Do you know your matters? Brown and Green?

If you are considering your gardens, and want to go more sustainable, lets make sure you know what makes up brown and green matter. If you are making raised beds, in ground beds, lasagna gardening, Hugelkultur, or Keyhole gardens the matters, matter.

Let me start by saying, I am not a science major and the process is definitely science, but I will share some of the things I have learned and been successful with.

Green matter provides nitrogen and Brown matter provides carbon.  The ratio of each is the important factor.  I have learned that in a keyhole garden that is 6 feet in diameter and 4 feet tall the ratio of browns to green is 3:1 (see .  So a keyhole garden is what I will discuss here but a C:N ratio can be used in all of the gardening methods above.

I want to let you know what brown and green matter is.  Typically, we all have the products in our life, our home or in our community in excess.  Using these excess Matters, put in the right mixture, will create beautiful nutrition rich soil.

At the farm this year we are changing a lot of our in-ground gardens to keyhole gardens.  This will set our growing season back a bit this springtime, but I know once the keyhole gardens are finished our yield will be excellent, there will be no weeding and the heavy rains will not drown us out.

Want to attend our Keyhole garden class? Go here to sign up.

So begin collecting items for your own keyhole garden. Here is a list of what those things are:

Brown matter:
*Dry yellow, brown leaves or dead grass
*Dead woody stalks or plants
*Any paper and wood products, newspaper, programs, twigs, paper trash
*Dryer lint, vacuum cleaner waste
*Wood ash from fireplaces (not a lot)
*100% cotton, wool or silk
*Pine needles
*Cardboard (lots and lots of cardboard)

Green matter:
*Freshly cut green leaves and grass clippings
*livestock Manure (rabbit is my favorite)
*Kitchen scraps like vegetables, melon rinds, fruit, fruit pits, corncobs, cut flowers, nut shells, shells from shellfish
*Egg shells, coffee grounds
*Pet bedding
*Weeds freshly pulled but foliage only – no roots
**No proteins or fats

Fall Container Gardens – Hard to Find Medicinal Herbs, Let’s Plant

It is August and is now typically Texas HOT and I’m talking about gardening.  We have just put out a limited amount of beautiful medicinal herb plants to use as container gardening for this fall and winter.  I want to tell you about them.  They are beautiful for container planting, some of them are so fragrant and all of them are helpful.

First let me tell you about the few plants we have in one gallon pots.  They are already of a nice size so put into a lovely pot these are ready to make a statement now.

GYNURA SPINACH – aka longevity spinach. Research shows that it is an efficient regulator of blood sugar.  Leaves eaten in salads or cooked in dishes, may lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

This is a fast growing plant. Is vining in nature but can be cut to bush.  It is a good candidate for growing indoors as it is a tropical. It is easy to grow, just give them lots of light. You can enjoy these leaves raw or cooked. They are very high in protein.  Good for vegetarians to know.
Med - gynura spinach - Copy

WHITE CHRYSANTHEMUM TEA – I am so excited about this plant!! White Chrysanthemum Tea – Chinese Gong Ju Hua Cha, is made form the dried flowers of this plant.  Did you know all Chrysanthemum flowers are edible?  They are!

An evergreen and hardy to 0 degrees. Flowering occurs in the fall in zone 7.  The plant prefers full sun, well drained soils and frequent watering.

The flowers are steeped in hot water and a herbal tea is made.  This is highly medicinal and thought to help reduce inflammation in the body, help with eye problems like – blurred vision, spotty vision, watery eyes and maybe even help with cataracts. May help with high cholesterol, blood pressure and alleviate cold symptoms.
Med - White Chry Tea

CURRY TREE – this smells delightful!!! This is another great container tree.  In a container it will grow about 3’ in height.  It likes to be fed and pruned for a strong bushy plant  Unless you live in zone 9 or higher the container is the way to go.  It can be outside here all summer and then moved indoors for the winter.

The leaves are thick so normally always fried in oil alone before adding any other spices to the dish.  Make a pesto or use on your BBQ.  Experiment with this one.  A beautiful fragrant plant.  A conversation piece for sure.
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TEA TREE – we are all familiar with Tea Tree Oil, well this is the tree it comes from.

The tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is a small evergreen that likes warm climates. It is attractive and fragrant, with an exotic look. The oil from the foliage of this tree is widely used.  Melaleuca tea trees attract attention in your garden, with the trunk being one of the most attractive features is the trunk, with its gorgeous, papery bark.  Living here in Texas where it is mostly warm it can be planted in the gardens.  This can also be grown in containers and is a good way to control the rapid growth of this tree. This also ensures its survival. It must have a lot of sunlight.  This is a fast-growing tree.  It takes a few years before you will see the flowers.

It is recommended you don’t plant this tree outside unless you live in a zone 8 or above. The trees need sun, sun, sun.  They will not do well in the shade. Make sure the soil drains easily. These trees like water.  You need to keep that soil a bit moist at all times.

It is an evergreen and can grow 8 to 15 feet and does like the Texas heat.  It is cold hardy to at least 16 degrees.  It is used in products like soap, toothpaste, oils, etc. Anti-fungal/bacterial.
Med - Tea Tree

The following plants I have in 4″ pots.
Hibiscus Roselle This bushy shrub can grow 4 to 7’ tall in t he ground but is also a good candidate for container growing. Water the soil when it becomes dry to the touch. To reiterate, water only enough to make the soil moist, not wet. It is critical to use the right type of fertilizer. The fertilizer needs to be one with low phosphorus, moderate nitrogen, and high potassium. Fertilize every two to three weeks.

The calyx is harvested and steeped to make a tea.  Hibiscus Roselle tea is reported to lower blood pressure and lower your LDL cholesterol. This may be worth trying. The beautiful tea is red in color and tastes delicious.  Hibiscus tea does not contain caffeine and is reported to help you relax, making it a good drink for those that are sensitive to caffeine.

ZA’ATAR – this is a wild oregano in Israel. It is in the oregano/thyme family.  This is also called the bible hyssop. This herb can be put into a delicious olive oil to enjoy dipping a fresh crusty bread in. It can be used as an herb in many culinary dishes.  Commonly used in Mediterranean dishes with yogurt, meats and veggies.

TOOTHACHE PLANT – Acmella Oleracea – It has daisy like flowers in the summertime.  It has been used medicinally for a long time. It has been used been used for generations to manage the pain of toothaches. Both the leaves and the attractive golden flowers can be used as a natural anesthetic. Simply chew the leaves or flowers for a few seconds then you’ll experience a tingling and numbing sensation in your mouth. An infusion or tincture made from the Toothache Plant is said to promote gum and throat health due to its strong antibacterial properties. Also called Spilanthes oleracea.

This herb is a good candidate for container growing.  It gets to about 18” tall, fast grower and takes well to pruning.  It needs a lot of light but don’t overwater.  Wait until the soil is dry to the touch then water. Provides pretty yellow flowers. Enjoy this one.
Med - toothache plant - Copy

ST. JOHNS WORT – This plant is widely known as an herbal treatment for depression. Research indicates St. John’s wort is most often used as a dietary supplement for depression. People also use it as a dietary supplement for other conditions, including menopausal symptoms, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive-disorder. It is used topically for wound healing.  The flowering tops of St. John’s wort are used to prepare teas, tablets, capsules, and liquid extracts. Topical preparations are also available.  This plant likes a lot of water. Is a small shruby plant.

Easy to grow it is not too particular.  Gets to about 3’ tall and provides yellow flowers in the  summer time.
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HOLY BASIL, RAMA TULSI – We have two types of Holy Basil – Rama Tulsi – True Holy Basel, held sacred by the Hindus.  Enjoy in tea, cooking, and salads. Both of the Holy Basil (Tulsi) have a delightful fragrance.  I enjoy them very much for that one benefit alone.  They have been very easy for me to grow and will be a delight to have in your indoor herb garden.

It has been used in Ayurveda medicine for generations. This variety has been found to be one of the highest in medicinal compounds; adaptogenic, antifungal, antibacterial and immune enhancing. Enjoy a tea, tincture, extract or syrup.
Med - Holy basil rama.jpg

HOLY BASIL, KRISHNA TULSI – It acts like an annual, and is even known to self-seed in temperate climates, which is quite unusual for basil.  Eat one fresh leaf daily, or pick the leaves and flowers and dry them and make the tea. Most excellent. Adaptogenic, immune enhancing, antifungal and antibacterial.

This is easiest of all Tulsi types to grow in temperate gardens and is highly aromatic. Enjoy this too in your kitchen herb garden.  Enjoy this in your kitchen garden in the winter and set out on your porch the rest of the year.  Keep the flowers cut for a bushier plant with a lot more foliage.

Come out and get these hard to find plants and have them for this fall and winter.




Herbal Teas – Tasty and Beneficial

The more I garden and learn about herbs, the more I want to know.  I enjoy learning about herbs, spices and plants of all kinds.  Once this box got opened for me, there is no closing it.  It continually spills over and over again with more and more information. A beautiful spilling of floral, culinary, medicinal informational delight. Today I want to share a little information on Making Herbal Teas or more correctly; making an infusion.  An herbal tea is called a ( tinsanes =  /tɪ-zahn).  In reality, it is not a tea without one of the tea plants Camelia Sinensis leaves in it.  Instead they are infusions made from leaves, bark, roots, berries, seeds, and spices. I will continue to refer to them here as Herbal Teas or Teas.

Here is where the difference between herbs and spices kind of get thrown together.  As many spices are added to herbal teas too.  Some of those spices are cinnamon, ginger, turmeric which have been found as extremely beneficial for our health. The difference between and herb and a spice: Herbs come from the leafy and green part of the plant. Spices are parts of the plant other than the leafy bit such as the root, stem, bulb, bark or seeds. Examples of herbs include basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley and mint. Examples of spices include coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and turmeric.

Herbal teas can be as simple or complex as you want them to be.  Sometimes there is nothing better than a simple hot cup of steeped lemon grass.  This herb is a mild sweet citrus flavor that I find soft, pleasant and calming.

Most herbal teas are much more complex combining herbs and spices for flavor and health benefits.  Teas for fighting colds and flu, which by the way, really do make a difference!  Teas for cardiovascular health, blood pressure improvement, general immune system building.  Whatever flavor combinations you have or make to enjoy each and every component will have positive health properties.

Grow some Stevia plant’s to use as a natural sweetener.  This plant’s leaves are seriously sweet right off of the plant. Use your culinary Thyme, Sage, Rosemary, Lavender and so many more for brewing your favorite herbal delight.  Steep the leaves, roots, bark or flowers in hot water (not boiling) for 15 minutes to ensure all of the flavor and nutritional oils have been brought out.  Then enjoy it hot or cold, either way is great.

One more thing to make mention for you to consider – most all true Herbal Teas are caffeine free. The plant, Camelia Sinensis, has caffeine.

You can blend your own as easy as harvesting the plants you have or using dried herbs from your pantry.  Grab your tea ball or tea bags and get started.  Whatever your reason, to have an herb garden, to enjoy herbal teas for flavor or for health and wellness; there is much to enjoy.  If you have never tried an herbal tea, consider starting today.

We keep organic blended teas made and ready to go at the farm store here at C & J Farms.   Some of the herbal teas we carry are – Happy Tummy Tea, Cold and Flu Tea (this is so effective!!), Lemon Tea, Red Rooibos Tea, Earl Grey with Coneflower (this has caffiene), Blues Tea and more.  We offer lists of ingredients in each tea, tea kitchen accessories and a great conversation on herbs, spices and herbal teas.

If you want to know more about what we carry you will have to come by the store,give us a call, or contact us via our email.  We will be happy to help you find an herbal tea delight to suit what you might be looking for.

lemon honey in lemon grass tea 2

My new Start – Medicinal Garden

Now I know this photo shows a pity full looking garden. But not all things start off lovely. This is my first garden with a focus on medicinal plants.  My knowledge is limited today but will continue to grow and as it grows I’ll share with you.

medicinal garden

Yarrow, Bee Balm, Dandelions, Marshmallow, Comfrey, Mullein, Lemon Balm


I know that a lot of these plants grow wild and are considered weeds but I have learned enough to know, I love these plants.  I decided to grow even the most common of plants rather than pull them from pastures and streets because I know how they have been grown. These plants have no chemicals sprayed on them.  I use only organic growing practices.

Yarrow – the entire plant can be used.  Flowers should be fully open but not yellowing or browning.  You should never use an herb until you have researched and understand it’s effects on the body.

Marshmallow –  Use the leaves and flowers as poultices to soothe skin irritations, bruising, and irritation. Make a tea of the leaves and flowers for bronchitis, and cough.  The roots contain more than 30% mucilage that is soothing to mucus membranes and the digestive tract. The leaves in early spring, make a mild tasting, and healthful salad.

Bee Balm – This herb is edible and medicinal. All above ground parts of the plant are edible and used as a pot herb, and also used as a flavoring in cooked foods. The flowers make an attractive edible garnish in salads.  An medicinal infusion is used internally in the treatment of colds, catarrh, headaches, and gastric disorders, to reduce low fevers and soothe sore throat, to relieve flatulence, nausea, for menstrual pain, and insomnia.

Dandelions – every part of the dandelion is useful but most harvest the root and make a tincture.  This is medicinal and edible.  Roots are valued for the high anti-inflammatory properties.  The flowers and leaves are great in salads. Some make jellies and add to baked goods.

Comfrey – contains allantoin, which promotes the growth of new cells. Knowing this, comfrey is a go-to herb for skin issues. Useful for skin healing and as a poultice for bruises and sprains and sores. Add comfrey to your salves remembering that it truly is a powerful skin re generator, and caution needs to be used that the wound is already healing before applying a salve that may trap infection under the new skin.

Mullein – is best known as a respiratory tonic. The leaves and flowers activate lymph circulation in the neck and chest and can be useful for mumps, glandular swellings and earaches. Mullein tones and soothes the mucous membranes, reduces inflammation and encourages healthy fluid production in the lungs. By encouraging mucus production, Mullein protects the membranes from absorbing allergens and encourages expectoration. It is anti-spasmodic and antibiotic. Use it for hay fever, emphysema, colds, flu, hoarseness, bronchitis, whooping cough and asthma.

Lemon Balm – The leaves are lovely when minced and added to green salads, fruit salads or your favorite salsa. Because of the lemony scent, the leaves make a great addition to seafood and poultry dishes. The leaves and stems can also be used to make a mellow, relaxing tea.

Windows in my spare time.

It has been awhile since I’ve made a note to you.  We have been busy with the new farm store, new wholesale accounts, setting up a spot in Uniquely Yours Treasure Store in Corsicana and being in the kitchen.  I have been in the kitchen alot over the past couple of months and I thank all of you for that. We are preparing to be at the Texas State Fair this year so be sure and come see us at the Food and Fiber Pavillion. That being said I’ve taken a small break this weekend and stayed home and enjoyed the rain.

I am going to share pictures with you of what I enjoy doing.  I like to let my creative side out when I have a few minutes.

I will have about 15 of these available for sale at the upcoming Vintage Market Days at Southfork Ranch on Sept. 9 – 11th. This is not something I typically offer but will at this show. Or course they are available at the Farm Store if you are interested.


Status On The Store

We have been working on a farm location for us to use as an office and retail selling space. Our vision is to develop this further to offer the experience of fresh herbs in the gardens and showing different gardening techniques.
First we found a small building and had it moved to the property.

Then we begin to create and develop our gardens.
new gardens new garden 3 new garden 4 new garden 5
Some of the herbs we grow are basil, cilantro, chamomile, calendula, dill, hibiscus, lavender, lemon grass, parsley, rosemary, salad burnet, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme. Some of these are only good fresh as opposed to dried.
As the seasons, weather and water conditions change the herbs growing and thriving change too. Right now I need to harvest the last of our dill. In the keyhole garden the lavender and chamomile are still doing well with their feet kept warm.
lavender in december herbs
We still have some work to do before we will invite you over but our plan is to have it presentable by Spring.

Finally, we have been able to move the Sales office out of the kitchen. Ta da!!!! Matt, Sales Manager, is now in his new corner office.
new corner office
It is certainly not fancy but we are all excited. The store will soon offer a place where all of our products will be available for you to come by and make your purchase. Here’s a sneak peek.
sneek peek corner
Plain right now. More of these sneak peek’s to come as we make progress.
See you soon. Eat delicious and nutritious!!

Cows ~ From the City to the Country

Who would have guessed that I would be living on a farm with cattle, goats and growing herbs? Life is awesome!

One of the things I have enjoyed is having the opportunity to grow out our own beef. I would never have thought this would be something I get excited about.We didn’t start this adventure into the country with cattle but I’m so glad we have them.

Discoveries about cattle along the way are numerous.They seem to have long memories and recognize each other.We can move some cows to other pastures, separating those who were raised together as babies, reunite them after a year or more and they seem to celebrate when that cow’s voice is heard again. I have seen them running to join each other with actual leaps in the process.

When babies are moved from their mom’s it is hard on both of them.Some of the cows (by the way a cow is a female that has had a calf) cry out for days calling for the calf and listening for the calf’s reply.The calves seem to adjust a bit quicker. We try to keep a small herd of the same age young ones together because they need each other.If we leave the calves with their mom to long, we have found many of the calves will continue to nurse way past what is required. So we must move them off of the cow mom.

A bull stays with our cows all of the time, allowing for the cattle to become pregnant quickly.If a calf continues to nurse and the cow is pregnant it causes stress to the momma cow.

Cows, heifers (a female that has not had a calf) and bulls will gather together in the evening at dusk and groom each other.I love being out in the pastures with the cattle at this time of day.

There is always a leader of the herd.Ours is number 19 and she is quite the talker.She is physically very large and very vocal.She will call out as if to say “We are changing pastures now” she will begin walking and everyone will follow along.

All of our cows are very docile so I feel so comfortable in the pastures. They are typically very curious animals and their curiosity will get the best of them, if your patient enough.I will stand very still in the pasture and some will come up very close to me to check me out, especially the young ones.As I stand there I will lift my arm slowing and one of them will get brave enough to come and lick my hand.That experience is not for everybody but I kind of like it. I like watching as the others, standing close behind but not brave enough to approach that close, react when I don’t move when licked.Then those shy ones will begin to approach. If I stand completely still, I will have them gathered all around.

Occasionally, we will get one that can be aggressive; they don’t get to live on our farm.

So back to the beginning, best of all, we constantly have one being raised for our freezer. All of our cattle are grass fed only and they have plenty of property to graze. We do have to supplement hay in the winter but only hay.It is the best beef we’ve ever had not to mention the health benefits.Amazing!! We eat red meat now without concern or guilt because we know what went into the steer (a bull that has been neutered) and what the health benefits are.

If you get the opportunity to purchase a grass feed steer try to purchase it for processing.The processing of the meat will come to less than @2.00 a lb. At this price it is definitely worth buying a freezer for.