Sunday, December 25, 2005
The day after Thanksgiving we place an empty manger on a tray filled with straw. My 12 year old made the manger several years ago to replace the cardboard one that came with the book. We place all of our names in a hat and draw. The name you draw is top secret!! Your goal, for the next week, is to do as many acts of love as possible for that person without getting caught. For each secret act of love that you do, you may place a straw in the manger. The idea is to build a soft and comfortable bed, made from love, for the Christ child who will arrive Christmas Eve. We draw names every week, so each week you are serving someone different.
Because we do not have network T.V., cable or satellite, and we aren't in the stores a lot, my children are not exposed to all the brainwashing that goes on trying to sell them the latest useless toy. But their focus still tended to be on "what will I get" instead of "what can I give". The manger certainly helped to realign their priorities. Bickering seemed to take a back seat to loving kindness - everyone was thinking of the Christ child and how they could serve Him through kindness to others.
It is amazing how this simple tradition changed our focus and the atmosphere in our home. Sometimes a child will find their bed made, their chores done or their laundry folded. I have found dishwashers emptied, or filled, clothes folded, my bed turned down with a cookie left on the pillow, animals cared for and the list goes on. Arguments stop before they really start and everyone seems to be thinking of others first.
Sometimes I can tell that the chore was done by one barely able to complete the task - but the love shines through. Secret acts done for neighbors, church members and others outside our family circle earn fatter straws, or multiple straws. Little hands are constantly testing the manger - is it soft enough for Jesus? On Christmas Eve day the pace for loving acts really picks up....who will place the last straw?
Once the bed has been determined to be suitable for the baby on Christmas Eve, the hunt begins to find him - just like the Wisemen searched for the babe, so do the children. Once found he is lovingly placed in the manger that has been filled with hundreds of straws...each one representing an act of love.
My hope for you this season is that you too find the Christ child who was born crucified for you.
Merry Christmas and God Bless You!
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Here is an up close picture....really ugly. And the noise they make...sounds like a really old, squeaky hinge on a really old door in a really old house swinging non-stop in the wind. They say you can tell the difference between a hen and a cock by the sound....nope....they all sound the same to me....LOUD! And it is one of those sounds that just gets on your nerves after a few minutes. Guineas come in a variety of colors. They are good watch birds - they will scream at anything they don't recognize on your farm...but the best news of all is that they eat bugs. Think ticks! When we moved here the kids couldn't go outside for 10 minutes without picking up ticks. Sometimes we would pick 10 or more off of each child. We found them crawling up the walls in our house where they dropped off of clothes on the way to the showers. Once we learned about Guineas eating ticks, we picked up 4 Guineas of our own (our neighbor's Guineas weren't so neighborly once they found out we had moved in to stay!). We named then Fred, Ethel, Ricky and Lucy. They stayed for several months and then joined our neighbor's flock. Lesson learned: never buy full grown birds - always buy keats.
So, we bought 10 keats from a friend who raised them. We kept them in a chicken tractor until the "book" said it was safe to let them out (and we thought they were big enough to fend off our cats). We lost half of our little flock that first night to possums - at least we think it was possums since our German Shepherd brought us a dead possum that same morning The other Guineas survived, stayed around and hatched their first clutch last spring. I think out of 18 babies, 4 survived. Lesson learned: don't let the momma's raise the babies if you want to increase your flock.
The tick population almost disappeared. The boys really have to be in a far field now to come home with a tick. This year we found the babies the day they hatched. There were 18 of them. We caught 15. Of those, 12 survived, a much better survival rate than with Mom, she lost the 3 we left with her. But Mom sat on a fence and called for them for DAYS! There goes that squeaky hinge. They hatched another clutch in late summer. We left them with Mom - there were over 20 babies. At last count, eight had survived - a miracle! Though they are terrible parents, they are actually very smart in other ways. They are almost impossible to catch. If you try one method and aren't successful, you will never be able to use that method again successfully with the same bird. They remember....forever...
If they see you near their nest, in fact if they even THINK you were near their nest, they will move it. Over and over. You most likely won't find it again so be sure they don't see you the first time.
Their eggs are delicious, sort of tear dropped shape, lightly speckled and the shell is extremely hard. The first time I cracked one I didn't notice the shape. I hit the egg against the bowl and nothing happened. I tried again, and again....I made a mental note to talk to my husband about the fact that we either had one strange egg layer or we needed to reduce their intake of oyster shell...then it rang a bell somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind. I had read about this years ago. I began looking through the egg basket and found some strangely shaped eggs...sure enough...guinea eggs!
The Guineas and I get along fine now, although my seven year old got to close to some babies that were with Momma Guinea this year and was soundly disciplined by her....lesson learned!
Thank you to guineafowl.com where I found these pictures.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
We rented a large truck and moved ourselves. At that time our boys ages were 16, 8, 5 and a babe in arms not yet walking. The house had been empty and neglected for about 4 years. We rented a hotel room until we could get the house cleaned and the beds set up. Essentially, we unloaded everything we could as quickly as we could and my husband and oldest boy went back for the rest of the stuff. This was our first mistake! A man should never leave a city woman with 3 small children on a farm without explaining some basic farm facts!
I found myself alone (no other adult) in a small hotel room with 3 kids and a dog. Our days went something like this: Get everyone up, nurse the baby, bundle up (a new experience for us Floridians!) and head to the house. Get to the house, nurse the baby, get the 8 year old to watch the baby and the 5 year old and then I commenced to cleaning. Nurse the baby, bundle up, go get lunch, come back , nurse the baby, everyone down on a sheet for a nap, start cleaning again. Everyone up, nurse the baby, give him back to the 8 year old and try to clean some more. Bundle back up, leave the house, get dinner, nurse the baby and everyone into bed. Needless to say the progress in cleaning was very slow and by nightfall I was exhausted. In our ignorance at the time, we lived off of fast food - now we never touch it. I recommend reading Fast Food Nation to find out why - it WILL change your life....you have been warned!
This routine went on for days while we waited for Daddy to come back! Imagine my delight one afternoon when the 5 year old called me (my head was inside kitchen cabinets cleaning!) to come see the furry animal on our driveway wall. I was excited! Our first contact with nature! I came running to the sliding glass door that looks out towards our driveway...there it sat....on the wall...it was HUGE...but what was it? It took me a moment to grasp the fact that I was looking at a very big, real life RAT!!!! ACCCKKKK! We have RATS!!!! I bet this thing weighed 20 lbs! I smacked the door and this thing took off for the barn! I was ready to burn the barn to the ground with all of its evil inhabitants!!! This was NOT what I had envisioned...how could I let the boys go outside with giant rats waiting to carry them off? Would God have sent us here? Did we hear incorrectly? City life was looking pretty good!
Well, that was the end of cleaning for that day. We bundled back up and I decided to find a town somewhere and get some real food while I debated moving back to the city. We found we were about 18 miles from the nearest town so we headed out. I called my husband to tell him about the unwelcome inhabitants of the barn. He laughed...he actually laughed....this was hard for me to understand since there was NOTHING funny about giant rats. He explained that this was normal (NORMAL???) and that a few barn cats would take care of the problem. Cats? This rat was twice as big as any cat I had ever seen....besides...I am allergic to cats! And where was I to find cats? Is there a cat store? I had never even thought of shopping for cats but I was ready to purchase an army of them.
After a good nights sleep (who am I kidding? with 3 boys and a contraband dog in a hotel room with cement beds?), I felt prepared to go back to the house...on the way the 5 year old asks if rats live in the house too...HORRORS...that thought had never crossed my mind! Arriving at the house, I locked the boys in the van and grabbed a downed tree limb - I searched the house - every nook of it looking for rats - it appeared safe so the boys were allowed to come back in....I diligently prayed that if there were rats they would not appear until my husband returned the next day.
We were in the middle of our routine when we heard the WEIRDEST noise - we all dropped what we were doing and looked at each other trying to figure it out...it sounded like anguished screaming of some exotic animal. Our little poodle was going nuts, barking, running and trying to get out the door. The noise was getting closer and louder. It was a noise I had never heard before, and I spent years as a kid watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (yes! I know I just dated myself!).
I gathered all the boys and put them behind me (where did I put that tree limb?). I peeked out the window....I was shocked....I didn't know what they were....but they were ugly!!!! And apparently very angry.....(I was, at this point, packing our bags and moving back to Florida in my mind - what was God thinking sending us into this horrible place? How could my husband leave us here with no weapon to defend ourselves?). How could I get everyone safely to the van?
Tomorrow I will post pictures of these strange animals that were surrounding us and screaming at the top of their lungs...
Friday, December 9, 2005
We name our favorite chickens. Millie is my favorite chicken. She looks like a Dalmation dog. I have no idea what she is...she may have been a freebie from the hatchery or she may have been hatched by some of our banty hens. She is covered with perfectly round, black spots. She is conversing here with one of our Buff Orpingtons. We like Buffs. They are gentle, they haven't had the nesting instinct bred out of them (yes they do that!) and they make good mothers. This point is especially important since we have 8 cats!
Sometimes I just enjoy sitting under the Katawba tree in the spring and watching the hens in their sociable groups clucking away while scratching and pecking. They must be discussing something important...then someone makes a snide remark and she is chased out of the circle....she will walk around grumbling a bit and then return to the group with a much humbler attitude! I wonder if God created chickens not just to supply some of our needs for food, but to remind us of ourselves and how we tend to walk too much in pride!
We have brown egg layers, white egg layers and blue/green egg layers. Some of our customers only want white eggs, some want brown eggs, and some don't care. We have one customer that refuses to take a blue/green egg! Her reason...."it just looks too much like a bird egg!" Excuse me?! My youngest boy loves the blue/green eggs. This probably has something to do with his current delight in some of the Dr. Seuss books.....remember Green Eggs and Ham? He has begged me to make green ham....just can't force myself to add a food dye (chemical!) to good ham!
Then there are roosters! Our first rooster was a Rhode Island Red. He was one MEAN rooster with attitude. The day he went after my youngest, who was 2 at the time, became the day that he was turned into chicken soup. Thankfully Elijah had his back to him so that his spurs only damaged his coat. Chicken soup is delicious! We have never had another mean rooster. Maybe the story is passed down in our flock of birds so that every one behaves themselves! Auracana roosters are very gentle and the kids can easily pick them up to pet them.
We have a rooster right now who is beautiful. We aren't sure where he came from. We do incubate our own eggs from time to time and assume we hatched him. I take great pleasure in watching him strut about. I am not sure why he brings me joy....the beauty of God's creation? The glory of his colors? He looks like the ideal farm rooster. His body is covered in bright gold feathers and his tail is composed of a thick plume of green/black shimmering feathers. Thankfully he does not know how beautiful he is...at least not yet. He is young and rather timid but he brings me pleasure as he struts around outside my kitchen window....who knew doing dishes would become enjoyable! The boys have named him Dapper Dan.
We have learned there is much benefit to being stewards of God's creation. We knew there would be benefits in the way of food, we never dreamed how it would touch us spiritually and practically. My boys have learned to be hard workers, to be responsible and to take great joy and satisfaction in tending the animals. It is a sobering thought to know that their lives depend on you doing your job correctly and on time. I thank God for giving my children the ability to experience life here on our farm and to learn the many lessons His creation gives us each day.
Thursday, December 1, 2005
Nora Mae and Lizzie are the cows in milk right now. Now, Nora Mae is THE perfect cow!! I wish I had 10 like her. She doesn't spook easily, she is gentle, she leads easily, never kicks the milk bucket...if she even gets close to the bucket all you have to do is lay a gentle finger across her leg and she takes a step back. I LOVE NORA!
Lizzie is a young cow (I keep telling everyone it will get better as she matures...). It doesn't appear that anyone spent anytime with her before we got her. She calved this year for the first time. She NEVER comes - you always have to go get her, drive her into a corner and then you can lead her into the milking parlor. She is antsy on the stand, kicks the bucket frequently, and spooks easily. Please, one of you dairy farmers...tell me it will get better...or tell me how to make it better!
This morning, between spelling and science, I asked the boys if it had been very difficult to get Lizzie from the bigger pasture. I was informed that they tried and couldn't do it....she hadn't been milked and it was 2 hours past milking time! My mind screams MASTITIS!! So, we all bundled up and decided to try a team (me and the 15, 12 and 7 year olds) effort.
Do you know how quickly you can go from admiring your cow, being thankful for your cow and even caring for your cow to wondering how much meat she would produce if I just went and got the rifle? It took about 7 1/2 minutes for me today!
I tired luring her with a bucket of grain - always better to lure than to chase. Lizzie looked at me like I had lost my mind. Those big brown eyes got squinty, she shook her head and backed off.
Now, we are standing in the middle of a 3 acre pasture, along with 2 horses, 4 calves and 3 Jersey cows. EVERYONE is interested in my bucket of grain except Lizzie - Nora has suddenly become my closest friend (she only loves me for my grain!). So, I am trying to fend everyone off, lure Lizzie and make sure my 7 year old isn't trampled (Elijah...get in the greenhouse!!). OK, forget the grain idea...
We start trying to drive Lizzie to a corner where we can pull back a section of temporary electric fencing and let her into the right field. Do you know how fast a Jersey with attitude can run? I was quite surprised myself - of course when she started running...everyone started running - in all directions - except for Nora who continued to graze and watch us all calmly. Did I mention 45 minutes have passed? Did I mention it is 27 degrees outside - with a breeze? Did I mention that now everyone is in the wrong pasture except for 2 calves?
The 2 calves commenced to bawling because they were seperated from everyone else but thankfully they were still in the correct pasture. Well, I thought... at least Lizzie is in the right place...I decided we could then reverse the process and begin removing animals that needed to go back into the first pasture. Hah! How naive I still am after 7 years on the farm. Are there farmer secrets that I am not privy too in reference to moving animals? Is there some book or magazine that tells how to do this easily? Is there a conspiracy afoot?
First we move Gracie (another Jersey) out pretty easily - she then stood right at the fence line threatening to come through to get back where all the action was. Then Josiah was able to drive Dusty (a small, very fast, horse the kids love to ride) through the opening - after which he began to run like a crazed animal all over the other pasture...at high, thundering speeds, while calling to Angel, our Morgan Mare, that Jeremy was attempting to lead through the opening by her mane...where IS that bucket of grain? Ok, a few nibbles of grain and she is back in the right field.
3 down, 3 to go....did I mention that we have been outside now for an hour and a half? And the breeze has picked up. We start to work on the calves, everything is going smoothly, the boys are driving them toward the opening when Princess bolts. Princess is Lizzie's daughter - she is a beautiful Jersey. Her father was an award winning, pure black Jersey bull. Let's just say that she got her father's good looks and her mother's personality! She makes a bee line for the temporary electric fence, which is off because I am holding the end to make an opening. She goes through it, gets it tangled in her feet and snaps too step-in posts off at the ground. Now the whole fence is down! "Quick" I yell..."get it standing up so it at least looks like a barrier"! I just knew that all the animals would go through it and we would be starting all over again....pictures of that rifle started dancing through my head again. Lizzie starts heading after her calf but Jeremy manages to turn her the other way with a great deal of hopping, swinging of the arms and making strange noises....is HooHaw a word?
Quickly I send the 7 year old to find 2 more posts while holding up the fence and trying to make it look intact. All of the animals are suspicious now....they keep getting closer to the fence...more strange movements and noises from Jeremy and Josiah keep them back. Elijah gets back with the posts and we get them in the ground. Josiah quickly runs to the lower barn to turn the electricity back on. I think at that point I was secretly hoping they would try it...it must have been that sliding step into the cow pie that brought out the vengence in me...
Did I mention that through all of this Nora just grazed contentedly and watched us? I LOVE Nora! Now we needed to lure Lizzie up to the barn to be milked....where is that grain bucket? I pick it up and head towards the barn. Nora has again become my best buddy....Lizzie is curious but not willing to trust me, but she will follow Nora. So Nora and I hobble up to the barn together and Lizzie follows. Then she walked right to where she was supposed to go and stood there calmly while the boys hooked a lead to her to take her around to the dairy parlor....I can't tell you why that irritated me to no end but it did! Two HOURS of running around in the cold and NOW she decided to be milked? I told the boys not to bother to save it but to give it to the cats, it would be faster. After all, I was supposed to have 8 loaves of bread in the oven by now and they were 2 hours behind in school work.
Turns out she must have been letting the calves nurse on her - she didn't give a cup of milk....she would have been fine left out there all day....no need to have worried about mastitis....
Oh, those other 2 calves we didn't get moved? I think tonight I will mention that to my husband....
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
But with weather like this it is time to bring out the red clover tea and tincture! When I speak of red clover I am speaking about Trifolium pratense. The flowers on this plant are really a pale pinkish purple. It grows wild all over our farm. As I study herbs, I am continually seeing the hand of God in placing all of these plants here for our use and our healing. It makes me very thankful for a wise and loving God who cared so much for us that He created plants for every ailment. It is so sad that most of this knowledge has fallen by the wayside. In our family, as we study herbs, we have found it always directs us back to the feet of the Saviour in amazement and thanksgiving for His providence.
It is the flower bud that you want to pick and gather during the summer. Lay them on a cookie sheet, cover with a cheese cloth and let them dry...then store in an airtight jar in a cool dark place (as you should store all of your herbal teas and medicines!) But, you can also order them from Mountain Rose Herbs or other places on the web. Just make sure you buy organic so you will receive the medicinal benefit from this herb.
When you are out working in the field and get stung by an insect, crush one of the flower buds and rub over the bite! And don't forget about plantain leaves for the same thing...
Red clover tea is made by bringing water almost to a boil and then pouring over the buds and allowing to steep (covered!) for a few minutes. Sweeten with honey or stevia - NEVER white sugar if you are using this tea for a medicinal purpose. It is relaxing to the nerves, and is wonderful for colds, spasmodic coughing, stubborn dry coughs, wheezing, bronchitis and in the past was a preferred herb for treating whooping cough. Gargling with the tea helps to relieve sore throats. Red clover is also an expectorant and helps to relieve congestion. If drinking the tea for sore throat relief, add some slippery elm bark to the tea!
You can take your tea and turn it into a syrup as I instructed in my post on Horehound. It is always one of the herbs I use in making our cough syrup. That in turn can be turned into a cough drop, as I instructed in the same post.
Red clover tincture is one of the most important tinctures in our herbal medicine chest. As soon as I get that feeling that I am coming down with a cold, I begin to use Red Clover tincture and Colloidal Silver. Tinctures are easy to make but can also be purchased from Herb Pharm - the only online source I would trust for my herbal medicine if I couldn't make it myself.
Red clover is extremely effective and works quickly. One afternoon, I was teaching a class on herbal medicine and the herb that I chose to use for demonstrating tincture making was Red Clover. I knew that I had a cold coming on, sniffles, scratchy throat, etc. I began taking this tincture at the beginning of the class, explaining to the people present that I would be using this throughout the class and why. Within 2 hours, there was a VERY noticeable improvement. Sinuses cleared, sniffles and nose blowing ceased....this was one excited class because they were able to see the results first hand! I had a large bowl of fresh picked red clover in the center of one of the tables. Students appeared ready to fight over this clover at the end of the class. Everyone wanted to go home and make a tincture that night!
Next spring, I highly recommend that you begin gathering blossoms and drying and storing them for winter. I use them fresh during the season but always keep about a gallon of them dried for winter use. I make about 2 quarts of tincture during the summer....and am thinking about increasing that amount. My boys are more than willing to pick them because they have experienced the healing relief from their colds....
Red clover is also healing for the skin. It is cleansing to wounds and promotes healing. It is an important part of the healing salve that I make. Currently, red clover is being studied by the medical community for its anti-cancer properties.
Red clover has many other healing benefits. I encourage you to study this herb thoroughly and make it a part of your herbal medicine chest.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
This is a picture from this fall - it was an overcast day but I managed to get a picture while the sun was peeking out. You can see some of our goats and their guardian dogs.
Here is a picture in the opposite direction. The ridge gives us a beautiful display of color during the fall.
This is a picture looking toward the back of our property in the spring. The ridge runs at the back and there is a year round creek at the bottom of the ridge.
I need to take some pictures in the other directions...when I have the opportunity, I will post them.
Get your plant i.d. books ready again...tomorrow I want to tell you all about Red Clover - one of my favorite wild herbs!
Monday, November 14, 2005
Evidence shows that antibiotics are so over prescribed in our society, that we are creating superbugs that are resistant to normal courses of treatment. Antibacterial soaps, shampoos, detergents, cleaning supplies, toys, etc. line our store shelves. Our bodies are not given the chance to develop normal resistance while at the same time superbugs are emerging. In our home, we avoid everything labeled "antibacterial" and have found our family to be much healthier.
The herbal treatment for ear aches/infections that we have found very successful is a Mullein and Garlic Compound. You can buy this in health food stores - the only brand I recommend is HerbPharm. You can also purchase directly from them. All companies have a slightly different formula. I believe that the addition of St. John's Wort flowers in HerbPharm's recipe is what sets it apart as the best.
You can also purchase a small book from them for $3.95 that lists over 150 liquid herbal remedies and their uses. I use the Therapeutic Herb Manual very frequently and highly recommend it. It is full of useful information on using herbs effectively and it is indexed in the back of the book by ailments.
The Mullein and Garlic Compound is a blend of Calendula flowers (30%), St. John's Wort flowers and buds (25%), Mullein flowers (25%) and Garlic bulb (20%). This is done with a hot oil infusion. Once made and strained well (you only want the oil), keep this in a dark brown bottle with dropper.
I warm the oil by rolling the bottle between my hands for a few minutes and then place 2 or 3 drops in the affected ear. You don't have to warm the oil but it adds greatly to the comfort factor for the child (or adult!). This oil works very quickly to relieve the pain. I give this oil several times throughout the day. Be careful that the dropper or the mouth of the bottle doesn't touch anything (ear, hands, skin etc.) that might contaminate it.
This oil works by destroying the bacteria/fungus living in the ear canal. It helps to reduce inflammation and relieves the itching. It also has the ability to relieve the pain associated with ear aches. One of our boys developed a strange looking fungus in his ear canal after swimming in dirty water. It was very painful. The pain relief was almost immediate and the fungus disappeared in a matter of days.
Of course, I encourage you to grow Mullein, Calendula, Garlic and St. John's Wort and to make this compound at home. But in the meantime, be sure to purchase a bottle and keep it on your shelf this winter.
Caution: What you have read here is based on my opinion and my experience in our own family. Ear infections can be very serious...and can turn into other serious medical problems. Therefore it is important to promptly seek qualified medical care in any ear disorder with fever or where redness, pain, or swelling is severe or persists. You are responsible for your own medical decisions.
Friday, November 11, 2005
I love to see the leaves raining down. There is a mountain ridge that runs at the back of our farm. The trees on that ridge have been wearing the most beautiful colors. Reds, Golds, Yellows and Oranges and a few splotches of green here and there. God is showing His majesty everywhere we look.
On a few of the colder nights, our neighbor's wood smoke has drifted tantalizingly across our farm. I love the smell of woodsmoke....fall isn't complete without it! We have already had a couple of bonfires for toasting smores and enjoying the glorious heavenly display of stars. Shooting stars seem to be thick this year.
The boys are talking about pitching a tent and spending some nights outside....I sense adventures in the making. They have spent the last few afternoons in a little rowboat on our farm pond. Evidently some beavers have arrived here and are making a home at our pond.
This is NOT a good idea. It is out of character for beavers also since the only tree near the pond is a beautiful weeping willow. Beavers can do a lot of damage. Our pond is home to a variety of creatures at different times of the year. We often get Canadian geese, Mallard ducks, Blue Heron, and deer stopping by for a drink and a rest. This is our first year for Beaver.
The horses and goats are getting their winter coats. They always get darker and fluffier in the winter. Isn't God's design awesome? The darker coat in winter helps them to absorb the warmth of the sun and the lighter coat in the summer helps to reflect the heat.
We put the buck in with the does for breeding. We have laughed ourselves silly at the mating ritual of bucks....not the act itself but what leads up to it! We have talked of building bleachers and selling tickets....just to watch the faces that a buck makes...well....it is too hard to describe...ya'll will just have to see it for yourselves someday. Guaranteed belly laugh!
I have been busy gathering herbs for seasonings and medicine this winter. Roots from Echinacea, Comfrey, Elecampane, Astragalus, Dandelion and more. Leaves from Comfrey, Mullein, Motherwort, Mugwort, Rosemary, Stevia, Tarragon, Lavender, Thyme....they will be gone before long.
I have more time for cooking now - something I truly enjoy. Fall and winter is my time to try new recipes that I have been gathering...last night I baked a Caramel Pecan Pie - it was a big hit! Last week Julie encouraged me to try Taco Soup - it was absolutely delicious and will become a frequent meal at our house. Seems like I am too busy from March through October to do much experimenting in the kitchen.
God has been leading us to pare down our possessions. Each time we do this we sense a greater freedom. It also seems that it reduces our desire for acquiring more. It gives us more time to spend with each other instead of taking care of things. We will be having a garage sale this weekend and using the proceeds to purchase a commercial style ice cream maker. We make our own ice cream and the results are amazing...we just can't stand the stuff from the store anymore...not even the gourmet brands. We burned the motor out of our last store bought ice cream maker so this time we are going for the heavier duty model. I hope we have homemade ice cream for the holidays!
Tonight is family game night for us. We love playing games as a family. We enjoy Scrabble, Clue, Uno, Lost Mountain of God, Dutch Blitz, Dogopoly, Set, SkipBo and others. We also love jigsaw puzzles. We have been working on a HUGE Noah's Ark puzzle for almost a year now....I hope we finish it before Christmas!
Guess I had better get busy putting stickers on things for tomorrow!
Ya'll have a blessed weekend!
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Horehound, also called White Horehound is a perennial. It is a small rounded bush, very pretty. It has small white flowers that circle around the stems. It doesn't bloom until after the second year. The stem is downy, square and white. The leaves are a pale green and heart shaped and they are wrinkled and have a white wooly covering.
Once you start growing Horehound, (everyone should!), you will be picking the leaves and flowering tops after the flowers open. Dry both the leaves and flowers for winter use.
Horehound is a very effective remedy for sore throats and coughs. When you feel a cold coming on, pick 10 to 12 small horehound leaves, chop finely, mix with 1 tablespoon. honey and eat slowly to ease sore throat or cough. Repeat this as necessary.
Here is an excerpt from my Medicinal Herb Class handout:
"Horehound contains a compound called Marrubin which causes a
secretion of fluids into the bronchial passageways that loosens tough
phlegm from the chest and makes it more fluid. This makes
expectoration easier during coughing. It relaxes the smooth muscle
of the bronchi while promoting mucus production and
expectoration. Horehound eases congestion and
wheezing. It is good for bronchitis, bronchial asthma,
croup, whooping cough, and non-productive coughs.......
Marrubin is what causes the distinctive bitter taste of horehound."
So, how do we use it? At the first sign of a cold or cough, I start making Horehound tea. We sweeten it with either honey from our bees or with Stevia that I grow, dry and powder.
To make cough syrup, warm the Horehound tea and then add honey (raw and unpastuerized!) to the desired thickness. Some people like a thin cough syrup (less honey) and some like a thick cough syrup (more honey). Place your finished syrup, while still warm but not hot, into a glass bottle with a cork stopper. Keep your syrup in the refrigerator. At our house, we take 2 tablespoons for adults and big kids and 1 tablespoon for smaller children as needed for a cough. We also continue to drink the tea and use Horehound cough drops as necessary.
To turn your syrup into a cough drop, cook your mixture until it reaches the hard ball stage using a candy thermometer. Pour out onto an oiled cookie sheet, score when partially cool, do not wait until completely cool or you will be breaking it apart with a meat mallet! (Been there, done that!) Store in waxed paper in an airtight container. You can also dust with powdered sugar to keep the pieces from sticking...but I try to avoid the sugar. Use these as you would any other cough drop.
There are many other health benefits to Horehound so I encourage you to read more about this herb. I have been giving Horehound cough syrup and drops to my children since they were small so I want to say something about the cautions listed below.
As I study herbs, I sometimes find cautions listed without any explanations. If I find an explanation that seems reasonable for avoiding an herb that is applicable to my family's health situation, and it appears in more than one resource, I will do so. Many times I will find a caution listed in one book but on checking a dozen other books that caution does not appear..... This is why it is important for you to do your own research and make your own decisions about which herbs to use and which to avoid. I will always pass the cautions on when I teach and encourage you to study and make your own decisions.
DO NOT TAKE DURING PREGNANCY!!!
DO NOT TAKE IF NURSING!!!
DO NOT GIVE TO CHILDREN UNDER 18 OR ADULTS OVER 65!!!
IF YOU HAVE HEART OR STOMACH PROBLEMS, CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER BEFORE TAKING HOREHOUND!!!
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
I think what assailed me first was the noise....traffic, sirens, horns...loudspeakers blaring. It truly felt like an assault. I have become used to the occasional tractor, hay baler, donkey and dog. Daily I hear a variety of birds, the gentle mooing of our cows, the nicker of our horses and twice a week the afternoon train off in the distance. I think in 7 years on this farm I have heard sirens twice.
Next was the traffic - 20 minutes to go 4 blocks!! I kid you not. How do people live like this? Did I really live this life just 7 short years ago? How much of a day is spent waiting on red lights, feeling the frustration mount....how much time over a lifetime?
And finally the rudeness of people, in stores, on elevators, in restaurants....I actually saw a man almost run his truck through the plate glass window of a store in his hurry to get a parking space before the next guy. He was going so fast he jumped the curb narrowly missing shoppers. He just laughed....
And talk about stores...on our way out of the city, we made one stop. There were cars there from dozens of different states. Thousands of people walking from store to store - buying, buying, buying....this was entertainment???.... and judging from the license plates this was most likely their chosen vacation destination! The thought of spending a vacation in this place was baffling to my 12 year old son...."You mean they shop for fun?"....
I entered the "Le Gourmet Kitchen Shoppe"...my mission was to purchase a jar of sweet roasted pepper salsa as quickly as possible and get out. My Mom brought a jar of this along for our weekend of scrapbooking and it was delicious. My job was to take a jar home and try to re-create it. I confess that this is something I love to do...I can be a wee bit obsessive about it!
As I walked through this very crowded store, I was amazed at what I saw for sale - all displayed to advantage...marketed very well....things that made your desire leap initially (the phrase that came to me was "it tickles the eyes").....but when you stopped to think....the desire quickly waned. As I have said before, I am not a big shopper. I am also not a kitchen gadget person - rather than have 20 tools to do 20 jobs in the kitchen, I prefer one tool that does it all or at least most of it. A good set of knives is about all I really need for most jobs - and I do appreciate the mixer that kneads the dough for 4 loaves of bread at once (it also does just about everything else)!
I was amazed at the choices of "food" items that really contained very little food - the list of ingredients on most cans/boxes sounded like the inventory of a chemical factory. I was glad to find the salsa and then an open cash register! As I was leaving, I heard one of the workers bemoaning to anyone who would listen about the dreaded Black Friday....innocently I asked what Black Friday was....his eyes got wide....and he said "Oh, you don't want to be here on Black Friday!!" "What is Black Friday?" I asked again. "The Friday after Thanksgiving" he replied, "it makes today look like a ghost town". I can't even imagine.....
Thank you God for delivering us from city living...thank you for the beauty of Your creation that surrounds us daily....thank you for the thoughtfulness of country neighbors...thank You for the quiet that is filled with gentle whispered sounds...
Thursday, November 3, 2005
I'll be taking off for a few days. I am taking my Mom and my 12 year old off for the weekend to scrapbook. I have been scrapbooking for a year now and it has proven to be a wonderful way to record what God has done in our lives. Although I don't often have time to scrapbook, it is a real stress reliever when I do. My Mom is 79 and she scrapbooks quite a bit. I am hoping this weekend will be a special time for her and my son. I know that Josiah is very excited!!
I hope to talk about a few more medicinal herbs next week....considering we are entering the "cold and flu" season...I think horehound and red clover would be good choices....so get your plant i.d. books ready! I hope to show you how these two herbs can make your winter much more pleasant!
Grace and Peace!
Wednesday, November 2, 2005
When we were city people (has it only been 7 years ago?), we had a small 4 bedroom house that had been beautifully decorated by the ministry of a Titus 2 team of women. The floor plan was wonderful, not one inch of wasted space, but the kitchen was small. We had a corner lot and fenced yard. When the kids went out to play the most they could track in was grass, if the lawn had just been mowed.
Because there were not a lot of outside responsibiities, we cleaned house on Saturday mornings as a family. It didn't take long at all. The rest of the weekend was free for us to do what we liked. We played family games, did the grocery shopping, visited friends, had a lot of friends to dinner....the fairly normal American household except that we weren't big shoppers and we didn't watch much T.V. We quit watching network T.V. about 20 years ago - we do enjoy old movies and the occasional new movie that passes our family litmus test for acceptability (maybe one a year!). Although we were Christians, and very active in our church, looking back it seems that a lot of our lifestyle involved serving our own desires in our free time.
Then we moved to a farm.....lots of changes. The house is a wee bit bigger but with lots of wasted space. It is a much older house and in need of many repairs. It appears to have been finished inside from the local bargain salvage store. Quite a change from my beautifully decorated home in the city. The kitchen is much bigger which is good news since my kitchen responsibilities have grown a hundred fold.
But the most amazing difference is what comes into this house. It is rarely grass anymore...although that happens. But here we also have dirt, red clay, twigs, leaves, feathers, nasty old pieces of skeletons from small creatures (oops....treasures of great worth according to my boys!), hay, weeds, mud, poop (from all sorts of animals!)....and critters! Oh, my the critters....if you had told me 7 years ago that my living room would one day be a temporary home to a sick baby goat....well...I would have politely smiled and quickly backed away... all the while trying to remember what you needed to do to Baker Act a delusional person.
Our main living area is actually one medium size room that includes living room, dining room and kitchen - in other words - very close quarters. In the seven years we have lived here we have had, as temporary residents for one reason or another, baby chicks, chickens, roosters, guinnea keats, goat kids, kittens (I am allergic!), puppies, injured dogs (BIG!) and a variety of injured wild birds of all ages. I am waiting for the day they tell me a calf needs to come inside....can I draw the line there?
Now, you must understand that I was raised in a home that was like a picture spread from Better Homes and Gardens. My dad was a Marine Corps Colonel. Everything had a place and it was always in it....or else! It was ALWAYS clean. I quickly learned, after the birth of my first child, that this was not a reasonable lifestlye for someone who wanted to spend time with their children. But, I did need a semblance of cleanliness and order. This seemed to adjust with each child and worked very well for city dwellers.
But now-a-days....well life on a farm is different. Farm dirt is different....for one thing there is so much MORE! The amount of dirt that comes into this house amazes me. How can 7 pairs of feet do this much damage? With visitors, customers and 4 boys, who are in and out all day - early morning chores, playtimes, adventures, explorations, and evening chores - I have come to learn that I am fighting a loosing battle. There are days when I sweep the living room, leave it for an hour, come back and wonder what happened....didn't I clean in here!?? Sometimes all that dirt is from my 7 year old who has found a great treasure and wants to share it with me (this can be anything from a huge frog, to an unknown bug, to a "beautiful" weed)...Sometimes from a boy who has run in and out to leave me a bouquet of flowers, a basket of eggs or some vegetables harvested from the garden...Sometimes from an unexpected customer, who has left a much needed check on the kitchen table....
This dirt has begun to have meaning for me....it means that we are living in a beautiful valley between two mountain ridges....it means the air is fresh and clean...it means we are raising our own food, wholesome and nutritious....it means God has entrusted a variety of animals to us for their care and in return they provide us with many delicious foods....it means it is safe for my boys to play outside unsupervised and they are having wonderful adventures in the midst of God's creation....it means we are beginning to make a small living from the work of our hands and the bounty of God's provision...it means we are living the life that God wooed us to 7 years ago....
I guess I need to thank God for the dirt..... (am I able?) because it is truly a beautiful reflection of God's work in our lives and our choice to leave the normal American lifestyle and follow God's leading to do something radically different....it's just really hard, at times, for my flesh to appreciate the beauty of farm dirt!
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
The following is an excerpt from the handout that my medicinal herb classes receive...
"Comfrey is one of the most valuable medicinal herbs known. It has been used successfully as a wound-healer and bone knitter. Comfrey feeds the pituitary with its natural hormone and helps strengthen the body skeleton. It helps in the calcium-phosphorus balance by promoting strong bones and healthy skin. It helps promote the secretion of pepsin and is a general aid to digestion. It has a beneficial effect on all parts of the body, being used as an over all tonic. It is one of the finest healers for the respiratory system. Comfrey leaves, and especially the root, contain allantoin which is a cell proliferant. It increases the healing ability for wounds, broken bones, sprains and slow healing sores. It has been used with great success to stop bleeding. It is soothing and is one of the most popular ingredients in herbal skin salves for wounds, inflammation, rashes, varicose veins, hemorrhoids... almost any skin problem. Research suggests that the whole plant may have anticancer properties.
A fresh leaf poultice reduces swelling and bruising around fractures, sprains and arthritic joints and speeds healing of cuts, burns, open sores and eczema. Puree the leaves only and make a poultice to apply to minor fractures that would not normally be set in plaster, such as broken toes, ribs or hairline cracks in larger bones. A comfrey poultice applied immediately to a sprained ankle can significantly reduce the severity of the injury. The allantoin found in comfrey encourages bone, cartilage and muscle cells to grow and encourages ligaments and bones to knit together firmly. It is absorbed through the skin and speeds up healing. Comfrey heals with such rapidity that is important not to put it on dirty wounds - it can actually trap dirt and pus within the wound. Comfrey contains rosmarinic acid which has a strong anti -inflammatory action. As a poultice, bruise the fresh leaves and apply to burns, wounds, open sores, boils, gangrene and moist ulcers.
Comfrey oil relieves pain and inflammation caused by injuries and degeneration, especially the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Make a hot oil infusion and use on arthritic joints, bruises, sprains and other traumatic injuries.
Comfrey salve is also healing for bruises The combination of tannins and mucilage in comfrey helps to soothe bruises and scrapes. Comfrey salve relieves pain and speeds healing of pus-filled wounds, skin irritations, cuts, scrapes, sores, or insect stings and bites. The allantoin in comfrey is a compound that helps stimulate the growth of new cells. It aids healing through cell proliferation. Its' astringent tannins form a protective surface over wounds that promotes healing. It also helps to prevent scaring."
Comfrey oil is the base of all of our healing salves that we make. Those salves are put into use daily, sometimes for simple things, sometimes for more serious problems. Yesterday afternoon, my 7 year old burst into the house screaming. He had taken a tumble down a ditch, unlodged a large slab of stone which tumbled after him and landed on his ring finger. One look and I knew we were taking a drive to the E.R. The stone had dislodged the nail bed, opened the finger to the bone and broken the bone. They were able to re-attach the nail bed with a couple of stitches, clean out the wound, and remove the fingernail. It was very bloody. I did this with another child 5 years ago - same wound, different cause. My 7 year old was much more dramatic...wailing "I don't want to be a little boy without a nail!" It only got worse....most of it was fear of the unknown. He has been in a doctor's office only a handful of times in his life and never in a hospital. He had to have a tetanuss shot.... he doesn't remember ever having a shot. When we got home we unwrapped the finger and covered the wound with our healing salve which is comfrey based and it relieved the pain quickly....from my experience, it will heal fast and with very little scaring.
Comfrey is a wonderful gift from God. It was used so much among the older generation for a variety of problems. It is mentioned throughout the Foxfire Books. We have lost so much...exchanged it really, for an unnatural, chemical/synthetic copy. I encourage you all to make a bottle of comfrey oil and keep it in the pantry. Even better....turn it into a salve! Let me know how you do....or if you have questions. Wish you were all close enough to "dig you a patch" for your garden!
I have included all the warnings related to Comfrey that I have ever read. There are some I agree with and some I don't. Please do your own research and make your own decisions as to how you will use this herb to treat yourself and your family.
THERE IS CONTROVERSY ON WHETHER COMFREY SHOULD BE USED INTERNALLY!!!!! RESEARCH IS ONGOING! PLEASE READ THE INFORMATION ON THE DANGERS OF USING COMFREY INTERNALLY. PLEASE RESEARCH THIS ISSUE VERY CAREFULLY BEFORE TAKING COMFREY INTERNALLY OR GIVING IT TO YOUR FAMILY.
IMPORTANT: DO NOT USE ON INFANTS, IF PREGNANT OR NURSING!! DO NOT USE COMFREY INTERNALLY IF YOU HAVE LIVER DISEASE, CANCER OR IF YOU CONSUME ALCOHOL ON A REGULAR BASIS! DO NOT USE IF YOU ARE TAKING ANTIBIOTICS, PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION FOR YEAST INFECTIONS, FLUOXETINE (PROZAC), CYCLOSPORINE, CHOLESTEROL-LOWERING MEDICATIONS, CALCIUM CHANNEL BLOCKERS FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE OR STEROIDS IN ANY FORM!!
Monday, October 31, 2005
The youth pastor planned on having them sleep in the barn....true deprivation! No heat, no food! It was cold here that night - about 30 degrees and clear out. Our barn's hayloft is divided into 2 sections - one on each end of the barn. Boys on one end and girls on the other - it was perfect!
As the youth pastor talked with the kids in the barn, the banty hens gathered on a beam overhead. They were fascinated with this invasion of their home. They watched the pastor carefully, and appeared to listen intently. They looked like little ladies lined up on a pew to learn about their Creator! The Jersey cows, Nora Mae and Lizzie, kept peeking in the barn...their ears were up, their eyes were wide and every little bit they made this wonderful sound....a low sweet call...as if they were calling their calf... It was one of those times that I wished I knew what the animals were thinking. Was it like this on the night Christ was born? Were the animals so curious...so alert...so attentive?
We mowed a maze into the field down by the creek at the bottom of the mountain last weekend in preparation for this night. All the kids and leaders clambered onto the hay wagon and took a hayride down to the field. An intense game of capture the flag ensued. They played for several hours and then returned for a bonfire and hot tea.
Then began the most wonderful sound....a guitar and many young voices singing worship songs to our Creator around the campfire. The kids marveled at the thousands of stars, how clear and close they looked. These are city kids for the most part. Some were quite amazed at what you can see away from city lights. Evening prayers began....kids thanking God for this experience, for His creation....praying for their leaders....praying for each other....
After worship it was time to hit the hay....literally! They went to sleep with the banty's making their contented clucking sounds and the occasional low call of the goats and cows.
Early the next morning the roosters made sure the kids were awake. We had a hard frost the night before and kids were cold....more hot tea! After morning devotions and worship in our living room (we wanted the kids to warm up!) they headed out to do service work at the local Abortion Alternative Center. Four hours were spent cleaning toys, sorting clothes and painting an office.
Back at the farm, they were given free time to ride horses, explore the farm and generally daydream about supper. It was a beautiful afternoon - the perfect fall day!
At 6:00 pm the kids broke fast with fruit, pasta, garlic rolls, hot dogs and bar-b-q beans. Pound cake, smores and hot chocolate were served as the bonfire was started again.
We were so blessed by these kids. They were tender and helpful with our younger boys. They were very appreciative of the experience and the meal! I enjoyed getting to talk with different ones throughout the day as they drifted in and out of the kitchen to visit. For the most part, these are kids who are truly seeking to follow God.
I am already looking forward to their next visit.....I hope there are many times that our farm can be used to bless others...to bring a bit of refreshing to city folks....to encourage those who are weary....to show God's creation in new and wondrous ways....and may we always find time to worship among the animals!
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
The next thing everyone wants to know is ...where do I start....what do I plant? Although there are some common plants that everyone will want to grow, your own particular family's needs will dictate what you grow. What illnesses does your family tend to suffer from the most? Do you have lots of winter colds? Sinusitis? Allergies? Kidney problems? Immune deficiencies? The herbs of choice will be herbs that treat your family's problems. As you study herbs, make notes of what will help your family overcome their problems and plan on planting those. I happen to grow a wide range of things because I am overseeing the health of young children (7 to 12), teenagers, young adults, middle age adults and an elderly adult (my Mom).
Again, you must be sure that what you are using for medicine is organic or you are just wasting your time and money and might actually do harm instead of good.
Let me tell you about some of the more common herbs that God gave to us for healing. I hope to show you why these are good to start with and will try to talk about several each time I post about medicinal herbs. These are the herbs that almost everyone will want to grow. Please remember that when I talk about annual and perennial that I am talking about my planting zone - zone 6. Check your seed packets for your area. Why don't you go grab a plant I.D. book (such as a Peterson's guide or DK guide) so that you will know what to look for and let's take a walk through my herb garden.....
On the way to the garden, we find lots of Plantain growing wild. The English used to call this Waybread - it grows everywhere - if you don't use chemicals. Plantain is very healing...if you are ever outside and stung by a bee, wasp etc. grab some leaves and chew them for a minute and slap it on the bite - it will relieve the pain and reduce the swelling and your healing time will be much faster! It is wonderful to put in salves to be used on wounds. It is especially effective on slow-healing wounds. The juice of the leaves is good in cough syrups. By the way, the seeds are called P. Psyllium or flea seeds. They are a wonderful natural laxative. You will find them in many over-the-counter medicines! They also have other healing properties of their own. We pick the Plantain leaves and dry them so we can use them as needed during the harshest part of winter, they are readily available during the rest of the year...spring to late fall. Dry under cheesecloth until crumbly, place in an airtight jar and store in a dark place.
At the corner of my garden is a large patch of Calendula flowers. Calendula is an annual so we need to plant this each year. The flowers are bright and cheery, come in many shades of yellow and orange, single ruffle and double ruffle. It is also called pot marigold. This is different than regular marigold. Make sure the seeds say Calendula officinalis. We use Calendula in some of our healing soaps and salves. Calendula is beneficial for a wide range of skin problems and inflammations. The leaves are also beneficial internally for several things. Be sure to harvest frequently. This job has been turned over to my 7 year old after careful training. He harvests every other day and is always amazed that he can cut off all the flower heads and then 48 hours later find another bountiful harvest. Place the flower heads on a cookie sheet and cover with a piece of cheesecloth to keep the dust out. When dry, gently pull the petals from the head and place in an airtight jar. Store in a dark place. Light is detrimental to your dried herbs.
As we walk along the side of the garden, we find a large patch of Echinacea, also called purple coneflower. Echinacea is a perennial. Start growing this now because the roots really need to be at least 2 years old before you begin to harvest them. You want to grow E. angustifolia instead of E. purpurea. Angustifolia is a much more potent variety and is preferred for herbal remedies. This is one of the most beautiful flowers in the garden!. It is a perennial. It has antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. It is also easy to save seed from! Just let some of your flowers go completely to seed - they will look like little spiney balls. Clip and save for planting next year. Keep in the freezer until planting time. Use the root in either a decoction or tincture. You can also powder the root and make your own capsules. Echinacea is a wonderful immune supporter. It helps your own immune system function as God designed to fight off infections. Be careful when taking Echinacea, if your dosages get to high you may begin to experience nausea and/or dizziness.
A little further down the path is a patch of Chamomile. Chamomile is also a perennial and has been called ground apple because of its smell. You can grow either Roman or German Chamomile but I happen to prefer the growth habits of German Chamomile. You will be harvesting the flowers - again on an almost daily basis. One home-grown and dried flower can give more flavor than a tea bag of commercial chamomile (Can anyone say Sleepy Time Tea?). A cup of tea at night is good for insomnia, anxiety and stress. On those days that my boys seemed hyped beyond tolerable levels, I make a huge pot of Chamomile tea sweetened with Stevia and serve it over ice at lunch,....we always end up having a calmer afternoon! It is also beneficial for people suffering from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and appetite or indigestion problems. It is healing in a salve for eczema, itching, insect bites or wounds and irritations. It also has many other benefits. The essential oil of Chamomile is good for using in a steam inhalation for asthma and for those suffering from a lot of nasal mucus. If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves when working in your chamomile patch because it can cause contact dermatitis in some people.You do not want to use this essential oil in pregnancy because it can act as a uterine stimulant.
One word about working with essential oils - wear gloves. Some oils are very strong and can hurt you if they get on your skin. One time I was working with Peppermint Essential oil and one small drip landed on my tablecloth - it burned a hole right through it!
I hope this is a beginning of your "To Grow" list for next year and I hope you will all be on the lookout for Plantain....
Monday, October 24, 2005
Now, as Grandma would say "Nuff said 'bout that!"
I have used herbs for almost 24 years to treat my family. But for the majority of that time, I purchased from other people....pre-prepared formulas, capsules, salves etc. For the last 5 years I have really begun to study herbs and make our own medicines. It is fun, rewarding, saves TONS of money and you know for sure what is in each item that you make. This is very important to me.
Let's talk about the different forms of herbal remedies. The easiest and most common is called an "infusion" (which is a fancy way to say tea!). Almost everyone has had a cup of herbal tea...perhaps chamomile after a long day to relax before bed (ever had Sleepytime Tea?) or maybe peppermint when you had a head cold or an upset tummy. This is one of the safest ways to use herbal medicine. You can also infuse oils in either a cold process or hot process. These oils can be used for culinary purposes or medicinally for massage, creams, salves, or ointments.
Next is a decoction. This is used for roots, barks, twigs and some berries. It is made similarly to tea but you simmer for up to an hour with a lid on the pot. It takes that long to extract from tougher, woodier plant material.
Then there is a syrup. You can take your infusion or decoction (or both) and mix with unrefined sugar or honey to make a syrup. We prefer to use our honey from our bees. We make our own cough syrups and cough drops and have found them to be much more effective than over the counter medicines.
You can make salves (ointments, creams). We make 5 different salves and use at least one of them every day here on our little farm. During the summer it seems as if we use it by the hour!
They have also been big sellers for our little business.
Herbs can also be used in other ways: in poultices to place on the body, they can be dried and chopped and placed into capsules (yes we do that too!) and the hot infusions can be used in compresses.
The strongest form of herbal medicine is the tincture. The medicinal properties of the herbs are extracted using either glycerin or alcohol. We use alcohol. The ratio of water to alcohol must be exactly 50/50. The easiest way to do that is to use 100 proof vodka. You can use other forms of alcohol but I use vodka because it is tasteless. If you wish to use a lower proof, there are certain mathematical formulas that you can follow. We use something called the simpler's method - this is how Great-grandma used to do it! You must really be careful with tinctures - research your herbs and be sure that you know what you are taking. If you are taking a prescription medicine or over the counter medicine, make sure your herbal tincture doesn't interfere or conflict with your medicine.
I have had many requests to sell my herbal tinctures but legally I can't - I would need a commercial kitchen and a lawyer's help to make sure it didn't equal selling medicine without a license. Instead, I teach classes here on the farm for a small fee and pass the knowledge to others. We spend an afternoon making something from each category above - it is very hands on (that means I make the students do all the work!). This is so that each person leaves with the confidence to go home and do what they have been taught in class.
I have been working on a way to place my classes online somehow, if I get it figured out I'll be sure to post it here. I am open to suggestions!
I hesitated to recommend books but I know some of you will ask. Please, please remember that the philosophies espoused in some of these books are based on eastern mysticism and other new age beliefs that are contrary to the Word of God. Please, please eat the meat and spit out the bones, I do not want to be a stumbling block to any of you! With that warning, here are some of my favorite medicinal herb books:
*Prescription for Herbal Healing by Phyllis A. Balch
Therapeutic Herb Manual by Ed Smith - great for dosages!
The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody - lots of color pics and how to directions!
*If you can only buy one medicinal herb book....this is the one!
Sunday, October 23, 2005
I am sorry to hear about your 950 acres of Roundup Ready Soybeans...if the science bears out and history repeats itself, in a few short years your fields will be full of weeds that will take even heavier applications of pesticides and herbicides to eradicate. The scientists call them superweeds. By the way, evidence shows that once a field has GMO crops grown in it...it can take up to 15 years before it is GMO free again.
From what I have read, people have been harmed by eating GMO foods. The companies promoting GMO foods do not want them labeled because market surveys show that people will not buy them if they know. This causes health problems. What if I eat one of the tomatoes that have had their genes spliced with a certain North Atlantic flounder so that it will survive colder temperatures....and I just happen to be deathly allergic to flounder? I don't know I am eating fish...after all it is a red, juicy, ripe tomato. I become ill and am rushed to the E.R.....because I don't know I ate fish, then I don't know why I am having this reaction. I can't tell them what is wrong....can they figure it out in time?
In 1989 the Showa Denko company in Japan realized that they could speed up the production of a food supplement, tryptophan, by using genetic engineering. However, there was an unexpected toxin produced in the tryptophan, which killed at least 37 people and permanently disabled 1500 others when this product was marketed in North America before it was tested. Over two billion dollars of litigation was instituted and ended up being paid by Showa Denko.
In 1996, Brazil nut genes were spliced into soybeans by a company called Pioneer Hi-Bred. Some individuals, however, are so allergic to this nut, they go into apoplectic shock (similar to a severe bee sting reaction) which can cause death. A study by scientists at the University of Nebraska found that GMO soybeans modified to contain Brazil nut proteins caused reactions in people allergic to Brazil nuts and the product was removed from the market before any deaths occurred.
I suggest you do some reading at this site http://www.healthfreedomusa.org/codexblog/2005/09/15/now-you-buy-it-now-you-dont/
You might also do a Google search on "GMO Dangers". You will find people from all walks of life, respected scientists from genetics, medicine, epidemiology, bioethics, ecology, sociology, agronomy telling you why GMO foods are a very dangerous technology if you want to live a long and healthy life.
More importantly what does God say? Genesis 1:11 "Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth"; and it was so." Genesis 1:12 "And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good."
Notice the "according to its kind" and the "seed is in itself" parts? Man, in his wisdom, has gone beyond God's design by playing around with Genetic modification/manipulation. We are eating things the human race has NEVER eaten before - it has never been studied....we have no idea of the long term implications. All new drugs are supposed to undergo rigorous testing before being approved for human use....but this new GMO food has bypassed this. WE ARE THE STUDY! We have no idea what will happen 10, 20 or 30 years down the road. The government wants us to trust them but their pockets are being filled by the companies that produce this mess.
Again, the Word says: Pr 14:12 "There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death." Pr 16:25 "There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death." If God is repeating it, then it is usually very important. Our wisdom seems right but it can end in death.
GMO foods are on the shelves of grocery stores everywhere...at least in this country. If your product has soybeans or soybean oil in it....it is most likely contaminated with GMOs. Corn is following down the same path as soybeans....do you know how many products contain corn syrup? What you spray on your crops, whether in a garden or on a field does get into your food supply. That chemical is washed into the soil and is taken up with water into all areas of the plant. Try sticking a stalk of celery in a glass of water with one drop of red food coloring in it....tell me what color the leaves on that stalk of celery are in a few days...
By the way, one of the reasons that we raise our own food is to avoid all those instances you listed of GMO food products. We mix our animal feed with whole grains from reliable sources. We are doing our best to avoid GMO contamination and we heartily encourage others to do the same!I
I hope you will do some serious reading about this subject.....don't just listen to one side of the story....especially when that side is trying to sell you the product!
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Most herbs like full sun and are very easy to grow and have little to no pest or disease problem. It is very important to grow them organically - this is not negotiable if you are using them for medicine. You also do not want to fertilize your herbs. When you use fertilizer (even the natural, organic fertilizer) it causes a spurt of lush growth - they will be beautiful ....but....they will have grown so fast that the oil content will not have kept up with the rate of growth. The oil is what provides us with the delicious aroma, taste and the medicinal benefits.
What herbs to start with? On the culinary side, that varies from person to person. What do you use when you cook or flavor foods? What do you have on your shelves that you might grow and dry yourself? Basics I would start with: Basils: Purple Ruffles for color, Sweet Basil, Pesto Basil, Lemon, Lime are some of my favorites although there are many other basil flavors! Cilantro - gotta have that for my salsa....if you let some of it go to seed and collect the seed, that is Coriander. Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme. French Tarragon for making vinegar (do not grow Russian Tarragon - little to no taste!) and Greek Oregano (make sure the label says true greek oregano....what they sell in the USA labeled oregano is really wild marjoram!). Parsley, caraway, cumin, fennel, dill (lots and lots of dill for pickles, cheese, cooking!)
Chives for those baked potatoes...did you know that the chive flower is edible? Look closely and see that the flower bud is actually lots of tiny flowers - pull them apart and sprinkle them over a salad...it always wows people and the taste is a very mild onion flavor! Garlic chives is another favorite - just adds a touch of garlic taste. Garlic itself is a wonderful herb to grow - make sure you plant the variety that stores well - don't use a garlic bulb from the store for planting...most of those are a California short season variety - they will not store.
The list is endless! There are no wrong choices. Try picking a handful of herbs that you haven't grown before and start there. Harvest all year - I pick basil all summer, lightly rinse the leaves, lay on a paper towell to dry for an hour or so and then place them in zip lock baggies in the freezer. I pack them in 2 cup measures which is exactly what I need for my delicious creamy basil dressing!
Some herbs I dry....rosemary, oregano, parsley, sage do well dried. Cilantro I freeze - it tastes horrible dried! Each year add another handful. Learn to use what you grow each year. I found that I could do 5 or 6 new herbs each year. Go slow! If you plant 25 new herbs this year, chances are you won't do anything with them...it is too overwhelming!
One more "must have" plant would be stevia. Stevia is called the sugar plant...it is 100 times sweeter than sugar. It has no calories, no carbohydrates and tastes delicious. It is harder to start from seed and the seed is expensive but it is well worth the effort! Grow it all summer - it does much better outside! Pick the leaves and leave on a plate covered with a paper towell to keep the dust off - when completely dry (brittle) throw in a canning jar and keep it in the dark. When ready to use, I run it through a food processor until it turns into a fine powder and use it to sweeten drinks, baked goods etc. A very little goes a long way!
What to do with all of these herbs? Cook with them, can with them, make herbal vinegars, herbal oils, flavor cream cheese or butter and serve with crackers! Throw a handful of chopped herbs into your buttermilk biscuit recipe and serve herbed biscuits, put them in your bread recipe....lay a few sprigs of lemon basil over a chicken when you roast it....put some herbs in your soups and stews. The flavors of homegrown herbs far outweigh those bottles of dried herbs on the grocery store shelves.
I hope you will try at least one of these suggestions with some of the things you grew this year....let me know how it turns out!
Tomorrow lets talk about the varieties of herbal medicines and some basic medicinal herbs!
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
My garden is between the little workshop and the barn - almost directly across from the front yard. We pass it all the time which keeps its' needs in the front of our mind. The old saying "out of sight, out of mind" is definitely true! Part of my garden is fenced. Many people think this is to keep animals out.... oh no!....it was to keep my youngest son in after he learned to walk! The garden was his outside playpen! I could work on the garden knowing that he was safe!
As we face the garden, the front of it is lined with medicinal herbs. As we walk through the wooden gate, we are facing 20 raised beds that are each about 3.5 feet wide and 33 feet long. There is a wide row running down the middle front to back and another side to side - enough for a wheelbarrow and 2 people to work side by side. There is a large space at the back of the garden for melons or other sprawling crops, eventually we will put another 10 raised beds back there, 33 feet long, 5 on each side of the aisle. Behind the garden and through the back gate is a small unheated greenhouse where we raise everything ourselves from seed.
Beyond the greenhouse is a very large field where we raise our corn, potatoes and other large crops. It is fairly level with a slight slope off the western side...the future site of blueberries! We hope to place 2 high tunnels close to the greenhouse in the near future.
In the raised beds we grow our summer squash, lettuces (42 kinds!), carrots, onions, pole beans, dried beans, tomatoes, peppers, hot peppers, tomatillas, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, corn salad, kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc. Interspersed with our veggies are flowers and annual herbs such as a variety of basils, several types of parsley, cumin, caraway, fennel and others.
There are 3 faucets in the garden to feed our drip tape, front, back and middle. They run from our well. Herbs also wrap down both sides of the garden - one side all the way to the back and one side half way. I will be adding more each year until the herbs completely surround the garden!
There are several purposes for placing the herbs around the garden. Many herbs are in the Umbelliferae family. These plants produce umbrella-shaped flower clusters, like the dill heads you use in pickling. Other members of the family, including parsley, cilantro, and celery, have the same flower form. This means that they provide food and habitat for a host of good bugs. We always let a portion of these herbs go to seed so that our ladybugs, green lacewings, parasitic wasps etc. have some place to live and something to eat. I recommend you have a good bug identification guide. Learn what the good bugs look like at all stages of their growth. If you weren't familiar with ladybug larvae or pupa, you might be inclined to squash them!
We also keep them in view so that we can remember to harvest for our medicinal needs all season long. We use them fresh during the summer but we also gather and dry them for use during the winter months. Seeing them everyday also keeps us more dilligent in weeding the herb beds.
Herbs are very easy to grow. They have almost no disease problems and, because of their volatile oil content, they have very few pest problems. Many herbs are perennial - they come back year after year. Some will reseed themselves and come back up in the spring such as dill and cilantro. Some are annuals, such as calendula.
We use herbs (in different forms) for cooking, medicine, cleaning, as pest repellents both for us and the animals, for our soaps, medicinal salves, lip balms, shampoo bars, to flavor our cheeses, for teas and more!
Next time lets talk about how to start an herb garden and the different forms of herbs and their uses.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
But man, in his wisdom, has decided to improve upon God's holy plan. There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14.12. Man is, and has been for many years, tampering with the very genetics that make up our food. Check out the link to Scott Terry's site today, Homesteader Life, to learn a little about Genetically Modified Organisms...GMOs (also called Genetically Engineered Food). Those 3 letters should cause your heart to tremble!
Let me give you an example....rats happen to produce their own Vitamin C in their bodies. Because our soil is so nutritionally defunct from poor stewardship, our food does not contain the vitamin and mineral content that it did 70 years ago. Soooo....man has begun to cross the gene's of rats with the genes of broccoli to produce a broccoli with higher Vitamin C. I am not kidding!
Now, I don't know about you....but I don't want to eat broccoli that happens to have been crossed with rats. Scott Terry mentioned the human liver genes being crossed with rice. The list is lengthy. They are also experimenting with breeding plants that actually have medicines in them. Oh, you didn't want that flu shot? You might not have a choice! Most likely you will not have the knowledge either!
They were working on crossing some nasty things with salmon....trouble is the salmon
flesh kept turning green....not much of a market for green meat! Our ability to play with the molecular genetics of certain organisms goes way beyond our knowledge of the consequences of such actions....both in the end product and in the impact on human lives. Genes from plants, animals, viruses, and bacteria are being merged! Essentially right now the entire population is involved in a strange science experiment only we weren't given the choice to opt out!
Why are they doing this? Because when they modify a plant they have created a "new" food and they can patent it....bottom line...same as always....worshipping the dollar. Monsanto is, of course, heavily involved in this as are a small handful of other multi-national companies.
The worst part of all of this is that YOU DON'T KNOW....THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW!!! Every survey ever done proves that if given a choice people do not want to eat food with GMOs....so the industry continues to lobby Congress hard (translate that to contributes much) so that they are not required by law to label food with GMOs.
From what I have been reading over the last few years it appears that up to 80% of what is in the grocery store now, unless labeled organic, is genetically modified.
This is especially true in pre-prepared food....all those "meals" that they call food that come out of boxes and cans.
So....what's a person to do? Write letters to your Senators and Representatives and tell them you want GMO food labeled as such. You have a right to know what you are eating. Buy local....buy organic (GMOs are not allowed to be labeled organic, at least for now)...buy from someone you trust...and the best choice....grow it yourself. You may not have a farm but do you have a small space that you can grow at least some of your food? If you are in an apartment, could you grow a few things in pots on your balcony? I read of a woman who grew most of her own food on the balcony of her apartment in pots and with trellises. Every little bit you can do is a step towards health.
When you grow, use only open-pollinated seeds - better flavor and no danger of GMOs.
Save your seed. Our seed is being drastically altered also....we must be diligent to preserve safe seed.
Finally, get informed and inform other people! This is a big topic in all of my classes and when I speak. People are shocked...Monsanto has done a good job of keeping the lid on things...they threaten lawsuits when you speak the truth about what they are doing.
Read books...I recommend the following: Genetically Engineered Food: Changing the Nature of Nature; What you Need to Know to Protect Yourself, Your Family and Our Planet by Martin Teitel, Ph.D. and Kimberly A. Wilson. Also, Genetically Engineered Food, A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers by Ronnie Cummins and Ben Lilliston.
With GMO crops being grown on millions of acres, we must be diligent with the small part of creation that God has entrusted to us.
Tomorrow, we take a walk through my GMO free garden!