“Hug a Horsetail”( i.e. give that noxious weed some love)

23 Mar

This is an article I wrote for the Alaska Peony Growers Association

“Hug a Horsetail”( i.e.  give that noxious weed some love)

  It’s February now and there’s an array of seed catalogs fanned out around me; on one side is peony wholesale types and on the other is the garden/herb/perennial variety.   This is better than shopping for shoes!  And so much better than watching ice sickles drip.

  In the back of one catalog, I found Horsetail Butter for sale- more of a body butter than a bread butter.  Last year I came across Horsetail Tea (equisetum arvense) as well, even though it was $6.50 for a box of 50 bags-I purchased it to remind myself of all the untapped possibilities growing at my feet.  Horsetail is that plant we all love to hate.  It is so tenacious, every year I feel like
I simply go through the exercise of pulling out the same equisetum I pulled out the year before; like Ground Hog’s Day–over and over.  Since it is the sole survivor of a line of plants that go back 400 million years ( Equisetaceae family) I can understand how impossible it is to eject from the soil.

  In an effort to change the way I relate to this plant, I started a little research.  I already knew horsetail contains 35% silica and makes a great pot scrubber when we’re camping but I just learned it can be used to sand wood as well!  I’ve seen the extract added to hair care products but didn’t really think about why. Silica, which helps form the collagen in skin and bones, also helps to strengthen hair and encourages hair to grow. The plant contains significant levels of the minerals potassium, manganese and selenium, as well. Active compounds known as saponins and flavonoids also are abundant in horsetail.   This helps rebuild and regenerate damaged tissues of the skin and improves cuticles and nails.  Well, there’s a farmer’s friend right there!  If reading this gives you the hankering to mow-down on this herb–be aware that it may cause levels of vitamin B1 (thiamin) to drop in the body. Taking a multi-B supplement is advisable.   I found the University of Maryland Medical Center has done research on the benefits of horsetail as well as Utah State University.

  Silica is found in every tissue and organ in the body, skin, hair, teeth, bones, tendons and ligaments.  It builds and strengthens cell walls and studies show equisetum  may help osteoporosis.  What it does for human cells it does for plant cells, helping plants resist pathogens, resist cold damage and recover from wind damage. I found that the European farmer commonly uses horsetail extract as an effective fungicide. The plant contains trace amounts of nicotine. They use it most specifically for ‘black-spot’ on rose crops and rust on mint fields and mildew on strawberries. 

  When you see that patch of horsetail reaching toward the sun, envision those plants capable of accumulating gold, cadmium, copper, lead and zinc from the soil, effectively cleaning and balancing the soil.  It is your friend.  You may not get a warm fuzzy feeling watching the new crop of horsetail elbow its way into your rows this spring, but I hope you can see it for it’s potential as an asset to you as well as the place it holds in the natural world.

for tea:
Collect the horsetail, foliage, stems, rhizomes and all, and for each 28g (1 oz) pour on 1.1 Litres (2pt) hot, not boiling, water, and allow to stand for twenty-four hours. Strain off the ‘tea’ and use undiluted.  

for extract:
Horsetail fungicide concentrate for spray;
  In a glass or stainless steel pot mix 1/8 cup of dried horsetail leaves/stems/roots- chopped- to 1 gallon of rain water or unchlorinated water.  You can let chlorinated tap water sit for 2 days in an open container to allow the chlorine to escape.
  Simmer for a minimum of one half hour. Cool, strain through cheese cloth.  This extract will keep for a month in your glass jar; be sure to label it.

  Dilute the extract 5 to 10 parts water  to 1 part concentrate.    Spray infected plants 1 to 2 times a week or use as a preventative once a week to every other week and especially when weather conditions could cause stress to the plants.
(PS– be sure to add the limp equisetum leftovers to your compost pile! — yum yum)


Peony and Roses

22 Mar

Peony and Roses

20 Feb

Just look at that wondrous expanse of nature, defying man’s molestations.
A tiny ribbon of trail for the bi-peds and a tiny ribbon of water for all else.


Road trip 2013 700

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Wintery Road Trip; Oh Canada

20 Feb
I Love a Road Trip

I Love a Road Trip

Road trip 2013 700

Winter White Sale!! Come and Get It! Take it! It’s FREE! (She said to Spring)

20 Feb

  Today we woke to a nice steady snowfall that retreated to bright sun and dripping eaves.  Hooray.

Liquid vitamin D, put away the knives, ear plugs and bottle of booze baby, things are gonna get better.  And do please stop packing, I can’t write with all that muttering and whining going on.  If you’re going to pack something, how about the washing machine with your dirty clothes?

Ok, so really it’s not that bad, but everything is better with alot of humor on it.

I made a list of new peony roots I hope for, I sent them in to their prospective agents and am waiting for a reply….not very patiently.   You know, peony planting is much like child birth….as time goes you don’t remember so much the wrenching spasms of tearing tissue, the bruised body and frightful expense; you’re ready to do it again! Hey!  Maybe we’ll wait a week and see if the feeling passes.



February, ok, now where was I?

18 Feb

I and Mr. just returned from what felt like the longest journey ever. I calculated that my rear-end spent 7000 miles in a vehicle seat since Thanksgiving. I really enjoy road trips and recall thinking last summer that it would be fun to do a Road Trip! For a Road Trip so un-planned and spontaneous, it sure ribboned outward- on and on- over hill and dune, sometimes backwards even.
We tried to visit some small and large peony growers along the way and we didn’t pass by a harbor with out checking out the docks and boats. We had no idea of the destruction caused by the Japanese tsunami on the west coast. We just hadn’t fully absorbed the reality of it at the time. The coastal towns are slowly moving toward recovery and rebuilding.   But far too slowly.  Far too slowly for a nation such as the one we all like to think we live in.Road trip 2013 316 Road trip 2013 245


12 Oct

  I’ve decided that the best thing to do is put this summer right in the compost pile. Some good stuff still in it but for the most part, the rest is ready for the pile.
It’s freezing at night and almost freezing during the day, but we aren’t complaining because at least there has been sun for 3 or 4 days running! We just finished pouring the slab for the Shop-Mahal, just finished cutting all the peony fields, just about finished the late fertilizing program for the peonies, just finished clearing out the high tunnel, just finished the chicken pen in the high tunnel (new idea this year), just about ready to put the commercial fishing boat up for winter, just about done harvesting the kitchen garden, coulda done more, coulda done better, coulda slept more, shoulda rode my bike once, shoulda cut the rhubarb, shoulda picked the currents before they froze, speaking of: shoulda picked raspberries this year, and shoulda wrote more on my blog: I missed it.

OH! One more shoulda: I shoulda named this blog post “And the light leaves!” (since the last blog post was “And the light returns..”


Moose Jacuzzi

12 Oct

Moose Jacuzzi

Can’t really blame them, it’s so inviting…. but this little guy put 4 holes in the liner trying to get out. Time for new innovation in pond protection.


And the Light Returns!

11 May

And the Light Returns!

It’s not quite like this out any longer, but I did wake up to a couple inches of new snow today. Enough to make the world white again.
There had been some patches of hopeful grass showing. I feel for the poor returning birds…so undaunted.

High Tunnel Heaven

6 May

The salmon season kicks off this year on May 17th. I should have less than a foot of snow left lingering and loitering around here when the salmon show up. I’ve been spreading garden lime and sand, black dirt and mud, anything that will help. Last year our son came home and was so enamored with the Kubota that he blew the snow off the entire yard while we were away. Ahhh, was that nice. This year there’s too much snow and it’s too heavy for those fun and games.
The wood stove ash I spread during the winter on the fields has helped melt out spots where I can see the rows. It’s going to be along time before I see any pink sprouts. 😦
Thank the heavens for that High Tunnel. And in the same breath, thank the heavens for the wisdom that enabled the NRCS to fund all these delightful, happy gardeners with their high tunnels. It will change the way Homer eats and uses it’s food forever-because there is no going back. Once you experience warm earth and tee shirt weather inside your high tunnel in April in Alaska, see those sprouts of asparagus and returning herb plants, the leaf of your apple tree unfurl, well you are addicted. You are converted. You are enthralled. Spring will never mean the same thing again. It won’t evoke memories of icy mud and slushy weeks of sleet, of cold cramped fingers; it will mean the smell of warmed earth and joyful living plant life, all there waiting for you. All months before the outside world even sees the sun on the earth.