Plant Based Artisinal Ink

Blackberry Calligraphic Ink

Blackberry Calligraphic Ink

This is a departure from my customary post, yet an alchemical expression, uniting our being with nature.  From beginning to end, it is most satisfying being a part of the process.

Blackberries ripening in the morning sun.

Blackberries ripening in the morning sun.

Harvest about one cup fresh, handpicked berries.

Gathered Sun-kissed Berries

Gathered Sun-kissed Berries

Wash well and allow to dry thoroughly, so as not to dilute the concentration.

Dry berries

Clean, dry berries

With mortar and pestle, gently crush berries into a jammy consistency.

Crushed blackberries

Crushed blackberries

Cook in a double boiler over medium heat.  Simmer covered for 20 – 30 min.

Cooked berries

Cooked berries

Strain cooked berries through a 100% cotton cloth.  Double a draw-string tea bag over on itself pouring berries directly into a sterile glass ink well.

Draining berries

Draining berries

Macerate berries with grain alcohol, or at least 80 proof vodka; to further extract essential plant oils while draining.

Ingredients for extraction

Ingredients for extraction

Add 2-3 tablespoons gum arabic to thicken.  I added 1 Tbsp. liquid Gum Arabic with a mineral spirit-like preservative quality.

Final Product

Final Product

Squeeze bag gently until all liquid juice has been fully extracted.

Allow to cool and paint, or write away!

Berry Artistic Ink

Berry Artistic Ink

I could not wait to apply brush to parchment and experience the glide of this yummy medium.  The color is lighter than anticipated, but will undoubtedly darken over time as exposed to UV rays, and the aroma is so “jammy” wafting off the page, that I expect my artwork to be perfectly edible.  This is a quick and simple craft to potentiate your art, and I successfully did it ALL while wearing white!

Individual Cheeseless Margherita-Style Pizza

Personalized cheeseless vegetable pizza

Personalized cheeseless vegetable pizza

This colorful vegetable pizza is quick to prepare and filled with flavor. Preheat conventional or toaster oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit while assembling. Begin with Naan or unleavened flat bread. This recipe would be vegan if not for the possible ingredients used in Naan. Our naan is local but contains “DATEM”, which is an acronym for bread conditioners often containing animal ingredients.
Coat the bread of choice with just enough tomato sauce so as not to become soggy. Pesto is an excellent alternative!

Sauce covered bread.

Sauce covered bread.

Heap a generous portion of sautéed vegetables on top. I often choose the same selection of easy to come by garden veggies because I like them. These veggies were previously prepared and seasoned with intention for future entrees, like this one.

Add thick tomato slices or small wedges. Heirloom varieties, like this Black Krim, are known for their meaty texture, therefore; withstand heat well. Heirloom varieties contain higher levels of effective lycopene antioxidants, demonstrating a reduction of blood platelet aggregation. Our tomatoes were not ripening in the cool summer nights so I brought them indoors to save them from both animals and the elements, but only after a hint of color first appeared. This is the formation of lycopene, which continues to develop from the inside out.

Fresh Black Krim Heirloom Tomato

Fresh Black Krim Heirloom Tomato

Garnish with fresh basil to bring forth the flavor of these mouthwatering tomatoes.

Fresh plucked basil complements the sweet tomato.

Fresh plucked basil complements the sweet tomato.

Finally, grind black pepper overall to taste. We use a Turkish coffee grinder as our pepper mill, for a fine dusting of a tri-color blend.

Grind pepper blend to taste

Grind pepper blend to taste

Bake briefly at 400 degrees F directly on top oven rack for just a few minutes. The finished product will be hot all the way through and the bread becomes slightly crisp while remaining flexible. Try different sauces and toppings to suit your individual palate and needs, because it’s all YOURS.

Now that I have fed myself, I will go feed the tomatoes. They are still growing!

Therapeutic gleanings from the garden

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My patio garden

“It’s hypnotic watching you…” my neighbor observed.  “The way you care for your plants is an art form.”  I was taken a bit by surprise at having been “watched” while in the solitude of my little patio garden during off hours of the day. 

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Sun-drenched daisies
BME photo

Pleased to know others share my appreciation for the craft, I had the honor to help restore her lovely wooded herb garden earlier in the season where we exchanged plants from lamb’s ear and bountiful sweet woodruff, to my sun-loving daisies transplanted across her treed fence line.  Like raising the bedroom blind, the hearty American daisies beam with the bright morning sunshine from the east.

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Variegated grasses make a natural fence

Japanese irises and decorative grasses formulate a dense border discouraging deer from crossing her path.

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Hanging double and purple petunias attract wildlife
BME photo

I’m happy to have a place I can go to “take me away”, as the commercial used to proclaim.  For years I have kept hanging baskets of petunias which require dead-heading to encourage growth and stimulate new blossoms.  They can become “stringy” and won’t last the winter.  Personally, I refuse to kill any plants and rather let nature take its course, but have been accused of artificially respirating the botanicals with whom I have shared a bond and come to know fondly in my outdoor home.   In his recent blog post “A Garden for the House”, Kevin Lee Jacobs outlines tips for re-rooting petunias over the winter so as to have beautiful baskets for the following year.

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A rosy view on life
BME photo

This is just a sampler of the goings-on in my garden.  I stop and “take time to smell the roses”, snap a pic or twelve, watch the clouds blow by and commune with nature. 

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One of our many winged visitors
BME photo

My mind wanders with the wind and my thoughts are carried on the wings of the birds, bees and other insects alike that frequent here.  This is my space where I may be one with life’s growing cycle and those just visiting…if only for a brief time.

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Several varieties of bees eat freely
BME photo

It stimulates my mind, my body, my senses and my soul; and is my therapy.

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“Guiding Star Clematis”- colorful cascading fence covering
BME photo

Finding Your Foundation

For any foundation to be stable, it requires a minimum of three supports to create harmony and balance…

Spiritual

                              Emotional                                        Physical

When out of balance, illness results.

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Biochemical Alchemy label

Paracelsus is attributed to having said: “Man is a microcosm, or a little world, because he is an extract from all the stars and planets of the whole firmament, from the earth and the elements; and so he is their quintessence.”  Discovering the fascinating capabilities of our bodies solidifies our integral understanding of life’s perpetual cycle. This, in turn, supports our own ability to heal.

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Essential botanicals

Healthcare is a balance of what has been distinguished as conventional and alternative practices, effective when used in concert.  Also known as “functional medicine”, this philosophy is an approach designed to enhance outcomes.  If the body is treated holistically, then a broad spectrum of modalities should be taken into consideration.  When allopathic medicine is initially administered, it renders alternative approaches impotent by the medical model.  Take for example, the action of surgical and pharmaceutical procedures.  These so-called “alternatives” should be chosen as the primary approach because it elevates the body’s ability to heal itself.  The exception is in a true medical emergency.

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Versatile healing plant

I am truly amazed how versatile herbs are.  Not only the plant themselves, but the many forms in which they may be employed.  One herb can serve multiple purposes.  This utilitarian concept illustrates the convenience of over-the-counter (OTC) meds and prescriptions that are manufactured to treat one symptom, or symptoms; period.  We have become programmed to being highly specialized in our healthcare at the expense of our own health.  Focusing on ailments, we continue to treat the symptoms rather than addressing the source.  Choosing to seek several different doctors for each set of symptoms and diagnoses whilst losing sight of the broad spectrum of holistic practices.

 How Plants Heal

According to Master Herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, “The prevailing scientific view is that all disease is caused on a molecular level.  A chemical drug produces its effect by entering a cell through a receptor that conforms to the shape of the molecule like a “lock and key”.  In contrast, medicinal plants are described by their adherents as working on a higher physiological level making them more versatile.” 

Herbal adaptogens contain multiple constituents working together to produce a combined effect surpassing their individual potential.   This botanical synergism is the science of “nutrigenomics” – highly active substances from food and natural resources that serve as potent dietary signaling molecules, effecting genetic expression.  Taking a synthesized supplement is not equivalent to the multiple benefits from eating fresh, whole food.  Modes of preparation and ingestion are also important.  To illustrate, hepatotoxicity occurs with concentrated pyrrolizidine alkaloids present in comfrey root.  Aerial parts of this plant contain less and are absorbed transdermally.  Oral consumption of comfrey is ill advised as a direct route for ingestion.  Allantoin and rosmarinic acid are anti-inflammatory constituents primarily present in leaves and flowers, therefore; of therapeutic value.

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Prepared plant parts

Plants impart wisdom to those of us willing to learn.  They offer a unique pathway to healing and healthcare.  Herbal preparations range from household products and cosmetics to prescriptives that maintain a chemical balance throughout for plants, animals and people alike.  The most outstanding gift of plants is that they strengthen our relationship with life and the natural world supporting the “permaculture” philosophy of how our biological beings relate synergistically to our physical environment to work in harmony.  Herbology is considered an alternative modality, though it offers an elegant biochemical for healing.  In its most basic element, a nutritive protocol, a philosophy and a lifestyle practice, Herbology is naturally the “art of healing”.

As a Certified Herbalist, I plant my own healing garden I harvest to prepare herbal tinctures, blends, remedies and food to maintain vitality.  A lifelong practice, herbalism is a craft carefully cultivated from intuition, science and strong belief.  These are the elements to necessitate transformation.  These are the ingredients connecting us with our roots that formulate a balanced lifestyle.

 

Planting Heirloom Tomatoes for Father’s Day

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Heirloom tomato plant
Credit: Bethane M. Evans

Tomatoes love calcium found in bone meal.  Ours thrive on organic mushroom compost!  Space far enough apart to accommodate the dense leaved branches that will need to be clipped as they reach a couple of feet tall.  This will allow direct sunlight ripen the fruit.  Dig holes deep enough to accommodate tomato plant atop additional compost.  Sprinkle in bone meal and gently break apart roots. 

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Preparing for planting
Bethane M. Evans

Fill in the hole and build-up with mushroom compost, watering well. 

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Tomatoes strategically planted in sunlight against a fence
Planting, growing, photography credit: Bethane M. Evans

If you reside in an area with voracious bunnies, you may want to give serious consideration to deer netting.  A little goes a long way and it is tricky to work with, but does a good job discouraging foraging wildlife from devouring your precious plants

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Deer netting protected young tomato plants
Photo credit: Bethane M. Evans

We lost our 29 transplanted seedlings, mowed down to the quick by ravenous rabbits!  Fortunately, tomato plants are strong and hunger for the nutrients provided in this rich, organic compost blend. 

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Wild rabbits
Photo by Bethane M. Evans

Just a few plants will yield many tomatoes to be enjoyed by all throughout the summer and into the next season.  I was still harvesting tomatoes and delivering baskets to our neighbors well into November a couple of years back. 

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“Black Krim” heirloom tomato harvest 2011
By Bethane M. Evans

All ages can participate in this growing activity that is so satisfying for the mind, body and soul.  Have a Happy Father’s Day!

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Therapeutic gardening
Credit: Bethane M. Evans

 

More gleanings from the garden

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Pansies at Dawn

I was intimidated, rather downright pressured into growing my patio garden again.  Work and other commitments have kept me from my much needed therapy.  The elder women in the neighborhood were having yet another garage sale.  This always attracts the attention of other neighbors who make themselves known with dog introductions and re-introductions, gesturing where they live.  Nobody even recognizes me when taken out of the context of my garden.  “Oh, you’re the one with all of the beautiful flowers” they ascertain.

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Snapdragons

I listened to the Ladies’ accolades with joy and pride.  The polite introductions rally into conversations, quickly becoming a chorus of collective scolding I haven’t heard since childhood. “The best boat is your friend’s boat “applies here.  I nodded in shame from across the street apologizing for my “Morticia Addams” style collection of dusty ceramic pots and barren window boxes.  They prattled on, eventually acknowledging the time and effort I spend expressing my passion in a manner that delivers a similar sense of satisfaction.

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Portulaca Inclined Window Boxes

The afternoon sun succumbs to a cooler, more tolerable time to dig in the dirt.  I let the days pass and had a responsibility to the folks who have shared in the sheer delight of all the life and beauty a garden brings.  I put everything aside and set out to discover a new nursery nearby able to supply my needs.  I’m like a kid in a candy store, well, in my case a bakery, high from the sugar rush of colors I equate with the floral festooned frosted Hough Bakery cakes commemorating every special occasion.

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Pink and Purple Portulaca

Armed with my arsenal of healing herbs and fragrant flowers, my affect immediately changes.  My husband breathes a sigh of relief as I flit about the patio performing my ritualistic dance.  “You’re in your habitat” he confirms.  This is my necessary prescription – Ga (gardening) is my element.

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Rosemary on Guard at Gate

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Sage Wisdom

Each year I am faced with the same considerations depending upon which plants return, what I may need to replace, what offers privacy and how much food I can grow.  Our garden is a balance of containers and ground, annuals and perennials, herbs and flowers, trees and shrubs.  I have successfully germinated from seed and nursed trees, planted, transplanted, shared and purchased.  Like our neighborhood, our patio reflects a similar cross section of variety and local “color”, adding dimension during the past decade.

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Lavender Rhododendron

My modest garden literally transforms into a living tapestry I sometimes entertain the notion of replicating on the concrete pad beneath.  The plants are a conversation piece, an excuse to say hello and exchange for helpful tips. The stage is being set for growth where we cultivate friendships and kinships.  Acquaintances and seasons alike mature, yielding the abundance of the first harvest signaling the traditional sharing of recipes and preparation of “boomerang foods”.  The dishes given return filled with cherished, home crafted meals that nourish our hearts.

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Pink Lipstick Sweetheart Rose

My friend recently forwarded an inquiry she had made to the National Wildlife Federation regarding a “backyard habitat”.  Registering your backyard as a wildlife habitat promotes generations of plants and species indigenous to the specified area.  My parents registered their yard after accepting stewardship of a few acres of wooded ravine and apple trees of nearly 40 years.  We live near the old homestead and have nurtured a wildlife community of our own.  We have repeatedly attracted humming birds and hummingbird bumblebee moths.  Not sure if it is due to the frequency of our themed purple patio or our proximity to a nuclear power plant – which also emits a frequency of its glowing own.  In all seriousness, we don’t live close.  I still react to an image that sticks in my mind of a two inch wasp I once saw in that area.

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Hovering Purple Petunias

All of these thoughts and activities circulate the blood and stimulate the senses with a therapeutic effect.  The individual botanical notes calm our nerves whilst awakening our spirit.  We participate in life’s never-ending cycle to be one with the world.

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Perpetual Purple Verbena

The beloved Hibiscus tree is still hibernating.  The Oleander now stands in its stead.  I am hoping it sets an example for the Hibiscus from its garage window view.  We are ALL keeping our fingers crossed.

Hibiscus in Full Bloom

Hibiscus in Full Bloom