Weed of the Week – Wild Honeysuckle

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Wild Honeysuckle starting to bloom

Wild Honeysuckle is starting to bloom,

Spring is my favorite time of year not only because it ends the cold that last so long here in Nebraska, but it also means the air will be filled with lovely scents.

Shortly after the wild plum blossoms are done. the honeysuckle blossoms start to bloom. Their honey-sweet scent brings hummingbirds and bees to enjoy the blossoms.

The flowers are used medicinally by making a syrup to treat coughs. mucus and asthma. They are also used in making perfume.  They sure do perfume the air in spring!



Chokecherry – Weed of the Week

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Since we’ll be busy this week getting ready for our Wildcrafting Class, the Weed of the Week post is early.  It’s also about a shrub as opposed to the traditional weeds we’ve had so far.  Since it grows wild and “like a weed”, we’re including it 🙂

Have you seen these blooming on the roadsides lately? Chokecherry blossoms smell heavenly – take a little time to stop and smell them.  They have long, dangling, multi-flower blossoms. The shrubs can grow up to 15 feet tall, but even tiny ones have profuse blossoms this year.

Blooming Chokecherry

Blooming Chokecherry

Chokecherry is also known as wild cherry and has been listed as an official medicine in the US (for cough and sore throats) since 1820. The cherries were also used extensively by Plains tribes for food, medicine and ceremonies as noted in the diaries of Lewis and Clark. Even today, who can resist a jar of homemade Chokecherry jam?

Pemmican, a staple “to-go” food for nomad tribes, was made from dried, ground Chokecherries and buffalo meat that would keep for years if kept dry. The inner bark (cambium) of Chokecherry branches was used for coughs, sore throats and as an eyewash. The leaves and cherry pits are poisonous unless cooked.


Cambium (inner bark) of Chokecherry

Like most fruit trees, Chokecherry wood is very hard and can withstand a lot of heat before burning. For that reason, forked branches are used to carry hot rocks from the fire pit to the sweat lodge for ceremonies.

Another nice thing about having Chokecherries grow nearby is they attract Tiger Swallowtail butterflies.

Tiger Swallowtail - photo from ehow

Tiger Swallowtail – photo from ehow

Gingko Tree planting

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We bought two Gingko trees from Lower Elkhorn Natural Resource District this spring. One was left out in the last frost and looked dead.  However, there are signs of life at the leaf nodes so we are still hoping it will survive and giving it plenty of love 🙂

The other one was kept safely inside (thanks to Jazi) and has been waiting patiently to be planted.  Tree planting is an important decision and not to be taken lightly, so it took a few days to decide where this one would do best.

After reading up on Gingko habitat, we planted this one near a rather wet area in hopes that if there is another drought this year it will have a fighting chance.  They are known to do well in either dry or wet areas.  One important tip we learned was to make sure the roots don’t have any air pockets by watering thoroughly when the hole is half-filled with soil, then watering again after filling level to the ground.

Newly planted Gingko tree   not yet watered.

Newly planted Gingko tree not yet watered the final time.

We covered it, temporarily, with a wire “cage” to protect it from bunnies and other critters.  This one will be outgrown quickly!

Critter protection for the new Gingko tree

Critter protection for the new Gingko tree

Food is Medicine

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Hippocrates said it and we believe it!

This year’s food garden is coming along quite nicely despite major setbacks caused by storms, cold and heat.  We have several perennial crops – asparagus, raspberries, strawberries, garlic and horseradish in the food garden, but also have to do some planting.

The potatoes were planted early and have survived.  We planted Yukon Gold, Pontiac Red along with a blue variety for fun.  They will need more dirt added when they get a few inches taller.

Potatoes coming up despite severe cold.

Potatoes coming up despite severe cold.

We also have onions, carrots and beets coming up!  The newest arrivals are green beans – we’re growing a French variety this year.  These were planted by just poking the seed in the ground about 2 inches and covering them – no tilling.  As previous noted, these beds were under black plastic all last year.  When we took off the plastic the soil was so beautiful it practically gleamed 🙂   (Note: paths are a difficult concept for children and dogs!)

French green beans

French green beans

The entire “Food Garden” is comprised of four sets of beds covering about 30 feet by 100 feet with wide paths in between the beds.  The first set of beds has annual vegetables, the second set has asparagus, Dill, Cilantro, Chives and Chamomile, the third set is two rows of raspberries with Horseradish at the end, the forth set is two rows of strawberries and several herb beds – Garlic, Fennel, Borage, Red Clover, Cayenne, Stevia, Vervain, and Wild Bergamot.

As of today, all but transplanting the self-seeded Borage into their proper place, the Food Garden is done and added to the list of Shop Garden and House Gardens!  Now on to the Barn Gardens, Woodland Gardens and Children’s Garden 🙂

Weed of the Week – Red Clover

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Red Clover and White Sage

Red Clover and White Sage

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) grows wild on the roadsides around here.   Because the plants near any road could be contaminated with sprays or exhaust fumes, we harvested the blossoms for many years from a neighbors two-mile driveway.  They were gracious enough to not mow until after we harvested.

A few years ago we decided to grow them here.  We planted seed and they did very well.  This year we’re rearranging a bit and decided to transplant a few Red Clover to see how they do in a new area.  They have incredibly long roots, once mature, and may not survive transplanting, but we tried.  We have some seed as back up!

Red Clover root

Red Clover root



At least one is doing well the day after transplanting.


Harvested Red Clover blossoms

Harvested Red Clover blossoms (2012)

Red Clover is considered a spring tonic and is also an antioxidant.   Fresh flowers are used to treat insect bites and stings.  A compress of flowers can be used to reduce the pain of arthritic joints.  Internally they are used to treat chronic skin problems by cleansing the body of toxins.  They are also used in treating menopause systems because they contain estrogen-like properties.


Gardening quote

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Robin Rescue at Red Road Herbs

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We discovered a Robin  had made her nest inside a ladder we keep stored on the side of the garage…unfortunately a ladder we needed to use.  We decided to try to save the nest and four eggs within it.  There was a second ladder we didn’t need that would have to do as their new home.

Both ladders with the Robin's nest on the long one in the back.

Both ladders with the Robin’s nest on the long one in the back.

We carefully “unhitched” the nest from the first ladder and put it down on the ground.  The mother Robin nosily chattered from a nearby tree while we got the ladder we needed and put the second one back on the storage hooks.

Nest awaiting its new location.

Nest awaiting its new location.

She had made the nest in a groove which made a place to kind of wedge it into the same groove on the second ladder.  It seemed secure – we left it to see if she would find it suitable.


That was yesterday.  Michael reported today that he saw her on the nest so we’re hoping the rescue was successful and we’ll be able to show you the babies when they hatch!


Though this is not, technically, an herb-type post, it’s this kind of natural setting in which our herbs grow.  We realize the birds play an intricate part of the ecosystem here.  They help pollinate the plants, distribute their seed, keep the mosquitoes and other insect “pests” at bay, as well as entertain us.  We like to encourage them choose this place to make their home.

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