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Making Your Own Cottonwood Bud Oil

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Spring time in the Rockies!   What a beautiful time of year!   The grass is beginning to grow, the baby calves are being born and it looks like summer is within sight!

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We recently watched a reality show where the people made their year’s supply of a wonderful salve that they claimed to use on everything from sore muscles to diaper rash.   Also known as balm of gilead, the salve contains a bounty of medicinal properties.   It’s made from cottonwood buds whose resin contains “salicin” – which is the same compound that gives aspirin it’s pain relieving, anti-inflammatory benefits.   Using the balm as an external rub will reduce joint pain (as with arthritis and rheumatism) and will ease sore muscles.

Because cottonwood is high in antioxidants, it is useful for healing the skin, including sunburn.   The buds are also antiseptic and can be added to other oils to prevent rancidity and molding.

Since we live on a creek bottom full of cottonwood trees, my interest was piqued.

The best time to harvest the buds is in late winter to early spring – so I grabbed a plastic bucket and headed for the woods.

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I picked these buds in early February – they were just beginning to swell.   You can see the little drop of resin.

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While most recipes called for placing the buds in olive oil, I did find one recipe that used rendered beef fat.   I have LOTS of that – beautiful grassfed beef fat – rendered and frozen in blocks.   It got my vote!

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I placed the frozen fat in my crock pot and put the temperature on low to let it melt.   After removing the buds from the twigs I had gathered, they were chopped quickly in a blender.

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Then, I combined the melted beef fat with the chopped buds in the crock pot – and gently simmered for about 48 hours.   Upon waking on the second morning, our house had a wonderful, aromatic smell!   The resin from the buds had turned the rendered fat a slightly orange-ish hue.

I strained the mixture through cheesecloth, wringing to extract all of the oil.   At this point, the oil is done – but it is runny (like a baby oil consistency).   I wanted to use it more like a salve, so the oil was then warmed with a small amount of candellila wax to “thicken” it.   Use about 1 ounce of wax to 5 ounces of oil.

It was poured into jars and then cooled, sealing with a canning lid.   Store your salve in a cool, dark place.

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A note of caution – I have read that people who are allergic to aspirin may also be allergic to cottonwood bud oil.   Please check with your doctor before using if this is the case.

This lovely salve has been our “go to” for arthritis pain and sore muscle rubs.   It helped a friend who rubbed it on his elbow afflicted with tendonitis, and it calmed an injection site from a tetanus shot.   I think we will be gathering cottonwood buds for years to come!

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Repurposing an Old Wringer Washing Machine

 

These wringer washing machines are old relics – perhaps an eyesore on an old farm. I found this one in a heap of metal and got the idea to turn it into a cool ice-chest! It's on wheels, it has a rubber drain hose to dump the melted ice/water at the end of the day, and it has a lot of space for beverages.

 

The machines were quite heavy, so with my trusty little tractor, I tipped it over and we took the motor out of the underside. The inside of the wash tub itself was aluminum, so I masked it off and prepared to paint.

 

There are lots of great spray paint colors on the market today – I first chose one that had a “pebbly” appearance that I figured would cover up the rust pox marks. Worked like a dream, but it was a brown color and I was not satisfied with the color. So, I followed that with a cranberry color.

We replaced a couple of casters and were good to go! It rolls out on deck for “outside” summer parties, and can stay in the sunroom for “inside” gatherings. I simply roll the washIng machine to the outside door at the end of the party, drop the discharge hose on the ground and drain out the remaining ice water.

Instant Cooler! Most of the washing machines had a cover that came with them – this one had probably been lost years ago. If you have a cover – it'll help to keep your beverages cold!

 

Shiitake Mushrooms – Ever Grown Your Own?

Although I will eat mushrooms if they are served to me, I cannot profess that they are my favorites. BUT, I figured if I grew my own, then maybe I would change my mind. I scoured the Internet for a kit to grow and found a site that sold many different kinds. I decided to try Shiitakes.

 

When the kit arrived (it cost about $20), it was broken in a few places – looked like it and the transportation company had had a bit of a conflict during the journey. Being the farm girl that I am, I grabbed some baling twine and tied 'er back together. Good as new….well, almost!

 

Your first order of business is a 2-4 hour soak in water to hydrate it. Then basically, just sit back and watch it start to grow! In just a few short days, the mushrooms begin to appear. We misted the mushroom 'ball' each day to keep it moist, and kept a plastic tent over the top. Each day was exciting to pull the cover off and see how much each mushroom had grown. Wow – then came the thought, “what am I going to do with all of these guys?”

 

Back to the Internet for recipes. We tried every sort of recipe with mushrooms we could think of. In my studies, I found that shiitake mushroom stems are tough to eat, but can be cooked down into a broth for their flavor. I came across a recipe that called for the mushroom stems (and I had lots of them!), some carrots, onions, and celery in a big kettle of water. After simmering for the required time, you strain the veggies out and then finish the broth with just a small amount of soy sauce. The soy sauce added the most wonderful finishing touch to the broth – a bit of brown color and an oh so good flavor. I froze the broth in one-cup containers and have used them whenever a recipe calls for broth or stock.

My kitchen has a great old commercial stove in it — six burners, a griddle, two ovens and a broiler. The pilot light in the oven keeps the temperature between 100 – 150 degrees – perfect for dehydrating my extra mushrooms. I sliced the mushrooms, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet, and popped them in there. After a few hours and a couple of flips, I had perfectly dehydrated mushrooms!

After the first “push” of mushrooms have finished growing, you simply just dry the mushroom ball out, then rehydrate it in another pail of water and watch it grow all over again.