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Larkspur Flowers. From top to bottom: In flower, seed pods ready to harvest with black seeds visible, immature seed pods

When the heat sets in, the cool weather crops bolt. Lettuce grows 2 1/2 feet high and Swiss chard grows taller than my head. The plants go from being pretty to be being scraggly. They flower, and pollinated by the bees, the flowers turn into seeds. The seed pods dry out, and then you can collect them from the overgrown mess that your garden has become.


White Stock going to seed. Immature seed pods are green. They will turn brown and dry, at which point the seeds can be harvested.

Once the seed pods are dry, I like to cut them off or break them off in my hands and take them inside. I'll usually break them open a bit more inside and keep just the seeds, though I have kept the seeds in pods, too.



Lettuce is a bit different; the seeds are held in the base of this fluffy, dandelion-like flower. I just pinch those open with my hand and the seeds spill into my hands. Once the white flower is visible, the seeds are ready to harvest.



Swiss chard simply pulls off the stem into a waiting container below. Just slide your (preferably gloved) fingers down the stem and the seeds pop right off. When Swiss chard bolts, it can grow five to six feet tall before the weight of the plant makes it fall over, laden with seeds.



For green onions, I cut the dry seed heads off and shake them over a container. The seeds fall right off. (You can read more on growing green onions in this post).

Cilantro seeds ready to harvest. The seeds of cilantro are called coriander.

If you want to collect your own seeds, you should grow seeds marked "heirloom" or "open-pollinated." These seeds will give you a plant that is true to what you planted. Hybrid seeds may give you a plant, but it can be different than what you grew before. I planted sunflower seeds one year and collected the seeds. I then planted those seeds. They grew into beautiful sunflowers again--but the seed pods were empty! (We wondered why the birds were not devouring them the second time, and once we opened them, we knew).

Poppy pods. These are dry and full of poppy seeds inside. Just crush the pod (these are dry) and it is full of seeds. I grow wildflower poppies (not bread seed poppies, though I have been thinking about this idea as well) and the seeds are planted by scattering them on top of the dirt. You literally just throw them where you want them.

Thankfully, there are large numbers of choices for open-pollinated seeds. I have made an effort to grow mostly open-pollinated seeds this year, in an effort to collect more seeds from the garden, thereby reducing my need to buy seeds in the future (and for some things, eliminating the need to purchase seeds altogether.) Hybrid seeds still have a place in my garden for a few things, including a bush version of zucchini that takes up less space, and turnips whose taste I prefer. For the most part, though, I am doing things the old-fashioned way. Collecting the seeds for one's planting next year has been down for years (hence the term "heirloom"). Newlyweds were given seeds from friends as a wedding gift to start their own gardens.

Decorative kale seed pods, dry and ready to harvest

When storing your seeds, make sure that they are completely dry before storing so that you don't have any mold problems. You can collect them and keep them in a jar. For large quantities, I have done that. I leave the lid off for a while until I am certain that everything is dry.



You can also make your own seed packets and keep the seeds in there. If you plan on sharing your seeds, seed packets are an easy way to do so. I have a free printable seed packet that you can print on my website.

Do you collect seeds from your garden to replant? What plants do you let go to seed so that you don't have to buy seeds?


This post is linked to Frugal Friday.
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Note: I was not compensated for this post and my opinions are strictly my own. I am a Burpee affiliate and make a small percentage of any purchases made through my links to Burpee (about $30 a year). I have been very happy with my purchases to Burpee, which is why I signed up to be an affiliate with them.


June is the anniversary of my website and my blog. In celebration of that, I'm giving away a $50 gift card to Burpee!

Some of you are just starting to have warmer temperatures. Others of you, like me, are well over 100ºF every day.


June is a great time to plan for a fall garden. If you're not growing a fall garden, make plans now for mid-summer plantings (June through August) that can be harvested in fall. In you're in a milder climate like mine (I'm a zone 9a), late September and October are great times to plant a fall garden for harvesting fall through early spring. You can see my garden calendar on my website here.


Cool-season vegetables, like lettuce, spinach, peas, Swiss chard, radishes, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, parsley, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale are great things to plant for a fall harvest.

Here are the things that have grown well from me from Burpee. Most of these are heirloom/open-pollinated seeds. I have been growing mostly heirloom seeds so that I can collect seeds from what I've grown to plant again next year. I've also found that heirloom seeds grow really well. Note that not all of these are for fall planting, though most are.


 

Black-Seeded Simpson Lettuce
Red Salad Bowl Lettuce
Oak Leaf Lettuce
Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach
Mary Washington Asparagus (I started with 1-year-old roots, planted in April)
Watham Butternut Squash (spring planting)
Nasturtium Double Dwarf Jewel Mix (spring planting; mine reseed themselves)
Artichoke Green Globe and Imperial Star
Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea
Armenian Cucumbers (spring and summer planting)
Toyko Cross Turnips
Fordhook Zucchini (last year I planted these in July, and when in cooled down in October they began flowering and I had zucchini until our first frost in December, but for cooler climates these are best planted in spring)
Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard
Blue Solaise Leeks
Borage
Thyme
German Chamomile (spring planting)
Single Italian Parsley



If you'd like to win, enter the giveaway below in the box. You can leave a comment and then post that you've left one, or fill out the box and then leave a comment.

If you are planning to order seeds for your fall garden, you can get free shipping on orders over $40! Use code AFFB54D4 through 6/30, only at Burpee.com!

Do you plant a fall garden? What do you grow in your fall garden?

Giveaway open to readers in the U.S. Winner will be notified by email. If I do not receive a response after 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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I haven't bought green onions from the store for 7 years . . .

because I haven't needed to.

I grow green onions in my garden.

These are also known as green bunching onions. They don't form a bulb.

I started with green onion sets from the store. Several green onions grow in a container, and they are tiny, like green hair growing from the ground. I purchased 2 six-pack containers of onions.

I carefully squeezed each one from the container and separated the plants, tucking each one into the ground with my bare hands, carefully putting the root in place and spacing each one a couple of inches (4 cm)  from the next one.

(I recommend doing this in the late evening to reduce the stress on the plants. Water them well after you have planted them).

Green Onions with scissors The Prudent Homemaker


In a few months they had grown big enough to start cutting from them. Rather than pulling the entire plant out from the ground, you can just cut the green parts. I like to cut "side" shoots from different onions, but you can also just snip all the way across the top and leave some in the ground.

The plant will regrow.

Green Onion Row The Prudent Homemaker



Since I cut side pieces and not the whole thing, the plant gets the opportunity, after growing in the garden for 11 months, to go to seed. It sends up a tougher shoot in the middle of the onion that looks like all the other parts, but it is thicker, and it has a little bud on it.


Green Onion Flower The Prudent Homemaker


The bud opens after a few days.


When it is fully open, it makes a beautiful flower. The bees love to come visit. They pollinate the flower, which means in a few more weeks, you'll have seeds.

Green Onion Seeds The Prudent Homemaker

 

As the flowers die and dry out, you are left with many black seeds. Ignored but watered, they will fall to the ground and grow, making new green onions for you. You can also collect them to plant them where you would like (the seeds tend to fall a row width over from where you had them growing before as well as beneath the old plants). I cut the heads off several that were full of seeds and turning dry. I put them on a half-sheet pan and banged them on the pan a few times until the seeds fell out onto the pan. I'll let the seed dry a bit more before storing them.

A little while after the onions are done dropping seeds, the entire plant will die. By that time, new plants are already growing under the old ones.

Onion Seeds The Prudent Homemaker

 

If you're looking to start green onions and want to collect seeds like I do, you can start from seeds or plants. You can also grow green onions from grocery store onions! Just don't use the white part and roots, and plant those in the ground. The onions will start regrowing fairly quickly.

Green onions can also be grown in a pot, if you don't have a place to grow them in the ground. You can plant a pot full of thickly seeded green onions and snip from them as you need them. They can be grown in both full sun and partial shade.

They can be directly sown in the garden both spring and fall.

We get one or two frosts a year here and the onions do just fine in the winter (the coldest it gets here is 22ºF for a few days). If you live in a cooler climate, you may want to overwinter your green onions in a cold frame, under a cloche, in the house, or in a greenhouse to keep them growing into the next year.

Growing green onions without buying seeds every year is one of the ways I am fighting inflation. I can cut fresh green onions from my garden all year long. I have also found that these do better in the heat than bulb onions, so I am increasing the number of them in my garden this year by making sure to plant many of the seeds in some new places in the garden, including in the front yard.


Note: affiliate links

Burpee sells seeds for these. They are labeled "Bunching Onion, Evergreen Long White" and are $4.95 for 850 seeds. You may be able to find them locally in a smaller amount.  If not, they have a few deals going right now:

Get Free Shipping on all orders $30 or more with code AFFB54FS through 5/14, only at Burpee.com!

Get 20% Off Gift Cards for Mother's Day with code AFFB54MD through 5/14, only a Burpee.com!

Get $10 off orders of $30 or more with code AFFB44DD through 5/31 only at Burpee.com!

The last time I saw a bunch of green onions at the store, the price was 50 cents! I can easily cut that many three times a week ($1.50 x 52 weeks = $78 saved). I am definitely coming out ahead by growing my own.

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Writing a Garage Sale List

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Twice a year, a master-planned community near my house has a neighborhood garage sale.

I like being able to go to several sales in a short period of time.

I make it a plan to take a list with me. I go to this semi-annual sale with my mom, so I take 3 copies of my list: one for me, one for her, and one to hand to the person having the sale. I don't always use the third one, but if someone asks if I'm looking for something in particular and they have several things for sale, I'll hand them that copy of the list. This has helped me several times. Once, a woman said, "Oh, I had one of those out at my last garage sale and forgot to put it out this time! I'll go get it!" which resulted in this:


A beautiful metal embroidery hoop, with a date on it of 1917. This is definitely my oldest embroidery hoop. I paid $1.50, and it was in a bag with several other vintage items for that price. It's my favorite hoop now (it's actually much smaller than you see here; I love the small size as it prevents my hand my cramping).

Another time a woman noticed I was looking for sidewalk chalk. She had a large coffee can full of it, which I most likely would not have seen has I not given her the list. When I asked how much, she said I could have it for free!

My list does a lot more for me than that, however. I use my list to specifically shop for clothes and gifts for my family.

I write down each person's name in the family, along with what clothing items they need, and the number of items that they need. For the children, I write down anything they need next year and the following year (the next two sizes up). If they still need anything for this year I will include that as well, but in general, I am shopping ahead for them. By shopping for the next two sizes, I am better prepared for sudden growth spurts. It also is important because sometimes it is difficult to find anything in the sizes I need; having two years to find something helps a lot.

For example, one person on my list might look like this:

Cyrus (age 10 1/2)

4 short-sleeved shirts size 14
6 long-sleeved shirts size 14
3 pairs shorts size 14
1 pair dress pants size 14
2 pairs jeans size 14
3 pairs long pants/corduroys size 14
1 tie

7 short-sleeved shirts size 16
6 long-sleeved shirts size 16

Etc., Etc.

By having a specific number of items, I can be certain not to overbuy. I purchase enough for a week's worth of clothing (including church clothes) for both hot weather and cold weather.

I aim to pay 50 cents to a dollar for clothing items. I will occasionally pay more ($4 for a coat, for example), or $2 for a new items with tags on it, but in general, most items I buy are in the $0.50 to $1 range. This means that, in the example above, for a year's worth of clothing in one size, I am out the same price as one brand-new shirt at Target.

(This does not not count socks, underwear, pajamas, or shoes--just other items of clothing. I purchase socks and underwear on back to school sales. I make pajamas, usually repurposing sheets for these. I look for sales on shoes).

Most of my boys' clothing is used, from garage sales as well as hand-me-downs from friends. I like preppy, vintage clothes, and for the boys, it is usually quite possible to find button-down shirts and polo shirts in like-new condition, as these items are worn less often than t-shirts.  I find it harder to buy my girls clothing that I like, but I do find things for them on occasion (especially cardigans and jeans). I love vintage-style dresses, so I tend to make those, but I have found several jumpers and occasionally a few dresses.

Besides clothing, I have other items on the list.

I have listed both types of books as well as certain books that we are wanting. I have often found specific books that we wanted. I use these for the whole family or for individual children. If I plan on keeping it for a birthday gift or a Christmas gift, I put it up until that time. I pay .25 to $1 for most books. (I did buy a few last year for $2 each, that were hardcover books in like-new condition--and they were books on my list).  I will also pick up books in like-new condition for us to give as gifts to friends; these are often books that we already own and my children love, so I know their friends will like them as well. I put those in my gift box.

My list includes items that I know the children would like for birthdays and Christmas. Sometimes I find those items and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I find items that I know they will love that aren't on my list; that's okay, too, of course! (A couple of weeks ago a neighbor on my street was having a garage sale that included several like-new games, all marked $1 each. One was Harry Potter Uno. I've seen that on Amazon--for $53! I bought it and put it aside for Cyrus' 11th birthday later this year).

This vintage Ball jar was a garage sale purchase.

If there is anything I need in the kitchen, I'll put that on my list. Right now, for example, I'm looking for a metal pie server. I have one, but I would like another one for when we have several kinds of pie at once. I have an idea of the style I would like. I'm not in a hurry, but it's an item I would like to have, so I'll look for it.

Any other needs I have are also on there. This year, I am looking for a few bicycle helmets.

I have a few items on my list that I would like for sewing; I am looking for some specific shades of velvet and wool. Often these two items can be repurposed clothing items, so I look for pieces in good enough shape to cut up for those projects (a velvet skirt can offer plenty of fabric to make a girl's dress bodice). I aim to pay $1 for these. Garage sales are also a great place to look for sheets (to use for sewing) and blankets (to use as-is).



The white quilt on my bed was a garage sale find for $15. I have purchased blankets for the children at garage sales, too.

I usually take $35 to $45 with me. Most times, this is money that I've made from my own garage sale. I plan to go to this neighborhood sale in April and October; I might go to one other sale a year (this year I went to three already, as two were on my street and one was two streets over).

My list has also served another purpose for me for the past several years. A friend of my mother's (a woman whose children are long-grown) goes to Oregon and Washington each summer. She loves garage sale shopping while she is there, and she offered to look for things for me before if I would give her a list. She brings back several bags of clothing (usually including a few costumes), along with a list of what she paid for each item. She looks for items in the same price range as I do (most items she picks up for 50 cents each). I email my list to her.

I'll be going garage sale shopping at the community garage sale this Saturday. I'm looking forward to it!


Have you ever written a garage sale list? Do you use garage sales to buy the bulk of your family's clothing?





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Choosing Fruit Trees for Your Garden

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February Rain in the Garden The Prudent Homemaker
 

Spring and fall are the best time to plant fruit trees in a garden. They're also a great time to find fruit trees on sale at your local nursery. If you're ordering from a catalog, you will most likely need to order in spring, as most fruit trees only ship in spring.


First, you'll need to know your zone. This is essential for choosing a fruit tree that will grow well in your garden.

After determining your zone, you'll need to ask yourself a few more questions:

Cold Hardiness: If you live in a place where it freezes and winters are cold, "hardiness" is something that will matter in your decision. Trees that are not hardy for where you live will be killed by freezing temperatures. When choosing a tree, look to see if it is hardy to your cold winter (for example, "hardy to -25ºF", "hardy to -40ºF", etc.). If the tree is not hardy for your area, choose a different variety. Most trees are hardy to USDA zone 5; some will go to zone 4. In colder areas, you may need to work harder to find trees that will do well in your climate. In USDA zones 3 and colder, you may find there are more berries that will grow in your area then larger fruit trees. Growing berries may be your best choice for fruits.



Chilling hours: If you live in a warm climate, making sure that your fruits get enough hours of cold to produce fruit is important. Most fruits perform best in USDA zones 7 and below; however, there are some trees, such as citrus, that prefer it to not freeze at all (citrus can handle a few hours of below freezing, but do not do well when temperatures are below 28º for more than a few hours and will suffer significant branch loss at that point; if temperatures turn colder, the tree can die).

Chilling hours are the number of hours between 32-45ºF that you receive in the winter. Temperatures that are colder than that do not count towards chilling hours. Temperatures slightly above that each count as a half chilling hour, and warmer temperatures count as negative chilling hours. Trees are usually labeled low chill, medium chill, and high chill, though they will sometimes list actual chilling hours.



The actual hours are especially helpful when you want to have to trees of the same fruit that are ripe at different times. I grow two different peaches: Desert Gold and Early Elberta. Desert Gold is a low-chill tree that ripens for me in May. Early Elberta is a mid-chill variety that ripens in July. (The regular Elberta tree is high-chill and is not the best choice for our climate, as it has higher chilling hours. That tree usually ripens in August or September, depending on your region).


I did the same things with apricot trees. I grow a Royal Apricot in my back yard. It is self-fertile and ripens in May. My father-in-law has an apricot tree that ripens 3-4 weeks earlier than ours. With some research, I learned that there are two other apricot trees that ripen that early. One of them is called Katy. I went to a different nursery to purchase this tree so that we could enjoy fresh apricots twice a year, a few weeks apart. I planted Katy in the front yard last year; it has 15 apricots on it this year, and it should be ripe soon. It only requires 150 chilling hours, so it was the second tree in my garden to blossom. It flowered the first week of February.

Throughout a city, there are several microclimates. This means that your area may not be just one specific zone. Higher and lower elevations will affect your property and can change the zone dramatically. For example, the Las Vegas valley where I live can be anywhere from a zone 8b to a zone 10a. I am actually a zone 9a (though the general hardiness zone map I linked to above puts me at an 8b; a more specific map puts me more accurately in a zone 9a, which has first frost dates of November 15th and last frost dates of February 15th; our frost usually falls the first or second week of December, and we might get another frost in January--which could even make us zone 9b or 10a).

You can also have microclimates within your property--even if you live on a small lot. How much shade or sun an area receives in winter can make one place warmer and another place colder. Keep this in mind when choosing a place to plant your fruit trees. I grow a few moderate and high chill fruits in areas that are shaded from the walls during the winter. This makes it more likely that those trees will fruit for me.
 
 
Spacing is another important choice. Full-size fruit trees take up a large amount of space and take longer to fruit than semi-dwarf and dwarf trees. Most of the trees I grow are semi-dwarf types. They fruit a year or two earlier than full-size trees, but more importantly, I can grow 10 semi-dwarf trees in the space needed by one full-size tree. This is how I am able to have 42 fruit trees on a .24 acre lot. In addition, I can reach the fruit more easily.
 
 

When choosing an individual fruit tree, look for one with a straight trunk. This is one of the nice things about choosing at a local nursery that isn't possible when purchasing online.



Fruit trees can be planted in the ground, but also in pots. As a tree's growth is limited by the size its roots can grow, choose as large a pot as possible to grow potted fruit trees. Dwarf and shorter trees are good choices for pots for this reason. I grow oranges and pomegranates in pots, and I am looking to add hazelnuts in pots in the future. If you are renting, growing a fruit tree in a pot means you can take it with you. I love that I can put pots on my patio and add to my growing space.

Pollination is a very important part of choosing a fruit tree. If you want to only grow one tree of a certain type (one apple, one plum, one cherry, one peach, etc.) it must be self-fertile. If it is not, you will never get any fruit from that tree. Most of the trees I grow in my garden are self-fertile, as I have a large variety of fruit, chosen specifically to have something ripe each month over 7 months.


 

If the tree you want is not self-fertile, you must determine what type of tree will pollinate it. Nursery tags and catalogs are helpful with this; they usually tell you what other tree you must plant in order to pollinate your tree. This other tree must be planted nearby (usually within 25 feet). For most trees, this is fairly simple. Apples, however, are much more complex, as they have trees that are sterile (cannot pollinate themselves or other trees), are mixes (and cannot be pollinated by either type of parent tree), and flower at different times (apples can ripen June through February, depending on the variety!) If you want to grow a number of different apple trees, do your research before choosing any that are not self-fertile to ensure that you have the proper pollinator.



I prefer, whenever possible, to buy fruit trees from my local nursery. This helps me in several ways:

1. The trees are less-expensive.

While the cost of trees has gone up $5 at my local nursery since I purchased the bulk of my fruit trees, they are still much less costly than ordering online. In spring and fall, there are usually sales as well. Regular price here is currently $24.88 a tree, and they go on sale for $19.88 (citrus trees are $5 more).

2. I get a potted tree that I can see is growing

My personal experience has been much more successful with potted trees over bare-root trees. The trees have a strong root system and grow bigger and stronger than bare-root trees. I look for healthy branches and growing buds to make sure they are living.

3. I get taller trees

The choices at the nursery are much bigger than catalog choices. I always purchase a 5 gallon tree that is 3 to 4 feet tall. (Our nursery also sell much larger trees for $100 if you don't want to wait for fruit and are willing to pay a lot more). These trees are older and will bear fruit a year or two sooner than a smaller tree.

Of course, you may not have access to a local nursery, or your local nursery doesn't have the type of tree that you want. In that case, ordering online may be your only option. It is important that you plant bareroot trees before the last frost in your area. They need to be planted when they are dormant. Our last frost date is February 14th; most companies do not ship that early, which means I am more likely to have trees die. If your last frost date is May 15th, however, you can still order bareroot trees to put in the ground now.


For a complete list of the fruit trees that I am growing in my garden, check out the column on the right-hand side of my Kitchen Garden page.


Are you adding any fruit trees to your garden this year? So far this year I've added another Meyer lemon and another Stella cherry tree.


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Grow Your Own Herbal Tea

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Chamomile The Prudent Homemaker

This post contains affiliate links.

Most of the time, we drink water at my house. I start the morning off with a 16 ounce glass of water, and I drink many more glasses of water during the day.

For many years, I have grown peppermint and chamomile in the garden. I had the children cut the chamomile when it was ready, and I cut the peppermint and brought it in before we had our first frost about 5 weeks ago.

The peppermint will grow back when it warms up, but the leaves need to be harvested before it freezes.

Both of these are really easy to grow. Mint can be in full sun to filtered shade. You can buy a tiny plant at the nursery in the spring and gather plenty by frost (you can also plant mint from seed; I have the most success from a plant). You can take cuttings from that plant, put them in water, and have them rooted in a short time. You can then have more mint plants to take over your garden to share with friends. Mint spreads by runners and seeds and can be quite invasive, so choose a dedicated spot for it. Some people prefer a pot, but mine kept drying out in our extreme heat, so last year I purchased a new plant and put it back in the garden.

I put some dried peppermint leaves in a tea ball and fill the cup with boiling water, and let the tea ball soak for a few minutes. You can use a teapot if you wish, or you can heat a regular pot on the stove, or heat the water in the microwave.
Peppermint Tea The Prudent Homemaker

 
Chamomile is easily grown from seed. There are two types of chamomile: Roman and German. I have had the best success with German Chamomile. The seeds are very tiny and are sprinkled over the top of the soil, as they need light to germinate. If planted in an undisturbed place (where you don't till) they can reseed all on their own. Chamomile is quite fun, as the flowers look like tiny daisies.  To harvest it, you cut the flower heads and dry them. I usually assign this job to the children. (I also allow them to pick some to make crowns). This year I planted seeds in the front yard, where they will be able to grow among the other white flowers in the white garden. You can sometimes purchase chamomile as plants, but you'll need several, so buying seeds is the more economical way to go. You can find seeds from several different seed companies.

Both herbs are lovely for an upset stomach, and peppermint is wonderful in combating queasiness. I enjoy having them on occasion on a cold day, though peppermint tea* would also be lovely iced.

Growing your own herbs for herbal teas is much less expensive than buying it in a tiny box of tea bags, or than buying dried herbs in bulk.

Do you like to drink herbal teas? Do you grow any of your own herbs for that purpose?



* Note: Americans generally refer to herbal infusions as herbal teas (even though they do not use the tea plant), whereas they are known as tisanes (pronounced "tee zans") in other places. I prefer the term tisane, as it is more clear, but I defer to the term most commonly used in my country.

I primarily drink herbal teas for medicinal purposes. I drink red raspberry tea, which strengthens the uterus, and is helpful during pregnancy as well as during the menstrual cycle. It is high in iron, and helps remove back pain, menstrual cramps (I find that it is more effective than ibuprofen), and helps remove pregnancy pains.

During my last pregnancy, I also brewed a mixture of half red raspberry and half nettle tea to increase my iron, as I was anemic.

Red raspberry does not grow well here, and I do not grow nettles, so I purchase those cut and dried in bulk from San Francisco Herb Company. They also sell peppermint leaves.
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