Herbal Products

Herbal preparations made in small batches with herbs grown on our property, wild crafted by reputable herbalists or organically grown by trusted sources.

Products Coming Soon!

Farm Photo Gallery

Check out some of what we see on our farm and apiaries. Photos can be purchased as a screen saver, higher resolution for print making or full resolution for commercial use.

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Online Shop Coming Soon

We’re working to get our most popular products online for your convenience. Local customers are encouraged to stop by the farm by appointment. If there is enough interest we’ll choose a day and time to bring orders to Harrisonburg.

The Occasional Blogger

Scroll down to find recent blog entries covering anything from foraging for herbs to working in the hives to making products.

About Us

We work a small holding in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where we raise bees, grow herbs, and make things.

We do not use antibiotics or other chemical treatments in our hives, we do not use sprays in our garden or crops.

Building

We are currently building a little shop to go with our little blog. As with most things, we are doing this ourselves and it may take a week or two to have everything right as rain. We’ve investigated different ways to get to where we want to be and decided that, with our current skills and resources, sticking with WordPress is our best option along with a handy plugin called WP eStore*. This will give us product pages and a shopping cart in the right sidebar while allowing the blog to remain the same. We plan to use the USPS for shipping and PayPal for payments. There will be much researching of shipping options and how to use flat rate for some of the heavier products such as honey and bath soaks while still being able to take advantage of priority mail for lighter shipments. For now we are busily taking pictures of our product when the lighting agrees and doing some behind the scenes work on shipping and sales tax and such, all the while thinking about blog posts we might have missed during the busy season and the lack of much besides housekeeping and maintenance during the not-quite-as-busy season. We plan to be back soon with something to share. Thanks for visiting. * Scratch that. I tried to work with WP eStore, but am not able to make the shipping module work the way I would like. I very much like the plug in and wanted it to work for us and honestly can’t say if it’s the plug-in or lack of skill on my...

Cicada: An Abundant Food Source

Magicicada septendecim (Linnaeus) Alexander and Moore wrote in 1962, “The periodical cicadas make up a truly amazing group of animals; since their discovery 300 years ago, the origin and significance of their extended life cycles have been a continual source of puzzlement to biologists. Their incredible ability to emerge by the millions as noisy, flying, gregarious, photopositive adults within a matter of hours after having spent 13 or 17 years underground as silent, burrowing, solitary, sedentary juveniles is without parallel in the animal kingdom.” A terrific site to visit if you would like more information on the cicada is http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/periodical-cicada. While Stuart is plenty busy chasing, catching and watching swarms, he is making time to gather approximately 1500 cicadas a day to feed our young chicks and older chickens. We’ve noticed damage to some of our trees, one downside of this abundant, rich protein source for the flock. In the picture below you can see our little chicken shack. Last night some of the hens stayed out after dark listening to the ground and snatching up the mature nymphs as they emerged. Stuart’s ultra high tech gathering devices. They are startling en...

First Swarm of the Season…

on April Fools Day!  That’s quite early for our area.  It must be a joke.  Here is a short video for you about the Waggle Dance....

Healing Herbal Seminar with Matthew Wood

I had never looked at the Martin’s bulletin board until recently when I found a flier for Matthew Wood‘s Healing Herbal Seminar at Wholistic Wisdom in Harrisonburg. I was thrilled to find such an offering so close to home, with Matthew Wood no less, and top it all off with having found it in such an unexpected way. I have some of his books and think he’s brilliant; in addition to being knowledgeable, he seems to me to have an easy access beyond the outermost layers. He spoke of plant signatures, which I suppose is akin to symbolism and I find myself thinking metaphorically again. Friday night focused on Lyme Disease and ways to deal with symptoms as well as rid the body of it. Our coteacher*, Saundra, led the discussion and a ceremony on Saturday morning that I missed as we were opening the Farmers Market in New Market. I was sorry to miss the ceremony…it may have been one of gratitude, or perhaps that’s just where I was for spending a weekend with this group of people. Saturday afternoon is a bit of a blur, there was quite a lot of discussion and a lot of note scribbling on my part. I am impressed by the breadth and depth of knowledge that both Matt and Saundra possess, and their recall is remarkable as well. Sunday included some discussion and an herb walk. We ventured off to the JMU Arboretum which has a lot of woodland area and some sun gardens along a steep terraced hillside. I was under the impression that we needed some buckets and a shovel...

Bucket o’ Bees

It’s swarm season here at Pure & Simple, and anywhere you find bees, really. In a nutshell, a queen will leave with about half of the hive’s population as a means of increasing the overall bee population. Scout bees go out from the hive to find a suitable location and the queen leaves with her entourage. If the queen likes the location they’ll stay, if not they’ll continue looking for a location that will please her. This swarm has moved five times in 24 hours. It seems that there were two queens in the swarm, the old queen and perhaps a newly emerged queen, and that is why the joint swarm moved a few times and once the original swarm landed in a hole in a tree it then threw off a second swarm shown in the photo below. This morning Stuart went with his bucket to try to collect the second swarm by getting the queen so the rest would follow. The bucket has a lid that can be pulled shut onto the top of the bucket to keep the hive inside until Stuart can get it to the hive box to deposit them. It was a relatively quick process this time. It’s not always so easy, there have been times Stuart has had to get his biggest ladders out and reach up into tall trees to reclaim a swarm. This branch was pretty low in comparison and required a pole but no ladders. I stood with our neighbors watching the action. It was a successful catch, once the queen was settled in the hive the worker bees fanned...

Get Fresh!

As part of the Go Local Film Series, FRESH will be showing at the Court Square Theater on May 23. This is a free showing, however, donations are accepted at the door if you’re inclined. Light appetizers will be served at 6 by The Local Chop and Grill...

One Mighty Reason to Stop Topping

Here is a Red Oak (Quercus rubra) in our front yard. It would be a regal beauty today had it not been topped years ago, causing unnatural growth above the cut and making it top heavy. The multiple cuts opened the tree up to rot and the regrowth was weaker than its original limbs would have been. It’s just too close to the house given its weakened status. Even so, look at that canopy! The main reason given for topping is to limit growth, keeping a tree small. This doesn’t work. Growth rates increase in a deciduous tree after being topped in an attempt to replace its missing leaf area which is what allows it to manufacture food for the trunk and roots. It won’t take long for a topped tree to return to its original size, making topping an act of sheer folly. It is far easier to plant trees appropriate to their setting. This oak was just outside my office window and provided a pretty screen from both the penetrating morning sun and road traffic. Now its trunk and limbs are laying on the ground separate from each other. Stuart took the limbs off as far up as he could reach with his long arm saw. A day or two later he took the rest down with help from Herman. Normally I would delight in how accurately he fells a tree, but not this one. Mostly because of my appreciation of this tree, but also because I’m a sissy. The tree would be falling in the direction of Herman, power lines, our strawberry patch, me, and trees...

Friday Forage: Strawberry

Strawberry (this bed is mostly Fragaria × ananassa). This is one of many plants in bloom right now. I chose to feature strawberry because we grow a few varieties on our property, pollinators like them and they provide wonderful food for humans, too. The strawberry is not a true berry, but is part of the rose family, Rosaceae. Some of the plants in the field are early and others are midseason so we’ll have a slightly extended harvest. Everbearing will usually provide a second harvest, extending a season even further. There is nothing like spying a glint of red later in the season and having just one more taste. Here’s a great site for all things strawberry:  http://strawberryplants.org. I particularly like their interactive list of strawberry varieties/cultivars. Honeybees did not visit these blooms when they first appeared, we decided that there must have been something more attractive to them further up the mountain or in the valley. The strawberries did draw pollinators, however, I saw a feral bee and a bumblebee visiting our field while taking pictures and Stuart saw several other species of bee and insects. The last couple of days have seen more honeybee visitors. While we keep honeybees, we recognize they aren’t the only pollinators and encourage everyone to plant to their hearts content those plants that provide nectar and pollen, particularly in places that were previously barren such as lawn or mulched but empty landscape beds. Of course, there is the totally natural method of allowing lawns to return to the wild, but many towns and suburbs discourage this particular approach to garden...

Calendula & Tea Tree Soap

Soap making is one of our activities here and a great outlet for creativity because there are many different ingredients that can be used. Plus, after all the fun, there is a tangible and useful item in my hot little hands. Sometimes having a short term project that yields tangible product is a nice contrast to longer term projects or work that falls in the category of regular maintenance. Generally speaking, soap is a salt from a complex chemical reaction. Saponification is the name for the chemical reaction between an acid and a base to form this salt…or soap. When making soap using the cold process method, an oil or fat (acid) is mixed with lye (base) to form soap (salt). The second reaction that occurs is glycerol turning into beneficial glycerin. All handmade soap contains glycerin naturally. This understanding isn’t essential to actually making soap though, when I made my first batch I recognized a chemical reaction, but that was about it. The soap featured in this post is Calendula & Tea Tree in bars. They’re actually more like slabs fitting nicely in some hands and needing to be halved for others. Below are the ingredients in order of heaviest to lightest along with the distance they travelled to get here: Saponified Tallow rendered from suet: 7 miles Castor Oil (Ricinus communis): 7219 miles Carrot (Daucus carota L. subsp. sativus): 20 miles Tea Tree Essential Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia): 10,342 miles Calendula(Calendula officinalis): 0 miles The tallow is local, which is why I chose to work with it above other fats such as Coconut or Palm. Castor Oil is the compromise and makes...

Spring Cleaning

Spring is a fabulous time of year for us. Not only is the landscape greening, but this is when Stuart can really get into the hives to see which ones have made it through the winter, which might be weakened or strong enough to breed, and how many we have lost overall. The apiary on our property was the focus of Stuart’s attention last weekend, making it easy for me to get pictures! Stuart spends a great deal of time watching. He watches the chickens, individually and as a flock. He watches the bees, aware of what is going on in each hive and each apiary and notices changes in our surroundings. It’s this level of observation that allows us to respond quickly when something unusual happens. We’ve lost about 50% of our hives over winter, leaving us with 34. There are myriad reasons for a hive to die, but we recognize that the late summer drought last year weakened hives as they went into winter. We also don’t use antibiotics, miticides or powdered sugar in our hives, opting instead to attempt to raise survivor bees from selected stock. In the context of an environment filled with toxic chemicals and pesticides, we expect hive loss each year, although it doesn’t make it any easier. In the picture above you can see where mice chewed through wax to build a nest, the remains of which can be seen at Stuart’s feet. Even using mouse guards in the winter, sometimes they still get in through the bottom. By the time we open up the hives in the spring, the mice are long...

Go Local Film Series Kick-off

Last night we attended a viewing of Queen of the Sun at the Court Square Theater in Harrisonburg. The movie came to the attention of our Market Manager, Josie, and quickly turned from a single event to the Go Local Film Series. We were a sponsor for this opening film along with The Sierra Club. Harrisonburg Farmers Market, Friendly City Food Coop, Arts Council of the Valley, Cinemuse, and JMU Earth Club will sponsor the continuing series. I found the movie to be engaging as it tugged at my heart and at times made me laugh.  It makes me want to do better. There are so many things happening in our world beyond our influence that have a profoundly negative impact on bees and our personal environments. Some of these are things we participate in as a family. There are also many areas where I know we’re making decisions that cause the least impact. There is always hope and sometimes I find new ways to use less or even change the way I think about something to make a difference. There was a panel discussion afterward that focused on various issues related to bees and keeping a sound environment for them and us. The panel was moderated by Suzi Carter of Friendly City Food Coop and included Stuart, Karl from The Natural Garden, Lee from Radical Roots and Dr. Lee Ward who has conducted extensive research on the causes of honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder. We put some honey out for a tasting and got to talk with lots of wonderful people about the film, beekeeping practices and the...

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