Monday, October 31, 2005

Barn Devotions

This weekend we had our church youth group out to the farm. We had 16 kids and 6 leaders. Everyone arrived about 9 pm Friday night. They were participating in the "30 Hour Famine". They pledged to fast for 30 hours to raise money for World Vision and began their fast at noon on Friday. When they got to the farm, they were already a hungry bunch of kids!

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 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 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 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 bring a bit of refreshing to city encourage those who are show God's creation in new and wondrous ways....and may we always find time to worship among the animals!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Starting a Medicinal Garden...

When people find out that I make our own medicine it strikes a nerve. Sometimes good..."Ooohh, I want to learn that".... sometimes bad ....."Are you out of your mind? You are NOT a Doctor!".....but I knew that! Often the naysayers become ardent believers.

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....

Happy Hunting!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Types of Herbal Remedies

Before we begin to talk about medicinal herbs let me state that I am NOT a doctor! I don't want to be accused of practicing medicine without a license so... any ideas and suggestions in this blog are my opinions based on my own research. It is your responsibility to do your own research... this is very important because any plant substance, whether used as food or medicine, externally or internally, can cause an allergic reaction in some people. It is your responsibility to study medicinal herbs thoroughly before you begin to treat yourself or your family. Herbs are very powerful and if they are misused, they can be harmful. Herbs can also interfere with traditional medications by blocking their effectiveness or reacting with them in a harmful way. Many people think "oh it's just an herb so it's safe" or "since it is an herb I can take as much as I want" and are not careful with dosages, length of treatment etc. This is very dangerous! They can end up doing more harm than good!

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

In response to GMOs and clintdiggs post...

I felt that this response was important enough to turn into a post....

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 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

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 least in this country. If your product has soybeans or soybean oil in is most likely contaminated with GMOs. Corn is following down the same path as 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

The Culinary Herb Garden

Herb gardens come in many forms. You can plant a very formal, "old english" style garden with paths, designs and form, you can grow your herbs in pots, intersperse them with your vegetables, plant them around your garden plot, plant them in your flower beds around your home or grow them on your windowsill.

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 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 is too overwhelming!

One more "must have" plant would be stevia. Stevia is called the sugar 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

Come and walk with me to my garden....

Let me tell you about my garden....I will try to give you a picture since I haven't figured out how to post pictures here.

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! 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

Would YOU eat this if you had a choice?

Our Father created many wonderful things for us to eat. Wonderful meats, eggs, fish, a bounty of veggies, herbs to season with, fruits and so on. My family enjoys a great variety of the bounty of the Lord.

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. 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 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 organic (GMOs are not allowed to be labeled organic, at least for now) 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!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Life and Death on the Farm

The medicinal herb posts will wait a few days...lets talk about the other side of farming.

Farming has risks and I don't mean just financial ones. I believe that those of us living the agrarian life, to one degree or another, must endeavor to present both sides....not just the happy moments.

It has been hard for me (who admits to leaning towards being a wee bit of an over-protective Mama) to watch my boys hike the mountain knowing they might encounter snakes, or even something occasional black bear. It was a struggle to let them work around or on some of the equipment... the tractor, the bush hog, the baler, the hay elevator....It was frightening to watch my oldest (15 at the time) mount the new horse and fly across the fields along the bottom of the mountain (after all we knew NOTHING about this horse!).I was a country girl at heart but had spent all of my adult years in the big city, which is full of other kinds of danger...enough to make anyone over-protective!

Then there are those special moments that we get to experience when watching the birth of a calf , holding brand new baby goats, seeing the full moon climb over the mountain ridge at the back of the farm, seeing a little boy with his first gun "gonna bring home dinner Mama!".

But there are ugly moments too. When a favorite animal dies after you have given all you can to save it, when a coyote gets into the barn after chickens or cattle, or when a beloved animal goes missing (where IS that cat), when a crop fails, or you have a fire...or worse.

Saturday a friend of mine left her husband clearing a path through the woods on his tractor. She came back in the afternoon and Steve wasn't back...and she didn't hear the tractor running...she went to look. Evidently, the tractor had rolled, at least once, and then up righted itself and Steve was found about 25 feet from the tracotr. He didn't survive. This is a fairly young couple. Steve was 51. Questions race through my mind....what will happen to Sandee now? What will happen to the farm? How will the family cope? Will they persevere? Will the kids come home and help run the farm? In the end, will she have lost her dear husband and the farm that she loves?

We have lived here 7 years. We have read a similar story at least once a year since we have been here. This is the first time it has happened to a friend.

Farming has must ask yourself if you are willing to take them...count the cost....realize that the agrarian lifestyle encompasses all areas of life...even the hard ones.

If you think of it...please pray for Sandee and her family.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Herbal medicine and why YOU should make it!

I encourage everyone to leave this blog right now and go to The Deliberate Agrarian's site and read his post on the Global Food will help you understand the importance of this post much more's ok...I'll wait :)

Much of what Herrick says about the Global Food Providers is also applicable to the supply of medicines. Medicine is produced by a handful of pharmaceutical companies. Do some reading to find out how this industry works and the awful truth about the "inert" ingredients in our vaccines, prescriptions and even over the counter medicines. I promise that it will turn your stomach! Did you know that some vaccines involve using the tissue of aborted babies? This has been done for over 30 years! Check out for the full story.

Aside from the moral and ethical issues of some conventional medicines, in the future medicine may become scarce just as food may become scarce. It is always dangerous to have control of anything in the hands of a few multi-national corporations. Money becomes the bottom line - and making more of it.

I think everyone should have some basic knowledge of making simple medicines at home. Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers always had a medicinal garden for tea, poultices etc. In the days before there was a doctor's office on every corner, the woman of the house was the healer. God states in His word that He has provided all that we need. I believe that God provided the herbs to meet the medicinal needs that we would one day have. You will find many passages in the Scriptures where herbs were used as medicines and for cleansing. As you begin to study herbs and their properties, you will see the hand of God everywhere you look.

The sad thing about herbal medicine is that this is an area that the enemy has usurped! Just take a stroll into any "natural health store" or "herbal health store" and you will find the place filled with occult and new age practices and supplies. A friend said to me, "when you finish your training you will be the first Christian herbalist I have ever heard of" sad. And trying to study herbal medicine from a Christian perspective.....haven't found it offered anywhere in this country. have to "eat the meat and spit out the bones". Take the facts and learn from them and ignore all the new age/occult slop. It isn't hard to spot!

Just as everyone should know how to grow at least some of their own food, everyone should know how to make at least some of their own medicines. What happens when the day comes,
and I do believe it will if the Lord tarries, that you can't run down to Wally World and buy a bottle of aspirin? Did you know that there is a beautiful plant called Feverfew that can relieve a headache, especially a migraine.... as can the bark of the White Willow tree.

The first pharmacies were actually herbal shops! And a great deal of our medicine today is still derived from plants. The problem from the multi-nationals' point of view is that you can't patent a plant you haven't bred (at least not yet!) so therefore you can't patent herbal medicine. Since there is no money in it, there is no interest in research in that area. Thankfully we have many old texts from tens and even hundreds of years ago that can teach us about herbal medicines. Now, some of these herbal remedies have turned out to be folklore but some are nuggets of gold. The good news is that most of the folklore vs. gold has been researched by others....we can profit from the fruit of their labors!

Another advantage is that when making herbal medicine you are using all of the attributes of that plant. This is very important. For example, when it was discovered that white willow bark would soothe a headache, the pharmaceutical companies isolated which compound relieved the pain. Then they made a synthetic (chemical) copy of that compound and called it aspirin. We all know that aspirin can irritate the lining of the stomach...BUT....if you use the plant that God created there also happens to be another compound that will protect the lining of the irritation! At every turn, God's wisdom puts man's "wisdom" to shame!

We have found that people are hungry for this knowledge. I speak all over eastern Tennessee teaching about herbal medicine. I also teach classes here on the farm. I have an unusual mixture of people who ask me to teach, from garden clubs to Boy Scout Councils. When I speak at an open a farm expo...I get a mixed crowd ....lots of older people who have this knowledge or remember their Mama doing this and that....middle aged people who are fascinated but would rather buy it from me than take the trouble to make it.... and young people.....wise young people who are longing for the agrarian lifestyle and self sufficiency. They are raising babies and are wanting the best for them from food to medicine. But most of all....I get Christians.....people who want to know about the plants that God has given to us for our benefit but who don't want the new age/occult slant that you usually find with herbal medicine. Oh, I get the occasional new ager or occultist, but they get an earful of the Scriptures when they hear me talk....and perhaps God will use that to reach their hearts.

So take a walk with me through my herb garden....let me share about some plants and what types of medicines we make (and how simple it is!).....I hope to entice each of you to try at least one "homemade" medicine....

See you next post!

Are you using soap?

Sometime ago I made an amazing discovery...all those lovely bars of soap at the local store were not actually bars of soap...they were bars of detergent! The "soap" companies had actually removed the glycerin, because they could sell that for a higher price, and sold us the leftovers. The most important part of the soap, the part that moisturizes our skin, was missing.

As I began to investigate further, I found all sorts of nasty chemicals, additives, dyes, perfumes etc. were added to our "detergent" bars. Since the skin is the largest organ of the body, and since what we put on our skin finds its way into our bloodstream, it posed the question of how this was affecting our health. The more I read the more concerned I became.

I have a friend named Julie who was making soap at the time and she and her husband offered to spend an afternoon teaching us about soap making. Julie and Michael are some of my favorite people, they are the only like-minded, Christian, agrarian friends we have locally.
We met at their house and they walked us through the mechanics of making soap. Somehow seeing it done was much easier than just reading the book and "flying blind". It really wasn't that hard!

Thus began our journey into soap making....I began to study oils and what effect they had on skin, were they moisturizing? were they drying? (It was funny to me to think of an oil that would dry??). What other properties did that oil have? Did it lather? Then I began to study essential they could benefit us, heal us, relax us or just plain make us feel good. We bought some basic books for recipes and searched the internet for the same.

We committed to making pure soap. Pure oils, no color unless it came from herbs, pure essential oils instead of perfumes, no preservatives and no chemicals of any kind. We began with some simple soaps, our first was Castille, which is the purest, mildest soap, if made properly. Then we began to have fun! We made soaps that lathered tremendously, soaps that relaxed and soaps that invigorated.

We came up with a soap that would kill viruses and bacteria. When someone in the family starts to come down with something, we put this soap at all of our sinks. We made a soap for working outside, it has essential oils that repel bugs and it has an exfolliant to help get the dirt off when you are done working. We made a soap that cuts grease for use at the kitchen sink.
We got the boys involved and let them each pick an essential oil that they liked. Those soaps were named after the boys who created them. We made a soap that moisturized the skin and one that was drying, for those teen acne problems.

By this time we were having FUN! We noticed that we didn't suffer with dry skin as we used to..our skin felt great! We ran out of soap at one point and had to use one of our "detergent" bars. It was awful! So, we became more diligent at our soap making and continued to create as the mood hit. We gave them as gifts for birthdays and Christmas....and the response was good. Now people wanted to buy so they could give gifts...and they told people....who told people and thus our little soap making business was born.

Soap making is NOT difficult. You can do it in the smallest apartment or on a farm. You can make a small batch of just a few bars or make 40 bars at a time. I encourage all of you to try it.

Some of our favorite soapmaking books are: Natural Soapmaking by Marie Browning, The Everything Soapmaking Book by Alicia Grosso, The Complete Soapmaker by Norma Coney and Milk-Based Soaps by Casey Makela.

So, remember to ask yourself....

Are you using soap?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Been Fishin'...

Last Saturday, after chores and milking, we took our annual "thank you for all the hard work in the garden this summer" boat trip. We rented a pontoon boat for the day, loaded up a great picnic lunch, complete with fried chicken, potato salad, cookies, cake, drinks and snacks and all our fishin' gear. Our whole family loves to fish. Even Grandma joined us - she is an expert fisherman!

We headed north an hour to a HUGE lake. I must confess that not a lot of fishing went on this time. I was to darn lazy to lift the pole! But I enjoyed watching the others and keepin' my Mom company. Seems that the kids wanted to swim more than fish. We spent a few hours swimming in a quiet little cove. Very peaceful! It even had an old fashioned white church with a beautiful steeple sitting at the water's edge.

Took the boat down to the dam so the kids could say they "swam at the dam". Now, don't ask me why that seems to be important...I haven't a clue. Then off to look for another inlet for another swim before heading home.

All of a sudden, hubby swings the boat around...something had caught his eye and he was excited. The boys are all looking to see if HUGE fish are jumping and they missed it....Dad doesn't normally drive a boat like that! Not a fish....much more important! A ROPE!

There was a perfect tree - hanging out over the lake with a long, knotted, yellow rope hanging over the water and a sandy bank at the shoreline. Someone had even nailed boards up the tree "ladder-like" to make the climb easier. Needless to say we spent a long time at this spot.

It was great fun watching the boys climbing like monkeys and swinging (and screaming) like Tarzan! The 7 year old was not too sure about climbing the tree that high. His oldest brother
came to the rescue. He hoisted his littlest brother up onto his shoulders (he stands at 6 feet tall),
helped him grab the rope and swing off. A much safer choice in Elijah's eyes and he had a ball!

All in all, it was a great family day and a great break from the typical day on the farm!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


I am excited to say that I started a new adventure in cheese making yesterday. I have been making soft cheeses for about 5 or 6 years now. I make Feta, Chevre, Cream Cheese along with buttermilk, butter and sour cream. Yesterday I made my first hard cheese....a colby!

My first lesson....never start this late in the afternoon when you don't really know what you are doing...I won't even mention when I finally hit the pillow. I used Riki Carroll's book "Home Cheese Making". Everything seemed to go according to plan...but it will be 2 months before we really know.

Lesson can't add up all the times in the recipe and really think that you will be stopping at that point. It is not...I repeat baking a cake! I should have been done at 11:00 pm according to my calculations... a little late but do-able....let's just say it was quite a bit past that point and I was so tired I was ready to chuck it out to the chickens!

I had wonderful advice from the Kansas Milkmaid...check out her link on this page and check out her new website....awesome! There were some concerns about the cheese sticking to the cheesecloth. This could be for a variety of reasons...some good and some bad. I will just go on in faith, wax the cheese and see what happens.

I am, however, undaunted and will be trying again in the next few days. Wheels of Parmesan, Cheddar, Gouda along with Mozzarella, Montery Jack and Pepper Jack are dancing before my eyes. I am cleaning out the small dorm refrigerator that has been out in the garden shed and dedicating it to my still to be pressed wheels of cheese.

This would be something you could do even in a small apartment. So, I encourage those of you who long for the homesteading life....or those of you working towards it....get a copy of this book or check out the links on the Kansas Milkmaid's website and give it a try! I hope to hear lots of success stories....

.Good night folks...thanks for stopping in!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sometimes you just have to laugh....

In a previous blog I mentioned how much I love baling hay. I should have specified that I feel that way when everything goes right.

We had an interesting experience baling hay. It was really a comedy of errors - I can chuckle because I wasn't involved in this baling experience. We had some guys over to help which relieved the boys and myself this time. Sometimes on the farm stead, things go so horribly wrong that you just have to laugh....helps to keep your sanity!

My husband left work early to get a small field baled and in the barn before the expected rain. The trouble began when the baler got to the field and refused to tie all those wonderful knots in the baling twine. After numerous adjustments, he seemed to satisfy the baler and work progressed...down two rows. Then evidently he hit a nest of some kind. Immediately the air around the baler was filled with some type of stinging insect that objected to having its nest baled. One of them hovered directly in front of my husbands face and then decided to go for the nose...a direct hit! Thankfully he had the presence of mind to grab some plantain, chew it and put it on the sting.

Since he couldn't get back on the tractor he went to find some sort of wasp spray. He left the baler going...for a long time....with dry hay beneath it....and in it....get the picture? Smoke..then fire! He quickly jumped on the tractor and drove to the nearest faucet..which happened to be in the middle of the front yard. Smoke was pouring from the baler and from the row of hay out in the field, which caught the notice of our nearest neighbor.

Lloyd came quick as he could to see if we needed help. Aren't country folk wonderful!! The fire was quickly quenched. Husband and neighbor got everything under control and the tractor and baler were working in perfect harmony for about 10 minutes when the clouds broke open and we had a down pour like we used to see in Florida. Thankfully the guys had been picking up what was in the field during the wasp, smoke, fire fiasco. We lost very few bales but spent a great deal of time and effort with little to show.

Thankfully days like this are rare...but they do happen.....lots of time, effort and frustration and very little to show for it at the end of the day. Perhaps it is God's way of keeping us humble. We are very grateful it wasn't worse. No damage to the tractor or baler...the fire in the field was quickly put out before the rows of hay were ignited, no one was hurt and we didn't loose a field full of hay bales to rain. God blessed and protected us. We are thankful for the blessing, the protection and that we can laugh...

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Sweet dreams garden...

The last two weeks we have been busy putting the garden to bed for the winter. I like that phrase...I see myself tucking nice warm blankets around the garden beds as they nod off for the winter. Having a garden is a lot like having is lots of work, you never know what you will find the next day, you get very attached very quickly, it exasperates you but is very rewarding at the same time and it requires daily prayer and attention or it goes to ruin!

We pick the last of the veggies as we go along. Yesterday I made the final gallon of fresh salsa with the jalapenos, tomatoes, tomatillas, and cilantro....yummy! We freeze our excess of those things during the summer. I lay them out on cookie sheets and by the next morning they are ready for the big freezer. They look and sound like giant colorful marbles! We put a large bucket (or several) in the bottom of a chest freezer and just drop those frozen goodies in them all summer long. Then during the winter we can thaw out a bowl full and make salsa that tastes so good and fresh - almost like we just picked it! We love spicy food at our house and going months without homemade salsa just won't fly. I can't abide the stuff in the store ....what do they make that from? I have tried canning salsa and freezing salsa but it just tastes better and is a lot less watery if I make it fresh.

We take out the larger plants and till in the smaller ones and then we sow a cover crop to help build the soil for next year. Our favorite mix is cereal rye, austrian peas and red clover. This protects the soil over the winter and adds great nitrogen to the bed when we till it under next year.

Although I am glad we are finishing up with this garden, it always makes me a little sad....sort of like saying good bye to someone you care about. I guess it comes from spending so much time in the garden. We are so thankful to God for His provision through our garden, it has kept us well fed all summer and now the shelves are lined with rows of colorful jars for the winter. Isn't God good?

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

The Importance of Saving Seed

There are many reasons to begin saving seeds on your farm or from your garden. The most obvious one is monetary. Seed saved is seed you don't need to purchase next year. A step of independence!

Another advantage is taste. To save seed you must use open-pollinated seeds. These tend to be the older, heirloom varieties. Translate that into "taste good"! Many plants today have been bred for shipping, storage and long shelf life with nary a thought as to taste. This explains the tomatoes from the grocery store....they look great....but they taste like cardboard. They have been bred to have tougher skins, to be able to ship long distances and have a long shelf life....but they have lost taste. The heirloom varieties are what grandma and grandpa use to grow, they taste wonderful, have those delightful names (I know there is a story behind each one!), and will reproduce true to what you planted.

By using open-pollinated seed, you are also assuring yourself that you will avoid genetically-engineered seed.....something you definitely want to avoid!! I'll speak to this in depth on another day.

We have learned on our seed saving journey that there is a much more profitable reason to save seed from your own plantings. God has designed a marvelous thing in a seed! When you plant a seed and grow it on your own place, it "learns" about it's microclimate. It learns about your pest problems, your growing conditions, your weather, your disease problems... and all of this information is passed on to the seeds that this plant produces.

The next year your plant will be a little stronger, a little more disease resistant and a little more tolerant of your local weather. That information will again be placed in the seeds by God's great design! Consequently, if you keep saving seeds, each year your plants become more resistant to the pest and disease problems you have, more tolerant to your weather and your growing conditions. You will actually be producing plants in the future that are designed just for your farm...super plants! Isn't God's design an amazing just takes my breath away!

So, what more could you ask for? Plants that are specifically designed to grow, produce, thrive and set fruit.... and to do it better on your farm than any other place on earth!

Do we save all of our own seed? No, not at all. But each year we try to save a little more.
We do save our bean, okra, tomato (some not all), herb (some not all), tomatilla, squash, zuchinni and pepper seeds. Hopefully next year we will add a few more. I also attend seed swaps at local garden clubs - a great way to get seeds that have been grown in your own region.

To learn more about saving seed I recommend the book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth.
This book will take you through all the steps so that you can begin saving seed from your own plantings. Also visit to learn more about saving seed. Remember to buy open-pollinated seed, you can't save seed from a hybrid plant.

Some of my favorite places to shop for seed:,,,,
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