Preparing for Emergencies on the Homestead

We don’t like to think about emergencies on the homestead, but they can arise at any moment. Last year we had a slight health scare, and it caused me to think about emergencies a lot more seriously than I had before. You see, emergencies on your homestead can be anything from a natural disaster, to a health crisis that puts a homesteader out of commission. A dual income family that drops down to a single income family (or worse, a no income family), can be just as detrimental as a natural disaster or government fallout.

Either way, there are some preventatives and systems you can put into place, and products that you can have on hand, in order to make your emergency go a little bit more smoothly—no matter what the emergency is.

Systems to Have In Place for Emergencies

You’ll have a greater peace of mind if you start putting systems in place on your homestead in case of an emergency. Remember, not only does your family depend on  you, but so does your livestock. Here are a few extremely important systems to have in place. Make sure this information is readily available for your family members on the homestead at all times.

Escape Route

While this may seem a little awkward to talk about for some, it is essential to most homesteaders. This is a conversation that you need to have. When you have livestock and a family that depends on  you, an escape route from a natural disaster or even a home intruder could be a matter of life or death.

  • If you are surrounded by woods or prairie and it catches fire, where will you go? How will you escape?
  • Where will you meet up with your family?
  • What if cell phones aren’t working and your kids are at school—where should they find you?
  • How will you get your livestock off of the property?
  • What if you can’t get off the property? Where should you bunker down?
  • Where should you go in case war breaks out or a nuclear bomb detonates and you’re in the radiation radius?

These are all questions that can be tough to think about, but they need to be answered in case an emergency arises, especially if you have a family or young children. Less casualties happen in natural disasters and warfare when people are prepared in advance.

Emergency Contact List

Make an emergency contact list with home phone numbers, cell phone numbers, physical addresses, and email addresses for your family members in the home, outside of the home, and for people you’ll need to get in contact with in case of an emergency. Make sure you list people that can come and help you on the property if and when necessary.

Nearest Trusted Neighbor or Friend Contact

This is an extremely important contact to have on hand. Should you have an intruder situation, or should something happen to you as a parent,  your children or loved ones may need help quickly. The average ambulance can take 15 to 30 minutes to arrive on scene, depending on where you live. Make sure you have at least one or two contacts that live within walking distance of you that are trusted sources in case your child needs to run for help quickly after contacting 911.

 

Extra Feed and Water Source

We always think about how to get off of the homestead, but what about if we have to stay on the homestead? What happens if our livestock run out of feed or water? It’s best to put a feed and water system in place for your livestock now, rather than try to figure it out later. This can look like adding a manual well pump to the property should the electric be out. Or by having a clean stream or pond that the animals can drink from.

It’s also best to have back-up feed at all times. We feed our smaller livestock raw feed as much as possible (scraps, leftovers, pasture ranging, fodder) so that they can get used to eating raw feed should we ever suddenly not have access to their pelleted feed.

Savings

It’s easy to save when you have money, right? But whether you bring in a substantial amount of money, or  a small amount of money, it’s important to put aside cash or extra savings in a separate bank account or home safe every month. You may even want to have a separate bank account at a separate bank than your regular account. In early 2018, our nationally known bank lost access to their online banking system for over 48 hours. People couldn’t use their debit cards or get into their bank accounts, and your bank account total was left up to people you didn’t even know. What happens if you can’t get to your bank account but need to pay bills or need food?

One of the most important things to understand is how much money you would need on a monthly basis should you suddenly find that your spouse cannot work, or you become a zero income family. Knowing how much you need to bring in, and then setting up a diversified income that can help bring at least half of that in each month will help put your mind at ease. Your savings account will make up for the rest.

920x60-2

A Diversified Income

Now days people tend to put all of their eggs in one basket, even though we’ve been told not to for centuries. Homesteaders tend to rely on once source of income in the modern age, and that normally comes down to YouTube or another online revenue stream. What people don’t realize is that, at any time, if YouTube or the online service doesn’t like what you’re putting out into the world, they can take it away from you and close up shop. It’s best to diversify your income.

  • Sell products directly from your homestead to your local community, like extra produce, eggs, meat, herbal remedies, and handmade goods.
  • Start bartering with locals to save money and so that you have that relationship if ever you need it in an emergency situation.
  • Place sustainable products and services for sale on your website, like simple eBooks, videos and webinars, website building services, homestead education services, and other things that people can purchase, but don’t have to rely on you to create something every time they purchase the item. If ever you’re in a situation where you can’t work, these products will be a lifesaver.
  • Offer your services to your local community. Start your own handyman services business, mow lawns, build structures, do farm setting or animal boarding, and more.

Whatever it may be, make sure you have plenty of baskets, and eggs in each one!

Grow Your Own Food

Growing your own food is liberating. Preserving your own food is even more liberating. Having a seasonal garden system on hand and learning how to preserve your own food in case that’s all you have one day is an essential key to survival. Learn those skills now. Put those systems in place now so that if one day, gardening is all you have, then you know exactly how to do it!

 

 

Products to Have on Hand Before an Emergency Happens

While having systems in place is extremely important, they can take awhile to put into action. Until then, you’ll need some vital products in place before an emergency happens. Here is a list that you should consider on your homestead.

  • Legacy Food Storage— If you don’t already grow your own food, and even if you do, having a sustainable food storage system on hand is ideal. We really enjoy the Legacy Food Storage emergency food systems that they offer. They also offer Grab-and-Go systems that are ideal if you have to pick up and leave your homestead in a crisis situation. The best part about Legacy? Their food storage is 100% NON-GMO and has a shelf life of 25 years. They even have gluten free options for those with sensitivities and allergies.These emergency food systems are prepackaged freeze-dried foods that you simply add water to in order to re-hydrate. These are great if you’re without power, on the go, camping, or just need a quick nutritious and delicious meal. Not only are they handy, but they taste excellent as well.
  • Herbal Remedies— Having your own healthcare system in place is so important in times of need. A vet might not be handy, or the hospital could be 50 miles away. Preparing ahead of time by having essential oils, a medical kit, and herbal remedies on hand could literally save your life. I have an emergency essential oils kit in each bug out bag, simply for the fact that unopened EOs last a lifetime, and opened EOs, if cared for properly, can have up to a 15 year shelf life!
  • Emergency Seed Vault— You might have that garden system in place, but what if you have to pick up and go and can’t order seeds again? That’s where an emergency seed vault comes in. These products are important to have on hand. The Legacy Premium Ultimate Storage Seed Vault provides seeds for 55+ varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The seed vault includes hardy, open-pollinated seeds that are able to be stored long-term and are dependable in all growing regions.
  • Water Filters and Storage— You won’t be able to run to the store every time you need water, so make sure you have that water system in place, or purchase water filters to keep in your home should the need arise. You might even consider purchasing a Mini Water Filtration System for when you’re on the go. Plenty of first-respondents keep these in their bags when working forest fires so that they don’t have to lug water bottles with them. They can simply drink from a nearby water source.
  • Cages and Extra Harnesses— If ever you have to leave your homestead in a hurry, you should keep these items on hand so that you can quickly pack up pets and any livestock that you can take with you.
  • Survival Kits— Survival kits are very valuable, whether it’s for the home or the car. Keeping these kits on hand by putting them together yourself, or by purchasing pre-made kits, will help put your mind at ease.
  • Bug-Out Bag— We have two bug-out bags ready to go if ever we should need them. It’s not always about government fall out. In fact, most of the time you’ll need a bug out bag due to a natural disaster. Create one for yourself, or purchase one pre-made like we did! These kits typically include 24-72 hour food and water rations, fire starters, medical kits, ponchos, a tent, a sleeping blanket, forestry tools, make shift camp fires, and more.
  • Potassium Iodide— I’m not a doom and gloom person, but I have a family to keep in mind, and in this day and age,  you can never be too careful. Potassium Iodate (Ki03) tablets will shield or block the thyroid and prevent it from absorbing radioactive Iodine, should a nuclear fallout or emergency occur. Perfect for a first aid kit or 72 hour kit, these tablets can protect those you love most. With an 8-year shelf life, you can purchase them now and have them on hand for at least 8 years.
  • Generator— You have the option to purchase a gas-powered generator or a solar generator. Should the electric go out and you need to run pumps, internet, air conditioning, heat, or more, you’ll thank yourself for putting this in place now.
  • Cast Iron— Cast iron will last you for generations if taken care of properly. Make sure you have a few skillets or a dutch oven on hand so that you can easily cook on the wood stove or over a campfire if you’re without electricity or on the go.
  • Wood Heat Source— I cannot tell you how many times we’ve lost power in the cold months and didn’t even pay much attention to it other than not having running water. With a wood heat source, we could still cook and live daily life, as if it were a regular day! Don’t have space for a woodstove? Try keeping a kerosene heater on hand.
  • Portable Propane Stove— We use these all the time, even if just to keep in the car when we need a quick warm lunch while working. But keeping a few of these in your car, or even on the homestead, that you can grab when necessary, will be a major life saver when you can’t build a fire.
  • Kerosene Lamps— Candles can be dangerous, and flashlights only last for so long. Keep a few of these lanterns on hand so that you can have plenty of light inside of your home when needed.

While we all hope that we will never find ourselves in a situation where we have to leave our homesteads abruptly,  the sad reality is that anything can happen. We have many of these systems and products already in place or on hand, and we expand and decrease where we see necessary as our lives and homestead change. If nothing more, make sure you have an emergency escape route and phone numbers in place and on hand at all times. Make sure the members of your household know what to do when a emergency arises on the homestead. And more than anything, make sure you are able to reconnect with loved ones, or have enough income on hand should you lose an additional income.

Putting these systems and products in place—whether you have to stay on the property, or leave the property—really take that stress off of you when wondering “what if”. And if I know one thing that’s for sure, it’s that if any stress can be relieved easily and before a situation arises, it’s well worth the investment.

 

The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion is Finally Here!

When I first started this herbal journey, I never thought I’d write a book about it—The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion. In fact, I still sit back and wonder how on earth I accomplished it. I am a constant learner, therefore feeling like I’m never an expert in much of anything. But after reading through the manuscript of my book months back, before I submitted it, I realized just how much herbal knowledge I really had soaked up over the years.

Let’s rewind to February 2017. 

At the beginning of 2017, I felt the urge to write a book. I had about five different books inside of me, all about majorly different things. A homestead friend of mine offered contact information to a Christian booking agency, and the journey began. I sent in my book ideas for my Christian living books, but I had other books rolling around inside as well—homesteading books.

I never did sign a contract with the Christian booking agency, but I haven’t completely tossed them to the side either. I still have those books inside of me, and one day, I know they’ll get written.

However, I did pitch my herb book to several homestead publishers.  The first publisher I pitched to loved the book idea, and even offered me a contract. Unfortunately, we just didn’t click, and they weren’t really in a financial place where I wanted to be with my contract. I sulked about it a bit, but then moved on. Months later, two other publishers contacted me interested in the book—Storey Publishing and Lyons Press.

Now, you’d think, of course she went with Storey. But you know, I didn’t. Insert giant gasp here.

I chose Lyons Press, and I’m so happy that I did.

We signed the contract the end of June (you can read the announcement here), and we had to get the ball rolling quickly. I had until September 1st to submit my 75,000 word manuscript and over 200 photos. Talk about a crunch. But this process taught me so much about myself as a person, as a writer, and the fact that good things can happen with little time.

I have to give a gigantic shout out to my editor, Holly Rubino. I don’t think she realizes what a blessing her work really is for the authors that she works with. When I received the edited manuscript back, I’ll admit, I was like, whoa hey, that’s a lot of edits, yo. But as I went through each and every one of them, I grew as a writer. Now, writing my second book, writing blog posts, putting together text for marketing—I do it better and more efficiently, and it’s all because of Holly. Of course, she’s most likely reading through this post right now and thinking to herself, that’s a run-on sentence, fix that structure!

I’m tired, Holly. Give me a break on this one, ha! Love ya!

I also have to thank Lyons Press, not only for the opportunity to write this book, but for believing in me so much that they’re allowing me to write a second book. More on that in the coming months!

Now, let’s get on to the book and more thanks and praise!

The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion is an in-depth book about growing, harvesting, preserving, and using herbs. From homemade potting mix, to putting those herbs to use in salves and on top of a roasted chicken. This book is the book I wish I would’ve had when I first started my herbal journey.

I had such a hard time trying to learn about herbs when I first got started on this herbalism adventure. I think I have at least fifteen books that are my “favorites”, but none that really “have it all” in there. I wanted to read a comprehensive book, without a lot of fluff, that I could reference back to frequently.

If we’re being honest, I didn’t just write this book for others like me, I wrote this book for me. With everything I have going on in life, I needed something I could reference to quickly. It’s hard to keep “all the things” stored in your brain! Your mind can only handle so much. If you don’t do or use something on a regular basis, you’ll soon forget it. And because we aren’t sick all of the time, I don’t necessarily always remember which herbs I might need should a need arise.

This is the book that is going to help me, and you, remember it all.

I tried to make this book not only educational, but inspirational. With several of our own stories sprinkled throughout the pages, I wanted to connect with you, the reader, on a raw and real life level. And I hope that I conveyed that well. I wanted to show you some of our own experiences, which is why I listed all of the herbs we use frequently, and then show you the history of the herb and how we use it here in our home and on our homestead.

One of the most exciting parts of the book, for me, was the foreword. It was an honor to connect with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, here in Virginia, back in 2016 while planning the 2017 Homesteaders of America conference. When he said he would love to write the foreword for my book, I about fell out of my chair. As a fellow author, I respected his enthusiasm, and I couldn’t wait to read the foreword. When I received it, I smiled the biggest smile ever. Joel got it. He gets the revolution of herbalism in the home and on the homestead—the freedom that comes with it.

Here’s an excerpt from his foreword:

I am not an herbalist, but I guarantee you I’ve become a fan, a disciple, of this kind of gentle, do-it-yourself healing. And I have a deep appreciation for the knowledge that herbalists bring to discussions about what ails us. The overriding word that kept coming to my mind as I read Amy’s manuscript was freedom. The whole homesteader and DIY movement screams freedom.

Freedom from the pharmaceutical companies. Freedom from the medical insurance malaise. Freedom from emergency rooms and hospitals (not completely, of course, but for many of the issues all of us face). The sheer magnitude of being freed up from these costly and debilitating conventions is enormous, and something that should attract every single person, whether you can have your own personal herb garden or not.

The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion is both comprehensive and enjoyable. Amy skates perfectly down the middle between science and art; what a joy to have a book like this as a resource for both beginners and old hands. If you’ve never ventured into the world of herbs, you’ll find this book drawing you in and before you know it, I’m sure you’ll be dipping your toe in this exciting pool of wisdom. The historical contexts are an enjoyable read by themselves.

From culinary to medicinal, from seat-of-the-pants to technical, and from homestead to urban condominium, this book offers solutions that can free you from enslavement to debilitating orthodoxy. Amy captures a wisdom that predates modern pharmacology by eons. We would do well to heed history’s successful track record. [Joel Salatin, The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion, foreword]

Thank you, Joel, for “getting it”, and sharing this herbal knowledge with others!

Throughout the book, some of the most important points or tips are highlighted. For example, not eating certain herbs because they could cause major issues or are poisonous. Or tips like a sample herb garden for the beginner. The easy to read terminology and navigation can be used by just about anyone!

In this book you’ll:
  • Learn how to choose the top 5 herbs for your own herb garden
  • Learn how to amend your soil to grow healthy and strong herbs
  • Discover the best way to grow herbs in your zone from seed to maturity
  • Learn how to harvest, dry, and store your herbs
  • Create salves, ointments, tinctures, syrups, soaps, lotions, body care products, and more
  • Learn which herbs work well with which meats (chicken, venison, beef, etc.)
  • Create farmhouse style delicious meals with your herb harvest
  • Learn the history of herbs and how I use them around the home and homestead
  • Learn how to use basic herbalism techniques with your pets and livestock
  • Create pet and livestock salves, tinctures, and syrups for common ailments
  • Learn how to make household cleaners and ditch the chemical ones
  • See what’s in my own medicine cabinet, the tools I use, and so much more!

Endorsements from Amazing People

“Finally! A herbal handbook for homesteaders, written by a homesteader! Amy is the real-deal and knows this topic inside and out. This is the book I could have used years ago, and I’m thrilled to have it now.” —Jill Winger, blogger at www.theprairiehomestead.com

“This book belongs in every home, whether a hundred-acre farm or an apartment in Manhattan. It’s a must-have for anyone wanting to live a more healthy and natural life.” —Stacy Lyn Harris, co-host of “The Sporting Chef” and “Rural Heritage”, author of Tracking the Outdoors In and Stacy Lyn’s Harvest Cookbook, and founder of www.gameandgarden.com

“. . . a valuable resource for the beginner and the novice who wish to seek natural remedies.” —Doug and Stacy Colbert, Off Grid with Doug and Stacy

“Herbalism can be confusing and overwhelming, but Amy gently guides you on the best herbs to plant and how to make salves, tinctures, and syrups for you and your family. The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion also shows you how to help your livestock, not just with herbs but with essential oils. My only regret? Not having an herbal companion like this when we first started our homesteading journey.” Ann Accetta-Scott, blogger at www.afarmgirlinthemaking.com

The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion makes learning herbs and their uses more straight forward than any other book in my library. This book leads you down the beautiful garden path of herbal goodness. Amy guides you in the use of the herbs for medicines, herbs for cooking, and which herbs are appropriate for our children, pets, and barnyard friends. The simple-to-concoct recipes section is my favorite. Amy has written a true herbal companion guide that I plan to keep on my kitchen counter for years to come.” Janet Garman, Timber Creek Farm

“Amy makes herbalism not only easy to understand, but also inspiringly charming. Easy methods, dosages, and instructions make herbalism doable, even for the average person.” —Shaye Elliott, author of Welcome to the Farm and Family Table and blogger at www.theelliotthomestead.com

The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion makes using herbs even more achievable! Filled with inspiring recipes and photographs, Amy presents the harmonious relationship between our homesteads and the herbs we can grow on them!”  —Quinn Veon, blogger at www.reformationacres.com

A Basket-Full of Thank You’s

There are a lot of people I need to thank for making this book even happen. First of all, some of the recipes in this book aren’t mine, or have been adapted from recipes from some of the most amazing homesteader’s I know.

Check out the soap recipes from Jan over at The Nerdy Farm Wife, or the lotion recipe from Quinn over at Reformation Acres. These two women are so incredibly talented with their herbal creations! They are also both amazingly talented authors.

There were also several photos throughout the book that weren’t taken by me, but were instead sent in from bloggers like A Farm Girl in the Making, Nitty Gritty Life, Lady Farmer, Homespun Seasonal Living, Grow Forage Cook Ferment, Common Sense Home, Learning and Yearning . . . and more!

To those of you who took the time out of your busy schedules to endorse and review the book, you rock my socks. Thank you so much for your sacrifice of time and self!

And extremely big basket-full of thank you’s to The Vintage Remedies Learning Center, who I continue to further my herbal education through. I couldn’t have (and wouldn’t have) written this book without taking their herbalist courses.

And to my friends and family who cheered me on, encouraged me when I was tired, and became my resting place when I needed to “let go” . . . you’re the real heros. A girl without friends and family is doomed for failure. I’m thankful to have some of the most amazing people in my life—and I never want to do life without them!

I hope that you enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I hope this book inspires you to take control of your everyday healthcare.

I hope that this book encourages you to confidently step forward into nature and herbalism.

And more than anything, I hope that this book starts a revolution through encouragement, inspiration, and entertainment. Because the reality is this—we’re taking back our food system and taking control of or own food. Isn’t it about time we take control of our health, too?

Until next time . . .

Get Your Copy of The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion here.

 

Expanding Our Farmhouse Kitchen Garden

When we bought our home, it was a foreclosure and a major fixer upper. We had no intention of creating a small little farmhouse out of our home, but here we are, killin’ it. There are chickens in the backyard, a kitchen garden in the front, and a few meat rabbits scattered about the property.

I’ve tried so many types of gardens on this property, and each one presented its challenges. Because we live on a steep hillside, gardening has been a challenge in and of itself for the entire time we’ve lived here. But in 2017 we created our very first official “Farmhouse Kitchen Garden”. . . and I fell in love. I fell in love with the way we laid it out. I fell in love with the mulch that kept down the weeds. I fell in love with the cattle panel arches that we created to grow vertically and save space.

In the 2017 farmhouse garden we planted:
  • 15 tomato plants (different varieties)
  • 14 bean plants
  • 12 cucumber plants
  • 6 pepper plants
  • a large patch of lettuce (seen above under the first arbor)
  • 1 row of peas
  • multiple patches of garlic
  • a too many herbs to count

From that, I was able to can multiple batches of spaghetti sauce, harvest multiple gallons of beans, pickle and can over 20 pints of pickles, feed on lettuce and other veggies through October, and make herbal products throughout the entire season.

This year, we’re expanding. In fact, we’re doubling our garden space from last year. Last year was our test run, this year, the gloves come off.

In order to expand the garden, we had to have 4 loads of fill dirt delivered so that we could fill in some holes in our backyard. We seeded the back yard (our “mini pasture) will pasture grass, so that we can create a deep root system to help hold in the hillside and offer a multitude of delicious forage for the chooks. After the fill dirt was laid out, we finally had space in the front to expand the garden (where the fill dirt had been).

Here’s what I’m planting in 2018:
  • 1-2 long rows of potatoes
  • 20-30 tomato plants (mostly canning tomatoes, with some heirlooms for eating)
  • 1 arbor of green beans
  • 1 arbor of cucumbers
  • 2 rows of peas
  • multiple new herb varities
  • 15-20 pepper plants (different varieties)
  • 1 large patch of lettuce
  • White Icicle radishes
  • Purple carrots
  • Multiple rows of garlic
  • Multiple rows of onions
  • . . . and lots of other things I haven’t decided on yet.

Talk about an expansion!

See what I’ve been up during this process in my most recent video on my YouTube channel.

 

Naturally Treating Chicken Mites with Essential Oils and Garlic

I’ve always prided myself in keeping a healthy and clean flock. Sure, we’ve had a few run-ins with chickens that we’re brought into the flock throughout our chicken keeping days (who hasn’t?), but we came out with more knowledge once we actually walked through those issues first-hand. Our first misadventure was lice. We had bought several French Black Copper Marans that, unbeknownst to us at the time, had lice. We had no idea what we were doing back then (years ago), and we learned, very quickly, to look over future sets of birds that we bought.

Surpassing that, we’ve never had any issues with external parasites in our flock. Well, until the mite infestation of early 2018.

The Virginia weather has been so crazy this year, that I’m sure it played a role. The other issue is that our flock hasn’t been free-ranging like they had been before, due to us having to re-grade and re-seed our backyard area. Certainly, we’re remedying that by feeding them a mostly raw diet with feed scraps and veggies, but we’re missing the point of the rotational grazing and free-ranging—it’s not just about the diet. The biggest reason we free-range is to keep down on internal and external parasites. Because chickens are rotating or free-ranging, they are less likely to be consumed by parasites, in general, because their diet is so widely diverse, and they are dispersed across the property rather than sitting in one place all day long.

Unfortunately, with the current property projects, our chickens have been lacking in the free-ranging department.

Whatever the case may be, I walked outside one morning this winter to discover that our chickens had, at some point, become mite magnets. Northern Fowl Mites, to be exact.

Mites are nasty little things. They feed on the blood, dead skin cells, and feathers of your chickens. Chickens most commonly get them from migrating birds. Because our chicken coop sits directly under the wooded area of our property, this shouldn’t have shocked me.

While there are natural preventative measures that you can take to help lessen the possibility of your chickens getting mites, sometimes, they simply don’t work. It takes a perfect storm for chickens to get mites. Let’s go over some ways to prevent them from getting mites, and then I want to share with you how we were able to naturally get rid of them, without any chemicals!

Ways to Naturally Prevent Mites

  • Dust Bathing Area. Your chickens need to have a dust bathing area available to them at all times—yes, even if it’s raining and snowing. This is their natural defense when external parasites arise, and the only way for them to naturally get rid of the parasites themselves. Make sure you have a bathing area that is either under-cover, or has a removable cover.
  • Add wood ash to their dust bathing area, as it is a natural mite deterrent and kills the external parasites when it comes into contact with them. I prefer adding wood ash to my dust bathing area, versus Diatomaceous Earth (DE), as it has a higher efficacy than DE when it gets wet.
  • Brewer’s Yeast or Cultured Dried Yeast in their feed. While this can be hit or miss, adding brewer’s yeast or cultured dried yeast to their feed can help deter mites, but it’s not always 100% effective if other factors are at play. You could also try adding garlic to their feed, but they’d have to consume a lot per chicken for the efficacy to be high enough that not a single chicken had a mite issue.

We could talk about adding herbs to the coop to deter mites, but the plain fact is, herbs in the chicken coop won’t deter mites. Mites are tiny parasites that hide in crevasses and bedding, so while they might not hang out in nesting boxes due to nesting box herbs, they will most certainly be hanging out on the chicken roost and ready for a feast when your chickens roost at night.

While nesting box herbs can most certainly help, mites can just bury deeper into feathers and onto skin to avoid nesting box herbs.

Mites can also hide in feed and other nutrient dense area that have waste or dust, if there’s a warm-blooded host around. So make sure you check throughout your feed bins regularly.

Natural Mite Treatment

So you’ve tried all of the natural preventatives, which are very few but easy to maintain, but you still have mites. I found myself in this same exact situation. While at first I looked at the sky and cursed this small parasitic filth, I took it as an opportunity to show you that mites really can be treated naturally and without chemicals. Perfect timing for my chicken book that’s coming out Spring 2019! More on that another day.

Let me show you how to get rid of chicken mites, naturally!

  1. Clean the Coop Thoroughly. Take out all of the bedding, burn it. Do not compost it. Simply toss it out, burn it, and be done with it. Sweep out the coop to ensure you got most, or all, of the little nasties. I did not add bedding back into the coop after cleaning (step 2), just the nesting boxes.
  2. Treat the Coop. Spray down your coop with eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, peppermint, basil, and cinnamon bark essential oils. All of these essential oils have been proven to have anti-parasitic effects when used topically. You can make this spray by placing 45 drops of each oil into a 16 oz. glass water bottle. Add your essential oils (eucalyptus and tea tree are important!). Fill the bottle up most of the way with water, then top off with about 1-2 tbsp of witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, or white vinegar. Spray down your entire coop, top to bottom, with this solution, concentrating heavily on dark areas and cracks in the roost and nesting boxes. After it dries, you can add straw back to your nesting boxes, but I would leave the coop floor bare and scoop out poop each day. Once the roosts are dry, dust them down with Diatomaceous Earth. Continue to dust the roosts with DE a couple of times each week.
  3. Dust Chickens with Wood Ash. The same wood ash that works wonders in the dust bathing area also works wonders with manually dusting your chickens. Take wood ask and dust each chicken individually, making a point to try and get it to touch the chicken’s skin. Concentrate on the neck, top of the tail where their oil gland is, the vent, and under the wings.
  4. Treat the Chickens. In a study done at Clemson University, mite infestations were successfully dealt with using the topical application of garlic. Use the below recipe once a day for two weeks, then twice a week for two weeks, to rid your chickens of mites. You can continue to dust your chickens with wood ash once a week, but it may not be necessary.

 

Chicken Mite Treatment Spray

20 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed (or 1 oz garlic extract)

45 drops eucalyptus essential oil*

30 drops lavender essential oil*

30 drops peppermint essential oil*

20 drops cinnamon bark essential oil*

20 drops melissa essential oil*

2 tbs White Vinegar (unless using garlic extract)

Water

 

Method:

  1. In a 16 oz. glass spray bottle, combine garlic (or extract) and essential oils. If using smashed garlic, allow it to sit for several hours before using.
  2. If using garlic extract, do not use white vinegar. Simply fill the rest of the bottle up with water 3/4 of the way full. If using smashed garlic, add vinegar.
  3. Shake the bottle well before each spray. Spray directly on the skin of the chicken, concentrating only on the neck, the vent area, and the top of the tail where the oil gland is. I also spray their feet and the base of the roosting bar so that when they lay back down on their feet and roost, the mixture gets onto their bellies. Do this treatment at night after they’ve gone to roost.
  4. Continue this treatment for two weeks, then twice a week for two weeks, to rid your chickens of mites. You can continue to dust your chickens with wood ash once a week, but it may not be necessary.

 

 

We were able to successfully rid our chickens of mites with essential oils and garlic! I hope that this method helps you as well. More than likely you’ve come across this blog because you’re currently having this issue, or what to know what to do if you have this issue. I’m here to tell you that it works!

 

* Need to buy essential oils? Get quality high-grade EOs from yours truly, here. These are the only oils I use on my homestead!

Or reach out to me if you’re interested in getting wholesale pricing on EOs.

 

> While you’re here, check out my new book The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion! Full of lots of great recipes for your home, barnyard, and family!

And be on the lookout for and announcement about my new book (about chickens) in the coming months!  You’ll find this recipe, and more, within its pages.

 

RESOURCES:

Topical Application of Garlic Reduces Northern Fowl
Mite Infestation in Laying Hens1
G. P. Birrenkott, G. E. Brockenfelt, J. A. Greer, and M. D. Owens
Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina 29634-0361
https://goo.gl/uD9C5w 

Organic parasite control for poultry and rabbits in British Columbia, Canada (essential oils)
Cheryl Lans and Nancy Turner
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3143080/

The Importance of Culling on the Homestead

Sometimes talking about sustainable farming means you have to talk about the hard stuff. The real stuff. The stuff that makes people look at you weird or think you’re a horrible person. One of those things is the process of a type of “natural selection”. And not in the evolution type of theory.

It’s the big “C” word that we don’t like to say, but that is absolutely necessary on the homestead, and that word is “cull”.

We can talk about herbs and natural preventatives all we want, all day long. And while I am a huge advocate of them, I understand that, in a sustainable farming set-up, I must cull if I want the best livestock I’ve ever had. It’s not just for my own sanity, it’s the necessary responsibility of a good farmer or homesteader.

There are many landrace breeds in livestock that you can own. Owning Icelandic chickens was one of the more interesting experiences for us (when we had them), because they truly were a landrace. They were different than our other chickens. They foraged differently. They slept differently. They interacted differently. Because for the last few centuries, they’ve had to. They’ve had to adapt to their surroundings. Not just when it comes to predators, but when it comes to diseases, parasites, breeding, and more.
People will often ask someone like Joel Salatin, “how do you worm your animals?” And he’ll chuckle and say, “well, we don’t.”

 

Most often, he doesn’t have to worm his animals due to the rotation of pasture and the method of allowing chickens to clean up the mess once the cows rotate. But if we want to get real here, we also know that if an animal is susceptible to getting worms—or any illness for that matter—then they aren’t worth keeping in a sustainable homesteading or farming lifestyle. And thus, the method of selecting or “holding back” the hearty livestock, and culling the rest. You then breed the hearty livestock that is not susceptible to issues, and you get a better group of livestock with each generation of selecting and holding back.

Let me just remind you that we’re talking about sustainable farming here, not just having a few chickens in the backyard. You’re perfectly fine purchasing a few chicks from the store every year if you’re just using egg layers. But in a sustainable farming business or practice, the game changes, drastically.

What Does “Cull” Mean?

We hear the word “cull” in the homesteading community, and we immediately think “kill”, but that’s just not true. Culling is the process of “getting rid of” something. By your own choice, that can mean to kill or process, reaping the benefits of meat for your family. Or it could mean to sell or give away. When you see people selling livestock at auctions or farm sales, this is an act of “culling” your extras or non-desirable livestock. It doesn’t mean the stock is bad, it just means you don’t need it, or it’s of no further use to you in your breeding program.

Your Stock’s Offspring is Stronger

It’s the same with chickens, cows, pigs . . . any livestock. If you have a chicken that gets away from predators like nobodies business, hatch her eggs. She’ll pass on those traits to her offspring. If you have a cow that’s exceptionally healthy when others in your herd haven’t been, breed her. She’ll pass those desirable genetics onto her offspring. All within reason, of course. 

 

We find, more often than not, that when we began hatching our own chicks from our own flock, our flocks became increasingly more healthy, alert, and sustainable. When we purchase hatchery birds, while still being extremely useful, they aren’t as sustainable as the birds we hatch.

Here’s an example—a few months ago my flock had mites. This is a first for us, we’ve never had them before in all the years of chicken keeping and using herbal preventatives. Our flock consists of several hatchery birds that we had purchased previously that summer (White Leghorns, to be exact). The remainder of the flock consists of about four birds that we hatched from our own previous stock, years ago.

As I inspected each chicken that was in my flock, I noticed that the bulk of the mites were on the leghorns, while there were very few on the chickens we had hatched in previous years. In fact, two of the chickens we hatched most recently from our own stock didn’t have mites at all.

This was not coincidental, and my experience in genetics and breeding allowed me to realize this. This was the act of breeding livestock that had been hearty and not susceptible to parasites.

Another example—one year I purchase chicks from the farm store after I had hatched chicks of my own stock from the day before. They all housed together. Several of the hatchery chicks died, none of the chicks we hatched from our own stock died. As they grew, we found the hatchery juvenile chicks to be more susceptible to becoming egg-bound, not foraging as much as the chicks we hatched, and other issues that could arise.

Whether it’s a chick or a cow, these things continue to remain in genetics, and it’s why many sustainable farmers choose not to bring outside livestock onto their property unless they absolutely have to for better genetic lineage.

Culling is Good Animal Husbandry

I can remember the first time I mentioned culling in a local chicken group—I got mobbed. For starters, they didn’t realize that in the farming world, culling doesn’t just mean to “kill” (see above). And secondly, we apparently live in a generation where everything should live for 1,000 years on a farm whether it’s useful or not. And while I get that (and I have many of those myself!), when push comes to shove, sometimes you have to do nature a favor and cull.

If you aren’t actively breeding your livestock, this doesn’t pertain to you. But if you are actively breeding your livestock, then it is your responsibility to not breed whatever animals you can throw together.

In order to maintain a sustainable environment, to keep good and healthy livestock, and to be a good livestock keeper, you must cull out the livestock that isn’t beneficial to your breeding program. Otherwise, you’ll run into genetic issues, animals that are more susceptible to diseases and parasites, or worse. Let’s not forget that eventually, you’re going to want to sell some of that offspring. Are you going to start putting out bad stock into the breeding pool for others?

Consider this before and after breeding before things get “worse”.

While we don’t like to talk about it, all of us that are on the road to sustainability know that it’s necessary. As you begin to breed and plan out your breeding programs, you’ll come to enjoy the process of connecting with your livestock and pulling out the desirable traits that you wish to see. It’s an incredible experience to be able to tailor your livestock herds and flocks to what you need on your own homestead.

So whether you’re breeding for sustainability, conformation, egg color and production, meat production, foraging ability, or just pretty livestock—consider all of these things before your next breeding adventure. And you just may like what nature has in store for you next time around!

 

 

Starting Herb Seeds and Homemade Potting Soil

It’s time to start planning my herb garden now that spring has finally arrived. Though the Virginia weather has been extremely unpredictable and dreary, I’m starting my seeds indoors, and showing you how to start your seeds indoors efficiently as well in this week’s new video. I’m also going to give you a super easy DIY potting soil mix!

Here are the top herb starting tips to keep in mind, along with the video and potting soil recipe.

Starting Your Herbs:

  1. Start with an organic potting soil, or use the recipe below.
  2. Pre-wet your potting soil that you’re going to use. This ensures that the soil doesn’t lose depth once it compacts.
  3. Firmly pack the soil into your seed pots, again, to reduce compaction and loss of soil.
  4. Place small indents into the soil with your finger, add a seed or two, and loosely cover with the soil.
  5. Place your pots on a cookie sheet or shallow pan, and always water from the bottom up.
  6. Place your seeds in an extra sunny place, a green house, or under grow lights for best germination and growth.

 

The Ultimate Potting Mix (homemade)

Use this mix to place in your pots when starting seeds indoors.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 6 parts compost
  • 3 parts soil (any soil from your property, or bagged soil)
  • 1 part sand
  • 1 part manure (rabbit or store bought)
  • 1 part peat moss

Mix together in a large trash can or container outdoors. Use as needed. When you’re ready to transplant your new seedlings into bigger pots, add some bone meal to the individual pots.

 

Watch How to Start Herb Seeds

Buy the Book

When God Pursues You

I woke up that morning with more heaviness on my heart. It’s not uncommon for me to have dreams, especially since I’m normally in and out of sleep constantly during the night. But this was just one more dream to add to the list over the last few weeks that had the same theme over and over again. What did all of this mean? 

I’m not one to dream about my family or myself. I often dream weird dreams that make no sense, and they remind me that I shouldn’t eat chocolate cake before bedtime. Yeah, those kind of dreams.

But these were different.

In the first dream, that I can remember, I was running away from something and taking my family with me (my husband and son). I was frantic, but they didn’t seem too bothered about it. They were calm and peaceful, and I was a frightened mess.

In the next dream, there was a new person. A person from my past. Someone I hadn’t seen in years. What on earth is this guy doing here, I thought to myself. But even he was pretty calm and collected.

Several dreams came and went, all of me and several people in my life (family or past friends) running and hiding somewhere. Trying to get away from someone or something.

But I can remember one of the final dreams vividly . . . because I was suddenly running all alone.

In this dream, all of these people were gone. I was the only one running. All by myself.

I woke up. And even though I knew it was just a dream, I sat there and wondered, why did everyone leave me? And even more so, what on earth am I running from?

I knew I was running from “someone”, but I could never figure out who or, maybe more importantly, why?

It upset me. This was torture. Never in my life have I ever had so many dreams one after the other after the other, with the same theme, different locations, random people, but very much all about me. I had come to the conclusion that I was either eating something totally wrong before I went to bed, or my mind was in a state of stress from all the things I’ve been doing. I mean, it’s not like writing two books in a year, planning a major homesteading/farming conference and fair, being a wife and mom and boss, weren’t overwhelming enough. Now, I had this weighing on me?

The next day was Sunday. Good. Time to go to church and start a brand new week all over again. Except recently I’d found myself thinking more about work and things I had to get done while listening to a sermon, rather than focusing on the sermon that my soul so desperately needed.

I shook my head a little bit, as if to wake myself out of the brain fog, and abruptly started paying attention to our amazing pastor and the sermon he’d prepared for us that day.

“…and sometimes we don’t think God is talking to us, but did you know that God can talk to us in dreams?”

Whoa hey, mister, get out of my head! I looked around, almost as if to see other people’s reactions. It always gets a little weird when we start talking about God talking to us. Our poor Vice President Pence was recently told that he had a mental illness because he believes the God of the universe speaks to him.

But it was just me. I was the only one looking around, as best I could tell. It was as if I was in a room and everyone else was standing still. It was as if God was talking directly to me, all of a sudden.

It wasn’t weird for me. I totally “got it”.

Call me crazy, but I’ve had plenty of dreams where I have gone to people I’ve dreamed about (and not the everyday average dream), told them about it, and had them fall apart and tell me how much they needed to hear about that dream right there in that moment. There have been other times where I’ve shared a dream and it didn’t make any sense at all, until years later.

But why, here, in this moment, was I so absent minded that these dreams could actually be for a reason? Dreams for a purpose? This torture of a dream that I’d been walking through, could it have been torture because I just wasn’t “getting it?” Because I wasn’t in-tune with what was happening?

You’d think, wouldn’t  you, that I’d go home and I’d “get it” and I’d pray before bed that night and everything would be grand. But no, I didn’t.

We went to lunch, we went home, and that evening I didn’t pray. In fact, I hadn’t been praying much at all in recent weeks. Instead, my thoughts were filled with things I needed to get done, things that didn’t get done, places I needed to be, things I needed to create and do and . . . and . . .

. . . and there seemed to be less and less time for God.

A week or so passed, and this trend continued. I’d find various quiet moments where I’d say a little prayer throughout the day. I’d even fit in talking with God like, “dear Jesus give me strength before I smack somebody,” type of talking to God. It was always on my time. It was always when it was convenient. And that was ok, right? I mean, God knows I love Him and cherish Him and, yeah, like, Jesus is my homeboy.

But no, no, it wasn’t good enough.

I wasn’t connecting with God anymore. I had become, what the Bible calls, “a babbling prayer.” (Matthew 6:7)

Nighttime came, once again. Another dream came, once again. But this time, it wasn’t anything I was running from. This time, it was something I was running towards, and it wasn’t something I should’ve been running towards. Something I had seen in a previous dream. A hindrance. An idea or minuscule thought that was leading me into comparison, disconnection and yet, unnecessary connection, and ultimately, a vivid image of being lost. An imagery of choosing one thing over the other. The imagery of being alone and vulnerable. The imagery of not allowing myself to be pursued in the dreams before it—of being pursued by God.

I opened my eyes, sat up in bed, and that’s when it all made sense.

I was being pursued by a God who doesn’t force Himself into your life. Who doesn’t force you to connect with Him and share your life with Him. But who pursues you, constantly, until you simply choose not to be pursued any longer.

And even then, He still calls to us. He still wants to draw near to us.

…he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us… [James 4:5]

He was quietly calling for me the entire time. Ushering me into His presence. Begging for His child to call out to Him, to spend time with Him. And all this child did was keep running. Running to the next project, running to the next job, running to the next batch of laundry that needed folding, running to the next chapter of the book that needed writing.

And eventually, with each new run, He got further and further away. I was aimlessly running further and further away, and I had no idea just how far I’d gotten. Like a kid in a store that runs away from a parent . . . I was losing it.

Scripture tells us that when we draw near to God, God will draw near to us (James 4:8). But even more so, scriptures tell us exactly how God speaks to us, how he draws near to us…

In the sermon that morning, a few Sundays back, our Pastor focused on this passage from the book of Job, and to set it all in place, I want to share it with you now.

For God does speak—now one way, now another—
    though no one perceives it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
    when deep sleep falls on people
    as they slumber in their beds,
he may speak in their ears
    and terrify them with warnings,
to turn them from wrongdoing
    and keep them from pride,
to preserve them from the pit,
    their lives from perishing by the sword.
[Job 33:14-18]

One of the most beautiful scriptures of the way God pursues us is Psalm 139, where it says, Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”  (Psalm 139:7-8) And the truth is exactly that—that no matter where we are, or where we go, God is right there pursuing us. He’s right there waiting for us to talk to Him; waiting for us to come unraveled into the hands of the Almighty Savior of the world, who never once asked us to do life all on our own. 

In fact, He knows we can’t do life all on our own . . . and He’s never wanted us to.

And so, I prayed. I prayed like I hadn’t prayed to Him in weeks . . . because, well, I hadn’t.

Imagine that—a woman who seemed so “put together” and on the right track in this Christian life, and even she was in the midst of focusing on so many things, other than God.

Friend, whoever you are, and for whatever reason you’re reading this, I want you to know that God is pursuing you. He has never stopped pursuing you.

He is pursuing your mind, and your heart, and quickening your spirit. Even when you are ever so close to God, even still, He pursues you. And even if you are so far removed from Him that you think, He could never take me back, I promise you, He’s already right there, pursuing you.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s us who need to stop running from the pursuit. Because this pursuit is one that you don’t want to run from.

Embrace it in all it’s glory, in all your mess. Because grace sure can be messy, but oh, how beautiful it is to finally be caught up by the God who relieves our burdens, gives us peace, and loves us no matter where we are.

And maybe, just maybe, He’s been speaking to you all along . . .

 

Want to listen to the sermon I talk about in this blog post?

Click here to go to the sermon page, and then click on the sermon titled 
“Struggling to Hear”

 

Book Review | The Suburban Micro-Farm by Amy Stross

I popped in and out of the secret bloggers group that day. Oh yes, we homesteaders have “super awesome” secret blogger groups where we network, talk girl talk, and live life to its fullest. However, this day, something really caught my eye.

I had been in the dumps about our upcoming garden this year. Very little space, and no idea how to utilize it to its fullest. I’ve gotten better over the years but I’m certainly no master of small-space gardening. That day, however, when a fellow blogger posted that her book was coming out soon, I had to have it. Why? Because it was all about small space gardening  for busy people!

“That’s me!”, I exclaimed.

If you’re a small space gardener, you just screamed the same thing right along with me.

I am so incredibly in love with Amy Stross and her book, The Suburban Micro-Farm, which is being re-published in full color, by Twisted Creek Press. Throughout the entire book I was saying, “yes, yes, yes!” This is the book I’ve been waiting to read all these years. I wish I would’ve found it sooner!

In these pages you’ll learn:

  • How to make your landscape as productive as it is beautiful
  • Why the suburbs are primed with food-growing potential
  • How to choose the best crops for success
  • Why you don’t need the perfect yard to have a micro-farm
  • How to use easy permaculture techniques for abundant harvests

If you’re ready to create a beautiful, edible yard, this book is for you.

I’m not necessarily an extremely skilled gardener, but I’m not a newbie either. This book really pertains to any type of gardener, and will help all of us learn how to turn that space we loathe into a beautiful oasis of food, fruit, herbs, and more! Read more about The Suburban Mirco-Farm by Amy Stross by clicking here.

More about Amy Stross:

Amy is an avid permaculture gardener, writer, educator, and author of The Suburban Micro-Farm, with a varied background in home-scale food production. At age 33, Amy fell ill with an autoimmune disease, which made working difficult. She quit her job as a high school teacher and began exploring healthy lifestyle choices as a way to cope.

The first step in her journey was to join a local organic farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program where she collected a weekly share of fresh produce. She thought the program was so cool that she joined the administrative team, and helped to run the program that feeds over 100 families per year.

In 2009 she received her permaculture design certificate, and discovered that having her hands in the dirt was good therapy. She went on to work as a professional landscape gardener and permaculture designer specializing in ecologically regenerative and productive landscapes. Her own (former) 0.10-acre, home scale micro-farm became a thriving example of a productive yet aesthetically pleasing landscape, including earthworks to take advantage of the water from the roof, berry bushes, cherry trees, herbs, and flowers; all in the front yard.

Amy also led the development of a community garden at her local university, where, with the help of community residents, she transformed a forgotten hillside into a food-producing forest. She employed many permaculture strategies for regenerating degraded soil, managing water, and improving biodiversity. For this work she was awarded the Urban Bounty Award for ‘building community and changing lives through the harvest of community gardening’.

She holds a Master’s Degree in education and always seeks to continue learning and improving her own knowledge of efficient and natural growing practices. Amy aims to find more ways to apply permaculture design to today’s world for a more interconnected and respectful relationship with earth.

Her current adventure includes transforming a new 3-acre property into a biodiverse micro-farm with her husband and mischievous farm cat. A food forest, water management projects, and foraging strips in the woods are already underway. She reaches hundreds of thousands of people with her adventures and expertise in small-scale permaculture gardening on her popular website, TenthAcreFarm.com. She shares her discoveries and ideas for bringing permaculture to suburban and residential areas, useful for both residents of these areas and designer-consultants who serve them.

Go check out The Suburban Micro-Farm Now!

Lavender-Lemon Pound Cake

My grandma use to make the best pound cake ever. She would even make her regular cakes more like pound cakes because she enjoyed eating them plain without icing. My love for cake probably stems from her, but it also spoiled me—as an adult, I just don’t like fluffy, light cakes. Give me the dense, thick pound cakes, and you’ll be my best friend forever. Pound cakes aren’t for sissies . . . they’re for farmers. I especially love the simplicity of this old-fashioned lemon pound cake, with a hint of lavender and a drizzle of sweetness.

You can most certainly omit the lavender if you don’t like a bit of floral in your sweet treats. My husband and son don’t care for the lavender, so I make one with lavender for me, and one without lavender for them! The lemon pound cake alone is delicious!

 

Lavender Lemon Pound Cake

  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (or raw evaporated cane juice)
  • 2 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2–3 tsp lavender buds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Flour a loaf or bundt pan. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and eggs. Combine well, then add 1–2 tsp of lavender buds and mix well.
  4. Fold in flour in small batches until it’s all well combined. Do not over mix.
  5. Pour batter into loaf pans or bundt pan. Bake for 45–55 minutes, or until a knife or skewer comes out clean when poked. If the cake begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil.
  6. Allow cake to cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then remove and continue cooling on wire rack until cooled completely.

For the drizzle:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 4–5 tsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest

Method: 

Combine all ingredients until a thick but liquid mixture comes together. Drizzle over warm loaf so that it begins to soak into the cake.

You can find this recipe, and more, in my book The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion!

 

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

A couple of years ago—after fighting with digestive issues that I couldn’t explain—I realized that I had a gluten/grain sensitivity. Not necessarily celiacs disease, but a major sensitivity to gluten and certain grains. I’m a stubborn ol’ thing, so I tortured myself for two years before almost completely eliminating gluten from my diet. I still haven’t completely eliminated gluten, but I’m about 90% gluten free!

As you can imagine, especially for a girl who likes sweets, I needed to find some amazing and tasty gluten free recipes that could get me through the moments I had a sweet craving.

Enter side-stage, chocolate chip banana bread.

Dear sweet baby Jesus, it is divine. But let me warn you that you’ll probably sit down and eat the whole loaf by yourself, so if you’re looking to lose weight, it’s not the thing to make!

This recipe is incredibly easy to make. No need to even whip out the stand mixer, you can make it by hand if you want!

Let’s get started on this amazing goodness…

Print Recipe
Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Prep Time 5
Cook Time 30
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 5
Cook Time 30
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. Oil loaf pan with butter, ghee, or oil
  3. Mash bananas, combine with almond butter, eggs, vanilla extract until completely combined.
  4. Add coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, until just combined (don't over mix!)
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Pour batter in pan and smooth out evenly.
  7. Cook for 30-40 minutes or until center is done with tooth pick. Looks can be deceiving, so make sure you don't over cook it and check it with the toothpick, even if it still looks jiggly!
  8. Once done, take out and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully remove from pan and place the loaf on a cooling rack.
  9. Once mostly cooled, cut into individual pieces and serve.
Recipe Notes

• Lasts for about 3 days, if you don't eat it all first!

 

ENJOY!!

 

Herbs for Homestead Bees

The buzzing of pollinators in a garden—it’s a sound every gardener loves to hear in the spring. It means healthy plants and vegetables will soon arrive, and our little bee friends are helping us along the way. Bees are essential to any homestead. In fact, they are like tiny herbalists that create natural concoctions that benefit us. They give us honey, which is antiseptic, antibacterial, and has healing properties. They give us beeswax to make our own salves and ointments. They give us propolis to help with colds and allergies. And more than anything, they pollinate our plants, gardens, and orchards. We couldn’t do what we do without bees. And it’s not just honeybees. There are other pollinators like carpenter bees and bumblebees. And all bees love herbs.

If you’re on the herbalism journey on your homestead, you may be wondering how in the world we can help pollinators herbally. From planting herbs that attract pollinators and enhance honey flavor, to using herbal cleaners in our bee hives, we can absolutely utilize herbs in our homestead apiaries. Here’s how…

We can start by attracting pollinators and offering attractant herbs to our bee hives. There are a lot of different herbs that will attract pollinators to your homestead. And if you already have beehives, planting these herbs will help ensure that your bees have enough to forage during the warm months.

Herbs That Attract Pollinators

  • Lemon Balm
  • Chives
  • Rosemary
  • Borage
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Comfrey
  • Thyme
  • Echinacea
  • Feverfew
  • Yarrow
  • Dandelion
  • Oregano
  • Savory
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Chamomile
  • Red Clover
  • Motherwort
  • Marjoram
  • Catnip
  • Hyssop
  • Bee Balm

Preparing and Cleaning Your Hive Boxes

When preparing to take on a new hive, or just generally cleaning out your boxes from an old hive, there are a few herbs you can use to promote general health and keep pests, like ants, away from the hive.

Wash down the hive with the herbal solution recipe below, then rub down the inside of the hive with sprigs of rosemary, thyme, catnip, and mint. You can even lay these herbs on the inside top cover of your hive to deter insect pests.

New Hive Cleaner

Use this cleaner to clean out a new bee hive before adding your bees.

  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Catnip
  • Sage
  • Peppermint
  • Distilled water
  • Witch hazel

Method:

  1. Add handfuls of fresh herbs (or a tbsp each of dried herbs) to a 16-oz glass spray bottle.
  2. Fill bottle three-quarters of the way with distilled water, and fill the remainder with witch hazel.
  3. Allow bottle to set for six hours before using.
  4. Shake well, then spray inside of hive thoroughly while cleaning. Wipe well.

 

Encouraging New or Weak Bee Hives

When taking on a new hive that could be stressed, or when dealing with a weak bee hive, offering your bees an herbal tea will help boost energy and general health. This is also a great tea to give during harsh weather (drought or excessive rain), or before the winter months set in.

Herbal Bee Tea

The herbs in this bee tea solution offer so many benefits and good food for your bees. It’s a mixture that can be kept on hand (dried) and made up quickly when needed to stimulate the bees’ immune systems and metabolism. To strengthen a weak, new, or swarm hive, offer it to your bees every day for 1–2 weeks. If the bees don’t take the tea, stop offering it. It means they have enough to forage or simply aren’t interested or in need.

1 tbsp each:

  • Echinacea
  • Peppermint
  • Chamomile
  • Yarrow
  • Stinging Nettle
  • Lemon Balm
  • Thyme
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sage
  • 4 cups distilled water
  • 1/2 cup raw honey

Method:

  1. Make your dried tea mixture by mixing all of the herbs in a large mason jar or storage jar. Cap tightly, label, and store in your pantry until ready to use.
  2. When ready to use, bring 4 cups of distilled water to a boil. Remove from heat and add 3–4 tsp of dried tea to hot water. Allow to steep for 5–7 minutes.
  3. Add honey once mixture is lukewarm. Mix well.
  4. Pour tea into a glass jar and add to the feeder area of your hive (entrance feeders work well). Remove the tea after 24 hours, as your tea will lose its medicinal potency after sitting for 12–24 hours.
  5. Offer for general bee health every 1–2 months.

Encouraging Herbal Foraging

It’s hard to think that we could spend time and money on our bee hives, only to have them killed off because a neighbor or local industrial farm has sprayed chemicals on their property. For this reason, we need to encourage our bees to forage on our homestead. This is accomplished by planting various herbs, vegetables, and flowers right around the hives themselves. This is why many homesteaders and farmers place their hives directly in their gardens—not only because it helps the homesteader pollinate their garden, but because it helps the bees stay close to home.

Choose herbs from the list mentioned in this section to encourage bees to stay close by. If given enough plants, they will forage around home first. This also helps to ensure a healthy hive by offering plenty of plants during the spring and summer. Plant perennials (like echinacea, lemon balm, yarrow, and sage) that come back bigger and stronger each year so that your pollinators can get started as soon as possible each spring.

Herbal Honey Enhancers

Try planting these herbs nearby to enhance honey color and flavor:

  • Anise-hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)—Bees feast on hyssop and it can be one of the top nectar producers for bees.
  • Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)—Produces a white to amber honey, enhances overall bee health.
  • Marjoram (Origanum vulgare)—Gives honey an aromatic scent and flavor.
  • Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)—Gives honey a minty fresh flavor.
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)—Offers a slight herbal taste and honey of a dark amber color.

 

All in all, bees and herbs go hand in hand. Herbs are so aromatic and delicious, and bees thing so too! Not only can they help you, the homesteader, but they can also help the original homestead herbalists—the bees!

You can learn more about herbalism in my book, The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion, where I talk about growing, harvest, preserving, and using herbs on your homestead, in your home, and for your family and livestock.

xoxo
Amy

photo credits:
photo 1, 3 4, & 6— Kaylee Richardson of The Farm on Quail Hollow
photo 5— Carina Richard-Wheat of The Rustic Mod

 

Old Fashioned Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls. My goodness, you can make them so many ways. Regular, raspberry, blackberry, peach….help  me, Jesus.

These are my go to cinnamon rolls. I’ve tried so many other recipes (even the Pioneer Woman’s, *gasp*), but this one, this one takes the trophy every.single.time.

I never measure things, and neither do the old-fashioned Mennonites. This recipe was actually adapted from an old recipe that a beautiful Mennonite woman gave to me. I had to learn, quite often, how to adapt recipes that I tried at home when trying to replicate Mennonite recipes from the cute little Mennonite store I used to work at. But, it has made me a better cook and baker because of it!

Old Fashioned Cinnamon Rolls

Dough Ingredients:

1/2 cup warm water
2 Tbs of yeast
  • Stir together in small bowl (or your stand mixer) and let sit while mixing the rest of the ingredients.
1/2 cup salted butter
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
6-7 cups flour
  1. Heat butter, milk, and sugar in a saucepan until butter is melted and sugar and salt are dissolved. Let rest until lukewarm. I actually just let it set for about 5 mins and then go ahead and use it.
  2. In a stand mixer, combine butter/milk mixture and yeast mixture.
  3. Add 6 cups of all purpose flour, slowly. Your dough should be a little sticky, but still firm. You can also knead by hand. If dough is still too sticky, then add up to another cup of flour in half cup increments. Knead until smooth and elastic
  4. Put dough in a greased bowl and lightly grease top of dough. Let rise for about 45 mins or until doubled. I like to use a heating pad to speed up the process, or I put the bowl on top of a towel over the burner that I was using to melt the butter mixture. Makes it rise quicker.
While the dough is rising….

FILLING:
1 stick butter
sugar
cinnamon

  1. Set out 1/2 to 1 stick of butter to soften while dough rises.
Once dough has risen….
  1. Once dough is risen, divide dough in half and roll each half out into a ½” to 1″ thick rectangle. If you’ve done it right, you’ll notice that your dough is very light and airy feeling as you roll it out.
  2. Spread 1/2 of the stick of butter onto the dough.
  3. Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar and cinnamon across the butter layer.
  4. Starting from a long side, begin rolling your dough tightly into a long cinnamon roll log.
  5. Once rolled, take a piece of thread (or use a sharp knife) and cut ¾” to 1” cinnamon rolls, depending on what size you’d like. Place in a buttered pan (I use 4+ round cake or pie pans, but you could use a rectangle baking dish). Let rise for approx. 15 minutes and then bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes OR until tops are start to color around edges. You do not want your cinnamon rolls brown on top. As soon as they start to turn, take them out. This keeps them extra moist. Allow to cool until warm to the touch, then add frosting while still warm.
  6. You can use the other half of the dough to make more cinnamon rolls, or you can use them as dinner rolls.Now comes the best part…the frosting!

Frosting. It’s the best part of cinnamon rolls, isn’t it? This frosting is super simple and easy.

FROSTING:
3 Tbs soft butter
4-6 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp milk

  1. Stir together all ingredients, starting with just 4 cups of p. sugar.
  2. Add sugar gradually until frosting is “spreadable”.
  3. Frost rolls when they are still warm but not too hot. This allows the frosting to start melting, but still keeps frosting on top of rolls.

I hope that you and your family enjoy this recipe as much as my little family has!!

 

How to Treat Ear Infections with Herbs

Ear infections are one of the most common ailments in children under the age of 8. Even teenagers and adults can get ear infections, though it’s less common. Unfortunately, not only are ear infections the most popular ailments in our younger generations, but they are also one of the main causes of overuse of antibiotics. In fact, most ear infections will clear up within 24-72 hours after the first symptoms. Parents who take their children to the doctor to get an antibiotic often believe that the antibiotic is what cured their child, when the reality is that the ear infection, more likely than not, began clearing on its own. It takes 24-48 hours for an antibiotic to begin working. It can take the same amount of time for the symptoms of an ear infection to begin subsideing on its own.

I get it, though. I’m a mom. I think I ran to the doctor for almost every single ear infection that my son had when he was little. There were a few times that I didn’t, but other times, I was just worried. Worried moms, that’s never a good thing!

Back then, I wasn’t confident enough in my herbal knowledge to help the issue, and so, I turned to modern medicine. But that’s the beauty of modern medicine—peace of mind. And when in doubt, I encourage you to heed your instincts, even now!

However, there are plenty of other ways to heal an ear infection and help ease symptoms. We’ll go over a few of those right after we understand why and how we get ear infections.

Preventing Ear Infections

Before we can treat an ear infection at home, there are some important things we have to take into consideration. Prevention is the number one place we need to begin.

Most children who have an ear infection get one because of immature Eustachian tubes. Little ones have the smallest tubes, and when they become inflamed during a cold or teething, fluid and/or bacteria can get trapped in the Eustachian tubes and cause pain, inflammation, and ultimately, an ear infection.

Most little ones get ear infections from inflammation and blocked tubes, and during (or right after) having a cold or an allergen inflammation. We can prevent ear infections during this time by first trying to prevent the cold and flu. You can do this by secondarily administering herbal remedies and supplements through your breast milk if you are a nursing mom. Try making an elderberry and astragalus syrup to not only help prevent you from getting a cold, but baby as well. Never give the syrup to infants, however, the syrup is safe for most toddlers.

You can also prevent an ear infection by aiding the draining process of fluid in the middle ear.

These practices may include:
  • Making sure your baby or little one is angled upright (when sick) while taking a bottle or nursing, as well as when they are sleeping, if at all possible. For older kids, propping pillows underneath of them while napping or sleeping is a must. For infants, allowing them to nap and sleep in a swing will be greatly beneficial.
  • Taking your children for chiropractic care. Chiropractic care allows the lymph nodes and channels throughout the body to drain more easily. It can also reduce inflammation and swelling. Find a trusted pediatric practitioner in your area.
  • Massage Therapy, focused around the lymph node areas, will help the body relax and drain the system of any excess fluid and sinus build up and blockage during colds and flus.

Prevention is your first step to helping your child with an ear infection. These simple methods can help rid the possibility of ear infection for your child, and even for yourself.

Different Types of Ear Infections

Let’s face it. Sometimes we forget to prop our kids up. Sometimes we forget to prevent cold and flu with herbs and vitamins. So now, our kid has an ear infection, and that’s ok! But what type of ear infection do they have? You may never know just by watching your child, but in many cases, especially when we practice the “wait”, we can know exactly what type of ear infection our child has…if it’s even an ear infection at all.

Here are the different types of common ear infections, and one other possibility:

  • It’s not an ear infection at all. Yep, that’s right. I could just be swelling and inflammation that will work itself out. The actual presence of puss and fluid never happens. Your child is just uncomfortable from inflammation in the sinuses and ear canal. This is a major cause for children pulling at their ears and never having an ear infection.
  • Acute otitis media (AOM)—this is the most common ear infection. This infection affects part of the middle ear and causes fluid to be trapped behind the eardrum. It can cause an earache and a fever, but it will typically resolve in a matter of 2-3 days.
  • Otitis media with effusion (OME)—this can be seen as an ear infection, but sometimes it’s just trapped fluid. The fluid never goes away after the original ear infection has subsided. Some children never have any symptoms with it. Or, they may just have discomfort on a regular basis because the fluid is trapped. We often think it’s a reoccurring ear infection, when in actuality, it’s just fluid build up.
  • Chronic otitis media with effusion (COME)—this ear infection is the most dramatic and may require medical attention. COME makes it harder for children to fight off other infections that may be lurking in the body because they are in a constant state of having an ear infection. Reoccurring infections can happen every couple of weeks due to fluid build up over an extended period of time. This type of infection needs medical attention.

I always encourage parents to practice the wait. Give your child 3-4 days after symptoms begin to see if they begin to subside on their own if you don’t want to take the herbal route. If the child isn’t better after a few days, it’s time to got to the doctor.

However, treating the ear inflammation or infection from the very beginning with herbal remedies is your best bet, and can prevent further, more dramatic, types of ear infections from occurring and reoccurring.

Whatever you do, I encourage you to hold off on antibiotics as long as possible.

The overuse of antibiotics truly takes hold of our children and their future generations when we overuse complicated medicines for simplistic ailments. Five in every six children in the United States will experience an ear infection during their childhood. According to Healthy People 2020, 77.8% of pediatric visits for ear infections result in antibiotic prescriptions. The overuse of antibiotics creates superbugs and antibiotic resistance in our communities.

Why are we consistently prescribing antibiotics for an ailment that will more than likely resolve itself in the same amount of time it takes for an antibiotic to begin working?

Besides the fact that we’re abusing antibiotics, let’s consider that antibiotics still do relieve pain or the stress of an ear infection. Only herbal remedies or pain relievers can do that. So why not kill treat the ailment and give natural pain and inflammation relief all at once?

Herbal Treatment for Ear Infections

There are a few different ways we can treat ear infections at home, and all of them are completely healthy and beneficial to your little one. The best way to treat efficiently and effectively is at the first sign of symptoms. Once you know, for sure, that your child (or you!) has an ear infection, immediate treatment methods should begin.

One of the best ways to treat an ear infection is with garlic, mullein, calendula, St. John’s Wort, lavender, and other anti-inflammatory and antibacterial herbs. You can create an herbal oil remedy (recipes below) to place inside of the ear. However, if the ear drum is ruptured do not use this oil inside of the ear. Rub it on the outside of the ear and behind the ear.

Basil Essential Oil is also a great remedy when placing the diluted oil around the outside of the ear canal and behind the ear. You can also put it in an ear oil recipe. Never place essential oils inside of the ear canal undiluted or without being in a recipe (like the one below).

You can certainly give pain reliever, like tylenol or advil, and offset the liver toxicity by offering milk thistle (dose according to weight). But you’ll find that the herbal oil itself will help relieve a lot of that pain.

Use one of these simple recipes for earaches and infections. You can make it in advance and store it in a cool, dark place for 6-8 months, or you can make it on demand when needed.

Again, do NOT place these remedies inside of the ear if there is a ruptured ear drum.

Infant and Pediatric Ear Infection Oil

Dose: 3-5 drops per application (in or around ear) every 2-3 hours until symptoms resolve
Age: 2 months and older

Ingredients:
7 grams chamomile flowers, dried
7 grams garlic, dried
2/3 cup avocado oil

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. Once it reaches 250 degrees, turn it off and keep the door closed.
  2. Place herbs in a mason jar and cover with avocado oil. Immediately place in oven once oven has been turned off.
  3. Leave the jar of herbs and oil in the oven for 2-3 hours, infusing the oil with the medicinal herbs.
  4. Remove the jar from the oven and strain the oil into a sterile 4 oz dropper bottle. Make sure you squeeze all of the oil out of the herbs!

 

Child and Adult Ear Infection Oil

Dose: 3-5 drops per application (in or around ear) every 2-4 hours until symptoms resolve
Age: 9 months and older
This oil is great for older children and is more efficient because of the addition of basil essential oil.

Ingredients:

7 grams chamomile flowers, dried
9 grams garlic, dried
4 grams calendula flowers, dried
1 cup avocado oil
48 drops sweet basil essential oil
2 tsp raw or manuka honey (*optional)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. Once it reaches 250 degrees, turn it off and keep the door closed.
  2. Place herbs in a mason jar and cover with avocado oil. Do not add basil essential oil. Immediately place in oven once oven has been turned off.
  3. Leave the jar of herbs and oil in the oven for 2-3 hours, infusing the oil with the medicinal herbs.
  4. Remove the jar from the oven and strain the oil into two sterile 4 oz dropper bottles. Make sure you squeeze all of the oil out of the herbs!
  5. Add basil essential oil to the strained oil liquid and mix well. if using honey, add while mixture is still warm. Stir until completely mixed.
  6. Shake well before using.

*Additions: Raw honey and manuka honey are great additions to this remedy. You can

 

*These recipes and more can be found in the Vintage Remedies Confident Family Herbalist course.

 

 

Resources:

Healthy People 2020. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Kristinsson, K., Magnusdottir, A., Petersen, H., & Hermansson, A., (2005). Effective treatment of experimental acute otitis media by application of volatile fluids into ear canal. The Journal of Infectious Disease. 191:1876-1880.

Lieberthal, A. S., Carroll, A. E., Chonmaitree, T., Ganiats, T. G., Hoberman, A., Jackson, M. A., … & Schwartz, R. H. (2013). The diagnosis and management of acute otitis media. Pediatrics131(3), e964-e999.

Rosenfeld, R. M., Vertrees, J. E., Carr, J., Cipolle, R. J., Uden, D. L., Giebink, G. S., & Canafax, D. M. (1994). Clinical efficacy of antimicrobial drugs for acute otitis media: metaanalysis of 5400 children from thirty-three randomized trials. The Journal of Pediatrics124(3), 355-367.

Soni, A. (2008).Ear Infections (Otitis Media) in Children (0-17): Use and Expenditures, 2006. Statistical Brief #228. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

Dr’s Urged to Stop Using Antibiotics for Ear Infections — https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/02/25/172588359/pediatricians-urged-to-treat-ear-infections-more-cautiously

Antibiotics are often ineffective for ear infections — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072563/

Free UPS Shipping on all Footwear at Tractor Supply. Online Only. Shop Now!

920x60-2

follow me @amy.fewell

*Disclaimer: While I am an herbalist, and herbalism is not regulated by the FDA, I am not a medical doctor. The recipes and tips on this website are geared towards those who want to live a more natural lifestyle.
Please use all herbal remedy recipes on this website only after doing thorough research in regard to your own health needs, and after seeking medical attention if necessary. 
*Affiliate links: I may receive a commission on some of the links on this website. It is of no additional cost to you.

Copyright © 2018 · Theme by 17th Avenue