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Journal

Fire Cider

Have you heard of fire cider? This delicious vinegar-based concoction is a seasoning, herbal remedy and immune booster all in one! It’s super easy to make and you probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen right now!

Before I give you a basic recipe, I need to mention the battle over the term “fire cider”. Since 2014 the herbalist community, along with many others, have been fighting the trademarking of “fire cider”. It was in 2104 that the small company (now a larger cooperation) trademarked the term “fire cider” under the radar of the herbalist community. For comparison, this is like trademarking the term “chicken soup”! Fire cider has been used by countless herbalists across the globe for decades and was first coined by famous herbalist Rosemary Gladstar in the 1970’s. Shire City Herbals trademarked a term for a product that has no ownership and proceeded to sue people who tried to sell their product under the term fire cider.

Needless to say, this battle set off a debate about trademarking traditional recipes. If you want more information about the Free Fire Cider movement click HERE. There’s a lot of info and a timeline of the actual events. By making your own fire cider and spreading the word, YOU are part of the fight to free fire cider! Thank you!

I’ve taught lots of folks how to make this and it’s always fun to see the different ingredients each person chooses!

Joan’s Fire Cider Recipe

You’ll need:
-a clean jar (pint or bigger, depends on how much you want to make!)
-apple cider vinegar (I like the raw kind with the mother!)
-garlic
-onion
-horseradish
-hot chili peppers (dried or fresh)
-ginger
-turmeric root or powder
-lemons

-Optional ingredients: star anise, black peppercorns, other citrus fruits, other herbs like dandelion root, burdock root or rosemary, rose hips…it’s really up to your imagination! If an ingredient is appealing to you in it’s fresh or dried form, try adding a little to start (around 1/2 tablespoon or so).

Chop all of your fresh ingredients. I don’t grate my ingredients because they tend to get too mushy and don’t strain as well. How much should you add? It’s up to you! I start with layers of onion, garlic, ginger and peppers then add other ingredients on top. Fill your jar with the chopped ingredients to about 1 inch below the top of the container, then cover with apple cider vinegar. Use a chopstick or wooden spoon handle and gently slide it between the glass and ingredients and press to release any trapped air bubbles.

Label it! Use masking tape or something more fancy if you’d like, but make sure to label WHAT’S in the jar and WHEN you started it! I’ve had to dump out jars because there was no label and that’s a sad occasion!

Shake your jar, sing to it if you want, but shake every one or two days. I like to leave my jar of steeping fire cider on the counter or another place where I can see it and not forget to shake it! After a month, it’s time to strain your fire cider. You can use cheesecloth, an old (clean) t-shirt or a clean kitchen towel. Set the fabric you’re using in a colander over a bowl (don’t forget the bowl and pour your fire cider down the sink!). Pour all that yummy goodness out into the colander then take up the edges of the fabric and twist and SQUEEZE every last drop you can out of the solids. Compost the solids please!

Pour the liquid back into the original jar, or a new jar if you want. Label when you strained the liquid and store in the refrigerator. If anything settles (powdered stuff usually does) you can just give your jar a shake before pouring. I store my fire cider without any honey added but here’s how to add honey: measure your liquid you strained off, pour into a pan, add the same amount of honey (or more or less to taste) and GENTLY heat. Once combined, pour into your jar and LABEL that it has honey in it! Store in the refrigerator.

If you have little ones under 2 years old, it’s recommended that you not give them honey. I started giving our daughter our raw honey when she was 1 year old. It’s a personal decision and up to YOU!

I love to use my fire cider on salad, which I eat pretty much every day for lunch, YUM! But you can drink it neat (like a shot) or mix it with honey for each serving. It’s great on any veggies, rice or noodles. Just use anywhere you’d use vinegar! It lasts a long time in the frig but I recommend using it up within 6 months (I have had some for a year and it’s still fine but the medicinal qualities may have declined over that time).

What’s good about fire cider? Depending on which ingredients you use, the end result is a power house of food-based medicine!

Ginger root (Zingiber officinale)—I absolutely LOVE ginger and try to put it in all of my food (not such a good match in scrambled eggs!). Ginger is a warming herb and is great for the reproductive, respiratory, and digestive systems.

Garlic (Allium sativum)—One of the oldest remedies known to humans, garlic is an immune system booster, can help regulate cholesterol and blood pressure and is used as a vermifuge (to rid the intestines of worms, gross but effective).

Onion— any onion will work here except green onion, which you can add in if you want! Red, white or yellow onion are perfect! Chop into pieces, don’t grate! Grating can mean you just have onion mush to strain out, and that’s no fun!

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)—Antioxidant rich, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting root that’s native to India and South Asia. Turmeric is warming and drying and is excellent at treating coughs and colds with excess mucus.

Chili Pepper (Capsicum sp.)—This includes all hot peppers like jalepenos, cayenne and paprika, which are another warming ingredient. Check out THIS page for more info on chili peppers and their health benefits including increased circulation, soothing sore muscles and pain reduction. Chili peppers and a super-powered food and should definitely be included in your fire cider!

Apple cider vinegar (ACV)—I like to use the Braggs organic apple cider vinegar with the mother but really and ACV will do.

Honey—local honey is the best!

Herbs—throw in whatever suits your fancy or that you have on hand: peppercorns, basil, rosemary, turmeric, and red pepper flakes are always good! You can add fresh herbs from your garden too (lemon balm, tulsi, sage, calendula, salad burnet, etc.).

Foraged bits—If foraging is your thang, go ahead and throw some ramps, dandelion greens/flowers, wild chives, violet flowers, burdock root, or yellow dock leaves/root into the mix. Make sure you don’t collect near roadways and always leave enough for the bees and animals/insects!

Joan Jach
Herbal CSA

The Earth may be sleeping right now and cold, grey skies are the rule. But underground, in our bee colonies, in bear dens, in darkness, the slightest change is happening. That energy will gather and spread as the days get warmer and longer. Before long, we’ll wonder where the cozy, winter hibernating time has gone.

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The Seasons here, in the Northern Hemisphere, guide so much of what we do, wear, eat and feel. It is my intention to bring the healing power of herbs into more people’s lives by using the seasons as a guide. My herbal CSA is a community supported agricultural endeavor. Members of my herbal CSA will receive 4 months of herbal products around the time of the Equinoxes and Solstices. The offerings will be tailored to each season and include specially made elixirs, tinctures, soaps, bath salts, and so much more. This is a chance for me to share helpful information about specific herbs. Information about how to use these herbs, how I’ve used them and benefitted from them and their individual stories, as I know them. A CSA also provides the farmer, myself, much needed capital to fund the great Spring Work: planting. All of the supplies are necessary in a short time, including seeds, soil, trays, fertilizer, hand tools, netting, t-posts, etc. The CSA model is a beautiful way to support a farmer while receiving the bounty from their farm at the peak of it’s freshness! Win-win situation.

I’m so excited about this project and will have so much to share with anyone who joins the herbal CSA. It’s been fun to decide what items I’ll include and has definitely sent me into full-blown garden planning mode! You can read more about the herbal CSA and get the nitty gritty HERE.

I hope you’ll join me as the seasons change this year! Thank you for reading,

Joan

Joan Jach
Weather, seasons and farmers market

It's Go Time!!

Finally. The temperatures are warmer and the Earth is starting to really wake up! Some folks may think that talking about the weather is small talk, that it doesn't really mean anything. But to farmers, the weather is do or die, it's a crucial part of their short and long term plans. I'll be writing about weather, climate and weather related stories on a regular basis here. If you have a weather/climate related question, shoot me an email!  Now, back to this thing called Spring. It was bound to happen, despite the bleak beginning to April and all of the cool temps and cloudy skies.  The Earth can't help but warm up at this time of year!  When I taught meteorology I would give my students a pre-test that included the question "Why do we have seasons?". The answers usually included the following: 1) I have no idea. 2)In summer the Earth is closest to the Sun and in winter the Earth is farther from the Sun. 3) Because of the tilt of Earth's axis. Do you know the answer? In the next newsletter I'll write about this more but I encourage you to take note about where the Sun rises and sets. Choose a stationary landmark (a tree, your neighbors satellite dish, etc.) and make a mental note of the Sun's rise/set as compared to that landmark.  Over a week or two, you will see a change.  This change is related to the seasons!! 

Farmers Market

This will be my 4th year at the Champaign Farmers Market in downtown Champaign.  I'm so excited to see all of the other farmers and vendors again after a long winter! I've participated in a farmers market since 2010 and have learn a lot over the years (always bring snacks).  The best thing about doing a regular market is talking about gardening, flowers, food, bees and life with my customers! This year Market starts on Tuesday 15 May, 3:30-6:30pm next week!! See you there! 
For more information see the market home page HERE.

Upcoming events

Flower Watercolor Class--at Hopscotch Bakery--Friday June 1, 5:30-7:30--This is going to be a fun class with farm fresh flowers for inspiration! $30 All supplies included and you get to take home a finished painting. More information and registration HERE.

Kids Summer Camps at Old Town Flowers--Outdoor camps that will inspire any child's imagination!  Information on the Flower Camp and the Plants + Potions Camp HERE.

If you have an event you'd like me to list, let me know!      oldtownflowerscu@gmail.com

Joan Jach
April Fool's Snowstorm, Women Farmers and Local Events

April Fool's Snowstorm

As a farmer I'm super interested in the weather and climate where I grow my flowers: Central IL. Technically speaking Champaign-Urbana is in USDA plant hardiness zone 5b (click HERE for more info on USDA zones and find yours!). We moved here from Ames, IA, (zone 5a) and, even though we are just one zone warmer, the growing season here is at least a month longer!  So the April snow we got was a surprising start to the month.  Easter snowstorms have occurred in the past, but the cold temperatures on April 2nd were unusually cold even for us.  Check out the statistics from NOAA HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page for Easter records. Mother Nature never fails to surprise and I find the opportunity to organize, plan and write while we wait for Spring! As for the long term forecast, it looks to be wetter than normal out to June and cooler than normal for the next month.  

Seed Starting Tips

I'd love to share some of my tips with you! No matter what type of seed you are starting (veggie, flower, herb, etc.) you need to find out what conditions are necessary for germination. If a seed needs warmth, put a heating pad on low under the tray or, better yet, buy a seedling heat mat, which puts out the right amount of heat for a whole tray. Once the seeds germinate, get them under the lights! Consistent light, 1-2 inches above the sprouted seed is needed for about 14-18 hours per day. Installing a timer on the lights is helpful. Check out the tips to the right and have fun!

TIPS
*See this list of helpful articles on seed starting.
*use fresh seed; old seed isn't as reliable for germination.
*use sterile seed starting mix, not soil from your garden.
*start seeds according to your last frost date
*harden your seedling off before putting them in the ground
*protect tender seedlings with coffee cans, milk jugs or juice containers cut in half
*keep a record of which seeds you started and when
*save your seeds for next year!

Women and Minorities: Farming, STEM and beyond

The number of women farmers tripled from 1978-2007 according to a study done by the USDA. Before 1978 gender information about farmers was not collected by the USDA. These numbers, and the others in the study, are encouraging but women operators still only account for 14% (in 2012) of farms in the US.  Blackhispanicasianamerican indian and women account for about 20% of principal farm operators in the US. The links for each group lead to a fact sheet about what each group grows and where they farm (info is change from 2007-2012).  I think these statistics reflect the current socially accepted, and acceptable, roles in our country for these groups. A look at STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) will show the same trend in statistics. One of my goals as a farmer and a teacher is to encourage diversity in farming and STEM, as well as bring awareness and education about inequalities in our society in general. Always learning and growing, I look forward to exploring more about gender, race, equality and privilege as related to farming in this space. Comments or questions? Email me at oldtownflowerscu@gmail.com

Life with Plants

I'm planning a series of classes about herbs this summer for those who are interested in plants and how we can include them in our life through diet, medicine, spiritual practice and gardening. Stay tuned for more info! For now, you can check out my online Apothecary for some of the products I make with local herbs and beeswax from our farm. 
Old Town Flowers online Apothecary

Upcoming events

The Boneyard Arts Festival is coming up! Many events in C-U and surrounding areas from April 12-15th.  More info HERE on FB and HERE.

Food Evolution Screening (narrated by Neil de Grasse Tyson) --- Boardman Art Theater, Sunday April 8th, 1-4:30pm. Presented by Champaign County Farm Bureau. FREE! Reserve a spot HERE. Following the screening will be a panel discussion (with Q & A) consisting of area farmers, scientist and nutritionist.

If you have an event you'd like me to list, let me know!      oldtownflowerscu@gmail.com

Joan Jach
Marching into Spring
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Flowers take time.

Welcome to meteorological Spring!  The temperature swings and longer days have a lot of us itching for the green leaves and heady abundance of Summer (I know I am!). But, flowers take time.  Weeks of planning and preparation go into the timing of when to plant, transplant and harvest a flower crop.  It takes a few months (or more) for some flowers to make it into a market bouquet. This is why, in the cold, dark days of January, I start sowing seeds and don't stop until August! 

This notion of taking the time to nurture a seed into a beautiful, locally grown flower is part of the Slow Flower movement (based on the concepts of the Slow Food movement).  Slow. It means "moving, flowing, or proceeding without speed or at less than usual speed".  To me, it also means growing flowers that do well in our climate, without using chemicals. 

If you follow my Instagram account, you probably saw my photo of flower trash from a local florist shop right after Valentine's Day: boxes piled up to my height; most labeled from various South American countries. I love flowers and think everyone should have and/or grow them. That is why it makes me so sad that the "fast" flowers produced abroad have become the norm for Americans.  Besides the carbon footprint when shipping the flowers (internationally and within the US), there is the issue of chemical use when growing the flowers and again when the flowers enter US customs.

All of this is to say that the time I take in growing chemical-free local flowers is not just for the benefit of the bees, or soil, or birds, or children that visit my gardens. It's because my flowers are a small part of the larger, global picture of sustainable small-scale farming. My flowers are part of the solution to an unsustainable industry. Good things take time. Great flowers take time

If you are interested in learning more, watch this great short film (15 min) about the local flower industry in America. It's produced by the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG), of which I have been a member for the past 3 years. 
See the film HERE.

Next week I'll talk about exactly HOW I start all those seeds! I'll give you tips to start your own seeds at home and make sure they grow into beautiful, healthy plants. What will you grow???

Have a great weekend,
Joan

Plant and Flower Events! 

Kodedama at Illini FS Farmtown

"Kodedama is a ball of soil, covered with moss on which a plant grows."  This class sounds super-fun and you get to take home your own kodedama! March 10th,Saturday, 10-11, $15 More info HERE

Orchid Sale--Plant Biology Conservatory
~200 plants for sale, cattleyas, miltonias/miltonopsis, oncidium hybrids, dendrobiums, phapiopedilums, and some species orchids. You can also visit the conservatory after you shop! It's so warm and green in there. Especially nice when it's cold outside! March 10th, Sat. 10am-2pm, and 11th, Sun. 1pm-3pm. 1201 S. Dorner Dr., Urbana, Plant Science Lab.

Broadway Food Hall Spring Fair
Come find some flowers or plants to perk up your space for Spring. Old Town Flowers will be there along with other local artists and makers to welcome Spring to Champaign! March 14th, 15th, 16th (Wed, Thurs, Fri) 11am-2pm each day. Click HERE for more info.
 

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Summer Camp!

Old Town Flowers is hosting two weeks of summer camp packed with kid-friendly programming!
Flower Camp--June 25-29
Plants+Potions Camp--July 23-27

See the webpage HERE for more information about the camps and pricing.