Nine Top Remedies for a Chigger Attack

chigger attack

A chigger attack can leave you miserable. Itching, burning and the unrelenting urge to scratch. What works and what doesn’t? These hard to see pests create incredibly itchy bites! A common misconception is that the insect actually burrows itself into skin, but this is not true. A chigger, which is a type of mite, (Trombicula alfreddugesi) injects a destructive enzyme into the skin. The larval stage of the mite, creates a feeding tube to feast on the dead tissue. They tend to aim for thinner areas of skin so often bites occur on ankles, groin area, and behind the knees. Since the itching persists for days if not treated, many people have come up with home remedies for treating these nasty bites. We have compiled a list of helpful treatments for you to try if you ever stumble unfortunately upon these hungry monsters.

  • ChiggerX
  • Cortisone Cream
  • Calamine lotion
  • Baking soda paste 
  • Essential oil such as Lavender, Lemongrass, Sage, Thyme, or Tea Tree Oil
  • Witch Hazel
  • Coconut Oil
  • Benedryl
  • Chigarid

And What About….. Other Ideas 

The following are frequently suggested methods based on the myth that the chiggers burrow into your skin, however, usually once the affected areas has been scratched the chiggers have been disturbed and are no longer attached to the skin. Although, if you suspect they are still on you these methods could help.

  •  Clear nail polish
  • Butter
  • Smothering them in any oily substance

Information source: medicinenet.com

chigger attack

Protecting Yourself from a Chigger Attack

How do you protect yourself from these vicious insects? There are some steps you can take when in the environment where chiggers like to hang out. One this is to protect your skin with clothing. If you aren’t afraid to make your own fashion statement, wear your socks pulled up over the cuffs of your pants. When handling hay or pulling weeds, wear long sleeves and gloves. The best prevention method to getting chigger bites is to not let them get on your skin in the first place.

Commercial insect repellants will have some effect on repelling chiggers but many do not want the chemicals on their skin. I know I am hesitant to put the chemicals on me! Natural remedies for a chigger attack may offer some relief, too. My favorite method is to use a blend of essential oils, such as lemon eucalyptus oil, around 50 drops, mixed into 4 ounces of witch hazel.

chigger attack

Chiggers female, magnified 50 times, vintage engraved illustration. Magasin Pittoresque 1873.

Where do you Commonly Suffer a Chigger Attack?

The insect is a larval/nymph stage of a mite and seems to be happy living in tall grasses, shaded soil, such as overgrown gardens, and moist areas. Many people commonly suffer from a chigger attack while berry picking in the spring. Where do you come in contact with chiggers? Did you know that chiggers are not common at all in some states? They are common in the southern states, the southeast, and the Midwest. The western and north western states, along with the upper New England states have very low incidence. More information on a chigger attack can be found here.


chigger attack

Looking for more information on mixing your own bug bite relief spray or a natural bug repellent?

From the 104 Homestead Natural Insect Repellents
From The Herbal Academy of New England Crafting a Natural Bug Repellent with Essential Oils

6 Healthy Wild Plants to Harvest Now

wild plantsHealthy,wild plants,herbs and botanicals  grow everywhere in spring. Many of the healthy wild plants in your yard have healing properties. From the common dandelion to wild violet, chickweed and berries, wild plants contain healthy nutrients. Many wild plants can be used as greens in salads, or added to a light oil to make an infusion. With the right knowledge, the tinctures and extracts can provide powerful healing without resorting to pharmaceuticals. Adding dried herbs to baking takes the flavor to a whole new level. 

Pick the Wild Plants In Your Yard, Don’t Kill Them 

Being new to this subject field, I have been reading many blog posts and articles on using wild plants and herbs in different ways. I provide links to the source whenever possible. Please click on the links for more information.


The oh so common and well known wild plant is present in most yards that are not treated with chemicals. Dandelions (Taraxacom) are both edible and medicinal wild plants. Pollinating insects love dandelions too. Many bee and fly species are very happy to drink the abundant nectar. Dandelions play a vital role in honey production because of how much pollen and nectar they feed to the bees. The soil benefits because dandelions produce lots of nutrients, particularly Nitrogen, that go back into the soil.

There are so many beneficial uses for dandelions including the leaves for salad greens, the flowers can be fried, the root can be used as a tea or coffee substitute. Medical professionals caution that the use of any herb can be overdone, cause a reaction, or interfere with prescription medications. Dandelions can be made into tea, tinctures, extracts, oil infusions, raw greens, and dehydrated.



Plantain (Plantago Major) was introduced to this country by the early colonists. What many people don’t realize is, Plantain is actually an herb. In our yard, we actually have both the broad leaf and the thin leaf varieties. The leaves are edible and contain antibacterial and antiseptic properties for healing. The leaves can simply be chewed to release the juice and the mushed leaves placed on the insect bite or inflammation. Plantain leaves can be used to make a tincture, tea, or infusion. To store nature’s bounty of plantain for winter, freeze the leaves or dehydrate. Leaving plantain in the garden or lawn is good for the other plants. Plantain is a wild plant that accumulates nutrients in the soil, making the soil better for growing.

wild plants

Wild Violet

These small purple flowers grow abundantly in shaded areas and in lawns. The leaves and flowers are both edible. The violet flowers are used in salads, and also can be sugared and used to decorate pastry. The leaves are high in vitamin C. Gathering a basket of the tiny violets is not hard once a patch is established. The seeds spread widely from a hidden green flower in the plant. The flavor is reportedly mild and somewhat sweet.

For culinary use, gather the blossoms and make violet infused vinegar or violet jelly. 

Medicinally, this tiny posy has quite an impact. Violets contain salicylic acid (common aspirin) and components that aid respiratory problems and wound healing. Not bad for a weed, right? Violets are so powerful that herbal info includes a warning to be cautious in the use, particularly the roots, because it is so strong. 


Chickweed is a favorite treat of my chickens, ducks and small ruminants. I thought it was appropriate that the chickens liked the chickweed! Did you know that chickweed is a wild plant that is very good for us to eat too? Bees and other pollinators love the tiny flower of chickweed. We can use it in a salad. Leaving it for the pollinating insects is a great idea. If you cut the grass and wild plants, leave the chickweed to decompose on the ground. It will add nutrients back into the soil. Chickweed does many healthy things for our bodies if eaten. It is a mild diuretic and contains lots of vitamins!


Purslane  (Portulaca oleracea),  is so high in Omega 3 fatty acids that it is considered a super food. In addition, Purslane is high in vitamins and beta carotene. It looks somewhat like a small leaf succulent. You can eat the entire plant, leaves and stems as a salad or green. Pectin amounts are also high in Purslane so it can be used as a thickener in recipes.

Purslane can grow anywhere, although I have read that it prefers rich freshly turned soil.  In our gardens it seems to grow in the more barren, dry areas of the garden where other plants are struggling to survive. It grows like a ground cover. If we don’t eat it, I pull it up and throw it to the chickens who seem to be very happy to have a Purslane snack.

Purple Dead-nettle

An early growing weed that spreads quickly has probably been in your garden. I have quite a lot of it in my yard so I wanted to know how it could be used. The Purple Dead-nettle is not very heat tolerant and doesn’t survive the hot summer weather we have. It comes back again in the fall. My favorite use for this plant is making natural dye for use on wool yarn.

The medicinal properties have been used to help heal bruising after making a poultice. Also, it has been used to stop bleeding. Teas made from Purple Dead-nettle have been used to treat chills. 

Dandelion Salve for Achy Muscles and Skin Healing

Dandelions are a completely edible wild plant. The flowers are eaten battered and fried by many people. Dandelion wine and Dandelion jelly are both delicious ways to use dandelions. The greens are delicious in salads, and my rabbits, chickens, ducks and pigs all love a healthy dandelion green treat.

Take care to harvest dandelions that have not been sprayed with chemicals and herbicides. Also, you might not want to collect your dandelions from the edge of the road. These dandelions might contain contaminants from the road and automobiles.

This was my first attempt at making a herbal salve so I consulted a few friends blogs about the subject. I most closely followed this one from Grow Forage Cook Ferment.

Harvesting Wild Plants for Salve

After I harvested a few cups of yellow dandelion flowers, I laid them on a cookie sheet on paper towels. Since our weather had warmed up, I left the tray on the porch to take advantage of the warm breeze and sun. What you are trying to do is dry out the flowers some because they have a high water content. After a day or two the flowers should be dry enough to start the oil infusion. Infusion sounds so medical to me. It’s really simple. Add the Dandelion flowers to a pint size jar until about three quarters full. Pack lightly. Add olive oil or sweet almond oil to the jar until the flowers are completely covered.


To make the infusion, place the jar in the sun for a few days. If you don’t want to wait that long, place the jar in the top piece of a double boiler set up. Bring the water to simmer, and then turn off the heat. Let the flowers in the jar of oil sit in the warm water for  a few hours. 

Strain the oil. I used a mesh strainer. Add a piece of cheese cloth if you think it is necessary. Store the oil in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it in a salve or lotion recipe.

healthy wild plants

Make the Dandelion Salve

Making a healthy salve from the dandelion flowers in another way to benefit from what many consider a weed.

Again, use a double boiler type set up. Heat 16 ounces of  Dandelion oil in the double boiler. I didn’t have quite enough infused Dandelion oil so I just added more olive oil.

wild plants

Melt 2 ounces of Beeswax and 2 ounces of solid coconut oil. When the three ingredients are completely melted, add the other optional ingredients. I used some ground lavender leaves, lavender essential oil and a few drops of wild orange essential oil. Stir to combine and then quickly pour the mixture into the small glass jars or small metal containers.

Using the Salve Made From Wild Plants

The salve will harden fairly quickly. Since it has so much coconut and olive oil in it, when you take a scoop to use the salve it melts quickly and absorbs quickly into your skin. After the oil has penetrated your skin, the salve continues to work and heal your skin.

wild plants


These are a handful of wild plants that are growing in my yard. What sort of wild plants do you use in cooking or homemade remedies? Share with me in the comments.

Save this for later

wild plants


Disclaimer – None of the information presented here is intended to be medical advice. When using plants for health care, it is always best to consult your health care provider. 

Recycled Seed Starters From the Trash Bin

recycled seed startersStarting seedlings in recycled seed starters saves you money and reuses items intended for the trash bin or recycle center. Recycled seed starters have become very important in my life. Egg shells, egg cartons, tin cans, seedling trays, and my new favorite, emptied Keurig coffee cups have all been pressed into service. Some years I go a bit crazy adding chickens and this year I went a little overboard starting seedlings. Some people use cardboard tubes or make seedling pots from newspaper. I tend to grab what ever is nearby that will hold dirt! Many of my ideas need a little modification before the seeds go in, but they are working out well. My seedlings are thriving and getting big! None of this is earth shattering, or terribly original thought. It’s new to me and I thought it might be helpful to you, also, if you are a new gardener.

Using Coffee K-Cups as Recycled Seed Starters

The first step in using the recycled seed starters from Keurig cups, is to empty the coffee from the cups. There’s a couple of tablespoons of coffee in each cup. I save the coffee grounds to add as fertilizer. Turns out plants like coffee as much as I do. Seeds need good soil, moisture, warmth and a light source in order to germinate. When you start reading about starting seeds, you realize there is quite a lot to it. Seed starting is more than just pushing seeds into the ground and saying a prayer, which is my usual method of gardening.

Step 1

Empty out the coffee grounds into a bucket or container. I leave the bucket open to the air but keep it from getting rained on. The goal is to have dry coffee grounds to use as a garden amendment, later. After emptying the coffee pods, I was ready to fill the pods with a good soil. You may notice that some of the pods gave up their liner readily and some did not. I decided to experiment and do some of both to see if it matters. I will update this post if there is any difference. 

Step 2

I poured about 6 quarts of soil into a large plastic bucket. You can see that the bucket is nothing special. It even has teeth marks along the top where the dog carried it around last year. Just a bucket. Use what you have. Add some water to the soil to get it moist but definitely not runny or soggy. Mix well and let it sit for a few minutes to settle and get moist. It should hold together when you pick up a handful but not be dripping water.

seed starters

It should be looking somewhat like this photo. Sticking together but not wet wet wet.

recycled seed starters

Step 3

Scoop potting soil into the recycled seed starters. Pack lightly but make the pod full. Now for the seeds.

Step 4

The most important part of this step is LABEL the recycled seed starters. A lot of seedlings look alike. I know I won’t remember which is who and I’m betting you won’t either. A sharpie pen solves this dilemma. I write on the recycled seed starters because the outer shell is plastic. Perfect solution. Now I know what each one is, even if the tray gets rearranged. Or tipped over. Yes. That happens.

seed starters

seed starters

For the first few weeks after the seeds are in, and while they are still tender little delicate shoots, I water with a spray bottle set to mist setting. This keeps the dirt from washing out from a stream of water. It also prevents over watering. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Seeds will not grow properly if they are kept really wet. 

Some recycled seed starters can be planted right into the ground with the seedlings. If you have egg shells, each half can become a seed pot. Using the same method as outlined above, fill with dirt and plant the seeds. When you are ready to transplant to the garden or larger pot, just plant the whole thing, egg shell and all. The calcium from the egg shell is beneficial to many plants. This is an especially useful tip to know when planting tomato seedlings.


Other Recycled Seed Starters from Your Recycling Bin

Many items we toss in the trash or recycle bin can be used to start seeds or make seed starting pots from scratch.

Egg Cartons

Egg Shells

Newspaper pots

Cardboard tubes

Plastic trays from take out or convenience foods

Discarded seedling trays from the nursery if you bought plants  (learn how to disinfect the trays here in this post )

Each one of the above has some pros and cons associated with it and some care that must be taken when using these items. 

And then, my experiment for the year- tin cans. Have you seen some pretty labels on some tin cans that you used? I have a few that I collected over the last year for this purpose. I liked the label and thought they would make attractive pots for seedlings. IF I decide to give any plants away, I can simply tie a piece of twine or ribbon around the can and it will look presentable!

recycled seed starters


Step 1

Using a can opener, punch some drainage holes in the bottom of the tin can.



Step 2

Add the potting soil.

Step 3

Plant seeds or transplant a seedling into this container. This is a perfect size for a potted herb plant. I had one pepper plant that still needs to be planted in the garden. For now, it is planted in a tomato sauce can. It makes me think of salsa!


When Should You Transplant to a Garden or Larger Container?

Your recycled seed starters are a temporary home for your seedlings. It helps them get a good start without worries of too much heat, rain or wind. You can easily move trays to a better location or put in a green house if you have one of those. Eventually you will need to transplant your seedlings and thin out the weak plants. The general rule of thumb on this stage is to look at the plants true leaves. The first leaves to sprout are temporary leaves called cotyledons. The next leaves to sprout are true leaves. Once the plant has a few sets of true leaves it will have a better chance of surviving the transplant phase. 

Take a look around your home and especially the items you are throwing out. You may decide that many of the waste items can be used as recycled seed starters. Doing this will save you a few dollars on the gardening bill and slow down the filling of our landfills.

recycled seed starters

Seed Starting Indoors and Outdoors

seed startingAre you getting the urge to get seed starting? The time for seed starting indoors and outdoors is fast approaching. When you are a true gardener you have been carefully perusing the seed catalogs for weeks. Finally, you have carefully made lists, money saved in the budget and you placed seed orders. The standby crops that your family loves were part of the plan and probably a few new herbs or vegetables made the cutoff, too. The equipment you need for seed starting was carefully stored away last summer, and is ready to be put into service again. The battle plan has been set. You are inspired and the plans are organized and detailed. You are a gardener and you will be ready to plant and harvest.

On the other hand there are people like me. People who do not consider themselves gardeners. I am in this category. I do receive seed catalogs in the mail and I take a few minutes to browse and wonder. Then I put the catalog in the stack with other farm related catalogs of things I want to buy. And that is pretty much where it ends. You see, in my mind  there is a difference between one who IS a gardener and someone who Has a garden. I am the latter. We have gardens. I even pay attention to others who ARE gardeners and learn some tips and tricks. But I am haphazard at best. I plant seeds whenever the spirit moves me. I do tend to pay attention to shade and sun patterns so that helps. Also, I have become quite good at my container herb gardening efforts.

And, finally, I come to my main point. Thank goodness for people like Amy Stross, author of the new book, The Suburban Micro-Farm. The book is a complete volume of garden know how from someone who has little time and space to spend working on the gardens. Yet, Ms. Stross has come up with a way to grow lots of food, herbs and fruit trees on a small suburban yard. In her new book, we learn how to approach gardening in an organized manner. How to approach the task of seed purchasing and get things ready for seed starting indoors. This was of particular interest to me while reading through the book.

seed starting

Note: The book was previously published in 2016. Since then it has been re-published in a new format and with full color photographs, charts and illustrations. I have gained so much from this book that I was very willing to revise this post, update and re -publish. 

Indoor Seed Starting 

I have heard about starting seeds indoors. My son practices indoor seed starting on a regular basis. Seed starting indoors allows the seedlings to gain strength and grow without having to deal with the uncertainty of weather changes. Ms. Stross allows that other gardeners might have their own methods for indoor seed starting, but this method has worked well for her purposes. She has even started enough seedlings to sell at a community garden sale using the method outlined in her book. The list of materials may be daunting but take a careful look. I bet you have many of the items already in your garage or garden shed. 

seed starting

Some of the items you might need to purchase or make:

Shelf or shelf system of some type. This could be a water resistant wood or wire shelving units that can be purchased. The important point is to use what works for your space, and budget. 

Lighting. Special grow lights can be found in many garden centers and home stores. Or you can use fluorescent lighting. These lights will be hung from the upper shelf or ceiling and must be hung securely, using screw hooks or wire and carabiners. You will need two per light fixture. So far I have narrowed my grow light decision down to this one that has a stand, or this one that hangs from the ceiling.

Heat mats – The heat mats are placed on the shelf and the seedling containers are placed on top of the heat mats.

Extension cords and a power strip. Getting one that has programmable features will help with the task of regulating the lighting times. 

Nursery drainage trays, seed starter containers, seeds, and other garden paraphernalia will round out your equipment.

Whenever possible, shop local and help keep your local garden center or nursery in business.

seed starting

Should I Use Seed Starting Medium?

When planting the seeds and using a grow light system, Ms. Stross recommends using a special seed starting soil and mixing it up with the required water in a big batch. The excess can be stored after you let it dry out first. 

Planting the Seeds 

Did you know that seeds should be planted twice as deep as their size? Using this guide, plant two seeds per cell in the seed starting cells, then cover lightly with the soil. For lettuce it is recommended that the seeds be lightly pressed into the top of the soil and not buried deeply. 
Make sure that you label the seed trays so you know what is growing! 

seed starting

Water the seeds. The method is outlined in the book in detail. Basically, you are watering the just planted seeds from the top to encourage them to contact the soil. After the seedlings are growing you are advised to use the drainage tray and water from the bottom by placing the water in the drainage tray. For whatever reason, this would never have occurred to me. I just always thought you watered from the top!

Next, cover the seed trays with plastic wrap or the clear cover that came with the trays, then set these trays on the heat mats. By the way, here’s a little tip about reusing seed trays that you might want to know about.

seed starting         seed starting

After the seeds germinate, then remove the cover. Now it’s time to switch on the lights and switch off the heat mats. There are a few differing methods described concerning the use of ambient light along with the grow lights. Basically, if there is natural light in the room, turn your lights on for the same duration plus a little more. Ms. Stross uses the lights for fifteen hours a day. If you have the programmable power strip, set it for your desired lighting time. The lights should be 10 inches above the seedlings. 

Seed Starting Outdoors 

Many plants are well suited to direct sow seed starting. Leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce, squash and cucumbers usually do well started directly in the garden once the time is right. Beans, peas and root veggies like carrots and beets, radishes and potatoes also can be direct sown. In my experience weather often does harm to my small seedlings when I direct sow. I have had a great start, reduced to a disaster, by heavy spring rains and intense heat waves. Perhaps if I let the seedlings grow indoors first, they will be stronger when transplanted and able to better withstand the punishment of weather. I am inclined to give this a try in my garden this year.

seed starting

The Suburban Micro-Farm is a wonderful book on many levels. If you are more experienced in gardening you will appreciate the permaculture chapters, edible landscaping, and making money from your garden. Inspiration filled chapters, photographs, design ideas, planning tips, and do it yourself instructions make this the perfect garden reference book, too. I am giving it two brown thumbs up! You can pre-order the new edition now on Amazon. Or place it in your wish list!


To learn more about the book, The Suburban Micro-Farm visit Amy Stoss’s website, Tenth Acre Farm.com

seed starting

Winter Herb Plant Care What to do Now

winter herb plant careWinter herb plant care begins long before winter arrives. A few weeks ago I was tending the herbs. Another year of growing beautiful, useful medicinal and culinary herbs. I picked off leaves that had fallen from the trees and checked to see if they needed water. I don’t plan to leave them outside to wither and die for the year. Some are perennials and others are annuals. Even the annuals were still so healthy. I will re-pot at least a portion of each plant and care for the perennial herbs through the winter. This has been my method for the last few years. It gives my herb garden a jump start in the spring, as many plants are already forming new growth. And, it gives me a ready source of fresh herbs over the winter. 

The large lavender bushes in one garden stay outside, as does the well established sage bush. I trim them down low, cover with leaves and let them rest. Clustering some of your perennial potted herbs and covering with leaves or even an old sheet, will help them remain hardy throughout the winter. 

I also left some of the hardy mint plants in the garden. It’s hard to kill mint, although I have done it before. I brought in some cuttings from the chocolate mint, the spearmint and the peppermint to enjoy fresh mint all winter long. The mint will return in the spring as the ground warms. All the plants get a good haircut!

winter herb plant care



When to bring them inside

When we bring plants out in the spring, we practice what is called hardening off. Gradually acclimating the plant to the outside temperatures by choosing warm spring days with good weather, in a sheltered area. The same is true of winter herb plant care for the cold weather. Before cold weather is even an issue, I make decisions on which potted plants will come back inside. The others will be trimmed down and covered with leaf mulch, allowing them to rest for the winter. 

Winter Herb Plant Care

The potted herbs that will over winter in the glass enclosed porch, are gathered closer to the house. They are trimmed, and inspected for insects. You don’t want to bring ants or other crawly life into your home! As the weather begins to grow chilly, the pots are placed on the back porch. They can still get plenty of sun, but they are protected from any colder winds and heavy rains. 

winter herb plant care

Before any serious frost, the potted herbs move once more, to their winter home. If we didn’t have this glass enclosed porch, I would place them in a  sunny window area. Our porch does not protect them from the very coldest of temperatures. But most of the winter the plants do very well and receive plenty of sunlight.

When our outside temperatures drop to the teens and lower, I do need to give the herbs a little more care. Last year, during any extreme cold spells (for our area) I covered the plants with sheets of newspaper and placed more newspaper between the plants and the window. This worked to keep frost damage from occurring. If you try this, take the newspaper off during the warmer daytime. The newspaper might become damp from condensation. In that case, replace it with dry newspaper.


How much to water indoor herbs

Herbs like a drink. They do not like to have soggy feet. When carrying out winter herb plant care, make sure the top of the soil feels completely dry. Water the plant but do not soak it deeply. Keep in mind that the plants are in a resting phase, although still alive and possibly showing some growth. Over watering will kill the plant. I checked weekly but did not water weekly. 

winter herb plant care


Should you still cut from the plants?

It is fine to use the plants as needed for cooking or other needs. I doubt you will see enough growth to actually harvest a large amount. But using the herbs fresh, as you need them, is perfectly fine.

Grow from seeds to transplant later

If you didn’t grow herbs outside this summer, fall is a good time to start an indoor herb garden from seeds. For a new indoor garden, keep the pots inside the warmer area of the house, water carefully as needed. 

Herbs that Over Winter Easily Indoors

Even though many of these would do fine staying outside, bringing in a small pot of these gives me a ready source of fresh herbs during the winter, for cooking and medicine making. Sage, mint, lemon balm, lavender and chives would return in the spring if left outdoors. 




Lemon Balm







winter herb plant care

What to do for Perennial Herbs Left Outside

Some of my larger perennial herb plants have grown past the point of coming indoors for winter. If we are going to have extremely cold weather I sometimes move the containers closer to the back door or simply cover the pots with a tarp. I don’t know if this is even necessary because these few large perennials seem to flourish no matter what I do. The lavender, sage, lemon balm, lemon grass, and mint are trimmed down to just a few inches above ground level. Each year they greet me in the spring with new growth. After a few years in the same container, my large sage and largest lemon balm are going to need to be repotted next spring. For me, winter herb plant care is just part of my whole plan for growing delicious, healthy herbs. In the meantime, sleep well herbs. 

winter herb plant care


The Herbal Starter Kit by the Herbal Academy