Friday, December 2, 2011

"Tis the Season

Wednesday's brilliant sunset.
I am slowly preparing for the inevitable bitter winter weather.
Each day I pick a bunch of greens, some to eat now and the rest to freeze, in preparation for the cold times that not even the brussels sprouts and kale will stand up to.

Early this week I drained the rainwater catchment tanks -- all 3,000 gallons (more or less) of water. Some of it was used to water the elderberries and blackberries, as well as the lettuce and greens still growing under cover. The rest was simply left to run down the hillside.

Then on Wednesday, my husband diverted the water flow from the tanks into the in-ground drainage and I -- being the smallest of the two of us -- hopped down inside each 1,500-gallon tank to bucket out much of the remaining water and then suck up the last bit of water and mud with the shop vaccuum and wipe away the ring of algae at the top.

Kale and collards.
That took a couple of hours on a chilly day with a light breeze. I was the lucky one, down inside the tanks, away from the breeze, even though the cold water chilled my feet through my rubber boots. My husband sat atop the tanks (in the frosty breeze), grabbing and dumping the buckets of water I handed up, and then holding onto the shop-vac.

Last winter, we drained the tanks in November, but waited until spring to clean them. I am glad the job is done.

And now I've got a teeny bit of a cold. Not because I cleaned the tanks. It is more likely due to all of the human exposure I received during recent family holiday gatherings and other outings.

It is the season when colds and flu abounds, largely because people are cramming themselves together indoors and not getting out much, going to parties and holdiay gatherings, shopping and just spreading around germs like there is no tomorrow.

The garden is a great place to find preventatives and treatments. So I will, over the next week or so, cover a few of my favorite herbs to grow and use against winter ailments.
My first line of defense is always garlic. At the first hint of something coming on -- a scratchy throat or just that "not 100 percent" feeling -- I peel a clove of garlic, cut it in two and pop it in my mouth, holding it between cheek and gum for 20 minutes or so. (You will need to move it around in your mouth, as garlic can irritate the mucous membranes.) Repeated several times a day, this generally wards off whatever it is that is trying to manifest.

I wasn't quick enough with the treatment this time, so my throat go scratchier and my nose got snifflier. Yet, one day of treatment has significantly reduced my symptoms and it is only a slight annoyance and unlikely to become much more than that. Ideally, I would continue the treatment until all symptoms are gone, but my garlic supply has been affected by some mysterious thing and much of it is not usable.

Some people swallow a whole clove of raw garlic every day to prevent any viruses or other germy things from getting even a tiny foothold. Garlic does indeed have excellent antimicrobial properties and can be used to treat both viruses and bacteria, as well as fungal infections and intestinal parasites.

Garlic can be used internally for many respiratory infections, such as colds and flu, and even digestive tract infections. However, raw garlic swallowed by itself, or eaten in large quantities, can cause heartburn in some people, so eat small quantities frequently in food. Cooked garlic loses most of its antimicrobial properties, but still provides many health benefits. It and its relatives, like the onion, are quite nutritious and of benefit as a common food in the diet.

Garlic also creates an environment in the gut that is friendly to beneficial microorganisms that help us digest food and assimilate nutrients. While it supports the beneficial gut flora, it kills disease-causing microorganisms. It also can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and possesses several other stellar qualities.

Garlic also can be used topically to treat acne, ringworm and other skin conditions caused by bacteria, fungi, or parasites. Cut open a clove and rub the infection with the cut end or mash it and rub on or use as a short-term poultice. Be cautious with even topical applications, as garlic can irritate the skin, even causing "burns" in sensitive individuals. Test it before using it over a large area or leaving it on for any length of time.
Aside from the heartburn when raw garlic is swallowed, negative side effects are few and rare. Except for the "garlic breath." Odor-causing compounds in garlic are excreted through the lungs, so there is just no way around it. Parsley, basil and milk supposedly reduce the garlic breath, if that is of concern to you.

Garlic also thins the the blood, and will interfere with blood thinning medications, as well as certain other types of medications. If you are on any medications always check with your physician and/or a qualified herbalist before using any herbs in a therapeutic manner. Also, because of its blood-thinning capability, which is beneficial in certain ways, cease any garlic supplements a few days before having surgery of any kind.
What?! Me eat garlic?! Me no eat garlic!!

Garlic can even be used as a garden ally. Planted near other plants, it repels some pests. Aphids in particular are absent when garlic and its relatives are planted in close proximity. You also can mash and steep garlic in hot water, then strain for use as a pest repelling and probably fungus killing spray on plants. Some people recommend putting garlic in your pet's food to ward off fleas. My cats would never eat garlic-laced food, but a dog might.

Garlic is an ancient herb and has been in use for thousands of years as food and medicine. It is relatively safe, widely available and easy enough to grow. Since I already covered the cultivation of garlic in my 8/31/11 post, I won't go into that today.

The message here is, grow garlic, eat garlic, and when the bugs start to jump around on the coughs and sneezes, grab garlic for good food, good health and a glossy coat. And you, too, can survive the cold and flu season.

1 comment:

Elaine said...

Thank you for all the information. We are always looking for natural remedies so shall certainly give the garlic a go.