It is so rewarding to see my older children starting to embrace our lifestyle of their own free will. Proeun and I have been talking about how amazing destiny and synchronicity is. We made many of the decisions we are ecstatic for years ago, when it seemed foolish (sometimes even to us), but now our life is sustaining us in so so so many ways. I am ultra grateful we made the decision to follow our heart.
The past couple of weeks we have had some new additions to the farm, thanks primarily to the efforts of our older children.
One task Avril particularly likes is having chickens. We thought about purchasing from a hatchery but the Coronavirus hit about the time we would have had to order so we decided on hatching our own.
We invested in a better incubator. We did get the one with the egg turner but there is a cheaper option. In this case you would have to turn the eggs manually. This is what we did last year. You use a pencil (definitely not pen or marker) and write the date on the egg, put and X on one side, flip it over and put and O on the other. You flip from one sign to the other about every 12 hours, we did at 8:00 am and 8:00 pm. It takes 21 days to hatch chicks. Three days before they are due to hatch you stop turning the eggs. If you are using this incubator you will want to remove the egg turner at this point.
Our first batch didn’t turn out very good. Avril trouble shooted and decided that one thing she needed to do was open the incubator twice a day, a mother chicken will leave the nest sometimes so she started implementing this and the 2nd batch went better.
She has done two batches of chicks and now duck eggs are in the incubator.
A second addition to the farm is Embden Geese. We did order these from Peterson’s North Branch Mill, our absolute favorite store! We had been doing some spring cleaning jobs around the farm. I was feeling overwhelmed and seriously thought about hiring someone to complete the task, but instead I offered to pay the children if they would get the job done without me. They did and Proeun the 2nd (Two) decided to use his money to buy geese, He researched breeds and places to purchase and selected Embdens. Geese are a new addition to the farm.
If you are interested in getting into poultry chickens are a great way to begin. Many cities allow a limited number of chickens. To get started my absolutely favorite books on all things homesteading is Storey publications.
I used to feel like I had a “bad lawn”. Over the years the ratio of grass to dandelion, ground ivy (creeping charlie) and violets has been slowly, maybe not so slowly, shifting. But as we shift our overall farm focus to plant allies (i.e. plants used traditionally for what ails us) I am thankful for this shift. I am thoroughly enjoying learning ways to preserve this goodness and enjoy it during the winter months, though it is actually feeding my soul right now.
I am really connecting with one plant in particular.
Maia Toll says in her absolutely beautiful Herbiary (really for the it is a must have for the visuals of it alone)–
“Violet understands that most of us have forgotten: it’s okay to have a public face that is different from the one we wear in private. In fact, in order to deeply know ourselves, it’s necessary. . . You may think that you are being your true, authentic self by fully expressing each thought and feeling out in the world and sharing well, everything. But overexposure will send truth scurrying. Befriend your truth in the quiet and dark. Become intimate with its contours and inner dimensions before you carry it out into the light.”
Sometimes we struggle with knowing how much to share, who to share it with and how to say no. This is an area I particularly struggle with. The solution is to fully embrace and know ourselves. How interesting that when I was studying Violets I discovered that this plant is ready and willing to help. The Flower Essence Repertory has this to say about Violets–
“The soul forces of the Violet type are highly refined, full of exquisite yet delicate sweetness. Such persons long to share themselves with others, but usually hold back due to a feeling of fragility in group situations, and fear that their sense of self will be lost or submerged. Such a type often gravitates to a lifestyle or occupation where work is done silently and alone. The Violet personality inwardly feels a great deal of warmth, but he/she appears cool and aloof to others; even the body and especially the hands may be moist and cool. Although such persons may find a few others who are able to understand and accept their shyness, they suffer great feelings of loneliness, for they would like to share more of themselves than they actually do. The key to their unfoldment lies in being able to trust the warmth of others. Like the Violet flower, whose essential fragrance cannot be detected until the sun shines upon it and the air wafts it upward, so the Violet type must learn to let its essence flow into others. Violet flower essence helps such souls shift their awareness from fear of losing the Self, to trust that the Self will be warmed and revealed by others, so that their beautiful soul nature may be shared with the world.”
I find that this pretty much describes me. And so the plant I needed came. One huge part of this is finding people that I feel comfortable to share with and give to who do not take advantage of me. So while I was struggling with this dynamic I noticed the flowers asking for attention. That was last year. Violet was one of the first flower essences I made. I learned about flower essences through this book and the Green Wisdom School of Natural and Botanical Medicines. Another resource for making your own flower essences is this book.
Sadly the season for Violets was over before I had a chance to really explore it. This year I have been anxiously waiting for the Violets to come back. I am making a tincture, oil and drying leaves for tea. Note that many sources do not recommend dried Violets and it is very difficult to find to purchase. But Robin Rose Bennett sings the praises of Violets so strongly in The Gift of Healing Herbs I decided to give it a try. So my dehydrator is out and humming away. I use this one. Note that Bennett gives easy to follow instructions for making tinctures and oils with herbs and offers some interesting combinations. Her other book, Healing Magic, is also very good.
In case you need more motivation to try working with Violet this spring Bennett says this about Violet–
“If ever there was a plant that speaks to its connection to your heart, it is sweet blue violet. Not only does violet help your body dissolve cysts, lumps, and bumps, this plant’s soothing nature can help you dissolve the red-hot burn of anger, cool the draining white heat of frustration and resentment, and relieve the simmering roil of felling stuck in separation when ruled by your judgmental mind.
“Violet leaf infusion or tincture is the remedy to use if your head is aching in response to over-thinking, or to feeling angry and frustrated with someone. Violet leaf nourishes the nervous system and provides pain relief due to its salicylic acid, the anti-inflammatory chemical related to aspirin. Violet is one of the sweetest-spirited plants I know.” (Bennett, 2014)
There is also some culinary fun to be had with Violets. Here is a syrup recipe from Erin Piorier, a great local herbalist and teacher.
Have fun working with and enjoying plants this spring! If feels like this spring has been a long time coming.
I had this idea that maybe life on the farm was getting to be too much. In all honesty prior to Coronavirus we thought about moving back to the city, getting a little lot that required very little maintenance. We (Proeun and I) imagined weekends where we would say, “What shall we do today?” Normally our weekends start with a look at our “to-do” list and a sigh.
As our children got older I felt guilty about “making them” live this life that required so much from us and them. We decided to sell our animals. And I was so thankful to find a wonderful family that was excited to move our whole flock of Lincoln Longwool sheep to their farm so they were all able to stay together. We also found really amazing homes for most of our goats. But Miracle (sorry the pictures of her were on the old host for our blog and didn’t transfer) was a different story. Avril thought about it and asked if we could please keep her. We also had a couple of other special goats that will remain on our farm and have since had babies this year.
I didn’t know how much Avril really loved this life. She recently told me that her ideal life would involve raising animals on her own homestead. She has already picked out the name of her farm, but it will be a secret for awhile yet.
It is so rewarding as a parent when your children so clearly tell you that they appreciate the life you have worked so hard to offer them. This of course makes you even more motivated to keep giving for them. So today we are basking in a warm sun, feelings and baby goat cuteness.
I am so proud to live in a GreenStep City. In my hometown we have the “magnificent 7” that have been instrumental in working with the city and educating the public. At a recent meeting one of the members was saying that she was supervised to learn how damaging micro bead scrubbers are so the environment. Those little synthetic beads don’t biodegrade and get washed down the drain and into our water supply.
Since GreenStep is all about identifying small and doable action steps that build to big change this member said looking for an alternative was an action step she wanted to start with.
Unfortunately, our city’s Earth Day Celebration (April 22) was canceled, so I thought in honor of Earth Day I would share my own favorite DIY facial scrub.
This is based off of Rosemary Gladstar’s Basic scrub, also called “Miracle Grains” in some sources. Gladstar’s original recipe has spread far and wide, and I am not sure what the original looked like, but here is the recipe I came up with using what I have on hand.
The flowers might be the hardest items to source but our natural food coop has these in the bulk herb/spice section. You can use whatever your favorites are (rose would be really nice) and even dry some flowers that will soon be coming up.
Clay can also be hard to find. I got mine from Mountain Rose Herbs. But your coop would probably have some as well.
I have a vitamix with a dry/grain attachment I used to grind this up. I store the dry mix in a quart jar, but keep a smaller 1/2 pint jar in the shower (use a plastic lid). For the smaller jar I mix 4-5 TBSP of the mix with 1 1/2 Tbsp honey and enough filtered water to make a paste.
This is what I use to wash my face–no soap. When I was younger I was very acne prone. I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable only using this scrub on a daily basis then but now I love it, it is not so drying and is beautifully exfoliating. Plus not only is it biodegradable but you could eat it is you really wanted to, though the clay is a bit yucky.
More Earth Festivities include planning our new medicinal herb garden. How are you celebrating Earth Day?
I was reading on Facebook how if we are able to be under quarantine in a warm house with a well stocked fridge and pantry, plus plenty of books and TV options we really should be thankful.
This morning I was standing at my kitchen sink washing dishes. A bluejay flew by. Our cats were playing and running in the backyard, ducks were swimming in every little puddle, chickens were scratching and baby goats are in the barn. So I am feeling extra extra blessed. Here are some pictures of our cuteness to bless you.
I was shopping this week looking for a new house plant. It wasn’t on my radar at the time to buy an Easter Lily, though I had thought about it before, until I asked the clerk if they had plants and she mentioned that they had just gotten Easter Lilies in.
My family had always bought Easter Lilies when I was growing up, but it wasn’t until reading Matthew Wood’s The Book of Herbal Wisdom that I realized that you could make an botanical treatment with it. Wood says, “Easter Lily as a remedy for fibro-cystic disease of the breasts, cysts in the ovaries and under the skin, and menstrual problems.”
He goes on to write about its use in Chinese Medincine for respiratory issues and “It cleared the mind (fine, phlegmatous particles are thought to obstruct consciouness in Chinese and other systems of folk medicine).” The interesting part is his case studies that brought him to these conclusions or which he lists several.
I am currently taking a class on Herbs of Women’s Health is Erin Piorier. At a recent class, March 5th–right before everything went crazy– Lise Wolff was a guest speaker on the topic of fertility. Wolff again talked about taking Easter Lily saying it was good for cysts, acne, light or heavy periods and sexuality issues whether promiscuity or the opposite extreme of shame around sexuality to the point where the person is unable to pee in public restrooms.
In my notes from this class I wrote in big letters across the top–Make Easter Lily Flower Essence–Use Brandy! What makes this remedy so interesting is that it is a Flower Essence, not a traditional tea or tincture.
Matthew Wood says of dosing in The Book of Herbal Wisdom, “Three drops of the flower essence dosage tincture, one to three times a day, as needed, is usually sufficient. Response is usually prompt. Women with menstrual problems should take it for seven to ten days before the period, for three periods. It usually takes a few days, or three periods, to complete its cleansing action on the organism.” He also right more extensively about Easter Lily in his book Seven Herbs: Plants as Teachers though I have not read this book.
So that is a long way of saying I felt that divine nudge reminding me to make my Easter Lily Flower Essence. So I prompt bought one.
It hasn’t opened yet but I am anxious to try it out. I have a growing list of herbs I want to turn into flower essences, oils and salves, tincture, dry for tea and more. Last year I made dandelion, violet, lilac and crab apple flower essence. The Flower Essence Society has a great guide about what characteristics each flower essence carries.
Last night the Minnesota Governor’s stay home order went into effect. Honestly we have been home for a couple weeks already, so at the beginning of the official stay home order I am already feeling antsy. In a lot of ways things have settled a bit and I am hoping with more Minnesotans staying home things will settle down at the grocery stores and some missing items will be stocked.
But in times like these I am falling back on my comfort foods. I did buy a 25 pound bag of white flour and some smaller bags of whole wheat flour when this all began. While I have been trying to eat more gluten free, Keto meals I rested comfortably in the fact that I could easily make my own bread, noodles, crackers, cakes, cookies, etc. with just this small staple.
So this week I was already tired of chicken breast and ground meat so I decided to do a traditional German dinner with some homemade sausage a friend had given us.
I used to make Spaetlze regularly but finding the right tools to get the egg drop shaped noodles right isn’t so easy. I used to have a pot with a strainer that fit inside and I would push the dough through with the bottom of a cup. Admittedly not the best method and then when I had to throw the pot away I though “no more spaetlze.” Of course at the time I was young and broke and it never occurred to me to buy a spaetlze maker. But then I remembered I had a potato ricer. It worked beautifully, now I am thinking I will have to bring this back.
2 eggs, beaten 1/4 cup milk or water 1 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp salt Dash of pepper
Mix eggs, milk, flour, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper. Batter will be thick. Heat 2 quarts of water with a teaspoon of salt to boiling. Press batter through colander a few spoonfulls at a time into the boiling water (I used the potato ricer). Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until dumplings rise to surface and are tender, about 5 min. then drain (or use a slotted spoon to remove if you need to keep cooking). Garnish with butter and parsley (garlic is also amazing!)
Of course everyone has different types of food that bring comfort. It is still cold and damp in Minnesota and soups/stews are what I crave. Proeun puts up with my cravings and I do try to make some foods that are comforting to him as well.
This week I will be working on sourdough with all that white flour that I have. And luckily our 4H cheese order from Ellsworth Creamery still came in. So plenty of good comfort food around here. I can’t wait till the nettle and dandelions are up and my comfort food can switch to some fresh items as well. What foods are bring you comfort right now?
After winter comes mud season on Crazy Boy Farm. While it is not my favorite time of the year with the extra laundry and drying the dogs off before they can come in the house, I am thankful for the warmth. And this year I am extra thankful for the business of spring with the animals and life on acreage that becomes our own park.
Proeun and I were on our yearly gettaway this Thursday. We may be a bit behind but on Wednesday we started getting the strong impression that the Coronavirus would be affecting our family (and community) much stronger then we originally thought. We talked briefly about what our financial plans should be if Proeun’s work closed. We already homeschool and stay home much of the time so that was mostly the extent of our talks Wednesday night.
We went to Duluth for lunch and some shopping. We were enjoying each others company so no radio. In the late afternoon we checked in at our hotel. While we were unpacking and settling in we turned the news on. It was shocking how fast things were changing. States were shutting down schools and declaring a state of emergency. New York had established the first containment area in New Rochelle.
Locally things were changing as well. We went to dinner. Normally there is a 1-3 hour wait for dinner at this restaurant. On Thursday there was no wait and a lot of nervous smiles.
We went to bed Thursday night wondering if we should cut our time short and head home. In the morning we both knew that when we turned on the news more would likely have changed overnight.
We had our breakfast and headed home. We stopped at Walmart on the way to fill our water jugs. I didn’t expect the whole toilet paper thing would be present in northern Minnesota but yep no toilet paper on the shelves. The baby wipe aisle was pretty bare as well, as was the bottled water.
Matthew Wood is one of my favorite resources for herbal health information. He has an email list I highly recommend. His recommendations include standard (but not so standard) practices of early bedtimes, increasing vitamins and minerals and avoiding sugar. He posts updates on the Coronavirus on his home page.
Honestly most of us have no idea what to do when we are sick. There was a young man behind us in line at Walmart with a cart full of 1 liter bottles of Mountain Dew and skittles. He was stocked up I am telling you, probably 20 bottles or so.
But in all seriousness we often are our own worst enemies. I know in our family we tend to have a cycle were we start adding more and more activities and duties then all of a sudden someone is sick. I have a saying that when we get sick it is our body telling us, giving us permission and commanding us to slow down. So we do. We clear our schedules and stay home and rest. Now I am aware that we as a family have a great deal of privilege to have that as an option and we are not in the high risk group for this illness but there are other illnesses and health is about more then avoiding the Coronavirus.
One thing Matthew Wood says is with herbal medicine it is less about killing the virus (or bacteria, illness, etc.) but building up the body’s systems so that it can effectively fight the infection. This is a good practice no matter what the illness. So this is what we are doing to build up our body systems.
Early bedtime. By 10 at least but the earlier the better
Reducing Stress. This is closely related to the first because if you lie in bed at night worried about the Coronavirus you won’t sleep. Stress is very debilitating and we want to build our body up.
Washing hands. I have not tried making hand sanitizer but I have heard there are recipes online and when we stopped at one shop they offered us some when we came through the door.
Reduce sugar. When I am looking for new recipes to try I normally search for Keto or THM recipes as these tend to have no sugar. Here is my favorite THM cookbook. More on THM in a later post.
Increase fruits and veggies. While at Walmart Proeun went to get some vitamin C and Zinc. The shelves were bare! He tried ordering some online and it is out of stock. But there were still plenty of citrus fruits and bell peppers (vitamin C), and don’t forget greens and mushrooms, etc. Garlic and onions are also amazing traditional staples for fighting illness.
Learn the things that make you feel nourished and cared for and do those.
Research and try some immune boosting foods.
When we arrived home I made a batch of elder berry syrup. My favorite recipe comes from this book. But there are many recipes online.
I also started a mushroom bone broth. I had some lamb bones left over from a dinner during the week. I added astragulus root (I got mine from here but they are pretty backed up right now. Could also use this powder), reishi mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, 2 onions, a whole head of garlic and some apple cider vinegar. There are also vegan immune boosting broth recipes online.
If you prefer books. Here are some of my top recommendations to promote herbal health.
I am all about teaching my children how to be healthy. This book not only has my favorite elder berry syrup recipe but lots of recipes and activities to get kids excited about herbs.
I also highly recommend Staying Healthy with the Seasons. This Book is written more from a Chinese medicine/ body systems perspective. It goes through the seasons of the year and which body systems are more closely related to that season with recipes and action steps to promote health.
I told my sister I hope we all are reminded how important our health is. We should also be empowered that there are things that we can do to promote personal and familial health. What are you doing to stay healthy?
I wrote last week about how the storms of 2019 had really paved the way for rebuilding and re-purposing. I have had the book Garden Awakening on my night stand for a couple of years now.
Finally this last month I read it. I am now so excited to get out to my garden. I had honestly not known of any other way to plant a garden but in rows. One herby friend of mine blew my mind a couple of years ago when she planted her garden in a spiral shape.
I am so inspired by the information I am discovering as I delve more fully into the healing nature of plants and well nature . Mary Reynolds is from Ireland. She still lives in Ireland and she writes from this perspective. She doesn’t mind talking about magic and fairies and connections, but from a fully Irish perspective (this just happens to be part of my cultural heritage). While I feel like the majority of European culture has lost its nature connections; it was so refreshing to read a totally engaging book that says it is not lost. It just needs to be reclaimed.
One way to do this is by reclaiming your land (whether a small lot or many acres) and setting your intentions for it. Speak to the land and acknowledge that you belong to it as much as it belongs to you. You were brought together for great things, so embrace that and get moving.
Reynolds writes, “We are drawn to certain locations where the land resonates with us and pulls us towards it. People can spend their entire lives looking for the places where they belong, places where they feel at home, where they fit and can comfortably set down roots. We are simply a reflection of the land beneath us, and nature is always waiting for us to return home.”
I am so happy to have found my home and place to put down roots. That doesn’t mean that it is always perfect, but the connection is just what you need.
As the spring weather kicks into full gear in my north country home I excitedly plan for a new year and a new beginning. I will be adding more elderberry, a hawthorne and mulberry tree but more plans are in the works.
In what ways do you feel connected to your land (whether pots on a balcony, a city lot or acreage)? What ways can you cultivate more connection? Is this important to you?