Tallow Candles

Fat is rendered by cooking for 4 – 5 hours until the fat separates and turns light brown. It’s skimmed from the cracklings.
String is threaded through the candle mold and held taught with sticks. The rendered tallow is poured into the mold.
Once it’s hardened the candles are dipped in hot water to loosen them and pried from the mold.
Finished candles!

Pictures are from a recent visit to the Lewis and Clark National Historical Center.

Dyeing with fresh indigo is easy!

Pick indigo leaves.
Purée leaves in a blender with ice water. Very cold water makes for a better dye.
Strain liquid then add fabric.
Rinse once dipped. Animal fibers will be blue and plant fibers green. This is wool.

Another option is massaging the leaves with salt and squeezing out the liquid. The leaf paste can also be spread on fabric for a targeted pattern.

Making Rose Petal Beads

Have you ever wondered where the name rosary comes from? Originally the beads were made from rose petals!

Here’s how you can make your own scented beads.

Pick lots of petals. They don’t need to be fresh but a strong scent will result in more perfumed beads.

It’s ok to collect petals over a few days.

Put petals in a blender with water and blend until they are a fine purée. The smoother the blend the smoother the final beads.

Next step is to evaporate off enough water to make a moldable clay. I used a crockpot but you can also use the oven on a very low heat. High heat destroys the odor.

Ready clay pulls away from the side and is easy to shape.

Beads will shrink to half their size. I used a nail to make the hole for stringing.

Drying beads. Turn them each day or dry them on a screen. Some got moldy on the side touching the mat.

Finished necklace! The beads smell wonderful and body heat releases more perfume. Beads may stain clothing so do be careful what you wear them with.


Oregano bunched and ready to hang to dry.

Oregano bunched and ready to hang to dry.

My family loves Italian style food so we go through a ton of the herb oregano each year. Luckily it’s very easy to grow; you can start it from seed or buy a plant at most local nurseries.  It does best in full sun and doesn’t like to be water logged but do be aware that it self seeds quite easily.

Right now is a good time to harvest oregano!  This flavorful Mediterranean herb is best harvested on a warm, dry morning right before it blooms. To harvest and dry cut it three inches above the ground then bunch it and hang it in a cool place with good air circulation.  Be careful not to make the bunches too big or the stems in the middle might rot.  Once dry I store it in the basement in mason jars and bring up just enough to last a week or so as the heat and light in the kitchen can make it lose flavor quickly.

In addition to adding oregano to the usual pizza and spaghetti sauces here are some other interesting ways to use this prolific herb.

Oregano Infused Simple Syrup 


1 C. water
1 C. sugar
2 C. fresh oregano


  1. Bring water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add the oregano to the syrup. Boil for 60 seconds and let it steep for 30 mins as the syrup cools.
  3. Pour the cooled syrup through a strainer into a glass bottle jar.
  4. Store syrup in the refrigerator.  Small amounts can be added to sparkling water or it can be used in cocktails.  I think it pairs well with vodka.

The flowers taste good and can be dried for great bouquets.

The flowers taste good and can be dried for great bouquets.

Oregano Lemon Chicken


  • Four chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • Juice and zest from two lemons
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup green olives with brine
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • Salt & pepper to taste


Heat oil in a frying pan, add chopped garlic and chicken.  Cook until the outside of the chicken begins to brown.  Add the lemon juice, zest and olives and turn down the heat.  Cook slowly until the chicken is almost done.  Add the chopped oregano and finish cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve garnished with a fresh sprig of oregano.

Oregano Herb Butter

Finely chop 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh oregano mix with one cube softened butter. Roll into a log on wax paper then wrap in the paper, put in a plastic freezer bag and freeze until needed.  Can also be immediately but should be refrigerated if you need to store it.  This butter can be used to baste meat, season veggies or on bread.

Oregano Olive Oil Cubes

Chop fresh oregano and mix it with olive oil.  Pour it into ice cube trays and freeze it.  Once frozen put in freezer bags.  This can be used in salad dressings, to baste meats or veggies or anytime fresh tasting oregano is needed.

Baked Feta with Oregano

Take a block of feta and cover it with 4 cloves crushed garlic and 4 T fresh oregano leaves. Drizzle with 1/4 c olive oil and top with a large tomato.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until bubbly. Serve with bread or crackers.

Herb Crust for Grilled Meats

Chop fresh oregano and mix it with olive oil and other fresh herbs to taste. Cover meat to be grilled with this mixture then cook over a hot fire.  This will both add a nice flavor to the meat and keep it moist.

Do you have other favorite ways to use oregano?  I’d love to hear them!


Time to Dry Herbs

Drying your own herbs is a great way to spice up your dishes, make nice presents and save money.   The fragrant oils are at their peak around mid-morning so this is a great time to harvest.  If you need to wash them then give a light spray with the hose first thing in the morning and pick them when they are dry.


I like to pick them with long stems so they are easy to tie together.  Once they are picked then tie them with twine or wire in a small bunch.

Bunched and ready to hang to dry.

Bunched and ready to hang to dry.

They will keep their flavor best if dried in a cool, light free area.  I tie a rope across the rafters in the basement and hang my bunches from there.



Check them frequently and take them down when the leaves are dry enough to crumble in your hand.

Ready to store.

Ready to store.

Too dry and they will lose flavor, too wet and they might mold.

Calendula flowers

Calendula flowers

Tomorrow I will talk about different blends you can make with your lovely home dried herbs.


Ginger Bug!

This zesty fermented drink is the base of a great ginger ale or beer.  You can also use it for rhubarb or other flavored sodas.

Fresh, organic ginger goes in with the peel still on.

Fresh, organic ginger goes in with the peel still on.

Making it is a easy as chopping up some ginger, putting it in a jar, adding dechlorinated water and some sugar.  The recipe calls for two teaspoons of ginger, two cups water and two teaspoons of sugar but I just tossed in equal amounts of ginger and sugar and splashed some water in.

Cover the jar with a piece of cloth to let in air but keep out insects.

Cover the jar with a piece of cloth to let in air but keep out insects.

Each day give it a good stir and add two more teaspoons of sugar and ginger.  After about a week it will start to bubble and you’re all set.  You can have it as is or I have been cutting it with some soda water.  You can also make a naturally bubbly soda with this starter but I haven’t gotten that far yet.

It's a bit startling to look at but it tastes quite nice.  The fermentation uses up most of the sugar so it's tangy and just a touch sweet.

It’s a bit startling to look at but it tastes quite nice. The fermentation uses up most of the sugar so it’s tangy and just a touch sweet.

Elder Flower Syrup

Sambucus Cerulea or Blue Elderberry Sambucus Cerulea or Blue Elderberry

Elderberries are in bloom now in the lower elevations of Puget Sound.  The Blue or the Black Elderberry is the one to use instead of the Red Elderberry.

Freshly picked Elder Flowers Freshly picked Elder Flowers

These fragrant white to pink flowers can be gathered, steeped, then the liquid sugared to make a delicious syrup.  If you have the patience to wait, the dark blue berries can be gathered in the late summer to make into a dye, syrup or wine.

Here is a recipe for making a quart of syrup:


  • 30 elderflower heads
  • 1 quart water
  • 4 cups  sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons or limes
  • zest of 2 lemons or limes
  • 2 tablespoons citric acid
  1. Zest the lemons or limes and put in a large bowl, then the citric acid and lemon or lime juice.
  2. Remove the flowers from the stalk and add to the bowl
Flowers, citric acid, zest and lime juice Flowers, citric acid, zest and lime juice
  1. Bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve.
  2. Pour the syrup into the bowl and stir to combine.
Flowers, acids and sugar syrup Flowers, acids and sugar syrup
  1. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let it sit for 2-4 days.
  2. Strain the mixture through a sieve lined with cheesecloth into a clean jar. Store in the fridge for up to six weeks.
Here is what it looks like after steeping for a couple of days. Here is what it looks like after steeping for a couple of days.
Here is the strained syrup. Here is the strained syrup.

This syrup has a very delicate flavor and scent.  It tastes good mixed with seltzer water or even better with some champagne or vodka.

A tiny Elder Flower A tiny Elder Flower

Edible Flowers

Many of the flowers that grace our yards are edible.  They can be used as accents in a salad or as garnish on a main dish.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Edible flowers


I like to use chive flowers in salads to lend a slightly onion flavor.  Here’s a recipe for omelets with chive flowers.

Edible flowers


Lavender cookies are fragrant and delicious.

Edible flowers


Candied rose petals are a sweet my daughter likes to make.

Edible flowers


Have you ever made homemade calendula cream?  It’s easy to make and fun for kids to create.

Edible flowers

Elderberry flowers

These can be dipped in batter and fried to make fritters.

Edible flowers


Sage flowers can be sprinkled over a dish to give a mild sage flavor.

Edible flowers

Johnny Jump Ups

I like to put these on cakes to decorate them.

Rhubarb Crisp

The rhubarb is exploding out of the ground – it’s time to make a crisp!  There are many ways to eat this tangy plant but my favorite way is in a crunchy, nutty, sweet and sour dessert.


  • Fresh rhubarb stems
  • 1/4 cup tapioca or flour for thickening the juices
  • 2 cups sugar
  • One cup flour
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • One cup nuts

Here’s how to make this tasty dish:

Harvest rhubarb stems by pulling them firmly up and out of the base of the plant.  Trim the leaves and the ends off so you are left with the ruby stems.

    • Wash and cut into pieces about 1/2 inch wide.
    • Put the cut pieces into a baking dish, set the oven to 375 degrees
    • Sprinkle tapioca or flour and, depending on the amount of rhubarb and the degree of your sweet tooth, about one cup sugar over the cut rhubarb
  • Streusel topping directions:

    • Mix melted butter, oats, remaining sugar, nuts and flour together so it is a crumbly mixture.
    • Sprinkle this over the cut rhubarb
    • Dust with cinnamon

    Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the dish is bubbling, the top is brown and the rhubarb is soft.

    Ready to bake!

    Let cool a bit then serve as is or with ice cream or milk.


    Carmelite Water

    Here’s a soothing tonic for stressful times. Carmelite Water or Eau de Mélisse, has been used since the Middle Ages to settle nerves.

    Here’s how to make a simplified version using readily available ingredients:

    • Two cups white wine
    • One cup lemon balm leaves
    • Zest of one lemon
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    Harvest fresh lemon balm
    Place ingredients in a mason jar and put in fridge to steep for 24 hours.
    Decant and enjoy!