Quick and Easy Prepper Backpack and Tools

We aren’t doom and gloom people. Let’s just start with that.
However, we are smart and educated, and we know that at any time a natural disaster, government fall out, civil war, or nuclear warfare could happen. That’s just something that’s possible anywhere in the world. Therefore, we choose to be prepared to a certain extent, without being fearful.
You won’t find rooms full of 5 gallon food storage buckets in our home, but you will find two backpacks and an in home prepper kit that sit in an easily accessible location. Because the reality is, whether you have to pick up and go, or you are trapped in your home until help comes or water resides, being prepared is just plain smart.
There are some things in life that are just easier to have other people do for you. A prepper bag is great, but it can be extremely expensive to put together a prepper backpack. Not to mention, time consuming. And, where do you even begin?
In today’s busy world, I wanted to take care of this portion of life for my family, but I didn’t even know where to begin. So I reached out to our friends at Preparewise Products, and they helped me out tremendously.
Even more than that, however, I was able to purchase a product that I needed, but I was also able to add my own products into the kits. We’ll go over that after we walk through the kits we received.

The Bug Out Bag

The first kit we received was the Premium 2-Person Survival Off Grid Bug Out Bag. What a lifesaver, and a money saver. There were things in this bag that I didn’t have to buy or pay shipping on for multiple things. It can take a lot of time to prepare a bug-out bag, and a whole lot of money. You can save hundreds of dollars by ordering (free shipping!) this pre-made bug-out kit.
Many of the products within the kit are good, quality products. The tool kits alone would cost you a fortune. There are over 30 different products in this kit, including food and water rations for two people.

Here’s what it includes

  • 1 – Tactical Backpack with built-in Water Pouch
  • 1 – CREE Tactical Flashlight
  • 1 – 174 Pc First Aid Kit
  • 2 – Food Bars – 3600 Calories
  • 12 – Water Pouches
  • 3 – AAA Batteries
  • 1 – Work Gloves
  • 1 – Fire Bracelet
  • 1 – Credit Card Knife
  • 2 – ThermaSave Sleeping Bag
  • 2 – HeatStore Blanket
  • 2 – Hand Warmer
  • 2 – Vinyl Poncho
  • 1 – 2 Person Dome Tent
  • 2 – Light Stick
  • 1 – 5 in 1 Survival Whistle
  • 1 – 5mm x 50′ Rope, Olive Green
  • 1 – Duct Tape
  • 1 – Work Gloves
  • 1 – Multitool Knife
  • 1 – Playing Cards
  • 1 – GI Can Opener
  • 1 – Emergency Preparedness Guide
  • 1 – Pencil
  • 1 – Weatherproof Zip Bag
  • 1 – Candles-6 Pack
  • 1 – Waterproof Matches
  • 1 – GI Can Opener
  • 1 – Mountain Meal Mess Kit
  • 2 – ThermaFuel
  • 1 – Bobcat Stove
  • 2 – Spork
  • 1 – Folding Saw
  • 1 – Folding Shovel
It was an incredible relief off of my shoulders to be able to order one of these (it’s a 2 person kit!) for us, and still have room to add a few more things if necessary. Which of course, I did. We have 2 backpacks that we keep, because we also have our child. But this backpack is superior in all ways. It is durable, efficient, and let’s face it—we saved hundreds not only in product, but in time and shipping as well. I wouldn’t have even thought of half of these things for a bug-out bag.

So what did I add to the bag? Glad you asked…

  • Essential Oils Kit
    While a first aid kit is fine and dandy, what about the hard reality that there could be zero medical care within a 20 mile walking radius? What then? With the Family Essentials Kit, there are my top 10 go-to EOs included in the kit—Lavender, Lemon, Peppermint, Melaleuca, Oregano, Frankincense, and blends like Deep Blue, Breathe, DigestZen, and On Guard. These oils have different things that they help with, obviously, but overall it supports the immune system, inflammation, anti-septic, respiratory, natural purifier, natural antibiotic. I also add two other very important EOs to this kit that I have to buy separately—Helichrysum (stops bleeding) and Thyme (infections/bacteria). This is a great package to just purchase, drop into your bag, and leave it alone. EOs can last up to 15 years or more, what a beneficial thing to have in a bug out bag! If you’re serious about prepping, you can learn more about these oils HERE and get discounted pricing through me.
  • Medications & Vitamins — Remembering to take your meds and vitamins with you is essential. Thankfully, we aren’t on any medications. But we do take vitamins, and when in a crisis situation, you want vitamins when there’s no telling when you’ll be eating next.
  • Lifestraw Mini-Filtration System — Because clean water is serious business.
  • Personal things that help us feel comfortable, like little candies, extra clothing, soap bar, brush, feel good items we can bring with us that are small.
  • Homemade Bug Spray — I use the THIS repellent blend and apply directly to the skin. It’s a lifesaver, my friends, and all  natural, too.
  • Personal and Feminine Hygiene — Toothbrush, mouthwash, feminine hygiene products like the Diva Cup, etc.
  • Probiotics — Preparewise has a sister company called Silver Fern Brand, and we were able to get some of the most amazing Probiotics I’ve ever tried. We use these probiotics often, and in fact, they saved us from one of the nastiest stomach bugs we’ve ever had not that long ago.
  • An Extra Back Pack — We love the backpack that the kit came with, but we do keep an extra one just in case we need to split the backpack up. While the backpack is durable, it’s heavy with all of the product in it for two people. We bought military grade backpacks for this reason. This was a personal preference on back back brand and product, but these military grade ones that we bought are over $35 each. We bought 2 of them. They are more durable that the backpack that came with the kit, but the kit backpack is still fabulous.
We could add other things to this list, but ultimately, now that the necessities are taken care of, you’ll really need to adjust the bags to your own family. The most important things are already in the bag, now, you just tailor it to your personal needs.

The Bug In Kit

While the bug out bag is amazing, and we could use it for a bug-in situation, I really wanted to find a good bug-in kit as well. What if we have to bug in and THEN bug out. Yikes, I don’t want to use my bug out kit up before I even have to bug out!
In this case, the Disaster Sanitation Survival Bug In Kit  really helped me out a lot. Not only that, but it’s a great product to have in a disaster relief situation. This product is great for people who live in city dwellings (we don’t) and locations that are often scorn by natural disasters.

Here’s What It Includes

  • 1 – Extra Sturdy Toilet Box
  • 1 – Toilet Sanitation Pack
  • 1 – Folding Aluminum Bobcat Stove
  • 6 – ThermaFuel 4-Hour Burn Canisters
  • 1 – 1 L Tristan BPA Free Bottle
  • 1 – 15 Inch Pry Bar
  • 1 – 4 in 1 Emergency Tool
  • 1 – Dynamo Radio/Flashlight/Charger
  • 1 – 6-Pack Emergency Candles
  • 1 – Waterproof Match Set
  • 2 – GI Can Opener
  • 1 – 4 pack Spork Utensils
  • 1 – Folding 1 L Water Container
  • 5 – Water Purification Tablet w/instructions
  • 1 – 60 pc. Advanced First Aid Kit(15 bandages 3/8″x1.5″, 15 bandages .75″x3″, 2 Sterile Sponge Dressings 2″x2″, 6 Antiseptic Towelettes, 2 Butterfly Closures, 10 Cotton Tip Applicators, 3 Safety Pins), 2 Foldable N95 Masks, 1 Self Stick Bandage
  • 2 – Light Stick
  • 1 – 5 in 1 Survival Whistle
  • 1 – 50 Ft 5mm Survival Rope
  • 1 – Roll of Duct Tape
  • 1 – Pair of Utility Gloves
  • 1 – Multitool Knife
  • 1 – Deck of Playing Cards
  • 1 – Deluxe Hygiene Kit (2 toothbrushes, 1 toothpaste tube, 1 Comb, 1 Razor, 1 bar of soap, 1 shampoo, 1 shaving cream, 2 feminine pads, 1 washcloth, 1 Small Sewing Kit, 1 hand sanitizer, 1 Toilet Paper Roll)
  • 1 – Emgcy. Prep. Guide in Waterproof Zip Bag with pencil
This kit is a really fabulous kit for people who live in apartments or in town. Out here in the country, we already know how to deal with bug-in situations. We experience them often during harsh weather. But if you’re in the city or an apartment high rise, I cannot stress this kit to you enough. It’s really a fabulous option to have, and the comfort it will give you is priceless.
Even with living in the country, it’s nice to have a kit like this all ready to go in one box so that you aren’t trying to find everything you need around the house.
While bug-in kits are great, there are other things that are equally as important to bugging in—such as having a stocked pantry, plenty or bottled water, and things that you can purchase monthly at your grocery store. This kit gives you necessities, but it can’t give you a stocked pantry and medical cabinet. Those things are completely up to you and are equally as important.
Preparewise has several products and kits you can choose from. Some are more pricey than others, but what it boils down to is having something that’s quick and easy to purchase, stick in a closet, and then take out when you’re ready. You’re able to save money on products and shipping, and the peace of mind that it brings to you is irreplaceable. Not to mention, you aren’t spending weeks and months putting something together that you could need tomorrow.
Many people are just now starting to see the importance of these types of kits, and with the urgency they feel, they simply never put a kit together because it becomes too overwhelming. Preparewise took all of that stress and overwhelming feeling away for me and placed in my hands two amazing kits that I could further personalize now that the necessities are taken care of.
I encourage you to consider adding these products to your list of things to purchase, or at least try and put one together yourself.
Overall, we’ve been extremely pleased with these two kits and I cannot recommend them enough! The entire process was seemingly flawless, and we had our kits in just a few days!
To learn more, visit the Preparewise and Silver Fern Brand websites.
To learn more about a holistic approach with Essential Oils, please reach out to me!
I’d love to help you.

Homesteading; It Takes a Village

The new “self”-sufficiency movement has taken over the country and the world. From state to state, continent to continent, the word “self-sufficiency” and “homesteader” are now common terms that most people have heard at some point or another. The question, however, is often asked — What is a Homesteader? or What is the definition of self-sufficient?
 
When in reality, I think the question should really be, What’s the Process of Becoming These Things?
 
In fact, looking back through history, you might be surprised to realize that “self”sufficiency wasn’t really even popular unless you were mountain folk. And even then, it still didn’t mean what you think it did. Quite often, it wasn’t “self” at all. Homesteading?…..it took a village. It took a community. Or at least a few families.
You can open any history book and learn about living off the land. In fact, the term “self-sufficiency” is a more modern term that people use. Often times, people think it means completely relying on yourself for all of your needs, but when we think about it, how contradictory is that to history? If you’re a Christian, it’s absolutely contradictory to the Bible. I think we simply keep shooting ourselves in the foot when we understand self-sufficiency to mean that we’d never have to depend on someone else for our needs. Preposterous!

Throughout history, villages, towns, tribes, and families depended on one another to make it through life. Just take a look at our ancestors from the Great Depression. The ones who survived? They made it through because it literally took a village.

While their lives weren’t necessarily at the mercy of another person’s grip (that’s a fabulous visual of self-sufficiency), they did have to barter, trade, and work with one another in order to share harvests and to have certain things that they needed or couldn’t grow on their own land.

Just as society is now, they all had different gifts and talents to offer, different things that grew better on their land, while also having some knowledge of the same skill sets that they were born with (knowing how to wild forage, for example). Some people had more land than others, therefore growing more to sell and trade with their community. While others were dealt cards in life that left them in difficult situations, causing them to have to live within the community or city completely—working for their living, with little space to garden or raise animals.

Locals gather on the porch of the post office in the small town of Nethers in Madison County, VA 1935. || Arthur Rothstein / Library of Congress LC-DIG-fsa-8b26683

Life isn’t much different now.

I could live on 10 acres of land, but I may not have the time to grow enough wheat for my family each year. The beauty of that is that I can go to the store to buy wheat, or, I can depend on a fellow homesteader or farmer who does have the time and space to grow enough wheat, and then some. Or, maybe my neighbor grows a garden and wild forages, she preserves her food and she’s good for the winter. But maybe she doesn’t have the ability to harvest meat or eggs from her homestead. Well then, come right on over, I’ve got you covered! We can barter with eggs and meat for sacks of flour or wheat.

It doesn’t mean I’m mooching off of someone or being lazy—it means that I’m leaning on my community, and guess what, my community leans on me too. That’s the beauty of it all.

The Dodson family at home in the small community of Old Rag in Page County VA before they were relocated, 1935 || Arthur Rothstein / Library of Congress LC-USF34-T01-000541

Homesteading and self-sufficiency were never terms that were used to isolate. If you isolate yourself completely, you may not survive. You may survive for an amount of time, but what about when you get sick or need a doctor? Or at least someone that can help you recuperate. What happens when a drought hits and you can’t grow anything? What happens when you’re in the dead of winter and you run out of lard or butter? What happens when your milk cow or goat dries up and your baby is crying and you need that milk? I highly doubt most people would throw their hands up and say, “well, I’ll just deal with it.” No, indeed. They would lean on their fellow man for help, as long as they aren’t too prideful.

You could rely on a food stashed pantry or the likes thereof, but even then, you still need something from someone, even if it’s just community. And eventually, that pantry runs dry.

Certainly, there are exceptions. There are those people who go missing and live in the wild for decades on their own. There are mountain men who you never see. But is that really realistic for millions of people who want to start homesteading? Probably not.

Young farm boys cradling wheat on a farm near Sperryville in Rappahannock County, VA 1936. || Dorothea Lange / Library of Congress LC-USF34-009368

The moral of the story is, homesteading does, indeed, take a village. It takes hands that are willing to work, not just to survive on their own, but for others as well. Whether that looks like going to the store, patronizing your local farmer or homesteader, raising more than you need to help others, lending a helping hand during harvest, bartering for goods and services, or living in a community of like minded individuals.

When you begin your journey into homesteading, or to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle, going into this realizing that it’s ok to buy goods from the farmer’s market or your local farmer is completely liberating. Knowing that you can’t grow everything on your homestead, unless you take up being a vegetarian and veganism, or you change your diet to consume things seasonally (which is possible), is liberating. Maybe you’ll have to buy flour, wheat, oil, medical supplies, paper products, rags, clothing, gasoline. It could be any number of things. Big or small. But at some point, you’re going to have to have to step off your property and barter or buy something from someone. Or maybe you’ll be the one offering help.

That’s why we were put here, after all. To help, to grow, to learn.

The number one reason people stop homesteading is because they’ve been given a false reality that they have to do it all. But in a westernized culture, getting back to our roots overnight isn’t a possible task. It takes years, decades, centuries. We’ve lost entire generations that knew how to do this, and yet they still took the time to dress up and go into town to chew the fat with their neighbors and towns people on the front porch of an Old Country Store, or to buy a sack of wheat. Boys who’d run through fields without shoes on, yes, without shoes on—they are rare to find now days. We’ve lost children who are respectful and who know the meaning of hard work before they are 5. We’ve lost men who want to work hard, get their hands dirty, and provide for their families. They’ve forgotten how to hunt and fish. And we’ve lost women who know that being in the kitchen and the garden or field isn’t oppressive, but necessary, and rewarding, and full of satisfaction.

In order to get back to our roots, we’re all learning together. We’re learning from each other, from our ancestors, from history books—and we all bring something to the table in talent, skill, and growth.

Don’t lose out on that. Don’t isolate yourself because that’s what you think you’re “supposed” to do. Because I assure you, you’ll miss out on so much goodness and education from your community. And one day,  you just may have to call on them when you’re in need.

More than anything, however, is that we’re leaving behind a legacy for future generations. Let’s not teach them that they have to isolate themselves in order to do it the “right” way.

 

For more Great Depression photos and stories from my area of Virginia, click here

 

8 Common Chicken Illnesses & How to Treat Them

 

It happens to everyone at some point or another. You go and start your flock with a few chickens—everything in life is happy and grand. And then one day, you walk outside to a dead bird, a sick bird, or a “what the heck is wrong with it” bird. That’s when the death emotion sinks in and you think you’re a failure at chicken keeping.

The reality is that sick or hurt chickens can happen to just about anyone. Of course, there are certainly things you can do to prevent illness and mishaps. Today we’ll talk about some of the common chicken illnesses and hurts, and also, how to treat them effectively.

 

First thing’s first—you need to understand that chickens are prey animals. Meaning, they can be sick and hurt long before ever showing symptoms of being so. This is why monthly (and even weekly) animal checks are important. Look over each and every chicken as often as possible for you on your homestead. For us, at one point, we had a lot of chickens. It wasn’t possible to check them all over in one week. So we did monthly checks.
Next, you’ll need to figure out how you want to treat animals on your homestead—chemically or holistically? Or both, when it comes right down to it.
We are not strictly “holistic” here. If holistic methods don’t work, I certainly go for the chemical method, or cull. However, all of the methods in today’s blog are about holistic treatment. I always try hard to use my herbs and essential oils first.
We are a working homestead. Therefore, sometimes it’s better to cut our losses than throw $50+ into a $10-$25 chicken. It just doesn’t add up for us to do that. We certainly keep things on hand if something goes wrong, but for a single incident? Absolutely not. Culling is our choice when all else fails within reason.
Prevention Is Key

If you take nothing else away from this blog, please take away this. Prevention on your homestead is essential. The bulk of things that go wrong with your chickens could have been prevented or at least counteracted.

So, how do you prevent illnesses in your chickens?
 
 
Give Them A Healthy Diet
Make sure they have all the nutrients they need. Skip the GMO feed if you can. Organic is certainly best, but not possible for some incomes.
Add Supplements to Their Feed
This is a really ideal way to help prevent disease and illness in your flock. I highly suggest adding things such as dried/powdered garlic, Diatomaceous Earth (DE), Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS), Oregano, and Turmeric into their feed and diet as much as possible. Oregano is a natural antibiotic. Garlic aids in immune health and is antibacterial. DE is a natural wormer. BOSS adds extra protein to your chickens diet, and also aids in digestion. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and also aids in aches and pains, purifies blood, aids respiratory health, and strengthens the immune system. I would say out of everything, garlic, turmeric, and oregano are my top picks to put into their feed on a regular basis.
Add Apple Cider Vinegar to their Water
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) helps alkalize the body in any living being. It’s also great for gut and crop health in chickens because it’s filled with wonderful probiotics and has anti-fungal properties. I do not suggest adding ACV to water during the hot months, as it can actually cause them to over heat more in the summer time.
Fresh Herbs and Snacks

Growing your own chicken garden isn’t always the easiest, but when you can set aside time to dry herbs (or order them online), and add it into their feed, you’ll see your chickens health improve dramatically. Herbs and snacks such as garlic, oregano, thyme, marigolds, dandelions, violets, chickweed, red raspberry leaf, elderberry (dried), and autumn olive berry are great, wild grown options for your flock. Some of these things you can find right in your own backyard. Others you can forage for. And still, others, you can grow yourself or order large bags of online here.
Pumpkin seeds and DE in their feed are also great options, and help prevent worms in your chickens digestive tract.

Keep Essential Oils On Hand
Essential oils are a very quick alternative to harsh chemicals. We’ve healed many a chicken strictly with Oregano and Melaleuca! You can find out more about EOs HERE.

Make Sure Their Forage Area and Coop is Safe
Ultimately, some things happen because of unsafe living areas. Whether it’s a predator attack, or a hen getting her leg caught in some contraption—do a check on your barn, coop, and foraging areas often. Rid these areas of any potential safety hazards for your flock and yourself.
Illnesses and Treatment

Now that we have the prevention part of this equation down, lets get right down to the nitty gritty. You’re probably reading this blog because you need help right here and now. You now know how to help prevent illness, but that doesn’t help you right in this moment if your chicken is ill or in pain. Here are some common ailments and the the treatments for them.

Lice and Mites —

We had our first run in with lice about 6 months into our chicken journey when we bought lice infested chickens from someone we thought we knew well, but in fact, were stuck with sick chickens. I made the mistake of treating them chemically, and almost ended up in the hospital myself. After their first treatment, I learned of a much better way to continue treating them (as they need to be treated for an entire month).

Lice and mites transmit from other birds. However, if left long enough, can become an epidemic and kill your chickens by feeding on their blood supply. It takes awhile to get to that point, which is how we knew the chickens had lice before they arrived here (and none of my other flock had them, but had to be treated still). Should you find yourself with an anemic chicken, raw red meat in his/her diet is essential to get their iron levels back up.

The safest and best treatment: Dusting your chickens (very carefully) with wood ash and/or DE will rid them of any parasites that are currently on them. You’ll need to make sure you are dusting them right down to the skin, where these parasites live. You can add DE and wood ash to a special dust bathing area for the remainder of the month, so that they can dust themselves after the first initial  dusting. Or you can continue dusting them individually once a week. In fact, you should do this as a preventative at all times (the regular dust bath). Treating for one month ensures that you catch all of the eggs that have hatched since the first initial treatment. You’ll also need to clean out the entire coop and dust with DE.

Scaly Leg Mites —

Scaly leg mites are very similar in transmittal as lice and mites for chickens. However, I have read some pretty crazy “treatments” online for it. Someone even suggested you douse the legs in gasoline or kerosene. Please, do not do that.

The safest and best treatment: Soak your chickens legs in a warm water bath with dish liquid. Scrub their legs with a toothbrush to help loosen any dying scales. Dry and slather both legs and feet with a thick oil such as coconut oil, neem oil, or olive oil. This will help smoother the mites and allow for quicker growth of new scales. Add this oil to the legs of the chickens for at least 4 weeks, once or twice a week. Offering the same DE and wood ash dust bath to your chickens is also essential. You’ll also need to clean out the entire coop, dust with DE (without the chickens inside the coop) and make sure you’ve gotten all of the old bedding out. Don’t forget to dust the roosts as well!

Coccidiosis —

Cocci can be a vicious parasite in your flock’s digestive tract. While it mostly attacks younger digestive tracts, such as with chicks, it can also attack your adult flock as well, causing diarrhea, unusual feces, blood in feces, and even death if left long enough.

The safest and best treatment: Kocci free is a very effective treatment. We use many of the Vibactra plus products on our homestead. They are an incredible source for herbal remedies. In fact, you can use Kocci free as a preventative as well once a month. Simply add it to their water.


Respiratory Irritation —

Many new chicken owners freak out when they notice their chickens sneezing or wheezing. But it’s not always the “worst”. No, chickens do not get “colds”, however, their respiratory tracts are extremely sensitive. A little more dust than normal in the coop can cause sneezing and wheezing.

The safest and best treatment: Clean the coop out and lay down a less dusty bedding, especially in the summer months. We prefer cardboard bedding in the summer months. Make sure you air out your coop before putting in new bedding, and make sure your coop has good ventilation so that dust can escape easily. Many times, respiratory issues arise because of dust, too much ammonia in the coop, or pollen.

Mycoplasma Gallisepticum and Mycoplasma Synoviae Infection (MG/MS)  —

Mycoplasma is a completely different issue that we really need to talk about in the chicken world. We experienced what I believe was a case of MG here the very first month we started with chickens. The chicken, thank goodness, was on our property for less than 48 hours and was quarantined (and immediately culled), but it was scary, to say the least.

Number one — ALWAYS QUARANTINE NEW CHICKENS. We learned our lesson and are thankful we did.

MG and MS are respiratory bacteria that can seriously sicken and kill your entire flock. It is extremely contagious, and can even be spread by clothing and shoes. Many chicken experts will tell you that MG and MS are not curable, but I  have to respectfully disagree. If preventatives are used, and if caught in time at the first symptoms, I absolutely believe that MG and MS can be cured. It is, after all, simply a bacteria. 

Symptoms of MG/MS: Wheezing, gasping for air, puffy face and swollen eyes, sneezing, sinus drainage, swollen joints, lethargy.

The safest and best treatment: You’ll need to be aggressive with this one. Oregano (antibiotic) in their feed and water at all times during treatment until symptoms have completely passed for ALL chickens. Add turmeric (immune support and anti-inflammatory) and garlic (antibacterial) to their feed as well. Separate any infected birds as much as possible, but treat ALL birds the same. Chickens can have MG/MS and not show symptoms until stressed or weak, which is what happened to us when we brought in a new chicken. Within 24 hours, she was literally on her death bed when she was fine the day we bought her.

Your chickens will need to be treated until ALL symptoms are gone. You should also not visit other farms unless you plan to change your clothing when you get there. And do NOT sell chickens or hatching eggs from your property for at least 4 weeks after symptoms are gone.

Infectious Coryza —

I don’t have any experience with IC, but I’ve read enough, and experienced enough through others, to know that IC is extremely detrimental to any flock. Once contracted, it is extremely hard to get rid of. And can live in your soil for awhile. The fatality rate is extremely high and depressing even with treatment. I have no advice to offer you on IC except that you can treat the same way you would treat MG/MS, however, if it spreads to your entire flock viciously, you may very well consider culling and starting all over again after a 4 week waiting period.

Sour Crop —

Sour Crop is probably one of the most common issues on a homestead when it comes to chickens. At least, it seems to be. We’ve actually never had the issue here, but have had friends with sour crop. Sour crop happens when chickens ingest something that is too big for them to pass through the crop. It can also be fungal, as things can begin to ferment in the crop and cause more issues if not passed properly.

The safest and best treatment: Giving your chicken ACV and olive oil in the crop will help tremendously. ACV has anti-fungal properties, and therefore can help tone down that yeastiness in the crop. You can add oil to your chickens crop and massage her crop, holding her upside down, to help expel anything that may be lodged or compacted.

Bumble Foot —

Bumble foot is another very common issue on the homestead. This happens when your chicken has stepped on something, such as a thorn or has gotten a cut on their foot. The thorn or cut then becomes infected, causing a sore type lesion to pop up on the botton of their foot or in between toes. It can affect their walking, and if left long enough, the infection can spread to their entire body.

The safest and best treatment: You can pick the scab off of the bottom of the foot and expel any infection that way, and also release the core of the issue (if it’s something lodged inside the foot). Or you can wrap the foot with a bandage soaked in tea tree and oregano essential oils. This has proven to be extremely successful for us, as the tea tree oil is antiseptic, and the oregano oil is a natural fighter of infection. You’ll need to do this, daily (direct skin contact with a swab soak in the oil under the bandage) for at least a week or until symptoms begin to subside. This also allows your chicken to walk better with the bandage and extra padding so that it can heal quicker.

When all else fails, you may choose to take a chemical route. However, we have not had to do that in over two years with preventative methods and herbal treatments. Go with your gut, because most of the time it never steers you wrong. And remember that if you lose a chicken, you’re not a bad chicken keeper or homesteader. Sometimes, these things just happen and they are out of our control. But remember, prevention is key!

 

 

 

The Lost Skill of Serving Your Family

My grandmother’s house is always clean. Even to this day, when she can’t get around much, it’s clean. She still makes dinner most evenings. She takes granddad’s plate to him, pours him an ice cold glass of milk, and then makes her plate. When she was in her prime, you wouldn’t see her sit down once during the holidays. She was in the kitchen all day, cleaning up while everyone sat down to eat, and then after almost all of us had left, she’d finally eat her food. She would tell us that she wanted to enjoy our company, so she wanted to clean up quickly and then she would sit down and enjoy her family.

Her household was her sanctuary. It was her priority. It was the one job that she was taught to do well, above all else. And you know what? She loved doing it.

I have to admit, being a housewife is not my greatest accomplishment.  It is a daily learning experience for me. I am constantly learning new things about being a good wife, a good mother, and a good housekeeper. I am constantly becoming. And while we seem to have more distractions in today’s world, it’s no excuse.

Serving your family is just as much a needed skill in today’s society as is chopping wood, building fences, and being self-sufficient. And it’s almost looked down upon in our society of “everyone can do everything”. But I think there’s something to say about the touch of a woman. The gentleness, even the toughest of women can exuberate. The quiet spirit when making coffee before the sun rises, or kneading bread in the dead of winter.

Have we lost the joy of serving and tending to our families?

Maybe it looks like making your husband his dinner plate in the evenings, or teaching your children how to put their clothes away. Maybe it looks like sewing your husband’s ripped jeans, or even the simple act of freshening up before he gets home after a long day at work. Sometimes it looks like preserving summer’s garden bounty while your babies play in mud puddles—it looks like sweaty kisses and hard work with your hands in the dirt. Other times it looks like laying in bed with your son, talking about all the frogs and lizards he caught today, before his precious eyes fall asleep. Or maybe it’s the simple gesture of rubbing your husband’s back after a long day outside.

But more importantly, it means that you put your family first—before your career, before your wants, and before your homestead or feminist world views.

 

As I grow as a homesteader, I grow as a homemaker. And there is something that shifts with each passing day. While I often brag about how I tend to smaller livestock on my own and garden on my own, or how I’m a strong and independent woman, the reality is that I am just as any other woman. I am just as any other wife who loves to lean on her husband at times, and who has a husband who willingly allows me to. Because he is just as any other man who values the simplicity of a woman. I am a woman who wants to be loved and who wants to love, but who is not afraid to work alongside of her husband, nor one who needs validation from him. For me, in all of these years of marriage and few years of motherhood, I have grown to realize that I fall more and more in love with homemaking everyday—with serving my family every day. As each year passes, I get a little better with housework…with home cooked meals…with having a clean kitchen and getting the laundry done.

Many people criticize a modern homemaker. The belief that we don’t have a job or that we sit home and twiddle our thumbs all day is often heard. And while I do have a work from home position, I find my mind wandering more and more to the daily life of serving my household with joy. I find myself wishing I had more time to tend to the ways of my household. I find myself making more time to tend to the ways of my household.

And do you know what is most beautiful? The art of this lost skill, and the joy that abounds within it.

There is so much joy in stepping back and looking at a clean kitchen before bedtime, knowing you won’t be stressed come morning when it’s time to make lunches for those leaving early, and breakfast for those staying home.

There is so much joy in providing your family with home cooked meals that provides necessary nutrients for their body.

There is so much joy in knowing that you’ve put away canned goods for the winter time, or that the wood stove is going for when the boys come inside from working hard, or that they will never be in want of clothing, because you can mend them. “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.” Proverbs, 21:21

There is so much joy in knowing that your husband and children have clean clothes in their closets and drawers. Though, this is one of my hardest chores to complete. I’m a work in progress, what can I say.

There is equally as much joy in teaching your little girls to be helpful, but hard workers as well, and to teach your little boys to be hard workers with loving spirits….and that it’s always ok to love on those you love.

And there is no greater joy than having your husband wrap his arms around you and say, “thank you for joyfully serving our family”. Or having your children hug you and say, “mom, that was the best meal I’ve ever had.”

Through out scripture there were many strong women, many homemakers, many warriors. We all had a place, it was always a different place. But if one thing connected all of us, it is that we made sure we tended to our families and served them if we had a husband and children. I consider homemaking one of the greatest treasures you can provide your children. A testimony of unconditional love and self-giving. A trait that not only builds your character, but theirs. A skill that provides your children with organization, and the knowledge to know how to survive. Because after all, a good homemaker isn’t just doing it all, she’s an example to all. 

Listen, we all fail. I fail every single day at being a homemaker. We always fail in some way or another. Some days I am short tempered, I just hide it well. Some days I am ready to throw in the towel and say forget about it. Some days I don’t want to do it—some days I wake up at 4:30 a.m. to send my husband off to work, and I moan and groan about being up at the butt crack of dawn. Yes, I just said butt crack of dawn. I’m normal…sue me…

But the older I get, the more joy I find it this homemaking skill. Is it a gender role? Certainly. I firmly (spiritually and scientifically) believe that women are more unconditionally loving than men. We are more emotional and tender-hearted. We are driven by different desires. I believe that women offer a character trait and gender trait that a men cannot provide. Just as I feel that men offer character traits and gender traits that women cannot provide. We were created differently in God’s eyes so that we could fit together and fill the empty spots that the other lacks, or be full-filled by the overflowing cups that the other sustains—our cup runneth over. But I also believe that we all must work together in the grand scheme of things.

So today, as I challenge myself to continue to grow in the lost skill of serving my family, I encourage you to join me if being a successful homemaker is something you desire. It has taken me many years to finally “desire” to be a homemaker—to love the job of wife, mom, homemaker, homesteader, personal chef, chicken wrangler, harvester, and preserver. It’s not just about putting away laundry and wiping runny noses. It’s not just about making home cooked meals and mopping the floor. It’s about serving.

It’s about knowing the ins and outs of home medical needs. It’s about knowing the best ways to preserve and sustain. It’s about understanding the need to have organization, and a servants heart. And for the past several years (since having a child), it is something I have grown in, and will always grow in, because joy overflows in the midst of it all, and I am forever a student.

That very same joy runs deeply through the veins of our entire household, pumping life into each limb. When our household is in order, all of us are in order. Our minds are less cluttered, there is less tension, there is more time to spend quality time together.

Serving your family isn’t something to be ridiculed, but something to be honored, embraced, and perfected as a skill, especially if you’re on a journey of homesteading.

And if nothing more, who doesn’t enjoy having a clean house, a home cooked meal, and a happy husband and children.

Happy Homesteading…and Happy Homemaking.

 

 

And Then, He Put Mud on My Eyes

For the past four weeks we’ve been dealing with sickness in our household. The first week it was a vicious stomach bug. Actually, the rest of the family got it two weeks before, but I came down with it the week before last. Last week, Junior had a 24 hour stomach bug, probably from my issues the week before. The following day, I came down with what I thought was the same thing, but I was absolutely wrong. It was the most miserable 3 days of my life in the past few years. I think it’s especially worse when you rarely get sick. But because I already had a low immune system, and I failed at boosting it, I caught the crud. The tonsillitis crud. Well, at least according to the way I felt, medical books, and WebMD. And then this week, Jr has pink eye and an ear infection. Joy.

We finally went to the doctor to get “the good stuff”.

At one point, while laying on my back during my sickness, staring at the ceiling, my mind took me back to the last church service we attended. I couldn’t remember if it was the week before or more than two weeks. Time escaped me among the sickness. But in my head, something our Pastor said kept rolling around. He had mentioned briefly in his sermon about the man who was healed of blindness (John 9), and how weird it was that Jesus put mud on his eyes to heal him. He mentioned how awkward we would think it would be these days, if a man, especially Jesus, walked up to us and slapped mud on our eyes and told us to go bathe in a pool.

Why? What’s so special about this mud and that pool that could heal me? I’ve gotten mud in my eyes before. I’ve bathed in that pool my entire life. What now makes it worthy enough, or makes me worthy enough, to heal?

I’m not worthy. 

I am not worthy of the love He gives me and yet each and every day, He loves me.

Even when I am the most unlovable, He loves me. When I project other people’s opinions onto myself as truths, He still loves me. When I mess up and say words that I shouldn’t, or react in ways that are emotionally inept…He still loves me. When I am nothing like Christ and everything like a sinner, He loves me.

But I can put that salve of mud over my eyes and bathe in that pool 10,000 times, and it still won’t take away my disability. The disability of feeling unworthy. The disability of feeling unhappy. The disability of feeling distracted, less than, selfish, petty, hopeless, hurt, angered, grieved, prideful, or whatever gaping hole I’m dealing with at the time. The disease of nothing, because half the time, we don’t know what’s wrong with us…we just know we’re unworthy, we’re empty, we’re lacking. We need something but we don’t want to admit that it’s Him. We’re ok on our own. We’re ok with our hurts and our egos, because admitting to them would be suicide to who we have become.

I could write 30,000 words in a book and still be living in a life bankrupt of love. I could make 300 inspiring and encouraging YouTube videos, and in the end I may still question, who am I? Because the likes don’t matter, the comments fade away into the night, and here you are, still looking at that gaping hole that stares you in the face, you’re unworthy. No person, hobby, thought, or good read will fix it…

I have to wonder if that’s what the man with the blindness felt like. Like he was stuck in a hole. Like he wasn’t good enough to be healed or given a “normal” life. And yet I have to remind myself that logically, he simply didn’t know any better, being born blind. Hello, logic.

Aren’t we all born blind, though? Isn’t there some kind of shade over our eyes since we’re born into a world of sin? But there’s a difference between having shaded eyesight, and rolling in a pool of blindness by choice. We get so distracted, we fill our time with people and things and feelings instead of the One who should have our attention first and foremost at the beginning of each day. We reach for our cellphones before we reach for the word of God. We don’t like what we see in ourselves so we try to make ourselves better, smarter, more beautiful, more “worth” it.

I am guilty as charged. This is me showing you I’m horrible, too.  And then we wonder why it’s so shady, why we can’t see so clearly. Why there’s a hole….staring back at us….

I sat in quiet that night. Quiet and I seem to have conversations that are soul numbing and heart-aching. Quiet and I get really close, and quiet pulls out the depths of my heart and shows them to me. Replace quiet with Holy Spirit, and suddenly there’s conviction. Suddenly there is guilt and shame and disgust for who you are and what you’ve become.

But quiet didn’t leave me there.

…because then, He put mud on my eyes.

He made a little pile of mud and He slapped it right on there and He said, these are the depths of your heart, but I have come to give life and life more abundantly. (John 10:10)

And suddenly, it’s not me who is worthy—but Him, the one who created the mud and slapped it on my face. Suddenly, the thief is gone, the disability and disease of blindness is gone, and my eyes can see. It’s not the mud. It’s not the bath. It’s not the illness. It’s the Creator. It’s the Creator of life, and the one who came to give it back to me. To you. To the blind man who went to bathe and came back with eyesight.

He is worthy, and I am in Him, and He calls me child, and therefore, He makes me worthy. I have worth. And I have a hole that has been filled with the mud of a healing Savior. And I know the depths of my heart and I’ve seen the ugly, and I can stare that ugly in the face and say, but I am worthy to hold on to, and you are not.

He holds onto me, but I cannot hold on to you, ugly.

And you admit it, and you accept it, and you toss it to the side and say, fill me, Lord.

And He will…and He does…and He says, what took you so long.

Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart. Often times, He will use the most inopportune and dramatic moments in your day to reveal your heart to you. That fight with your husband. That thing your friend said. The way you lost your cool with your kid. That keyboard ninja you became in the comments of a Facebook post. That passing emotion of anger or hurt.

Allow Him to search your heart, and even more, allow Him to show you the depths of it. Admit to it, own it, and look it right in the face and say, I am worthy of being held onto, but you are not. And it must go, and it must leave, and you must release it from your grip of “this is me”, because this isn’t you. 

And then there is peace…and there is love…and there is worthiness…and there He is, with mud on His hands and a smile on His face. Because it’s not the mud and the pool, it’s the giver of life whose hands it drips from. 

 

Prayer:
 
Dear Lord, 
Search my heart Oh God, giver of abundant life. 
Show me the depths of my heart, the dark places in which the thief lies.
Incinerate the darkness and all distraction where I fill my void with 
things and people and activities rather than Your word, worth, and love.
Put your healing mud over my eyes so that I may see through the blindness of worldly 
distraction and sin, and teach me to love like You love, with arms wide open, hands dripping with abundant love, grace, and authenticity.
 
Amen…

 

 

Herbal Remedies Aren’t God

I laid in bed with my palm pushing on the side of my head. This pain that would shoot down the side of my head, down my face, into my back and neck—it was absolutely, and definitely, one of the worst pains I had ever experienced in my entire life. I tried everything to make it go away. I tried my essential oils, I tried herbs, I tried herbal massage rubs, I tried over the counter pain killers—nothing was touching it. Absolutely nothing.

I was dizzy, nauseous, and an emotional basket-case because I couldn’t fix myself. Of course, you wouldn’t have known it unless you were my husband, because I try my hardest to keep it together as much as possible.

Two days I went through this. Two days. Until finally Mark looked at me and said, “let’s go, we’re going to the ER.”

And I agreed with him…

We drove up the road that afternoon in silence. I know he hates hospitals. He absolutely hates them. They make him twitchy, anxious, and overwhelmed. He becomes moody, nervous, and angry when we step foot into a hospital, but he was going for me. I don’t know why he gets that way, he just does. It’s hard for him, and I respect things that I don’t understand. I especially respect him. But he was beside me and that’s what mattered most. That’s what team work looks like. That’s what marriage looks like.
We got to the ER, at which point I was placed in a very drafty night gown and hooked up to IVs. I was feeling a little better at this point, but it was just the body’s defense going into ramp it up mode. The adrenaline rush was pumping extra blood to the brain, which was expanding the arteries, which was in return, taking some of the pain away.
I had convinced myself that I had had a brain aneurysm or something. Tumor? Cancer? Brain eating bacteria? Had to be something like that, right? It had to be something complicated since I couldn’t fix it myself.
I was kicking myself that I couldn’t heal this on my own at home. Here I am, constantly talking about herbalism and essential oils, and taking control of your healthcare, and yet here I was sitting in an emergency room bed without any control over what my body was doing, or even how to start the healing process.
Five hours and one CT Scan later, I was fine. Everything was ok upstairs. Well, that’s still debatable, but there were no brain eating bacteria that they could see, at least. The craziness? Well, that’s still there.
They shoved some high-tech pain meds in my hand (I asked for the extra strength tylenol, not the loopy stuff!), told me I was having some type of muscular or nerve reacting migraine, and sent me on my way. They also told me to follow up with a neurologist. Oops, that was a long time ago. But I’ve been ok since then.
I got home that night and laid quietly in bed.
 
I cried.
I cried because I couldn’t sleep. I cried because I couldn’t fix myself. I cried because I hated having to go to the hospital and subject my body to even more yucky germs. I cried because my husband, bless his heart, was tired and still had to go to work the next day. I cried because I was mad. I was so mad. I was so mad that nothing I tried at home helped me. Nothing. What a failure I thought I was.
I prayed and cried some more.
I had a pretty big heart to heart with God, not just about my health, but about life in general. I was broken in so many ways other than this pain in my head. I had been dealing with so much on my plate. Why was I just now coming to Him? Why didn’t I come to Him sooner? Now I felt guilty about that too…
I often tell our son that God isn’t some big man up in the sky who is constantly looking at the bad things you’ve done. In fact, we are often times harder on ourselves than He is on us. But it’s easier to say that to someone else than it is to yourself.
The next morning I was feeling much better. Still in a little pain, but bearable. I went about my daily routine, and as I walked into the bathroom to start scrubbing the toilet, I looked up to where my herbal remedies were setting at the time, and I was faced with a very real and emotional reality.
 

Herbal remedies aren’t God.

And it was a hard and raw reality that slapped me in the face. It was convicting, it was numbing.
So often we get into herbal remedies because we want a healthier lifestyle for our family. We’ve taken control of our food source with chickens, dairy animals, and gardens. The next step is taking control of your healthcare and adding herbal remedies and essential oils to your family’s life. But what happens when they don’t work? Or worse yet, what happens when we turn them into idols above our very own Creator and Ultimate Healer?
 
Ouch…
Ouch to the idolater that I’d become. Ouch to the Christian that I had become, leaning more on herbal remedies than on my very own Savior. Ouch to the person I had become who had missed opportunities to talk about Christ with people who were looking for a more holistic lifestyle.
That was almost one-year ago.
And while I fully believe that God gave us plants to use for health and healing (Ez. 47:12), I also know that we can very quickly turn even a good thing into a bad thing if the motive behind it isn’t pure, or if we’re trying to take the easy way out. We can become so quick to want to control our own circumstances, that we forget we have a God who wants to connect with us on a regular basis—a God who created us all. A God who wants to help us, heal us, and love on us. The Creator gave us herbs to help us, but in His goodness and mercy, He reminds us that we are nothing without Him.
In the same respect, I was hosting a live chat on my YouTube channel recently, and someone mentioned to me all of the health issues they encounter on a regular basis. They wanted to know which essential oils to use, and questioned if there were herbs or diet changes that would help as well. I sat there and probably looked dumbfounded. The entire time I was running different oils and herbs through my head—on a live show, mind you—but I was thinking, you don’t need herbal remedies, you need modern medicine and the good Lord.
It’s ok to depend on modern medicine for your needs, in case you didn’t know. Just like it’s ok to depend on herbal remedies for your needs. But it is not ok to idolize either of the two, because ultimately, God is our healer. All things are given by Him and through Him. Both are equally valuable, but too much of either is equally dangerous.
Don’t believe me that modern medicine is from God? Consider this; penicillin was discovered by accident in one of the greatest times of need for it in the history of medicine. It was literally discovered because Dr. Alexander Fleming returned back from vacation in 1928 to an extremely dirty laboratory that he had left behind. While cleaning up, he discovered mold growing on his petri dishes. Bam! Penicillin was discovered to kill bacteria, and the rest of the story is history…literally.
That, my friends, is what we call a miracle.
Yes, a miracle.
What are the odds of a doctor randomly going on vacation, coming back to find a messy laboratory, finding mold growing on the very petri dishes that had infectious bacteria growing on it, and saying, “hey I’ll take a look at this under the microscope.” Only to find the mold was eating away the bacteria.
Even Mr. Fleming tells you it was a complete and total freak accident. But I tell you, it was God.
We know now, in the 21st century, that antibiotics are overly used, which causes antibiotic resistant bacteria. See, even a good thing can become a bad thing when used more than it should be. But it stems from the mindset that we can control it all. My goodness, look where that control is leading us. We’ve become a generation that is reaping the consequences of antibiotic resistance and overuse, and it’s not pretty. It’s why so many people are trying to get back to herbalism.
I don’t know what your life looks like. I don’t know if you believe in herbal remedies, modern medicine, both, or neither. But I will tell you that without the grace and mercy of the Creator of the Universe, there would be none of it. And when we feel ourselves idolizing one or the other, or anything other than Him, it may be time to step back and reevaluate ourselves. Sometimes, I believe God allows us to walk through difficulties in order to bring us closer to Him. Other times, we walk through difficulties because of our own personal consequences. But through it all, He is still good and holy and righteous. God is still God. And none of this is possible without Him….ever.
When herbal remedies don’t work, it’s ok to go to the doctor. When modern medicine doesn’t work, it’s ok to try herbal remedies. But through it all, I hope you’ll remember, just as I had to, to connect with the greatest Healer ever. Even when nothing else works, even when the results are bad and the outcome is grim, there is still God. And God is still good. And in your greatest time of desperation and need, the joy, strength, love, and goodness of the Lord is far better than any doctors orders, roller bottle of essential oil, or herbal tincture.
I promise…

 

 

Homestead Homemaking Series

Homemaking isn’t something I often found joy in. In fact, you could say that I have lost my joy in homemaking. But there is greatness and beauty within it. On my journey to re-learning old skills and rekindling the joy of raising a family and loving my husband, I want to take you along for the journey.
There are so many women who are struggling with joyful homemaking, because they find it oppressive. I am often faced with the question, “why am I the only one who has to clean up after everyone?” and that’s something I used to ask myself as well.

In this series, we take a look at biblical homemaking, and it may just blow your mind.
Watch the first video in the series here (or below). And then follow through each week with us. You can even join our private Facebook group to help you along the way and for deeper discussions.

Growing and Drying Your Own Herbs

As a new gardener, I often found the task of growing prize winning tomatoes and succulent melons very daunting. Can I say succulent melons here? Get your head out of the gutter!
Gardening has never come naturally to me. But I learn and grow each and every year. I finally began to master tomatoes by the third year of gardening. But I’ve still never mastered the green bean.
It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re gardening, but I’ve found one thing that I can never kill. I suppose I could if I drenched it in chemicals, but ultimately, they’re very forgiving. What is it, you ask? Why, herbs, of course!
Herbs are one of the easiest things in the world to grow and maintain. Not only that, but they are equally as easy to harvest and preserve. Whether you’re drying them once harvested, making a tincture, preserving dried herbs into spice rubs, or simply hanging them until you’re ready to use them. There are plenty of ways to grow and preserve herbs on your homestead.
My favorite way to preserve my herbs is to dry them. This allows me to crush them into powder form, or leave them in a loose form. Either way, I love using them while cooking, making tinctures, creating spice rubs, and more.
But before I dry them, I of course need to grow them!
Oregano
Echinacea
Thyme
Rosemary
Spearmint
Peppermint
Lemon Balm (Melissa)
Cilantro
Dill
Garlic
Lavender

The first part of this list of herbs are extremely easy to grow, harvest, and maintain. Garlic and lavender are a bit harder, but well worth it. Most of these you can even bring inside in the winter months and continue to harvest from them if you choose to grow them in large pots near a sunny space. Garlic never needs to be brought inside. You can see how we plant garlic here.

We love container gardening, so we grow most of our herbs in large pots each year. Some naturally die off and grow back (perennials such as peppermint and lemon balm), while others need to be brought inside and tended to through out the year. Or, the other option is to harvest their seeds in the Summer and replant indoors in the Winter for Spring plants. You can also grow herbs in garden beds, but be sure to do your research, because some herbs—like the mint family—enjoy spreading like wildfire.

 

 

Before You Begin

Whether you’re growing your herbs in containers or in the ground, there are a few things to consider before you get started.

Make sure your soil is healthy and fertilized.
Because nothing grows well in hard dirt that doesn’t have good fertilization. Add some rabbit manure (if you raise rabbits, like us), or buy an organic fertilizer from your local farm store.

Don’t place your herbs in an area that is in direct sunlight all day long.
Some herbs do well (like rosemary and stalky herbs), but most delicate ones do not. In the hot summer months, herbs such as thyme and cilantro (herbs with more delicate leaves) can scorch because they get too hot in direct sunlight all day. Sunlight for half the day is perfect. Indirect sunlight, or partial shade, for the remainder of the day is ideal. Though, there are some that thrive in direct sunlight all day long (denser, oily, or stick like leaves such as lavender and rosemary). Be sure to read the information that comes with the seed package or plant package very carefully before deciding where to permanently place your plants.

Ensure that you have enough space for your plants to grow. For example, don’t grow lemon balm in a garden bed that you need to keep tidy. Herbs like lemon balm and peppermint are expansive, meaning, they grow and spread like wildfire each year when they go to seed. They are “covering” plants, meaning, they cover the ground very well and very quickly. This is a great thing, however, because these types of plants you simply plant once, and then forget about them once they establish a presence in your flower bed. They will be there for years to come!

Research your herbs before ingesting them.
Whether you’re growing herbs to use for culinary purposes, or for medicinal purposes, be sure to do your research first, to make sure they are herbs that you should be using.

Harvesting Your Herbs

A lot of your herbs can be harvested throughout the entire growing season. Herbs like thyme, oregano, and peppermint, will grow for quite some time, even after you’ve harvested from the same plant several times. You can harvest your herbs a few different ways, but always make sure you harvest in the earlier part of the morning, after all the dew has dried up, but before the sun sips away all of the essential oils in the leaves.
The first way to harvest is to cut a portion of the plants almost down to the ground. This gives you a second cutting that will be aromatic, but may not be as woody or full. It also takes longer to grow back in the harvest season. The second option is to only cut the plant part of the way off, about halfway down the plant, This allows the small portion of the plant to continue to grow, giving you multiple harvests, albeit in smaller amounts each harvest.

 

 

Drying Your Herbs

There’s no sense in growing and harvesting herbs if you aren’t going to dry and store them properly. Drying and storing herbs is incredibly easy. The only issue you may run into is the fact that you don’t have enough space for your bountiful harvests!

There are a few different drying methods you can try…

 

Drying in an Oven
More commonly used before the rise of dehydrators in the past few decades, you can easily dry your herbs by putting your oven on the lowest heat setting that it will go (around 180 degrees). Place your herbs on a breathable cookie rack or directly onto the oven racks so that the air flow can remain continuous. Keep the door to your oven slightly ajar, so that there is a constant movement of air in and out of the oven. The length of time will really vary on the herb. I’ve tried Thyme in less than 30 minutes because the leaves are so small and delicate. But it can take an hour or more with more woody herbs, like Rosemary.
Drying with a Dehydrator
More commonly used now, you can find fabulous dehydrators, like the 5 tray Excalibur one that I own, that you’ll make good use of for many things, not just herbs. We use our dehydrator often for things like jerky, fruit leather, drying fruit and veggies, and more. The temperature and time will vary by herb and dehydrator. Make sure you thoroughly read the instructions before beginning. Most herbs will do well around 115 degrees, and will be completely dried when stems become hard and breakable, and leaves fall off when gently tugged.
Drying Herbs in the Sun
We’re gong back to our roots with this one. And yes, I have absolutely dried herbs in the hot summer sunlight, right on my own back deck. Choose a very sunny place that gets sun most of the morning and early afternoon. Lay our your herbs on a flat surface. I laid mine right on my deck. You’ll need to flip them throughout the day, and/or move them with the sun. On an extremely hot summer day, I’ve dried herbs in less than 2 hours. You can read more about sun drying foods in this Mother Earth News article.
Drying Herbs by Hanging or Drying Racks
The most commonly seen technique on places like Pinterest, is hanging your herbs to dry, or to use drying racks. This can take days and even weeks at times to accomplish. And you run into more issues with mold if you aren’t getting proper airflow to your herbs at all times (ex: her bunches are too tight). With that said, this is probably the most common way to dry herbs, and has been for centuries. A lot of people don’t like depending on electricity, or using machinery, to dry their herbs. The most natural way to try them is to dry them in the sun, or to simply dry them on racks or by hanging them. While this takes up a substantial amount of space if you dry in large batches, it most certainly does work.

Storing Your Harvest

Storing your harvest is equally as easy as drying it, if not easier. I really enjoy these little mason jars for my culinary herbs. I found these in the $3 Target bin, but you can find similar ones here. I find that the best way to store my medicinal herbs and herbs that are in large quantities, are to store them in the half gallon mason jars, and then use the plastic screw top lids. You can also purchase chalkboard lids as well.

As long as your herbs are kept in a dark and dry place, in an air tight container, your dried herbs will last up to 18 months or longer, depending on the herb and the environment. As dried herbs age, they do lose their medicinal value. So using up that harvest in the first year is very beneficial to you and your family if you are growing herbs specifically for your medicinal cabinet. Culinary herbs can last an upward of three years when stored properly. Obviously, the quicker they are used, the better they taste, but it’s nice to know you have that option!

You can use fresh or dried herbs to create things like tinctures, salves, lotions, infused oils, and more. But that’s another topic for another day!

I hope you’re enjoying all of the herb posts on our website. Herbalism is such an important skill to learn on a homestead. I hope that we are empowering you by sharing simple tips and knowledge!

Starting a Medicinal Herb Garden

 

When you begin your homesteading journey, you typically start because you want to become more self-sufficient. It often looks like getting a few chickens, maybe some goats. You then venture into dairy cows, beef herds, turkeys, large garden plots, canning and preserving, and other expeditious skill sets. But the one thing I most often find surprising is that many homesteaders quickly bypass the thought of creating one of the most important additions to their  homestead—a medicinal herb garden. 

If you’re homesteading because you want to take control of your food—knowing where, how, and why it grows—and because you want to become more reliant on yourself than a system, then taking control of your healthcare is just as important as taking control of your own food system. In fact, inevitably, on a homestead, at some point or another, you’re going to need a doctor, stitches, or come down with an illness that needs medical attention. What then? The argument is quite good in the case of growing your own medicinal herbs and venturing into holistic healthcare, because just as you need food and water, you need good health in order to keep your homestead running.

Where do you begin? How do you even start a medicinal herb garden?

It’s the question that homesteaders often ask, normally out of fear of getting it wrong or growing something that could poison your family. But starting your herb garden isn’t as overwhelming as you may think.

 

 

As you may remember from past articles and posts, our homesteading journey actually began with holistic medicine. It didn’t begin with chickens or livestock, not even gardening. It began when my son was diagnosed with childhood asthma, and that’s when I decided it was time to take control of our lives—our food, our exposure to chemicals, and our healthcare. I quickly began researching herbs and essential oils that could help us, and I found it far less overwhelming by narrowing my search down by 3-5 different reasons I wanted to take control of my health.

My initial reasons looked a lot like this—asthma/respiratory, seasonal allergies, common cold/flu, wounds, pretty things. Yes, pretty things, that was definitely on my list. I wanted some herbs to just be around for their aromatic reasons, like lavender, and yet be pretty, too. I failed miserably at lavender all three times I tried growing it, but I’ll continue to try!

But as our homesteading journey expanded, so did my needs. My list now looked a lot like this—respiratory, common cold/flu, nausea, leaky gut, boils/cysts, chicken health, bleeding, tooth ache, broken bones, deep wounds, high blood pressure, migraines, rabbit health, parasite eradication, culinary uses, and so much more. Wow, what a list, right?

As we dove further into homesteading, I found that when the simple things worked, I wanted more. I wanted to dive more into herbalism and essential oils. I didn’t just want to only grow for the common cold, I wanted to grow for everything that we may need, and preserve it for long lengths of time (like creating tinctures, salves, soap, and more).

 

Choosing Where to Grow Herbs

We live on a very small property, a half acre to be exact. And only a very very small portion of that is easy to grow plants, flowers, and vegetables on. So over the years, I’ve utilized a lot of containers and garden beds, and rightfully so. They are easier to manage, can be moved with the sunlight, and they look pretty! I first began growing all of my herbs in pots (typical flower pot) or large containers (think 10-15 gallons). They thrived in both. Being mindful of the herb, I was able to successfully grow peppermint, echinacea, thyme, rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, cilantro, and spearmint in containers the first year I began venturing into herbalism. Some were strictly for medicinal uses, others were medicinal and culinary.

You can grow herbs in just about anything. Herbs are very forgiving, unlike the tomatoes that suffer my wrath each year. If you’re just getting started, try the containers. Container herbs can easily be grown on the back deck, and even in a window sill. Just be sure you prune back creeping herbs, like lemon balm and peppermint, as they spread like wildfire. In all honesty, they belong in a bed where they can grow for miles, but containers do work well for them when maintained properly.

Should you choose to create a garden bed specifically for herbs, as we did just this past year, keep the creepers in mind as well. For example, you don’t want to put lemon balm in a group of low growing herbs, as the lemon balm could suffocate them. But for herbs like Black Eyed Susan, the lemon balm can easily grow close to the ground while the Susan’s soar tall. Then again, sometimes it’s best to give it a garden bed of it’s own. The nice thing about creeping herbs is that they do pretty well in partial shaded areas, and sometimes even full shade, so planting them at the base of a tree isn’t out of the question.

 

Choosing & Growing Your Herbs

It can be quite fun when choosing which herbs to grow your first year. Many homesteaders start growing herbs for culinary purposes, and they would be surprised to find out just how many of those culinary herbs are medicinal as well.

That being said, don’t overwhelm yourself the first year you begin your medicinal herb garden. Here are the things I suggest contemplating before choosing your herbs.

  1. What are your top 3-5 reasons.
    Sitting down and writing out why you want to get started in medicinal herbs really helps move the process along. Choose 3-5 things that you really want to focus on for your family or homestead. Whether it’s common colds, allergies, headaches, blood pressure, wounds, livestock health, or simply preventative health (like incorporating oregano into your chicken feed as a natural antibiotic and preventative, or preventatives for your family), write down your 3-5 top reasons, and then research your herbs, choosing only one herb for each reasoning, unless you feel completely confident in taking on more your first year. **Make sure you do your research on herbs that should not be used if you have certain medical conditions, or are nursing or pregnant.
  2. Consider your hardiness zone. Some herbs are more heat and cold tolerant than others. You’ll need to research thoroughly (after you’ve chosen your herbs) to see if you’ll need to house your plants indoors, or if they will be ok outside during their growing season. Some herbs may need to be started inside before Spring, while others can be directly sown into the ground and do better because of it.
  3. Prepare your spaces and methods of growing. Think out your spacing ahead of time. For herbs like thyme and oregano, I use them often in meals, so I still grow them in containers on my back deck. I can bring the containers indoors when it gets too cold, or regrow them from seed the following year. If you’re not growing in containers, prepare your ground or raised beds ahead of time. Once  you’ve planted your plants or seeds, mulch the area liberally so that it dramatically cuts back on weed invasion and requires little maintenance.
  4. To harvest or let go to seed? That can be a big question. If you love the herbs you’ve chosen, you may consider letting many of them go to seed so that you can seed save, or allow the seeds to naturally fall to the ground for perennial growth. Don’t harvest everything all at once, only to be disappointed that you didn’t hold back any seeds or let the seeds naturally re-seed the soil beneath the plant. Have a list ready, a sort of garden journal, so that you can remind yourself not to harvest everything at once. In fact, you may not want to harvest most things all at once anyway. You can get multiple harvests throughout the season off of one batch (even a container) when only taking the top portion of herbs, or only taking a section of the batch (cutting down to the ground for new growth).
  5. Preserving your harvest can be daunting without proper preparations. To ensure proper preservation and space (because your herbs are going to be harvested in bunches at times), make sure you have your dry racks, dehydrator, and product materials necessary before you need them. If you’re planning on making tinctures, go ahead and buy the alcohol ahead of time. If you’re hoping to dry herbs naturally, without an oven or dehydrator, create your drying spaces and racks weeks in advance so that you aren’t scrambling and then end up losing your precious harvest because you didn’t have time to preserve it properly.

Don’t Forget About the Wild Herbs

Each year, when cleaning out my beds, I always let a few of the wild strawberry vines grow among the rest of the herbs. Before you rip up those pesky vines or weeds, do a little research. You just may find that the weeds growing in your flower beds and backyard are actually medicinal wild forage that can be used on your homestead and for your family. Instead of ripping them up, encourage them to grow.

Take these wild strawberries, for example. Strawberry leaves have one of the highest sources of Vitamin C in a wild growing plant. It can be used for aches and pains, as a diuretic, dysentery, rash, ulcers….the list goes on. Just be sure you properly research how to preserve and use wild herbs, as some can be poisonous in their raw form.

 

Some of My Favorite Herbs to Grow

To get you started, here are some of the most common herbs that people grow when they first begin, and what they can be used for.

Oregano

Oregano is most popular for it’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-parasitic properties as well. Over recent years, many hatcheries and commercial poultry farms have been using oregano and thyme to combat parasitic and infectious issues in their chicken flocks. But more importantly, they use it as a preventative and as a replacement for commercial antibiotics—though not all have made that switch.

Oregano has been proven to kill MRSA, show anti-cancer properties, and aide in respiratory health as well.

 

Garlic

Garlic is a fabulous preventative on your homestead and for your animals, but it’s also necessary for your health. Now days, garlic is more widely known for its ability to help with high blood pressure and heart issues. Garlic is also now know to help prevent several different kinds of cancer, and even has anti-inflammatory properties. Garlic is naturally anti-bacterial, which means it can help rid the body of infectious bacteria, and can even help treat the common cold in children.

Garlic can treat fungal infections, fevers, cough, sinus congestion, low blood sugar, diptheria, whopping cough, ringworm, and more.

 

Thyme

Thyme and oregano are often used together in culinary dishes. But they are also often used together when it comes to medicinal purposes as well. Thyme is most commonly used to aid in respiratory and digestive issues. It has been proven to aid in respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis, and whooping cough. Thyme also helps with parasites (internal), fungal infections, anxiety, kidney issues, and more.

 

Peppermint

My friends, every single person in the world should grow peppermint. It is literally the easiest thing to grow, and it has incredible medicinal benefits. It’s widely known for it’s ability to help with nausea. If you’ve eaten something that didn’t agree with you, or just feeling nauseous, this is the herb you want. Tea form is best for nausea. Peppermint can also help treat IBS symptoms, colic, and gastrointestinal disorders.

The other thing peppermint is well known for is its ability to aid in respiratory health. For people who suffer with asthma or restricted airways, peppermint is a must have. During allergy season, when our airways become restricted, we go out and pick a peppermint leaf, rip it in half, and inhale deeply. It instantly opens our airways and brings relief. In studies, peppermint (essential oil) was proven to almost immediately reduce the pain and inflammation of tuberculosis. Peppermint is great for pain and does act as an anti-inflammatory as well.

 

 

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon Balm is most often used in its essential oil form, but it is very easy to grow and use as an herb.

Lemon Balm was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion (including gas and bloating, as well as colic). Even before the Middle Ages, lemon balm was steeped in wine to lift the spirits, help heal wounds, and treat venomous insect bites and stings. Today, lemon balm is often combined with other calming, soothing herbs, such as valerian, chamomile, and hops, to promote relaxation. It is also used in creams to treat cold sores (oral herpes). Some evidence suggests that lemon balm, in combination with other herbs, may help treat indigestion. Others reveal that lemon balm oil has a high degree of antibacterial activity. In one study, lemon balm showed adequate activity against Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus auerus. And a few studies have found that lemon balm may help improve cognitive function and decrease agitation in people with Alzheimer disease. [source: University of Maryland Medical Center]

 

Echinacea/Black Eyed Susan

Echinacea is probably the most commonly known herb for people who’ve never even gotten started into herbalism. It’s widely known for its ability to help prevent the common cold and flu, and to help boost the immune system. What people don’t realize is that Echinacea and Black Eyed Susans are part of the same family, and have many of the same medicinal benefits. This is why we grow both, many times finding that the Black Eyes Susan are more valuable than Echincea.

We use it through out the year for our animals and for ourselves. Be advised, if you have a ragweed allergy, then stay far away from Echinacea. It could, in fact, make your symptoms worse. If you are not allergic to ragweed, then this can be used to help boost the immune system, treat infection, and cure illnesses. Other uses are in the treatment of boils, yeast infections, snake bites, diphtheria, low white blood cell count, strep throat, anxiety, migraines, indigestion, pain relief, and more. We give this to our animals through out the year to keep them healthy and strong. Echinacea was the go to herb before antibiotics came along. That alone should tell you something!

“But Herbalism Scares Me”

When I ask homesteaders why they haven’t dived into holistic healthcare yet, they often respond with, “herbalism scares me, what if I kill my family”. Well, howdy doody, that’s a mighty fine comeback. The fear around herbalism is very real. What if you give your family something that you shouldn’t have? That’s why starting slow, with only a few herbs each year, is extremely important. As you master 3-5 medicinal herbs, and you research more and more, you’ll become more aware of the health benefits, do’s and don’ts around herbalism. Having a healthy dose of fear about anything is a good thing, but never let that deter you from taking control of your health.

Just think, not that many generations ago (some only once or twice removed), hebalism was the norm. This was a skill set that our ancestors had mastered. They instinctually knew what wild forage and herbs were good, how to prepare it, and what should be completely avoided. This skill very abruptly disappeared when populations increased and modern medicine came onto the scene. Miracle drugs, such as penicillin, were now the new norm. Yet here we are, decades later, discovering that these generations of penicillin ridden people has left us a generation of super-bugs that can only be combated with herbal medicine. Isn’t it funny how history repeats itself? Will us humans never realize that our bodies were created to be nourished by the earth, completely and wholly?

Take it slow, narrow down your ailments or reasoning for wanting to start a medicinal herb garden, and have fun with it!

Herbalism doesn’t have to be intimidating, in fact, it’s quite satisfying the more you grow in your herbal knowledge. When we begin to trust our bodies, our knowledge, and we saturate ourselves with getting back to our roots, these old skill sets slowly begin to seep  back into our blood and we not only create a better life for ourselves—one full of confidence in our abilities—but we also leave behind a legacy for our children. Our children will be healthier, our children’s children will benefit because their parents’ bodies were healthier when they were created. And the vicious cycle of unnatural  medicine stops with our generation.

I encourage you to take the leap into herbalism this year, and enjoy it! After all, it’s just one more step to becoming more self-sufficient.

**DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional. Please use caution while using herbal remedies and medicines and pursue what is said in this article with utmost attention and caution. In all ways, do what’s right for you and your family.

Homestead Cooking | Homemade Yeast Rolls

 

I started my very first job when I was a teenager in high school. It wasn’t some elaborate thing that I wanted. I had big plans in my head of what I wanted to be, and baking wasn’t it. But never-the-less, it was an income for me to spend frivolously. And later in life I’d come to find that I would enjoy it more than I realized. My very first job was working in a little Mennonite specialty store and bakery in my hometown — it was called The Farmer’s Wife.
I could sit here and tell you that everything I learned when it comes to cooking came from my mom and grandma, but I’d be lying. You see, most of what I learned came directly from that little country store and the wonderful women that worked within it. But this particular recipe came from a beautiful Mennonite woman who I cherish deeply. She loves her family more than you could imagine. She truly is a Proverbs 31 woman, and she is inspiring even when she doesn’t realize it.


My need for a good yeast roll recipe came about eight years ago when my husband, aka Mountain Man, asked if I could make homemade rolls for dinner one evening. I tried, and I failed…drastically. Mountain Man isn’t one to hide his true feelings when it comes to things, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. This time, it was a bad thing, as his response went something like, “why can’t you make rolls like those Mennonite women do.” You have got to be kidding me….

So I humbly asked a friend for her favorite yeast roll recipe, and she gracefully mailed it to me on a sheet of paper through snail mail. Snail mail….how official it was back then. It was nice getting something in the mail rather than having to print it off on the computer or stare at the iPad while making the recipe.
I made the recipe, and it was awful. I made it again, and again, the same outcome. By the tenth try they finally started to resemble normal yeast rolls. And what I quickly realized is that it wasn’t the recipe that made them good, it was the technique. I often watch food network, where they talk about people’s techniques in the kitchen. For years I scoffed because I truly didn’t think it made a difference….boy, was I wrong.
So with that said, below you will find the recipe, slightly tweaked, for these sinfully tasty yeast rolls. The recipe is extremely easy, however, I tried to convey the technique as much as possible in the recipe so that you can hopefully avoid having to make these ten times before you get them right!
——————————————
Homemade Yeast Dinner Rolls
 
1/2 cup warm water
2 Tbs of yeast
 
Stir together in small bowl and let sit while mixing the rest of the ingredients.
 
1/2 cup butter
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
 
  1. Heat 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, but still sticky.
  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.
  5. Punch down dough, grease three 9″ round pans (you won’t fill the third one completely). Grease your hands with oil if necessary for the next step. Pull off large walnut size balls and knead until smooth. Basically, if you’ve ever made loaf bread, this is the point where you knead and roll it to fit the loaf pan. I just knead it and tuck the ends up into the bottom center to make a smooth top.
  6. Put 8 to 12 rolls per pan — I prefer 8-9 for larger rolls. If you want smaller rolls, you can adjust size etc.
  7. Let rise for about 15 mins. Bake at 350 for 18 mins.
 
You’re done!


Watch me make them here —

Homemade Honey Wheat Bread

I love bread, but my body does not. However, I still have two boys in my house that love bread even more than I do. They could eat some type of bread every single night with dinner and they would be the happiest little things in the whole wide world.
Because of that, I’m constantly trying new recipes or perfecting and experimenting with old ones. My body seems to tolerate whole wheat flour than the all purpose flour, so this past week I decided to use my regular yeast bread and roll recipe, but exchange the white flour for whole wheat (or a mixture of the two), and honey in place of the raw organic sugar. The outcome was deliciousness overload.

As with any homemade bread, your bread will only last for 2-3 days before it starts getting a weird taste, mold, or it goes stale. We typically eat it up quickly, and I especially love eating it warmed up for breakfast with butter and raw honey.

Honey Wheat Bread

3 cups warm water
2 tbsp yeast
1/4 cup salted butter, melted
3/4 cup raw honey
6-7 cups wheat flour (or wheat/white mixture)

 

  • Dissolve warm water and yeast in a bowl. Set aside until it becomes frothy.
  • Add yeast mixture, butter, and raw honey in a large bow and mix.
  • Add flour a cup at a time until a soft dough forms. Dough will be slightly sticky.
  • Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap for 1 hour (in a warm place or on a heating mat).
  • Punch dough down, knead again for 1 minute, and then place bread into loaf pans. Allow bread to rise for another hour (loosely covered with a cloth). Will make 1 large loaf or two regular loaves.
  • Bake bread at 350* for 30 minutes or until tops are brown. Turn out bread onto cooling rack and butter tops immediately.
ENJOY!
This recipe, and more, will be coming out in our very first cookbook later this year! Find our more here.

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