herbs

How to Start Herb Seeds For Your Garden

When you want to start an herb garden, it can be intimidating learning how to start herb seeds from start to finish. So many times we start seeds and they simply don’t grow. But with a few simple steps, herb seeds are easy to start indoors before spring arrives.

Whether you’re planing an entire garden full of herbs, or just a set of herbs for your kitchen, anyone can start herbs from seed! Let’s break it down step by step.

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3 Common Chick Illnesses and How to Naturally Treat Them

Preventing and treating common chick illnesses can be tricky. But with herbs and natural remedies, it’s absolutely attainable.

As with any animal or human, we sometimes worry most about how to naturally treat an illnesses. Especially when it comes to chick illnesses. What if they get sick? Is it possible to treat an illness or bacterial infection with natural remedies? While the answer isn’t as black-and-white as you may think, there are quite a few ways to help prevent illness and disease in your little flock. Should they contract an illness or ailment, I have some natural remedies for you as well.

Let’s go over three common chick illnesses and how you can treat and prevent them.

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How to Make Herbal Lotion Bars

I had never heard of lotion bars when I first started researching for herbal products that help with dry skin. But when I finally did discover them, I was hooked. Not only are lotion bars extremely efficient in healing dry skin, but they are extremely easy to make. The best part is that you can create lotion bars with specific herbs to help whatever skin soothing needs you may have. These are great herbal products to make in batches to give away during the holidays, birthdays, or just as a little gift!

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Are Pumpkin Seeds a Natural Dewormer for Chickens?

Are pumpkin seeds a natural dewormer for chickens? Let's talk about the truth!

Fall is upon us, and just like with anything that’s in season, we have to weed through the truths and myths when it comes to our health and our chicken’s health. One of the constant things you’ll see floating around the interwebs is about pumpkin seeds as a natural dewormer for your chickens and other livestock. It’s not a myth, but it’s only a partial truth, unfortunately. These claims happen when bloggers do a quick google search for something, or they hear about something that might work, and then claim it as gospel. That’s not really my style, thankfully. And so I’m all about bringing you the truth with all the facts, not just a few of them. Trust me, it will save you a lot of time and heartache in the long run.

While it is popular to suggest pumpkin and pumpkin seeds as a natural antiparasitic, it is actually the extraction of the medicinal properties in the pumpkin seeds that is a natural anti-parasitic and dewormer. You can continue to give your chickens pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, but you probably won’t get rid of a worm infestation with them, and at the very least, it’s only slightly a preventative. Your best bet is to make a tincture out of the seeds to keep on hand when you need it, or add pumpkin seeds to your homemade anti-parasitic tincture. Let’s break it down a bit more.

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Homemade Anti-Parasitic Tincture for Livestock

Homemade Anti-parasitic tincture for livestock

Parasites and worms on your farm and homestead are one of the top leading causes of livestock death. But thankfully we can make a homemade anti-parasitic tincture for our livestock (yes, even chickens!) By offering our livestock herbal supplements and this tincture on a regular basis, we can help prevent parasites from infesting our beloved animals, and treat our livestock should an issue arise. The issue, however, is that you’ll need to make this tincture now in case you ever need to use it later for an infestation. It takes 4-6 weeks for this tincture to be created!

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Naturally Treating Bumblefoot with Essential Oils and Herbs

Naturally Treating Bumblefoot with Herbs and Essential oils is absolutely attainable! Here's how.

Bumblefoot (also known as Pododermatitis). It’s one of those things that most chicken keepers will have to deal with at some point or another during their chicken keeping adventure. Naturally treating bumblefoot with herbs and essential oils is more than likely the easiest and more successful route to take. As a chicken herbalist, I’ve seen plenty of bumblefoot cases, and the treatment always remains the same for me. We’ve had great success with it, and so today, I share it with you!

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Growing and Drying Your Own Herbs (with video)

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! But growing and drying your own herbs, now that was a new task.

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. Drying your own herbs is one of the easiest skills to learn, and will come in handy often.  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.

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How to Make and Pressure Can Chicken Bone Broth (with video)

Chicken bone broth is one of the first lines of defense when it comes to total health and wellness on the homestead. It’s so incredibly easy to make bone broth, and chicken bone broth is one of my favorites. You can create other bone broths as well, like beef, lamb, or venison—but chicken is one of the most versatile that you’ll create. We use chicken bone broth in soups, stews, and even just to drink as a meal replacement, especially in the winter months. If your body needs a little extra joint help, adding bone broth to your daily diet is essential to help rebuild collagen in your body.

It’s even better when you know where the chicken came from that you’re using for the bone broth. We raise our own birds, make our own homemade chicken feed, and raise our chickens on pasture. It makes all the difference!

In this blog post and video, I’m going to walk you through the easy steps of how to make chicken bone broth, and how to pressure can it as well. We’ll also talk about the benefits and why it’s so important to learn this skill on your homestead.

The Benefits of Bone Broth

There are so many different benefits of bone broth, not only for your body and health, but for your homestead as well. Let’s walk through some of those benefits.

  • High in minerals and electrolytes
  • Can help improve joint health
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Help soothe and heal the digestive tract
  • Helps restore and strengthen the gut lining
  • Is full of beneficial collagen that helps maintain healthy skin, joints, cellulite
  • Aids the metabolism
  • Packed full of amino acids
  • Increases bone strength
  • A great way to put culled birds to good use

The benefits to bone broth are endless, as you can see. There are so many subcategories to the main categories, that it proves just how much of a powerhouse this liquid is on your homestead.

Making Bone Broth From Your Chickens

Whenever I need to make a new batch of bone broth, I normally like to make it from my own chickens. If you have chickens that need to be culled because they are old or you have too many roosters, they tend to make the best bone broth. However, you can also use the chickens that you raise for meat, or a chicken from the store. Never let a chicken carcass go to waste! Always save those bones and feet to make this liquid gold. You can pressure can it and store it for later use.

How to Clean Chicken Feet

In a large pot of hot water, bring the water right under a boil and add the pre-washed chicken feet to the water. Stirring constantly, allow the feet to set in the water for about 3-5 minutes. Do not allow the water to come to a complete boil. After 3-5 mins of blanching, remove from heat and allow to cool until you’re able to handle them. You can run them under cold water if you’d like. Once they have cooled off enough to touch, start peeling the skin and scales off of the chicken feet. Scrub the feet thoroughly after all of the skin and scales have been removed, then store in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.

Putting Your Broth Together

Now that you’ve gotten your carcass and chicken feet prepared, you’ll need to consider veggies and herbs to put into your bone broth. Here are the herbs and veggies I choose.

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Bay Leaves
  • Thyme
  • Oregano

Now it’s time to put your bone broth together!

  1. In a large stock pot or in your slow cooker, add the chicken carcass (picked clean), rough cut veggies, and at least 2 handfuls of various herbs. Cover the carcass, veggies, and herbs completely with water, place the lid on the pot, and cook on low heat for 24-48 hours.
  2. After the desired time of cooking, strain out all of the carcass, veggies, and herbs. The liquid you have left is your bone broth.
  3. Store your bone broth in canning jars in the fridge for up to 48 hours until you’re ready to use or pressure can.

Pressure Canning Your Bone Broth

Pressure canning your bone broth is the easiest (and cheapest) way to preserve your harvest. Please note that your elevation and location will play a major role in how you can your bone broth, so check your pressure canning manual first.

  1. Fill your canning jars with your bone broth, leaving a 1-inch head space. Cap finger tip tightness.
  2. Place your cans into your prepare pressure canner (typically filled with 3 quarts water and the canning rack). Place cans on the canning rack and close the lid.
  3. On your stove top or camp stove, bring your canner to a boil and allow a steady and fast stream of steam to escape from the vent for 10 minutes.
  4. After 10 minutes of venting, place your pressure gauge on the vent and bring the canner to pressure (at my elevation I can it at 11 lbs of pressure). Once your canner is to pressure, can for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.
  5. After the processing time, allow your canner to release naturally. Place your cans on a towel on the counter until completely cooled, then transfer to the pantry.

And that’s it! That’s how easy it is to make your own bone broth and can it!

Use your harvest for all kinds of meals, or save it for winter time when bone broth is the best comfort food in the world!

 

Watch the Video Here!

 

 

Herbal Oatmeal for Chickens (with video)

Giving herbs to your chickens isn’t a new concept, and neither is giving oatmeal. But what about offering herbal oatmeal to your chickens? No that, my friends, is something worth writing about! Combining both of these wonderful treats into an herbal oatmeal is a sure way to get those beneficial and medicinal herbs into your favorite chooks. Whether it’s maintenance herbs as a preventative, or treating an entire flock for internal issues, you’ll want to keep this versatile recipe on hand.

A Word on Oatmeal

Oatmeal should never be given to chickens on a regular (daily) basis. If you are mixing up your own chicken feed, you can certainly add dried oats to it, but as a meal replacement, oatmeal shouldn’t be your top choice. Oatmeal can cause diarrhea in chickens, and if given too long, can start to create vitamin and mineral deficiencies. We only offer this oatmeal to our chickens once a week or once every other week as a herbal maintenance and a treat. Otherwise, our chickens are happily eating scraps, grass, bugs, rodents, and their homemade layer feed (which you can find in my new book coming in Spring 2019!)

What to Put in Your Herbal Oatmeal

Start by choosing items that you might need to get rid of already, like blackened or imperfect fruit and vegetables. This will allow you to get rid of some waste while still offering your chickens a healthy treat. After that, consider adding some of the following:

  • Blackstrap Molasses: Molasses has been used in livestock feed for centuries. It is a great source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, iron, phosphorus, chromium, cobalt, and sodium. It’s also full of vitamins like vitamin B-3, vitamin B-6, thiamine, and riboflavin.
  • Chia SeedsThese little seeds are full of vitamins A, B, E and D, and minerals, including sulphur, iron, iodine, magnesium, manganese, niacin and thiamine. They are a great source of antioxdants! They are also more easily digestible once they become wet, so make sure you mix them thoroughly in the oatmeal. They are a fabulous source of protein, fiber, and calcium.
  • Whole Flax SeedsThese little seeds are part of the “super foods” family for us humans, but they are also super food for chickens, too! And incredible source of Omega 3 fatty acids, these will not only benefit your chickens and enhance their egg yolk, but it will benefit your health through the eggs that you eat as well. Flax seeds are high in fiber and antioxidants, help the digestive tract, and will promote the overall good health of your chickens.
  • Herbs: That’s right, now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of things. Adding herbs to this mix will help maintain good health with your chickens, and you can pick and choose herbs for whatever you’re trying to accomplish with your flock. Let’s go over some of my favorite herbs to add in the next section.

 

Some of My Favorite Herbs

There are hundreds of herbs that you can choose from, and I would encourage you to grab a copy of my books to read more in depth about herbs and have more herbal options, but here are some of my favorite herbs to use with my chickens.

  • Thyme: a natural antiparasitic
  • Oregano: a natural antibiotic
  • Astragalus: naturally boosts the immune system, adaptogen, antiviral, antibacterial
  • Calendulafull of Omega-3s, vitamins E, K, and B-complex vitamins
  • Chamomileaids in digestion, helps heal mucous membranes, is anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and can act as a mild sedative
  • Comfreyhigh in vitamins A, C, and B-12, and is also high in protein. Comfrey leaves contain calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and some iron. Is a natural anti-inflammatory and boosts the immune system.
  • Echinacea: boosts the immune system, is a natural antibacterial and antiviral
  • Nasturtium: may be helpful during the dewormer or preventative worming of your chickens

How to Make Herbal Oatmeal

It’s really quite simple. Once you’ve decided what you’d like to put into your oatmeal, now it’s time to mix it all up. Here’s what I normally do, though I just eyeball it. Depending on your flock size, make sure you aren’t giving them so much that they won’t eat it all within 30 minutes. Adjust oatmeal amount as needed. The molasses, seed, and herb amounts can stay the same!

Herbal Oatmeal for Chickens

4 cups steel cut oatmeal
5 cups water
1 large handful each flax seeds, chia seeds, and herbs of choice
4-5 tbps blackstrap molasses

  1. Bring water to a boil on stovetop, add oatmeal.
  2. Cook for 5 minutes on medium heat until water is absorbed.
  3. Remove from heat and place oatmeal into a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  4. Allow to cool to room temperature before offering to your chickens.
  5. Give once a week or every few weeks for herbal maintenance!
Watch how to make the oatmeal here!

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? If you  make your own chicken feed, do you have enough ingredients on hand to last you through? 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, anything can happen. We have many of these systems and products already in place or on hand. 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.

 

Starting Herb Seeds and Homemade Potting Soil (with video)

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.

 

Herbs for Homestead Bees

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

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

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

Herbs That Attract Pollinators

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

Preparing and Cleaning Your Hive Boxes

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

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

New Hive Cleaner

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

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

Method:

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

 

Encouraging New or Weak Bee Hives

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

Herbal Bee Tea

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

1 tbsp each:

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

Method:

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

Encouraging Herbal Foraging

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

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

Herbal Honey Enhancers

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

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

 

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

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

xoxo
Amy

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

 

Essential Oils and Herbs for Ear Infections

Essential oils and herbs for ear infections can be just as effective as antibiotics, but we’re often too scared to try them out. Ear infections are one of the most common ailments in children under the age of 8. Even teenagers and adults can get ear infections, though it’s less common. Unfortunately, not only are ear infections the most popular ailments in our younger generations, but they are also one of the main causes of overuse of antibiotics. In fact, most ear infections will clear up within 24-72 hours after the first symptoms.

Parents who take their children to the doctor to get an antibiotic often believe that the antibiotic is what cured their child, when the reality is that the ear infection, more likely than not, began clearing on its own. It takes 24-48 hours for an antibiotic to begin working. It can take the same amount of time for the symptoms of an ear infection to begin subsiding on its own.

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

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

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

Preventing Ear Infections

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

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

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

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

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

Prevention is your first step to helping your child with an ear infection. These simple methods can help rid the possibility of ear infection for your child, and even for yourself. But when those things fail, we turn to herbs for ear infections.

Different Types of Ear Infections

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever you do, I encourage you to hold off on antibiotics as long as possible (if you’re comfortable doing so).

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

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

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

Essential Oils and Herbs for Ear Infections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infant and Pediatric Herbal Ear Infection Oil

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

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

Method:

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

 

Child and Adult Herbal Ear Infection Oil

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

 

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

 

 

Resources:

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

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

Lieberthal, A. S., Carroll, A. E., Chonmaitree, T., Ganiats, T. G., Hoberman, A., Jackson, M. A., … & Schwartz, R. H. (2013). The diagnosis and management of acute otitis media. Pediatrics, 131(3), e964-e999.

Rosenfeld, R. M., Vertrees, J. E., Carr, J., Cipolle, R. J., Uden, D. L., Giebink, G. S., & Canafax, D. M. (1994). Clinical efficacy of antimicrobial drugs for acute otitis media: metaanalysis of 5400 children from thirty-three randomized trials. The Journal of Pediatrics, 124(3), 355-367.

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

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

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

Using Astragalus to Boost Your Chicken’s Immune System

When you first begin your homesteading adventure, you typically begin with the gateway animal—chickens. Chickens are some of the most entertaining of livestock that you can have. They offer eggs each day (or almost each day), a cute egg song, and a beautiful scene across your landscape when, and if, they free range. There’s nothing quite as beautiful as chickens in their free ranging element.
But what happens when you start realizing that chickens can also be the most complex animal on the homestead, especially when it comes to their health?
Joel Salatin often says that he’s not in the business of treating animals because his animals typically don’t get sick. Through the efficiency of rotational grazing, including his chickens, it leaves little room for bacteria and diseases to take hold of his animals. We believe in this method as well.
But there can be times when you simply can’t help the situation. It can be due to genetics, compromised immune systems, or migrating birds that carry diseases….sometimes you might not be able to avoid a situation completely.
This is where the world of herbalism comes into play on the holistic homestead.
We use herbs as a way to prevent, not just treat. In fact, using herbs to prevent can be much more effective for livestock than the act of treating with herbs. Anyone can prevent illnesses with herbs, but it takes education and knowledge to treat livestock properly with herbs. You can learn about that in my new book, The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion
 
Thankfully, through good genetics and herbal prevention, we haven’t had a sick chicken on this homestead in years. We believe this is due to good immune system and immune stimulating herbs. The chicken’s immune system is much like any other immune system, and therefore, we confidently know that it can be stimulated just like a human’s immune system.
A good herbalist knows that it isn’t just folk methods that create good remedies and prevention. Confidently preventing and treating with herbs begins with scientific knowledge and proven clinical studies in the modern world.
Let’s begin with the herb of choice when it comes to immunity boosting, and then we’ll dive into the scientific specifics of it.
 

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) is a fairly new herb to many people. It’s widely popular in Chinese and Eastern medicine. Much like their love for ginseng, eastern herblists simply adore Astragalus root. It has been traditionally used for over 5,000 years to help boost the immune system and cure many common ailments. But did you know we can use this herb for our livestock too?

Uses of Astragalus: immune support, adaptogenic, helps body adapt to stress, antibacterial, antiviral, reduces the common cold and flu, increases white blood cell count, anti-inflammatory, protects cardiovascular system

 

So we know that Astragalus not only supports the immune system, but it also helps the body adapt to stress, which plays a major role in a healthy immune system. Boosting the white blood cell count is also a highly effective way to fight off illness and diseases. It is also antibacterial, and we all know bacteria are the worst when it comes to the wonderful world of chickens.

In a clinical study done by the South China Agricultural University, hundreds of chicks were infected with Avian Flu, both in the egg (in vitro) and once hatched (in vivo). Scientists studied the effects of several different treatments, including astragalus root, in a controlled environment. This is the only way to properly study treatments as there are so many factors that play a role.

 

From this study, the following conclusions were derived:

1. At an appropriate concentration (231.25μg/mL) APS (astragalus root) can drastically reduce the proliferation of H9N2 virus (avian influenza).
2. APS enhanced the proliferation of CEF cells when used at concentrations > 9.766μg/mL. The exception, the simultaneous addition of APS and virus at APS concentrations of 2,500μg/mL and 1,250μg/mL.
3. APS effectively increases the expression of IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, LITAF and IL-12, promotes cell growth, and enhances anti-H9N2 activity.
4. APS promoted a rapid humoral response following H9N2 vaccine immunization or H9N2 AIV infection.
5. The appropriate dose of APS (5 and 10mg/kg) significantly enhanced the specific immune response in chickens, and improved vaccine effectiveness; promoting an earlier peak that increased rapidly and was sustained for a longer period of time.
6. The CD4+, CD8+ T lymphocyte content and CD4+/CD8+ values for all the APS treatment groups were higher than those for the untreated (no APS) control group. The values for the 5 and 20mg/kg APS dose groups were significantly higher than the control group, which indicated that the appropriate dose of polysaccharide can promote the production of peripheral CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes in chickens, thereby enhancing cellular immunity.
7. APS inhibited H9N2 both in vitro and in vivo.

The precise mechanisms responsible for the response to APS require further examination. On the whole, APS has the potential to diminish disease progression in H9N2 infected chickens, and its use could provide alternative strategies for the control of H9N2 AIV infection. [NCBI]

 

I know, it’s a lot of information, but I think for those of you who aren’t proficient in scientific talk, you can read enough in between the lines to know that astragalus root was a win. A major win.While the study concludes that more trials need to be run, it was very confident in the findings that astragalus has the potential to diminish disease progression in avian influenza infected chickens, and could provide alternative strategies for the control of avian influenza as a whole.The most surprising part, however, is that this clinical trial was done in 2013. And here we are in 2017 (at the writing of this blog), and we’ve yet to hear anything about this in the United States. Unless, of course, you’re a researching and studying herbalist like myself.All we’ve heard are the detrimental effects of avian flu on our chickens—in backyards, in poultry warehouses, on farms large and small. But we’ve not been informed that there can be a better way. That avian flu can be beat.My friends, that starts with you, and me, and all of the mini, full time, and hardcore farmers and homesteaders across the globe.

 
 

So how to we use astragalus to prevent bacterial outbreaks and viruses?

It’s simple, really.

Make an Astragalus Tincture

First things first. If you go and read this study, and I encourage you to do so, you’ll find that the way they administered the astragalus root was typically by an extraction. Scientists do this much more efficiently than we can do at home. They literally pin point the exact medicinal qualities that they want to extract, and do exactly that on fancy machines. But we can mimic this very well by creating a tincture at home.
 

A typical tincture of dried herbs is used with a 1:5 or (up to) 1:10 ratio (herb:liquid) and 80-100 proof vodka, or glycerin. It is best to use dried astragalus root for this tincture.

—————————
Tincture measurement examples:

1 ounce of dried herb to 5 ounces of liquid (1:5).
3 ounces of dried herb to 15 ounces of liquid (because 3×5 [1:5] is 15 — therefore 1:5 = 3:15)
3 ounces of fresh herb to 6 ounces of liquid (because 3×2 [1:2] is 6 — 1:2 = 3:6)
—————————-

Begin by measuring out your dried root and vodka in separate containers. Next, add your dried root to a mason or glass jar, then cover completely with your pre-measured vodka.

Cap tightly and shake well. Don’t forget to label your tincture!

Leave your mason jar in a temperature controlled area, like a cabinet or pantry, out of direct sunlight. Shake once or twice each day to keep the tincture mixed and the herbs saturated.
Your tincture will be ready after 4-6 weeks, depending on the time period you wish to allow it to extract.
When your tincture is ready, strain the herbs out, bottle the remaining liquid into a brown glass eyedropper bottle, and store it in your medicine cabinet (dark place) or refrigerator for 18-24 months or more. If kept in your fridge, it can last much longer. It all depends on the environment around you. Some tinctures can last 5+ years in a medicine cabinet.
Administer 2-3 drops directly into the bird’s mouth every 6-12 hours once symptoms occur. Or add 3-5 drops to chicken waterer every few days to help boost the immune system as a preventative.
You can read why I use this method of making a tincture instead of the folk method here.

 

Offer Astragalus as a Decoction

One of my favorite ways to offer astragalus to my chickens as a preventative is to offer it as a decoction. A decoction is much like a tea, but different. An infusion is the way we make a tea, by putting our herbs into a cup and pouring boiling water over them. But a decoction is actually the process of boiling the herb, mostly roots and berries, for an extended period of time in order to extract the medicinal benefits of it.
 
Do this by placing your dried herbs into a pot on your stovetop, and cover the herbs with water.
 
Bring your water to a boil, then turn down to a medium heat rolling simmer and cover your pot. Maintain this level of simmer until your mixture has reduced by half, or for about 30-40 minutes.
 
Once complete, strain your mixture into a glass jar for future use, and store in the refridgerator. Keep in mind that the medicinal benefits in the decoction only last for about 12-24 hours, so it’s best to make smaller batches as needed. Sometimes I push it to 48 hours if I’m feeling confident.
 
As you offer new water to your chicken’s waterer, offer 1-2 tablespoons of decoction per gallon of water. I often do this once in the morning and once in the evening. If I stretch the decoction for two days, this means they’ll be treated 4 times.
 
Doing this once a week is really all that’s needed. If an outbreak should occur, or you are feeling suspicious of symptoms, offer it daily for 14 days.
 
 
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) comes with no safety warnings, which means, within reason, there are no known side effects on your livestock. The only time astragalus should be avoided is when grow in the wild and is available for livestock to graze off of. The root of the plant is perfectly fine.
 
Astragalus can also be used with your other livestock to help boost the immune system, treat viruses and bacterial issues, and as a natural anti-parasitic.
 
This herb can especially be used in your home for your family. You can find out how to make an elderberry and astragalus syrup here, which helps boost the immune system and rid the body of the flu.
 
Want to learn more about herbs on the homestead? Order my new book, The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion, now, and look for future books coming soon!
 
 

Purchase the products mentioned in this blog:

 
 
 
 

Flu Fighting Elderberry and Astragalus Syrup

We read blog after blog claiming things like elderberry syrup, fire cider, and some type of tonic all help to reduce cold and flu symptoms. I myself live Elderberry and Astragalus syrup. My favorite misconception, however, is that echinacea is a preventative to catching the common cold and flu. while in reality, clinical studies have been shown that echinacea does not, at all, prevent anything. However, it is a great herb once you get sick, and helps lessen the symptoms and length of the cold or flu. Just make sure you don’t take it if you have a ragweed allergy, because you’ll make yourself ten times worse.

So what happens when you spend hundreds of dollars in all of these herbs and then, they don’t work? Well, I’ll tell you what—your husband looks at you and bans you from ordering herbs off the internet for the next 6 months.

I kid…kind of.

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