Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry Syrup

Dried Berries

Dried Berries

While perusing a couple of articles about staying healthy this winter, recipes for elderberry syrup as a flu prevention/remedy kept showing up over and over. Since I did not get the flu shot this year, I took it as a DIY Sign and went to get the full story at Lori’s Natural Foods in Henrietta. Helpful staff directed me to the ready-made syrup for $25 for a 30 serving bottle which in turn propelled me to revisit the opportunity to make my own…I ended up purchasing a small bag of dried elderberries…more on that in a bit.

Elderberries (Sambucus ebulus) have flavonoids with anti-oxidant properties (for healthy cells) and provide Vitamins A, B and a lot of C. They may have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-cancer properties – yay! Daily use can provide flu prevention and taken more often can speed up flu recovery. Elderberries grow as a shrub – actually a small tree – in Zone 3-4 in Northern NY, NH, VT, ME, MN, WI, ND, MT and parts of WY (in case you ever get this as a Jeopardy question.) DISCLAIMER! Berries SHOULD NOT be eaten raw – only cooked. Green, unripe, or bright red elderberries are bitter and possibly toxic, even when cooked. Be forewarned and cook ’em up!

I used a recipe from a favorite blogger – Wellness Mama – with simple ingredients…dried elderberries, honey, whole cloves, cinnamon, fresh ginger and water. My resulting syrup yielded 3C (48T) – more than the recipe because I doubled the honey by mistake – oops and yum. Pretty easy to make  – a tad messy and maybe it took me an hour start to finish. It tastes good and has a distinct, earthy, fruity flavor.

An adult serving is 1/2 T to 1 T a day – I am doing this now instead of honey, which I had been taking daily. Shelf life is 1-6 mo depending on the honey – it is best to use raw honey!  It will keep in the freezer for longer too – so I put my second jar up there.

My cost was $5 for the honey (16 oz) $3.50 for berries plus the spices  I had on hand – approximately $.19 per  serving vs $.83 per serving for store bought…more yay!

Complete recipe here and helpful comments from her followers   http://wellnessmama.com/1888/elderberry-syrup/

And…more than you need to know about elderberries!



Can You Grow An Elderberry In A Pot: Tips For Growing Elderberries In Containers






Stay healthy this winter – enjoy the subtle beauty of bright birds and our rare sunny days…

Have a Nothing New Day! ~Kristin








Lesson 1363 – A Year of Nothing New

This is my friend Wendy Thomas’ blog – “Lessons Learned from the Flock” check it out! Thank you for this opportunity to be a guest blogger, Wendy!

Lessons Learned from the Flock

Kristin Skarie is a friend of mine whom I met through my son when she did workshops at his college. Like me, she also loves to do life experiments and one of her finest was going a year without buying anything new. It can be done,  she’s even written a book about it! Here’s Kristin to tell you about what she learned when she didn’t buy anything new.


Hello and thank you Wendy! In 2010, I made a decision to buy nothing new for a year. A friend had shared her recent nothing new experiment so I decided on the spot to give it a go – no preparation, no stocking up, no plans. In many ways this was an answered prayer to remedy a BAD 2009 (don’t ask!) and it gave me a welcome distraction – an active, positive focus on the pending adventure.

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2016 Garden Plans!

2016 Garden Plans!

It WILL be Spring! Not for a while but it will come, as promised in less than 2 months – March 20 – yay! Which means there is plenty of time to start the garden planning! I have mapped out my plan and purchased seeds from Crosman’s in East Rochester – they have been in the family owned local seed biz since 1838. I love their history and am in awe of the tenacity and wisdom it takes to make that happen. I got lots of great planting stories from Justine, Corkey and Dierde when I was there in Friday – wise and fun women working the office while we were all Talking Seeds. Good times. They sell their seeds there off  The Seed Rack, most of them for around $1 a pack and have numerous other retail sites at other local businesses. More info here – go there!  http://www.crosmanseed.com/

Now back to planning – I made 4 (2 x 8′) raised beds years ago when I expanded my garden from 7 x 7′ to 7 x14′ – I also shifted the beds 90 degrees to take more advantage of the how the sun moves in that space and put a better fence around the space. Over the years, I have learned what will grow (and NOT) in that space and have fine-tuned it to the above goodies. I like all of these and I have had good luck with them. Green beans were good too but I am not going to manifest those this year. I had minimal luck with brussels sprouts, peas, melons and squash so now rely on my farmer friends Fimka and Larry for these gems. I also have 6 black walnut trees in my Back 40 which make the soil – even in the beds – that may or may not have been the reason and certainly I am not blaming them! I count those trees as my Friends.

More than you need to know about Black Walnut Trees here: https://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-193.pdf

If you are starting from scratch – here is my contribution to a step by step plan…be sure to seek out your local experts at the garden store, farm market, and Cooperative Extension (yay Cornell for us in Upstate NY). Big Box Store aversion aside – I have also gotten kind and helpful advice from the garden folks at Home Depot!

OK – hope this helps….

1. Start now! Look at websites for ideas – also Pinterest and even Etsy!  Take some time to hang around the garden stores and smell the dirt. You will be refreshed!

2. Budget – I could spend $1000 just thinking about my garden…AND I reigned in to about $100 for seeds, soil, gloves and a few plants…it might be more for you if you are starting fresh…it is astonishingly easy to overspend – this is a fun hobby for me and if that is or becomes true for you – beware!  Having said that – start buying a bag of soil now and then and it wont be such a big cost all at once.  I need 8 bags of soil – and I am buying 1 a week….that takes me into mid-March – yay!

3. Garden Map – Based on how much space you have and where you will plant, will you do raised beds? Maybe you don’t need them? Maybe pots on the porch for tomatoes? Growing ANYTHING no matter how small or how slowly you start is GREAT.  To humbly quote Ron Finley “LA Guerilla Gardener” – “Growing your own food is like printing your own money” – huh.  View his TED Talk here: 

And take a look at this interactive planing site for more inspiration


4.  What to plant, what to plant? Well, what do you like? What does your family or friendship circle like? Need sun or shade or both? Start with a few things or maybe a theme to keep it manageable – a salad garden?  a pizza garden? a salsa garden? all herbs for grilling and roasting?  YUM.

5. Raised Beds – the bigger the garden the more time it will take to maintain it – as a consideration you can buy ready to go kits on line, or pre-made boxes OR DIY! I favor beds over planting right in the ground for several reasons – better soil, more control over what grows where and it looks nice! I found this cool site for DIY beds and all kinds of 4×4 themed gardens – good stuff!


6. Tools – my go to tools are – hand trowel, hand weeder, large and small metal rake, hoe and a wheelbarrow.  Start looking now and maybe make a small purchase or 2 for the next few months. There is a great second-hand tool shop in Fairport, NY  Tool Thrift Shop – raising thousands of dollars for SOFI (Senior Options for Independent Living) – yes!

7. Decor – I am all for a garden that you like the looks of! AND this is the easiest place to overspend…Brace yourself for the pending arrival of garden gnomes (no that there is anything wrong with garden gnomes), statues, stakes, signs, ornaments, spinners, and lights….on and on! Keep on the alert for unusual items you can repurpose for decoration – my wonderful neighbors Joetta and Kurt are EXPERTS at this.  Old metal tubs for planter, old chairs hanging on the fence, old muffin tins and vintage pots for planters. Buy used and buy a story instead of something everyone else has.

Happy Planning and Sweet Garden Dreams to you!  Have a Nothing New Day!  ~Kristin


Blueberry Soup for the Soul!

Blueberry Soup – yaaaaaas!

American Birkebeiner 1983!

American Birkebeiner 1983!

Today (Monday) was the perfect day to make blueberry soup! Cold, sunny, blue sky, a little snow on the ground (not too much – yay!) and a moment of free time for a simple joy. I like to make this in the winter with last summer’s frozen berries for many reasons – memory lane, comfort, sustenance – it’s usually my “second breakfast” around 10:30/11am when I get a hankering for something and need a work break.

My first exposure to blueberry soup was in 1983 as an American Birkebeiner “Champion” – which really means “Finisher” – ha! The Birkie is a 50K (35 Miles) cross country ski race in Hayward, WI started in 1973 modeled after the Norwegian Birkebeiner which started in 1932…More here about the Birkebeiner from the Norwegian sporting organization, Birken:


When I crossed the finish line (8 hours later for me) I heard my name announced, was presented a medal (still have it), then corralled into a shelter to ensure my survival. Most importantly, I was gifted with a packet of recovery perfection – warm blueberry soup – to ease the pain and celebrate the completion! This is a crystal clear memory for me – it was dark and cold but I was happy and relieved. In 1983, I went with a group of crew teammates – good times. In 1984, I skied with 2 great friends and we “camped” overnight in a high school classroom – glamorous travel! Don’t even ask me why I thought it would be good to do this a second time. here are other vivid memories of cold, snow, waxing our skis, thousands of people, sun, falling down, oranges at the pitstops, kind and fun volunteers…oh, and a 1 pound Hershey bar in my fanny pack as my co-pilot.

ANYWAY…back to blueberry soup! I have used this recipe over and over with great results…


I use local honey instead of sugar (1/3-1/2 C) and add a teaspoon of cardamom – my favorite spice. You can use a little flour instead of cornstarch if you want (whisk it first then add to the blubes) or arrowroot if you want gluten/corn free…probably don’t even need it…

Easy to make, enough to share and a little bit of blue summer to ease our winter blues! Now I must leave you for it is time for a little snack….

Have a Nothing New Day! ~Kristin