The Homesteader's Herbal Companion

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.

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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.

 

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

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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!

 

The Announcement You’ve Been Waiting For

When I was in high school I had multiple research papers and book reports that were due. They were normally the most in depth and horrid thing for a teenager, but I absolutely loved them. Back then, you wrote your book report with a pencil and paper. You’d erase your mistakes by hand, bringing your pencil up to your chin, wondering how to replace that sentence with a better one full of imagery. Or, maybe that was just me. Maybe I was the only teenager who did that.
None-the-less, I remember handing in a book report one day, and shortly after I’d handed it in, it had already been scored. I went to a small Christian school in high school—only about 30 kids in total. So when someone got called up to the front, you’d hear just about everything that teacher had to say.
It was one of the very last book reports I’d ever do in high school, and I really wanted it to be done well.
As I walked up to the front to collect my graded paper, she peered over her glasses and quietly said, “Amy, you have a gift for writing, you’re going to be an author one day.”
She smiled.
I had a blank stare.
She had a way of building us kids up. The head of all teachers, the woman who would let you know you were out of line in a heartbeat, but who was gentle enough to cheer you on in love and grace.
At first I believed every word that flowed from her lips, but soon doubt crept in and the instant gratification high was gone.
Her words have stayed with me ever since…and that brings me to that big announcement you’ve all been waiting for…

This week, I signed my very first book contract with a real publisher.
A publisher who is well known in the world of outdoor living and homesteading books. A publisher that I connected with instantly. A publisher that my best friend, when hearing me talk about them, said, “I don’t know, Amy, something about this just feels right.”
It helps to have friends who are logical enough to tell you when something is just a bad deal or a good deal, but who are absolutely there to pray for you and with you, and who heed the Holy Spirit…that still small voice inside.
I can’t tell you, in detail, what the book is about just yet. That will come in the next month or so when we release the cover and begin pre-sale and marketing. But I can absolutely tell you that it’s about homesteading, real life modern homesteading, and herbs. You know how much I love my herbs. This is the book I wish I could’ve read when I first started my journey.
It is so much more than just homesteading and herbs…
But, that’s all I can tell you for now!
More than anything, however, I want to tell you how this came about. Because honestly, it happened so quickly that if I would’ve blinked, I would have missed it all.
If you’ve been following my journey for any amount of time, you know that back at the beginning of the year I was offered a book deal for this book. Actually, I had pitched a generational family cookbook, but no one was interested in that. Failure number one.
A publisher asked me if I had another book rolling around inside, and so I sent the beginning stages of this book. They immediately approved it and made an offer. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t connecting with them. Even though friends of mine had published through them successfully, I just didn’t feel like it was a good deal for me. Not to sound snobbish, but, I knew there was more out there. I knew I brought value to the table through my experience of more than a decade in the media industry, and through Homesteaders of America, and so, I declined the deal.
Yep, you read that right, I declined it. I said I’m sorry and I walked away from it.
The things people said to me were just, well, most of them weren’t nice or said with good intention.
I had people ask why I thought so highly of myself not to take the deal. I had others tell me I’d never get a better deal being a first time author with no experience. That no experience thing always got me. I’ve been writing, professionally, not just a blog, for years.
I had others mock me, call me a liar (they didn’t think the offer was actually made), and more.
This happens online. Honestly, you must have some type of thick enough skin to not let it get to you, but be gentle enough to love people right where they are.
To  be honest, after that experience of the first deal going wrong, I had talked myself out of that book. I didn’t think it was right for me because I didn’t get what I was expecting from that experience. Also, I was simply just too busy to worry with it.
I ended up connecting with an agency for Christian living publications and began working on a book proposal about homemaking. But still, the herb book was in the back of my mind. As I would cut my herbs to feed to the chickens, or roast potatoes with fresh herbs from the garden this Spring, still, the book was there.
So imagine my surprise when I opened my email at the beginning of June (that’s how recent this all went down!), and noticed an email from two different publishers—the publisher that I chose, and Storey Publishing. That’s right, you read that right, Storey Publishing. But you also read it right that I did not choose Storey Publishing.
I still wonder if I’m crazy for that. I still wonder if I should’ve thought about it more, but sometimes you just can’t over think it. You have to go with where you feel the Lord leading you. And He was leading me to someone else…the second publisher…and here’s why…
I was holding onto the truth that there was more out there for me, someone I could connect with. I had made a decision not to go with the first publisher that came my way. And don’t you know, I got a better deal…and I connected with this publisher on so many levels.
Because I waited patiently, I got exactly what I wanted, what I knew I was worth.
I didn’t even know these two new publishers were interested in my book. I had sent them the proposal quite a long time ago, and now suddenly, here they were, ready to pitch it and make offers. And I was over here like, uhhh.
Just as quickly as I received the emails, I received an offer from the publisher that I signed on with. We spoke by phone. We connected. We laughed. And when I asked her what set them apart from other publishers, she answered…We like to tell stories. We like to educate people on a personal level, from real life experiences, not just a long research paper. We want someone to feel something when they read our books.
 
Bam. Sold. Just like that. That’s what I had been waiting for. Story tellers…Depth…Feeling…
Everything in between was blurry, but I know that it’s a good move. And I’m excited beyond belief. But also, I’m about to become a hermit. And I tell you that so that you know I haven’t disappeared, I’m simply consumed until September!
Ya’ll, I have so many words to write before my manuscript is turned in by SEPTEMBER! That’s right, I only have about 8 weeks to create an entire handbook—words and photographs. But I believe I’m up for the challenge. And I know you’ll enjoy it so much, and the pretty photos too!
The book will be launching in Spring 2018, just in time for gardening season! So make sure you keep checking back to see when pre-sales are up. If you aren’t already subscribed to my e-newsletter, that’s a fabulous way to get reminders about what’s happening over here.
Thank you for following my journey. Thank you for cheering me on as I go. Thank you for your love and inspiration.
Thank you…
I’m still working on my Christian living book proposals! Don’t worry. Maybe we’ll tackle that next year 😉
But for now, I write!

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!

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*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.

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