Teas Can Refresh Herd & Herd Owner
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It’s so refreshing to putz around the yard on a glorious spring morning with my mug in hand. A little of these leaves and a little of those flowers, then I’m ready to head back to the house to make a refreshing and nourishing mug of tea. Wait…there’s Yodel, my pinto LaMancha milker gazing at me with her adoring eyes and asking for her very own drink of herbal tea.
Many spring herbs are gentle system cleansers. The liver, kidneys, blood stream and every cell of the body all benefit from gentle cleansing and nourishing herbs. Some of my favorites are dandelion leaves and flowers, tender spring raspberry leaves, plantain leaves, mullein leaves, stinging nettle leaves and soft stems, red clover leaves and blossoms, chickweed, cleavers (lady’s bedstraw) and comfrey. To me all of these herbs are must-haves around the farm and many of them also grow well in containers for those that need to garden in this manner.
All of these plants are pretty easy to start from seed, except comfrey, which starts the easiest from one- to two-inch root segments of comfrey root. Comfrey should not be ingested by creatures that have known liver damage from medications, plant/creature toxins or other issues. Also be sure that chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides have not been used in the area for the previous three years and avoid areas within at least 50 feet of roadways. Also avoid areas with large amounts of electrical activity such as under power lines as that will change the energy structure of the plants and they will not be as nourishing. The idea behind herb teas for animals is to cleanse and increase their nutrition, not re-toxify them.
Making tea begins with gathering the needed ingredients. Taking a bucket, basket or other clean lightweight container and some scissors, I head out around the yard clipping whichever of these herbal gems that I feel need harvesting. Some days it will be entirely one plant, but many days it will be a blend of several, then I head back into the house with my living treasures. Stinging nettles require gloves for harvesting. Usually I can pick them without getting stung by pushing the tops of large leaves towards each other until I can grip that section of the plant and cut or pull. If I happen to get stung I just rub a bit of plantain on the sore spot.
When I get my green treasures into the house, I stuff one or more canning jars full of the leaves. They do not have to be packed tight, but they should fill the jar well.
I then pour very hot distilled water over them. Distilled water will reap about 33% more nutrition into the tea water. Let this steep with a lid on it to keep all of the herbal goodness in, then cool it for at least 15 minutes, strain, and head out to the barn with it.
I like to add a quart of tea to a five-gallon bucket of water and let the animals drink it in. They love it and will drink as much as provided. It can also be put into rabbit water bottles. For these smaller creatures it is best to start by only putting 25% herb tea in and the rest water. Every week change it over by 25% additional herb tea until they are drinking the full tea in a month. It is good to provide a fresh water bottle for them and let them choose which they prefer.
The goats and chickens even like the steamed herb leaves that have been strained out from the tea.
Herb teas are called infusions in the herb world. To make a nourishing soak, or fomentation, from herb tea, take an infusion and soak a natural fiber cloth such as cotton in it. Place that onto an area of skin needing relief or repair. This is quite valuable in getting a jump on the healing process. A combination of the above herbs can be used.
So now, when making a tea, be sure to make enough for the faithful, hard-working, milking ladies in the barn. Both herd and herder can always enjoy raw honey in herbal tea without any harm.
I have written about even more herbal uses as well as how to plant an herb garden for farm and home in my book, The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal available from the Dairy Goat Journal Bookstore (www.dairygoatjournal.com, 1-800-551-5691).