‘7 Ways to Feed Your Garden for Free’

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Last year, David the Good filmed a fun (and funny) presentation for The Grow Network’s Home Grown Food Summit on how you can keep your garden fed and maximize the nutrition in your food without spending a dime.

Well, we’re a Community of sustainability-minded DIYers who like to find ways to turn trash into garden treasure, so is it any wonder that David’s video on “7 Ways to Feed Your Garden for Free” ended up being one of the event’s most popular presentations? (Plus, you know, David is just a likeable, funny guy, so that probably helped, too. 🙂 )

Read More: “Homemade Fertilizers—15 Simple and Inexpensive Options”

Anyway, David posted this video on YouTube on February 4, aaaaaand it’s already got more than 10,000 views. Translation? You should watch it now, too! 🙂

Here it is:

As David says, “The presentation clocks in at about 45 minutes long and should be a great inspiration for your spring gardening plans.”

Amen to that!

Then, let your TGN Community know in the comments: What are some other ways you like to feed your garden for free?

 

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Underground Walipini Pit Greenhouse Construction

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Here is an excellently written PDF document on how to build an underground Walipini pit greenhouse. These greenhouses are an excellent technique to use in arid Southwestern climates.

Click here to download the 29-page PDF document on “Constructing A Walipini Pit Underground Greenhouse.”

Deep appreciation is extended to the Benson Institute, which created the document. The Benson Institute was founded in 1975 at Brigham Young University as part of the College of Biological and Agricultural Sciences. It was named in honor of Ezra Taft Benson’s service as Secretary of Agriculture during the administration of United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Benson Institute strives to teach families in developing countries how to become nutritionally self-sufficient and how to improve their economic circumstances. Participants learn techniques for food production, nutrition, diet, and home food storage. Families learn to grow vegetables and fruits or raise small animals appropriate to their circumstances in order to better provide for themselves.

Find out more about the Benson Institute here.

(This article was originally published on August 26, 2014.)

 

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Underground Greenhouse Produces Tomatoes Year-round (VIDEO)

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An underground greenhouse makes a lot of sense in the arid climate of New Mexico. I came across a super-effective and simple Walipini-inspired greenhouse that was homemade by Mark Irwin.

Check out this video where Mark shows you what he has been doing and how he is making a small side income by selling tomatoes to the Albuquerque market year-round.

I am a big proponent of lots of little side-income businesses. Diversity ensures there is always something coming in.

Note that I’ve put the reference Mark mentions down below the video.

Enjoy—and comment! We love to hear from you.

Here is the link to download the excellently written PDF on “Constructing A Walipini Pit Underground Greenhouse”

 

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…. On topics that include growing your own food, herbal medicine, homesteading, raising livestock, and more!

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(This post was originally published on August 4, 2017.)

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WOW! Ultra-clean, ultra-efficient, ultra-sustainable winter heat!

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So I was going through some of my old YouTube videos and came across this video of me talking with Paul Wheaton about rocket mass heaters:

I had honestly forgotten some of the statistics on this thing, but it’s pretty incredible:

  • If you use a rocket mass heater instead of a wood-burning stove or fireplace to heat your home this winter, you’ll use 1/10th the amount of firewood.
  • Since the rocket mass heater captures smoke and uses it to produce heat, you’ll be releasing 1/100th to 1/1000th the amount of smoke into the atmosphere.
  • The core of this thing reaches about 3,000°F, versus the 600°F or so generated by a fireplace.
  • This is the perfect DIY project. You can build it yourself in a weekend.
  • It’s inexpensive to make. In fact, some folks build theirs out of cob, discarded pieces of ducting, and old 55-gallon steel drums … for less than $20!
  • And–here’s the kicker–many people heat their homes with a rocket mass heater using nothing but the branches that naturally fall off the trees in their yard. (In fact, one guy made it through the winter on just junk mail!)

Rocket Mass Heater 1

Because rocket mass heaters are so awesome in so many ways, I got in touch with Paul and worked out a special deal for you on the 4-DVD set you hear about in the video:

Better Wood Heat: DIY Rocket Mass Heaters
(Click here to buy now.)

In this 4-DVD set, Paul shows you:

  • DVD 1: “Building a Cob-Style Rocket Mass Heater”—Two separate designs using cob (one in a log structure, and one in a teepee)
  • DVD 2: “Building a Pebble-Style Rocket Mass Heater”—Three pebble-style rocket mass heater designs, including information on building on a conventional wooden floor
  • DVD 3: “Building a Rocket Mass Heater Shippable Core”—Covers building several different styles of shippable cores
  • DVD 4: 2014 Rocket Mass Heater Innovator’s Event—Covers the most difficult part of any rocket mass heater build (the manifold) and shows several new designs from the Innovator’s Event, including a rocket mass heater that doubles as a cooker and smoker; the cleanest rocket mass heater design ever; and an indoor rocket griddle, oven, and water heater

Rocket Mass Heater 2

As part of this special offer, Paul has agreed to give you instant online access to streaming of the 4-DVD set in HD

… plus access to 20 hours of presentations from the 2017 Wheaton Labs Permaculture Design Course (including the 5-hour tour of Wheaton Labs)!

If you’re ready to learn how to put this extremely efficient, ultra-clean, highly sustainable heating method to work for you, click here to buy the 4-DVD set (and get your bonuses!) for just $79, including domestic shipping. (This link will take you straight to PayPal, which is Wheaton Labs’ preferred payment method.)

Rocket Mass Heater: "Better Wood Heat" 4-DVD Set

Look what just arrived in the mail!

(And yes, I bought this set for myself … and actually for several of my team members, too! The information in it is just too good to pass up!)

 

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Is It Raining? Get Outside and Do THIS!

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Those of you who know me know I love to play outside in the rain … barefoot, preferably. 😉

But there’s another reason rain draws me outside.

Beyond just irrigation, rainstorms serve another incredibly valuable purpose on the homestead: They show you where the water flows on your property—and where you might be having some problems.

In this new edition of Homesteading Basics, watch as I walk my property during a storm (after making sure all the hatches were battened down first, of course!) and glean some really valuable information—from clogged gutters to the best natural location for a new pond.

You’ll also see a little part of my property that’s almost magical. When my kids were young, we built a gabion with rocks and chicken wire to help slow the flow of water in an eroded spot. We never did anything else to that area, but we still had something pretty cool happen there. You’ll see what I’m talking about when you watch the video.

Then, I’d love to know: What’s your favorite way to slow the flow of water on your property? Share your tips in the comments!

 

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The Kidney Wrap: Prepare Your Body For Winter

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Have you ever heard of a kidney wrap? It’s a simple but powerful technique to take care of your body during the winter months.

It soothes the adrenals and ensures your body will be ready to have a fabulous spring. This amazing health technique used to be well known by folks who lived in cold climates, and you’ll recognize the truth of it when looking at the fashions people wore in old photos.

Learn how to protect your own body with a kidney wrap in this video featuring Doug Simons (the master herbalist who teaches “Treating Infections Without Antibiotics”).

(This is an updated version of an article originally published in October 2013.) 

 

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Using Essential Oils: An Interesting Resource

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I came across an interesting resource the other day and thought I would share: If you have an interest in using essential oils, you may enjoy the site Oil-Testimonials.com.

It’s strictly an information resource—no sales pitches or multi-level marketing (although, of course, some people do mention particular products or brands in their stories). And it provides some pretty interesting anecdotal information about how people are using essential oils and which oils they’ve found successful in various treatments.

In fact, Oil-Testimonials has been compiling stories related to essential oils since 2004, and the site claims to have the most comprehensive list of these anecdotes on the Internet. After taking a look at the numbers, I’m betting that’s accurate. If I’m doing my math right, there are nearly 10,000 testimonials on the site (!).

Here’s a brief sampling of some of the site’s most popular posts:

  • Calming a Hyperactive Child: “A friend and coworker of my husband’s sent me some samples of Lavender, Cedarwood, Peppermint, and Peace & Calming essential oils. I was skeptical about how they would work, but after battling it out with a child with ADHD (and no medication because I had run out), I decided it couldn’t hurt anything. I put a couple drops of each essential oil in my son’s hands and had him rub them on his head and neck. Within the next few minutes it was as if I had given my son his usual remedy. This oil application completely changed the way my child acted within a matter of minutes. These essential oils worked better than anything else we have tried. My son now would rather have his oils than the side-effect-laden alternatives.” —Cassandra, Oklahoma
  • Lowering High Blood Pressure: “A friend in his 70s had a physical several weeks ago and discovered that he had high blood pressure (HBP). His blood pressure (BP) had been hovering in the 160/98 range. The doctor suggested monitoring it daily for a month and recording the reading. If it did not come down in a month with better food choices and exercise, medication might be recommended. Meanwhile, I suggested that my friend start using OmegaGize, Essentialzyme, and the NingXia Red juice. After a couple of days on this protocol, I was to meet my friend, but he was late in arriving. It turns out that he had been going from grocery-store pharmacy to grocery-store pharmacy getting his BP checked because he just could not believe the readings. He thought that the blood pressure machines must be broken. After two days on the three products that I had suggested, my friend’s BP was down to 138/78. Needless to say, he is very happy and confident that, by the time he returns to his doctor, his BP will be well within the normal range.” —Rebecca, Colorado
  • Alleviating PMS Symptoms: “My entire life I have had horrible cramps, breast tenderness, and bloating 2 to 3 days before my cycle would start, followed by very heavy, very long bleeding. I could not stand up straight! My mother had read that all of the commercial bath products we use have hormone disrupting chemicals in them. So she sent me Young Living’s shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and face wash. When I received them, I literally grabbed everything else in my shower in one fell swoop and dropped it in the trash. After replacing all of the chemical-laden products with Young Living products, I have not had a trace of any of those symptoms related to my cycle. My periods are shorter and not as heavy, too! In fact, most of the time I forget that I am even on my period.” —Katy, Texas
  • Restoring Feeling in Feet: “My mother-in-law has suffered with the loss of sensation in her feet for MANY years. She is very seldom without her walker. I asked if she would be open to trying something different, and she agreed. I mixed up a blend of Frankincense and Lemongrass essential oils in a base bottle of Ortho Ease Massage Oil and sent it down to her. (NOTE: I added about 35 drops of each to the bottle of Ortho Ease. When mixing up an additional batch, I also added 30 drops of Cypress essential oil.) After applying it twice a day regularly to her feet and calves—about 2 weeks in—she was in the grocery store with her walker. About halfway through, she said she had awful pain in her feet … AND SHE WAS SOOOO EXCITED! She has not had feeling in her feet in so long. The next day she brought her walker into the kitchen with her in the morning and left it there the rest of the day. Her feet felt so wonderful she didn’t feel she needed it!” —Kris, Wisconsin

Again, the Oil-Testimonials site is completely brand neutral, and if you’re interested in using essential oils, I do second its recommendation to “do your own research or ask a trusted friend to find a brand that is reputable.”

Let me know what you think about the site!

 

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Vandana Shiva talks ‘fake cheap’ food (VIDEO)

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Just saw this video of Indian scholar and sustainable-agriculture advocate Vandana Shiva talking about the true cost of cheap food and three keys to ending what she calls “the final stages of a very deceitful system.”

(By the way, Shiva is on our list of 50 Global Changemakers, here.)

She makes some excellent points, and I thought you might enjoy the video as much as I did.

Some of my favorite quotes from the video:

  • “We are living the final stages of a very deceitful system that has made everything that is very costly for the planet, costly for the producer, look cheap for the consumer. So very high-cost production with GMOs and patents and royalties and fossil fuel is made to look like cheap food.”
  • “Every young person should recognize that working with their hands and their hearts and their minds—and they’re interconnected—is the highest evolution of our species. Working with our hands is not a degradation. It’s our real humanity.”
  • “We are not atomized producers and community. We are part of the earth family. We are part of the human family. We are part of a food community. Food connects us—everything is food.”

I also love the way she defines “true freedom” in the video: “Never be afraid of deceitful, dishonest, brutal power. That is true freedom.”

And hey, let me know what you think about her solutions to the problem of high-cost “cheap” food! What others would you add? Leave me a comment below. 🙂

 

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Your Questions, Answered!

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Okay, so I’m not going to lie—I had a blast a couple of nights ago at TGN’s Ask Me Anything! podcast. This is the first time we’ve used this format (think homesteading meets Car Talk), and it really went well.

David the Good and I answered questions on no-till gardening solutions for heavy clay soils, what to look for in a permaculture design course, how to deal with underground hornets’ nests, what exactly you should and shouldn’t add to your compost pile (are all those rules really necessary?!) … the list goes on and on!

Being able to connect with David and me like this every month is a perk of our Honors Lab subscription, but there were so many good questions (and … dare I say it … so many good answers!!! 😉 ) that I thought you might enjoy reading the transcript!

Read the Ask Me Anything! Podcast Transcript Here

(Oh, and if you want to join the Honors Lab and get it on the fun next month, you can subscribe here. It’s just $9.95 a month … and you get so, so much more than just an invitation to each month’s Ask Me Anything! podcast!)

 

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7 Tips for Starting Seeds Like a Professional Grower

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There you sit, surrounded by seed catalogs. You have a head full of dreams about the best gardening season ever, flipping through pages of new cultivars to try and great new gardening tips to test out. Your seed is fresh, you have an ample supply of compost bursting with life, and you have more planting space prepared than ever before.

What could possibly go wrong?

Wait! You’ve been here before, excited about your spring planting, only to end up disappointed with your seed germination rate and the health of your seedlings.

Let’s slow down to take a closer look at some of the most common problems people have when starting seeds, and talk about some of the tools available to help you get the best possible results. With a little extra effort, your seeds and your spring garden will be the talk of the neighborhood!

seed packets

In my work advising gardeners and farmers, the number one problem I see is people starting out with weak seedlings. Gardeners often set out with admirable efforts to save money and be self-sufficient, but they can really shoot themselves in the foot before they even step out into the garden when they start with weak seedlings.

Weak, leggy, pale seedlings usually result in plants that are anything but vigorous. When these babies are transplanted into the garden, they are not prepared to face the world. Their pale foliage is likely to burn in direct sunlight, their thin stems have trouble holding up in the wind, and their delicate health sends a loud call out to tiny predators, “Come and get it!”

Pill bugs, which normally stick to recycling, will happily munch on your precious little seedlings even though they are not actually dead … yet.

Cutworms can endanger the best of your young plants, and they especially like the overly tender stems of plants that have had a poor start in life.

Whew! That is not how you want to start out this gardening season. So, let’s get some stocky, healthy, rich green starts going.

Tips for Starting Seeds Successfully

First, we want fresh, viable seed. A germination test can save time and material, but it doesn’t guarantee that your seeds are fresh. Have they been stored properly? Seeds are still the cheapest gardening investment. Be picky about who gets a spot in the seedling tray!

What about your germination mix? If you usually just scoop some soil out of the garden, stop before you kill again! Good garden soil is fine for direct seeding in the garden bed, but seeds sown in containers deserve an organic mix.

Read More: TGN’s Favorite Seed-Starting Equipment

There are some excellent mixes available for purchase, but it is so easy and fast to mix your own that it just makes sense to do it yourself. Many gardeners develop fancy secret recipes, but we are going to keep it simple.

I have had the best results using a mix made of half coir fiber and half fresh worm castings. It’s that simple!

If you don’t have access to either of those, use the very best, still moist, living compost or leaf mold. If you use compost, you should sift it before planting; you want the finest grains, not the sticky clumps.

Some gardeners sterilize their germination mix. I don’t agree. I always use ingredients with good, active biology. How would you like to be born into a little plastic cell, devoid of life? Trust in Mother Nature and use a mix with vibrant biology.

cucumber seedling in tray

When it comes to the container you use, the type of container is not important. I like the manufactured seed starting flats. They are cheap, reusable and recyclable. They drain well, and everything is contained in a well-fitted tray. If you don’t have these or don’t want them, use any well-drained container that you like.

  1. Fill the seed cells almost to the top with your starting mix. 
  2. In order to avoid tearing the young roots when you remove the seedlings from the container for transplanting, it is a good idea to tamp down the germinating mix in the cells now.
  3. After tamping, add chemical-free water to thoroughly moisten the starting mix. If you really want to be nice, use liquid or dry seaweed according to the instructions on the label. Seaweed is a great item to have on the shelf and it keeps indefinitely.
  4. When the starting mix is moist, you can plant your seeds at the depth specified on the seed packet.
  5. When the seeds have been planted, spray the top of the cells with water until the mix is well settled.
  6. After seeding, you can cover the cells with plastic. You can buy fitted plastic covers for seed starting trays, or just use some plastic wrap or a plastic bag.

Control the Light

Now, here is where the rubber meets the road: Light! You need a strong, reliable light source. You can compromise on many other aspects of gardening, but don’t cheat your green babies on the one thing they need most.

If you have a greenhouse, choose the brightest spot for your new seedlings. If you’ve been setting your seed trays on a windowsill, re-evaluate that choice. Remember: weak light = weak seedlings.  If you want husky, healthy seedlings, don’t gamble on the fickle winter sun filtered through a window.

Control the light and you control the outcome!

Setting up a grow light today is easy and inexpensive, and it doesn’t take up much room. Bulky shop lights and fiendishly hot tungsten bulbs are fading into history. If you have some empty space on a bookshelf or an empty shelf in a kitchen cabinet, you can easily install a couple of tiny T-5 light fixtures. There are also several LED offerings on the market. LED grow lights are powerful and super efficient, and they generate very little heat.

Simply attach a light or two to the bottom of one shelf to light the shelf underneath it where your tray will sit. If the shelf is adjustable, you are all set. If not, the tray can be elevated when the seedlings are started, to bring the surface of the soil within two or three inches of the light. That’s right! The light will be very close to the seeds.

If you have room to start seeds on a countertop or a table, there are several tabletop light stands that are designed for the space. The typical design is a simple metal stand that holds the light, suspended by an adjustable string or chain. Tabletop lights are small and easy to use, and they are available in a range of sizes.

The next size up is the shelf model. These resemble a regular set of utility shelves, with a grow light suspended from the bottom of every shelf. These lights offer enough space and power to grow starts for the whole neighborhood! These shelf units aren’t cheap, but they are very useful. In addition to starting seeds they can be used to overwinter plants indoors, and even to grow summer veggies and herbs all winter long.

Consider the Time

Now that you are in control of the light, there is one more important factor to consider: time. You need to transition the plants at the right times on their journey to the outdoor garden. Calculate the correct amount of time various plants need to develop to the optimum transplanting size to avoid holding the plants for extended periods. Begin your seeds based on that timetable.

When your seeds germinate, you will see cotyledons. They should be bright green and fleshy, standing on short stems. Now is a good time to remove the plastic covering, if there is any. At this earliest stage you should water the seedlings with a spray bottle, to avoid damaging the delicate young roots. Ideally, you will not need to water, but if the air is dry, the soil may require additional moisture.

Soon the tiny plants will develop their first true leaves. This is a great time for their first feeding.

Wait until the surface of the soil begins to dry out. Use a mild, natural fertilizer mixed at half strength. Fertilize every two weeks until the plants move outside.

Transplant Carefully

As the seedlings get larger, adjust the height of the light to keep it at least two inches from the top of the tallest plant, allowing for continued growth. When the root system begins to fill the cell, it is time to move up to a four-inch pot. If you transplant too soon, the seedling can break away from the germination mix, causing the roots to tear. If you wait too long, the roots can become bound and constricted in the cell, restricting optimal growth.

Wait to transplant until the soil is neither too wet nor too dry.

Now is the time when the tamping you did at the beginning is going to pay off. If the transplants are reluctant to pop out of their cells, you can give them a little push from the bottom drain hole using the eraser end of a pencil. If you are pricking out, you should transplant much sooner because a smaller root system is easier to remove intact.

Use potting soil as the growing medium for the four-inch pots, or just add a little perlite to the leftover germination mix. Remember the rule we discussed above: Garden soil belongs in the ground, not in containers.

After transplanting from the seed cells to the four-inch pots, give the plants a good drench of seaweed. You will still need to raise the lights periodically as the plants get taller. When the plants begin to fill the four-inch pots, you need to decide when they are ready to harden off.

In the case of very cold-sensitive plants like tomatoes, sometimes the weather will not permit you to begin hardening off even though the plant is outgrowing its four-inch pot. You can transplant forward again into a quart-sized pot to buy some more time. It is better to move the plants into a bigger pot than to let the roots become pot bound.

I find that potting forward to larger containers is easier than protecting young outdoor plants from late spring cold snaps.

When you decide it is time to begin hardening off, move the plants outside to a protected area and allow them to begin adapting to the outdoors. Filtered light is good for a day or so, but then don’t hesitate to move them out into the sun. These will be tough little rascals and they will transition to the garden well.

Following these simple steps will get you some of the strongest seedlings you have ever grown, and your spring garden will thrive as a result. After a few rounds of success, you will look at your seed catalogs through new eyes, confident that you can start any seed you want!

(This article was originally published January 29, 2015.)

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Meat Rabbits: Raise Half Your Protein in 10 Minutes Per Day (VIDEO)

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Back in November, the awesome Justin Rhodes and his family stopped by my Central Texas homestead to learn how to raise half of the protein requirements for a family of four in less than 10 minutes a day.

I showed Justin and his wife, Rebecca, my no-worry, low-work system for raising meat rabbits using paddock rotation, gravity-fed watering systems, and regenerating food systems.

Watch the video to learn how I do it!

In the video, I also share the No. 1 reason why it’s much easier to raise meat rabbits and other livestock than to grow edible plants. I produce both, of course, but I do think the livestock take less work!

(Btw, I made that hat myself – but I’m not sure I’m going to wear it on camera anymore! 😉

 

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Growing Lettuce From Seed

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Growing Lettuce at Home

When lettuce is mentioned, many people think of the standard iceberg lettuce found in supermarkets and restaurant salads. But that is changing quickly with the growth in popularity of different types of lettuces, mainly due to the flavors and colors that they offer. When you’re growing lettuce from seed at home, you can choose from the full spectrum of seed that’s available.

At farmers markets, health food coops, and organic food stores, a big variety of lettuce types have cropped up.  Their colors range from deep red to mottled greens, all the way to almost white.  And their flavors vary from noticeably sweet to tangy, and slightly bitter.

Iceberg lettuce, originally bred as a hybrid, is now offered as open pollinated varieties and has been around long enough to be considered by some as an “heirloom”!

Eating with the Seasons

We have come to expect lettuce year round. We’ve been educated by the supermarkets about what our vegetables should look like, what they should taste like, and when they should be available. And for most of them, we expect them to be available all year.

Many people are surprised to learn that lettuce is a cool-season crop.  It will bolt, or go to seed, readily during late spring and early summer months.

Where I live, it is best to plant lettuce early in the spring and then again in late summer or early fall when the temperatures start to cool off.

Infographic: Save Our Seeds

Better Lettuce Seed Germination

Lettuce seeds won’t sprout when soil temperatures are above 80° F.  But they will start to Freckles-LettuceWeb1-germinate as low as 40°F, making it ideal for early- and late-season planting.

When temperatures are too high, a plant hormone is produced that stops the germination process. This is called thermo-inhibition. This trait is a carryover from wild lettuce that originated in the Mediterranean Middle East, where summers are hot with little moisture. If the lettuce seeds were to sprout under these conditions, they would soon die out and the species would go extinct.

Choose Heat-Resistant Lettuce

Thanks to traditional plant breeding, several varieties of lettuce have been selected for heat-tolerant characteristics. And some of these are open-pollinated, meaning you can save the seeds from year to year.

Some examples are Saint Anne’s Slow Bolting, Summertime, Black Seeded Simpson, and Jericho. Just because these are heat tolerant doesn’t mean that they will grow through the summer. It only means that they won’t bolt or turn bitter quite as quickly.

Growing Lettuce from Seed: Tips & Tricks

Thanks to ongoing research on lettuce traits, there are some techniques home gardeners can use to extend the sprouting for lettuce seeds into the warmer months. The optimum soil temperature for most lettuce seeds is 68°F, with some varieties sprouting in the 40-75°F range. The temperature of the soil must be taken—not just the air temperature, which can be several degrees different.

Imbibing or soaking the seeds in cool water for 16-24 hours in a well-lit area before planting will increase the germination percentages greatly. Red light has been found to be the best color, but if you don’t have access to a non-heating red light, sunlight or full-spectrum light was found to be almost as good. In warm conditions, soaking the seeds in the dark can actually decrease their germination rates. And soaking for less than 16 hours has little to no positive effect on germination rates.

Read More: 7 Tips to Start Seed Like a Professional Grower

Extending the Lettuce Season

Successful methods of extending the season for lettuce in the garden include laying a thick mulch of straw or wood chips on the ground at least 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep. This insulates the soil from becoming too hot and helps to preserve moisture in the soil.

Lightly shading the lettuce plants can provide enough of a temperature drop to keep them from bolting, sometimes up to 3-5 weeks. Shade can be from a shade cloth or a row cover on a low tunnel, or by companion planting tall, wide-leafed plants such as some types of pumpkin.

The traditional rule of thumb of “plant early and plant often” can be adjusted for lettuce as “plant late and plant often.”  When temperatures start to drop, be ready to start more lettuce seed for a second harvest in the fall.

Read More: A Cheap and Easy Way to Extend Your Growing Season

(This article was originally published May 22, 2014.)

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7 Ways to Prevent Livestock Water Tanks from Freezing

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Winter. It’s that time of year when the livestock water freezes! Really, is there anything worse?

Members of The Grow Network Community, Jeff and Tracy, wrote to me looking for suggestions about how they can keep animal watering systems from freezing. And as always, our community provided quality advice—everything from tried-and-true products to creative brainstorming! Below is a sampling of some of the amazing responses The Grow Network received. (And be sure to check out the comments for some more great ideas!)


7 Ways to Prevent Livestock Water from Freezing

#1Cow Balls, wait … what?

Cow Balls Water Trough

Heidi knows of one solution that has worked well for her in the pastcow balls. That’s right: cow balls! They are large plastic balls that are used to cover the surface of the water tank. The balls decrease the amount of water on the surface that is exposed to the external cold temperatures. When ice does form, cows are able to break through the ice by pressing down on the balls with their noses. Genius!

#2Insulated Plastic Bucket Holders

Insulated Bucket Livestock Water

Patrick says that he has had success using insulated plastic bucket holders. These plastic holders are fastened to the wall and have an opening on the top that is the right size for a plastic 5-gallon bucket. Some of them even come with a food-grade 5-gallon bucket!

Foam insulation helps to keep the water from freezing! Patrick likes this solution, but he said that he does have some trouble when temperatures get very coldbelow about 15F.  When temperatures get below 15F, he said that he then resorts to using a submersible electric warmer.

#3Fish Tank Heater

Lyn wrote in and suggested that using a fish-tank heater in the bottom of a livestock tank might work.  She suggested using solar power, if possible, and also pointed out that cattle can be destructive, so it would be important to make sure that any cables are either buried or placed inside metal conduit and anchored to a 4″ x 4″ post. What a clever suggestion!

#4Creating Movement

Livestock Water Tank Deicer

DJ suggested that creating movement in the watering system would be a good way to prevent freezing. Basically, the idea is to copy nature and create a simulated brook. This idea should work in areas where the nighttime lows aren’t too terribly cold.

A small pump could also be used, or perhaps a simple water wheel device. There are a few products available online that do this, like the one below. You can also find these products available from any farm supply stores, like Tractor Supply. Usually, they are sold under the title of ‘water circulators.’


Protecting Smaller Water Troughs Using Innovation

Below are a few great ideas from the community that seem like good solutions for those of you trying to protect smaller watering troughs. Let’s take a closer look:

#5A Tire

Old Car Tire to Prevent Livestock Water from Freezing

Gerry knows of a tried-and-true trick that works to keep water thawed out in a 5-gallon bucket. Find an old tire that fits securely around the bucket, and fill the inside of the tire with rocks. Then, place the bucket inside the tire. Voilà!

Leave the tire and bucket outside in the sun so that they are able to warm up all afternoon. The black of the tire will absorb warmth from the sunshine and the rocks will help to retain some of that warmth. When night falls, the warmth of the tire and rocks will help to keep the water from icing over, and it should remain thawed until morning. Awesome idea, Gerry!

#6Olive Oil

Olive Oil

Lyn had an idea to experiment with—and she admits that while she hasn’t tried this yet, she is certain that the olive oil could work to protect a small watering trough from freezing.

Since the olive oil will not freeze, pouring a thin layer on top of the water’s surface could help to protect the water from developing a layer of ice. Olive oil should be safe for the cattle, and it just might be an inexpensive and simple solution!

#7Pure Innovation: Thinking Outside the Box!

Last but not least, DJ has an experimental idea that may help a small water trough. His idea is to submerge some sort of a grid into the waterpreferably something with a handle attached so that this device can be easily moved around to break up any ice near the top.

This idea, of course, would have to be done as the ice forms. DJ pictures something like an old ice cube tray or perhaps using black plastic to create a waffle grid. This sounds like an interesting idea … and I think it just might work! Might be a million dollar product for any of you aspiring inventors out there!


Well, I know there are a lot of other ways to prevent livestock watering systems from freezing that we did not cover here. But, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know of your favorite product or a tried-and-true method you use to prevent your livestock’s water from freezing! 

(This article was originally published March 26, 2015.)

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Homemade Shampoo Disaster

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So I’ve been working on researching plants high in saponins—which is a natural form of soap. And I was delighted to find that the roots of pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) are very high in saponins.

Pokeweed is also a fairly toxic plant. You can eat it if you harvest the leaves in the very early spring while the plant is young and before the stalks turn red. You have to boil it and discard the water at least twice (three times or more for those who worry a lot). So I probably should’ve been a bit more cautious.

By the way, the purple berries (also toxic to humans, but I’ve seen poultry enjoy them) make a really nice dye for cloth or buckskin.

Anyway, I harvested a big chunk of root and grated it up with a cheese grater. When I put that in water, I was delighted with how soapy the water got—it is soapier than yucca root. Let me point out that natural soaps like this never get quite as frothy as commercial stuff, but this was surprisingly soap like.

Between handling the pokeweed root and then washing my hair with it, I got a good dose of whatever else is in those roots. Oh dear, I got quite a headache and a bit dizzy! LOL. So let me be the first to tell you NOT to try this one at home!

Stick with baking soda and vinegar if that is what you are using. And my personal favorite to date is the egg/honey/lemon blend I wrote about in this post on homemade shampoo.

If you are wondering why I don’t just make soap using lye and fat … well, here is a short video that explains why not.

 

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(This article was originally published October 29, 2013.)

 

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Surviving A Cold Night With Nothing But The Clothes On Our Backs

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We greedily drank water, our cupped hands gathering it up from the little spigot on the “water buffalo”—which was an old army water tank mounted on a trailer. It held the main supply of water for the entire camp.

“No water bottles, no ChapStick, no flashlights—nothing but the clothes on your back” had been the directions. So we were all wisely filling up and carrying water the old-fashioned way: in our guts.

It was just after dark and already cold. I zipped up my jacket the last few inches and wished there was a hoodie on it. The clear sky told me it would get much, much colder before it was all over. The full moon was going to be helpful. There was nothing around for miles except chaparral bushes. Well, OK, there were some saguaros or barrel cactus, scorpions, and kangaroo rats, too.

Most of the plant and animal life here had the attitude of stabbing you first and asking questions later. So the bright moonlight would at least help keep the kids from getting punctured.

(Twice a year my daughter and I attend primitive skills gatherings, where we join other adults and kids to learn, practice, and trade skills from the Paleolithic era.)

The real guide of this group was David Holladay. Like many of the others from camp, David had been picked up and featured in some crazy reality show (for David, it was The History Channel’s No Man’s Land). Cody Lundin of Dual Survivor, George Michaud of Mountain Men, and Jason Hawk of No Man’s Land are all regulars at these gatherings.

The thing about these guys is they are the genuine real deal.

Sonoran desert

So when word got around camp that we needed a leader to take the teens out for an adventure, David jumped in.

I would have been quite content to sleep in my comfy tent and double-thick sleeping bag, but when teens go out overnight, you need to have separate boys and girls camps.

And you really need a woman.

While all the other moms thought this was a fantastic project, uh, apparently I was the only one who was up for the whole enchilada.

“Thousands of people are doing what we are doing tonight,” David said, setting the tone for the evening as we circled together before leaving the main camp. “Thousands of people have been suddenly awakened out of bed, grabbed what they could carry on their backs, and are getting away into the night as fast as they can. Their homes behind them are being destroyed by civil war, by fire, by oppressive governments, by any number of things. Like us, they are going to walk for a ways and then they will try to find a place to sleep. Unlike us, they will not be able to return back to camp in the morning for breakfast.”

“You will be miserable tonight. It’s a cold night, and we are taking nothing with us into a harsh desert environment. You’ll experience tonight a small piece of what is a very hard reality for many people all over the world.  But you are really lucky; we are not that far from the main camp with your parents who love you. And we will be back after sunrise.”

We walked out into the desert. We played games in the moonlight, picking out buddies for a buddy system. We ran some foot races. We talked about what makes a good camping spot. We set up systems so everyone would stay safe.

David had brought the materials for a hand-drill fire and showed us as a group how to make a fire, even though none of us could do it alone.  We spoke in circle around the fire, sharing our deepest fears and hopes.

Teens can stay awake so long into the night!

Then we tried to sleep. In the girls’ camp, we readily snuggled up into a big puppy pile to keep warm, which helped. The boys roughed it out in their own ways around a huge bonfire, roasting on one side and freezing on the other.

The cold, hard ground sucked warmth out of everyone, and no one was really comfortable.

How much longer could these kids bear this? Most of them had only minimal experience camping.

The warm afternoon with its enthusiasm for adventure seemed so far away now.

But the thought of the homeless in other parts of the world kept haunting us and no one complained. And not a single kid left camp. They all hung in there.

“You have deep survival in your genes,” David told us. “All of your ancestors were survivors or you wouldn’t be here now. Humanity has faced plagues, famine, wars, floods, and every other form of disaster you can imagine. In your lineage are people who fled, or fought, or learned, or adapted. The people who didn’t make it, died. You are direct descendants of all those who survived. You have it in you even if you don’t know it.”

In the morning, way before dawn (well, this is one way to get teens to rise early!), we got up to watch the moon set. And then turned around to see a spectacular sunrise.

It was so beautiful. And empowering. Each of us knew we would never be afraid of walking out into a cold night if we had to. It really helps to be prepared.

We felt like champions.

And we were.

(This is an updated version of an article that was originally published in April 2014.) 

 

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One TON of Food in 7 Months!

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I just got an e-mail from my pal David the Good, who shared a time lapse video of him growing 1 ton — yes, that’s 2,000 pounds! — of food in just 7 months. I thought you’d enjoy it as much as I did, so I’m sharing it here:

David says, “By far, the biggest gardening success of 2017 was hitting our goal of growing 2,000 lbs. of foodWe hit it in seven months — check out my time-lapse video above for the full countdown. That was just fun!

Much of our success was thanks to the many tree crops on the property we rented. I’ve been a fan of food forests and agroforestry for a long time.  Though the yields aren’t always as high for the space requirements as what you get from annuals, trees produce for years and require less work long-term.

We fed the jackfruit heavily in 2016 which led to great results in 2017. We also keep the bananas cleaned up and happy.

If we’d started with bare ground in 2017, though, it would have been tough to reach 2000 lbs.

Some things, such as the avocados and mangoes, basically grew themselves. Others, like yams and pumpkins, required plenty of work. Some things I planted simply failed, like sweet potatoes and beans. It was a very rainy year and the bugs were bad.

I love that David has his own song at the end of the video….

… and, whew! a lot of piña coladas to be made there, huh? 😉

 

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How To Stay Warm While Working Outside In The Cold

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As you start to live more sustainably you will be spending more time outdoors. And in the winter it can be tough to stay warm while working outside in the cold. Getting or cutting firewood, tending livestock, taking care of the orchards or greenhouse — all of these activities mean you’ll be outside, in the cold.

Sure, it may not be a full-on survival situation but, you are going to want to stay warm regardless! Here are my three best tips for staying warm and toasty during the winter months:

Cold-Busting Tip #1:   Wrap Your Neck! 

3 COLD-BUSTING TIPS How To Stay Warm While Working Outside In The Cold | The Grow Network

Your neck radiates more heat than any other area of the body. The head and feet are next on the list.  However, your neck is the most important area to keep warm. In my backpack (which also doubles as a purse), I keep a neck wrap. I’ve used it more times than I can count to stay warm during an unexpected cold front.

Have you ever started to get that scratchy feeling in your throat and you can feel the beginnings of a cold or flu coming on?  I like to wrap my neck while sleeping at night. I have found that this simple act seems to nip that sore throat in the bud! While I am no doctor, my theory is that by wrapping your neck, it creates a localized mini-fever, which possibly stops trouble before it has time to spread.

Check out this article on treating fevers — and when not to treat a fever.  The comments section of this particular article are especially amazing — click here to read how to assist a fever.

Cold-Busting Tip #2:  Stay Hydrated! 

3 COLD-BUSTING TIPS How To Stay Warm While Working Outside In The Cold | The Grow Network

For some reason, it seems harder to stay hydrated and drink enough fluids when it is cold outside. Of the many signs of dehydration, getting a bit chilled is usually one of the first to appear. Some other signs may be dry lips, dizziness when standing, and slower mental function. I find that making a quart of tea to sip on throughout the day helps me to drink more fluid. By using a quart sized mason jar I am able to easily keep track of how much I am drinking during the day.

I find tea helps to keep my body hydrated better than justing drinking straight water. My Grandmother was always drinking herbal tea that was nutritive. Good health is best achieved with gentle nudges! Sipping tea is a great way to help the process. Wildcrafting and/or growing your own teas is easy and can be a fun gardening project for the whole family.

Cold-Busting Tip #3: Prepare A Warm Space For Your Return

How to stay warm while working outside in the cold; gardening, chopping wood, or homesteading.

I picked up this tip when I got my permaculture certification. It is a lot easier to go out and brave the cold if you have a warm place to come back to! It doesn’t have to be a large room or even the whole house. But knowing that when you come back inside there will be somewhere warm gives you a psychological boost! I’ve relied on this for so many years that I don’t think about going outside without setting up my warm spot first!

Before you dress up and head out, throw a few logs on the fire and set the flue so you’ll have a warm spot waiting for you. If you are not heating with wood, perhaps you might run a tiny heater in a small room to have a “warm area” to return to.

Whatever you choose, knowing you have a warm place to come back to after working outside is vitally important. And you never know, if you have an accident outside, having a warm space to return to during an emergency may be crucial to your survival.

 

Do you have any tips or tricks to stay warm while working outside in the cold weather? Leave a comment — I’d love to hear them!

(This post was originally published on December 1, 2016.)


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DIY Hoop House: The Easy Greenhouse Alternative

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By popular demand, we’re offering our step-by-step, DIY Hoop House Plans — originally available only as part of TGN’s 2017 Home Grown Food Summit — for just $4.95

Click Here to Buy Today!

This is a short-term experiment … and please pardon the fact that our sales page is so crude. 🙂 But we got so many requests that we thought we would make this available as inexpensively as possible.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

This is Marjory Wildcraft. On this edition of Homesteading Basics, I’m going to talk about the lessons I’ve learned from several years of operating a hoop house.

The Easy Greenhouse Alternative

This is a hoop house that’s about 12-feet wide by 48-feet long. If you need a big greenhouse quickly and economically, a hoop house is definitely the way to go. In fact, for me, it was super easy. I actually built this thing with one finger.

Yeah, I said to my husband, “Hon, I want a hoop house right there.” He built it. He’s really handy, and he loves it. Actually, I did help some. Anyway, it really is pretty quick to put up, and it’s very cost effective.

My DIY Hoop House Plan

There are a couple of things we’ve learned about it. We’re growing here in Central Texas, and we get extremes of heat and cold. In the summer, we get a lot of intense sun here. What we found works really well is using a 70 percent shade mesh in the summer months. It provides a good amount of shade, yet allows a breeze to go through. We are able to grow things really well inside the mesh-only greenhouse.

In the winter, just taking the mesh off and having plastic on is the best way to go. The plastic definitely keeps the greenhouse nice and warm. We are able to grow fabulous plants all winter long.

The main thing about this is it creates a pretty big maintenance issue twice a year.

In the spring, we’re taking the plastic off and putting the mesh on. Then, in the fall, we’re taking the mesh off and putting the plastic on. We did operate it for a while with both the plastic and mesh on in winter, and we found that it just doesn’t work that well.

That maintenance chore twice a year is going to take about four people for a greenhouse this size. That means we get the whole family involved with that chore.

But you can use a greenhouse for all seasons if you’re willing to do that kind of work.

Plans For A Summer vs. Winter Hoop House

My other concern is that the mesh seems to be holding up really well, but I’m not sure what the lifetime of the plastic is going to be. I think taking it off and putting it back on adds extra wear and tear to it, and it may not last as long as it would if we just kept it in place throughout the whole year. I’ve spoken with different operators of commercial greenhouses, and it seems the plastic lasts anywhere from one to three years according to the different farmers you talk to.

Personally, I feel that that’s a lot of waste. But it does seem to be effective, and that’s the way it is.

This is Marjory Wildcraft on operating a hoop house. Again, if you need a big greenhouse really quickly and fairly inexpensively, this is a good way to go. We’re going to be doing a lot more about greenhouses and growing in greenhouses on future episodes of Homesteading Basics.

Stay tuned. I’ll see you on another one.

(This article was originally published on January 30, 2017.)

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[VIDEO] How To Make Fire Cider

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I make this Fire Cider (know in some circles as “Four Thieves Tonic”) each year just as the holiday season gets going. It needs about a month to set, and is ready by January when my immune system could use a good nudge.

Even though I don’t really like spicy stuff that much, I really do like this one.

There are numerous versions of Fire Cider circulating out there. Some are made to be used only externally—e.g., on the skin to ward against bacteria—while others are made out of essential oils. Since making essential oils is a trail I am not wanting to go on right now, I prefer this recipe, which is ingested.

Here are the ingredients I used, and a list of other possible ones you might want to add. Of course, be careful if you have any kind of allergies to any of these . . . .

  • Garlic
  • Hot Peppers
  • Juniper Berries
  • Rosemary
  • Ginger
  • Horseradish Root

And here is a “possibles” list.

  • Mint
  • Coriander
  • Cloves
  • Black Pepper

Please let me know in the comments section below if you have a favorite recipe for “Fire Cider.” Do you use any ingredients that I’ve neglected to mention here? I’d love to hear about them . . . . And do let me know if you try it this winter!

(This article was originally published in December 2013, but I decided it was time to revisit the recipe! Enjoy! I’m about to start a new batch myself . . . .)

taking-garlic-as-medicine-500x262

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Is This Organic Chicken Feed Good or Evil?

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A Funny Thing Happened at the Fair

A couple of years ago, I was invited to speak at the Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka, Kansas. I gave my talk about “How to Grow Half of Your Own Food in an Hour a Day.” The talk was really great and several people in the audience came up to me afterward to tell me how excited they were about starting to grow some of their own food and medicine.

I just love that energy when someone gets excited about working toward real food independence!

After my talk was over, I was walking around the aisles at the fair and chatting with all of the people there. There were some pretty cool products on display—heritage crafts and folk art, these awesome modular livestock fodder systems, local organic seed companies . . . you name it.

If it’s about sustainable living or traditional organic foods, it was there.

So I was walking around, taking in the sites and soaking up as much info as I could retain, when I had a chance encounter that I want to tell you about . . .

Read more: Grow Your Own Chicken Feed the Easy Way

Raising Meat Chickens_336x280

Strangers in the Crowd

This encounter didn’t exactly start out on a positive note.

To tell you the truth, we were in each others’ way. I was trying to round the corner on a crowded aisle, and I had identified a tiny little narrow pathway where I could just squeeze through.

But about halfway through, I realized that there was someone else coming from the other direction who was also trying to squeeze through the same narrow opening in the crowd.

We met in the middle and started trying to shimmy around each other, but the space was too tight. We were stuck there together, caught in the crowd face to face, and neither of us could get to where we were trying to go.

We were both a little embarrassed, and we both gave each other a slightly sheepish smile when our eyes finally met.

“It’s pretty crowded today,” I said, in an attempt to break the ice and relieve the awkward vibe that was going on.

“Yeah,” she said, “I can’t believe how many people came out.”

The crowd started to thin around us, but we had already struck up a conversation, so I decided to stick with it. “I’m Marjory Wildcraft. I just did a presentation over there at the stage in the back corner. Did you see it?”

“No, I’ve been in the booth all morning long,” she said. As she spoke, she pointed to a big booth across the aisle.

I had to do a double take, because the booth she pointed to had a huge logo on the banner that I recognized instantly. It was the infamous red-and-white checkerboard of Purina.

Read more: Ferment Your Feed for Happier and Healthier Chickens

A Fox in the Hen House?

I was a little bit shocked . . . .

There I was, surrounded by all of the latest and greatest products in the organic, sustainable, traditional living marketplace.

Purina was one name I definitely had not expected to see in this crowd.

I looked around a little bit to see if maybe she had pointed at the wrong booth.

And that’s when I noticed her name tag.

There it was, right in front of me the whole time—that same red-and-white checkerboard right above her name, “Jodi.” I tried not to be rude, but I simply had to ask…

“What are you doing here?”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, trying to take a step backward in the conversation. “I, uh, I’m surprised to see that Purina is here at the Mother Earth News Fair.”

“Oh. Ha, ha, yeah, a lot of people have said that to me today.” She smiled, and I knew that she wasn’t too offended by my surprise.

Read more: Are You Prepared for Peak Chicken?

Making a New Friendship

When Jodi laughed, we both relaxed. I could tell that she was used to getting responses like mine, and she could tell that I was happy I hadn’t offended her.

But I still had to know. I gave Jodi a gentle smile and took a second try at asking the same question . . . .

“So, really, what are you doing here?”

Jodi explained that Purina sees a lot of value in small-scale family farms. They recognize that homesteading is a growing movement; they think it’s important; and they want to make sure that they’re listening to those customers about what they need and want from the products they buy to feed their animals.

“Huh,” I said, still a little surprised. I was trying to tread lightly so I wouldn’t offend her again. “Have you gotten a pretty good response from the people here?”

Jodi lit up, “We have! We’re just here to listen to people, and I think that people really appreciate that.”

“I see,” I said.

My first instinct had been that the people at this fair would be somewhat hostile toward a company like Purina. But for a company like Purina to show up at a Mother Earth News Fair, just to listen to the people . . . well . . . you can’t really get too upset about that.

I looked over at her booth again, and sure enough, it didn’t look like they were trying to sell any products that day. I noticed that there was a small group of homesteader-type families standing around and talking to the Purina representatives, who were listening intently to what the people had to say.

All of a sudden it started to make sense to me.

“What are people saying to you?” I asked.

Jodi thought it over for a second and then replied, “Organic.”

Raising Meat Chickens_650x341_2

Is Organic Enough?

We talked for a while longer. Jodi explained that she had talked to lots of people with lots of opinions. Some of the people at the fair already purchased Purina feed regularly from their local farm supply stores. Others, like me, were just surprised to see Purina there at all.

But, one common thread that she heard a lot that day was that people want to give their chickens organic feed. It was a big deal.

And Jodi explained that Purina was already working hard to get a line of organic chicken feeds out on the market. It wasn’t a small task for them—they had to source all new suppliers, create a new production process, and find new distributors who were willing to stock the product.

I could see that Jodi knew all of the ins and outs of the project, and it sounded to me like Purina was serious about creating this new line of organic chicken feeds.

But still, even as Jodi was speaking, my mind kept wondering off. I was thinking about the Purina company that I already knew. The Purina company that supplies food to all of those big industrial chicken farms . . . . The Purina that formulated chemical changes in animal food to make eggs come out bigger and make hogs grow faster . . . . The Purina that has been passed around over the years—owned and operated by huge global conglomerates like BP, Koch Industries, and Nestle . . . . The Purina that has been blamed for poisoning thousands of cats and dogs with low-quality pet foods…

I was pretty confused.

Read more: Would You Eat Chicken-less Eggs?

The Benefit of the Doubt

After we had talked for a few minutes, I decided to give Jodi the benefit of the doubt.

“Well, I’m impressed that you’re here listening to people. And I’ll tell you what . . . If you ever get that organic chicken feed on the market, I’m going to buy a bag of it.”

Jodi laughed, “Oh, I hope you will!”

We parted ways, and I kept walking to take in the rest of the fair.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t even think about it again for the next few years. That is, until I bumped into Jodi again at the Mother Earth News Fair in Texas this past spring. This time, I was lucky enough to have Anthony—the Grow Network’s videographer—there with me:

I’m A Woman of My Word

Well, I’ve never been one to break a promise. After we shot this video, I asked Jodi where I could find Purina’s new organic chicken feed, so that I could buy a bag and let my chickens try it.

She said that my local farm supply should have it—if it wasn’t there, I should just wait a month or two and try again. Sure enough, I found it in stock at my local store.

I have been raising a big flock of meat birds for a project we’re working on for The Grow Network this summer. I gave this food to those chickens for a couple of weeks, as a test. Come to think of it, it wasn’t much of a test. I think these chickens would have eaten anything. But they did seem to like the organic Purina feed. They ate the whole bag and I didn’t notice any changes in their health or behavior while they were eating it.

But I’m dying to know. . . .

Would you buy organic chicken feed from Purina?

Some of the people I’ve talked to swear that they’d never touch anything made by Purina. Other people don’t have a problem with it, and they say their decision would just be made based on the price.

So, what do you think? Is Purina’s organic chicken feed good or evil? Drop a comment down below to let me know what you think…

Raising Meat Chickens_1200x6301

(This post is an updated version of an article originally published on August 9, 2016.)

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Product Review: Marjory Unboxes the UrBin Grower (a.k.a. Metro-Grower Elite)

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My family loves it when I do product reviews—but not for the reason you think. While I get excited about unboxing new equipment to garden with, they get excited because I have to clean off the porch for filming!

Anyway, today’s product review is for one of my absolute favorite products—the UrBin Grower (currently in the middle of being re-branded as the Metro-Grower Elite, but don’t let the name confuse you, it’s the same product).

One of the neat things about this product is that it comes with almost everything you need to start growing immediately. I say “almost,” because you will have to provide three gallons of high-quality compost per Metro-Grower Elite and a couple of gallons of water each.

Other than that, it’s a pretty turnkey growing solution.

In this video, I unbox my new Metro-Grower Elite, read the instructions for you, and show you everything you need to know to get started.

Plus I show you the surprising benefit of the water barrier — a plant protection advantage that you might not expect!

Want to get your Metro-Grower Elite?   I’ve worked out a wholesale price with the supplier.  You can click here now to get complete details.

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Grow Book: Table of Contents

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Marjory Wildcraft here! I’m writing a book …

… and because of the way my brain works, I’m writing it orally first … talking it out in a series of videos.

As each video is completed, it will be added to the list below. (To access it, simply click on the corresponding link!)

And then, leave me a comment?

Tell me what YOU think. 

Stories like yours will be essential to helping people interested in better health understand the true value of homegrown food and medicine.

Thank you, friends.

I can’t wait to read your comments and stories … .

Grow: All True Wealth Comes From the Ground

Table of Contents

Part I: Health

Part II: Family

Part III: Community

Part IV: Meaningful Work

Part V: Purpose — Coming Soon!

 

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Health Care Alternatives: A DIRE Need

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Remember last year when I ended up in the hospital due to an abscessed salivary duct?

I had tried treating it with home medicine, and finally got to the point where I knew I was out of my depth.

I was weak, in pain, and having more and more difficulty swallowing.

It was time to go to the hospital.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, my hospital experience wasn’t the best. (You can read about it in previous Inside Editions here and here … and if you’re not a sponsor yet, but want to stand shoulder to shoulder with us in spreading the word about the power of backyard food and medicine production to improve health and heal the planet, click here.)

The abscess was caused by a small stone that was stuck in the duct, blocking the flow of saliva. The hospital treated the infection, but wasn’t able to remove the stone while I was there because the inflammation was so intense.

My ear, nose, and throat doctor said I should give it a few months, then get the stone surgically removed.

I was about to start the process of scheduling the surgery this spring when, in the midst of prepping my garden beds and shoveling a bunch of compost, the same salivary duct got infected and abscessed. Again.

When it happened last fall, I had wanted to visit Shifu, a Chinese doctor who’s a genius with alternative medicine and who offices out in the forest near me.

He wasn’t available at the time—but thankfully, he was able to see me this spring. I told him I needed him to lance the abscess. Shifu examined me, and shook his head.

“No. Not going to lance,” he said. “I do acupuncture.” (His English is not nearly as good as his medicine!)

Well, my hospital stay was no picnic, and I wasn’t eager to repeat the experience later when the still-present stone decided to act up again. So, I argued with him.

“No. No. It needs to be lanced.”

But he insisted.

The long and short of it is that, 15 minutes and 10 acupuncture needles later, he sent me home with some herbs. Three days later, the whole abscess had just dissipated. It was gone.

My hospital stay was super-expensive. We have a high deductible insurance plan, so it was $5,000 out of pocket for me. And, honestly, I’m still paying those hospital bills. (Not to mention all the time it took me to recover my good gut flora after they killed it all off with antibiotics—and who knows what else they did to my body with that toxic, radioactive injection prior to the CT scan!)

Then, this time, I was able to visit this old Chinese man out in the woods. He charged me $95 … the abscess cleared up … and my gut flora are still intact!

Even more remarkable was what happened a few days later … .

I tell the whole story in my next video chapter of Grow: All True Wealth Comes From the Ground.

Bottom line? Industrial medicine has its place, but alternative forms of treatment can be just as effective nine times out of ten.

And the world needs access to them in a serious way.

What if you could provide them with that access, and achieve financial freedom at the same time?

You’ll learn more about that in this video, too.

Then, I’d love to hear about your experiences with alternative medicine, and your perspectives on the issue of redeveloping health care.

Would you leave me a comment below?

Huge thanks!

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The Key To Reinventing Our Food System … Is YOU!

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When you need to clear thick brush or tackle masses of stubborn weeds, you can pull out the harsh chemicals, attack them with your brush knife … or rent a herd of goats.

That last option is becoming increasingly popular thanks to the ingenuity of Tammy Dunakin, founder and self-proclaimed chief goat wrangler at Rent-A-Ruminant LLC.

Unfulfilled at work?

Tammy founded her business after a career in emergency medicine left her feeling unfulfilled. She had some pet goats, noticed they looked bored … and decided to do something about it.

The goat-as-land-clearers idea has been catching on. Not only is Tammy making a decent living and franchising her business, she’s also built her flock almost entirely from goats she’s rescued.

By offering goats as an alternative to heavy machinery or noxious chemicals, she is helping to reduce the use of fossil fuels and the presence of toxins in our air, soil, and water.

And since her goats fertilize as they go, they also leave the soil in better shape than they found it.

As you might imagine, Tammy finds her work meaningful and enjoys running a business that promotes sustainability and the health of our planet.

She is happy to be making a living and a difference.

And our world needs many, many more businesses like Tammy’s.

Why?

Middle class malnutrition

We’ve got a lot of “middle class malnutrition” on our planet, in large part due to the centralization of agriculture. Crops have been bred for durability rather than flavor or nutrition, and they lose a lot of their vitamins and minerals during transport. People don’t want to eat them because they don’t taste good … and their bodies don’t crave them because they lack nutrition.

Then you have livestock, which have been bred and raised to produce unnatural quantities of eggs, milk—you name it—using unnatural feed in unnatural environments. The result, of course, is much less nutritious food.

For these reasons and more, our entire food system needs to be reimagined, redesigned, and rebuilt.

What’s the solution?

YOU are!

Making a living can be making a difference. Our food system is in a sorry state. The upside is that there are tons of opportunities for people like Tammy Dunakin, you, and me to create a living doing work we find meaningful.

If you’re not sure how to get started, you’ll want to check out my next video chapter of Grow: All True Wealth Comes From the Ground.

Then, leave me a comment. How do you earn money doing meaningful work? What advice would you give to people who want to make a living making a difference?

Did you see the last chapter? Click here to watch My Biggest Financial Mistake Will Make You Wealthy!

 

Click here to get your FREE pass!

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My Biggest Financial Mistake Will Make You Wealthy

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If you’ve heard me say this once, you’ve heard me say it a thousand times:

True wealth has nothing to do with money.

Which is all good until you need to pay your mortgage, put gas in your car, or buy some groceries, right?

Because the cold, hard fact is …

… that we live in a world dominated by an economic system that runs on money. Dollars (or pesos, or yen, or pounds … you know what I mean) are the currency of transactions for almost everything. They’re how you buy and sell and get things done.

But what if you could improve your quality of life without spending more money … in fact, while spending less?

I show you how in this next video chapter of Grow: All True Wealth Comes From The Ground.

In it, I reveal:

  • Money—Good Or Evil?
  • How To Love What You Do And Still Pay The Mortgage
  • The BIGGEST Financial Mistake Of My Life

Then, would you leave me a comment below?

How has producing your own food and medicine saved you money?

What’s your advice to someone who wants to love what they do for a living?

Did you see the last Grow Book Chapter? Click here to read How To Leave A More Powerful Legacy!

Thank you so much!

 

Click here to get your FREE pass!

The post My Biggest Financial Mistake Will Make You Wealthy appeared first on The Grow Network.

My Biggest Financial Mistake Will Make You Wealthy

If you’ve heard me say this once, you’ve heard me say it a thousand times:

True wealth has nothing to do with money.

Which is all good until you need to pay your mortgage, put gas in your car, or buy some groceries, right?

Because the cold, hard fact is …

… that we live in a world dominated by an economic system that runs on money. Dollars (or pesos, or yen, or pounds … you know what I mean) are the currency of transactions for almost everything. They’re how you buy and sell and get things done.

But what if you could improve your quality of life without spending more money … in fact, while spending less?

I show you how in this next video chapter of Grow: All True Wealth Comes From The Ground.

In it, I reveal:

  • Money—Good Or Evil?
  • How To Love What You Do And Still Pay The Mortgage
  • The BIGGEST Financial Mistake Of My Life

Then, would you leave me a comment below?

How has producing your own food and medicine saved you money?

What’s your advice to someone who wants to love what they do for a living?

Did you see the last Grow Book Chapter? Click here to read How To Leave A More Powerful Legacy!

Thank you so much!

 

Click here to get your FREE pass!

The post My Biggest Financial Mistake Will Make You Wealthy appeared first on The Grow Network.

Let’s Go To The Fair! The Mother Earth News Fair

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Let’s go to the fair!

Remember the excitement of going to the State Fair? This is no different! At the Mother Earth News Fair, you’ll find amazing workshops and lectures to help you on your path to independence and self-reliance.  

So many things to do and see

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build a root cellar, create a green dream homestead, or see what new products are on the market, this is the fair for you. 

There is a whole selection of vendors and a bunch of hands-on workshops. There were too many great booths and exhibitions to list. The place was buzzing with alternative energy vehicles, traditional folk arts and crafts, heritage and landrace livestock, homestead-scale saw mills, and so much more.

Would you like to test drive a tractor? I think I could do some damage with the front-end loader.

Sawmill? If you want to fell trees from you land, the sawmill area is the place for you!

Livestock area

In the livestock area, you’ll find heritage breeds, like Rosie and her calf. They are Dexter cows, which are miniature cattle. I love this breed!

Inside there were hundreds of vendors with all kinds of things to see and do. It’s a great place to do a lot of shopping!

Expert Speakers

The speaker lineup is awesome, and I’m sure everyone who attended will agree that there wasn’t enough time to take in all of the information that was flying around. There were great talks on sustainability, herbal medicine, vegetable gardening, raising and processing livestock, alternative energy… you name it.

Joel Salatin was there talking about chickens, pigs, and cattle and how to create the deepest and best soil by choreographing the movement of ancient herds.

You even get to talk with these experts!

There is so much going on at these amazing events. I really encourage you to visit one.

These fairs are all over the U.S., so there should be one near you. If not, it is well worth the drive.

See you at a Mother Earth News Fair.

Did you see this Homesteading Basics? Keep your special plants close!

Have you been to a Mother Earth News Fair? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

 

Click here to get your FREE pass!

Save

The post Let’s Go To The Fair! The Mother Earth News Fair appeared first on The Grow Network.

Let’s Go To The Fair! The Mother Earth News Fair

Let’s go to the fair!

Remember the excitement of going to the State Fair? This is no different! At the Mother Earth News Fair, you’ll find amazing workshops and lectures to help you on your path to independence and self-reliance.  

So many things to do and see

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build a root cellar, create a green dream homestead, or see what new products are on the market, this is the fair for you. 

There is a whole selection of vendors and a bunch of hands-on workshops. There were too many great booths and exhibitions to list. The place was buzzing with alternative energy vehicles, traditional folk arts and crafts, heritage and landrace livestock, homestead-scale saw mills, and so much more.

Would you like to test drive a tractor? I think I could do some damage with the front-end loader.

Sawmill? If you want to fell trees from you land, the sawmill area is the place for you!

Livestock area

In the livestock area, you’ll find heritage breeds, like Rosie and her calf. They are Dexter cows, which are miniature cattle. I love this breed!

Inside there were hundreds of vendors with all kinds of things to see and do. It’s a great place to do a lot of shopping!

Expert Speakers

The speaker lineup is awesome, and I’m sure everyone who attended will agree that there wasn’t enough time to take in all of the information that was flying around. There were great talks on sustainability, herbal medicine, vegetable gardening, raising and processing livestock, alternative energy… you name it.

Joel Salatin was there talking about chickens, pigs, and cattle and how to create the deepest and best soil by choreographing the movement of ancient herds.

You even get to talk with these experts!

There is so much going on at these amazing events. I really encourage you to visit one.

These fairs are all over the U.S., so there should be one near you. If not, it is well worth the drive.

See you at a Mother Earth News Fair.

Did you see this Homesteading Basics? Keep your special plants close!

Have you been to a Mother Earth News Fair? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

 

Click here to get your FREE pass!

Save

The post Let’s Go To The Fair! The Mother Earth News Fair appeared first on The Grow Network.

I Don’t WANT To Grow All My Own Food. Here’s Why.

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Would it surprise you to learn that I don’t grow all of my family’s food?

(Well, maybe if I could get my teenagers to work a little harder … then I would? 😉 )

But the truth is, I don’t even want to.

I’d rather live in a gift economy—a core community of like-minded people who are so interconnected that they support, help, and give to one another … without any expectation of getting something in return.

It’s a joyful, stable economy—and it’s ancient for some wonderful reasons.

In fact, really, the deep satisfaction it brings is what we’re all aiming for when we talk about growing a community.

But how do we get there?

How do you go from no or little community to living in a gift economy?

That’s the topic of my next video chapter of Grow: All True Wealth Comes From the Ground.

In it, I talk about:

  • One Of The BEST Ways To Start Producing Food As A Community
  • 5 Ways To Give — And Which Offer The Most True Wealth
  • What’s In It For You? The No. 1 Reason To Pursue A Gift Economy

Did you see last week’s video Chapter of GROW? Click here to watch Build Community In 9 Easy steps!

After you watch it, I’d love to hear your story.

What type of giving brings you the most satisfaction?

How has giving created community for you?

I can’t wait to read your comments!

 

Click here to get your FREE pass!

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6 Homesteading Skills You Need To Know—And Where To Get Them

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In this edition of Homesteading Basics, let’s talk about learning homesteading skills you need if you’re going to be a modern-homesteader, and where the best place is to get those skills.

Watch the video here: (video length: 2:38 minutes)

A True Story

My son was using the mower the other day and ran out of gas. 

He left it in the south pasture with the key turned on, and the battery died.

Now he’s off on a trip, and I’m stuck with a dead battery.

This got me thinking about all of the skills you need to be a modern-day homesteader.

Do you have the skills you need?

Here are some basic skills that you’re definitely going to need on your homestead:

  • Basic electrical knowledge
  • Carpentry skills
  • Plumbing knowledge
  • Animal husbandry
  • Gardening methods and techniques
  • Home Medicine

If you don’t already possess this knowledge, these skills can take a while to acquire.

Where to gain homesteading knowledge

One of the best places to get the knowledge you need is to attend a Mother Earth News Fair. They are held all over the U.S. There are a lot of different workshops in a two-to-three-day period. They offer the basic skills you’ll need for your homestead.

Here are a few other suggestions to help you improve your homesteading skills:

Your local farmer
See if he or she will give you a few tips or pointers on something specific, like animal husbandry. Offer to pay him or trade him something that he needs, maybe even your labor.

Big Box Stores
A lot of the big box supply stores offer Saturday morning classes in home improvement skills, including basic plumbing, electrical, and carpentry.

Local Community College
Many community colleges offer nighttime and weekend classes in auto repair, small engine repair, carpentry, basic plumbing, and electrical.

Online Classes
There are thousands of online classes from home medicine to gardening. Choose the one that gives you the knowledge you need and works with your schedule.

County Extension Master Gardeners
Master Gardeners are a community of volunteers trained in horticulture by the County Extension Office. You can become a Master Gardener by learning valuable plant and soil information. Then volunteer 40 hours during the year and give your knowledge back to your community. Check your local or state extension office for more information, or call your local Master Gardener hotline for more information on the public classes they offer.

Local Master Classes
In many places, there are local classes offered by specialty groups. For instance, Master beekeepers, Master composters, and others often offer classes for free or a small fee to attend. Look online for groups near you.

YouTube videos
There are hundreds of thousands of videos online to help you gain the skills you need in just about any area of homesteading.

Let’s improve our skills together.

Where are you getting the homesteading skills you need? In the comments below, let us know what skills you have and which ones you need.

The post 6 Homesteading Skills You Need To Know—And Where To Get Them appeared first on The Grow Network.

Build Community In 9 Easy Steps … Even When You’re Raising Your Kids In A Barn!

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Are you ready to build community in your life?

You know that question parents ask their kids when they chew with their mouths open, track mud through the house, or something like that? That thing about being raised in a barn?

Yeah, well, mine actually were.

It was a lot of fun when the kids were little, but it sort of started backfiring on Dave and me as they grew.

Because now, when I ask them incredulously, “Where are your manners? Were you raised in a barn?”

… They look at me innocently and say, “Well, yeah, Mom, as a matter of fact we were!”

I kind of blew it on that one, didn’t I? 😉

Still, despite literally living in a barn for a while when we first moved to our rural property, I wanted to get to know like-minded people.

  • People who wanted to grow their own food.
  • Who were resilient and self-reliant.
  • And who wanted the same deep connections I was hungering for.

For obvious reasons, I didn’t have a living room. And, honestly, since I had small kids, I wanted to maintain the ability to screen the folks who came into my home.

How did I address these community-busting challenges?

Well, I wasn’t sure what to do at first. But eventually, it came to me: I started hosting monthly events.

That may sound intimidating initially, but I show you just how simple—yet incredibly powerful!—it can be in my next video chapter of Grow: All True Wealth Comes From the Ground.

It really is a complete guide to hosting community-building events.

You’ll learn:

  • How To Grow A Community In 9 Easy Steps
  • 6 Safe, Inexpensive Venues For Getting Started
  • My Failproof Technique For Ensuring You Always Have Speakers
  • 12 Ways To Get The Word Out
  • The MOST IMPORTANT Item On The Refreshments Table

… And lots more!

Then, I’d love to hear from you!

What’s your favorite way to build community? Tell us in the comments below.

Thanks so much!

 

 

Learn to Grow Your Own Food!

The easiest, most practical system to grow delicious, healthy,  and clean food.

Click Here To Get Your Copy

 

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10 Easy Ways To Take Care Of Your Teeth … Naturally!

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Are you taking care of your teeth? It is one of the single most important preventative measure that you can do yourself. Poor oral health leads to gum disease, facial pain, infections of the mouth, and more serious health problems, including stroke, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney disease, diabetes, and oral cancer. According to the ADA, nearly 50% of Americans don’t go to the dentist because of fear, money, or the belief that their mouths are healthy. Here are some easy ways you can care for your teeth, naturally.

From the Inside-Out

A healthy mouth involves your entire body. Your body needs fat-soluble vitamins and minerals to keep your mouth healthy, too.

These minerals and vitamins support the body as a whole but also create more mineral-rich saliva, which is how your body protects your teeth.

Saliva and Oral Health

Saliva is how your body protects your teeth. On a practical level, teeth are remineralized as your saliva washes over your teeth. However, you must have appropriate nutrients in your body, or your saliva will lack the minerals needed to protect and strengthen your teeth.

Watch Your Diet

Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy provide you with all of the nutrients that you and your teeth need.

Keep in mind that acidic foods increase the risk of tooth decay because it breaks down the enamel of your teeth and allows bacteria to get into your teeth. You don’t have to avoid acidic foods altogether, but knowing which foods are acidic will help you take control of those portions.

Fruit and Vegetables

Munching on apples, celery sticks, carrots, and peppers make your teeth strong and healthy.

Sesame Seeds

Use sesame seeds as a oral scrub. They gently remove plaque and tartar and don’t damage your teeth. Chew them up, but don’t swallow them.

How to care for your teeth and gums—naturally!

1. Brushing

Your brushing routine is super-important for your overall mouth health. You should brush at least twice-a-day. If you do it properly, brushing should take about two minutes. Do you have problems brushing that long? Set a timer for two minutes to make sure you brush for the appropriate amount of time.

  • Start your brushing routine in the back of your mouth. If you follow the same routine each time, it will become a habit.
  • In order to loosen food debris and plaque that builds up around the gum line, brush in a circular motion downward from the gums.
  • Don’t forget the backsides of your teeth! The back surfaces of all your teeth are just as important as the front. Food and debris can build-up there just as easily.
  • Brushing the biting surface of your teeth will loosen food particles that settle into the indentations.
  • Bacteria builds up on your tongue and the inside of your cheeks. Be sure to brush these areas to promote fresh breath.

2. Floss

There is a lot of controversy over flossing right now. For years, it has been said that “flossing is the most important thing you can do to protect your teeth and gums.” However, many people overlook this simple task or don’t do it correctly.

Now, there is mounting evidence that flossing doesn’t help prevent gum disease.

With that said, there are minimal risks and a lot of potential rewards. So, go ahead and floss!

Use an unwaxed, natural floss to get between your teeth and below the gum line where plaque, food particles, and bacteria hang out.

Note: Petroleum byproduct are used in waxed floss. Also, check the package for the cruelty-free label. You’ll know that no animals were harmed in the production of that floss.

How to Floss

  1. Cut a length of floss that you can wrap around your fingers and still have enough to hold and work in between your teeth with an up-and-down motion.
  2. Curve the base of each tooth in a C-shape and work the floss beneath the gum line. As you move from tooth to tooth, use a clean part of the strand.

Make Your Own Toothpaste

This toothpaste recipe has no fluoride, is safe for children, and those with thyroid problems. Oh and it’s YUMMY, too!

Get the recipe here!

 

take-care-teeth-naturally

3. Drink water

The average American drinks only 2 1/2 cups of water a day. To help you stay hydrated, you need to drink at least 8-8 oz. cups of water each day.

If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Besides keeping your body hydrated, water helps wash away food and bacteria left in your mouth.

Your saliva is produced from water. It neutralizes the acidity in your mouth that erodes tooth enamel and weakens your teeth.

Make it a habit to rinse your mouth or swish with water after every meal. This will help eliminate leftover bits of food and speed up the remineralization process.

Make your own Mouth Wash

In a glass jar, mix 1/2 cup of filtered water, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 2 drops of tea tree oil, and 3 drops of peppermint essential oil. Shake well. Store in your bathroom cabinet.

To use: Swish 3 teaspoons in your mouth for a minute or two. Try to avoid swallowing it.

Note: Double the recipe if you need a larger batch.

4. Chew xylitol gum

Bacteria love the sugar alcohol in xylitol, but bacteria can’t break it down. The bacteria starve to death. Chewing xylitol gum reduces gum disease and tooth decay successfully. It also promotes saliva production, which increases the antibacterial forces in the mouth. It also promotes saliva production, which increases the antibacterial forces in the mouth.

5. Oil pulling

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique to keep your mouth healthy. Both sesame and coconut oil have antibacterial properties that keep your teeth and gums in tip-top shape. And you’ll also notice that oil pulling naturally whitens your teeth. Do this first thing in the morning.

How to oil pull:

  1. Put 1 tablespoon of sesame or coconut oil in your mouth.
  2. Gently swish it around for 10 to 20 minutes.
  3. Spit it out into the garbage. Avoid gargling or swallowing the oil.
  4. Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  5. Brush your teeth as usual.
  6. Repeat daily, first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach.

You may have to build up to the 20 minutes. At first, I had so much saliva in my mouth along with the oil that I could only swish for a minute or two. Start where you can and build-up to 10 to 20 minutes.

What oil pulling does:

Oil pulling draws out toxins from your body. It is primarily used to keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy and improves your overall health.

6. Tongue scraping

Get yourself a tongue scraper. Stainless-steel tongue scrapers, which you can buy online, are much easier to clean.

What it does:

Tongue scraping reduces and removes the bacterial growth on your tongue that leads to bad breath. Removing bacterial growth is good for you because it reduces the likelihood of tooth decay, tooth loss, gum disease, and other oral problems.

How to tongue scrape:

  • Do your tongue scraping first thing in the morning.
  • Watch in a mirror. Place the tongue scraper at the back of your tongue. Pull it to the front edge of your tongue, and discard the build up.
  • Repeat this motion twice.
  • Be gentle! You don’t want to hurt your taste buds.

7. Drink herbal tea

Herbal, red, white, and green tea are excellent after-dinner palate-cleansers. They also have the added benefit of keeping plaque from developing.

 

take-care-teeth-naturally

8. Herbs & Spices

Herbs and spices have long been favored to clean and freshen the breath. Many herbs have antibacterial properties, which help keep your teeth and gums from getting infected.

Cloves
Suck on a whole clove to lessen tooth pain.

Aloe vera
Apply aloe vera gel in small quantities if you have gum inflammation. Be warned, natural aloe gel is extremely bitter tasting.

Turmeric
Keep your gums and teeth healthy and infection-free with turmeric, which contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Mix a ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder and a little bit of water into a paste. Brush your teeth a few times a week to control plaque and prevent gingivitis.

Licorice
According to a 2011 study published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Natural Products, scientists discovered that two important compounds in licorice helped kill the major bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease.

Use a soft licorice stick like a toothbrush to remove plaque and tartar.

9. Add supplements

Minerals are very important to overall health, but especially for teeth and gums. Diet alone might be enough, but many foods lack nutrients from being grown in nutrient depleted soil, so supplements help fill the gaps. Check with a medical professional before adding supplements.

  • Vitamins A, C, D, K
  • Magnesium
  • Gelatin
  • Cod Liver Oil

10. Herbal breath fresheners

  • Chew on fresh parsley or mint leaves.
  • Rub your teeth with orange peel to help fight tartar build-up and whiten teeth.
  • Gargle with an old-fashioned solution
    1 cup of water and 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Combine and store in a glass jar. Shake well before use. Rinse and repeat every 2-3 days for maximum value.

Do you use any of these natural tooth care techniques? Tell us your story in the comment below.

Resources:

American Dental Association.
U.S. News & World Report. August 2, 2016. David Oliver. Health Buzz: Flossing Doesn’t Actually Work, Report Says. 

 

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The post 10 Easy Ways To Take Care Of Your Teeth … Naturally! appeared first on The Grow Network.

10 Easy Ways To Take Care Of Your Teeth … Naturally!

Are you taking care of your teeth? It is one of the single most important preventative measure that you can do yourself. Poor oral health leads to gum disease, facial pain, infections of the mouth, and more serious health problems, including stroke, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney disease, diabetes, and oral cancer. According to the ADA, nearly 50% of Americans don’t go to the dentist because of fear, money, or the belief that their mouths are healthy. Here are some easy ways you can care for your teeth, naturally.

From the Inside-Out

A healthy mouth involves your entire body. Your body needs fat-soluble vitamins and minerals to keep your mouth healthy, too.

These minerals and vitamins support the body as a whole but also create more mineral-rich saliva, which is how your body protects your teeth.

Saliva and Oral Health

Saliva is how your body protects your teeth. On a practical level, teeth are remineralized as your saliva washes over your teeth. However, you must have appropriate nutrients in your body, or your saliva will lack the minerals needed to protect and strengthen your teeth.

Watch Your Diet

Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy provide you with all of the nutrients that you and your teeth need.

Keep in mind that acidic foods increase the risk of tooth decay because it breaks down the enamel of your teeth and allows bacteria to get into your teeth. You don’t have to avoid acidic foods altogether, but knowing which foods are acidic will help you take control of those portions.

Fruit and Vegetables

Munching on apples, celery sticks, carrots, and peppers make your teeth strong and healthy.

Sesame Seeds

Use sesame seeds as a oral scrub. They gently remove plaque and tartar and don’t damage your teeth. Chew them up, but don’t swallow them.

How to care for your teeth and gums—naturally!

1. Brushing

Your brushing routine is super-important for your overall mouth health. You should brush at least twice-a-day. If you do it properly, brushing should take about two minutes. Do you have problems brushing that long? Set a timer for two minutes to make sure you brush for the appropriate amount of time.

  • Start your brushing routine in the back of your mouth. If you follow the same routine each time, it will become a habit.
  • In order to loosen food debris and plaque that builds up around the gum line, brush in a circular motion downward from the gums.
  • Don’t forget the backsides of your teeth! The back surfaces of all your teeth are just as important as the front. Food and debris can build-up there just as easily.
  • Brushing the biting surface of your teeth will loosen food particles that settle into the indentations.
  • Bacteria builds up on your tongue and the inside of your cheeks. Be sure to brush these areas to promote fresh breath.

2. Floss

There is a lot of controversy over flossing right now. For years, it has been said that “flossing is the most important thing you can do to protect your teeth and gums.” However, many people overlook this simple task or don’t do it correctly.

Now, there is mounting evidence that flossing doesn’t help prevent gum disease.

With that said, there are minimal risks and a lot of potential rewards. So, go ahead and floss!

Use an unwaxed, natural floss to get between your teeth and below the gum line where plaque, food particles, and bacteria hang out.

Note: Petroleum byproduct are used in waxed floss. Also, check the package for the cruelty-free label. You’ll know that no animals were harmed in the production of that floss.

How to Floss

  1. Cut a length of floss that you can wrap around your fingers and still have enough to hold and work in between your teeth with an up-and-down motion.
  2. Curve the base of each tooth in a C-shape and work the floss beneath the gum line. As you move from tooth to tooth, use a clean part of the strand.

Make Your Own Toothpaste

This toothpaste recipe has no fluoride, is safe for children, and those with thyroid problems. Oh and it’s YUMMY, too!

Get the recipe here!

 

take-care-teeth-naturally

3. Drink water

The average American drinks only 2 1/2 cups of water a day. To help you stay hydrated, you need to drink at least 8-8 oz. cups of water each day.

If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Besides keeping your body hydrated, water helps wash away food and bacteria left in your mouth.

Your saliva is produced from water. It neutralizes the acidity in your mouth that erodes tooth enamel and weakens your teeth.

Make it a habit to rinse your mouth or swish with water after every meal. This will help eliminate leftover bits of food and speed up the remineralization process.

Make your own Mouth Wash

In a glass jar, mix 1/2 cup of filtered water, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, 2 drops of tea tree oil, and 3 drops of peppermint essential oil. Shake well. Store in your bathroom cabinet.

To use: Swish 3 teaspoons in your mouth for a minute or two. Try to avoid swallowing it.

Note: Double the recipe if you need a larger batch.

4. Chew xylitol gum

Bacteria love the sugar alcohol in xylitol, but bacteria can’t break it down. The bacteria starve to death. Chewing xylitol gum reduces gum disease and tooth decay successfully. It also promotes saliva production, which increases the antibacterial forces in the mouth. It also promotes saliva production, which increases the antibacterial forces in the mouth.

5. Oil pulling

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique to keep your mouth healthy. Both sesame and coconut oil have antibacterial properties that keep your teeth and gums in tip-top shape. And you’ll also notice that oil pulling naturally whitens your teeth. Do this first thing in the morning.

How to oil pull:

  1. Put 1 tablespoon of sesame or coconut oil in your mouth.
  2. Gently swish it around for 10 to 20 minutes.
  3. Spit it out into the garbage. Avoid gargling or swallowing the oil.
  4. Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  5. Brush your teeth as usual.
  6. Repeat daily, first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach.

You may have to build up to the 20 minutes. At first, I had so much saliva in my mouth along with the oil that I could only swish for a minute or two. Start where you can and build-up to 10 to 20 minutes.

What oil pulling does:

Oil pulling draws out toxins from your body. It is primarily used to keep your teeth, gums, and mouth healthy and improves your overall health.

6. Tongue scraping

Get yourself a tongue scraper. Stainless-steel tongue scrapers, which you can buy online, are much easier to clean.

What it does:

Tongue scraping reduces and removes the bacterial growth on your tongue that leads to bad breath. Removing bacterial growth is good for you because it reduces the likelihood of tooth decay, tooth loss, gum disease, and other oral problems.

How to tongue scrape:

  • Do your tongue scraping first thing in the morning.
  • Watch in a mirror. Place the tongue scraper at the back of your tongue. Pull it to the front edge of your tongue, and discard the build up.
  • Repeat this motion twice.
  • Be gentle! You don’t want to hurt your taste buds.

7. Drink herbal tea

Herbal, red, white, and green tea are excellent after-dinner palate-cleansers. They also have the added benefit of keeping plaque from developing.

 

take-care-teeth-naturally

8. Herbs & Spices

Herbs and spices have long been favored to clean and freshen the breath. Many herbs have antibacterial properties, which help keep your teeth and gums from getting infected.

Cloves
Suck on a whole clove to lessen tooth pain.

Aloe vera
Apply aloe vera gel in small quantities if you have gum inflammation. Be warned, natural aloe gel is extremely bitter tasting.

Turmeric
Keep your gums and teeth healthy and infection-free with turmeric, which contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Mix a ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder and a little bit of water into a paste. Brush your teeth a few times a week to control plaque and prevent gingivitis.

Licorice
According to a 2011 study published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Natural Products, scientists discovered that two important compounds in licorice helped kill the major bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease.

Use a soft licorice stick like a toothbrush to remove plaque and tartar.

9. Add supplements

Minerals are very important to overall health, but especially for teeth and gums. Diet alone might be enough, but many foods lack nutrients from being grown in nutrient depleted soil, so supplements help fill the gaps. Check with a medical professional before adding supplements.

  • Vitamins A, C, D, K
  • Magnesium
  • Gelatin
  • Cod Liver Oil

10. Herbal breath fresheners

  • Chew on fresh parsley or mint leaves.
  • Rub your teeth with orange peel to help fight tartar build-up and whiten teeth.
  • Gargle with an old-fashioned solution
    1 cup of water and 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Combine and store in a glass jar. Shake well before use. Rinse and repeat every 2-3 days for maximum value.

Do you use any of these natural tooth care techniques? Tell us your story in the comment below.

Resources:

American Dental Association.
U.S. News & World Report. August 2, 2016. David Oliver. Health Buzz: Flossing Doesn’t Actually Work, Report Says. 

 

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Community And Friendship, With a Side of Sauce

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Good community gives life and wealth. In fact, when it comes to living a long, healthy life, some research counts community and friendship as more valuable than eating your veggies!

“Give me an hour.”

When I got the call asking whether I could find a use for a trailerful of vine-ripened organic tomatoes, that was my reply.

Once I hung up the phone, I picked it right back up again. I knew exactly who to call.

By the time that trailer pulled up, three families (including mine) were standing at the ready, armed with a slew of canning supplies.

Together, in one day, we processed that whole load of tomatoes. And each family went away with better than three dozen quart jars of thick, rich tomato sauce.

Honestly, though, the best thing about that day wasn’t the sauce.

It was the stories we told …

… The laughing we did …

… The turns we took cutting the tomatoes and holding the baby.

In a word, it was the community and friendship

And that’s the theme of my next few video chapters of Grow: All True Wealth Comes From the Ground.

In it, I reveal:

  • How Good Is Your Community? 4 Ways To Find Out
  • Why The Ideal Of The “Lone Survivor” Is A TOTAL Myth
  • Tempted To Isolate Yourself In A Survival Situation? Answer This Question FIRST!

Did you miss last week’s chapter of GROW? Click here to see it.

Then, let me know…

What’s your favorite way to develop community?

How has being part of a community enriched your life?

Give us your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Access our growing selection of Downloadable eBooks…

… On topics that include growing your own food, herbal medicine, homesteading, raising livestock, and more!

Click here to get your FREE pass!

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How To Grow Equisetum Hyemale

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Equisetum hyemale is commonly called scouring rush or rough horsetail. Equisetum is not a rush, fern, or reed. This horsetail is a non-flowering, rush-like, perennial, which is native to Europe, North America, and Asia, and is invasive in most places. It is very easy to grow Equisetum Hymale!

It is a single surviving genus that dates back 350 million years. Its name comes from the Latin word equus meaning “a horse” and seta meaning “a bristle.”

The stems

It occurs in wet woods, moist hillsides, and the edges of lakes, rivers, and ponds. This species has rigid, rough, hollow, jointed-and-segmented, bamboo-like, dark green stems that are about 1/2 inch in diameter at the base.

Photosynthesis happens in the stems of this plant. Fertile stems bear pine cone-like fruiting heads about 1-inch long, which contain a lot of spores.

If you live in an area that is frost-free, the evergreen stems are pretty in winter.

The stems are also high in silica and were used by early Americans for polishing pots and pans. (1)

The leaves

Tiny, scale-like leaves attached to the stem and fuse into an ash-gray sheath, which is a 1/4-inch long. The leaves end in a fringe of teeth marks at each stem node (joint). During the growing season, these teeth shed.

grow-equisetum-hyemale

Grow Equisetum Hyemale

This ancient plant spreads by rhizomes (underground stem that acts like a root). It is commonly called horsetail or winter scouring rush, but there are several varieties. This particular species is one that has been used for centuries for tooth and gum care.

In your landscape

Horsetail reeds (Equisetum hyemale) is a great addition to the edges of backyard ponds and water features. The reeds thrive where soils are moist, but the plant remains above water. Depending on where you live, it can be invasive. This species of horsetail multiplies in a “thicket.”

The reeds may stay green where frost is not a concern. The reeds are typically grown only as a potted plant, because they spread quickly via underground rhizomes. It grows to a height of 2 feet to 4 feet.

Soil

Equisetum Hyemale tolerates a wide-range of moist soils It will even grow in up to 4 inches of standing water. A large colony of reeds forms in the wild. Equisetum Hyemale is a very aggressive plant, which needs to be restrained by a pot. Once established, it can be challenging to remove because the rhizomes spread wide and deep. Any small section of rhizome left behind will sprout a new plant. In water gardens, plant in pots, or it will choke out other plants.

This horsetail species likes a slightly acidic soil with a clay, loam, sand mix. It particularly likes wet sites. It is perfect for a bog garden, containers, or water gardens.

Light

Grow Equisetum Hyemale in full sun, partial sun, or partial shade depending on your particular climate.

Climate

This species of horsetail grows well in Zones 4 through 9.

Click here to find your hardiness zone.

Maintenance

Indoors or outside, be sure to cut off any rhizomes growing out of the pot. This will keep the horsetail from spreading into the pond or surrounding soil.

Place the pot so the rim is above the water surface, near the edge of a pond or water feature is perfect.

Prune the dead stems after they turn brown in winter. Provide some winter interest by leaving the stems in place until new stems emerge.

Watering

Water horsetail reeds twice-a-week or more, so the soil stays moist, almost wet. Pots sitting in water need less watering. Water pond plants only if the potting soil surface looks dry.

Pests

Equisetum Hyemale does not have any serious insect or disease problems. The only problem is its very aggressive and spreading nature.

Fertilizer

When the reed is actively growing in spring and summer or every two months, apply a fertilizer made for pond or bog plants. Follow the recommended applications on the fertilizer bag.

Here are 35 Homemade Organic Fertilizers to try!

Grow Equisetum Hyemale Indoors

Although a bog plant, horsetail reeds are low-maintenance and do well in pots on your patio, too. Plant Equisetum Hyemale in a non-perforated, 1-gallon pot with drainage holes.

Lift the pot once-a-month to examine the drainage holes. Cut back any rhizomes that are trying to escape.

Indoors, grow Equisetum Hyemale in moist soil and with a lot of light. A sunny window is perfect.

Use a potting soil that works best for bog and water garden plants. Set the pot in water that is no more than 4-inches deep.

Will you be growing Equisetum Hyemale? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Research:

1 Missouri Botanical Garden. [http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=c670]

 

 

Beautiful, Squeaky Clean, HEALTHY Teeth
… Without Going To The Dentist!

Click here to get this holistic approach to caring for your teeth

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How Well Do You Know Your Teeth?

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Do you know your teeth? Did you know that each one has a number?

Running your tongue across your teeth is probably the most common body movement you do. It’s important to know your teeth because it will help identify problems, give you the knowledge you need to be in charge of your dental health, and makes you aware of issues before they become problems.

But how well do you really know your teeth?

Imagine …

… Sarah’s tooth in her upper right jaw hurt. Can you imagine how much more respect, and probably better treatment, she would get from her dentist if she said, “I am having some sensitivity with tooth number 3, can I make an appointment?”

Really knowing your teeth is the first step to better dental health, and being in charge of what is used in your mouth.

A good way to start is to learn the numbers for each tooth.

know-your-teeth

© kaligula

Tooth Numbers

The adult human mouth is blueprinted with 32 teeth—16 on the upper and 16 on the lower.

Use a mirror or your tongue to identify each of your teeth and their numbers.

The first tooth is in the upper right. Then, go around to number 16, which is on your upper left. Most people no longer have their wisdom teeth, so often the first tooth in your upper right jaw is actually # 2. Number 17 starts on your lower left and goes around to #32, which is your lower right. Again, the wisdom teeth are often missing so usually the first tooth on the lower left is #18.

Get a dental mirror, and check this out for yourself!

Dental Language

If you’ve ever laid back in a dental chair and wondered what the gobbledygook the dentist was saying to his assistant, this article is the first step in unraveling that mysterious language.

Here are some terms you might hear at your dentist’s office, and what they mean:

Anterior describes things pertaining to your centrals, laterals, and cuspids.

Apex is the very bottom of the tooth’s root.

Aspirator is the little tube-like straw that sucks up your saliva.

Buccal is the tooth surface that is next to your cheeks.

Calculus is a hard deposit that forms when you do not brush your teeth and plague hardens, also known as tartar.

Caries are cavities or tooth decay.

Cariogenic is a decay-causing material.

Central means the two upper and two lower teeth in the very center of your mouth, also called Incisors.

Crown is the part of your tooth above the gum line.

Cuspids are the pointy teeth just beside the laterals. They have one point, and commonly called canines.

Dentin is the calcium part of your tooth below the enamel containing the pulp and root canals.

Enamel is a hard ceramic that covers the exposed part of your teeth.

First Bicuspids are the teeth just beside the cuspids. They have two points.

First Molars are the teeth beside the second bicuspids. These teeth have four points.

Gingivitis is reversible inflammation of the gum tissue, but does not include the bone.

Implant is a tooth replacement. The implant is different from a bridge as it is permanently attached to your jaw.

Labial is the tooth surface that is next to your lips.

Lingual is the tooth surface next to your tongue.

Lateral means the teeth just beside the centrals.

Malocclusion is misaligned teeth or jaw.

Mandible is your lower jaw.

Maxilla is your upper jaw.

Occlusal surface is the chewing surface of a tooth.

Periodontal disease is inflammation and irritation of the gums which if left untreated can cause the teeth and jawbone to deteriorate or fall out.

Plaque is a bacterial colony which has mineralized and attacked your teeth, causing decay.

Prophylaxis is a professional cleaning of your teeth by a dentist or hygienist.

Root is part of your tooth in your gums.

Sealant is a plastic coating used to protect your teeth from decay.

Second Bicuspids are the teeth beside the first bicuspids. They also have two points.

Second Molars are the teeth beside the first molars. They also have four points.

Third Molars are your wisdom teeth. Some people have them. Some people don’t. Often times, they are pulled so as not to cause problems in your mouth.

 

Have you seen this article: How Much Money Will You Spend on Dentistry?

 

know-your-teeth

© lisafx

What you need to know

  1. Being able to chew your homegrown food is essential for good digestion. Actually getting the nutrition that your body needs relies on your teeth being healthy and strong.
  2. You’ll impress the heck out of your dentist and get much more respect and possibly better care, if you know your tooth numbers.
  3. Knowing your tooth numbers and checking your own teeth regularly is very important to the prevention of tooth and gum issues.

You have more control over your dental health than you know. And healthy teeth and gums are important for a happy and healthy YOU!

Tell us in the comments below. How well do you know your teeth?

 

Your Teeth Are Alive and Can Heal Themselves!

I’ll show you how Doug Simons takes care of his dental
health with simple, easy-to-do, and effective methods.
You can too!

Click here for more information!

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24 Injuries and Ailments You Can Treat With Home Remedies

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(Length: 27:30 min.)

Snake Bite!

Many of you know that I got bitten by a copperhead snake late last summer, treated it with home remedies for snake bites, and lived to tell the tale.

What you may not know is that this was the second copperhead bite in my family in the last few years.

(Yeah, we have a lot of copperheads here in Central Texas!)

The two experiences could not have been more different.

Last time, it was my husband who got bitten.

When it happened, he chose to head to the hospital. I respected his right to make that choice—and you’d better believe I went with him and stayed by his side as his advocate the entire time!

His whole experience was very painful, very disruptive, and very expensive. But, within about a week, all of the swelling had gone, and he was back to normal.

Contrast that with my own snakebite experience last summer. My husband knows me well enough that, after I got bitten, he didn’t even mention going to the hospital. Instead, he asked, “What do you want to poultice it with?”

I’m not going to lie—there was still a lot of pain involved.

But in every other way, my snakebite experience was completely different from my husband’s.

I was in the comfort of my own home, being treated by my husband and daughter. And, honestly, while that snake venom was working its way out of my system, I had the most amazing spiritual experience I’ve ever had.

It was absolutely life-changing.

You can read more about it on our website—the first part of my blog post is here and the second part is here.

Perhaps most telling of all was my husband’s comment to me when it was all over … .

I tell the rest of the story in my next video chapter of Grow: All True Wealth Comes From the Ground. (above)

In it, you’ll learn:

  • My #1 Favorite Home Remedy
  • 24+ Injuries and Ailments You Can Treat at Home
  • 7 Simple Steps to Mastering Home Remedies

I also reveal the fundamental difference between home and hospital treatments, what home remedies are (and what they’re not!), and why treating illness at home can be such an abundant source of family wealth.

After you watch, I’d love to know:

What are your favorite home remedies?

What’s your most memorable experience with treating illness at home?

I can’t wait to hear from you!

P.S. If you’d like to take the Antibiotics IQ quiz I mention in the video, click here!

The post 24 Injuries and Ailments You Can Treat With Home Remedies appeared first on The Grow Network.

How To Identify Plants Quickly

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Would you like to be able to quickly and easily identify plants?

Even be able to recognize species while driving 60 m.p..h. down the highway?

Marjory Wildcraft discusses Tom Elpels classic book Botany In A Day. Botany is the most crucial skill for sustainable living—everything we need ultimately comes from the plant kingdom: Our food, medicine, shelter, clothing, heating, and so much more.

In this video, you’ll learn:

  • How related plants have similar characteristics
  • Identifying plants in the Mustard Family … and they are all edible!
  • How family patterns can teach you a lot about plants
  • Get a grasp on the seven plant families

Get Tom’s book, Botany In A Day by clicking here.

identify-plants

When you want to identify a plant, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this a hazardous plant?
  • General question: Is this a flower, tree, succulent, shrub, or grass?
  • Is it a monocot or dicot?
  • How are the leaves arranged?
  • Are the leaves simple or compound?
  • What is the shape of the leaf?
  • What other leaf characteristics do you see?
  • What do the flowers look like? (shape, color, florets, petals, sepals, pedicel, stamen, etc)
  • What does the stem look like?
  • What type of root system does the plant have?

If you would like more information about plant identification, check out this publication.

 

Access our growing selection of Downloadable eBooks…
… On topics that include growing your own food, herbal medicine, homesteading, raising livestock, and more!

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Homegrown Spices and Seasonings For Your Living Spice Cabinet

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(Length: 1:16 minutes)

How old are the spices in your spice cabinet?

If you’re like me, some of spices and seasonings might be just slightly older than two to three years—the point at which they lose potency and should be discarded.
But what if you could have a continual supply of homegrown spices and seasonings that you use most, without having to worry about an expiration date?

In this quick video, I show you a quick solution—a living spice cabinet on your kitchen windowsill filled with homegrown spices and seasonings.

I grow basil, chives, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and sage.

These are all excellent choices for indoor container gardening. And you can add parsley, horehound, winter savory, dill, marjoram, coriander, and mint to that list.

Whether you’re a well-established gardener or your gardening skills are just starting to bloom (sorry, couldn’t resist! 😉 ), you’ll need a few things to get your living spice cabinet started.

Environment: Right Plant, Right Place

One of the most basic principles of successful gardening is “right plant, right place.”

Basically, if you grow a plant in an environment that meets its basic needs for sunlight, temperature, airflow, soil drainage, etc., you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor in the long run.

Your plant will be stronger, healthier, happier, and more productive; have fewer disease and pest issues; and create fewer headaches for you!

So, before you head to the garden center for pots and seedlings, take a few minutes to determine how you’ll provide the right environment for your herbs.

Here’s what you’ll need to consider:

  • Light Sources

Sunlight: Most herbs need six to eight hours of sunlight daily. You can usually provide this via an unobscured window with western or southern exposure. To ensure that the entire plant gets adequate sunlight, rotate it every three to four days.

Artificial Light: If you don’t have an indoor location that provides enough natural light, you can use two 40-watt cool white fluorescent bulbs. Place the plants 6 to 12 inches below the light source, and keep the bulbs lit for two hours per hour of required sunlight. For example, if your plants need eight hours of sunlight, expose them to 16 hours of artificial fluorescent light daily. And if you don’t want to mess with turning the lights on and off at certain times each day, consider buying a plug-in timer to handle the task for you. (Trust me, they’re awesome. Highly recommended!)

  • Temperatures

Herbs prefer moderate temperatures, so choose a location that reaches 65°F–70°F during the day and 55°F–60°F at night. Avoid temperature extremes by keeping your herb plants away from mechanical heat sources and out of chilly drafts.

  • Humidity

Herbs will grow best in a somewhat humid environment. So, if you live where it’s arid, you’ll need to get creative to provide supplemental humidity. You might fill a tray with stones, set your pots in it, and keep it filled with water just to the bottom of the herb containers. Alternately, you can keep a spray bottle handy and mist your herb plants with water as needed.

  • Airflow

Like many other plants, herbs do best with good air circulation. So be sure not to crowd your plants together, maintaining a bit of space between them. And, when possible, crack a window or turn on a fan to keep some air flowing in the area.

Materials: Four Essentials

Now that you’ve figured out the best spot in your house for your homegrown spices and seasonings, it’s time to go shopping—either in your potting shed or at your local garden center!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Fast-Draining Growing Medium

Look for a potting mix designed to drain fast and control moisture.

The main ingredient will be coir or sphagnum peat moss. These amendments have a large texture that helps the soil stay aerated and well drained, and their natural absorptive properties help keep the soil moist. (Interestingly, the more sustainable choice of the two, coir, is also the most useful. Not only is it a renewable resource produced from coconut husks, but it absorbs nearly a third more water than peat, is much easier to re-wet when it’s dry, is more alkaline, is slower to decompose … the list goes on.)

The ingredient list will also include some combination of water-holding minerals, such as vermiculite or perlite.

Many growing mediums will also include additions like compost, fertilizer, and wetting agents.

Or, you can be like Grow Network, Change Maker, David the Good and make your own!

Liquid Fertilizer

Think fish emulsion and seaweed. Make your own liquid fertilizers centered on these ingredients here, or find some premade options at your local garden center.

Recommendations vary on how often to feed your culinary herb plants. Some say to use low-dose liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks, while others recommend feeding them every four weeks, or even less often. If you’re concerned about overfeeding, let your plants be your guide. If they look lush but have poor flavor, it’s time to cut back on the fertilizer.

Plants

Many people prefer to plant seedlings because they get you to your goal of freshly harvested herbs that much faster. However, if you’re willing to wait a little longer, grow your herbs from seed. In either case, follow the planting directions provided on the pot or seed packet, and you’ll have homegrown spices and seasonings in no time.

Water: The Final Ingredient

Finally, remember to water your herbs—but just occasionally.

Almost all herbs grown indoors will do best if you let their soil dry out between waterings. You’ll know it’s time to water if, when you stick your finger into the soil to a depth of one-inch, the soil is dry. Rosemary is the exception to this rule. Its soil needs to be kept moist.

It’s Time to Spice Things Up!

With just a few simple materials, plus a careful choice of environment, you’ll have homegrown spices and seasonings in YOUR living spice cabinet, just like mine.

It will add visual and aromatic appeal to your home and your meals—and, perhaps best of all, help ensure that your favorite spices are always fresh and full of flavor!

 

What are your favorite spices to grow? Do you have a living spice cabinet? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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Sam Coffman Top 25 Herbs Chart

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Online Earth Day Summit – Register for Free

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Sustainable Solutions for Troubled Times

Wow, we’ve clearly got an ecological mess on our hands… global warming, species on the brink of extinction, polluted water supplies and more.

Yet, if we put the miraculous, collective power of our hearts and minds together, we CAN solve these problems.

Solutions DO exist and every day, more and more incredible people are rolling up their sleeves and finding creative ways to fix what we once feared unfixable.

Plus, we now have access to an abundance of cutting-edge technologies, effective community organizing platforms and revolutionary, life-giving ideas!

Join Me for the Earth Day Summit 2016

Join us to discover these solutions and more at Earth Day Summit 2016!  I will be one of the presenters, and I’d love for you to come show your support.  

Free Online Event
Earth Day Summit 2016
April 22, 2016

Earth Day Summit 2016

I’m honored to be among 20+ esteemed environmental leaders, innovators, activists, scientists and ecologists who are offering a renewed sense of hope, step-by-step solutions for local and global action – and restored reverence for Mother Earth.

Other experts who are taking part include Starhawk, Kenny Ausubel, Vicki Robin, Chief Phil Lane, Jr., David Crow, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and more.  They will share their visionary insights and inspired actions for a healthy, sustainable and thriving planet.

I hope you’ll participate in this special daylong gathering.

RSVP here for Earth Day Summit 2016 — at no charge!

What to Expect

During this inspiring event, you’ll discover:

  • Practical steps & innovative solutions for living in harmony with Mother Earth
  • Trusted resources & expert guidance for making sustainable life choices
  • A vibrant community of kindred spirits mobilizing globally to create a thriving planet
  • Ways to take action on local levels as well as national legislative action
  • The experience of activating global consciousness, weaving the world together
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Join me and the other extraordinary panel of presenters for a FULL DAY of hope, inspiration, actions and discover your next step for personal and planetary transformation.

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Animal Communications: It’s Not Magic

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Communicating with Your Animals

He was running at me full on.  I stopped him at arms length by grabbing his neck.  This was true one on one animal communications.

I then shook him; not hard enough to hurt him, but firm enough that he knew I could break his neck if I wanted to.

My two eyes looked into his one for a long moment and then I slowly released my hand.  The communication between us was absolutely clear and he understood.

Training Male Geese

I have a new young flock of geese and it is almost a rite of passage that the leading male would someday challenge me.  He was almost full grown and the biggest of the flock.  And now he was testing his boundaries and wondering just how much authority he had in the world.

I feed, water, and protect them and I am very clear about our relationship.  And now he and the rest of the flock were clear too.

I will sometimes sit very still and let the geese come and look me over very closely, and even do some exploratory nibbles.  Is that grass on her head edible?  What do her changing feathers feel like?  How does she make the long snake spit water?  They are very curious, but never aggressive.  Especially now that we’ve ‘talked’.

Another reason to raise geese: The Barefoot Friendly Project; Transforming Harsh Land

Animal Communications – More than Just Talking

There are many different levels of communication between species.  And in fact you are communicating with all of the plants and creatures around you all the time.  Although you are probably not as aware of your message as they are.

The phrase “inter species communication” normally conjures up images of specially gifted mystics.  Maybe some one who can hear something we can’t – it’s just out of our frequency range.  Or perhaps it is a magical ability like the psychics who can also conduct seances to talk with loved ones now past into the world of the dead.

But communicating with plants and animals doesn’t have to be supernatural.

I am not discounting the direct ‘knowing’ levels of communication.  And yes, if you were to focus on developing that ability over time, those intuitive levels of communication may very well open to you.  In fact, I think it happens quite naturally for anyone who spends enough time in their garden or working with their livestock.

But most inter species communication is much more practical and easy to understand.

It’s Not Magic, It’s Physical

Have you ever heard the saying “your actions speak louder than words”?  The physical level of communication is extremely effective and is within reach of anyone, without any training.  Not to mention, it is something you are doing all the time anyway.

There are estimates that some 90% of communication is non-verbal. These are studies referring to human to human communications, but it applies to plants and animals too.  Your body posture, the quality or cleanliness of your clothes, your hand gestures, and the expression on your face, the smell your body is emitting – all of this communicates your mood and intentions.

There is also some degree of reality to that “vibe” you put out that others pick up on.

Different Ways of Communication

There really are many ways of communicating.  And this is quite useful since most of the other life forms on this planet don’t quite vocalize the way we do.

For example, once I had shaken that goose, he stepped back quickly with his head slightly tilted expressing a bit of shock.  When he was a few feet away, at a safe distance away from me, he began to compose himself by preening his feathers.

Watching him made me laugh at the recognition of an almost universal response after an altercation; that of grooming.  Embarrass a cat and it will almost immediately start licking its fur.  And humans once separated will start straightening their clothes and smoothing their disheveled hair.  A hen getting up from the rooster’s rough attentions indignantly ruffles her feathers back into shape.

My laugh was not derogatory, but served as a peace offering sound and let everyone know all was well in the world.  The rest of the flock who had been watching this with interest now cackled back in response, and everyone started moving off to find something else to do like nibble at some nearby grass.

Learning from Your Animals

I had learned about the power of laughter between species from two ferrets.

Don’t ask me why we have two ferrets.  We certainly don’t need any ferrets.  And we don’t really want two ferrets.  I can’t honestly think of any good reason to have ferrets.  But I have a young daughter who gets money for working, and she was convinced that buying ferrets was the best use of her hard earned funds.  Sigh.

Since we have the ferrets (ah, the relentless pressure of children), I can’t help but be fascinated by them.  One thing that interests me is that when I let the ferrets run free in a new area where they aren’t normally allowed in, they get so excited.  They jump around and make a funny sound sort of like a cross between a grunt and a gurgle.  That sound is so captivating (I’ve been trying to catch it on video and when I do, I’ll get it to you).  But what was it they were doing?

Then one day it occurred to me they were laughing with joy!  The ferrets definitely share the playfulness of their cousins the otters.  They are amazingly good-natured creatures and love having fun.  “Mommy they exude cuteness,” my daughter explains.  (They exude a few other things too but I won’t go into that here.)

But the ferrets were so happy they would laugh out load as they ran and played.

Sometimes they playfully come up and nip my feet and then bound away – chuckling the whole time.  I stand there dumb founded at the audacity of these eight ounce bundles of silliness daring themselves to play with a giant.  It’s completely disarming.

My daughter is right, they do exude cuteness.

Read about my daughter’s other pet: The Perfect Natural Camouflage

Pay Attention to Signals from Your Animals

The ferrets got me in trouble with the chickens.  One morning I decided to let the ferrets run about with me while I was working in the garden.  And as the ferrets did their jumping and playing and investigating they naturally came across the flock of chickens I keep for eggs.  Although these ferrets are pets and probably would never consider eating anything but the store bought supplies my daughter gives them, they were recognized by the chickens for what they are; carnivores.  And the chickens were upset.

The flock is free range so they moved off to another part of the yard.  But later that day when I saw the chickens again the rooster rushed me.  I easily kicked him back.  But from the way he looked sort of satisfied and did not come at me again, I became ashamed of my earlier annoyance.  The rooster had been trying to get my attention in about the only way a rooster knows how.  I was mystified what he was trying to communicate.  And then it dawned on me, he was letting me know how upset the chickens were at the ferrets being loosed in their space.

Read more: Channel Your Mama-Energy for Healthy Homestead Animals

Tell Pests to Leave Before You Kill Them

Before we built our home, our little family lived in a 20×20 room above the barn.  Mice also had quite an attachment to that room.  My husband whom I don’t normally think much of a big communicator totally shocked me with his solution to the problem.  He started by stomping around growling at the top of his lungs in the meanest bad-ass animal sounds I’ve ever heard come from a man.  He did this for quite a few minutes making sure to visit each corner to insure his message was being received.

Then he set out some traps.  But I think the mice got the message from his growls for we didn’t trap many and generally weren’t bothered by them again.  From then on, if an occasional new mouse showed up my husband would repeat the warning and that usually took care of the problem.

We aren’t always successful with communications.  I’ve tried communicating with fire ants for many years without success.

Dealing with Predators – Livestock Guardian Dogs

As you start to develop systems for producing your own food, you’ll notice that lots of other creatures like your food too.  After years of losses of both livestock and plants I came to the see how extremely useful a pair of good dogs could be.  In no way am I a professional animal trainer, and I had never been a “dog person,” but using dogs to protect your food supply made so much sense I had to learn.

The dogs live to chase off deer, raccoons, squirrels, and other dogs.  They will harass snakes, bark at hawks, and hold off a pack of coyotes until I can get there to help.  They don’t mind working all night while I sleep.  And they consider themselves well rewarded by a bit of praise and the scraps I toss them.

In the Grow Your Own Groceries video set, I have a section that goes into detail of how to work with dogs – and of course, you can pick up a copy at this link: http://growyourowngroceries.com/.

Embracing New Relationships

Opening up my relationships with other living beings beyond humans is one of the many pleasures of growing my own food.  Let me know your interest level and I’ll write more about inter-species communication.  Talking with plants is not quite as direct and requires more sensitivity, but can definitely be developed.  As with animals, learning to communicate on the physical level with plants is the easiest way to get started.

Drop me a note in the comments section below to let me know if you’re interested in communicating with plants.  I’m sure you have some interesting stories to tell…

I am also intrigued with communication on even more subtle levels; working with energetics or nature spirits as was reputably done at Findhorn, for example.

And then there is that other topic to deal with; how can I love the creatures I am raising knowing their fate is that I will kill them and eat them?  It is a difficult question that I struggle with and would be delighted to discuss with you.  Again, let me know your interest by putting a quick comment down below.

3 Part Series about Ethical Meat: Have You Ever Been to a Hog Killin’?

marjory-wildcraft-how-much-land-do-you-need

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Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarahumara Indians, Chapter 12

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Sleeping with Rats is Better than Freezing (or Getting Covered with Chicken Shit)

Dave was the first to move and he strode out to greet the Tarahumara in the field. I admit I held back out of embarrassment. But in the next moments we watched Dave excitedly shaking hands and hugging the Tarahumara and calling us to come over.

“What good luck!” Dave yelled back to us, “come on over.” It turns out that the people here working the field were the ones whose home we were headed towards. Juancensio, his wife Margarita, and the rest of his family.

juancensio-and-margarita-in-front-of-their-home

Juancensio and Margarita in front of their home

A Friendly Greeting from New Tarahumara Friends

“But this is not your field,” Dave exclaimed. Juancensio explained that so many of the Tarahumara had abandoned their lands to move into town, he had started taking over the fields and planting them. He did not mind us eating the apples one bit, especially since he too was a sort of trespasser. They waved us over to a rest area they had setup, and Margarita offered us cups of pinole.

We chatted for a bit, but the sun was high and we had caught them near the end of the bean harvest, and they needed to get back to work. “Can we help?” asked Dave. Juancensio said “no,” the weeds had prickles and we would get scratched.

Harvesting Beans in Tarahumara Country

Dave, Anthony, and I looked at each other and fully understood that was an attempt at politeness. So we went out into the field and began to mimic what they were doing.

marjory-harvesting-beans

Marjory harvesting beans

It looked like the main harvest had already been done and they were gleaning the last remaining beans that could be gotten. So we went around and searched for whatever pods of beans we could find. It was true that the weeds were a little prickly, but a few scratches are par for the course in most agricultural work.

cleaning-the-beans

Cleaning the beans

We collected the bean pods in buckets or on cloths, and took them to an area with an almost flat stone. To shell the beans, we took turns beating the pile with long sticks. The heavy beans would fall to the bottom and the lighter chaff, leaves, and stems would be taken off the top, shaken, and put to the side. The beans at the bottom were collected and then poured from one bucket to another for further winnowing.

lucia-and-her-brother-beat-the-beans

Lucia and her brother beat the beans

The beans were large multi-colored beauties. Later, I asked Juancensio where he had gotten the bean seeds, and he said they had been with the Tarahumara forever.

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Closeup of two hands with colorful beans – note the blisters forming

A Tricky Walk Back to Juancensio’s Homestead

The earth had kept turning while we worked and now the sun was low in the sky. Dave said we still had about an hour or so of hiking to do. We watched Juancensio load up his donkey with two heavy bags of beans that had been harvested. We picked up our packs, and everyone headed across the field towards a trail that would take us to their homestead.

The trail was crazy steep and at times imperceptible. When I wasn’t worried where my next step would be, I was swept away by the beauty of the land. We hiked for about an hour or so and then came to the edge of Juancensio’s homestead. He and his family live in a breathtakingly beautiful valley.

Their home was so picturesque, tucked so far away from any roads.

beautiful-scene-of-juancensios-valley-with-small-cabins

Beautiful scene of Juancensio’s valley with small cabins

Burros – The Tarahumara Workhorse

Anthony noticed that their home was made concrete. Later he asked “Juancensio, how did you ever get concrete up here?” The family laughed and pointed to the burro. Countless bags had been painstakingly brought up from town by burro and mixed by hand. It was a lot of work. The home was approximately 20′ x 20′ with two doors and no windows.

Those little burros did so much work. Earlier I had been teasing Pedro that he was our “burro rojo” since he always took the heaviest pack and he only wore the one red shirt he had brought on the trip. Pedro considered this nickname a great compliment and it was starting to dawn on me why. Burros are awesome.

These Kids Can Work

Upon arriving at his homestead, Juancensio dropped the lead rope for the burro and his 10 year old daughter Lucia began to unpack the bags of beans. Dave told me that by the age of about 12, young girls had all the skills to run a homestead and were often thinking of getting married.

Anthony whipped out his camera and caught Lucia working on video. I am a little embarrassed that I was standing around while she worked, but arriving in this new setting and unsure of the order of things, I just didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, Dave came to his senses and helped her out at the end. Those bags were heavy!

Check out this short video clip of Lucia that I uploaded to YouTube. Can you get your kids to work like that?

Things Get Chilly

Juancensio’s homestead was at about 7,000 feet and the air was starting to chill in a way I suspected was going to turn into downright cold. I looked up and the crystal clear sky overhead confirmed it would get much colder.

When packing for the trip I knew it would be cool at night, but somehow in my subconscious I was thinking, “Hey I am going to Mexico,” and images of people on beaches in Cancun flickered in the back recesses of my mind. Somehow it didn’t occur to me that I would be up high in the mountains and November was a cold month. So the bottom line is I knew that I didn’t have good enough gear to keep me warm sleeping out under the stars at this altitude.

marjory-holding-cup-she-underestimated-the-cold

Marjory holding cup – she underestimated the cold

I thought of how wonderful the heat was from the old 55 gallon drum they had cut into a crude stove inside their home. And I suspected (correctly) that we would not be invited in the house to sleep.

Dave and Anthony had apparently prepared better than I had, and they began to lay out their gear on the ground near the house.

So I looked around. From past experiences sleeping outside, I knew there were two things I would need. The most important thing I already had: excellent ground isolation with a blow up pad that my sweet husband had gotten for me. Number two would be to find some overhead cover. I knew that even just sleeping under a tree would be warmer than out in the open. But the only tree nearby was on a steep slope and was filled with a flock of free range chickens. Sleeping underneath a big flock of birds is never a good idea. Waking up covered in splotches… nope, not good.

Would You Rather Freeze or Sleep with Rats?

There was a storage cabin right near the house and I asked if I could sleep in there. “No” was the initial response. And then they explained that it had a store of corn and there were many rats living inside. Juancensio hated cats and his attempt to control vermin with snap traps wasn’t working.

The colder air nipped at me and I told them I didn’t mind sleeping with rats. Actually, I am totally fine sleeping with rats. It beats the heck out of freezing or getting covered with chicken shit. Apparently Pedro also wasn’t prepared for the cold and he didn’t mind sleeping with rats either. He asked again on both of our behalf. Margarita and Juancensio shrugged their shoulders and left us to do what we wanted.

So we found places on the ground between the corn crib and other piled up goods.

My New Rat Roommates

And yes, that cabin was definitely filled with rats. I know there are a lot of people who have some deep-seated phobias about vermin; will they run up your leg? Or bite you and infect you with some disease? And it is true that in some cases their feces contains the dreaded hantavirus.

But while I am not exactly super fond of rats and mice, I do try to stay in good relationship with their nation. And I correctly figured that there was more than enough corn to eat, so they would not bother me. Although during the three nights we spent there, Pedro said he got nibbled once.

Now it so happened that while moving things out of the way, we put a guitar on top of the corn crib. And during the night, while the rats were doing their thing, occasionally one would run across the strings of the guitar and make it “bbrrriiinnngg.”

marjorys-sleeping-bag-on-the-floor-next-to-the-corn-bin-and-guitar

Marjory’s sleeping bag on the floor next to the corn bin and guitar

The next morning at breakfast Margarita was curious as to how I had fared in the cabin. I think they were really wondering if I was OK sleeping in there or not. You know, how would this rich American woman deal with rats running around her at night? And would they be perceived as bad hosts? I smiled and reassured her that I was fine. I told her, “Oh yes, you definitely have rats, and they are having a very good time. They played the guitar and had a fiesta with your corn.” Everyone laughed at that.

Seeing an Old Friend for the First Time

The day was going to be beautiful. Margarita and Lucia were going to show me how they make tamales. I would spend a lot of time with Juancensio discussing planting, harvesting, and livestock. And as it turns out, I was inadvertently going to rock Dave’s world.

Dave and I had known each other for about eight years or so… Twice a year this crazy group of about 300 people show up in a wilderness area to spend a week together trading skills and knowledge from the Paleolithic era. We do things like make pottery by digging up clay from the earth and then firing it in a pit. Or tanning deerskins using just the brains of the animal. Chipping stones to make blades. Or my personal favorite, making fire by rubbing sticks together. When you can get fire like that, something really changes in you. It’s hard to describe.

It makes total sense that Dave would always attend these gatherings; he is one of the world’s foremost experts in Stone Age living skills. But me? I don’t have any particular reason, except that my daughter and I love it. It is a special time for us to be together, and we have a ton of fun playing cave women for the week.

So Dave and I have spent many days and nights around the campfire, out in the bush, or learning new skills in small groups; and you would think that we know each other well. But apparently there was something fundamental about me that he never knew. And he was about to find out.

margarita-marjory-and-lucia-making-tamales

Margarita, Marjory, and Lucia making tamales


This article is Chapter 12 in the series “Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarhumara Indians.” You can read the rest of the series here:

Chapter 1: Extreme Agri-Tourism
Chapter 2: Hard Traveling
Chapter 3: The Tarhumara Girls School
Chapter 4: How To Lose 30 Pounds In 10 Seconds
Chapter 5: Gunfights Don’t Usually Last That Long…
Chapter 6: The Vomit Comet Through Tarahumara Country
Chapter 7: Don’t Ever Do This When Traveling In Strange Territory
Chapter 8: Nice Legs Really Scare Tarahumara Men
Chapter 9: Living Sustainably Is An Everyday Thing Here
Chapter 10: The Biggest Surprise of the Trip
Chapter 11: Another Tarahumara Myth Busted
Chapter 12: Sleeping with Rats is Better than Freezing
• Chapter 13: COMING SOON

 

Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarahumara Indians, Chapter 11

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Another Tarahumara Myth Busted; They Would Love to Eat More Meat

I asked Juan (the 71 year old Tarahumara runner) and the assembled group, “Do you like to eat meat?”

“Oh yes,” Juan answered with an added tone of appreciation I hadn’t heard before. “What kinds of meat?” I asked, hoping for some more specifics. And you’ll get a sense of his lifestyle by the order in which he answered: “Squirrel, chicken, lizard, snake…” Then Juan said another creature and there was a general discussion of how to translate that into English, but no one knew. I think the closest translation is “something like a pack rat.”

Thinking of the goat and cows I had seen, I asked about beef and goat. “Oh yes,” Juan and everyone agreed they were good to eat. But rarely do they eat their herd animals. They are too valuable. The herds are needed for fertility to grow the crops, and as a form of cash. They trade goat meat with Mexicans for needed items such as tools and cloth.

tarahumara-cattle-herd

Tarahumara cattle herd

I got the sense the Tarahuamara would love to eat more meat in general, but it is too expensive.

The Fat of the Land

You know what they love the most? Fat. Fat is one of the most difficult things to grow or produce and it is highly, highly prized. Most of the homesteads we saw had at least one pig sty with two or three pigs. The pigs were being raised primarily for the fat, and the flavor that fat would impart.

pig-in-pen

Pig in pen

Have you ever heard the phrase “the fat of the land”? Living off the largess of grocery stores, modern Americans don’t realize how difficult fats are to produce. Now when I say “fat” I mean the real stuff – either the fats taken from healthy pasture raised animals, or the oils pressed from olives or coconuts.

In Texas it is quite common to buy a half or whole steer once a year and keep it in the freezer. One year I decided to make pemmican, which is a traditional food of the Native Americans. I had heard that pemmican was like old-time energy bars; it was loaded with lots of calories and nutrition, had a long storage life without refrigeration, and yet was compact. I wanted to experience this food.

Pemmican – The Native American Energy Bar

Pemmican only has two basic ingredients: dried meat (that you grind to a powder consistency), and rendered fat. Sometimes people add dried berries or spices for flavor.

I wanted to try and make this ancient protein energy bar. So when I ordered the annual steer from Buddy the grass-fed rancher, I naively asked if he could also arrange to give me the fat (there is usually big gobs of it surrounding the organs).

This happened to be in a year of severe drought for Texas. “Marjory,” Buddy said in his long Texas drawl, “there ain’t no fat on any cows in Texas this year. We’ve had a hard enough time just keeping them alive.”

I looked around me and saw with new eyes the yellows and browns of dead and dormant plant life everywhere in the landscape. For the earth to create fat, she needs rains, good soil, and moderate temperatures. Fat is a product of abundance and good times.

Of all the gifts we had brought on the trip to Mexico, I think the most appreciated were the jars of coconut oil.

Want to know what was the least appreciated gift?

Tarahumara Energy and Health Come from Home Grown Food

You know how much the Tarahumara love that drink made of corn called pinole? Well Dave had thought to bring a couple bags of pinole that he had purchased in the US. Dave knew how much the Tarahumara loved pinole and thought this would be the perfect gift. Dave offered these bags to all of the Tarahumara we visited. The response was pretty much the same everywhere. They would politely decline the gift. When Dave insisted, they took the bag but it seemed more out of courtesy than desire. I noticed that the bags lay unopened and untouched for the duration of our stay.

In private moments, I asked if it was because they didn’t like the taste of the store-bought pinole. But the taste wasn’t really the issue; it was because that corn did not fuel them like their own homegrown corn. The commercial stuff just doesn’t have the mana that their own food has.

lola-chopping-firewood

Lola chopping firewood

And how could commercial food even begin to compete? The Tarahumara food was either wild-caught or home grown on lands that had been tended by their families for all of their history. The seeds were saved and blessed before planting. Every step of the process was tended by love from a family member. The power and nourishment in their own food was tremendous.

I suspected Dave’s gifts of store-bought pinole would end up in the chicken coop or pig pen once we left.

I am not sure if Dave had brought the bags of pinole and given them as gifts to prove a point to me, or if he is just naturally a generous guy and he had forgotten that the whole reason I was intrigued to come on this adventure was because he had told me the main reason for the Tarahuma’s incredible athleticism and health was because they grow their own food.

But in any case, it was very obvious that a critical key to the Tarahumara vibrancy was that they produced their own nourishment.

tarahumara-grow-their-own-food-because-it-fuels-them-better

Tarahumara grow their own food because it fuels them better.

Back on the Bus

Now I don’t want to get all idealistic and uptopian here. Dave was intentionally taking us to visit people he knew who were living as closely as possible to their traditional roots. There were certainly many Tarahumara who were in towns, strung out on alcohol or drugs, or working for the narcotics trade. I suppose one way to look at this is as if we were getting to meet the ‘Amish’ of the Tarahumara; these Indians recognized the values of their traditions, were living as closely as possible to those, and yet they were embracing some of the new technology and ideas.

After finishing up with the filming of the runners in this valley, Dave had another group he wanted us to go meet. The next stop would be far deeper into the Canyons and much further off grid. So the next morning, we loaded our packs, regretting that we didn’t have more time, and we said goodbye.

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Laundry line with teddy bears

We got back onto the “vomit comet” (the red bus that was the main transportation system) and rode for about an hour until Dave went up to the driver and requested a stop. This time there was no observable reason for stopping. It wasn’t a village or anything. There were no houses or homesteads around. There were certainly no signs. But Dave seemed to know where he was going, so we shouldered our packs and started following him down a trail through the woods.

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Marjory and Dave hiking towards Juancensios

Backpacking Deeper into Tarahumara Country

The terrain was very rough, steep, and ever changing. Occasionally, the trail was very narrow with deadly consequences for a misstep. At some points we were walking through forested woods, and at other times we were climbing over craggy peaks with spectacular views. This is the part of the trip that my family would have loved and I felt deep pangs of regret they weren’t here to share this. My kids love rock climbing and they would have been scrambling all over the mountains with youthful joy.

Occasionally, the trail would open up to reveal a wide plateau. It was at the edge of one of these open areas that Pedro suddenly stopped. There was a big pile of rocks and he picked up a nearby stone and tossed it onto the top of the heap. He told us this was a Tarahumara custom that anyone who passes here must add a rock to the pile.

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Pedro throws a rock on the pile

An Ancient Tarahumara Tradition

I marveled at the sight. There must be tens, no maybe hundreds of thousands, of rocks in the pile. Each rock had been held in a human hand and placed here. In this wild country, at least two hours by foot from the nearest empty road. I stood in wonder at the evidence of centuries of people who paused here and honored this point in their journey.

Surprisingly, there were still many, many, rocks lying around to be picked up. So each of us offered a short prayer to the land and added to the pile.

prickly-pear-grows-pretty-big-here

Prickly pear grows pretty big here

We continued on for at least another hour or two of hiking and it began to dawn on me that I was getting hungry. We hadn’t packed any lunches. And other than a few snacks, I hadn’t thought at all about meals. I really didn’t mind. Being hungry for a day or so wasn’t really a problem, and I was sure we would get where we were going by nightfall at least.

anthony-hiking-in-tarahumara-land

Anthony hiking in Tarahumara land

And then just after crossing an impossibly high and breathtakingly beautiful peak, we came to the edge of another plateau and there in front of us was an apple tree, loaded with fruit.

I wasn’t the only one who was hungry and we all dropped our packs and bit into the sweet and tangy fruit. They were good apples. Everyone we had met so far commented on how good a year it was for apples, and this tree was loaded. In the back of my mind I was thinking “these are so sweet, I doubt it could be a wild apple.”

apples-on-a-tree

Apples on a tree

Forbidden Fruit?

I had quickly polished off two, and I was reaching for a third when Anthony pointed out that there were people staring at us. Off in the field stood a motionless group of Tarahumara who were clearly trying to figure out what we were doing.

I almost choked on the apple in my mouth. Was this considered stealing? The fruit was sweet and delicious, which meant it must have been a grafted tree that had been planted by someone. Was the ‘someone’ who had planted the tree in the group looking at us now? If a stranger came onto my land and started eating my apples, I would probably be upset.

This was no way to behave as a visitor in a foreign land, and I felt ashamed of myself. We would certainly have to apologize and make amends.

In trigger-happy Texas, you could be in a world of hurt for doing something like this. Were we in any danger?

We all fell silent wondering what would happen next.


This article is Chapter 11 in the series “Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarhumara Indians.” You can read the rest of the series here:

Chapter 1: Extreme Agri-Tourism
Chapter 2: Hard Traveling
Chapter 3: The Tarhumara Girls School
Chapter 4: How To Lose 30 Pounds In 10 Seconds
Chapter 5: Gunfights Don’t Usually Last That Long…
Chapter 6: The Vomit Comet Through Tarahumara Country
Chapter 7: Don’t Ever Do This When Traveling In Strange Territory
Chapter 8: Nice Legs Really Scare Tarahumara Men
Chapter 9: Living Sustainably Is An Everyday Thing Here
Chapter 10: The Biggest Surprise of the Trip
Chapter 11: Another Tarahumara Myth Busted
• Chapter 12: COMING SOON

 

Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarahumara Indians, Chapter 10

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The Biggest Surprise Of The Trip? The Tarahumara Hate To Run

I was still having trouble sleeping and didn’t get much rest during the night. But during the days I was energized without any of the afternoon “lag.” Was it the never-ending mugs of pinole that I was drinking? It didn’t make sense to me that just a drink made from corn could be so filling and so energizing, but the Tarahumara swear by it and I had to admit I felt unusually good with very little sleep.

After breakfast (beans and tortillas as usual) the first of the more wild runners arrived. Everyone did a round of those gentle handshakes to welcome him. Any concerns I had about authenticity evaporated; just one look at him and I realized he was the real deal.

Meeting the Tarahumara Race Runners

Juan Lerio looked half wild. He shyly engaged with us and yet also seemed to be keenly aware of what was going on in the mountains of our periphery. He was 71 years old. Like the other Tarahumara he had a small compact body, clearly hardened by a life spent mostly outdoors.

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Tarahumara runner Juan Lerio – 71 years old

He was wearing a flowing white shirt and white cloth wrapped around his groin in the fashion of shorts. The Mexicans have been known to tease these guys, saying that they wear diapers. But it looked very loose, practical, and comfortable to me. I’m not sure how they tied or pinned it together, and it seemed inappropriate to ask.

And like Pedro, Bernadino, and most of the other Tarahumara we have met, Juan wore the sandals for which they’re famous. Look at his feet in this photograph – wow.

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The sandals and feet of a Tarahumara runner

Others from the surrounding area started arriving. Afren began to play producer and he moved us all to a nearby area for the filming. As Anthony worked with Afren on the logistics, I sat on the hillside talking with the growing crowd of Tarahumara runners and observers.

A Stranger in a Strange Land

Initially, I found myself feeling really out of place with these people. Standing next to them, or sitting together chatting, I felt huge and bloated. We really are bigger, slower, weaker, and almost gluttonous compared to them. Normally I have an inner sense of femininity – but that completely disappeared now that I was so much ‘bigger.’

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Sitting on the hillside talking with Tarahumara while Anthony sets up

But everyone was congenial enough, so I got over myself. Although shy, the wilder Tarahumara didn’t mind my questions.

I was fascinated by Juan (the 71 year old). I asked him when was the last time he had raced? “Last week,” he told me. He had finished a 72km race. They like to start at night when it is cooler, and it took him until noon the next day to complete.

marjory-with-tarahumara-runners

Marjory with Tarahumara runners

The Biggest Surprise of the Trip

“That is quite a run,” I said, awed by his abilities. But almost immediately I was corrected, “No, I didn’t run. I actually don’t like running.”

Huh? I did a double take. Did he just say – the Tarahumara don’t like to run?

Isn’t that what they are famous for? Weren’t the Trahumara were the ones who had so easily beaten America’s top ultra-athletes at the Leadville 100? Weren’t the Tarahumara runners the main feature of the NY Times best-seller Born To Run? Weren’t the Tarahumara the ones whose running talent prompted Mexican Government officials to try to get a 100 mile race added to the Olympics?

And if Juan wasn’t running last weekend, just what was he doing for those 72 km?

Rarajípari – The Tarahumara Game of Choice

The group laughed and then patiently explained the mystery to me. It turns out they find simple straight running to be very boring. Instead, they love a game they call rarajípari where they kick and chase a ball across the mountainsides. They maneuver this ball as quickly as they can along the narrow winding paths of their steep country side. It is much more interesting, and challenging. And indeed it requires constant shifts and adjustments and much more agility and overall athleticism than the more simplistic repetitive movements of running down a path. They said the only reason they went to those races in the US – like the famous Leadville 100 – was for the money.

So we came all this way to find out the Tarahumara hate to run!

And it is because just running 50 or 100 miles at a stretch is not challenging enough.

It took me a moment to let that sink in.

“What happens if the ball goes over the side of the path, deep into the canyon?” I asked.

Well, apparently, you have to go get it. And you can’t touch it with your hands. You have to somehow bring it up with your feet only. I thought that must be a very bad thing. But no, the Tarahumara assured me, the same thing could happen to any of your opponents at any time. So you never knew what would happen until the game was over.

Elder Athletes and Ultra Athletes

I was so amazed that Juan could run so far and be in such great shape for his age. Later I would meet an 80 year old man of equal abilities. And I was stunned at one runner named Daniel Perez who looked so youthful at the age of 60.

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Tarahumara runner Daniel Perez – 60 years old

I was thinking that when I got back home I would start running and increasing my athleticism. I had improved so much in the last several years already, but my gains seemed tiny now that I could see what was possible. I would definitely be expanding my garden to grow more corn, beans, and squash. That pinole drink was amazing and I absolutely wanted to start making that. What these people had was immeasurably good.

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An 80 year old Tarahumara man

Wow, just running 100 miles was so boring they had to increase the athleticism of the game by a magnitude to keep themselves interested.

Have you gone back to your high school reunions every so often? I’ve found it quite fascinating. In your twenties and thirties everyone was eyeing the attractiveness of your spouse, how much money you were making, or what splashes you had made in the media. As the years and decades roll by, the focus shifts to who is most independent of the medical system and who is the healthiest.

Health. You can’t buy it. And living without it sucks.

The Inspiring Health of the Tarahumara People

I was inspired at seeing what is possible for a human body. These people who had almost no money, had a recipe for health and vitality, and everything that is really meaningful in life. And it was a pretty simple recipe that could be done anywhere; grow your own food, with as much family involvement as possible, and play hard.

“I hope that I will be in the great shape you’re in when I am 71 years old,” I told Juan earnestly.

Everyone laughed at me. “You won’t be,” they chorused in merry agreement.

OK, so they were probably right about that. But I promised myself I would be in a lot better shape than I was right then. The fact that I could do this trip now was a testament to how much more vitality and strength I had gained in the last few years.

Capturing an Authentic Tarahumara Race on Film

Both Anthony and I were delighted at the Tarahumara’s insistence that we film things as authentically as possible. They had initially asked us if we could do the filming at night because that is when most of the races are run. Anthony explained that we didn’t have the video equipment for that. Since they do also run during the daytime, they agreed to filming during the day.

They felt it was very important for us to film a pinole stop. If you recall, pinole is that corn drink that I was pretty sure was keeping me so jazzed all the time. During a game, each runner has a support team. Since a lot of the games are played at night, about every 10 km a spouse, child, or friend would build a big fire and be ready to give the runner a cup of pinole. Unlike the ‘aid stations’ for American races, a runner only gets pinole from his own support team. Support teams generally do not offer aid to competitors.

tarahumara-runner-gets-a-drink-of-pinole-from-family-during-a-race

A Tarahumara runner gets a drink of pinole from a family member during a race.

The games were played by everyone; men, women, and children. The women used a stick to move their balls along, and the men just used their feet.

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Diego and Lola – grandmother and grandson playing rarajipari

Stone Age Skills and Ancient Games

While I had been chatting with the runners, Dave had been pecking away at some task. If you recall, Dave is an expert in Stone Age living skills. And now he stood up and handed me a stone that he had shaped into a perfect ball about 4 inches in diameter. I passed the ball around and the Tarahumara looked appreciatively at Dave’s skill. They played with balls made of stone like this, or out of wood. Dave had probably learned from them in earlier years how to make the balls, and he had learned well.

I wondered how it works out trying to kick a stone ball while wearing sandals. But as I would soon see, it works out just fine. In fact, later on in the trip I would have the luxury of being on a mountain trail with no pack and lots of distance to go. I started kicking rocks down the trail playing a very rough version of their game. I did modify it a bit though; when my rocks went over the edge, I simply waved goodbye and found another rock. No way in hell was I scrambling down the canyon after a rock.

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Kicking the stone ball with sandals – somehow it works out

I suppose it is the Stone Age version of ‘kick the can.’ It was really fun. I suppose classics are classics, huh? I was wearing my sandals and I found that I could simply use the edge of my sandals, and it was easy. I rarely hurt my toes.

Anthony almost had his gear setup, and soon we would be capturing the graceful movements of these people as they played their game across the rough landscape.

anthony-records-two-tarahumara-runners

Anthony records two Tarahumara runners

But first, there was one more fascinating conversation I would have with my new Tarahumara friends.

Do the Tarahumara Eat Meat?

So far, we had mostly been served a vegetarian diet (beans and tortillas, or tortillas and beans). Were the Tarahumara vegetarians? Did they like meat? Was cutting out meat a requirement for this healthy lifestyle?

Becoming vegetarian is a big trend in the US. Plenty of the rich and famous are cutting out animal products. Former President Bill Clinton, for example. He used to proudly say he never met a hamburger he didn’t like, but now he is on the vegetable road. Other celebs who reportedly chose the diet include Ozzy Osbourne, Ellen DeGeneres, Alicia Silverstone and Dennis Kucinich.

There is also quite an impressive list of great athletes, such as the ultra runners Scott Jurek and Rich Roll that are vegans and swear by their diet.

Do you need to be a vegetarian to be so healthy?

And did the Tarahumara like to eat meat?


This article is Chapter 10 in the series “Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarhumara Indians.” You can read the rest of the series here:

Chapter 1: Extreme Agri-Tourism
Chapter 2: Hard Traveling
Chapter 3: The Tarhumara Girls School
Chapter 4: How To Lose 30 Pounds In 10 Seconds
Chapter 5: Gunfights Don’t Usually Last That Long…
Chapter 6: The Vomit Comet Through Tarahumara Country
Chapter 7: Don’t Ever Do This When Traveling In Strange Territory
Chapter 8: Nice Legs Really Scare Tarahumara Men
Chapter 9: Living Sustainably Is An Everyday Thing Here
Chapter 10: The Biggest Surprise of the Trip
• Chapter 11: COMING SOON

 

Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarahumara Indians, Chapter 9

Click here to view the original post.

Living Sustainably Is An Everyday Thing Here

Bernadino and his family are a group of about ten. They grow all of their own food and they live completely off grid, as do most of the Tarahumara that we met on this trip. They wear a combination of both western clothing and their own traditional styles. Their primary worldly possessions consist of a selection of hand tools, some pots and bowls, the ubiquitous hand crank grain grinder, and the Gov’t issued solar panel and light.

While Bernadino doesn’t have a lot of worldly possessions, he is a very wealthy man when it comes to the things that matter most.

bernadinos-family-group-photo-note-the-grain-grinder-at-the-right

Bernadino’s family group photo – note the grain grinder at the right

Bernadino grew up living in caves, although now they lived in a small two room house. Bernadino was a teenager before he saw his first “chuboche” (a non-Tarahumara person). Unlike most of his tribe, Bernadino was very curious and wanted to learn more about these strangers. David Holladay tells a wonderful story of how he first met Bernadino in a free presentation available at the 2016 Home Grown Food Summit. Be sure to check it out here: 2016 Home Grown Food Summit.

bernadino-dave-and-marjory-in-the-cave-where-bernadino-grew-up

Bernadino, Dave, and Marjory in the cave where Bernadino grew up

For a bit of income, Bernadino does some logging and occasionally sells some goat meat. The girls occasionally make baskets or other handicrafts for sale. But they really don’t need, or seem to want, much.

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One of Bernadino’s daughters making a pine needle basket – the Tarahumara women are famous for these

The Harsh Nature of Tarahumara Life in the Copper Canyon

The family was still in a bit of a grieving process as Bernadino’s wife had mysteriously disappeared about nine months ago. She had gone hiking up into the mountains to gather… I’m not sure what. But she had never returned and the body was never found. Did she accidentally fall and kill herself? Did a pack of wild dogs get her? Or did she have a fatal run-in with the narcotraficantes? No one knew, and at this point, they presumed her dead.

When talking about Bernadino, his neighbors say, “He will find another good wife very soon. He is a kind man, a hard worker, and he has a fine family.” I agree. That’s what women want, in any culture, and he will surely have a new wife as soon as he is ready.

marjory-and-bernadino-enjoy-exchanging-info-on-growing-corn

Marjory and Bernadino enjoy exchanging info on growing corn

The main staples Bernadino’s family grow are the traditional ones for most of the Americas; corn, beans, and squash. Although, the bio region at the bottom of the canyon (an area we didn’t get to) is quite different – more subtropical – and the Tarahumara in those regions rely on other staples.

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Dave looks out over Bernadino’s corn field

Traditional Methods for Farming and Fertilizing

The big field where Bernadino grows his corn has a soil that is fairly rich, loamy sand. “How deep is the soil before you hit rock or hard pan?” I asked. But no one knew, and apparently it is more than deep enough. Fields are plowed in the spring using horses, and simply left fallow in the wintertime. There is no cover cropping, and of course there are no chemicals. Bernadino said that field had been farmed by the Tarahumara for hundreds of years.

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Two of Bernadino’s horses – used for both transportation and for plowing.

The secret to Tarahumara crop productivity is in the goat herd. Each day the goats are herded into the surrounding mountainsides to forage. They are brought back every evening to a pen. The fertility dropped in the goat pen is piled up and saved throughout the year. The manure is applied to the field and lightly tilled in with the spring plowing. When the corn is about knee high, another handful or so of manure is applied. About 70 goats is the right number for this size field.

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Bernadino holding a handful of black gold in front of his pile of goat manure fertilizer.

The responsibility for the goat herding and care is shared between the eldest daughter and son.

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The eldest son and daughter had responsibility for the goat herd.

Baby Goats!

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Berndino’s small child holding a baby goat

Anthony especially lit up when he saw all the baby goats. So of course, we have a lot of really cute baby goat photos. Actually, we probably have too many cute baby goat photos. “My wife just loves goats,” Anthony mused. “I wonder if I show her these photos, if I can make her slightly jealous for not coming on this trip.” We both laughed at that one, knowing full well that neither of our spouses would’ve really been up for this kind of an adventure.

anthony-has-a-new-goat-friend-although-I-am-not-sure-he-really-wanted-to-be-kissed-on-the-first-date

Anthony has a new goat friend – although I am not sure he really wanted to be kissed on the first date.

Anthony is the one who coined the phrase “extreme agri-tourism” to describe this trip.

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Billy goat white

Hmm, looking through the footage, we have a zillion photos of cute baby goats. I just can’t begin to get them all posted.

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Cute baby goat photo

They really are sooo cute!

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Two baby goats – cuteness!

OK, these stills just aren’t showing how much fun it is to watch these baby goats playing around… So here is a short video clip.

Interestingly, nobody seemed to know how many inches or centimeters of rain they got in a year. Nor did they know how many acres the field was. Measurements like that just aren’t something they do. Bernadino told me that he generally plants toward the end of May. And they typically have some good wet months in June and July. They leave the corn in the field to dry on the stalks, and usually harvest in late September or October.

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Dave, Marjory, and Pedro in corn field, discussing planting and harvesting

Vermin Control the Tarahumara Way

Our arrival coincided with the end of the season, and most of the harvesting had already been done. It’d been a good year and the homemade corncribs were bursting. The grain is protected from rodents by a few scraggly cats. The cats seem to be doing a good job here.

marjory-in-corn-crib-this-year-there-was-a-big-harvest

Marjory in corn crib – this year there was a big harvest.

We visited another homestead where the owner didn’t like cats. He depended on snap traps, and the vermin were everywhere. But at Bernadino’s place there are a few cats that make a good living, even if they don’t have much fat on them.

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This little kitten had a very important job – keeping the rodents from the stored grain and playing with kids.

Preparing Traditional Tarahumara Corn Drinks

In addition to the wonderful conversations about growing crops, we filmed two of Bernadino’s daughters as they taught us how to make “esquite” and “pinole,” two very popular corn-based drinks. After they made each beverage they passed the big mug around for the whole family to have a drink. The cup came to me, and Anthony grinned at me wondering if I would drink it or not. Dave had already taken a big appreciative gulp. But Anthony had declined; the water had not been boiled, and it was a communal cup.

“Risky” was the unspoken word in the glance that Anthony shot me. I closed my eyes, briefly feeling the curve of the mug in my hands. I went inward and asked my body what direction I should take. I sensed it would be OK, and took some sips.

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Should Marjory have taken a drink from the cup of esquite? She will know in a few hours.

If those sips were a mistake, well, I would know in a few hours.

By the way, Anthony and I put together a really good video of the girls teaching us how to make these drinks in a presentation that will be aired for free at the 2016 Homegrown Food Summit, which you can access here: 2016 Home Grown Food Summit.

anthony-films-the-making-of-special-corn-drinks

Anthony films the making of special corn drinks.

Bridging the Language Gap

The evening was so pleasant we all just stayed together talking and laughing. Some of the more amusing things were our attempts to learn each other’s languages. Pronunciations by new learners are always funny – on both sides. I pulled out of my daypack a short Tarahumara/Spanish/English translation guide that I had printed out for the trip. The eldest boy loved the document so much I gave it to him. I had a few Tarahumara words down at that point and realized I probably wasn’t going to progress much further.

bernadinos-son-loved-the-small-printed-dictionary-of-words

Bernadino’s son loved the small printed dictionary of words.

It turned out that boy was also a bit of a missionary and regularly traveled to visit the more remote Tarahumara. We realized this boy would have much greater need for our second tent than we did, so we gave it to him. His smile of delight upon receiving it was so beautiful.

We knew we had some hiking ahead of us and lightening the load in this way felt right. Although I admit, just as when we gave away the first tent to the Tarahumara girl in Creel, I had that nagging feeling about just how useful that untested (and inexpensive) equipment would be.

I suppose a better question might have been, would we be in need of that tent? But you know, that just didn’t cross my mind at the time. (I know my husband will cringe when he reads how easily and thoughtlessly I let go of the equipment he insisted I take for our protection. Sigh… sorry Hon.)

As we headed back across the cornfields to Afren’s home where we were sleeping, our thoughts turned to tomorrow’s activities. Afren had been successful in arranging for some of the more wild Tarahumara runners to come for an interview with us. And they would give a demonstration run for us to film. Would these men be the real deal, or just some guys from town dressed up in traditional clothing?

And how would we know the difference?


This article is Chapter 9 in the series “Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarhumara Indians.” You can read the rest of the series here:

Chapter 1: Extreme Agri-Tourism
Chapter 2: Hard Traveling
Chapter 3: The Tarhumara Girls School
Chapter 4: How To Lose 30 Pounds In 10 Seconds
Chapter 5: Gunfights Don’t Usually Last That Long…
Chapter 6: The Vomit Comet Through Tarahumara Country
Chapter 7: Don’t Ever Do This When Traveling In Strange Territory
Chapter 8: Nice Legs Really Scare Tarahumara Men
Chapter 9: Living Sustainably Is An Everyday Thing Here
• Chapter 10: COMING SOON

 

Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarahumara Indians, Chapter 8

Click here to view the original post.

Nice Legs Really Scare Tarahumara Men

“Outdoor women who do a lot of exercise and really use their muscles have such a nice shape. And you really have good legs,” Dave continued.

I was completely freaking out at this point.

Speechless.

My mind raced, “is Dave hitting on me?” Anthony was within earshot; although he was far enough away I couldn’t see the expression on his face. My vision was getting blurry. But I did see that Anthony was completely still and no longer working his camera or lenses, so I was pretty sure he was listening. Surely Dave could not be so bold, or stupid, with Anthony so close.

in-spare-moments-anthony-was-frequently-backing-up-data-the-batteries-for-this-trip-were-a-big-chunk-of-the-weight-we-carried

In spare moments Anthony was frequently backing up data. The batteries for this trip were a big chunk of the weight we carried.

All of us were happily married – to other people.

It couldn’t be that. But what?

“With the warm weather we are having, what you are wearing is probably just fine where you live…” Dave continued.

Respecting Cultural Boundaries When Traveling

I almost started breathing again with relief. Thankfully – I think I could now see where we were going with this conversation. My clothing was inappropriate for the situation. I didn’t need to look down at my cutoffs, which were not that short, but they definitely weren’t like the Tarahumara women with their long skirts. (Check out the photo where we are shelling corn in the previous post, Chapter 7 of this series; do the shorts look inappropriate to you? – ouch!)

How could I have been so thoughtless?

I flashed back to the television show in the hotel in Los Mochis with the women in short shorts (back in Chapter 1 of this series I saw something in Los Mochis that would cause me great embarrassment). And the big Corona beer poster in my home town with the sexy models with their short shorts… But those were Mexican women who lived in big cities.

I wasn’t like either of those women. But what did I look like compared to full-blooded Tarahumara Indians who lived rurally and didn’t even own television sets?

Of course Dave was right. He was probably embarrassed too. He probably didn’t want to have this conversation any more than I did.

“These Tarahumara live near the road and they have seen everything. So you are probably not offending them.” I picked up where Dave had been continuing to talk.

Well, that helped a little.

But Dave went on, “But you really do look good, and even if you don’t notice it, the men are looking at your legs. And the women see their men sneaking looks at you and it is going to cause problems in marriages…”

I screamed inside my head “Dear God, please make this man stop!”

“I’ll change clothes as soon as I get back,” I said abruptly, and probably a little too loud.

Even as I am writing this weeks later, I am freaking out emotionally. So I am going to go have a glass of my home-made elderberry wine and I’ll be back in a minute. BTW drinking a glass of red wine every day is one of the habits of the healthiest people in the world. Although I did’t see the Tarahumara with wine, they do make a home made beer.

[Check Out this Article: The Healthiest People in the World and How They Got That Way]

Fortunately at this point in the story, Lola was done filling up the jug and Pedro was shouldering the bottle to take back to the house. They seemed oblivious to our conversation.

There was a tacit agreement that when they were speaking in the Tarahumara language, we knew they were talking about us. And when we were speaking English, they knew we were talking about them. We politely ignored each other during these times. The common language was Spanish, and everybody participated in speaking Spanish as best they could. So Pedro and Lola ignoring us was par for the course.

As we walked back, Dave was saying soothing things trying and make the situation less awkward. But I couldn’t hear him. I was fighting back tears. When we got back to the house I immediately went to my room, got into long pants, and then climbed into my sleeping bag and scrunched down to the bottom so my head was covered. Then I had a good session of deep breathing and calming myself down.

Learning to Nixtamalize Corn

I eventually climbed out of my bag because the nixtamalization process was almost done and it was time for the next step. Focusing on work is always a good remedy in these situations. And I was going to have to get on with life. Nobody said anything to me and soon enough everything was back to normal. I was very careful from that point on to be aware of which culture I was in, and that I stayed within appropriate boundaries.

back-to-work-marjory-spent-quite-a-bit-of-time-on-a-grinder-milling-corn

Back to work – Marjory spent quite a bit of time on a grinder milling corn.

I am very intrigued by this nixtamalization process. And I’ve got to tell you a fascinating background story. In the 1800s many white settlers and homesteaders moved into the southeastern part of United States. They grew and used corn as their primary staple crop as had the indigenous people of that same area. But the white settlers became afflicted with the disease known as pellagra.

anthony-getting-the-video-of-lola-washing-nixtamalized-corn-in-the-stream

Anthony getting the video of Lola washing nixtamalized corn in the stream

Pellagra: Vitamin Deficiency in the Southeastern United States

Pellagra has the symptoms known as “the four Ds”: dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia, and death. While settlers had copied the indigenous peoples and grown corn as a staple crop, they did not copy the process by which the corn was prepared. The indigenous people did not suffer from the disease, yet the settlers did. Pellagra reached epidemic proportions in the southern United States in the early 1900s. Between 1906 and 1940 more than 3 million Americans were affected by pellagra, resulting in more than 100,000 deaths.

although-most-of-the-cooking-is-done-by-women-all-the-men-know-how-and-here-is-young-diego-learning-from-his-grandmother

Although most of the cooking is done by women, all the men know how and here is young Diego learning from his grandmother.

It turns out that the special indigenous “nixtamalization” process releases vitamins from the corn. Especially niacin (vitamin B3) and tryptophan, which were later identified to be the nutrient deficiencies that caused pellagra.

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A pot of corn with lime simmers on the wood burning stove.

How did these so-called “primitive” people know to nixtamalize their corn? Where did they learn the process? Who told them how to do it? No one knows. It is quite a mystery.

The key part of the nixtamalization process is boiling the corn in a lye solution. The lye can be made from the ashes of hardwood trees, as is often done in the southeastern part of United States. Or, as in Mexico and the southwestern US, (where hardwood trees are not as easy to come by) a lye solution is made using lime.

I asked Lola where she got her lime, and she showed me a big bag of it she bought in town. Not that long ago, they used to dig special rocks and then bake them in the ground to make their lime. I really wanted to film that process too, but it took a while and we didn’t think we would be able to fit it into this trip. If I ever go back that’s one thing I definitely want to record.

Nopalitos and Nixtamalization

I believe that the nixtamalization process with lime is very important for another reason. Lime is basically calcium and because of this process the Tarahumara have a very calcium-rich diet. The Tarahumara also love to eat nopalitos, which are the pads of prickly pear. The Tarahumara were very aware that eating nopalitos was beneficial in preventing and curing diabetes. But I am not sure they knew that nopalitos also are high in oxalates. Oxalates bind up calcium in the body. I am willing to bet that eating the calcium-rich tortillas from nixtamalized corn helped offset any damage the oxalates in the nopalitos might have done. It is quite amazing how these indigenous diets that have been developed and tested over hundreds of years really have a lot of wisdom behind them.

lola-harvesting-prickly-pear

Lola harvesting prickly pear

We got some fantastic footage of Lola harvesting and cooking prickly pear pads, a.k.a. nopalitos. Note: if you want to see a detailed video of the process of making tortillas, tamales, pinole, and nopalitos, check out the presentation at the 2016 Home Grown Food Summit. In that free presentation you can see for yourself how the nixtamalization is done – it isn’t oblivious how they could have discovered this, is it?

And while Dave had given me quite a shock that morning when he revealed how upsetting my bare legs were to Tarahumara men, within the next two days, I would inadvertently have as big a shock for him.


This article is Chapter 8 in the series “Extreme Agri-Tourism: Off the Grid with the Tarhumara Indians.” You can read the rest of the series here:

Chapter 1: Extreme Agri-Tourism
Chapter 2: Hard Traveling
Chapter 3: The Tarhumara Girls School
Chapter 4: How To Lose 30 Pounds In 10 Seconds
Chapter 5: Gunfights Don’t Usually Last That Long…
Chapter 6: The Vomit Comet Through Tarahumara Country
Chapter 7: Don’t Ever Do This When Traveling In Strange Territory
Chapter 8: Nice Legs Really Scare Tarahumara Men
• Chapter 9: COMING SOON

 

Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 7

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Don’t Ever Do This When Travelling In Strange Territory

Early the next morning Dave came into my room and tapped the foot of my sleeping bag. “Hey you want to go on a hike?” Dave asked. After all the planes, trains, and buses the chance to get some exercise was just what I wanted. Plus, I hadn’t slept that well and I was wide awake anyway. So I enthusiastically said, “yes!”

Anthony, Pedro, and I followed Dave up a narrow mountain trail. On the way we met up with a Tarahumara neighbor named Bernadino. I would end up spending a lot of time with Bernadino and his warm family discussing how they grew and prepared food.

After about 20 or 30 minutes, we came upon a large comfortable cave where Bernadino and his family had lived until recently (when they moved into the house they now occupied). In the 2016 Home Grown Food Summit, there is a fascinating full-length interview where Dave tells about Bernadino’s background and how the two of them met. Click here to get to the Home Grown Food Summit.

marjory-dave-and-bernadino-in-the-cave-where-bernadino-used-to-live

Marjory, Dave, and Bernadino in the cave where Bernadino used to live.

By the time we got back down to the house for breakfast, the sun was up and we could tell it was going to be a warm day. After we had eaten we would start our first class on how to make tortillas with Lola. Life moves at a more leisurely pace in Mexico and by the time our “class” was actually going to start, it had already gotten downright hot. I slipped off for a quick second to change into some cut-offs and felt much more comfortable.

Nixtamalization – Preparing Corn for Consumption

First off we had to shell the kernels of corn off the cobs. Then the corn was put in a pot with water. Powdered lime is added to the pot and it’s put on the stove to simmer for about an hour. This is a process called nixtamalization. It is a process that makes the nutrients in the corn more bio-available when you eat it.

shelling-corn-is-the-first-step-in-making-tortillas-and-everyone-helped-out

Shelling corn is the first step in making tortillas and everyone helped out.

I have always been fascinated by nixtamalization. How humans ever discovered this process is quite a mystery to me. It’s an extremely important process to anyone who’s interested in being self-reliant and relying on corn as a staple. All of the indigenous people throughout the Americas that grow corn know how to nixtamalize corn and do it regularly.

How did the indigenous peoples know to nixtamalize their corn? Where did they learn the process? How could they possibly have discovered it? The process is not intuitively obvious. If you’d like to see for yourself how it’s done, there will be a free presentation airing at the 2016 homegrown food summit which you can sign up for here by clicking this link: 2016 Home Grown Food Summit.

anthony-films-lola-as-she-washes-the-nixtamalized-corn-in-the-stream-by-the-house

Anthony films Lola as she washes the nixtamalized corn in the stream by the house.

One of the interesting things about our trip is that all these “classes” we were taking didn’t really affect daily Tarahumara life that much. Nixtamalizing corn and making tortillas were things the women did every day. Having us around to ask questions and do a bit of filming didn’t really interfere with their normal schedule.

How the Tarahumara Manage Their Drinking Water

Once the pot of corn was bubbling away and the stove was piled with wood, Lola said we had about an hour. She needed to go get drinking water. So we all went to go with her. Neither Anthony nor I have a lot of experience traveling in Mexico. But we had heard about “Montezuma’s revenge.” And both of us were being very careful. If the water wasn’t boiled, then we were treating it with iodine.

anthony-and-marjory-treated-most-of-their-drinking-water-with-iodine-drops-to-prevent-montazumas-revenge

Anthony and Marjory treated most of their drinking water with iodine drops to prevent Montazuma’s revenge.

Lola’s house was only about 30 yards from a stream, and come to think of it, so were all of the rural Tarahumara homesteads that we would visit. But none of them drank from the streams that were right next to their houses. All of them got their drinking water from cleaner sources that were 500 to 1,000 yards away, and usually higher up.

So at Lola’s home, once or twice a day someone in the family would take a 5 gallon jug and go up and get water from the stream.

the-house-water-supply-is-jugs-of-water-brought-in-from-a-nearby-stream

The house water supply is jugs of water brought in from a nearby stream.

“When we need to carry more water over longer distances, we use “La Pipa,” Lola told me. La pipa means “the pipe” in Spanish.

But “La Pipa” turned out to be the name of the white donkey that had been hanging around the yard. It was a joke in a second way as well, in that because of her white color, the donkey also looked like a piece of PVC pipe (the common plumbing pipe which is usually white).

marjory-and-the-donkey-named-la-pipa

Marjory and the donkey named “La Pipa”

Managing Livestock the Tarahumara Way

“Is this area fenced?” I asked, wondering about how they cared for the donkey. No, it wasn’t. La Pipa was free to go wherever she wanted. She was hanging around the house these days because there were still some greens growing in the yard, the apple orchard still had fruit, and there was the possibility of corn husks coming from the house.

They fully expected her to wander off eventually. When they needed her to carry stuff, or for plowing, they would simply ask their neighbors, “Have you seen my donkey?” and eventually she would be found.

“Why would she ever let you harness her again?” I asked. Because they would feed her corn or other grains when she worked with them. Otherwise they didn’t have to worry about her. It was a good arrangement for everyone.

But La Pipa wasn’t used for the daily household water, so without La Pipa’s help we headed up to the stream for drinking water.

while-getting-drinking-water-for-the-house-lola-gets-her-grandson-diego-a-drink-at-the-water-hole

While getting drinking water for the house Lola gets her grandson Diego a drink at the water hole.

It was while we were up there getting water that Dave dropped a bombshell on me.

He came up to me and said, “You know, Marjory, you are really quite a babe.”

I froze, horrified.

I am not sure how long it took me to respond.

“Uh, that’s nice of you to say…” I stammered, not quite believing him and certainly not knowing how to respond in this situation.

“Oh, I really mean it!” Dave exclaimed, “you are really an attractive woman.”

Now, of course every woman on the planet would enjoy being called a babe. Although, personally, I think at my age I’m well past that description. But I will confess that about 1% of me was just thrilled.

But the other 99% of me was on high alert. What in the heck was going on???

My internal organs started screeching. Here I was out in the middle of God knows where in Mexico, and we were planning to go ever further off the beaten path. We were only a few days in to what should be about another week of traveling. I spoke only a little Spanish and my Tarahumara was zilch.

No matter where this conversation was going, it couldn’t be good.


This article is Part 7 in a series about Marjory’s trip to visit the Tarahumara Indians. You can read the rest of the series here:

Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 1
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 2
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 3
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 4
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 5
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 6
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 7
• Part 8: COMING SOON

 

Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 6

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The Vomit Comet Through Tarahumara Country

The bus filled up completely, and then filled up some more. One of the last people to get on was a young woman with a child snug on her back and another small one tugging at her skirt. I was just about to get up and give her my seat when Anthony beat me to it.

Good man, that Anthony is.

The bus rolled out. And as we passed the scene of the gunfight at the edge of town, I realized that rubbernecking is a universal human behavior. Even the driver was curious and slowed the bus as we passed the intersection. I was briefly worried that the bus would tip over as everyone leaned to look out the windows on the right side. But there wasn’t much to see and the bus soon surged on.

Part of the spectacular beauty of the Copper Canyon is its intense ruggedness. I honestly have no idea how anybody would’ve ever thought they could build a road through there, but humans do some amazing things. Much of the road was built by blowing out part of the canyon’s vertical rock, so the twists and turns in the road are mercilessly sharp as it hugs the rugged walls.

they-really-built-a-road-through-here-seriously-people-are-crazy

I could definitely see why people would vomit on this ride.

Anthony managed to get a video clip of some of it. Somehow sitting here in the comfort of my home office and watching it just doesn’t convey the visceral distortions that happened when we were actually doing it. I think during the worst parts of the drive Anthony couldn’t get any decent footage, so what is on this clip is one of the more tame stretches. The driver had been apparently driving this route for many years and felt completely comfortable barreling as fast as he possibly could around impossibly tight curves and having no clue if anybody else was coming or not. Note as you watch the clip what little regard the driver has for which lane he is in.

It’s one of those times when you just want to close your eyes and think about the last time you updated your will and last testament. Except that you really want to see the view. And with eyes open or closed, you are going to be queasy at least. Anthony took the brunt of it; standing up and trying to keep his pack full of heavy equipment from falling on anyone’s head.

the-village-of-humira-is-just-a-bend-in-the-road-with-a-few-houses

After about an hour so of this torture, Dave moved up to the bus driver and talked with him. The driver stopped in what looked to me like just a bend in the road with a few houses. “We’re here,” Dave shouted over the rumbling engine, “this is Humira.”

We wobbled off the bus and I noticed that even Dave looked pale. Our hosts Lola, Afren, and their family were there to greet us with big smiles. We did light handshakes and introductions all around.

afren-lola-and-family-in-front-of-their-home-in-humira-mexico

Dave had instructed us earlier that we should make a point to gently shake hands with anyone and everyone in a new setting. The handshake is a gentle, almost ‘just touching’ of palms. Although it felt a little awkward at first, it did seem to be the expected protocol, and by the end of the trip it would be second nature to go and do this gentle handshake anytime someone new came up.

Lola and Afren picked up some of our bags and helped us with the short distance to their homestead. Their home was a large house by Tarahumara standards. Maybe about 800 sq. ft. by my guess. It consisted of four rooms. There was one big room that was a combination kitchen and dining room. Then there were two bedrooms, and a big storage room on the side. I lucked out and got the small bedroom with a thin bed of mostly coils. The guys ended up in the storage room. There wasn’t any bedding to spare, but Anthony I had sleeping bags, and Pedro and Dave brought blankets. We were all glad to be indoors.

the-guys-slept-in-this-storeroom-at-afren-and-lolas-home

All of the Tarahumara houses I would see on this trip had only one big bed, except for Lola and Afren’s place. So for those of you wondering about the practice of “the family bed,” well it is alive and well among the Tarahumara in Mexico.

None of the houses had any running water or plumbing, although surprisingly, each had a little bit of electricity. Apparently the Mexican government had come through a few years ago and offered every family a small solar panel, battery, and inverter with enough power for a light bulb and possibly a small radio.

small-govt-issue-solar-panel-we-saw-on-most-of-the-tarahumara-rural-homes

As soon as we had settled in, Lola offered us steaming mugs of pinole and started cooking tortillas. Pinole is a drink made from ground corn that is sort of like a watery porridge. The Tarahumara Indians love this drink and over the next week I would be astonished to find how energizing and filling it is. I really can’t explain why this drink made me feel so upbeat – seriously – it’s only made from ground corn that was popped.

as-soon-as-we-arrive-lola-starts-cooking-offering-us-pinole-and-tortillas

And the tortillas! Oh my, these tortillas were a world apart from the thin GMO cardboard disks that pass with the same name in America. The Tarahumara tortillas were thick, hardy, nourishing, and delicious. Cooked simply by themselves with no oils, butters, or salt – they were hand patted and toasted on the top of Lola’s wood-burning stove. She piled them up in a tall stack on the table and they were a major feature of every meal.

hand-made-tortillas-from-home-grown-corn-are-thick-and-delicious

Afren was a good-natured, outgoing sort of guy who seemed like he really enjoyed a good drink with the boys from time to time. He was not full-blooded Tarahumara although he had been raised in the village. Afren was one of those guys whose heart had turned away from tradition and toward the acquisition of cowboy boots, shiny belt buckles, and dreams of fast money.

Lola was full-blooded Tarahumara and quite an accomplished woman. She had left the village to gain the education necessary to become a professional nurse. She returned to her home area to operate a small medical clinic that was a tremendous service to her community. But the funding for the medical outpost had dried up, and I felt a sadness emanating from her that I guessed was because she no longer had this meaningful work.

the-closed-clinic-where-lola-used-to-serve-the-community

Afren and Lola were widely respected in the community and they were helpful in arranging connections for us to learn and film traditional Tarahumara food production and preparation.

I wanted to learn how to cook tortillas and make pinole!

on-the-side-of-every-tarahumara-home-was-a-small-fire-pit-for-making-pinole

Dave had previously brought groups of Americans here who wanted to learn their traditional skills, so these Tarahumara were used to both teaching and being filmed. They suggested that a fair price for one “class” would be 200 pesos (about $12.50) and that we should work with several different families in the valley in order to spread the wealth evenly.

Note that all the classes we filmed about how to make tortillas, pinole, and much more are offered in free videos that will be aired at the 2016 Home Grown Food Summit. Check it out here.

We spent the afternoon discussing Tarahumara culture and traditions and making a rough schedule for classes. When the subject of their famous races came up I asked Afren if it would be possible for us to put up the purse money to sponsor a race. “No,” Afren said, “it doesn’t work like that. Each runner brings a little bit of money, and they pool that money up to make the purse.” But he thought he might be able to find a group of runners who would be willing to put on a demonstration race for us.

Anthony and I had given Afren several hundred pesos to buy groceries. The next day while we were filming classes with Lola, Afren would go to the next village to pick up food and see if he could scout out some runners.

Now in the back of my mind I was just a little bit worried about this. I mean would Afren go out and scrounge up some drinking buddies and say, “Hey – I got some Americans with easy money – just wear some traditional dress and look like you are running.” But the cost for the event was only going to total about $100 and I figured it was worth the risk. If it wasn’t the real deal we could always scrap the footage.

marjory-taking-notes-in-a-discussion-on-growing-corn-beans-and-squash-tarahumara-style

But a possible con job was about to be the least of my worries.

Have you ever been in a foreign culture and discovered that you were unconsciously doing something that was very disturbing to everyone around you?


This article is Part 6 in a series about Marjory’s trip to visit the Tarahumara Indians. You can read the rest of the series here:

Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 1
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 2
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 3
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 4
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 5
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 6
• Part 7: COMING SOON

 

Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 5

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Gunfights Don’t Usually Last That Long…

The town of Creel has a population of about 5,000. It’s a pretty small place. The gunshots were coming from somewhere at the edge of town which wasn’t that far away. I suppose I should’ve been more disturbed, but honestly I wasn’t.

I live in a rural part of Central Texas and I hear gunshots almost every day. In fact, on some days, the shots I hear are mine.

anthony-is-such-a-good-video-guy-he-even-makes-drying-clothes-look-interesting

The co-op was on a small backstreet and many buildings surrounded us. The shots sounded far enough away I thought there wouldn’t be any danger of ricochets or stray bullets hitting us. Or, I hoped so.

I looked at the rest of our group. Pedro had settled in sitting quietly on the step in front of the store. His face unreadable in that placid way that Indians around the world seem to have. Anthony was alert, but calm. “Sounds like a typical day in Fresno,” Anthony said when he saw I was checking in on him. Dave was busy talking to people to see if he could find out what was going on.

anthony-had-the-heaviest-pack

So I did the safest thing I could think of and entered the store and went shopping. It was inside a concrete building – surely no bullets would get in there? (Note to my husband: see how shopping is a good thing and can actually save your life at times?).

I’m not any great expert on conflict, but one thing I’ve noticed over the years is that any fight – be it with fists, knives, or guns – is usually over very quickly. And sure enough the shots died down within minutes.

A small crowd had gathered in the street in front of the store. The co-op had turned into an impromptu community center. Everyone was looking for information on what had happened and no one knew. Since milling about there wasn’t doing us any good, Pedro suggested that we head off to the bus station and wait there. Pedro told us the buses fill up and if we wanted a seat we should get there early.

I expected the bus to be a refurbished old school bus, and I was mildly surprised to see it was a slightly newer model touring coach. A few years ago I visited Cuba and every day brought a new miracle as the bus sputtered its way safely to and from where we were going. If its old inspection sticker was to be believed, that Cuban school bus had been in Louisiana in 1987 at one point in its history. We all took turns sitting in this one seat where you had to use your feet to hold down a piece of cardboard that covered a giant hole in the floorboard. If you didn’t keep the hole covered, then everyone riding inside the bus would get to breathe toxic exhaust.

The big red coach in front of us now looked in much better shape. Compared to that old Cuban bus, this looked downright deluxe. “Don’t get too excited,” Dave said, “these coaches might be newer, but they have cloth seats.”

the-vomit-comet-also-known-as-the-bus-to-batopilas-mexico

“Why are cloth seats a problem?” I asked, surprised.

“Well,” said Dave, “with those old school buses you could go inside and hose them down. These new ones with cloth seats you can never wash out the smell of vomit.”

Within my first few steps on to the bus I knew exactly what he meant.

And we would soon to find out why people riding this bus would be compelled to vomit. In fact, I would nickname the bus “the vomit comet.”


This article is Part 5 in a series about Marjory’s trip to visit the Tarahumara Indians. You can read the rest of the series here:

Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 1
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 2
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 3
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 4
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 5
• Part 6: COMING SOON

 

Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 4

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How To Lose 30 Pounds In 10 Seconds

By the time we left Pedro’s house it had been dark for a long time, and Anthony and I had been up since 4:30 a.m. that morning. We were exhausted.

At the girls dorm I lucked out and was assigned one room by myself; the privilege of being the only female, I suppose. Anthony and Dave were sharing another room. At this point in time, those beds were looking really good. But before we could go to glorious sleep, our hosts had everybody circle up in the living room and they brought out a guitar to sing some songs.

marjorys-room-at-the-tarahumara-girls-school-in-creel-mexico

Then it was time for prayers. And they were excruciatingly long ones in English, Spanish, and then in Tarahumara. I looked over and saw Anthony weaving in an attempt to stay standing.

And then finally my prayer was answered and we got dismissed to go to our rooms.

“Poor Anthony,” I thought as the sound of Dave’s loud snoring came across the hall into my room. Had Anthony thought to bring a pair of earplugs? If not, he was probably not going to get much rest. I put a pillow over my head to shut out the sound and went to sleep.

luzdivini-one-of-our-hosts-at-the-girls-school-in-creel-mexico

When I got up the next morning Dave was gone, ostensibly to work on logistics. While we waited, Luzdivini and Javier were kind enough to give Anthony and I a tour of the facilities and tell us a bit about the girls. Most of the girls went home on the weekends as their families didn’t live that far away. But one very shy and pretty girl named Angelique could only go home on major holidays because she lived too far out. She was the most traditional of the girls and held closely to her family’s customs.

My heart really went out to this young woman. The feeling was so strong that I wondered why. There must be some connection, but it eluded me at the moment. It would be almost the end of the trip before I would realize what it was.

angelique-a-tarahumara-girl-at-the-school-in-creel

Angelique was related to Patricinio, the famous Tarahumara violin maker. Javier mentioned that we would probably be going very close to where her family lived, and I suggested that Angelique write a letter to her family and perhaps we could deliver it for her. She brightened at this and got pen to paper.

Delivering that letter would turn out to be both a blessing and a curse.

During our tour, I asked Javier about the tanks I saw on the tops of buildings. There were also tanks at ground level that were piped into gutter systems which were clearly for rainwater catchment. But why would anybody have a tank on top of the roof? Javier explained that electricity and water supply in the town were very unreliable. So when the utilities were on, everybody would pump water up to tanks on tops of their houses so that they would have gravity fed water available during the frequent blackouts.

tanks-on-top-of-buildings-because-utilities-are-not-that-reliable

Dave returned and we headed out to Pedro’s house to take him up on his invitation for breakfast. “Dave,” I asked, “can we stop by the grocery store on the way?” When you’re paying a guy $20 a day to carry a pack, having three hungry Americans show up on his doorstep would surely be a strain on his family. Plus the night before when I had suggested I would bring eggs, I noticed his wife’s eyes light up.

We bought armloads of groceries; eggs, sausage, cheese, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, and tortillas – probably enough to feed Pedro’s family for a week. This did a lot to ensure our presence was deeply appreciated and the welcome was genuine. Pedro’s wife was a good cook. I never did find out why Pedro lived in the city. Dave told me that in previous years there have been a string of droughts that forced many of the Tarahumara off the land. They came into town to find jobs so that they could feed their families. And in all too many cases, as happens round the world, they succumb to alcohol or drugs and thus begin a downward spiral that few can escape from. Pedro was on the up and up right now, but I suspected there had been problems in the past.

pedro-in-his-small-but-comfortable-home-in-creel-mexico

After breakfast I asked, “Where’s the bathroom?” Pedro’s bubbly young son was assigned to show me. We walked down to the end of the block and across the gravel road. The boy pointed to a grove of trees and then sat on a big rock with his back to me. He politely waited for me to do my business. It took me a moment to realize… Oh, the trees are the bathroom for the subdivision.

Back at the house, I noticed that Pedro took only a knife, a blanket, and a jacket. He bid his family farewell and we all headed back to the girls school to do a final gear assessment and prepare to go on the bus.

We definitely had too much stuff. We spread it all out on the floor and decided what to take. The most important pack was the one filled with all of Anthony’s video gear. Cameras, lenses, computer, batteries, memory, tripod… it was a pretty heavy pack. We had to take this pack and Anthony manned up to carry it.

Anthony and I slimmed down our personal loads by leaving a bag full of clothes at the school that we would pick up upon our return to Creel.

The heaviest, bulkiest gifts we gave away to the girls. We laid out the packages of cloth and sewing kits that I had brought on the floor in the living room. The girls eyes widened when they understood they could take what they wanted, and the stuff just simply evaporated. School supplies and most of the tennis balls also disappeared pretty quickly. Dave picked up one of the two tents and turned it over thoughtfully in his hands. They were inexpensive 3-man tents I had picked up at a local sporting goods store just before leaving. I had brought them along mostly at the insistence of my husband who had been getting more and more worried about me. “Hon, there have been heavy rains in that region lately,” he said with real concern in his voice. “Just one good soaking and you’ll be miserable.”

He was right, of course. Since none of our regular personal gear was the right size, I picked up these two tents at the last minute. And by bringing them, I had committed a cardinal sin of any expedition; it was gear I had never tested.

“I’m not sure we will need two tents,” Dave said, “but I think we should take one just in case.” He turned to Javier and asked, “Would you be in need of a tent?”

Javier looked like he had been struck by lightning. Apparently one of the girls in the school had an opportunity for some very important studies a long distance away. They had gotten most of the supplies she needed for the journey, but the one thing that was missing was a tent. They just didn’t have the resources to get one and the whole school had been praying on the issue.

I felt a twinge of apprehension as a ghost popped up to remind me that I had never tested that tent, and it was a cheaper brand. But Dave assured me that as soon as we left, they would be setting it up and testing it out. The instructions were printed clearly in schematics on the side.

So with much lighter packs, many good wishes, and sincere prayers for a safe journey we headed out. We still had lots of gifts to give, and knowing our packs would continually lighten made it easier.

javier-gives-us-a-tour-of-this-small-church-for-the-tarahumara-girls-school-in-creel

On the way to the bus stop, Dave wanted to show us one other thing. It was a small Tarahumara Indian buying cooperative. We could fill the last remaining crevices in our packs with some additional small lightweight gifts that would be greatly appreciated the further out of town we got. Things like raisins, pecans, dried peppers, and other spices.

It was on the way to this little co-op that we heard the unmistakable sound of gunshots.


This article is Part 4 in a series about Marjory’s trip to visit the Tarahumara Indians. You can read the rest of the series here:

Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 1
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 2
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 3
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 4
• Part 5: COMING SOON

 

Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 3

Click here to view the original post.

It puzzled the Tarahumara that we were so much bigger, we ate so much more, and yet we couldn’t carry as much nor go as fast.

No matter how big of a room, or how crowded, if Dave Holladay is there you know it. He wears a big wide-brim straw hat and every inch of him below that is just as striking.

“Instead of spending your money on Margarita’s Hotel, there is a Tarahumara girls school with some extra room that could really use your help,” Dave suggested. I looked at Anthony, and as his head was nodding, I said “sure.” Dave scooped up about half of our luggage and strode off across the railroad tracks.

“Well, what are your first impressions of Creel?” Dave asked me as I almost jogged along to keep up with him.

overview-of-creel

“Uh, the smell?” I said hesitantly.

“Yeah, isn’t it great,” Dave replied with genuine enthusiasm, “I love the smell of Mexican villages. It is a combination of something dead, something burning, something cooking, and shit.”

I had to admit that he had the combination dialed in perfectly. And for a brief moment his enthusiasm was so infectious I actually could smell his point of view. But in the next second, I came back to my original conclusion that it simply stank. I decided not to mention my opinion to Dave.

cozy-little-shop-for-eating

In all fairness, I would later discover that the downtown part of Creel was clean with no ill smells. There were beautiful little churches, nice shops, and colorful murals.

marjory-by-mural

pretty-little-church-in-creel

Dave was off on another topic anyway. As we walked he filled me in on the plans he had for us. In the short time we had in Creel, he would introduce us to several Tarahumara who were living in town so we could see what their lives were like. Tomorrow we would get on the bus to spend time with the Tarahumara who were living far out of town, but still pretty close to the road. The next stop after that we would go further out requiring a good bit of hiking to reach other Tarahumara living even more remotely in the canyons.

inside-the-girls-school-view-toward-kitchen

Our first stop would be where we just agreed to sleep for the night. The place was a dormitory set up for Tarahumara girls. The Mexican government offered education scholarships to the Tarahumara but very few of them could take advantage of the offer as the schooling was in town and most of the Indians live out in the rural countryside. None of them could afford to support a child to live in town. A kindly group from the Methodist church had set up a dormitory situation for girls that offered them free room and board. But the organization was struggling. While they did have buildings, facilities, and occasional shipments of beans and rice they still needed so many other things such as fresh food, medicines, and clothing.

3-i-_MG_9135-marjory-pedro-dand-dave-at-the-grocery-store-getting-supplies

We barely had time to drop our luggage and meet with the older couple Javier and Luzdivini, who took care of the girls, before Dave whisked us off to the next place.

following-dave-through-the-village-to-the-outskirts-of-town

We walked at a quick pace through an impossible maze of ramshackle buildings to the home of Faviola. As best I could guess it was a two-room building of about 300 square feet total. As soon as we came in she put a pot of water to boil on the wood-burning stove and then got another pot and started cooking some popcorn to offer us as refreshment. With Faviola’s help, David began to tell us her story.

typical-tarahumara-home-at-the-edge-of-town-in-creel-mexico

She grew up and lived on her father’s land which had been a nice homestead far away from town. They had beautiful orchards, good soils in the fields, a herd of goats, and some chickens. Now there happened to be a really bad guy in the region; a Mafioso bully who is known especially for his love of raping women. All of the women and the girls in the area were deathly afraid of being out at night or away from their fathers or husbands.

What happened one night was that this bad guy was at Faviola’s father’s house and the bad guy was using his truck to ram the wall of their home. Faviola’s father had an illegal gun (although it was only a .22 caliber). He decided to use it to fire a warning shot to hopefully scare off the intruder. Well, as fate would have it, the random shot landed right between the eyes of the bully. He was paralyzed and could not move. Of course nobody would touch him or offer any help. And apparently it took about six hours for him to die a slow helpless death.

Everybody in the region considered Faviola’s father a hero. But he was still sentenced and served a term of seven years in prison. And while he was gone, the Mafia took over his home and property. They kicked the family out and apparently they were still there today. Faviola moved into town and made a meager living by baking bread and selling it to the hotels or other places.

“Isn’t there any recourse through the law?” I asked.

Faviola sighed heavily and I wasn’t sure if it from was her own hopelessness, or at my naïveté. “They are one and the same,” she said.

Next we went to meet Pedro and his family in his small but comfortable home. They were also all full-blooded Tarahumara. David had arranged that we would hire Pedro for $20 a day to help carry our packs and gear. David suggested that we hire as many Tarahumara as we had packs. In that way, we would not have to carry anything and these men could be offered meaningful work. After hearing how narrow and steep the trails were, both Anthony and I were completely fine with that suggestion.

3-h-DSCN2303-anthony-and-the-tarahumara-we-are-bigger-eat-more-adn-slower

Dave told me that on other trips he had taken ultra athletes into the canyons to meet the Tarahumara. Those athletes were a bit proud, but the Tarahumara would end up carrying everyone’s packs regardless if they were paid or not. Even the fittest of us slow them down. It puzzled the Tarahumara that we were so much bigger, that we ate so much more, and yet we couldn’t carry as much nor go as fast. How could we be so inferior and yet have so much more influence in the world?

When Dave asked me how many men I thought I would need I told him three or four.

Now normally when I travel, I am a minimalist. But on this trip I was loaded down with gifts. High-quality steel knives, sewing kits, bolts of cloth, guitar strings, seeds, para cord, school supplies, headlamps, and a bunch of tennis balls to hand out to the kids. By the end of the trip we would even give away the packs themselves and the two tents we had brought along. I wanted to learn from these people and I wanted to offer them something in return. Carrying a lot of money certainly would’ve been easier (and we did pay out quite a bit of money as wages) but just throwing money around seems so crass.

On his scouting trip, David had not been able to find us suitable men. “There were some young bucks I know that are certainly healthy and strong enough,” Dave said, “but I just wasn’t sure if they would really be there to meet us at the bus. You know, if they got wind of a really good race going on in another valley they would be gone. They are beholden to no one.”

Dave also wanted to make sure there wouldn’t be any problems with drugs or drinking, and that whoever would be on the trip would be fun to be around. Pedro was the only guy Dave could find who fit the bill.

So we were way overloaded with gear and only had Pedro to help. But the solution to that problem turned out to be surprisingly easy.


This article is Part 3 in a series about Marjory’s trip to visit the Tarahumara Indians. You can read the rest of the series here:

Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 1
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 2
Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 3
• Part 4: COMING SOON

 

Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 2

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Hard Travelling To Get To The More Difficult Part of Extreme Agro Tourism

In the hotel in Los Mochis I was still keyed up from the excitement of the adventure and I decided to see what Mexican television had to offer. There were quite a few channels dedicated to soccer and I paused at one for a few minutes listening to the rhythm of Spanish speakers and trying to pick out words and phrases here and there.

I flipped through some more channels and landed on a show that consisted of two stunningly gorgeous young men and two almost mannequin-like young women. The women reminded me of a full-size Corona beer poster that hangs on the wall of the Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood. The young women had an overly stylized beauty. Heavy on the makeup, with skimpy clothes that revealed impossible cleavage. Were those things real, or all silicone? Their incredibly short shorts made me wonder why they bothered at all.

Whatever these four were doing I couldn’t exactly tell but about half of the time the camera just panned up and down the women’s legs. I concluded that Mexican television was on par with, or possibly worse than, American television and I turned it off. Whether I was tired or not I knew I should go to bed as I was going to have to get up at 4:30 am the next morning to catch the train. The train ride was one of the more relaxing and pleasant aspects of the trip. There was almost nobody in first class (a.k.a. tourist class) of the train. Apparently, a lot of people had read that article in the NY Times about the increasing violence in Mexico and the train was essentially empty. There was a small group of tourists with a guide, and this was about the only time on the whole trip that I saw any other Americans at all.

marjory-in-light-of-train-door-way-too-early-in-the-morning

The train ride is spectacular and it certainly felt safe. At times it seemed almost as if there were more guards than there were tourists. The guards walk the length of the train regularly in their black combat outfits carrying AR 15s and side arms. Whenever the train slowed into a station, I would see one or two of them slip off and patrol the entire length of the train from the ground presumably to make sure that nobody sneaked on or off.

train-and-view-of-rugged-country

Practicing my Spanish I chatted with the guards for a bit. And between my broken Spanish and their broken English, we managed to exchange some pleasantries. When I asked them if I could take their photographs they suddenly froze up and it was very clear that that was not a good idea. I asked them why, but I couldn’t quite understand what they meant when they kept saying something about ‘salud.’

Later I was told that there’s incredible friction between the military, the police, and the mafias. And these guys were with the military, and they could be in real danger if their photographs got into the hands of the rivalry police or mafia.

security-police-on-train

The scenery is stunning and Anthony and I spent quite a bit of time between the cars where the top half of the door was open to the outside. There was a safety sign, which everybody ignored. I guess they figured if you were stupid enough to stick an arm or head outside and get it knocked off by a branch or possibly the entrance to a tunnel, well that was your problem.

safety-sign-on-the-most-fun-part-of-the-train

anthony-is-a-brave-videographer

In preparation for this trip, Doug Simons, the herbalist, had made me a pair of Tarahumara style sandals – ‘huaraches tres pontas,’ or ‘3 point sandals,’ as they are known. Sure enough, I would see these being worn everywhere on this trip. I had been having some problems with the straps and keeping them tied. Later, I would learn from the Tarahumara themselves that my straps were too thin, and they would teach me the best knot to tie them on. But at this time I didn’t know what was wrong. When I saw the logo for the train ‘El Chepe’ was a running sandal, I thought it might shed some light on my shoe problems. But no such luck. The logo is simply a stylized thing that doesn’t reflect how sandals are worn or tied. Dummy me, huh? Trying to gain useful info from a marketing piece.

the-logo-for-el-chepe-is-the-tarahumara-sandal

By the way, there is a complete tutorial on how to make these sandals in the 2016 Home Grown Food Summit, including the additional info on the correct size of straps and the best knot. The entire Summit has a series of free presentations that will be shown in March of this year. You can sign up to get free access by clicking here.

beautiful-rugged-country

Later that afternoon as we pulled into the station at Creel, I girded myself emotionally. I had been warned that there would be a mob of scrawny children begging for food at the train station. That is certainly the most difficult part about traveling in an economically stressed area. Small children surrounding you with their hunger showing in their ribs and the desperation in their eyes. Their dirty palms open. Such a situation is so hopeless; you can’t give to all of them and you certainly can’t give to one. It is really hard to live with yourself after experiencing that.

sign-of-creel-at-train-station

I started to ‘toughen up’ inside.

But I was hugely relieved that while the train platform was certainly crowded, there were only a few scraggly looking dogs that were begging.

crowded-train-station-platform

Anthony stood by our pile of luggage while I went out to scout to for Dave. I was just about to give up and figure out how to get to Margarita’s Hotel when I heard a familiar call, “eee, yyyyouuuhhh.” It sounds like the cry of a red tailed hawk. I immediately answered back “caa caw, caa caw.”

For the past several years Dave and I have led groups of teenagers to spend a night out in the Sonoran Desert with nothing but the clothes on their backs. No chapstick, water bottles, flashlights, knives, or tools. We would build a fire using Stone Age techniques from things we would find, and make shelter as best as we could – or not, as was usually the case.

It is pretty hard-core; it gets really cold, the ground is hard, no one sleeps very well, and everyone reaches some breaking points.

Dave starts out the evening telling the kids that people all over the world would be doing this tonight. Refugees from Syria, Africans caught in the crossfire of civil wars, and victims of volcanoes or tsunamis – all would be walking as far as they could tonight with their life’s possessions on their backs. They would try to get as far away as possible from the danger, and when they could not walk any further, they would find a place to sleep. In the morning, they would have no home to return to, but would pick up their meager belongings and keep walking.

We were lucky. Although we would suffer this night, we had loving families and warm camps that would have breakfast ready for us after the sun rose.

When Dave put it that way to the group of teenagers, none of them ever complained.

I went along not because I was any great wilderness skills expert but because they needed a female chaperone for when the girls would be separated from the boys into their own camp. Funny huh? None of the other parents volunteered.

Dave and I had developed crude communication signals that traveled well over long distances in the night. His call was of the sound of the hawk, and mine was the song of the crow. Although I still couldn’t see him through the train station crowd, his familiar call announced he was here, and it lifted my spirits.

The adventure was really on!

After a brief introduction to Anthony, Dave didn’t waste a moment getting us swept into realities of gunfights, stolen properties, indigenous prejudice, and life in Mexico.


This article is Part 1 in a series about Marjory’s trip to visit the Tarahumara Indians. You can read the rest of the series here:

Elder Athletes Who Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 1
Elder Athletes Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 2
• Part 3: COMING SOON

 

Elder Athletes Grow Their Own Food: The Tarahumara Indians Part 1

Click here to view the original post.

Extreme Agro-Tourism

david-holladay-is-a-direct-descendant-of-the-famous-doc-hollidayI went to the presentation given by David Holladay with only mild curiosity. I figured it would be a pleasant way to spend an evening. An enjoyable end to an enjoyable day. Little did I know that it would be the start of an epic adventure.

And as you might be thinking, yes, David is a direct descendent of the famous Doc Holliday. And the modern day Dave is just about as big a character as his famous forefather.

I was attending a primitive skills gathering and the announcement said the presentation would be at “dark 30.”

Someone had rigged up a small generator-powered projector and used the broadside of a white canvas tent for the screen. We sat in a semicircle in the dirt and the stars above peeked in to watch the show too.

David is one of the world’s leading educators in Stone Age living skills. Hollywood producers have been known to consult with him for his expertise on movies such as “Castaway.” The History Channel picked him up and featured him on their show No Man’s Land. And he has been featured in numerous articles and magazines. But for most of Dave’s life, he has lived in wilderness areas and made a living by leading people on adventures in terrain they would otherwise never see.

In this evening’s presentation, Dave was going to share some of his experiences visiting with the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico. The Tarahumara Indians are one of the few remaining indigenous groups that still live wild in North America. They are known for their incredible athleticism, health, and longevity. The Tarahumaran Indians live tucked far away from civilization in the unbelievably rugged terrain of the Copper Canyon.

Several decades ago, while visiting his mom in his hometown of Tucson, Arizona, Dave saw a photo in the local newspaper of two Tarahumara girls who were grinning from ear to ear. Through a series of coincidences he got to meet the girls and when he asked them why they were smiling so much they said, “Because we have eaten today.” Dave befriended them, and their families invited him to come visit their homes in the Copper Canyons of Mexico.

Dave thrives in rugged terrain and took the Tarahumara up on their welcome and he has been going back every year since.

two-tarahumara-runnersThe Tarahumara Indians lived in intentional seclusion and obscurity until the world discovered that they were the fastest ultramarathon runners on the planet. Their incredible feats of athleticism, longevity, and health have been highly acclaimed in books such as the New York Times bestseller Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. The healthy diet of the Tarahumara became a prescription for curing diabetes as outlined by Dr. Daphne Miller, Ph.D., in her book The Jungle Effect.

I loved both books and figured this presentation would be fun to see what the Tarahumara were really like from a first hand account.

As the presentation started, I leaned back on my elbows in pleasant contentment. I could almost doze with the crackling warmth of the big campfire at my back.

But not too long into his presentation, Dave said something that had me sitting bolt upright. He said:

The Tarahumara say they are the fastest runners in the world because they grow their own food. They say that the masa from the stores doesn’t fuel them like their own homegrown corn. Their food is grown on land that their families have been tending for centuries. Their seeds are blessed by their community, and every stage of the growing, harvesting, and preparing of the food is tended with love by themselves and their family. There is an energy and strength to their food that cannot be matched.

I have been working on a project exploring how the next cutting edge for ultra athletes will be growing their own food. I said to myself, “Wow, I’ve got to go meet these people and verify this.”

So seven months later, after many preparations and logistics, I found myself hugging my husband goodbye at the airport.

Our tiny group would just be the [Grow] Network’s brave video producer, Anthony Tamayo, and me. I had tried to interest others into joining this expedition. I contacted numerous ultra athletes, paleo nutrition experts, and longevity researchers. All of them were initially very excited and wanted to go.

“Oh Marjory, this trip will be incredible, let me clear my calendar!” was the typical response.

overview-of-the-copper-canyons-from-the-trainThen I contacted Josué Stephens who is an organizer for extreme endurance races in the Tarahumara region. Josué told me that he would not be going back to the Copper Canyon anytime soon. When I asked him why, he sent me this link to an article just published by the New York Times In Mexico; An Extreme Race In Extreme Danger. The article outlined how the violence in the region had become hyperactive and people were being found with their heads cut off.

“But Josué,” I said, “you run your race course right through marijuana and poppy fields.” That seemed pretty dumb to me. But nonetheless Josué was not going to join me in this Copper Canyon trip.

And as soon as everyone else saw the NY Times article they all dropped off too.

My husband was really worried too, but after almost 19 years of marriage he knows better than to try and stop his wife when she decides something is important. The night before my departure, he had gone over all the maps of the area and asked me again, “So exactly where are you going and what is your itinerary?”

“I don’t know, Hon,” I said, “all I know is that David Holladay will try to meet us at the train station in Creel, and if he’s not there we should book a room at Margarita’s Hotel and wait for him until he arrives.”

The plan was that David would get to the region a few days ahead of us to scout out some of the backcountry areas to see who was home, who wasn’t, and who would be open to visitors. There are very few telecommunications in the region. We wouldn’t know exactly where we were going until we got there. And even then we might not know. Would the buses run on schedule? There had been a lot of rain recently, would the roads be open? Would the Tarahumara even be home – or had the violence driven them deeper into the canyons? It is just not one of those trips you could plan.

route-map-of-the-train-named-el-chepeI gave my husband the names of a couple of small towns that we might be in or near; Creel for certain, Samachique as a possibility, and maybe Batopilas. He grumbled unhappily with this meager amount of information and said, “at least I’ll have a starting point to send the mercenaries to look for you.”

At the departure curbside he reminded me again that we have two kids. Then he held me close and kissed me deeply.

That kiss almost undid me.

I have a loving family, a beautiful home, and deeply meaningful work. Why was I going on this trip again?

“I’ll be back,” I said into his shirt with more confidence than I actually felt at that moment. I reluctantly left his embrace. I was already way past committed. So I commanded my buckling legs to get going, and I pushed the cart loaded with overstuffed duffel bags toward the airline counter.

Thus began a long grueling day of airports and changing flights, immigration and customs, and of course delays when we got to Mexico City.

Note to self: Never, never, never fly through Mexico City’s terminal 2 ever again in my life. It is the most dysfunctional, disorganized, and ridiculous way of getting passengers onto planes that I have ever experienced.

And this was simply the beginning of the hard travelling that would get us to the more difficult part.

Our first transit stop, we got into Los Mochis, Mexico pretty late in the night. The hotel was fairly decent and there isn’t much to remark about the experience except for one thing that would cause me some real embarrassment in the next few days…


This article is Part 1 in a series about Marjory’s trip to visit the Tarahumara Indians. You can read the rest of the series here:

The Tarahumara Indians Part 1: Elder Athletes Grow Their Own Food
• The Tarahumara Indians Part 2: COMING SOON

 

How to Make Spice from Corncob Ashes, Buffalo Bird Woman Style

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burning-corncobs-corncob-spiceIf you’re interested in three sisters gardening (beans, corn, and squash) the most comprehensive book on this subject is Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians, which is translated from an older Hidatsa Indian woman named Buffalo Bird Woman.

Buffalo Bird Woman (Maxi’diwiac Waheenee) lived from 1839 to 1932. Hmm, that made her life 93 years long, now there is some longevity. Buffalo Bird Woman was a Hidatsa who lived the traditional life of her people in what is now the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. She learned and practiced all the traditional Hidatsa skills of growing, preparing, and preserving food. In spite of the many changes in that period of time, Buffalo Bird Woman upheld the traditional ways of her culture. And through this book, her stories and teachings are still available to us today. I was also fascinated by descriptions of the lives and work of women in Hidatsa culture.

I’m a huge fan of the simplicity and elegance of using the three sisters in the garden and I’ve been planting various versions for many years. LOL, initially a lot of my attempts weren’t really that productive. Reading Buffalo Bird Woman’s account really gave me some insights into what I had done wrong, and it has helped me become much more successful.

One thing the book mentions is how Buffalo Bird Woman made an interesting spice from the ashes of corncobs. This year I had a pretty good crop of corn so I decided to give it a try. After shucking, I kept the cobs to try to make the spice myself just to see what it tasted like.

hot-corncob-ashes-corncob-spiceI decided to build the fire on a piece of sheet metal so that collecting the ashes would be easier. I didn’t need that much tinder as lighting corncobs straight from a bic was pretty easy to do.

From the descriptions in the book, I gather that Buffalo Bird Woman actually burned huge piles of cobs – so separating the ashes out was probably a lot easier for them. I didn’t have that huge of a crop. I was actually a bit worried I didn’t have enough cobs to burn. I had two or three big baskets of cobs. But it turned out that was plenty.

Without too much work the cubs burned completely burned down to ashes. I let them cool. And then it was time for the taste test!

It was a little bit strange. It does have a salt-like taste but also another little zing to it. I can’t say I really liked it.

But in retrospect, I am not sure I would like some of our other spices if I hadn’t grown up with them being added to my food since I was a baby.

I wanted to give the spice the ‘ultimate taste test,’ so I asked my family what they thought of it.

My husband diplomatically said, “Well Hon, if I lived in North Dakota and didn’t have access to salt or any other spices, I would probably think this was good.”

My kids weren’t so diplomatic. They responded with “Yuck,” and “maybe not, Mom.”

What Did the Tarahumara Indians Think of this Spice?

corn cob spice in a jarI’ve recently come back from a trip to the Copper Canyons of Mexico, where I spent time with the Tarahumara Indians. I asked several of the groups of Tarahumara Indians I met if they ever made the spice or used it. They said “no” they didn’t make it, but they’d heard of it and were curious about it too. It seems that the Tarahumara had good access to salt and other spices, so they didn’t feel any pressure to make their own spices.

Well I’m keeping a stash of it in a small jar in the spice cabinet and I plan on dipping into it every now and then to see if it’s one of those things that “grows on you.” But honestly, I’m really not sure how I would use this in any of the recipes that I normally cook.

If you have any experiences with this, or any suggestions, by all means please drop me a comment down below. I would love to hear from you. Marjory

 

23,000 People Will Die This Year… And Never See Their Killer Coming

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How to Survive the End of Modern Healthcare As We Know It

hospital-surgical-teamAcross the United States, 23,000 people will die in the next 365 days.

And they’ll never see their killer coming.

Many of them will walk into their local hospital, expecting treatment for minor injuries like cuts or breaks… or routine procedures like colonoscopies or caesarean sections or day surgeries.

And they’ll never walk out.

Superbugs, stronger than any antibiotic we can throw at them, are spreading faster than we have the capacity to fight back. 2 million people will be infected in the United States this year alone. 23,000 will die.

And similar death tolls are being reported around the world:

25,000 in Europe this year.

With an estimated 10 million deaths per year, globally, predicted by 2050 — more than the current global death totals from cancer.

The situation has become so grim that in October 2015, the World Health Organization declared it “a global health crisis… the end of modern medicine as we know it.”

The End of Modern Medicine As We Know It

The glory days of antibiotics are over.

Since penicillin was first prescribed 73 years ago, it has saved millions of lives.

But now it’s clear, thanks to the unrestrained use of antibiotics, we’ve unwittingly helped nature breed dangerous strains of superbugs that are, quite literally, killing us.

Our medical system is being driven back to the late 1800s – a time when simple infections kill. And health experts around the globe are beginning to panic, as they’re being backed into corners by strains of superbugs now immune to all known antibiotic treatments.

Doctors are being forced to cut out infections, amputate, and, in worst case scenarios, watch their patients die slow, agonizing deaths.

In October 2015, the World Health Organization went boldly on record, saying:

“With few replacement products in the pipeline, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era in which common infections will once against kill.”

– Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO

Antibiotics have been prescribed as blanket cure-alls by doctors… demanded and popped like candy by the general populace for every sniffle, ache, and pain… and wildly abused by the agriculture industry to boost profits.

And now the human race will pay the ultimate price for our heedless arrogance.

Mother Nature Always Wins

It’s survival of the fittest, a battle being waged at the microscopic level.

And right now, Mother Nature is winning.

All because bacteria, hundreds of millions of years old, evolve far too fast for medical science to keep up.

Multi-year clinical trials of new antibiotics are laughable when battling a bacterial enemy that can exponentially reproduce in as little as four minutes.

How do you fight back against a single bacteria that can multiply to one million cells in as little as seven hours? Passing along resistant traits to offspring with each new generation?

More frightening still, scientists are seeing bacteria pass resistant traits between completely unrelated strains like trading cards. (Imagine a chameleon passing its survival skills to a monkey, and vice versa — in a single generation.)

Bacteria are even arming against antibiotic threats they haven’t encountered yet!

The ongoing use and abuse of antibiotics is quite literally teaching bacteria how to thrive in the presence of new antibiotics – creating superbugs. And now, too late, health and disease control organizations from around the world are sounding the alarm. Because too many of our medical advances are wholly dependent on antibiotics to fight and prevent infection.

Lifesaving surgeries. Organ transplants. Chemotherapy.

Death rates are predicted to skyrocket. Treatment options are vanishing.

The Spreading Plague of Superbugs

Every day, you’ll find new reports of superbugs snuffing out lives.

The stories all sound eerily similar: a mom or child or friend goes to the doctor for routine medical care… becomes infected by a superbug… finds themselves fighting for their life… and, too often, loses the battle.

A few recent stories include:

“Melbourne footballer survives rare superbug which ‘ate’ his legs.”
(Oct 19, 2015; 9NEWS.com.au)

“Superbug infection greatest increase in children ages 1-5”
(Oct 20, 2015; Rush University Medical Center)

“Surge in the number of cases of terrifying hospital superbug after NHS relaxes hygiene rules”
(Sept 27, 2015; DailyMail.co.uk)

“‘Superbug’ Infection Could Cost NY Giants Player His Foot”
(Oct 13, 2015; Scientific American)

“Patient Infected With Superbug At Local Hospital Speaks Of His Ordeal”
(Sept 21, 2015; CBS Los Angeles)

“Superbug Virus 2015: CDC Warns Of New Antibiotic-Resistant Infection, An Emerging Threat”
(Oct 7, 2015; Parent Herald)

… The safety net of modern health care is clearly at risk.

Take, for example, urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Getting a UTI used to be “no big deal.” You’d get a diagnosis from your doctor, take the prescribed drug, and within 48 hours you’d be back to normal. Within a week you were usually cured.

No longer.

UTIs are quickly becoming resistant to most standard antibiotic treatments. Which means they’re resulting in life-threatening kidney infections… with deadly results.

Other common superbugs that are rapidly spreading include:

MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant form of Staph. Known to cause pneumonia and life-threatening blood infections, MRSA is easily picked up by patients in hospitals and care facilities. Controlling the spread is challenging.
CRE (Carbapenem-resistant Enterbacteriaceae). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it kills almost 50% of hospital patients infected.
C. diff (Clostridium difficile). It causes debilitating diarrhea, can eat through a patient’s bowels, and causes blood poisoning. C. diff spreads easily on bed rails, furniture, toilets, bedpans weight scales, medical equipment, etc.
Shigella is a highly contagious bacteria brought back to the US by overseas travelers that’s now resistant to multiple strains of antibiotics. It easily spreads in public facilities — like pools.
• An extensively drug-resistant form of highly contagious Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) has been identified in over 100 countries, in all regions of the world.
• A drug-resistant form of Malaria is threatening to outpace global efforts to control an outbreak.

And these are just a handful of the better-known risks.

The list of superbugs with limited treatment options is growing. Quickly.

The Cavalry Isn’t Coming

And unfortunately, there’s no hero on the horizon to save us.

It’s expensive to develop new antibiotics. It takes roughly 20 years to see a return on the investment, and some of these new drugs work for as little as six months before bacteria develop a resistance.

So it should come as no surprise, fewer and fewer drug companies are investing in antibiotic research and development.

Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned and pressuring governments to “do something.” So governments are trying to incentivize drug companies to “please take another look” with cash injections. But it’s business. And the few corporations willing to take the bribes aren’t moving fast enough.

Roughly 50 new drugs were introduced in the 80s and 90s. Now, there are very few in the pipeline. And most drugs introduced since the year 2000 are modified versions of existing drugs, not new drugs.

Plus, changes aren’t happening fast enough, on a global scale, to stem the tide of growing antibiotic resistance.

As the World Health Organization has pointed out, we’re not reacting fast enough, on a global scale, to contain the spread of superbugs and antimicrobial resistance.

The bacteria spread too easily, through poor sanitation, human error, inappropriate food handling, and more.

At the most recent World Health Assembly held in Geneva (May 2015), the problem was declared:

“A profound threat to human health.”

This is, no doubt, an understatement.

Learn To Save Yourself… And The Ones You Love

So how do you protect yourself?

And prepare for the predicted post-antibiotic era?

There are a few steps you can take:

1. Avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics.
This should go without saying… But don’t contribute to the global problem by using antibiotics if there is another treatment option available. Be proactive. Let your doctor know that you are concerned about antibacterial resistance. Encourage sparing use of prescription of drugs. Be part of the solution!

2. Avoid purchasing meat treated with antibiotics.
The overuse of antibiotics by large-scale livestock operations continues to be the largest single abuse of antibiotics worldwide. And while some will have you believe their meat, sold in stores, is free of antibiotics, this doesn’t address the issue that livestock treated with antibiotics contributes to the global problem of antibiotic resistance.

(Plus you should be aware, in August 2015, a test by Consumer Reports showed that 18% of conventionally raised ground beef, purchased at stores across the United States, was tainted with bacteria resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics.)

What’s the solution? Eat less meat. Raise your own meat. And when this isn’t practical, purchase locally where you can ask questions about the use of antibiotics.

And if you’re a vegetarian, be aware that produce grown in animal manure from farms where antibiotics are administered may be contaminated with antibiotic resistant bacteria, too.

3. Pay attention to where your food and water is coming from.
Scientists are sounding the alarm, with recent evidence that our wastewater treatment plants may be a primary breeding ground for resistant bacteria.

Antibiotics expelled from humans as well as farm run off create a survival-of-the-fittest scenario where superbugs can share resistant traits.

So pay close attention to where your food and water is coming from:

Where is the fertilizer used on your produce sourced? Did you know that “sludge” from wastewater treatment plants is being used as fertilizer for agriculture crops?
What’s the water source? Again, water from rivers downstream of wastewater treatment plants is shown to be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Wastewater treatment plants are a primary source of antibiotic release!

4. Stay away from healthcare facilities where superbugs breed.
Hospitals, doctors’ offices, care homes, and other patient intake facilities are the perfect breeding ground for superbugs. Human error and carelessness spreads bacteria within these facilities at an alarming rate.

Avoid unnecessary exposure to bacteria in these facilities!

This means not rushing into the doctor’s office at the first sign of a sniffle. Give your body’s immune system a chance to fight off the infection – without drugs.

And STAY HEALTHY. Eat clean, unprocessed, local foods. Move your body. Remember, the healthcare system that kept your parents and grandparents alive will look very different as you age.

(DISCLAIMER: Use common sense. If you’re having a serious medical emergency, a hospital visit may mean the difference between life and death.)

5. Most important…

Learn to treat yourself with herbal medicine!

herbal-remedies-as-an-alternative-to-antibioticsWith major health organizations predicting death and disease levels comparable to those in the 1800s as superbugs continue to spread around the world, we need to be prepared to look after ourselves.

This is when knowledge of herbal medicine once again becomes priceless.

Because while it’s easy for bacteria to evolve and develop a resistance to single-compound antibiotics, it’s much harder for the same bacteria to outmaneuver the more complex compounds found in herbs.

In herbals you’ll find between 200 and 2000 different compounds working together!

Plants have evolved over hundreds of millions of years with their own combinations of antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and insecticidal compounds.

So it only makes sense…

… Ancient wisdom that uses combinations of natural herbals to treat infection can, in fact, be more effective than single-compound or even multi-compound antibiotics!

And it’s for this reason, a group of us connected via The [GROW] Network are currently collaborating with some of the most knowledgeable herbalists in the United States to produce a lifesaving video series…

… To teach people without any medical training how to treat common illnesses and injuries with herbal alternatives to antibiotics.

And empower you!

So that before death comes knocking…

And before you are backed into a corner and forced to take someone you love into a superbug-plagued hospital because you didn’t know what to do…

… You’ll have learned the secrets to using Mother Nature’s natural antibiotics and remedies to confidently treat simple health concerns at home. With herbals found or grown in your own neighborhood. Or, purchased from a local herbalist.

If you’re interested, you can watch a preview of the movie here:

Watch The Movie Trailer: “Treating Infections Without Antibiotics”

We’re offering a series of generous gifts as “thank yous” to people who support our early efforts via this Indiegogo release.


Sources for this article include:

Antibacterial R&D Incentives
http://www.who.int/phi/implementation/antibacterial_research_development_incentives.pdf

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: HAI Prevalence Study
http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/surveillance/

Cleaning up a breeding ground for antimicrobial resistance
http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2015/10/023.html

European Medicines Agency: Antimicrobial resistance
http://www.ema.europa.eu/ema/index.jsp?curl=pages/special_topics/general/general_content_000439.jsp

Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System: Manual for Early Implementation
http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/188783/1/9789241549400_eng.pdf?ua=1

How Safe Is Your Ground Beef?
http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/food/how-safe-is-your-ground-beef

Insights into Antibiotic Resistance Through Metagenomic Approaches
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/756378_8

Jim O’Neill: Why antimicrobial resistance needs to be reviewed
http://www.cctv-america.com/2015/10/12/jim-oneill-why-antimicrobial-resistance-needs-to-be-reviewed

Just How Fast Can Bacteria Grow? It Depends. Proteomics Data Validate Model of Bacterial Growth
http://www.pnnl.gov/science/highlights/highlight.asp?id=879

Microbial Reproduction
http://www.microbeworld.org/interesting-facts/microbial-reproduction

Multidrug-resistant Shigellosis Spreading in the United States
http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0402-multidrug-resistant-shigellosis.html

New Superbug Infection Spikes Worry Nursing Homes, CDC
http://cnsmaryland.org/2015/10/02/new-superbug-infection-spikes-worry-nursing-homes-cdc/

Origins and Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance
http://mmbr.asm.org/content/74/3/417.full

Taking on the Superbugs
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/20/business/energy-environment/taking-on-the-superbugs-antibiotics.html

The Coming Cost of Superbugs: 10 Million Deaths Per Year
http://www.wired.com/2014/12/oneill-rpt-amr/

The evolving threat of antimicrobial resistance: Options for action
http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/75389/1/WHO_IER_PSP_2012.2_eng.pdf?ua=1

The Rise of Superbugs
http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/health/the-rise-of-superbugs/index.htm

UTIs Are Getting Tougher To Treat
http://www.webmd.com/women/news/20150429/uti-antibiotic-resistance

White House announces plan to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/03/27/white-house-announces-plan-to-fight-antibiotic-resistant-bacteria/

WHO Director-General addresses G7 health ministers meeting on antimicrobial resistance
http://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2015/g7-antimicrobial-resistance/en/

 

Growing Your Own Food Is Very Important If You Want to Freak Out Teenagers

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It was not until I looked up and noticed everyone was staring at me that I realized I might be doing something unusual. I honestly did not intend to freak out the kids.

Actually I think they might have been staring at me for a while, but I am sometimes a little like Mr. Magoo. Especially when I am focused on a challenging task. So for the first part I was quite oblivious to the world around me.

These were teens – the oldest of them was probably 16. And here was me, 52.

Kids don’t hold back on their emotions. And everyone one of them – without exception – was gaping at me wide-eyed and slack-jawed.

That I didn’t notice them earlier was probably for the best. The shock on their faces now slammed into me. Was this a mistake? Had I really done something stupid this time? Why on Earth had I decided to do this anyway?

I shifted my feet and took a deep breath. My face was already red and hot from exertion, so my sudden flush of embarrassment didn’t show.

No, I wasn’t going to let myself be embarrassed. I gathered my courage and stared back at them. I was an adult and I could do this. Why were they so surprised? I moved my gaze slowly across their dumbstruck faces and I marveled at the sheer force of raw incredulity.

Adults will at least try to do the poker face thing, or maybe sneak a sideways glance.

But not kids.

I fought internally for another moment for my right to be there – to able to do what they did. I loved what I was doing. I wasn’t as good as the best of them, but I wasn’t that bad either. I might be “old,” but I felt so good.

Their astonishment really made me feel like a weirdo.

But why?

To her credit, Miss Katie the teacher (who just turned 20) conducted the class without any indication of anything unusual. She had gotten a bit of a heads up the week before that I was coming, although I am not sure she believed it. In the prior class, Miss Katie made the announcement that everyone should make sure their guests had releases that were signed by their parents.

My daughter perked up and said proudly “my guest won’t need a release.”

Miss Katie stood with her hands on her hips and tilted her head “why not?”

“Because it is my Mom who is coming,” my daughter chirped and skipped off with her blond ponytail bobbing high.

I love it that my daughter is into gymnastics. And I wanted to encourage her. If you are a parent you’re probably familiar with this old trick; let your kids teach you whatever it is that you are hoping to encourage them in.

Plus, I’ve always had the philosophy that if I did whatever my kids were into, I would probably stay in pretty good shape. So for the past two years my daughter had been ‘coaching’ me in gymnastics.

And she is a pretty good coach.

I had played around with gymnastics a little bit in high school and then as an elective in college. I had never competed or even done a show. I just enjoyed being able to do the skills. I loved the confidence I felt in my body. I loved the combination of strength, flexibility, and gracefulness it requires.

Like most physical abilities, I had let handstands fade into pleasant memories as I ‘matured.’ Oh I would do a cartwheel every now and then but I pretended not to notice that they were getting more wobbly as the years passed.

Through my daughter, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the sports and fitness industry had evolved and grown in the years I ignored it while doing careering and then motherhood. Quite frankly, the things my daughter was learning and then teaching me were much better coaching than I ever had when I was younger.

And my overall health has been improving so much in recent years… I was delighted to find I was regaining old abilities and now beginning to surpass what I had done before. With excellent nutrition and quality ‘real’ food, my muscles, bones, and sinews work smoothly. I recover from injuries more quickly. My skin is elastic, and I just feel great. The garden and livestock have brought me so much joy. This new found athletic ability is just one more amazing surprise of the journey I am on.

When my daughter’s gym class had a ‘bring a guest’ night, it didn’t seem strange to either of us that I should attend.

On this night I had come to class especially to see the vault. My daughter and I usually do floor exercises in our living room. We move all the furniture aside and annoy the cat by kicking her off her spot on the rug.

If the weather is nice, we try to find an area in the barnyard that is clear of chicken poop. :)

And we’ve also built some make shift equipment out of cow panels, 2x4s, and cinder blocks.

But my daughter really loves vaulting. Naturally, it is the most expensive piece of equipment (sigh) and we didn’t have anything close to it at home. So I came this night especially to get a closer look at the vault. Was it something we could duplicate from stuff in the resource (a.k.a. junk) pile?

Surely in all of Home Depot’s inventory a vault could be made… Or, would I have to troll Craig’s list in the hopes of finding equipment from parents of some other teenage girl who suddenly dropped that interest?

So there I stood in line with the other kids, breathing hard, and glad that there were a few ahead of me so I could rest for a minute. Miss Katie had set up a complex circuit for us to do. First we had to run the length of the gym and jump up on the vault. After the dismount, we did a handstand and then had to jump up onto some high foam blocks to build leg strength. Then we ran and did a dive forward roll. Then we went onto the tumble track to do some plank jumps until we ended up back in line again to do it all over again.

I mentally started counting back, gave up, and then resorted to using my fingers. Hmm, let’s see, it must be at least 28 years since I had jumped on a vault. It was good I hadn’t noticed the kids staring at me earlier as my first couple of jumps I either over-jumped or under-jumped trying to get the feel of the springboard.

At first, before this circuit, we had been doing some stretching, cartwheels, handstands, and other basic stuff. I had tucked myself at the end of the row out of the way. I was focusing on doing the exercises as well as I could and didn’t think much about what was going on around me.

I did have a really awkward moment during the warm up period. Of all the things we had been doing, the ‘going backwards’ stuff had been the most difficult for me. And you have to be able to do a backbend to be able to do a handspring. The kids definitely had an advantage in not spending decades sitting hunched over a computer. I felt so awkward when Miss Katie saw me struggling and came to spot me while I attempted a back walkover. I am not overweight, but certainly heavier than the girls she normally safeguards. Miss Katie is a slight young woman. I was embarrassed that my weight was just a bit more than Miss Katie could handle. Being spotted is an intimate physical thing with muscles on muscles, bones and skin, hot breath, and sweat. And Miss Katie really struggled to bear my clumsy upside down weight.

But I got over it. I didn’t quite do the backspring and we agreed I could work on that another time. And now we were going round and round in the gym in the open on this circuit Miss Katie set up for us.

And it was while I had this short breather – before I went to run the circuit again – is the first time I noticed that all the kids were gawking at me.

OMG. It was my turn again. I took a deep breath and raced towards the vault with full awareness now that every eye in the room was on me.

Oh well, I didn’t do too badly.

A few more laps round the circuit, and then Miss Katie announced that we were going to the balance beam.

This was an advanced class. The school offered beginning, intermediate, advanced, and then competitive. And despite having guests of unknown abilities, Miss Katie just went right on with her scheduled advanced activities. So we all headed to the balance beams, spacing ourselves a few feet apart for the jumps and turns we would practice.

I was really nervous now, knowing that I was under better surveillance than FBI or CIA could ever hope for. But it was way too late to do anything but try my best. Besides, this balance beam was much wider and more stable than the 2×4 and cinder blocks we used at home.

Miss Katie demands focus when the class is on the beam. She got a lot stricter. This is a lot more dangerous so no side talking or giggling is tolerated. We were given instructions. And Miss Katie went into “full class drama” in that if anyone messed up and fell off the beam, we would all have to start over.

OK, I’ll totally admit I had a rush of relief when other girls fell off and it wasn’t me.

When Miss Katie turned her back, I noticed my daughter helping a known wobbler to stay on the beam so we all wouldn’t suffer.

Actually, I was pretty good on the beam. A lot of my backyard food production systems are setup to require me to balance a bit. I like to practice this skill so I intentionally designed it that way. For example, I have narrow boards between my vegetable beds, and I challenge myself by walking and squatting only on them while tending my plants. There is some footage of that garden in my presentation at the 2015 Home Grown Food Summit.

The one boy, who was also a guest (a brave boyfriend of one of the girls), bowed out of the balance beam activities. Apparently the beam is a girls-only thing. He totally wowed us though when he got on the unoccupied tumble track. He did a series of handsprings building up his speed to culminate in an incredible forward flip.

And before I could stop the thought, I found myself thinking, “I want to be able to do that.”

Could I ever do those backbends? What is the limit to what I can do? Or you? I feel so good and I have such faith in the ability of the human body to regenerate and heal. Eating well and gentle exercise. Growing your own food, taking responsibility for your health – these things really do work. I know that many are struggling to defeat disease. You might be thinking, “I have done so much already. Can I possibly do more?”

At the end of the class we gave high fives and congratulations. We were all thoroughly exhausted, with the glow that a great workout gives you. I don’t think the teens were so freaked out by the end of it.

But I did worry… You know? What did they really think?

The next week I went to the gym to pick up my daughter after her class. I was a little nervous as I opened the door. I was worried, would they avert their eyes and whisper amongst themselves, “Oh, here comes that weirdo Mom.” Or whisper in each others’ ears, “What is she doing here?” Or would they gossip with each other, “You know she couldn’t do a backbend and Miss Katie almost dropped her.”

The whole class and Miss Katie were standing in the foyer sipping from water bottles and chatting. They all turned to look at me when I entered. And relief flooded through me when I saw their genuine welcoming grins and heard joyful “hellos” of recognition.

And then I was on top of the world when one of the girls said to me, “You should join our class.”

Oh did I feel great!

I gave a big smile and replied with enthusiasm, “Oh, I would love to!”

marjory-on-her-skateboardI was immediately torn with regret as I continued, “but you know we don’t come into town often. And when my daughter is here doing gymnastics, I am at the skate park with my son. I am building up the skills to drop into the big bowl.”

Yup, it is true. I am getting back into skateboarding again. And I am getting much better than the video I did a few years ago (See the video here – Age Reversing: Regaining The Balance & Flexability Of A Teenager). Despite their ‘outlaw’ reputation, I have found the Skateboard Nation to be a really cool group of kids. And, yeah, that is another group of teens that I have freaked out. But that is another story.

See what kind of fun you can have when you grow your own food?

Be sure to subscribe to the [Grow] Network to get notified on my progress balancing on four tiny wheels while zooming at impossibly high speeds and heights on harsh, unforgiving concrete. I do plant to get some video up within the next few months. Oh yes, and doing backbends too. Whoot, whoot!