great border plant if you need some height. It will spread and likes full sun or partial shade.

Uses for Comfrey:

Comfrey makes a wonderful liquid fertilizer. Pack a 5 gallon plastic bucket half to three quarters full of comfrey leaves and add water to cover well. Put on a lid and let sit 3-4 weeks. Drain off the water to use as a fertilizer (it will most likely smell). It is great for potatoes and tomatoes and is high in protein.

Compost piles will break down faster when comfrey leaves are added.

Boil fresh leaves for a gold dye.

Leaves can be used in the garden as mulch. They are a good source of calcium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins C and A.

Comfrey has quite a reputation as a bone mender. I broke my finger last summer and each day for about a week I wrapped a comfrey leaf around it. I can not say if the bone healed any faster (first bone I every broke, so I had nothing to compare it to), but there was not much pain and I have not had any trouble with it since.

Livestock love comfrey- we dry it in the summer and fall and feed it to our cows as a treat in the winter.

Bees love the little purple flowers. We grow some in the apiary for them.

For sore muscles soak a cloth in comfrey tea and apply to the affected area. You can also add the leaves right to your bath water.

Mix ¼ cup dried leaves or roots with 1¼ cup vodka. Let sit 4-6 weeks, strain and use on acne twice a day.

Making Apple Cider Vinegar at Home

homemade apple cider vinegar
Making apple cider vinegar is just one way we become a little more self sufficient. It is so easy and tasty. We make gallons of it each year and use it for pickles, cleaning, cooking, animal health, our own health and more.

If you have your own apples and press your own cider all you have to do it put some unheated (raw) cider in a glass jar (we use a 3 gallon glass carboy, like the kind used for brewing, and also one gallon jars), be sure to leave some head space, and secure cheese cloth on top with an elastic. Place cider in a cool, dark place and taste in about 4 months. If it is not strong enough for your taste, let it sit longer. You will see the “mother” forming in the vinegar. The “mother” keeps the vinegar working and makes it stronger.

If the vinegar is to your liking, you can strain the mother off and rebottle. We sometimes leave the mother in the vinegar and have not had a problem with the vinegar getting too strong for our tastes. A lot of times we use a one gallon wine bottle to make the ACV and when we remove the cheese cloth we just replace it with the lid from the wine bottle (make sure to sterilize all bottles and caps before using).

If you don’t press your own apples, try to find someone who does and get some fresh (unheated) cider to make your vinegar.

If you are unable to make your own ACV vinegar and have to buy it, make sure to buy some that is raw, and preferably, unfiltered. You don’t want all the goodness taken out of it!