Saturday, July 22, 2017

Not just for Flower Fridays - The Purple Coneflower as a Natural Healer

Abby's snoozing so no dog antics this afternoon but I wanted to pass on some information for those of you who commented on the purple coneflowers in yesterday's post.  We live in a big city, but growing up in a more rural part of the world, I learned a thing or two about self-sufficiency, especially with parents who grew up in the Depression.  I try and keep all the basics on hand - Food for all of us for several months, plenty of water, and a way to treat more, medical supplies (both human and pet), etc. in case of a major natural disaster. and a way to prepare food and stay warm if there's no power.
But there's one thing around the place that many of you may have in your gardens and not know what it is. The purple cone flower. Echinacea purpurea (Asteraceae). Echinacea comes from the Greek word echinos meaning hedgehog in reference to the spiny center cone. It's a simple, but beautiful bloomer from as early as June to fall, with a bloom that attracts bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects (always welcome). The dead flower stems will remain erect well into the winter and, if the flower heads are not removed, they will attract goldfinches who perch on or just below the blackened cones to feed on the seeds. This unique plant grows fairly high, up to 3 feet to get some height above nearby grasses. Common in prairie beds, it can be found throughout much of the Midwest. It does well in the cold but doesn't like overly wet soils.

Luckily, they are easy to grow from the seeds. Plant the seeds in early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked, and when you still expect another frost or two. Sow the seeds 1/4" deep and 2" apart. When you've got a bunch of seedlings at least an inch tall, thing them to 18" apart. Rabbits and hedgehogs think new echinacea shoots are the perfect breakfast treat, so you will need to protect the seedlings if your beds are frequented by the little critters.  Since Spring is long past, you could still pick some up in most commercial garden centers.
Echinacea has been widely used by Native Americans, particularly the Plains Indians, for hundreds of years as an antiseptic, an analgesic (pain killer) and for the treatment of snakebites. Echinacea is also used extensively by herbalists to boost the immune system, help speed wound healing, reduce inflammations, treat colds and flu (though once you get the flu a tincture of thyme works better as it's a natural expectorant)  and fight infection. It is NOT recommended for those with autoimmune disease (only a doctor should recommend any herbs for such issues), pregnant women or children, as there just isn't enough studies on those groups taking it.  But I have found that using a tincture at first sign of a cold, usually reduced my sick time by half, without having to make a trip to the immediate care.

 A growing collection of scientific evidence now supports Echinacea's contribution to stimulating the immune system due to a rich host of polysaccharides and phytosterols, unique to this plant. While there are studies indicating that the whole plant has medicinal virtues, (which is why I'm including harvesting information for the whole plant) it is traditionally the root that is used. Herbal remedies are not intended to replace trained medical care, especially if you have children.  But they can provide a host of health benefits and in the absence of medical care, due to a disaster of some sort, may prove to be a blessing.

For medicinal purposes, you'll want to harvest some roots and some flower tops. For best quality, experts say to wait until the plants are about 3 years old and harvest in the fall when the tops have gone to seed and the plants have seen a hard frost or two during their lifetime. The tops should be harvested just as the flowers start to open. Whether harvesting the tops or roots, the dried herb is good for a year and should be marked and discarded if not used by then.
To Harvest the roots:
Cut off a portion of the root, leaving plenty for the plant to grow on. (aren't you happy you keep those sharp knifes handy? Cut into pieces small than one inch. (large ones may have mold growth during the drying process).

Wash thoroughly and gently pat dry with clean towels.

Lay them out on screens in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. The larger pieces may take several weeks to dry depending on humidity levels. Don't overcrowd them.

When completely dry, store in tightly covered glass jar in a cool place away from sunlight.
To Harvest the Flower Top
Cut the plant at the point where the first healthy leaves are growing.

Lay the tops on a screen or bundle and hang upside down out of direct sunlight. Don't overcrowd them as air circulation will help the process.

When completely dry, the leaves will crumble to the touch.

 Store in a tightly sealed glass jar in a cool place away from sunlight.

To find out more about making tinctures, salves, syrups, antiseptics, sprays, and many other simple remedies with this handy plant, see Growing and Using Echinacea by Kathleen Brown.  It's a great little book for less than $4 and has a lot of good information. We made a tincture with half a cup of  dried herbs and vodka in a pint jar and it lasted through multiple cold/flu seasons).

Friday, July 21, 2017

Flower Friday

Today's we're joining:
For Flower Friday which was established by Angel Dory and continues with the loving memory of Dory and her angel brother Bilboe.

Look closer at the Purple coneflowers.  They have visitors today!

What's buzzin' over at YOUR house?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Why is Abby Lab Hiding Under the Coffee Table?

What's up with this?  Abby?

I had to take her collar off to wash it.

It's from:

Koda's Collars by KodasCollars on Etsy 

Mom, I'm NAKED!!  I'm not coming out til I get my Koda's Collar back!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Pet Insurance - Some Guidance

I don't know how many of you have pet insurance, but it's worth looking into.  We did NOT have it for Barkley and his expenses in his last days grew into the thousands of dollars.  For Abby Lab, we have coverage up to $20,000 and it costs $45 a month.  That's less than the cost of a coffee on the drive to work each day.

Pets are our family and the majority of us treat them as such, checking food labels for healthy choices, finding just the right bed for tired joints and spoiling them with treats and toys.   Yet, according to the latest American Pet Products Association’s Pet Owners Survey, only 4% of dog owners and 1% of cat owners carry pet insurance policies.
Here are  these reasons why buying pet insurance is a smart move:

It allows you to pick your veterinarian. Unlike human health insurance policies that usually require you to use a specific health care provider, pet insurance policies allow you to pick the Vet you are happy with. You simply provide the veterinary bill to the insurance company for reimbursement of qualified expenses.

It does not discriminate against any breed or age of pet. While it is advisable to obtain pet insurance as soon as you adopt or purchase your pet to obtain lower premiums, you can also obtain coverage for your pet later, though for some companies there may be restrictions on pre-existing conditions.

Having pet insurance allows you to choose treatment options.  Not having strict financial restrictions allows you to select care for your ailing or injured pet based on the best medical options available.  Most pet insurance policies reimburse up to 80% of costs after deductibles.
It helps with budgeting costs.  Most providers offer plans where you can pay monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or yearly.  You decide what level of coverage you want and many programs offer discounts for additional pets in the household.

With Abby being a senior we looked at it as a good investment.

But which company to pick?  We went with the one recommended by the Lab Rescue folks that micro chipped her but since we've not had to use it yet except for her first teeth cleaning after we adopted her, I can't really review it.

But the folks at HAVE reviewed a number of pet insurance providers for coverages, restrictions, and customer service (after discussing with Vets and health care providers as to what is essential versus "nice to have") and have some information that's worth reading.  Just click on the link below.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

And the Nominations Are . . . .

Abby T. Lab here.  Mom and I had the honor of being nominated for the "One Lovely Blog Award" yesterday by

The award calls for me listing 7 things you may not know about me.

1. I am not a  purebred Lab but was a Lab "Mix" from a high kill shelter.  Although from a distance I look like I am up close you can see my fur is much longer and softer, my tail is bushier and my undercoat is a deep red.  Mom thinks I'm part flat coated Retriever.

2  I won't get on the bed unless Dad is away overnight, even if invited.  The couch and the futon, however,  are MINE!

3.  Vanilla yogurt in the evening is my favorite thing in the world.

4.  My trained hearing can detect the footstep of our mailman versus the UPS driver.  If it is the mailman, I'll whine to let Mom know he is there, for the UPS driver I will bark as if I'm going to tear him to shreds.

5.When the Chewy Box arrives in the mail, I will lay next to it until Mom opens it, even if that takes WEEKS and WEEKS (OK, a couple of hours).

6.  After Mom and Dad, my favoritist person in the whole world is my dog walker Jan.

7.  Don't tell anyone, but I like going to the groomer that doesn't put us in cages and lets us finish drying in a cozy back room on soft rugs.
Is my yogurt ready Mom?

Another requirement for the award is listing 15 new blogs to share the award with. Most blog awards list 5-10, and to be honest, I don't have time today for 15 and you likely don't time to READ 15.  As Lexi said - be a rebel but share the fun!

So here are ten blogs I enjoy that you may not have seen, all worthy of the One Lovely Blog Award. I you are nominated feel free to nominate others, or just enjoy some visits from new friends.  If you do decide to join, list your 7 facts, nominate some bloggers others may not know about, and share the rules and the fun.

Choppy is a far traveling rescue dog who with his lawyer mom, Dad, and feline sidekick provides lots of adventures and laughs. His regular "signs" are worth the visit aline.

Life at Golden Pines is a lovely country home full of fosters and hospice care senior dogs that otherwise would have no place to go. A home full of love is always good.

Oreo lives just north of us, and though we've not met, we feel like family after reading of his adventures and those of his friends that live in his lovely old neighborhood.

Astro is an adorable Pit Bull/Cattle Dog rescue who lives in a beautiful new home out in Washington with his kind and patient pawrents.  He'll steal both your seat cushions and your heart.

Ruby isn't jsut the driver of Blogville's famous Margarita truck, she is a delightfully joyous friend to many of us here and a regular part of Blogville's community.

Princess Leia is a beautiful little King Charles Spaniel who lives a life of joy and elegance in England. If you have attended any of the Blogville events you've likely met this gentle soul.

Lady Shasta's companion and friend Shilo had to go to the Bridge not long ago but she and her Mom Kim continue to find the joy in everyday life and share it with others.

We didn't' think anyone could fill Easy's paws when he left this world but new addition Phenny has brought nothing but laughter and joy to us from their home in France.

Quilting, birds, dogs, and life, what's not to love!

BIG dog, not so big dog, Mom, Dad, five kids and the beautiful landscape of Australia. Adventure abounds.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Smiles

With that, we will say Happy Sunday!

The Johnson Family and Abby T. Lab

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sunday Eats - 1 Hour Bowl to Table Yeast Rolls

For my best friend (who makes the best bread on the planet) a 1-hour bowl to table yeast roll. You can make them together in a pan or put in a muffin tin for a slightly different shape (cooking time might be slightly less)

I'd be willing to bet you have most of the ingredients in your house already.
Note - I made an extra batch today for a friend that had a death in the family that I prepared a meal for, so there are additional photos and tips tonight.

Easy Buttery Yeast Rolls

1 cups water
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon active-dry yeast (this is slightly more than 1 packet)
3.5 to 4 cups all-purpose flour (a 1/4 cup extra if needed)
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray, and set aside.

The rolls are for me, right mom?

In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together warm water (NOT hot) and melted butter until combined.
Stir in the milk and honey.  Then microwave for 1 minute 15 seconds, or until the mixture is very warm to the touch (it should be 110°F).  Test it, whisk and re-heat in 15-second additional intervals if needed until the mixture is warm enough.
Pour the water mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer (I used my Cuisinart with the little plastic paddle attachment) then sprinkle the yeast on top, and give it a quick stir to combine.  Wait for five minutes, or until the yeast is foamy. Add in 3.5 cups of flour, and the salt.  Then using the dough-hook (or paddle) mix on medium-low speed or pulse on and off until combined. (note if the dough sticks to the side of the bowl, add in 1/4 cup flour at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides and is only SLIGHTLY sticky to the touch).

You're looking for no more than 4 and 1/4 cups of flour total.

Form the dough into a ball with your hands and transfer it to a greased bowl.  If it is still slightly sticky, lightly dust a cutting board with flour and just knead it gently 4-5 times rather than work it extra with the bread hook. Cover with a damp towel and let rise for 15 minutes in a warm room (if you have your a.c. running that will not work, put it in the oven with the light on or out on the sunporch as I did, these will NOT rise if your house is 75 degrees or less).

Gently punch the dough down and divide into 12-15 equal-sized pieces.(I used 12) Form each piece into a  rough ball and flatten slightly  (with clean, dry and floured hands) and place evenly in the prepared pan.  Cover the pan, and let rise for an additional 20 minutes (again, if the room is air conditioned, put the rolls in the oven with the light on to rise  - then preheat the oven after removing rolls).

Bake 15-18 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on top and cooked through. Remove and brush with extra butter.  Serve warm with honey.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Funny

As a guitarist, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in the back country. As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There was only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt bad and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play. The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless man. And as I played ‘Amazing Grace,’ the workers began to weep,

They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my guitar and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full. As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I never seen nothin’ like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”

Apparently, I’m still lost…

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - When Dad is Away on a Trip

A not so wordless note: I posted this as a blogpaws blog hop but when I put up the linky code it made my last 3 posts totally disappear. Don't know if it's a code problem, I've had blog hops that when I posted the code it didn't allow comments. But I just wanted to let you know we think the Blogpaws blog hop is awesome -we just had technical issues.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Angel Barkley Memories - Road Trip!

Winter 2013. It was time for the weekly commute to work, a several hour drive in the usual heavy truck traffic. I left early, to get here before dark, but with what was left of an accident closing all but one lane, it took over four hours.

I'd driven this route for a couple years already while dating my now husband, no accidents and no tickets.  The secret is -

(1) drive a vehicle with an engine that sucks fuel like a CF700 turbofan  engine
(2) don't break any traffic laws
(3) or don't break them as bad as anyone driving around you.

#3 is easy.  Find the worst possible driver in the world (which is not hard to do on I-65) and when you spot him or her, stay back at their 8 or 4 o'clock position, whichever keeps them between the Highway Patrol on the median and you.

Or simply draft behind the trucks sharing the road responsibly until that smile and glazed look (brains!) in the eyes of the Dart Guy on the back of the truck creeps you out and you have to pass.
Barkley would always travel with me, with a harness that assured in a sudden stop he couldn't turn into one of the Wallenda's.  It did, however, allow him JUST enough room to sit with his rear end on the seat and his front paws on the floor. 

You think I'm kidding, that was how he sat at home when he wasn't napping.
When we finally got to the crash pad,  he would be all excited, RUNNING to the back door in the garage.  Then he realized, this was the small place, with no "Dad", with less toys per square foot, no squirrels to bark at and his pretty friend who took him to the dog park when I worked wouldn't be here until the morning.

And the sulk began.

No one can sulk like a lab.
At least he didn't have to go on call at midnight like some people.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sunday Eats - Best Creamed Corn

Whether you are grilling out, having some leftovers or just doing an assorted veggie plate and are looking for a "starch" other than mashed potatoes, this is a great recipe. Creamed Corn. If you have had "canned" cream corn and didn't like it, trust me, you will like this, completely different taste, very rich and creamy with a nice bit of sweetness and spice.

I use Schwans frozen corn - it's really good quality and super sweet, a perfect balance for this recipe that has some spice to it. But obviously, if it's peak corn season, use fresh, just lower your cook time a minute.

3 cups frozen sweet corn
1/2 cup whole milk
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 and 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (if all you have is salted butter reduce to 1/4 tsp).
1/8 to 1/4  tsp. cayenne pepper (1/4 makes it fairly spicy)
2 pinches nutmeg

Topping - a handful of crumbled buttered cornbread and chives (optional)

Oh look, crumbs on the floor - let's call HooverDog!
I'll get right on that Mom!

Cube the cream cheese and butter and melt in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the milk and stir constantly until the mixture is smooth.  Reduce heat to medim and add the sugar, spices, and corn.

Stir constantly until corn is heated (about 5 minutes and it should NOT come to a full boil - if it does remove from heat and lower temp before finishing)

Top with a handful of cornbread crumbs and onion.  (I crumble and mix the cornbread with a little melted butter and pop it under the broiler for a half a minute._

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Secret Life of Dog Mom's - A Scooter Store Story

Abby Lab here telling a little "tail" about my Mom.

Mom's parents were both in law enforcement (her Mom was the Deputy Sheriff) and after being a professional pilot for both civilian folks and the government for a while, Mom entered that field when she finished her PEE-H-Dee. She said she's never done anything super exciting like on TV, said she's get sent home if she dressed like some of the female agents on the telly, and the biggest danger she usually faces is the candy machine in the lunchroom. However, she is trained in the use of a firearm in case she doesn't have an electron microscope to lob at someone's head. When she was new at it, she said she'd could likely hit a target IF attacked by a finback whale. But with practice at the local conservation club and the Law Enforcement Officer range, she got better.

She's mentioned doing her proficiency shooting, when the mail came that day.  Boy did her mood change. You see, Mom got an AARP card in the mail,  with another envelope from the Scooter Store (with FREE mobility assessment).  Mom said "they think I need a scooter!  I'm only 58! Her parents belonged to AARP and Mom said they were a fine organization but that was for OLD people.

I didn't want to be the one to remind her - but although people thinks she looks much younger, and she continued hiking, biking, and rappelling into her 50's, the theme for her high school prom was "FIRE". Just saying.
Mom did use a scooter once, in 2012 when she tore her minscus busting a move walking Barkley fighting ninjas, after the endoscopic surgery to clear out what couldn't be fixed.

Dad. who was her boyfriend at the time, went with her and at the Walmart - she got her first try with a motorized cart. Speed wise it was a fair it less than the INDY 500 and more than a snail on demoral. But Mom was not only able to do a cookie in the chicken aisle, she found that the displays in electronic made for great S patterns at top speed. She also discovered that big guys in Harley Davidson jackets with carts containing 200 bags of Tater Tots can move surprisingly fast when faced with a flaming redhead converging at top scooter speed.
She said that dealing with the crutches and the scooter was the hardest part. She  tried holding them up, but that made it hard to work the controls. She put one one out front. Jousting - Walmart Style. (if you can knock a Billy Bass out of someone's cart with it, it's bonus points). She finally gave in and let Dad carry them while she tried to burn rubber doing .02 mph watching out carefully for the Manager.

She admires anyone that can deal with using one of those on a regular basis and was so happy to give it up, working hard to get through the physical therapy.

So she was NONE too happy about the scooter advertisement and off she went that day to the range.
It was late winter, the snow had melted off but boy , Mom said it was COLD.
First, a test shot from 50 feet.  I would make a comment about blind squirrels and acorns but I do want to get a treat tonight.

Then. . 
Then there's that membership card.
That's my Mom - putting the "O" in mobility.