15 Irreplaceable Tools That Helped The Pioneers Survive

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15 Irreplaceable Tools That Helped The Pioneers Survive

Artist: Walt Curlee

Americans today have it made compared to the pioneers. When something breaks, we can just drive down to our local home hardware store and pick up what we need. We even can order online and wait for the item(s) to arrive on our doorstep!

It certainly wasn’t that easy for the pioneers. Whether they had just arrived in the New World, were traveling West in hopes of grabbing some land, or were settled on their farm, there were few “mercantiles”  or general stores to be had.

How did they manage to survive? Good old ingenuity for one, a few working skills, and a few tools made all the difference.

Let’s examine 15 of their most useful tools.

Building and Construction Tools

No matter where they ended up, the pioneers had to build their own shelter. While some homes were made from sod, many more were made from wood. This made saws and axes both valuable and common. Of course, if you could afford to pay the mill to cut your logs, you were fortunate, but most people simply cut their own logs to make cabins to live in and barns for their livestock. Hatchets and axes did any work that saws couldn’t.

Hammers were vital. Hammers can split logs (with a wedge, which was another important tool), work metal, break rocks, and, of course, hammer nails. These ancient but super-flexible tools came in several types and sizes, depending on your need.

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van goghShovels, or spades as they once were called, were another fundamental tool. Holes needed to be dug to support log cabins, turf was often used as roofing material, and a spade would be necessary to cut out those blocks.

Many of the early settlers had root cellars that would preserve food as the temperature was more stable. Even a small root cellar required a whole lot of digging! Pioneers also used shovels for the same things we do today — planting vegetable gardens, cleaning out stalls, and planting trees.

Farming and Planting Tools

Every pioneer would need to do at least some planting in order to survive, even if they only wanted to grow food for themselves and their livestock to survive through the winter.

Therefore, almost every farmer relied on his plow. Whether drawn by hand or pulled by an animal, a featured, pioneers, survival, tools, was an absolute necessity. John Deere invented the first steel plow blade in 1837, but long before that, people used wood or sharp rocks for plow blades.

Hoes were another invaluable tool for farmers. Crops involve much more than just seeds and water; weeds need to be removed. With a sharp hoe, a person can go at a slow walking pace and remove weeds.

Scythes were great for those who could not afford the mechanical horse drawn crop reapers. These slightly curved blades enabled a person to cut crops or clear tall grass and weeds from a standing position.

A tool that many people today are unaware of, which enabled grains to be removed from the husk, is the flail. It’s a simple tool, but quite effective. A flail consists of one larger stick that the person would hold, connected by a chain or hooks to a shorter stick. Harvested grain crops, such as wheat, were placed in a pile, and then the person would beat (thresh) the grain with the small stick, until the husk surrounding the grain fell off.

Household Tools

15 Irreplaceable Tools That Helped The Pioneers Survive

Artist: Hanne Lore Koehler

People of today have it made in the simple process of day-to-day cooking and cleaning.

Washboards were, for many years, exactly as the name implies — nothing more than pieces of rounded wood strips, nailed to a frame. It sounds very primitive, but it must have been in improvement over beating your clothing with sticks or rubbing them over rocks in the river!

Spinning wheels changed the wool from sheep or cotton balls into fibers that could be used to make clothing and blankets. Spinning wheels were used in Europe since at least the year 1250, so it was a common tool that almost every woman knew how to operate.

Once you had the wheat threshed, you needed to grind it into flour. This was done with a little device that some of us today think of as a meat grinder. Pioneer women used this same type of hand-powdered device to grind their grains to make flour.

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Let’s not forget the lowly needle. While many of the needles used by the pioneer women are pretty much the same as the ones we use today, they had a much larger variety that was needed. In addition to the regular clothing that needed to be made or repaired, they had to sew their own blankets, in addition to sew horse blankets and leatherwork. Most saddles would be made by professionals, but the repairs to straps or bridles could be done if one had a large needle.

While most pioneers were very resourceful and independent, they cherished nearby neighbors who could be counted on in a pinch. Common tasks were often shared by neighbors or nearby family members, knowing that when the need arose, they also would benefit from this shared labor. It was not uncommon to see neighbors get together to help build a house for newlyweds or to help out with household chores when a family was sick or having difficulties.

Hunting Tools and Weapons

One of the most useful tools that every pioneer owned was a shotgun. A shotgun was used for protection and as their main source of killing animals for meat. Some of these hardy mountain men also kept pistols as a backup, but the shotgun or rifle was the weapon of choice.

A hunting knife also was an essential tool, and most pioneers had several of them. A good hunting knife was priceless, as it could handle almost every chore or need. It could be used to kill in close quarters, to skin and gut the animal, and to hack off a few branches for wood if necessary. Knives are one of the most versitle tools around, which would explain why  many pioneers, like the indigenous people, had special places to store them so they wouldn’t be misplaced.

Hatchets also were sometimes used in self defense. Many pioneers kept both a hunting knife and a small hatchet on their person at all times.

What tools would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

5 Hand-Operated Kitchen Tools You’ll Need If The Grid Goes Down

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5 Hand-Operated Kitchen Tools You’ll Need If The Grid Goes Down

Image source: Hinge Vintage Hardware

I’m a big fan of kitchen gadgets, having bought just about everything that has come out in the past 40 years: food processors, bread machines, rice cookers, even special margarita blenders!

You know what I have discovered lately? Most of these items were used a few times, and then covered and put away in a cupboard.

Some of my favorite kitchen items are simple, manual items that have been used for at least 100 years. When we consider that our electrical grid could be compromised at any time, it might be a good idea to have a few of these hand-operated items on standby.

Let’s examine five you may want to stash away.

1. Coffee percolators

My father never got the hang of those electric coffee pots or coffee makers. He believed that they were a waste of money and that coffee tasted “funny” when made in the expensive coffee maker one of my brothers bought him. Until he was placed in a nursing home, he used the same old-fashioned coffee percolator that he and my mother had received as a wedding present. Of course, you can use a French press, as well, but there’s a certain appeal to listening to that old percolator on the stove.

2. Egg beaters

You can still buy these today, but unfortunately, many of them now have plastic gears. Shop around, however, and you can find old-fashioned metal gears. You might pay more, but it will be worth it. While hand-driven egg beaters won’t handle heavy work or anything that needs super-fast mixing speeds (such as whipped cream), they will do the job for just about anything else, including cake mixes and, of course, eggs!

3. Stove top toaster

5 Hand-Operated Kitchen Tools You’ll Need If The Grid Goes DownYou can find these in the camping section of most general department stores. These cost less than $5 and they really do a terrific job. Depending on the size, you can toast two to four slices of bread or bagels in the same amount of time as your electric toaster.

4. Pastry cutter

If you like to bake, you might be familiar with this one. Most of us have become accustomed to our food processors, but once you try one of these to cut butter or shortening for baking, you will wonder why you waste so much time cleaning your food processor when you can simply use a pastry cutter. Best part is that these use no electricity!

5. Potato masher

Although the name implies that this only works for potatoes, let me tell you from experience: You can use this handy little tool for more recipes than you can shake a stick at! Mashed potatoes, yes, but beans (think refried beans!) and cauliflower, too. Anyone who likes to make jam will find one of these invaluable if you have no electricity to run your food processor. I’ve used both plastic ones and metal ones. While the plastic ones are lightweight and I’ve never had a problem, I have an old-fashioned metal one with the old wooden handle that I found at a second-hand store, just in case!

Of course, there are many other hand tools that didn’t make the list, including can openers, pressure canners, apple peelers, and manual meat grinders, to name a few.

What are your favorite hand-operated kitchen tools?

5 Brilliant Homestead Hacks Grandma Never Taught Us

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5 Brilliant Homestead Hacks Grandma Never Taught Us

If your grandmother was anything like mine, it seemed like there was nothing she couldn’t do. She could sew just about everything, grow just about anything, and seemed to know just about everything!

This is because my grandmother raised children during the Great Depression. She learned to make things herself … or do without! She passed some of these skills on to my mother, and I picked up a few myself, but I was thinking the other day about things my grandmother did that she really never talked about.

Looking back, I can see that these little “hacks” of hers were pretty darn useful, yet for some reason, she never felt the need to explain them.

So, in this article, I want to share the top 5 hacks that my grandmother practiced, but never talked about, just in case your grandmother never shared them with you, either!

1. Keep straight pins sharp

My grandmother kept two pin cushions. One was the typical cloth “tomato,” but she also had another one that was simply a bar of soap. I foolishly thought that my grandmother was just too cheap to buy a new pin cushion, but low and behold, I later found one of my friends using a bar of soap as a pin cushion. When I asked him why, he told me that this kept his straight pins sharp and the soap made them glide through the fabric easier.

2. No more lonely socks

When I would lose a sock or if by chance one sock developed holes or the elastic wore out before the other one did, I would give them to my grandmother. This was at her request. I never asked why she wanted them; I assumed she would make sock puppets (which she did on occasion) or use them for some “silly” purpose, but it wasn’t until I saw my mother use an old sock for dusting that the light bulb went off in my head.

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I was buying those microfiber towels for dusting, and here the answer to dusting was right under my nose. My old socks work just as well as my microfiber towels — and they don’t cost a dime!

3. Umbrella or sunhat?

5 Brilliant Homestead Hacks Grandma Never Taught UsMy grandmother was fond of saying things that seemed strange as a kid but later made me laugh, such as “if you can see the moon and stars, it won’t rain.” Well, if you can see the moon and stars, that means there are no clouds! She would go stand in the front yard and stare at the clouds for a minute or two, and then come inside and announce whether we should take umbrellas or hats for a sunny day. It was many years before I realized what she was doing; grandma was watching the movements of clouds. Clouds that become bigger as they move toward you (of course) indicate it likely will rain later.

4. No more sticky salt

It wasn’t until I moved to a more humid climate that I realized why my grandmother always filled her salt shakers with a mixture of uncooked rice and salt. The uncooked rice absorbed the moisture in the air, allowing the salt to stay drier and move more freely. I discovered this while Googling how to stop the salt from clumping! My grandmother knew this secret years before Google did!

5. Loose screws

No, I’m not talking about your in-laws; I mean those nail holes or screws with holes that have become enlarged over time. Occasionally, you can simply use a larger screw or nail, but with some items, such as a wooden kitchen cabinet door with a handle that will only take a certain size nail, you need a better hack than super glue! This is a true grandma hack that everyone can appreciate. Simply take a wooden toothpick and insert it into the hole. Break it off and then re-use your nail or screw. If it’s a really big hole, try two toothpicks. If grandma didn’t show you this one, perhaps grandpa did.

If you were lucky enough to come from a family who believed in handing down hacks like these the way some families handed down clothes, consider yourself fortunate!

What are your favorite grandma or grandpa hacks? Share your tips in the section below:

5 Brilliant Homestead Hacks Grandma Never Taught Us

5 Brilliant Homestead Hacks Grandma Never Taught Us

If your grandmother was anything like mine, it seemed like there was nothing she couldn’t do. She could sew just about everything, grow just about anything, and seemed to know just about everything!

This is because my grandmother raised children during the Great Depression. She learned to make things herself … or do without! She passed some of these skills on to my mother, and I picked up a few myself, but I was thinking the other day about things my grandmother did that she really never talked about.

Looking back, I can see that these little “hacks” of hers were pretty darn useful, yet for some reason, she never felt the need to explain them.

So, in this article, I want to share the top 5 hacks that my grandmother practiced, but never talked about, just in case your grandmother never shared them with you, either!

1. Keep straight pins sharp

My grandmother kept two pin cushions. One was the typical cloth “tomato,” but she also had another one that was simply a bar of soap. I foolishly thought that my grandmother was just too cheap to buy a new pin cushion, but low and behold, I later found one of my friends using a bar of soap as a pin cushion. When I asked him why, he told me that this kept his straight pins sharp and the soap made them glide through the fabric easier.

2. No more lonely socks

When I would lose a sock or if by chance one sock developed holes or the elastic wore out before the other one did, I would give them to my grandmother. This was at her request. I never asked why she wanted them; I assumed she would make sock puppets (which she did on occasion) or use them for some “silly” purpose, but it wasn’t until I saw my mother use an old sock for dusting that the light bulb went off in my head.

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I was buying those microfiber towels for dusting, and here the answer to dusting was right under my nose. My old socks work just as well as my microfiber towels — and they don’t cost a dime!

3. Umbrella or sunhat?

5 Brilliant Homestead Hacks Grandma Never Taught UsMy grandmother was fond of saying things that seemed strange as a kid but later made me laugh, such as “if you can see the moon and stars, it won’t rain.” Well, if you can see the moon and stars, that means there are no clouds! She would go stand in the front yard and stare at the clouds for a minute or two, and then come inside and announce whether we should take umbrellas or hats for a sunny day. It was many years before I realized what she was doing; grandma was watching the movements of clouds. Clouds that become bigger as they move toward you (of course) indicate it likely will rain later.

4. No more sticky salt

It wasn’t until I moved to a more humid climate that I realized why my grandmother always filled her salt shakers with a mixture of uncooked rice and salt. The uncooked rice absorbed the moisture in the air, allowing the salt to stay drier and move more freely. I discovered this while Googling how to stop the salt from clumping! My grandmother knew this secret years before Google did!

5. Loose screws

No, I’m not talking about your in-laws; I mean those nail holes or screws with holes that have become enlarged over time. Occasionally, you can simply use a larger screw or nail, but with some items, such as a wooden kitchen cabinet door with a handle that will only take a certain size nail, you need a better hack than super glue! This is a true grandma hack that everyone can appreciate. Simply take a wooden toothpick and insert it into the hole. Break it off and then re-use your nail or screw. If it’s a really big hole, try two toothpicks. If grandma didn’t show you this one, perhaps grandpa did.

If you were lucky enough to come from a family who believed in handing down hacks like these the way some families handed down clothes, consider yourself fortunate!

What are your favorite grandma or grandpa hacks? Share your tips in the section below:

Green Potatoes DO Kill: 5 Old Wives’ Tales That Are Actually True

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Green Potatoes DO Kill: 5 Old Wives’ Tales That Are Actually True

For centuries, grandmothers everywhere have given us advice on what is good to eat, what isn’t good to eat, when it will rain, and even what sex your baby will be.

In the same way that your grandmother passed on to you the family’s best biscuit recipe ever (and we don’t doubt that it is excellent), some well-meaning advice also gets passed down from generation to generation with no questions asked.

Often, such advice is quickly discounted, but – believe it or not – some of these old “wives’ tales” are true.

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Let’s take a look at five strange, but true, old wives’ tales.

1. Green potatoes kill

This is true; however, you would have to eat two very large potatoes. Of course, this all depends on body size and age, as well as the “dose.” Green potatoes contain the nerve toxin solanine. There are terrible tales of people who have eaten these green little tubers and died. Even just a few bites from a green potato is enough to make most people vomit, but you have to ask yourself: Why would anyone eat a green potato anyway?

2. An apple a day

Everyone knows this old saying. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? While apples are super-nutritious, full of vitamin C, pectin and fiber, we can’t go so far as saying that eating an apple each day will prevent things like diabetes, arthritis or cancer. However, a study in 2013 did find that if people over the age of 50 ate just one apple every day, they could help prevent heart attack and stroke.

3. Persimmon seeds and snow

Another old wives’ tale says that you can take a persimmon seed and cut it in half, and the shape you see inside the seed will tell you the kind of winter you are going to have. If you see a spoon shape, then there will be lots of wet, heavy snow. If you see a knife, there will be plenty of cutting, cold wind. A fork means a mild winter with only light, powdery snow.

This sounds a little crazy, but a study done in Jefferson County, Mo., found that this old wives’ tale has been correct 14 out of 18 years.

4. Hair of the dog

So you really went all out at that party and became close friends with Jack Daniels. You are paying for it this morning, however, and would give anything to stop that headache. One old wives’ tale says that “a little hair of the dog” that bit you (a shot or two of the same alcohol you were drinking) is a quick “cure.”

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Although most doctors say this is a bad idea – you’re simply prolonging your hangover – one prominent writer — Adam Rogers, the author of Proof: The Science of Booze — says there is a bit of science behind why it works. Still, he discourages it.

“The people who admit to using hair of the dog as a treatment for their hangovers … turn out to be the ones more likely to have an alcohol dependency later in life,” he told WVTF.

Doctors say the best cure is to sleep.

5. Baby boy or girl?

There are as many old wives’ tales about how to tell if you are carrying a boy or girl as there are blades of grass! One of them, however, appears to be true.

Deliveries that are fairly quick appear to be, more often than not, girls. Long labor times, or hard labor, usually mean it’s a boy.

One study found that, while boys are not necessarily bigger or heavier than girls, their heads are generally larger, resulting in a longer and more difficult labor.

Final Thoughts

Old wives’ tales reminds me of a story I once read where a woman was making her grandmother’s famous pot roast recipe. The recipe started off by saying that you needed to cut the end off one side. The woman began to wonder why this was. Was it meant to make the piece juicier? To allow the sauce to permeate the meat better? She called her mother and asked why she should cut the end off the meat. Her mother didn’t know, so the woman called her grandmother.  “Oh, that,” her grandmother said, “it’s because I used MY grandmother’s roasting pan and it was very small, so we had to cut the end off the roast so it would fit.”

What old wives’ tales would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

5 Old-Fashioned Toothache Remedies That Really Do Work!

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5 Old-Fashioned Toothache Remedies That Really Do Work!

I don’t know about you, but I really (really) hate going to the dentist. Unfortunately, this means that I often wait until I’ve made the problem worse with my procrastination. I know I should go regularly, but I always seem to find a reason to put it off.

You have to admire our ancestors, though. Imagine having a toothache with no dentist (or money for a dentist) in sight. How did they live with it?

Most times, people used herbs to relieve toothache pain until they could find a dentist or until they could find someone to pull the tooth! Other types of mouth pain, such as sores from ill-fitting dentures or canker sores, were made bearable through pain-relieving and healing herbs.

Although most of these remedies have been forgotten due to over-the-counter pain relievers and better dental care, there might come a time when we wish we knew what these herbs were.

Let’s take a look at the top 5 herbs that work to relieve mouth pain or a toothache.

1. Cloves

This is perhaps the oldest and best-known remedy for relieving toothache pain and helping gums to heal. My dentist actually has a little homemade concoction that his grandfather used to make to help with these problems. He won’t tell me everything that’s in it, but I can taste cloves and I must say that this stuff really worked to heal a stubborn sore on my gum!

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The active ingredient, eugenol, is in the oil of the clove. In fact, many dental items you buy today contain oil of cloves. Cloves have antimicrobial compounds, as well as a numbing effect, which makes them perfect for tooth or gum pain. Crush a couple of cloves and place it where the pain is for 10 or 15 minutes.

2. Cabbage

This common food once had an uncommon use — as a dental pain reliever! When applied topically, it is said to help heal mouth sores quickly, as well as numb the pain. Cabbage leaves were softened with a rolling pin, and then rolled up like a tortilla and placed where the pain was. This very old-fashioned remedy calls for using 4 to 6 leaves a day.

3. The toothache plant (Acmella oleracea)

5 Old-Fashioned Toothache Remedies That Really Do Work!

Toothache Plant. Image source: Wikipedia

This little plant works so well, its medicinal use has become its name! Other names include buzz buttons or sechuan buttons. The flowers of this plant have a super-numbing effect in the mouth, even more so than cloves. If you look at the flowers, they do remind you of a tooth with a red “sore” spot in the middle! The remedy calls for using just the fresh flower and holding it on the painful area.

4. Onions

Onions seem to appear on every medicinal herb list, don’t they? Some people claim that onion juice is so effective at relieving pain that it’s better than ibuprofen. I don’t know if that is true or not, but the remedy is that you cut a large piece of onion (apparently yellow onions are best for this, as they are the strongest) and place it between the teeth, as close to the painful area as you can.

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Now slowly bite the onion, but only until you feel the juice come out. The idea is to get as much of the juice from the onion as possible. So bite slowly, turn the onion piece a bit, and then repeat until the pain is gone.

5. Sage and vodka

This old remedy came to America via German immigrants. Since sage has antibiotic and anti-inflammatory compounds, this remedy makes sense. Two teaspoons of dried crushed sage leaves were put in a small glass container, along with one teaspoon of salt and about one-fourth cup of vodka. This mixture should sit for five minutes before using. Mix this solution gently, and then take a sip and swish it around, biting the mushy sage leaves. Then spit. Don’t drink this or you will most likely end up vomiting. Repeat two or three times, and then throw out any leftover. This needs to be repeated three times a day with a fresh mixture, as it supposedly goes “stale” after just 15 to 20 minutes.

What all-natural methods do you use to relieve mouth and tooth pain? Share your tips in the section below:

5 Forgotten Things Your Grandma Did With Apple Cider Vinegar

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5 Forgotten Things Your Grandma Did With Apple Cider Vinegar

Image source: Flickr / Creative Commons

 

While in today’s world apple cider vinegar is mostly overlooked, to my grandmother, it was more of that “good old-fashioned medicine.”

She raised children during the Great Depression, which made her not only tough as heck, but a bit strange about some things. She saw little use for doctors most of the time and thought just about everything could be cured with folk remedies like apple cider vinegar.

I remember on most mornings my grandmother would drink hot water with a good dose of ACV in it before she had her morning coffee. Honestly, I don’t know how she managed it, but I suppose she had become accustomed to it. She claimed that it cured her stomach problems, although I’m not sure if she actually had any or if the ACV prevented her from having any!

I bet many of you remember your grandmother using ACV in various ways, too.

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Let’s take a look at the top 5 ways that our ancestors put apple cider vinegar to work.

1. Dandruff cure

Many people believed that mixing equal parts of apple cider vinegar and water would stop dandruff. While I was unable to find any studies to back up this claim, there are thousands of testimonials online which say that it works. When you consider that the main compound in ACV is acetic acid, which can kill bacteria and fungus, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that rinsing your hair with ACV after shampooing could work to eliminate, or at least reduce, dandruff.

2. Toenail fungus

5 Forgotten Things Your Grandma Did With Apple Cider Vinegar

Image source: Pixabay.com

The story is that, if you soak your feet every single night in ACV, then it will kill toenail fungus in “a few weeks.” Again, I could find no studies proving this is true, but the amounts of online testimonials is overwhelming. The length of time is questionable (how long is a “few” weeks?) However, there is no denying that this has worked for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people.

3. Mother nature’s skin conditioner

While I don’t remember my grandmother doing this, I know my mother did. She wouldn’t dream of paying for an expensive astringent or cleaning product for her face, but she used a diluted mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. She used it just like an astringent, applying it with a cotton ball, and then she used her favorite face cream — every night. I have to admit that my mother had beautiful clear skin and did not suffer from age spots or an excessive amount of wrinkles. Whether it was due to the ACV or good genes, I’m not sure, but I do know that she recommended it whenever someone complimented her skin.

4. “Good for what ails you”

I was fortunate that my mother never forced me to drink ACV, although she often encouraged me to drink it every time I caught a cold or had a fever. As I got older, I remember telling her that ACV would not work against a cold because it was caused by a virus. Her reply was always the same: “It’s good for what ails you. And if nothing ails you, it’s good for you anyway!” My mother always drank some with hot water, just like my grandmother, every time she got sick.

5. Heartburn and other digestive issues

ACV has long been a recommendation for digestive problems. As I mentioned, my grandmother drank it for this purpose. My husband tells me that his father used it on salads or vegetables at dinner to help prevent heartburn, and if that was insufficient, he took a swig right from the bottle. Wow! I don’t know how he could manage that, but men were tough in the olden days! I could not find any data to back up this very old and trusted folk remedy; however, hundreds of thousands of people can’t be wrong, can they?

Did your grandmother or other relative use ACV? Tell us how in the section below:  

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

10 Strange (And Common) Vegetables Your Ancestors Planted

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10 Strange (And Common) Vegetables Your Ancestors Planted

No matter how small a person’s yard was during the 1700s, there always was a need to plant at least some vegetables to help feed the family. Grocery stores were virtually unheard of, and seedlings or even packaged seed were not available until much later.

This is why almost everyone had some sort of vegetable garden outside the kitchen or back door. The family ate most of it, of course, the extras were canned or dried, and if you were fortunate, you had still more that you could sell at the market.

In the 1700s, almost everyone used seeds from the previous year — heirloom seeds — which were passed down from generation to generation, or seeds were sometimes traded within the community. Many seeds planted in “the new world” came from the native people who lived there.

This is why most gardens contained plants that gave you the most bang for your basket, if you will. High-yield plants that took little space were highly prized, although some people planted their favorites because, let’s face it, no one wants to eat squash all year long.

What kind of plants would you expect to find in an 18th century garden? Frankly, I was a bit shocked. I was certain I would see tomatoes and sweet strawberries, but I was mistaken.

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Let’s look at the top 10 plants that were commonly found in an 18th century garden,

1. Cardoon

These are related to the artichoke, but are not nearly as common today. Cardoon is native to Europe and was said to have been brought to the Americas by the Quakers. I must admit that this is a vegetable I’ve never even heard of. Speaking of artichoke …

2. Artichokes

I never imagined this one! But did you know that Thomas Jefferson loved them and grew a great many in his own gardens? Artichokes have been cultivated since at least the 1500s, but I never imagined them in the everyday garden.

3. Fava beans

Fava beans. Image source: Pixabay.com

Fava beans. Image source: Pixabay.com

I was certain that green beans would have been a favorite, but fava beans, sometimes called broad beans, beat out green beans by a mile. These were popular right into the 19th century. The most popular variety was Broad Windsor. Fava bean seeds are hard to find in today’s world, but they were an 18th century staple.

4. Pumpkins

A certain variety called Connecticut Field was the popular seed. These were grown for both human and animal consumption. Thomas Jefferson, again, had these in his garden after acquiring seeds from the native tribes.

5. Lettuce

That old gardener Thomas Jefferson loved lettuce, and he grew several different types. The most popular was at that time called Parris Island. Today, we call it Romaine lettuce. This is still as popular today as it was in the 1700s.

6. Cucumber

During this time period, it was white cucumbers that were favored over other varieties. One named White Wonder is listed in a 1727 book about gardening. Cucumbers are so versatile that it’s no wonder they are still used in gardens today.

7. Lemon balm

This herb has been cultivated since at least the 1500s. It’s a natural calming agent that was probably used often by the women of those times. The leaves can be used dried or fresh, and it has a delightful lemon taste when made into tea.

8. Leeks

You may have seen these in your local grocery store and wondered how they were cooked and who ate them. Leeks are something like a cross between a potato and an onion. They have a mild onion taste, but look like potatoes. Even the leaves can be chopped and used in salads. These were probably popular because leeks can be left in the ground over the winter and dug up in the coldest of months. Or, wait until they sprout again in the spring.

9. Cabbage

This is another staple that has stood the test of time. Cabbage is popular due to its ability to be stored for long periods of time. Even if the outside leaves should become moldy, they can be removed, with fresher leaves available underneath. Cabbage is also a cool-weather vegetable, so you can grow it late in the fall or start it very early in the spring.

10. Salsify

This is another vegetable that I have never heard of, but was very popular in 18th century gardens. Salsify is related to parsnip and was used about the same way. Salsify was easy to store and can be boiled, mashed or fried. Even the leaves are edible! This is another cool-weather vegetable that usually was harvested between October and January. In the dead of winter, some fresh leaves and roots must have tasted mighty good.

How many of these seeds have you planted? What are your favorite old-time seeds? Share your gardening tips in the section below:

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5 Odd, Old-Time ‘Folk Remedies’ That Really DO WORK

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5 Old-Time, All-Natural ‘Folk Remedies’ That Really DO WORK

If you are like me, you probably had mom or grandma say to you, “Oh, honey, you don’t need a doctor or drugs. You just need a little old-fashioned medicine!” She then would promptly give me something that sounded a bit strange, but she often was right. It would fix the problem.

If this was your experience, then you were taking what is often called folk remedies, home remedies, or as my grandmother called it, old-fashioned medicine.

Prior to doctors and before most people could afford to go to one, people had no choice but to rely on these types of “cures.” The truth is that most people never expected an outright “cure” — they were hoping for relief of symptoms while they waited for their body to heal.

Unfortunately, with no knowledge of medicine, people had no way to know exactly what they were consuming, how they would react to it, or worse, whether the “cure” might kill them! This lack of knowledge allowed many a shyster to sell the infamous “Snake Oil” to a great many people.

Today, we have the knowledge of the world at our fingertips. This doesn’t mean that old-fashioned medicine is outdated, however. For many of us, we prefer to keep things simple and if we ever should find ourselves back in a situation where there are no doctors, then this kind of information is good to have.

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Let’s take a look at some of the best folk remedies that really do work!

1. For bee stings …

This is another painful encounter that almost everyone will experience. Yes, the pain will subside on its own, but you can remove the stinger, the swelling and itching with tobacco. Plain tobacco (unroll a cigarette) mixed with a bit of water, then placed on the sting, will draw out most of the poison, as well as the stinger, in about 20 minutes. I actually had my father use this method on me when I was about 10 years old, and I have to say that it sounded strange, but it really did work!

2. For nausea and upset stomachs …

Who the heck hasn’t had a bout of either one of these? Or both?! Stomach problems are super-common, and everyone wants relief ASAP! You can do that by keeping either dried or fresh peppermint on hand. My grandmother always had some in her backyard, or she used dried leaves from the pantry. She placed a half-dozen leaves in a cup filled with boiling water, added a teaspoon of honey for sweetness, and drank a cup or two every time she had a tummy ache or indigestion. She also gave it to me as a child, and I still remember how soothing it was.

3. For the common cold …

How can a simple little virus make us feel so terrible? I don’t know, but I know how you can clear up those stuffed-up sinuses and feel better – good-old chicken and onion soup! Or you could use garlic in place of onion. You also can drink garlic tea (if you’re brave) to open up your sinuses and get you on your feet! Yes, you will have to repeat this several times a day for several days, but I will take feeling better even for a short period of time over and over, compared to just being sick as a dog for days.

4. Urinary tract infections …

What would you do if there were no doctors or antibiotics? Let me tell you how they did it in the olden days: They used baking soda and water! At the very first sign, mix one-fourth teaspoon or so of plain baking soda in 1 cup (8 ounces) of water. Drink this every morning until the symptoms subside.

5. For sore throats, sore gums, mouth ulcers …

These are all common-yet-painful problems almost everyone in life will face. The good news is that they are all aided by something everyone in the world has right in their kitchen: salt. A simple mouthwash of warm water with a pinch of salt works wonders.

Let’s also talk about some of the home remedies people have used over time that absolutely DO NOT work:

  • Cold baths and/or drinking cold water will not fix “most diseases,” as a 1740 doctor used to say.
  • Eating boiled carrots for two weeks does not cure asthma.
  • Holding a live puppy on the belly will not stop vomiting (but it might make you feel better emotionally).
  • Eating a pinch of castile soap each morning will not cure jaundice.

Some of these ideas seem funny to us in our modern age of medicine, but who knows? Perhaps 300 years from now, people will be snickering at our era, saying “How could they have thought that?”

Do you know of other folk remedies that still work? Share your memories and tips in the section below:

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6 Immune-Boosting Foods People Ate Before There Were Antibiotics

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6 Immune-Boosting Foods People Ate Before There Were Antibiotics

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In the not-so-distant past, antibiotics and antibacterial wipes, lotions and hand sanitizers had not been invented, so one had to rely on your immune system and foods to fight off any type of virus or bacterial infection.

Too many of us take these important medicines for granted. My maternal grandfather nearly died from a simple cut on his hand. It became infected and soon involved his entire arm. The doctor tried his best, but was unable to stop the infection. The doctor finally asked my grandmother if she was willing to try an “experimental” — yes, he really called it that — drug called penicillin. Thankfully, my grandfather wasn’t allergic, and he was up and around in a few days.

What would we do, though, if we suddenly went back in time 100 years and were unable to find antibiotics, anti-virals, or other types of germ-fighting medicine? You got it! We would be back to relying on our immune system.

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Let’s take a look at six of the top immune-building foods and herbs.

Top 3 Food Sources

We want to provide the immune system with all of the vitamins, minerals and essentials that it needs to do its job properly.

1. Foods rich in iron

Too little iron can weaken the immune system. So eat foods that are rich in iron, such as meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, seeds, fish and dried fruits.

2. Foods rich in Vitamin C

Especially when combined with iron-rich foods which help the body absorb iron, vitamin C is a well-known immune system supporter! Think beyond the typical oranges and grapefruits; bell peppers have more vitamin C than an orange! You also can consume dark leafy greens, broccoli, berries, snap peas, and papaya alongside that morning glass of juice.

3. Garlic

6 Immune-Boosting Foods People Ate Before There Were Antibiotics

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While you won’t win the most kissable prize, garlic has been used for centuries to fight off upper respiratory infections. Garlic improves the body’s immune system by allowing it to fight off those annoying viruses. Fresh garlic works better than supplements, so add garlic to everything and feel the burn!

Top 3 Herbs

By now almost everyone has heard of Echinacea and goldenrod, but what if you needed other choices? Check out these three little-known herbs that have been used for centuries to help support the immune system function.

1. Ginger

Try growing and storing ginger at home so that you always have access to this super anti-nausea and immune-supporting root. Ginger can help the body defend itself against opportunistic infection. Ginger is also super anti-inflammatory, which means faster healing when you do get sick.

2. Cat’s claw

This is the herb with the funny name, but there is no denying that cat’s claw has huge effects on the immune system. The root and bark are the parts most often used in tea form. They contain compounds that trigger the immune system and help to improve the ability of white blood cells to fight off pathogens. This herb is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, similar to ginger.

3. Astragalus

This herb has been used in Chinese medicine for untold centuries. Astragalus helps the immune system by increasing the immune cells in the bone marrow and lymph tissues. The root of Astragalus is commonly cooked in soups or stews to help soften it. You also can take this as a capsule.

What would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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The Best Immune-Building Soup Recipe … Ever?

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The Best Immune-Building Soup Recipe ... Ever?

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Let’s face it: Sometimes it’s just too difficult to remember to eat all the right things. When cold or flu season hits, however, I like to make up a double batch of this immune-building soup. I make a  batch large enough for two or three suppers (or lunches), and then freeze the other half for later. There are lots of different ways to make immune-building soups, but this is my favorite recipe.

You will need:

  • 10 average-sized garlic cloves
  • 4 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 small onions
  • ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ a teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup freshly minced parsley

This recipe serves six; adjust as needed.

  1. In a large soup pot, add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Turn the heat on medium. Add 10 average-sized minced garlic cloves and two thinly sliced small onions. (Red, white, or yellow — your choice.) Sauté for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the onions are very soft.
  2. Chop about 4 medium-sized tomatoes and add them to the pot. Now add 2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth, 1 cup of tomato sauce, ¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper, about 1 teaspoon of dried thyme and ½ a teaspoon of sugar.
  3. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in ¼ cup of freshly minced parsley (dried will do if you don’t have fresh on hand) and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve hot.

I hope you enjoy this garlic/tomato immune boosting soup as much as my family does.

Do you have your own favorite recipe? Share it in the section below:

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Strange Winter Tricks My Ancestors Used To Stay Warm

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Strange Winter Tricks My Ancestors Used To Stay Warm

When winter rolls around, most of us simply curl up in front of the wood stove or fireplace, or even turn on our electric blankets, but what would you do if those things were suddenly gone?

If the worst-case scenario occurred, would you know the ways that our ancestors stayed warm during winter? During those times, we might not be able to have a fireplace or a cozy home to sit out the winter months. So this might be a good time to familiarize yourself with the old-fashioned ways people have used to stay warm when they were outside.

Instant Heaters

My mother, during the depression, often took a hot baked potato to school, worn inside her coat. This helped keep her warm on her wintery walks to school.

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Other warming items, which are easily heated in a stove or in a pot of boiling water, would be hot water bottles, rocks, bricks, flat stones, potatoes and even shoes or underwear! My mother often said that, before she got dressed, she put her underwear and shoes right next to the wood burning stove on a cold, icy morning.

‘Crazy Layers’

Dressing in layers — but not the types of layers you and I use — was perhaps one of the best ways our ancestors stayed warm. They weren’t too picky about what it was, either. Layers of items create air pockets which keep heat in and cold out. Today, we have a great selection of fibers to choose from, so we can put on a couple pair of silk undergarments and a synthetic coat.

Before these materials were invented, however, some of our ancestors knew how to do what my grandmother called “crazy layers.” This means wool long John’s or undershirts and leggings, perhaps several pair. If you had them, you wore multiple pairs of pants or several petticoats (or slips). Stories in my family say that my great-grandfather only had two pairs of pants, so he would put them on, stuff the hems into his socks and boots, and then he stuffed chicken feathers in between the pants for insulation!

Most women wore several layers of clothing, a couple of scarves and hats, along with fur-lined gloves. It was not uncommon to see women wearing blankets tied about their neck or across the shoulders. This left their arms free to work, but helped to keep them warm.

Even More Unusual Ways to Stay Warm

Strange Winter Tricks My Ancestors Used To Stay WarmOf course, we all want to believe that the truly desperate fights for survival are behind us. However, since none of us can foresee the future, we should at least be aware of some of the extreme, or at least unusual, ways that our ancestors stayed warm when dire circumstances were more common.

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Sleeping next to or under animals is a good way to stay warm if need be. Yes, it’s true that sleeping under a cow or next to a couple of goats or sheep might not smell great and might not be all that comfortable, but it will surely beat freezing to death.

Also, in a pinch, you can use some of nature’s own insulating materials, such as leaves, hay, feathers, hair (such as horse hair), straw, dried grass and even pine boughs to insulate your clothing, make a shelter and provide a dry floor for bedding.

Let’s not forget that there are other things to burn besides wood. If you want a fire but can’t find wood, remember that you can burn most dried animal manure (cow, horse and buffalo “chips” are great for this), as well as bird nests, straw, hay, charcoal (partially burned wood), paper, cloth, tires and leaves.

I don’t know about you, but after thinking about burning cow patties to stay warm, I am really grateful for my wood burning stove and electric blanket right now!

Do you know of other ways our ancestors stayed warm during winter? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Great Depression Soup: The Recipe You Better Save For Hard Times

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Great Depression Soup: The Recipe You Gotta Save For Hard Times

My parents were just toddlers when the Great Depression burst into their lives. It forever altered their view of the world, and not always in a good way.

My mother, in particular, would tell me horror stories about some of the things that went on during those years. Until the day she died, she always carried some sort of food in her purse, usually peanuts or crackers. She never forgot what it was to be truly hungry.

Perhaps the worst story she told me was that my paternal grandmother, who was in her early 20s at the time, woke up one January morning in a barn to find that her husband had just left her and their toddler in the night. She had no food, no money, no family, no place to live, and a baby to feed. She walked along the highway and offered her baby to anyone who would take her. She assumed that someone with enough money for a car had money to feed a baby.

These type of stories can give you nightmares and make you wonder how people survived! My mother told me many other amazing stories, about how they “just did without” or “made do” with what they had, but some of her stories were practical enough that we could still benefit from them if we should ever find ourselves in the same desperate circumstances.

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Great Depression Soup: The Recipe You Gotta Save For Hard TimesOne of those was how women shared food-stretching recipes, such as macaroni and cheese or fish gravy. One recipe my mother remembered clearly was called “depression soup,” although she said her father called it “garbage soup,” a name that would make my grandmother angry.

My grandmother had a large pot with a lid that she kept in the ice box or outside in the snow. Cans (or jars) of fruit or vegetables were filled with a bit of water, and then scraped out and put in the pot. Everything, and I mean everything, went in that pot: bread crumbs, a tablespoon of rice, a shriveled-up carrot, a half-rotten potato (just cut off the bad part), fish heads and tails, bits of garlic, chicken skin, necks, livers, hearts, the hard skin of onions, broccoli ends, carrot and radish greens — you name it; unless it was rotten, it went into that pot.

Once it was about half full, my grandmother added water, perhaps a tablespoon or two of bacon grease, and cooked it for two hours or so. And that would be dinner. If you were fortunate, she baked bread.

My mother remembers that some soups were better than others. Once they began raising rabbits, the bones were used as a base. Soup made with bones and vegetables had to be tastier than soup made with carrot tops, radish tops and some bacon fat.

The point here is that while we would never dream of eating Depression Soup for lunch, remembering how people survived on scraps, literally, might come in handy for tomorrow’s world. We aren’t promised a land of fruit and honey in the future, so knowing how our ancestors survived during hard times might one day ensure our own survival.

Would you eat Great Depression Soup? Is there a better way to make it? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Forgotten Skills That Helped The Native Americans Survive Winter

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Forgotten Skills That Helped The Native Americans Survive Winter

Artist: Robert Duncan

Most of us head indoors and turn up the furnace when frigid weather hits, stacking in a good supply of wood for the stove or plugging in the old electric throw blanket — and praying that the power doesn’t go out!

For the native people of this land, however, they had none of those luxuries. Have you ever wondered just how the heck they stayed warm when it was dangerously cold? During blizzards and ice storms? Were teepees and other shelters really that warm?

Of course, there could be causalities during severe weather. You can’t help but picture the people who went outside to attend to nature’s call, only to find themselves half frozen within minutes, or lost in a driving snow.

Let’s take a look at how the indigenous people of this land not only survived during the harshest winter weather, but actually looked forward to it as a time to stay indoors, sleep, rest, spend time with family, and get caught up on chores.

An Ounce of Prevention

One way that native people prepared for harsh storms was forecasting them. Generally speaking, there were always one or two elders who seemed to have a knack of understanding that, for example, if the wind was bringing clouds from the north, it meant a blizzard, if from the east, it would bring snow, but nothing too harsh. Thin clouds meant cold weather. No snow and a ring circling the moon meant it would rain within 24 hours.

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It also helped to observe animal behavior. For example, woodpeckers sharing one tree or one nest meant a harsh winter was coming. It is also said that when muskrats made their holes high up on the banks of rivers, lots of snow was on the way.

In the far north, the elders looked for bright spots that appear on either side of that cold winter sun. An old saying was that those spots were fire, which the sun had made to warm its ears. This was a sign which meant a severe cold snap was coming quickly.

Forgotten Skills That Helped The Native Americans Survive Winter Native people were well aware that being caught without proper provisions during the winter would almost certainly mean death — so they prepared themselves accordingly.

When Caught Unaware

Literature has painted Native Americans as some sort of “magic” people who knew everything about nature, but the truth is that they were humans who made mistakes. This is especially true of young couples sneaking away for a little tryst, or young men trying to prove their bravery.

Sometimes, indigenous people were away from camp when a snowstorm or blizzard struck.  In these cases, stories of survival are almost all the same: People sought shelter quickly, made a small fire, tried to stay warm and wait it out. Shelter was the foremost concern, and it would take the shape of hollowed-out tree trunks, caves, rock outcroppings, even a quick lean-to made from branches, a tree and some snow.

Anything that would burn would be collected as quickly as possible, including horse or cow dung, pine cones, old pine needles, small branches – basically, whatever was dry. By surrounding the fire with rocks, they could radiate heat into the shelter.

If you were with someone else, you could share body heat. Natives would wait out the storm by sleeping as much as possible near the fire. It’s an old wives’ tale that people who fall asleep in the cold will never wake up. When you are cold enough, your body will wake you up to let you know!

Protect the Body

Next to the fire, your most precious asset is your own body heat. Native people considered their body as a natural fire that they never wanted to squander or allow to go out.

For the indigenous people, this meant never sitting directly on the ground, but instead perching themselves on furs or rocks near the fire that were covered with hides and fur. The Eskimo people were known to tie dried loon skins, including the feathers, to a rope, which they wore around their waist, similar to an apron. This was not only an extra layer of warmth, but if they were out and about, they would turn it around so the skins were lying on their buttocks, giving them a natural buffer between their fanny and a cold rock!

Native people kept their body fire protected by layering clothing. Better to remove clothing if you became too warm than to be caught in a snow storm wearing just a breechcloth!

Making the Cold an Ally

Of course, native people had many ways of dealing with the cold over the years that are no longer useful to us in modern times. Many tribes were nomadic and simply moved south along with the migrating birds. Other tribes used longhouses, where almost everyone in the tribe would spend the winters together in close quarters, their combined body heat making the interiors warmer.

Native people were known to cut wood when it was well below freezing. Why? Not only were they kept warm through the effort, but wood at 30 below (Fahrenheit) splits very easily!

Perhaps one of the best secrets of the indigenous people was that they saw the cold as a living thing that deserved respect. They did not try to prove how long they could stay outside in an ice storm. Native people believed that cold was a spirit that had great power worth of respect and attention.

Do you think you could have survived as a Native American in frigid weather? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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5 Home Remedies That Kept Our Ancestors Healthy Year-Round

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5 Home Remedies That Kept Our Ancestors Healthy Year-Round

The story of America in the 1700s and 1800s includes immigrants and settlers who came here from all over the world, bringing their traditional clothing, ideas, inventions, food, and, of course, their home remedies.

Immigrants tend to get absorbed into the fabric of America, which means that their home remedies can sometimes get lost in the shuffle.

Today, we are going to take a look at five nearly forgotten home remedies that our ancestors consumed to stay healthy before they had access to doctors, prescription medications or vaccinations.

1. Garlic and onions

While some ideas fall by the wayside (such as placing a cut onion in the room to “absorb” viruses) others stick around because they really work. One such remedy was a big plate of fried onion and garlic. The substances in these foods have been proven by today’s scientific studies to contain anti-viral and anti-microbial compounds, which can not only help to shorten the duration of a cold or flu, but can keep you healthy and prevent you from becoming sick.

2. Honey and lemon

While we still use this, we have acquired different reasons for using it. Today, we think of honey and lemon — usually put in tea – as a way to relieve coughs, sore throats, and stuffy noses. It does a great job in this area, but for our ancestors; they used honey and lemon to stop allergy symptoms of hay fever.

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Since you would naturally purchase honey that came from local bees, which used local flowering plants, it only makes sense that consuming a tablespoon of it would eventually provide your body with an immune reaction. I actually did try this on my husband and I have to say that it works remarkably well! Rather than taking an anti-allergy pill every day during the spring and fall, he now only takes one two or three times a year.

3. Jacob’s ladder

These beautiful plants, with their blue/purple flowers, were sometimes called Greek Valerian. While this plant used to be a staple in the 1800s, it is almost unheard of today. (Even though the alternative name has the word “valerian” in it, this plant is actually no relation to the valerian we use today.) Our ancestors used this plant, generally in a tea form using the flowers, to help prevent what our forefathers would call “nervous complaints.” This has been used for everything from headaches to heart palpitations and “women’s hysteria.” To our ancestors, women’s hysteria was just about any complaint a woman might have, such as mood swings, cramps or hot flashes.

4. Ginger

Like honey and lemon, ginger was often used for something else other than what we use it for today. While our ancestors realized that ginger could help with nausea, many consumed ginger (either chewing pieces of it or drinking it as a tea) to help prevent them from becoming chilled, and therefore susceptible to illness, or to prevent colic and indigestion.

5. Lady’s slipper

Lady’s slipper is a beautiful flowering plant related to orchids. Sometimes called moccasin flower or Venus shoe, this plant was very well-known to the Native people of North America, who used it as a preventative and curative for intestinal worms. While in this modern era intestinal worms are almost unheard of, these parasites used to be very, very common. Flowers were made into a tea that was drunk regularly to prevent worm infestation. The dried and then remoistened root was also used by several tribes to stop skin irritations and even to stop toothache pain.

What home remedies would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

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Forgotten Survival Skills That Kept The Eskimos Alive

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Forgotten Skills That Helped The Eskimos Survive Winter

Image source: Wikipedia

When most people think of Native Americans, they picture the tribes of the Plains, riding on horseback, hunting buffalo and waiting out the winter in their teepees.

But not all Native Americans lived this way. Consider the people we often call Eskimos.

The word “Eskimo” means “eaters of raw meat” in the language of the Algonquin tribe. It was the French who began calling the native people they found up north by this name. While there are numerous tribes, such as the Inupiat, the Inupiaq, and Yupik, for the sake of this article, we will refer to these tribes as the Inuit.

The Inuit tribes that lived in the far north somehow survived in far harsher climates than the Plains people ever had to endure. How could humans have survived in areas with low light levels for part of the year, extreme wind chills, and temperatures of minus 30 or more?

There were a great many skills that helped these native people survive. While not many of us have a chance to hunt seals, we would be wise to take note of some of the survival skills that allowed these native tribes to thrive in a very unforgiving climate.

Food

The Inuit people consumed a diet that was perfectly suited for the environment in which they lived. During the summer, the Inuit would move inland, away from the coast, and hunt caribou, which, like the Plains tribes, provided them with almost everything they needed. The tough skin on the head was used to make the soles of shoes, and the softer skin from the belly for clothing that was close to the skin. The Inuit were careful to use everything from their kill, as it took four animals to make one jacket or parka. A pair of pants for one person required two more caribou hides. The antlers were used as tools, tendons were used for thread, and fat was rendered to store food for later, also to use as fuel for “lamps.” During the short summers, berries were gathered, birds were caught and the meat dried, eggs were enjoyed, berries and herbs were gathered and stored. Fresh water fish also were caught from lakes or streams. The Inuit diet consisted almost entirely of meat, with only the few plants that could be found during the very short summer to add some variety.

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During winter, dogs were invaluable hunting partners. The Inuit stayed close to the coastline. Before the sea edges froze, seals would often sun themselves on the sand or rocks. Killing a seal during these times was a challenge and took real teamwork. In the winter, dogs would sniff out the air holes these mammals used. The Inuit would lie in wait and when the seal came up for air, they speared it. Seals were as prized as caribou, but for different reasons. Their hides were waterproof, making them valuable for shoes and gloves. Seal and walrus meat was extremely nourishing. Whales were difficult to catch, as the Inuit had to hunt them using kayaks and spears; however, when they did kill them, they used every single part. The fat, or blubber, is very high in calories and helped the Inuit stay warm as they burned many calories to maintain their body heat. The blubber also was used as oil for lanterns, which provided heat and light.

Eskimos near Thule Air Base in 1968Using the food that was available to them to their best advantage was one of the Inuit’s secrets to survival.

Transportation

Before you can get around, you need to know your way around! The Inuit used the stars and sun (when it was available) to navigate, especially on the water. On land, they often used landmarks or erected one, if they thought it was necessary.

The Inuit used sleds made from whale bones with skins stretched over them. Dogs would pull the sleds through the snow. On the water, kayaks were the usual means of transportation, but when moving larger families or supplies (such as whale meat) larger boats, called umiaqs, were used. If the umiaq used oars, it was usually the women who operated them. Paddles were used by men. While most kayaks were made from driftwood, umiaqs were made from whale bones lashed together or pegged together. Seal skins were then stretched over the frame.

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For a typical umiaq of about 30 feet, seven to eight seal skins would be needed to cover it. While these boats were large, they were fairly lightweight and could be carried by two or three men. A 24-foot umiaq weighs a mere 150 pounds, on average. Dogs also were counted on to carry or drag packs during the summer months. The husky dog that the Intuits used comes from the Inuit breeding of dogs with wolves. Huskies can survive the harsh winters with their thick coats and are very strong. Most huskies easily can carry a 40- to 50-pound pack all day.

Shelter

One of the best-known traits of the Inuit people was their wintertime shelters, called igloos. Igloos were houses made of snow and ice and were the best winter shelters, as snow causes air to be trapped, making it a very good insulator. A typical igloo could be built in less than one hour by two men with sharp knives. After the blocks were cut and stacked, the snow was packed on the outside for further insulation. Sometimes, several igloos would be connected via tunnels, enabling large families to have some privacy, but still stay together. Igloos often were warmed with homemade lanterns, fueled by the melted fat from seals and whales. So while outside temps might be -50 degrees Fahrenheit, inside the igloo, it could be 60 to 70 degrees.

Summer shelters usually were made of whale bones lashed together and covered with hides. The floors also would be covered with hides for insulation and comfort.

Clothing

Almost all clothing was made from seal and caribou hides. In the coldest winter months, two layers of clothing were worn. The one next to the skin had the fur turned inward; the outer layer had the fur facing outward. Caribou hide has natural air pockets, which make it super-insulating. Parkas often were made from caribou hides, with the fur inside, and waterproof seal hides on the outside. Many parkas had hoods edged in fur. Gloves were made much like parkas. While polar bear skins were valuable, these were not hunted often as the risk was too great.

Perhaps we never will live in environments like those of the Inuit people, but we all can learn from the creativity, resourcefulness and determination that kept them alive.

Would you want to live as an Inuit? Do you believe you’d have what it takes? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Learn How To ‘Live Off The Land’ With Just Your Gun. Read More Here.

5 Headache-Curing Herbs Your Ancestors Used

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5 Headache-Curing Herbs Your Ancestors Used

Butterbur. Image source: Pixabay.com

Everyone gets a headache every now and then. Whether it is a tension headache from an overly demanding boss or a very painful rebound headache, there is only one thing most of us can think of: how to get rid of it quickly!

You might be wondering what our ancestors used before the invention of those over-the-counter pain killers. Herbs were among the most popular remedies and they worked remarkably well.

Here are the top 5 herbs that have been used for ages to stop headaches, before pharmacies, before pills, and certainly before your boss was born!

1. Willow

The bark from willow trees has a long history of pain relief, and not just for headaches. Extracts from white willow bark was used by the pioneers in the 1800s, but the Native people of America used it well before that. Willow bark contains a compound, salicin, which your body will convert into salicylic acid, known to you and I as aspirin.

2. Ginger

Yep, that same spice you probably have in your kitchen cabinet is well-known for stopping headaches (and nausea, too). Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory, so it works on several different levels.

Fast, All-Natural Pain Relief With No Nasty Side Effects!

It can be purchased in capsule form, but the quickest way to relieve headaches — and the one our ancestors used — was to put a half dozen thin slices of fresh ginger root in two cups of water and boil it as a tea. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes and drink after it has cooled a bit.

3. Feverfew

This ancient herb, best known for reducing fevers, is a terrific choice for migraines as it not only reduces pain but is known to help alleviate nausea and sensitivity to light. The leaves and flowers contain a compound that cause the blood vessels to dilate.

4. Butterbur

The name of this herb always reminds me of butter beans, but it’s actually a very old folk remedy for not only headaches and migraines, but for other types of pain. For those who suffer from regular migraines, taking butterbur regularly has been shown in some studies to reduce the number of migraines by as much as 50 percent and the severity of pain by as much as 80 percent when compared to the placebo group. [1]

5. Peppermint and rosemary

While you have certainly consumed both of these herbs, you probably have not considered putting them together. It’s time to change that! Rosemary mixed with peppermint (and some recipes call for a bit of lavender also) makes a terrific “brain tonic” that will relieve headache pain, ease tension (which is the cause behind most headaches), and improve blood circulation. A tea of fresh peppermint leaves with a sprig of fresh rosemary is an old folk remedy for headaches that seems to withstand the test of time.

What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

[1] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1526-4610.2005.05044.x/abstract

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

The 1800s Pain-Relief Plant That Doctors Used

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The 1800s Pain-Relief Plant That Doctors Used

Every time we are afflicted with a headache, hangnail or even the common cold, most of us simply pop down to the local drugstore and pick up an over-the-counter remedy. But chemical-induced drugs aren’t always best for us, and we also should consider: What if the drugstore is closed – or we can’t make it there – next time?

Trust our ancestors to have the answers. While we can’t really ask the pioneers what they used, they left records of their commonly used herbs and home remedies to guide us.

One herb that has been all but forgotten in today’s modern age is feverfew. This plant was very valuable to the Native American tribes as well as to the 1800s-era pioneers.

Fast, All-Natural Pain Relief With No Nasty Side Effects!

Let’s take a look at how it was used and how you might be able to grow your own for an unlimited supply.

What is Feverfew?

Feverfew (tanacetum parthenium) is a perennial flowering herb that is sometimes called “bachelor’s buttons.” In certain areas, it can grow 24 inches tall and equally as wide. It also is one of the oldest herbs known to man. While no one is sure when it started being used, it was first mentioned during the first century by Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides.

Feverfew can cause allergic reactions, so it is best to try a small amount first. It is related to chrysanthanims, so if you are allergic to those, steer clear!

Also, even though this plant is pretty to look at, do not put fresh leaves or flowers in your mouth, as it has a natural irritant. While it may not actually harm you, it can cause a burning sensation and even mouth sores.

How Did Our Ancestors Use It?

This plant has a pretty impressive background in that not only has it been used for centuries, but modern research has backed up quite a few of these folk remedy uses.

The name, obviously, implies that it can reduce fevers, and that is perhaps what it is best known for. However, it can be used for much more.

Feverfew is a terrific way to stop migraine headaches (when consumed at the onset) as well as other types of headaches and muscle tension. It is also a general pain reliever.

It is a natural anti-inflammatory herb, which makes it perfect for healing and reducing the pain of twisted ankles, arthritis and even menstrual cramps. In the case of arthritis and cramps, one needs to consume it on a regular basis. Women should start consuming feverfew a week before their cycle is to start and continue until the second day of their period.

The 1800s Pain-Relief Plant That Doctors Used

Image source: Pixabay.com

Prior to the discovery of willow bark and aspirin, it was feverfew that midwives and doctors turned to for pain relief, fever reducing, and most types of muscle cramps.

Like chamomile, feverfew will calm most muscle spasms, which makes it not only a good pain reliever for general muscle pain due to overuse, but it causes the muscles to relax.

How To Use It

As mentioned earlier, don’t put fresh leaves or flowers in your mouth. You can certainly buy feverfew capsules, but why not grow your own?

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Feverfew leaves and flowers can be washed and then used in either a tea or a tincture form. Many people find that two or three cups of tea each day works best to stop pain, inflammation and persistent headaches.

Grow It Yourself

This pretty flowering plant is hardy to zone 5. Don’t cover the seeds completely with soil, as they must have sunlight to sprout; sprinkle lightly with water each day until they sprout. You can thin them to 15 inches apart when they are about five inches tall.

They aren’t fussy plants, but they do need sunlight, so try to find a spot where they get a  minimum of six hours each day. Harvest and dry the flowers and leaves as they grow. It will reseed itself if you allow a few plants to go to seed. Any remaining plants should be cut to the ground with the first frost. It will grow back again in the spring and generally produces flowers between July and October.

Good to Know

Doctors in the days of the pioneers used to suggest feverfew for “women who are a bit giddy in the head.” They didn’t mean giddy the way we do today, but rather for those who suffer from what we today call migraines.

In the Middle Ages, feverfew was believed to clean the air of germs and stop rabies.

Bugs of all kinds do not like this plant — including bees!

Have you ever grown or used feverfew? Share your tips in the section below:

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Immune-Boosting ‘Miracle Herbs’ Your Ancestors Used

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Immune-Boosting ‘Miracle Herbs’ Your Ancestors Used

Artist: Harold Anderson

Before there were flu shots, vaccinations and antibiotics, our ancestors had no alternative other than to rely on herbs for healing, treatment and prevention.

This isn’t to say that herbs are ineffective, although modern medicine has pushed many of them to the wayside. The truth is that many modern medicines have their base in herbal compounds.

Unfortunately, much of the knowledge regarding herbs and how to use them has been forgotten by the general population. Ask anyone under the age of 50 if they know what plant or tree aspirin comes from, and chances are that they won’t know.

Learn How To Make Powerful Herbal Medicines, Right in Your Kitchen!

Here are five herbs our ancestors used – and perhaps you should, too.

1. Echinacea

Although you might have heard of a few studies supposedly refuting this herb’s effectiveness, there are far more positive studies than negative ones. The indigenous people of America used this herb to stay healthy. It is commonly taken in the form of a tea; the normal dose is two to three cups each day if you are ill, but one cup per day for “maintenance.” This beautiful flowering herb is easily grown just about anywhere. Dry the leaves and flowers for year-round use.

2. American ginseng

Don’t confuse this with Chinese ginseng. The scientific name of this plant is Panax quinquefolius, and modern research shows that this tonic herb not only supports a healthy immune system, but it can help to prevent upper respiratory infections, too.

3. Garlic

Immune-Boosting ‘Miracle Herbs’ Your Ancestors Used

Image source: Pixabay.com

This herb might not win you a “most kissable” award, but there is no denying that it has powerful healing- and immune-supporting compounds. Long before the discovery of antibiotics, garlic was the treatment of choice for internal infections and was used for everything from bronchitis to dysentery. Remember that garlic has to be cut or crushed to release its active ingredients. An old-fashioned cold remedy was to crush a large clove of garlic and mix it into a tablespoon of honey. This was consumed three or more times per day when a person was sick and once per day to keep the cooties away.

4. Astragalus

A member of the pea family, this herb has been found to improve the immune system by stimulating the body to make more immune cells in both lymph tissue and bone marrow. The leaves are used to make tea, and fresh roots are sliced into soups. This is another easy-to-grow plant that you might want to consider adding to your herb garden.

5. Oregano

Your probably have some of this in your kitchen right now! Oregano is actually one of the most potent herbs for improving the immune system and can help the body boost its white blood cell count.

Immune-Boosting ‘Miracle Herbs’ Your Ancestors Used

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you enjoy the taste, you can make oregano tea. Of course, you can always make more Italian food and add oregano to just about anything you are cooking.

A very old cold and flu remedy was to make a tonic with sage, thyme and oregano in a pot of water and drink three or more cups per day.

While we are on the subject, let’s take a minute to discuss things that some people believe will work to cure or prevent infections or viruses … but won’t.

  • Cutting an onion and leaving it in a room to “absorb” viruses won’t do anything more than give you a pretty awful-smelling room.
  • Burning wormwood shavings or any other type of incense doesn’t work, either. It is thought that the smoke will remove viruses and bacteria from the air, and while it might smell pretty, smoke will only irritate the respiratory tract.
  • Once, when I was young and suffering from a cold, my grandmother had me soak my feet in hot water, then put on a pair of wet socks and wear them overnight. I’m not sure what the idea was behind this one, but trust me, it does not work. It only makes for a long and miserable night with no sleep!

Of course, there are other ways to boost your immune system. Exercise (but not to excess), regular sleep, a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, and low stress are all vital components for proper immune system function.

What are your favorite herbs to boost the immune system? Share your suggestions in the section below:

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Winter Survival Skills That Kept The Pioneers Alive

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Winter Survival Skills That Kept The Pioneers Alive

If you live in certain parts of North America, then you know all too well how cold and long a winter can be. In bad years, they can last from November through April. When ice is several inches thick on ground that hasn’t been salted, when the wind whips so hard it pulls young trees out of the ground, and when you finally have to venture outside to go to the grocery store a few blocks away, it can seem like a dangerous trip.

Have you ever stopped and wondered how the pioneers survived? There was no central heating, no supermarkets, no water heaters to help warm up frozen fingers.

Our ancestors were certainly tough, no doubt about it, but we would be wise to pay attention and learn a few of their survival skills. Here are a few:

Food Preparation And Storage

Knowing that winters could be long and harsh, pioneers spent a great deal of the summer months preparing. A lack of preparation usually meant death by starvation, so they took these chores seriously.

Almost all pioneers had what we call a cellar or a root cellar. This was a room dug underground that would protect their stored food from freezing and guard it from marauding animals.

Root vegetables were a favorite because they keep for a long period of time without spoiling and without any special preparation beforehand. This made things like carrots, beets, sweet potatoes,  parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, regular old potatoes and turnips valuable crops.

Other crops that keep well without canning are corn, onions, garlic, squash, cabbage, cauliflower, pears, oranges, cucumbers, pumpkins and apples. Some fruits and berries were dried, but others, like apples, keep remarkably well when placed in a cool, dark place.

Canning was an invaluable tool to store food for winter consumption. This was the common method of storing foods that went bad fairly quickly, such as berries, peaches, nectarines, tomatoes and artichokes.

Meat also was dried and salted to preserve it for the winter. A family could slaughter one of their livestock animals, eat what they could for a day, and then pack the remainder in large barrels, stacking it in layers and then covering them with salt and brown sugar, before sealing the barrel.

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Of course, meat killed during the winter simply could be kept frozen outside, as long as one was careful to keep it out of reach from the local wildlife.

Staying Warm

A full belly is great, but if you are stuck outside in subzero temps, it won’t be enough to keep you alive!

Winter Survival Skills That Kept The Pioneers Alive Most pioneers lived in cabins made from logs. These can be quite insulating when the holes and cracks are properly filled with mud, grass or cloth, but in sub-zero (Fahrenheit) weather, one will still need a good fire.

This means lots of back-breaking hours cutting and storing firewood. Imagine trying to guess how much wood you are going to need for one winter season? Of course, if you saw you were running low, you always could head out to the woods and start cutting, but in freezing temperatures, it would be hard and exhausting work! Better to stock up when the weather was good and the wood softer

During the winter months, fires were rarely allowed to die. However, if a warm spell was followed by a super cold snap, chances are you better be able to find your flint and steel to start another fire. Since matches were not even common until about 1900, if you were without flint and steel, you would have to hoof it to a neighbor’s house to “borrow” some hot coals.

Last, but not least, clothing. The early Americans wore clothes they had made themselves, usually from cotton they had raised or wool off of their sheep. A few men wore pants made of buckskin, but most wore outer clothes made from cotton. However, winter months required a bit of extra warmth, usually in the way of woolen (and scratchy) “long Johns.”

Trapping and hunting skills provided meat, so rifles or shotguns were very common. Some pioneers used simple traps to capture smaller game (rabbits or game birds).

However, for those who could manage it, livestock was invaluable. Pigs could be sold, traded or simply killed for meat. Cows also could provide both meat and milk. Goats were not as common, but in a pinch a goat will eat almost anything and it, too, provides milk and meat. Chickens have been kept for ages as a means of eggs and meat. Of course, these animals needed to be fed and protected, so during harsh winter months, if you couldn’t feed them, you ended up eating them.

First-Aid And Folk Remedies

Doctors also were few and far between. Many people learned common first-aid remedies and folk remedies, and they kept a variety of healing herbs on hand. Women, especially, shared this information with each other and often helped each other out during the difficulties of childbirth. If your child had a fever in a blizzard, you couldn’t call the doctor and you couldn’t just pop down to the local drug store. Pioneers relied on their own herbal remedies.

Since log cabins had few windows, lanterns and candles were the main source of light on dark days and long winter nights. Candles were commonly made from beeswax, with cotton wicks during the summer. Although kerosene could be bought for lamp fuel, its smoky blackness — and expense — made it unpopular. Many pioneers used fat from their animals for soap and for lamps.

How did pioneers prevent cabin fever after living for months in a 12X16 log cabin with who-knows-how-many people? Families would read out loud, make up stories, or recount family history. The sewing of clothes and the repair of farm tools would have taken some time, and games such as checkers helped to pass the time. With a bit of fortune, a family member even would have had a musical instrument to help fill the hours with a bit of song.

Although I really enjoy learning the old-fashioned ways of doing things, I’m not at all certain I could have survived during pioneer times. What about you? Do you think you could have survived during those times?

Share your thoughts and tips in the section below:

If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

Castor Oil: The Old-Timer’s ‘Cure-All’ That Should Be In Every Stockpile

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Castor Oil: Why Grandma’s Miracle ‘Cure-All’ Should Be In Every Stockpile

If you have ever watched old cartoons or movies, you may have seen more than one reference to castor oil. The scene usually involves someone’s grandmother pushing a huge spoonful of castor oil down a sick person’s throat — with funny faces ensuing due to its horrible taste.

How did castor oil get its start? Does it really do anything for the body? And does it actually taste that terrible?

Let’s take a look at that old-fashioned cure-all.

What Is Castor Oil?

Castor oil is extracted from the seeds, sometimes called “beans,” of castor plants. These seeds are unique in that they contain a fatty acid triglyceride, most of which is ricinoleic acid. Although this type of fatty acid is found in other types of plants, such as cottonseed, it is only found in minute quantities. Castor oil is about 90 percent ricinoleic acid.

It’s important to remember that eating the seeds themselves will cause death. Depending on your size, as few as five seeds are considered a fatal dose. There is no anecdote. The oil, though, has no trace of the poison (called ricin) in it.

Native to India, this plant has been mentioned in written history since ancient times, and was used very regularly by our ancestors for a wide variety of health problems.

How Did Our Ancestors Use Castor Oil?

The fact that there were few actual physicians — coupled with the hard truth that there were not very many pharmaceutical drugs 150 to 200 years ago — left our ancestors with very few choices. Anything from Mother Nature was pressed into service in hopes that it would at least provide relief from symptoms while the body healed, or that it might actually do something to cure the problem.

One thing that is well-known about castor oil is that it is an irritant to the colon. So, why would someone take it? Simple: It cured constipation within hours. Many a grandmother was concerned with her family’s bowel movements, which is why just about any kind of tummy ache or nausea usually resulted in a big tablespoon of castor oil “just to be sure.”

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Indigestion and dysentery were very common in pioneer times, often due to poor food quality or cleanliness. Again, it was castor oil to the rescue.

Castor oil also has an interesting property in that it doesn’t freeze. That made it valuable to keep around in the winter months, as it could be used to oil sticky or frozen machinery parts.

Image source: Wikimedia

Image source: Wikimedia

This oil has a stimulating effect on the body. New mothers who had a difficult time producing enough milk for their baby were often told to rub castor oil on the breasts to increase milk flow. This same remedy was also suggested for sore breasts and blocked milk ducts. If a baby was late in coming, a few tablespoons of castor oil were the general recommendation to induce labor. Although there is no scientific evidence to back this up, there are plenty of personal stories which relate that folk remedy actually worked.

Midwives and other women also suggested that rubbing castor oil on the abdomen each morning and night would relieve menstrual cramps.

Castor oil is also known for improving skin health. Pioneer women used it for everything from preventing stretch marks to healing diaper rash, as well as other types of skin problems, including killing lice, preventing hair loss, and stopping dandruff. Since castor oil does contain antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal compounds, it is very likely that this can work quite well.

One pioneer woman left some advice for those preparing to travel out West: “No one should travel without medicine, for they are sure to suffer from a complaint. Every family should have a quart of the best rum, a quart of castor oil, and a large vial of peppermint essence.”

Growing Your Own Castor Plant

Castor plants (Ricinus communis) are beautiful, with leaves as large as a dinner plate. However, they are difficult to grow in areas that receive snow or hard frosts. New seeds would need to be nurtured every year. In the South and West, castor plants can grow to be small trees, approximately 15 to 20 feet high.

The seeds are safe to handle, but, again, not to eat. If you have toddlers, this is probably not the plant for you.

Otherwise, castor plants grow nicely in full sun in average or compost rich soil. They appear to need very little care and are quite beautiful.

Making your own castor oil is a bit complicated. The seeds need to be dried, then hulled. The hulled seeds are then boiled to remove the ricin. After boiling, the seeds are then pressed to extract the oil. This is extremely labor intensive, so you might want to consider simply stocking up on a good supply since it is, currently, rather inexpensive and, unlike other oils, does not go rancid when stored out of sunlight.

Other Uses … Oil Lamps?

Thomas Jefferson placed castor plants around his property in hopes that it would kill the gophers and moles that plagued his garden. It didn’t work. The oil does repel moles, but not the plant itself. Jefferson suggested this remedy to George Washington. Jefferson, it is said, loved to invite Washington to visit his garden, where he somehow managed to nurse one plant to a staggering 22 feet in height.

In a pinch, castor oil works great in oil lamps. It burns very cleanly and was used for this purpose by the ancient Egyptians.

It was also called “Palma Christe” in ancient times, as the large leaves were said to look like Christ’s hands. It is possible that after people found out about its medicinal qualities, they believed the plant was sent from God.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or cure any particular health condition. Please consult with a qualified health professional first about this method.

Have you ever used castor oil? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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The All-Natural ‘Flu Shot’ The Pioneers Used

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The All-Natural ‘Flu Shot’ The Pioneers Used

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Chances are that you have used camphor numerous times in your life — but didn’t even know it. It is used in over-the-counter medicines and even some food products, but long before that it was used by our ancestors, who took advantage of the dried leaves, bark and wood to heal everything from coughs to minor cuts.

Let’s take a look at camphor and how it was used — and whether you can grow a beautiful camphor tree of your own.

The Many Uses For Camphor

Today, camphor is obtained by distilling the leaves of the camphor tree. However, the pioneers did not have the equipment for this endeavor, and so they relied on wood which was brought to Europe via Asia, where the trees originate. The white, waxy-looking substance is found in the wood of these trees, much like resin on pine trees.

Camphor wood or oil from the wood was prized as a medicine and rightly so, which explains why the pioneers often had either the oil or some wood packed in their “medicine bag.”

This strong-smelling compound is a natural antibacterial, antiseptic and disinfectant, although the pioneers were not aware of this, per se. However, they did know that it kept away many illnesses. The pioneer “flu shot” consisted of a cake of camphor tied in a burlap or flannel bag and hung around the necks of children or the elderly.

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The first chest rub was described by a doctor named Henry Hughes, who lived in Utah during the early 1800s. He said that a mixture of olive oil and camphor could be rubbed on the back and chest to relieve coughs and loosen phlegm.

Camphor is also a mild anesthetic and offers a “cooling” sensation, similar to menthol. This makes it a first choice for minor burns, cuts or other skin problems.

The All-Natural ‘Flu Shot’ The Pioneers Used

Image source: Pixabay.com

Let’s not forget that ugly little critters like lice or scabies were fairly common in those times. Our ancestors knew that camphor oil, mixed in bath water, helped to kill these annoyances. Even a small branch with leaves, tied to your hat or shirt, will deter most insects, including mosquitoes.

(Note: Although pioneers consumed camphor for heartburn and other internal problems, it is toxic and can be fatal. As little as two grams can be lethal. Never consume camphor internally.)

Growing Your Own Camphor Tree

Camphor trees (Cinnamomum camphora) are magnificent — if you have the space for them. They can live to be 1,000 years old and the wood cannot be harvested for camphor until they are at least 50 years of age. The leaves, however, can be used right away, with most companies harvesting leaves three times a year.

These can be huge trees, growing up to 150 feet high, 300 feet in width, with trucks that can span 15 feet. Most never get this tall, but the possibility is there, so be certain you have the space for such an immense tree.

They prefer acidic soil and are native to China, Japan and Korea, but thrive in the Pacific Coast and Gulf Coast areas of the U.S. Once established, these trees are very drought-resistant, but once planted, you will not be able to “transplant” it elsewhere. The root system is very sensitive and grows far out from the trunk.

The long root system makes these terrific trees for windbreaks and they almost never break, even in heavy storms. They are very attractive to bees and butterflies, but not most insects, such as biting flies or mosquitoes.

Hardy in USDA planting zones 8a to 11, once established they need almost no care and require little water.

Camphor trees were planted in Florida as early as 1875. Some people consider these trees an invasive species, as birds that eat the seeds can spread these trees far and wide. Many of the original trees planted 141 years ago are still alive and well.

One of the main ingredients in the infamous Tiger Balm is camphor oil. The oil is also used in gum and candy, and the smoke from heated camphor is what gives Szechuan smoked duck its unique flavor.

Camphor trees can be remarkably vigorous, and several specimens actually survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945. The sire was designated a natural monument in 1969.

Do you use camphor? Have you ever owned a camphor tree? Share your tips on camphor use in the section below:

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8 Things Our Spoiled Society Thinks It ‘Needs’ (That Our Great-Grandparents Never Had)

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8 Things Our Spoiled Society Thinks It 'Needs' (That Our Great-Grandparents Never Had)

I’ve written previously about how my grandparents and parents survived during the Great Depression. Although growing up with parents from the Depression had its drawbacks (those $5 tennis shoes are just as good as the $30 Vans shoes, I was told), I realize now that I actually learned quite a few survival skills from them.

Perhaps one of the biggest things I learned was to identify a “need” from a “want” Yes, I needed shoes, but I wanted Vans. My mother would often ask me: “What do you need it for?” If I couldn’t prove I needed it, I rarely got it.

In this article, I want to take a look at the things my parents, and others, simply did without during those difficult times – things our great-grandparents never had.

1. Cable television

Television can be cheap entertainment and a good place for news, weather and other important updates. However, one thing we could live without are cable channels. Putting an antenna on your roof will work just fine.

2. Disposable goods

Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that disposables were meant to be used in emergency or only for travel. Plastic bags weren’t really even commonly used until the 1960s and no one “needs” disposable coffee cups, paper plates, plastic forks and one-time-use razors.

3. Video games

While our kids might think these are absolute necessities, they aren’t. You can spend family time and still have fun with old-fashioned games such as checkers, chess, Parcheesi, Monopoly, and other board games. Or have kids play the old-fashioned way — outside.

4. Health clubs or gym memberships

Walking and jogging cost nothing. If you’re near a town, imagine the workout from simply walking to the store and carrying home groceries? But if you think your health would benefit from exercise equipment and weight sets, check out Goodwill or Craigslist.

5. Microwaves, espresso makers and other kitchen gadgets

Ladies, I understand completely. There is nothing like the latest kitchen gadget to make cooking easier. However, if you take a hard look at things (as my mother would have asked), do you really need it?

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8 Things Our Spoiled Society Thinks It 'Needs' (That Our Great-Grandparents Never Had)Rice and popcorn can be made in pots on the stove. Toast can also be made using a small device that goes over the burner. Knives work just as well as a food processor. Take a good look around your kitchen and you will find a dozen little “must-have” items in your kitchen that you truly don’t “need.”

6. Clothes dryers

My mother didn’t buy a clothes dryer until 1970. Even then, she only did it because she got a job outside the home! We hung clothes outside, or in the laundry room during bad weather. My mother talks about how embarrassed she was as a young teen when she had to hang her underwear near the fireplace and her brothers saw it.

7. Tanning beds and nail salons

Sunlight in large quantities, whether natural or man-made, is not good for the body. Some sun exposure is good for the body, so take advantage of it when you can. However, as hard as it might seem, you do not need a tanning bed. Or even a nail salon. In my mother’s 84 years, she never went and had a manicure or a pedicure, let alone acrylic nails. She did her nails herself and they were always beautiful.

8. Cell phones

It wasn’t all that long ago that no one had cell phones. I, myself, did not get a cell phone until 1996. Even then, they were unusual and they could only make calls — nothing more. Some people still live without them today, but if you feel you must have one for emergencies, you can buy a basic pay-as-you-go phone. I’m not saying today’s phone can’t be time-savers and very convenient, but we could actually live without one just fine.

Just a side note here to make you laugh. I once bought my then 78-year-old mother a cell phone so she could take advantage of the “free nights and weekends” plan and talk to her friends and relatives out of state. It was a simple flip phone with big numbers and I showed her how to use it. Two weeks later, she called me on her house phone and told me I should get my money back because the phone didn’t work. I asked her what happened, thinking she would tell me about dropped calls. Instead, she told me that she opened the phone and waited all day for a dial tone, but she never got one. She never did get the hang of cell phones — and lived her entire life without one.

What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Forgotten Food Sources From The Great Depression

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Forgotten Food Sources From The Great Depression

Both of my parents grew up during the Great Depression. Even though my mother was very well-off later in her life, I never saw her leave the house without some snack inside her purse. She said she just didn’t feel comfortable or “safe” without taking something to eat.

My father grew up on a farm and my mother on the outskirts of town, but both had difficulty finding plenty of food to eat. I often wonder if I would be as brave and resourceful as my parents were should I ever find myself in a similar situation.

Although they went without many other items, including new shoes, new clothes, and store-bought candy and toys, the thing my parents talk about most was the difficulty just in feeding themselves.

In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the best food sources that people used during the Great Depression.

Hunting, Fishing, Living off the Land

There was plenty of free food around — if you were willing to catch it, trap it, shoot it and skin it. My father and his brothers spent many, many hours out in the fields and woods surrounding their home shooting rabbits, wild pheasants, quail, grouse, wild turkeys, doves, ducks and deer. My father was the youngest of 13, so food didn’t last long on the table.

For those who had enough land or lived on farms, there also were the usual chickens, rabbits, pigs, sheep and cows. However, lots of thought went into deciding whether to kill livestock. For example, killing a cow meant no more calves, milk, cream or butter. However, if the cow was too old to have more calves, it would quickly find itself the main food at Sunday dinner.

My mother talks about going out to the open fields near her home and collecting whatever edible greens or wild food they could find, such as dandelions, burdock root, wild onions, potatoes, wild blueberries and raspberries, chickweed, wood sorrel or plantain. Wild honey was also desired, but it could be a dangerous endeavor.

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If you lived near any body of water that contained fish, you could usually manage to catch enough on a Saturday for a fish fry. Fishing was rather time-consuming, though, when you consider that you generally spent the better part of the day for only one meal.

Stretching the Food

Making the most of whatever you had was one of the main ways people lived during these stressful times. For example, the fish that you caught on Saturday might make a fine fish fry, but don’t you dare throw out the heads or bones! This could be reused to make gravy or a base for soup. Add some fish heads, tails and everything but the entrails, a few vegetables, and you could brew up a stew or soup for another meal or possibly even two!

One-dish suppers, casseroles and other food-stretching recipes were popular during this time. Women traded secrets on how to make things like creamed chipped beef on toast, chili, soup, creamed chicken on biscuits, spaghetti without meat, bean soup or bean sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Almost every meal was made at home from scratch. Forget about cake mixes, biscuit mixes, chili spice packets, or packaged mac and cheese. Not that these things weren’t available, but it was much cheaper to buy in bulk and cook at home. Most women became expert cooks and knew how to make just about anything by hand.

Let’s not forget “leftovers.” You never threw out anything, no matter how small the portion. My mother talks about “mish-mash” nights, when they took everything out of the icebox and pantry and ate whatever they found before it went bad.

Gardens and Backyard ‘Farms’

Unless you lived in an apartment building, you likely had a backyard garden. People would grow just about anything, and they often saved seeds to share with others, as well as to use again the next year. Popular garden vegetables were corn, green beans, tomatoes, squash, turnips, potatoes, cucumbers and pumpkins. Almost every woman knew how to can or pickle vegetables. Fruit would usually be eaten promptly, but there were still plenty of women who canned applesauce, as well as jams and jellies from fruit about to go bad.

My father would tell how he and his brothers would go to neighboring farms after the harvest and take home whatever had been left behind. Corn that had been nibbled on by birds or squirrels, cabbage with too many worms, or bird-pecked fruit left on the trees or the ground would be collected and taken home. His family would chop off the bad parts, wash off worms, and eat whatever was left.

Sharing

They say no man is an island, and that certainly was true during these trying times. Many communities and church groups would hold potlucks, church dinners and Sunday night suppers, where everyone would bring whatever they had and everyone could share in the bounty. These were usually a once-a-week measure, but it certainly helped to stretch the family food budget. You might only have a loaf of bread to share, but if someone else brought chicken, everyone could have chicken sandwiches!

Desperate Measures

My parents told frightening stories about people who would literally stand for hours in the cold or snow in front of restaurants and beg for food as people came outside. People would dig through trash cans, hoping to find some scraps of food, or they would simply beg homeowners or farmers for work in exchange for food.

In larger cities, people often had to resort to begging on the streets or waiting for hours in line at a “soup kitchen” for a bowl of soup and a thick piece of bread.

Hopefully we won’t have to experience the hard times of another Great Depression, but isn’t it comforting to know that, if needed, you could manage on your own by keeping your skills and know-how up to snuff?

Do you have any stories of survival during the Great Depression? Share your stories and thoughts in the section below:

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How Did Native Americans Keep Time Without A Watch (Or Calendar)?

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How Did Native Americans Keep Time Without A Watch (Or Calendar)?

Artist: Patrick Rahming

In today’s modern world, it is easy to tell time. There are clocks on buildings, billboards, cell phones and microwave ovens. Then there’s the old-fashioned grandfather clock in the hallway.

But what if you didn’t have a watch? What would you do then?

And if you didn’t have a calendar, would you know when winter was coming? When it was the appropriate “time” to plant? To harvest? How old you are? How long would it take for you to “forget” to mark down a day or several days, or several weeks, thus obscuring even your age?

Native people had certain signs that they relied on and they actually had a very good sense of “time” — even though it differs from what we would consider time today.

White Man’s Time Clock

For many tribes, the clock – the one the Europeans used and brought to America — was a strange thing that was not easily understood. Some tribes thought that since the clock moved on its own and that it sometimes made sounds, it was a living thing.

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The simple truth here is that indigenous people considered time to be a part of the natural cycle of life. The belief was that there was a correct time or best time for everything and that nature itself would send the signal to let a person know when that was. A clock, divided into so many tiny fragments, seemed ridiculous and inconceivable to them. What difference could it make if one planted corn on this side of the 12 or that side of the 12?

A popular meme says that when an old native person was told about daylight saving time, he shook his head and said that only a white man would think he could cut off the bottom of a blanket, sew it to the top of a blanket, and then think he had a longer blanket.

Time Signals

Before European contact, indigenous people found that nature imparted a natural order and rhythm to their lives. Sunrise and sunset marked the typical day, with the noon sun being the dividing part between morning and afternoon.

Almost all tribes had some sort of marker for the spring/summer/fall/winter equinox. For the Pawnee, they knew that when the sun rose over a particular crest on Corn Mountain, it was time to hold their Thunder ceremony. The Bighorn medicine wheel told the Lakota when to travel to meet with others for their annual Sun Dance, which is held in and around the summer solstice.

Many tribes simply assigned names to certain seasons or months to keep track of how old a person was. The exact day was of less importance to native people than the time of the year. For example, according to the Lakota, if you were born in the time of trees popping, you were born sometime in late December through January. Native people felt this was distinction enough.

How Did Native Americans Keep Time Without A Watch (Or Calendar)?

Artist: Michael Gentry

Native people also had a tendency to measure by nights, rather than by days. Indigenous people would say they traveled for “x” number of moons rather than by days or suns. Some tribes also used “moons” to indicate months. For example, March would be called the Moon of Sap Running by the Lenape.

Still other tribes marked their time through winter counts. Regardless if you were born in June or December, you were born in the “Winter of Four Crows Killed.” Usually some important event would mark the end of the year, which the entire year was named for. You could be born in May and you would still refer to your birthday as the Winter of Four Crows Killed.

Hunting, Planting and More

The natural cycles of nature also helped to organize task-based plans. For tribes who planted crops, they used signals such as the size of oak leaves to let them know that it was time to plant. The Crow tribes knew that when chokecherry trees blossomed, it was the right time to plant tobacco. Snow deeper than the ankle was a sign to most tribes that long-range hunts were finished for the year.

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Tribes that planted crops often used that cycle as their means of telling time. For example, they might remember that they were born when the corn was gathered or that they were married with the flower buds of the squash.

Spring equinox compelled West coast people to travel to the sea to catch sardines or to gather shellfish. After a few weeks, they knew it was then time to move back inland to collect acorns, grasses and other nuts or seeds.

Water collection, or knowledge of where one could obtain water, was crucial to many Pueblo tribes. Many tribes stored water in clay pots and then buried them in the ground for later use. How would you know when it was time to collect water from the remaining pools if you did not know what season it was or how long it would be before the rains would come again? Most Pueblo tribes used a calendar stick to mark time. One person would mark off each sunrise on a stick, 30 days per stick. Each stick was saved until there were 13 sticks. Their lunar cycle was one of 13 months to a year. In this method, they knew, almost to the day, when the rains would start and how many sticks they had to make their water last.

Sometimes, it seems as if native people still run on “Indian time.” If you have ever attended a powwow and saw that the Grand Entry was supposed to occur at noon, but didn’t actually happen until 1:30, you have experienced “Indian time.” The hour or minute was, and in some cases still is, of little importance. Did the job get done properly? Then it was a job well-done — and done in perfect time.

Have you ever had to tell time without a watch? Share your tips in the section below:

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9 Mind-Blowing Ways Our Grandparents Recycled Stuff During The Great Depression

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9 Mind-Blowing Ways Our Grandparents Recycled Stuff During The Great Depression

Image source: Flickr

Chances are pretty good that you know someone who lived through the Great Depression. Some of the stories they tell are almost unbelievable.

My mother, for example, was a child during the Great Depression and World War II. She always kept some type of snack in her purse, even though she was well off. She used to tell me that growing up in Michigan, she and her sisters would eat corn meal mush for breakfast while my grandmother heated potatoes inside a wood-burning stove. In the winter months, those potatoes would go inside their coats to keep them warm on the walk to school, and believe it or not, that’s what they had for lunch. A cold baked potato. It’s hard to imagine.

Let’s take a look at 10 ways our Great Depression-era ancestors reused or upcycled common items:

1. Flour sacks

Especially in rural and farm areas, flour sacks were literally reused as clothing. Patches were applied to pants and shirts, socks were mended, youngsters wore hand-me-downs, and flour sacks, which were large cotton bags, were washed, cut, and sewn into just about anything, including aprons, dresses, boys shirts, and underwear

2. Rabbits

While we might not think of rabbits as something you can “upcycle,” they really were versatile animals that helped many families live through the depression. A breeding pair of rabbits could be fed just about any type of produce scraps you could find, or for just a few handfuls of alfalfa. They reproduced quickly and could be used for meat or sold to others for cash or other goods. The fur also could be used to line boots or make blankets and clothing.

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My mother says that her father once spent the weekly meat money on a pair of breeding rabbits. My grandmother was really angry with him at first for spending grocery money on something she had to feed, but within a year, the family was making money or exchanging rabbits for things such as milk or eggs from other families.

3. Washtubs

Large, galvanized washtubs were used for just about everything: washing clothes, washing dishes, even as bathtubs or water heaters. One summer (fortunately it was summer!) my grandmother’s water heater broke and there was no money for another one. My grandfather put a few old sheets in a washtub and would leave it filled with water on the back porch, which got a great deal of sun. By the end of the day the water was warm enough that someone could take a bath.

4. Presents

9 Mind-Blowing Ways Our Grandparents Recycled Stuff During The Great Depression

Image source: Flickr

Most children received fruit and nuts as a Christmas present, or if they were very lucky, a few pieces of hard candy. My mother used to tell me that she would make all of her presents from leftover material she would collect. Broken shoelaces became woven key or watch fobs, scraps of paper (she collected a great deal from school) were cut into small notepad sizes. The tops would have two holes punched in it, and then tied with an old piece of string for notebooks or drawing books.

5. Sheets, towels and blankets

These valuable items were never, ever thrown away until they were literally just threads in your hands. Sheets were mended and patched until they couldn’t be used anymore, and then cut up into dresses, curtains or more patches for other sheets or pillowcases. Sometimes, sheets were cut into long strips and woven into lightweight blankets or rag rugs. The same was true of blankets. Towels were mended until you could literally see through them. Even then, they were cut into washcloths, cleaning clothes, or used for patches for pants and shirts.

6. Chickens

Since we spoke about how rabbits could be used, chickens were also versatile. My father grew up on a small farm where they kept about 100 chickens. Chickens that didn’t lay eggs for a few days became dinner. Feathers from chickens were used to make or repair pillows, blankets, sometimes even saggy mattresses! While geese had better feathers, my father said that their geese were often eaten by local wildlife, so they relied on chicken feathers instead.

7. Old clothing

Some of the creative ways people dealt with clothing during the Great Depression were simply amazing. A knit sweater, for example, could be used in the winter, and then the sleeves removed for the summer. If the sweater was still good, the sleeves were sewn back on. My mother tells me that she once had a pair of shorts and a blouse that were fairly worn out. She and my grandmother took them apart and sewed the material so my mother had a “new” bathing suit.

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Dresses could be cut into blouses or skirts, depending on where the wear or damage was. Pants were made into shorts, overalls made into pants. My uncle John would tell me that he was embarrassed to wear a pair of his father’s patched-up work pants, until he saw his friends wearing the same things.

8. Tires and inner tubes

9 Mind-Blowing Ways Our Grandparents Recycled Stuff During The Great Depression

Image source: Flickr

Although most tires today do not use inner tubes, they were common during the Great Depression. Tires from cars and bicycles were patched over and over, until they simply could not be used any longer. Some tires were burned as a means of heating, but the smoke is so terrible that you had to be pretty desperate to do that. Tires were often cut and used to replace shoe bottoms or were used to make swings for the kids. Inner tubes were usually cut up to make patches for other inner tubes or tires, but they also could be used to make waterproof boots by simply covering them with pieces of inner tubes cut to fit.

9. Driftwood, string and other things

My mother says that she and her brothers spent many weekends in search of anything they could find either to use or sell. Even things like old tree branches and driftwood were collected, cut and bundled either to be sold or used. Every rubber band and piece of string was kept or collected to be reused when the need arose. Every paper bag was folded and saved, every cord cut off of every un-repairable appliance, and every scrap of soap was saved in a jar to melt later and be reformed into a “new” bar of soap.

Final Thoughts

Many stories about the Great Depression are filled with acts of kindness between people experiencing great hardship. Those are the stories that fill me with the hope that we all could survive something this terrible.

Do you know of other ways our ancestors reused items during the Great Depression? Share your tips in the section below:

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The Ancient Edible Plant That Combats Dandruff, Heals Wounds, And Provides Energy, Too

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The Ancient Edible Plant That Combats Dandruff, Heals Wounds, And Provides Energy

Image source: Wikimedia

 

The burdock plant has a long history of use in many countries, including in the United States. Burdock (Arctium lappa) has been valued for its ability to ease skin problems, scalp issues, and especially for targeting lung, liver and stomach problems.

This plant is mentioned in written history as far back as the 1600s and is also discussed in the 1869 book Physio-Medical Dispensatory.

It is always a good idea to have a basic understanding of plants and how they can be used to help us. Burdock is a terrific one to learn about, as it can be used not only for medicine, but the roots are sometimes used as food.

The truth, though, is that the entire plant can be eaten.

Burdock roots are actually quite popular in Japan, where they are skinned and then cut into thin rounds and used in soups or stir fry. Young, tender leaves are eaten in the same way that lettuce is, and in salads or sandwiches.

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The root of this plant has a diuretic action, which is believed to help the body remove waste.

The leaves and root can be used to make a tea to help cleanse wounds. Additionally, many people say that drinking the tea helps to give them more energy.

Skin issues, such as rashes, insect bites or wounds, can be washed with a strong tea made from either the leaves or the roots. Some native tribes used the wet leaves as a type of bandage to promote healing.

Our pioneering ancestors often used burdock leaves and/or root as a means of clearing up lung problems, such as colds, congestion, or from the flu. Boiling the plant and breathing in the steam was common. This mixture would then be allowed to cool a bit, strained, and consumed as a tea.

Burdock tea is also thought to help stop dandruff and relieve itchy scalps, and to give a beautiful shine to the hair.

A typical tea was made by boiling approximately 1 tablespoon of dried leaves and/or roots in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes. Sometimes, the entire plant was simply removed from the ground, the dirt washed off, and placed in boiling water.

Grow Burdock at Home!

The Ancient Edible Plant That Combats Dandruff, Heals Wounds, And Provides Energy

Image source: Pixabay.com

This plant is native to just about every state in the U.S., but if you want to be certain that you are getting some organic, premium burdock, why not grow some of your own? Drying the leaves and root is very easy and it lasts for years if stored properly.

Burdock seedlings really like compost, but the truth is that it grows just about everywhere. For the biggest, longest roots possible, be certain that the ground is free from rocks or very hard-packed dirt. Some roots can grow as long as four feet, so choose loose soil. Keep the plants watered when they become too dry. Burdock needs little care once you get started.

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If you want bigger roots, then keep the flowers and burrs picked off and prune some of the larger leaves. Young, tender leaves taste a great deal like spinach!

Roots should be ready for harvest about 100 days after germination. You can peel them and eat them raw or cooked.

An Interesting Note

Burdock was once considered to be sacred to Thor by the early Celtic people. Since it was Thor who ruled over summertime storms, the plant was often collected during midsummer and placed on house gables as protection from lightening.

While burdock won’t protect you from lightening, it is certainly good to know that this source of food and medicine is readily available should you need it.

Have you ever used burdock? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:  

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The ‘Miracle Berry’ That Kept People Healthy Prior To Vaccines

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The ‘Miracle Berry’ That Kept People Healthy Prior To Vaccines

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

The common cold and the flu have been around for a long time. Today, people use preventative measures as well as over-the-counter remedies to stay healthy, but what did our ancestors do before pharmacies and modern medicines were commonplace?

One of the most commonly used flu and cold remedies was elderberries. In fact, it’s still used in medicines today. You can buy elderberry-based cough syrups, which have been proven to reduce the severity of the common cold or flu, in your local pharmacy.

How Can Elderberries Help?

Elderberries (Sambucus nigra), which are native to a few parts of Europe and the US, come from a flower bush that produces small, black/purple fruits, similar to mulberries. They taste something like a strong blackberry.

Please note that the leaves of elderberry bushes can be poisonous, so don’t eat them or use them for tea. Elderberries need to be cooked prior to use or they can cause intense vomiting and diarrhea.

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Numerous studies back up claims that elderberries contain anti-viral compounds, which prevent you from becoming infected in the first place – and shorten the duration and severity of the illness when you do get sick.

Grow Your Own

Order an elderberry bush from a reputable nursery and be certain you are getting Sambucus nigra.

One of the great things about elderberry bushes is that they are very easy to grow. They tolerate poor soil and very wet soil. However, one thing that elderberry bushes love is water. If you have hot, dry summers, you will need to give these little beauties water on a weekly basis.

The ‘Miracle Berry’ That Kept People Healthy Prior To Vaccines

Image source: Flickr

If you want to plant more than one, put them about 3 feet apart, in rows about 12 feet apart. You should plant at least two bushes (for cross-pollination). For best results, do nothing to the plants for the first two years. Do not prune them and do not remove the berries. Just let them be their own wild selves for a short time, and then you can prune them and use the berries as you wish. Prune in the early spring and remove dead branches.

They will just give a few berries their very first year, but by the second year, you will have plenty. Berries ripen somewhere between the middle of August and the middle of September, which gives you just enough time to mix up some elderberry syrup!

How to Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup

Of course, people use elderberries for things other than cold medicine. There are recipes for elderberry wine, elderberry “marshmallows” and even elderberry pie. Today, however, we are going to look at a quick and easy way to make elderberry syrup.

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There are probably as many recipes for this syrup as there are for meatloaf. This one is very basic and simple, but gets the job done. Tastes pretty good, too!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of dried elderberries or 1.5 cups of fresh berries
  • 5 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon of clove powder
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 16-ounce glass container with lid (Mason jars are a good choice)

Instructions:

  • In a medium-sized pot, add all ingredients except for the honey
  • Bring to a boil, and then cover.
  • Reduce heat to simmer
  • Allow to simmer for 45 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to about half
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool until lukewarm
  • Mash the berries a bit, and then strain from pot into a bowl
  • Add honey and mix well
  • Pour into container of your choice

A standard dose is 1 teaspoon for children 12 and under every 3 to 4 hours. Adults can take 1 tablespoon every 3 to 4 hours.

Some people recommend giving children 1 teaspoon each day (and adults 1 tablespoon) during the flu season for preventative measures, but this is a matter of choice, as there are no studies showing this will prevent you from catching a cold or flu. That being said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt anything if you decided to try it!

This syrup is best when stored in the refrigerator and will last for several months. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays, and then seal them in plastic bags for later use. Elderberries also can be frozen if you want to make fresh batches during the winter months.

Have you ever consumed elderberries to boost your health? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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Camouflage Tricks That Kept The Native Americans Hidden

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Camouflage Tricks That Kept The Native Americans Hidden

The art of camouflage is vital to hunters and the hunted. When Europeans came to the New World, their idea of camouflage was one of single color, usually green or dark brown. Many early settlers in what would be America were taken hostage or killed because they never saw their captors until they were, literally, in front of them. The native people of America were masters of the art of camouflage.

In fact, many believe that it was the indigenous people who were the first, true inventors of camouflage. This skill gave them a tremendous advantage, regardless of the inferiority of their weapons. After all, you can’t shoot what you can’t see (and frequently don’t hear).

Camouflage also allowed native people to get closer to their prey. Before they could hope to get close, however, they had to find their prey. Tracking skills were taught from a very early age, and every native American male had to learn them or starve.

Camouflage Skills – Paint

Native people learned early that being as quiet as possible, as well as blending in with their surroundings, made them next to invisible in their world. Of course, the camouflage would depend on the terrain.

In summer months, men would paint their bodies and faces with streaks of green and white to appear as part of the summer leaves and sunlight. Long streaks of brown would run down the length of their arms so that they would appear like branches. Leggings were often painted (or even made from different colored hides) in long brown and white vertical stripes, to mimic tree trunks and dappled sunlight. Leaves and small twigs were braided into the hair. Some warriors went so far as to paint small birds or lizards on their bodies to appear even more like their surroundings.

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In the fall or early spring, the green camouflage was exchanged for black, brown, yellow and bits of red and gold to mimic the changing colors of the leaves and the dying foliage.

Some of the “paint” used had spiritual or protective significance to the native people. The colors of the four directions (black, red, yellow and white), for example, were thought to offer guidance and align the hunters with the forces of nature.

Camouflage Skills – Cover

Another well-known skill of the indigenous people was to cover themselves with something that appeared to be natural. If one wanted to hide among large, grey or black boulders, a person would cover themselves in a gray or black and gray blanket.

New settlers were impressed with just how close native people could get to their prey in order to kill or manipulate them. One technique that is well-documented was the use of animal hides. Some animal hides (such as baby bison or whitetail deer) were tanned so that they left as much of the animal intact as possible, including ears, tails, legs and heads (faces, minus the skull). Hunters would try to cover up their scent by rubbing grasses and bark over their bodies. Then, relying on an animal’s poor eyesight (such as buffalo, deer, elk and moose) they would cover themselves in the hide of a grass-eating animal and crawl or walk slowly, as if they were grazing animals. As long as they moved slowly and their scent did not betray them, many hunters were able to literally walk right up to an animal and either spear it or stab it.

Camouflage Tricks That Kept The Native Americans HiddenAnother trick using the animal hide was for a dozen or so hunters to gradually work behind the herd to maneuver it so that it was close to cliffs or dead falls. When their prey was in position, they could throw off the hide and yell, frightening the herd. Often, a great majority of the herd would run off the cliff and be killed on impact. Women and other hunters were waiting below to finish off the survivors and begin their tasks.

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Sometimes, native people used both bait and camouflage to capture their prey. Dead falls with bait (such as a small wounded animal tied to the top of the covering) would lure animals to their deaths. Other times, native people were known to lie on the ground and cover themselves with branches and leaves. They would tie a small animal to their leg or wrist. The thrashing of the bait sometimes caused larger predators, such as hawks, weasels, or foxes to come running. Once the animal grabbed the bait, the hunter would leap out of their hiding place.

Tracking Skills 101

Of course, before the camouflage can work, you need to find the animal. Tracking is an important skill and one that most people have lost.

Becoming familiar with the footprints and scat of local animals is just the beginning. While some tracks are distinct (possums and red foxes, for instance) others look very similar, such as goats, elk, caribou and pronghorn sheep.

One tip: When you do find a set of tracks, keep the footprint between you and the sun. The light will cast a shadow on the print, which makes it stand out.

Of course, finding tracks in wet dirt or mud is easier than in hard-packed dirt. This requires time and skill. Native people were excellent trackers who could not only tell which animal they were hunting, but they also could tell their gait (whether the animal was walking or running), how big the animal was, and approximately how old the print was. All of these clues, however, take years of study to learn, which is why boys as young as two and three were taken out for walks and taught how to identify tracks.

Native people also knew that most animals will leave other signs or clues, such as chewed leaves, nut shells, broken branches, crushed leaves or grass, broken pine cones or pine needles, spots on tree trunks where they were chewed or rubbed off, feathers, or destroyed nests and tunnels, where larger animals, such as bears or wolverines, might have tried to dig for insects or grubs.

The indigenous people of America relied on nature for everything they needed, so they studied every single tree, plant and animal in their location. They knew their habits, their calls and their patterns, and they took advantage of this knowledge whenever they could.

What camouflage or tracking advice would add? Share your tips in the section below:

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Our Ancestors Used Farm Animals VERY Differently Than We Do

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Our Ancestors Used Farm Animals VERY DIFFERENTLY Than We Do

Image source: BoswellFarms.com

In modern society, we walk or drive down the street to find all kinds of food, many of them unrecognizable to our pioneer ancestors. (Thai noodles?)

For the hardy pioneers, however, a few animals could mean the difference between starvation or survival. Even if animals were too plentiful to be fed through the winter, they could be slaughtered as the season progressed and then sold for cash, which could then be used to buy staples such as flour or corn. Animals even could be bartered for other necessary items.

Most homesteaders have livestock of some kind, but if times get worse, it might be a good idea to know all the ways our ancestors used animals. You might be surprised.

Farm Animals

In order to survive the harsh winters, many pioneers had a hard rule that went something like: “It works or it’s food.” So while dogs were kept, they were considered working animals. Eating dogs is not something most people would do; however, in a pinch most people will eat just about anything.

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This means that our ancestors kept animals that either worked for them or that they ate.

  • Pigs – These were always a favorite as they ate just about anything and are also easy to breed. The fat from pigs could be used for soap and lamp fuel, and one good-sized hog could feed a family for a long time, with bacon to spare! Pigs were usually allowed to forage in the woods and were not always kept in pens or barns.
  • Chickens – Always a favorite, chickens provide both eggs and meat. They are easy to keep because most of the year, they can simply forage for insects. Grain need only be provided during the coldest winter months.
  • Sheep – For the pioneers, sheep were valued for their wool, which provided clothing, but also for the meat. Lambs were more commonly consumed than adult sheep, but this isn’t to say that when other food sources became scarce, that a sheep wasn’t butchered to make stew.
  • Cows – Cows were highly valued, but they were expensive to keep in the winter if you did not have enough hay stored. Some pioneers took their chances and left cattle out in the woods to survive the harsh winters. Stories of pioneer families forced to butcher and sell most of their cattle during a hard winter were not unusual.
  • Horses – While most of us like to think of the pioneers owning beautiful horses like the ones we see in the movies, most horses were working horses, such as Clydesdale or draft horses. These were intended for pulling wagons and plows. Some pioneers were fortunate enough to have a horse just for riding, but horses also mean hay and grain in the winter months, making them fairly expensive.
  • Mules – Mules have more stamina that most horses and are more surefooted when it comes to rocky or mountainous terrain, but like horses, they, too, need grain to keep them in top condition.
  • Oxen – This was generally the animal of choice for pioneers making their way to the West coast. If they survived the trip, oxen could then be used to plow fields and pull wagons. Oxen are not very fast, but they eat whatever vegetation is available and need only hay in the winter months. Also, because they aren’t very fast, Native people were not really interested in them and if they escaped a barn, they were fairly easy to catch.

Other Food Animals

Our Ancestors Used Farm Animals VERY DIFFERENTLY Than We DoSome animals that were popular food items during pioneer times aren’t eaten quite so often today. Some of these are:

  • Rabbits – Easy to breed, cheap and easy to feed. The fur could also be used to line boots, jackets, or to make blankets.
  • Turkeys – Although pioneers did not take turkeys with them on their journey, someone figured out that if you caught a pair or took some chicks and raised them, they were quite similar to chickens. Today, most of us only eat turkey for special occasions, such as Thanksgiving, but for the pioneers, turkey meat was consumed about as often as a chicken.
  • Geese or ducks – While most ducks were hunted or trapped, a few domestic ducks found their way to the plates of the pioneer, along with geese. Geese are very easy to keep, especially if the land has its own pond or lake. No extra feeding is required, although many pioneers did supplement with grain to keep the goose fat.
  • Doves and/or quail – Doves and quail are not much meat, but they eat relatively little and breed quickly. Added to meager soups or stews, doves and quail would be a welcomed source of meat.

Miscellaneous Animals

As mentioned, if animals weren’t being kept for food, they needed to be kept for work. A few animals that were often kept strictly for work were:

  • Dogs – Especially hunting dogs or herding dogs, although even a mutt would keep raccoons, wild dogs, bears and intruders from coming on the property. Hunting dogs and herding dogs were especially valuable. They would often be bred, and the pups sold for cash or in exchange for other items or work.
  • Cats – Not the pillow princesses we see today, cats kept in pioneer times were mostly for keeping mice and other rodents out of barns, houses and food storage areas. Although they might enjoy the fireplace during the winter months, they were rarely fed, as they were expected to find their own food.
  • Donkeys – These animals might be small, but they can carry a fairly heavy load and are very sure-footed. For carrying small amounts of items to and from the market, donkeys are hard to beat. They are not picky eaters and are fairly easy to keep.
  • Bees – Some pioneer farmers came to realize the importance bees had on their orchards and kept a few hives. Of course, in addition to pollination, bees offered honey, which was a real treat for the pioneer who generally relied only on maple syrup from trees or molasses for a sweet treat.

Our ancestors were tougher than we ever imagined. You won’t find many gerbils or hamsters mentioned in the history of the pioneers!

What thoughts would you add about pioneers and animals? Which ones do you think would be most important today? Share your opinion in the section below:

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1800s Medical Cures That Still Work Today

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1800s Medical Cures That Still Work Today

Once upon a time, more than two-thirds of all Americans lived in rural towns or extensive farms. Indoor plumbing was unheard of, homes were heated with wood and lit by kerosene or oil lamps, work was hard and diseases were plenty.

Should we find ourselves back in these precarious times – or we simply prefer natural remedies — we might find it beneficial to know what types of herbs, medicines and common practices were the tool of the trade for the 19th century doctor.

Keep in mind that there were no vaccines, no lab tests and no antibiotics. Hospitals were located in large cities and surgery was reserved for extreme cases. Doctors traveled for miles on horseback to treat their patients, and payment was generally a hot meal and a place to sleep, and perhaps a hog or some chickens for the doctor to keep or sell as he liked.

Almost all treatments were done right in the home, or outdoors where the light was good. There certainly were times when the doctor knew that his patient would not survive, but he tried his best, knowing that if nothing else, the family would feel better, believing that they had done all they could.

Let’s take a look inside that black bag of medicine and find out what doctors used pre-pharmaceutical times.

Treatments and Research

If you were fortunate, your doctor was up to date with the medical research of the times, such as books by University of New York doctor William Thomson. Otherwise, your local doctor might have relied on Buchan’s Domestic Medicine, which relied on herbal treatments.

With no antibiotics and very little understanding of how diseases worked, gargles, “tonics,” hot baths or steam baths were often recommended. Doctors tended to treat the symptoms, rather than the disease, due to lack of knowledge.

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Doctors understood very little about bacteria, but they were aware that there were tiny organisms that could be seen under a microscope. These could be transferred from one patient to another. So while they may not have fully understood how they worked, doctors began working with “disinfectants” in the later part of the 1800s. Common disinfectants were chlorine, lime, sulfur and charcoal.

Common Herbal Treatments

Without the use of any real working drugs, doctors relied heavily on herbal remedies. Many doctors continued to add to their skills by learning from medicine men of the indigenous people, as well as from women who often passed their knowledge on from generation to generation and the slaves brought from Africa, who also contributed their knowledge of healing herbs and plants.

Fortunately, doctors had many pain relievers available to them at this time, including aspirin (which they made from the bark of willow trees). There were fever reducers made from the feverfew plant, as well from meadowsweet.

Camphor was known to ease itchy skin. It was also commonly used to prevent infection by washing the wound with a solution made from camphor, or soaking bandages in the solution, then wrapping the wound.

1800s Medical Cures That Still Work Today

Image source: Pixabay.com

Opium was known to stop diarrhea almost instantly, and cathartics were from a wide variety of plants, such as milkweed or bloodroot.

Most of these types of medicines were used to make the patient as comfortable as possible, while nature took its course and the patient could heal on his own.

Other treatments including apple pectin, which was mixed in juice to stop arthritis, and honey, which was used as a face wash and a treatment for most insect stings.

Tea and compresses made from cloths soaked in tea were often used to wash everything from hair to burns to wounds.

Some treatments are still used today, such as baking soda to brush the teeth or ease indigestion. Castor oil was used for everything from a general health tonic to a chest compress for coughs and colds. Salt was used as a gargle for sore throats. It worked then and still works today.

Herbs and ‘Female’ Problems

It was very common in the 1800s for women to treat other women with herbs and remedies that have been passed down for generations. Midwives were often called upon to deliver babies as well as to help with what was called “female problems.”

1800s Medical Cures That Still Work Today

Image source: Pixabay.com

Teas made from motherwort were often used to “calm the nerves.” This is a mild sedative and it works remarkably well.

Painful menstruation was often treated with a tea of red raspberry leaves. This was also the same treatment for infertility. Excessive bleeding was treated with shepherd’s purse. Labor pains were treated with blue cohosh while menopause was treated with black cohosh.

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Women suffering from fainting spells were often given a large tablespoon of vinegar. Bladder infections were cured with calendula tea, and chamomile tea was used for just about everything that ailed women, from menopause to insomnia.

Treatments We’d Rather Forget

You can’t talk about the history of medicine without speaking about some of the items and practices that will make you shudder today.

Mercury was used for almost 500 years as a common elixir that was supposed to rejuvenate the body. It was also a popular “cure” in the 19th century for sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis. While mercury probably did kill off the infection, it generally killed the patient as well, most likely from kidney or liver damage.

In fact, let’s not forget that during most of the 1800s, there were no laws in place as to who could call themselves a doctor. Massachusetts passed the first license laws in 1819 but then repealed them in 1835. It wasn’t really until after the civil war that states got serious about licensing doctors.

Tuberculosis (called consumption in those times) was a terrible condition with no cure. Most doctors simply recommended bed rest and to move to a drier climate.

Other treatments, such as those for colic, didn’t need the doctor anyway.

A common “remedy” for colic was to close all the windows and doors to the baby’s room, and have daddy smoke his cigar or pipe right outside the door. (Can’t help but wonder how that one worked!)

Cures for colds and the flu were varied, but included drinking rabbit dung tea. We don’t suggest trying that one, no matter how dire the situation!

What old-time remedies would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

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24 Little-Known ‘Miracle Plants’ The Navajo Used For Medicine

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24 Little-Known 'Miracle Plants' The Navajo Used For Medicine

Artist: Robert Draper

 

Anyone interested in living off the land or wishing to prepare themselves for a crisis would be wise to study some of their local plants.

Native people had an extensive knowledge of which plants, and which parts of the selected plant, were valuable for certain health problems.

In this article, we are going to look at some of the little-known medicinal plants that were used by the Navajo nation. Even though they lived in what we would consider desert or areas filled with nothing but “scrub brush,” the Navajo found some of the best and most powerful medicinal plants in their region.

Remedies for Headaches, Coughs, Fevers, Mouth Problems

1. Lichens – Pulled from rocks or trees, these were chewed to stop mouth pain, canker sores, and sore or swollen gums.

2. Purple loco weed (oxytropis) – The leaves are crushed and boiled, then the steam inhaled to open up airway passages and ease breathing.

24 Little-Known 'Miracle Plants' The Navajo Used For Medicine

Thistle. Image source: Wikimedia

3. Desert thistle – Used to stop the chills and/or fevers. Commonly given in tea form.

4. White horehound – This was used as a tea for coughs and sore throats.

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5. Snake weed – Despite the name, this was not used for snake bites, but for headaches. Unlike other plants, this one was used externally by placing wet leaves on the forehead. Some people refer to this as broom weed or broom snakeweed.

Remedies for Diarrhea, Stomach, or Digestive Problems

6. Indian paintbrush (castilleja) – Used for most common stomach problems, including stomach aches, cramps and indigestion. Many tribes referred to this as the prairie fire plant. The flowers are very sweet and tasty, although other parts are not edible.

7. Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum) – While this relative to cannabis cannot be consumed, the roots were boiled to make a tea to treat intestinal worms and stop dysentery.

8. Antelope sage – The root of this plant was brewed into tea to stop general stomach pain and cramps.

9. Sand verbena – Sometimes called desert verbena, the leaves and flowers were consumed in tea form to stop stomach cramps, as well as to make a general, soothing tonic.

Remedies for Women

10. Greasewood – A tea made from the leaves of this plant was thought to make childbirth quicker and easier for the mother.

24 Little-Known 'Miracle Plants' The Navajo Used For Medicine

Silkweed. Image source: Wikimedia

11. Silkweed – Consumed as a tea, this plant is a general tonic used after giving birth.

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12. Bushy bird’s beak – Flowers and leaves were often brewed as tea to stop or shorten the menstrual cycle.

Remedies for Skin Issues and Wounds

13. Artemisia – This plant is used for burns, boils and other types of skin wounds.

14. Spurge – While spurge can be eaten, it was also used as medicine. Spurge was ground into a paste and rubbed on the skin to stop acne or other types of skin problems.

15. Green briar – The leaves of this bush were beaten into a paste, and then applied to sores, burns or open wounds. Fresh leaves were then wrapped over the poultice and used as a type of bandage.

16. Orange agoseris – Leaves and flowers were pounded into a paste and applied to most wounds to stop infection and speed healing. Most common uses were for serious injuries, such as knife or arrow damage.

17. Blue corn – Corn played a vital part in the life of most Navajo. Besides being consumed as food and used in ceremonies, blue corn was used to cleanse and purify the skin. Ground blue corn, which is more coarse than yellow or white corn, was a natural exfoliator, which encourages the growth of new skin by removing dead skin cells.

General Tonics, Antiseptics and Other Remedies

18. Sage or sagebrush – While this plant tends to give many people hay fever, for the Navajo, the leaves and flowers were made into a tea, which served many purposes. This tea was used as a treatment for diarrhea, as an eye wash, as an antiseptic for disinfecting wounds, and as a hair wash. People once said, “Those who drink sage tea never grow old.” This is because rinsing hair with a strong sage tea acts as a dye, keeping the hair black.

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24 Little-Known 'Miracle Plants' The Navajo Used For Medicine

Hawkweed. Image source: Wikimedia

19. Hawkweed – This plant is a close relative of dandelions, so it is no wonder that the Navajo used it as a natural diuretic. All parts of this plant are edible and can be eaten; however, it is most commonly consumed in a tea form.

20. Red juniper – The inner bark of this type of juniper was rubbed onto the hair and scalp, stopping most kinds of dandruff and itchiness.

21. Yucca – Also known as soap weed, the leaves of the yucca plant were pounded into a thick paste, and then rubbed on the hair and scalp. This acts as a natural type of shampoo, removing grease and dirt from the hair.

22. Horseweed – This was a general, all-around good tonic that was used for many ailments, including stopping diarrhea, and as a diuretic and astringent.

23. Yellowtop – The gray green leaves of this plant were the most common remedy given for spider and other insect bites.

24. Green gentian – Commonly given to calm the nerves or for emotional distress.

Many plants were used in combination with one another. It was thought that by mixing plants, it would cure multiples problems at one time, or that if one ingredient was ineffective, another would certainly work.

Most times, there were one or two “specialists” who knew which plants should be used for what, and which combinations could be used. This was generally the Shaman, who oversaw most health problems, and a female elder, who was generally called upon to take care of “female” problems and assist in childbirth.

The Navajo and other native people spent hundreds if not thousands of years researching plants. Please use extreme caution and be certain that you know not only the exact species you are choosing, but how it might affect you.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or cure any particular health condition. Please consult with a qualified health professional first.

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5 Ways The Native Americans ‘Read Nature’ To Survive

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5 Ways The Native Americans 'Read Nature' To Survive (No. 2 Might Be The Most Important One)

Artist: Frank McCarthy

 

For most of us, finding out the day’s weather is as easy as turning on our television or checking the forecast on our smartphones, but the native people of North America had to rely on what they were taught.

They simply read the signs of nature – a skill we should practice more.

Learning to read the signs of nature, which are often right in front of us, can help us track animals for food, find safe sources of food and water, and even predict the weather.

In fact, most indigenous children were able to survive on their own at a very young age because they were taught the signs to look for almost as soon as they could talk.

Unfortunately, many of these skills have become forgotten by most in our society over the last few centuries, but you can still pick up these important survival skills and learn directly from nature.

1. Following the Weather

No matter what part of the country you are living in, bad weather can sneak up on you. Indigenous people were always aware of their surroundings, knowing that dangerous animals, enemies or storms could be just around the corner.

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By paying attention to nature’s signs, native people knew that one can almost feel bad weather before it starts. Before a big storm, the wind generally picks up, making the leaves on trees twist and showing you their lighter-colored underside. Look into the distance and see if you can see rain further out. Take a deep breath. Native people find that you can smell rain in the distance, even if mountains prevent you from seeing it. Birds will fly lower to the ground and begin to gather in the trees, even though it is still mid-day. Crickets will stop chirping. Fish sometimes come to the surface and even leap out of the water. If wildlife around you suddenly disappear or if you spot seagulls farther inland than normal, a storm is surely on its way.

2. Finding Water5 Ways The Native Americans 'Read Nature' To Survive (No. 2 Might Be The Most Important One)

Over the centuries, native people relied on the same water sources year after year. But for non-nomadic tribes, or when traveling, finding water was a skill no one could afford not to learn! To find water, native people learned to look for green-leafed trees, such as aspens or cottonwoods. The presence of birds, dragonflies or other animals usually means that there is water somewhere nearby. Native people learned to watch for animal trails, such as deer paths, and to follow them downhill. Since animals need water as well, you can bet that a trail will eventually lead to a watering hole. Also, if animals were drinking it, the water was most likely safe to drink. Canyons that face north are more likely to have watering holes, even in the summer, as the sun does not penetrate that far inside the canyon. Natives knew that a dry river bed might still have water. They would look for green plants clinging to the edges and dig right next to them. Chances are that water was just a few inches below the surface.

3. Knowing Which Wild Plants Were Safe for Eating

This is another skill that native people passed down to one another, and it varies greatly depending on where you are. While indigenous people knew that cattails were quite edible, there were not many in the deserts or dry valley areas. Non-nomadic tribes, such as the Ojibwa, raised crops on family plots, but nomadic tribes learned over the centuries which plants were safe to eat and when to harvest them. Native people learned to watch the animals for reliable food sources. Squirrels, blue jays, crows and other animals sometimes hide food — such as acorns — for later consumption. If food was scarce, these were dug up and eaten. Many tribes knew that when birds, deer or other animals were eating berries, these were generally safe for humans as well. Many wild berries, such as blackberries, grow near the forest edges. Plantain is found almost everywhere in the U.S. and can be eaten raw or cooked. Dandelions are another edible plant. (But don’t ever consume mushrooms unless you are 100 percent certain you know what you are choosing, as many are poisonous.) The indigenous people looked to the trees to find nuts or fruit. Native people learned to avoid plants that smelled like almonds, or any plant that has thorns.

4. Finding their Way Home

5 Ways The Native Americans 'Read Nature' To Survive (No. 2 Might Be The Most Important One)

Artist: Alfred Jacob Miller

Ever wonder how the native people of this land never seemed to get lost? Even when a single young man would walk out into the woods to hunt, they never seemed to have trouble finding their way back. How did they do this? Again, indigenous people were always aware of their surroundings. They knew a marker (such as a mountain or a particular growth of trees) that would help to guide them back. Also, without a compass, they still knew the four directions.

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Even without sunlight, they would know that the north end of a gorse bush, for example, had the thickest tufts of “flowers.” They also knew that trees tend to grow longer or grow more branches on the side that faces south. Before they even left camp, indigenous people knew what direction their camp lay in relation to their journey, so finding their way back was pretty easy.

5. Finding Meat

Native people ate quite a bit of meat when they could find it. Since animals tend to migrate or move about to find their own food, meat choices for indigenous people varied, depending on the season. Fishing was always a good source of food. Nets, not poles, were the preferred method of fishing, although spears were also sometimes used in deeper water.

Many women made traps near water sources or along known animal trails. Birds, such as ducks and geese, were often caught using traps, bolas or slings. Even small children learned to use slings or slingshots to kill rabbits, raccoons and squirrels.

For most of us, skills such as these would take a lifetime of learning, or at least several years of classes, plus practice. However, for the native people of North America, reading the signs of nature was as normal as putting on moccasins in the morning.

What skills would you add to this story? Share your thoughts in the section below:  

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How Native People Used Every Part Of An Animal for Survival

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How Native People Used Every Part Of An Animal for Survival

One thing that native people are well known for is that they not only believed, but practiced the old “waste not, want not” theory. Indigenous people had a tremendous respect for life and did not believe in killing for sport. This means that when they killed animals, they took great care to use as much as possible.

Of course, this wasn’t always possible. If a buffalo kill was large, such as several dozen buffalo that were run off a cliff, there would be far more bones and internal organs than could be used. In general, however, native people made sure that very little went to waste. This ensured survival of indigenous people because it ensured the survival of the species they hunted.

Start From the Outside In

The most obvious items taken and used were the skins or hides. In cold months these could be frozen and tanned later; otherwise, they were quickly skinned and tanned for clothing, shoes, blankets, teepee covers, you name it. Rawhide (the hair removed) was even more versatile as it could be used for making belts, snowshoes, moccasin soles, water troughs for horses or hide tanning, quivers, shields, buckets, drums and even rafts!

The skin on the head of male buffalos was extremely hard. Native people often used it as a bowl. Even animals that appeared to have no “hide” to use, such as birds or porcupines, were still found to have a use. The quills of porcupines were saved and flattened to make decorations. Bird feathers could be used as decoration, to add balance to arrows, and to stuff pillows or line moccasins for extra insulation.

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Hooves were, depending on the animal, sometimes saved and used as bowls or scoops, as well as wind chimes or rattles when they were not boiled down to make a type of sausage. The same with horns. Buffalo horns could be made into a type of whistle, used as a “bag” to carry or store items (such as embers from a fire), and sometimes served as ladles or serving dishes.

On average, a male buffalo could provide up to 400 pounds of meat if nothing spoiled. This does not include organ meat, which was usually consumed first. Brains could be eaten, but were usually saved for tanning the hide. The tongue, liver and heart were considered choice meats. The lungs were often cut into pieces and dried. They would later be used in soups or stews. Blood was also used for stews or as paint. Even teeth were used for decorations.

How Native People Used Every Part Of An Animal for Survival

Image source: Wikipedia

Fat was often used for cooking, frying, tanning hides and for beauty purposes. Once rendered, fat was used for pemmican, body “lotion,” and hair dressing. Some tribes tell how, in extremely cold weather, they would put a layer of fat (bear fat was especially prized for this) on their skin before dressing, to act as another level of protection and warmth.

Tails from buffalo were used for knife sheaths, decorations, whips, fly swatters, or even made into toys for children.

Digging a Bit Deeper

Once the outside parts were removed, the native people could remove and use other parts as needed.

The stomachs of buffalo and deer, especially if they were full or nearly full of grass, were often boiled with some water, eyes, and some meat to make a stew. Sometimes the Shaman of the tribe would keep some of the stomach contents to use as medicine. Other times, stomachs were cleaned, dried and used to store or carry water. The scrotum of bull buffalo were also used as containers or made into rattles.

Bladders were very useful items to indigenous people. They were used as medicine, and made into bags for food, water or medicine bags.

Last but not Least

After everything else was stripped away, there were still items that could be used.

Tendons and sinew were used to make thread, strings for bows and ties for arrows. When rendered, sinew made excellent stitches for wounds.

The skull from buffalos had many uses. These were used in ceremonies, such as The Sun Dance, by the Lakota, used in trade, painted for decoration, or if they had been broken, they could be used as tools to remove the hair from hides.

Shoulder bones from deer, moose, elk and buffalo were also excellent tools. These were used as cooking spoons and as scrapers when preparing hides for tanning.

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Foot bones were used to make toy buffalos, or teething objects for infants. Various bones were used for just about anything you can imagine: combs, paint brushes, necklaces, wind chimes, spoons, stirring tools, knives, spears, breast plates, flutes and digging tools, to name a few.

Rib bones made terrific arrow shafts or runners for “sleds.” Even bone slivers were valuable, as they were used for making needles to sew clothing, bags, quivers and moccasins together using sinew or tendons for “thread.”

Bones from other animals, such as hawks or eagles, were too hollow and weak for other purposes, but they made excellent whistles.

Miscellaneous Items

There appears to be no end to the uses that native people found in animal parts.

Turtle shells were used to make rattles, pots, bowls, calendars and bags.

Deer or elk antlers were often carved into buttons and beads, or used as awls.

The castor oil from beavers was prized for making things waterproof. Castor oil was used for moccasins, teepee coverings, and to seal rafts or other items that are used in water.

Even some parts that you wouldn’t normally even consider, including buffalo “chips,” were put to use. Dried dung from herbivores, such as deer and buffalo, was collected and used as fuel for fires. Contrary to what you might think, there really is no smell — just the scent of burning grass.

Whether it was for clothing, shelter, food or decoration, native people considered their animals as a rich harvest that provided them with everything they could need and more.

Do you know of other uses for animal remains? Share your tips in the section below:

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Long-Term Food Preservation Secrets Of The Native Americans

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Food Preservation Secrets Of The Native Americans

Image source: National Archives

Traditional food preservation and storage methods have seen an uptick in popularity in the past decade, as people show an interest in learning how the native people of America preserved food and kept it safe for later consumption without refrigeration.

Of course, in winter months, storing food to prevent spoilage wasn’t such a huge concern, but in some parts of the country, indigenous people lived in areas that did not freeze or had a small number of freezing incidents.

Let’s take a look at how the native people dried and stored fruits, vegetables, and meat for consumption during the winter months or for times when food was scarce.

The 5 Types of Food Typically Preserved

  • Foods above ground: berries, fruit, nuts, corn, squash
  • Foods below ground: roots, onions, wild potatoes
  • Fish
  • Birds
  • Animals with 4 legs: buffalo, deer, elk

One of the factors that was critical to nomadic tribes, such as the Lakota, was that food needed to be portable. Nomadic tribes generally moved every few weeks (or months, depending on the size of the tribe) so that they did not strip the area of food and firewood, as well as to keep their horses fed. This means that food needed to be dried and made into the smallest, lightest form possible.

For example, while Southwestern tribes, such as the Hopi, could afford to simply dry corn on the cob and store the entire cob in sealed-off rooms, other tribes would strip the corn kernels off for storage. Keep in mind that the corn native people used was not the same corn we see in our supermarkets today.

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Corn was typically dried on the cob, laid out on flat rocks, grass mats or hides. Children and the elderly would typically be in charge of drying food, turning it regularly and removing flies, ants or scaring away birds and raccoons.

Other types of fruit were picked and dried in the same manner. While each tribe had their own way of dealing with vegetables, the methods were the same: to dry out the vegetable so that it could be preserved for later consumption. Many tribes would cut the vegetable, such as squash, into strips, flatten it out using a bone or rock, and then dry these thinned-out pieces in the sun.

Preserving Meat and Fish

Although the native people had no scientific evidence to fall back on, they learned over thousands of years that some foods would not store well and would go rancid quickly unless cooked, dried or somehow preserved.

Fish was often smoked to preserve it for later consumption. Once gutted, the entire fish was often placed over a low fire that included a great many green branches, so that the heat and smoke would dry out the fish meat. Salmon, due to their size, were often cut into strips, and then smoked and dried.

Long-Term Food Preservation Secrets Of The Native AmericansMost other types of meat were cut into long strips and the fat removed. The fat was placed in cooking “pots.” If it was the beginning of the hot, dry season, meat would then be placed on rocks or racks made from tree branches so that it would dry in the sunlight. Again, children and the elderly did their share of work by fanning away flies, insects and marauding animals such as dogs or raccoons. If time was short, the meat was sometimes dried and/or smoked under a very low fire. This dried meat is typically referred to as “jerky.” It could be made soft again by cooking it in a soup and was often served along with other vegetables.

The fat from large animals, such as buffalo or elk, was collected and then put through a process called rendering. Animal fat is very dense in calories, but it goes rancid quickly. Indigenous people learned to render fat by cooking it, along with small amounts of water, under a low heat. All pieces of meat or other tissue will come to the surface and are removed. Rendered fat will last about one year without refrigeration if kept out of direct sunlight.

Pemmican: The Fast Food of Native Tribes

Pemmican was made by many tribes of the north and northeast, including the Cree, Chippewa and Lakota. While the “recipe” varied, the basic pemmican is dried, pulverized meat and dried berries, held together by rendered fat. This mixture was often made into golf-ball sized pieces. The meat could be whatever was handy or what was plentiful at the time, including moose, elk or bison. The fruit used was often dried chokecherries, blueberries or cranberries. Dried meat would be pulverized into almost a powder, the dried fruit also broken down into smaller pieces, and then mixed with the rendered fat. These balls of pemmican were then placed in rawhide bags for storage and transportation.

Pemmican is a nutrient- and calorie-dense food that would last for at least one year. Most tribes, as well as hunting parties, relied on pemmican to get them through the lean winter months. Most Canadian fur traders used pemmican, as well. If a person were traveling, a piece of pemmican was bitten off and then slowly chewed to soften it. If you have ever eaten jerky, you know it takes some time to break down the meat! However, pemmican could also be cooked. Some tribes would put a few balls of pemmican in a pot of water, along with some vegetables, while others would fry it with some onions or wild potatoes.

There were a great many other foods that were dried for later use or used as seasoning, including sage, dandelions, wild rice (which is actually a grass, but grows in wetlands much like rice), pumpkins, beans, azafran, sunflower seeds, acorns, mustard seeds, cactus, tomatoes and plantain (the greens, not the bananas!). What was collected and dried varied a great deal, depending on the climate and what was in season.

While most of us rely on our dehydrators or ovens for drying meat or fruit, the native people of America did it all by hand, relying only on their skill and the power of the sun or fire.

What advice would add on preserving food without refrigeration? Share it in the section below:

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5 Stealth Native American Skills That No One Else Has Mastered

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5 Stealth Native American Skills That NO ONE ELSE Has Mastered

Artist: Martin Grelle

Whether is was a matter of sneaking up on prey to catch their next meal, sniffing out enemies who might be nearby so that they could be avoided, or planning a sneak attack on enemies, one of the most notable skills that native people had was stealth.

When Europeans came to the New World, they were often amazed at how native people seemed to be able to walk through the woods almost without sound. When you consider the amazing hearing of most animals, it makes you wonder just how hunting parties managed to get close enough to their prey to make a kill!

In the times before the white man walked in the New World, there were no telescopes, no long-range rifles, no binoculars. How did native people manage to get so close to game and avoid their enemies?

1. Walk silently

It seems backwards to most of us, but indigenous tribes know that walking silently means walking toe to heel, not heel to toe. The native way of walking was to take smaller steps (no more than three feet or so) and place the toes on the ground first. The weight of the body should rest on the back leg. This allows you to check the noise value of the ground you are about to step on. This way, if there is a twig hidden under leaves, you will feel it with your toes before it makes much of a sound. This enables you to change your footing, if needed.

If the ground under your toes appears (and sounds) like a quiet step, you can now put your heel on the ground and transfer the weight to your front leg. Once your toes are on the ground, roll on the outside of the foot until your heel is firmly in place.

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This is the exact opposite to how most of us walk, and it will take some practice if you hope to acquire this valuable skill. Practice on a wide range of surfaces. Once you think you have the hang of it, get a friend to turn their back on you, while you sneak up behind them. See if they can hear you or if they can tell when you are within “attack” range.

2. Be ultra quiet

While walking toe to heel is considered to be the main stealth skill, there are other things that matter. For example, no matter how silent your feet might be, if you are singing, talking, whistling or even breathing loudly, you will be heard! This is one reason why native people learned the songs and whistles of native birds. They could signal one another with natural sounds that few would suspect.

Being aware of noise makers on your person is another factor to consider. Your equipment, shoelace ends tapping on your shoes, nylon pants rubbing against your legs, a clanging water bottle or rifle, all make noise that, while it might not be much, will sound like a trumpet in the quiet of the woods.

3. Watch your posture

Most people walk with their backs hunched forward and their heads up. This will naturally put most of your body weight on your front foot, which you don’t want. Learn to bend at the knees and keep yourself as low as possible while still keeping the upper part of the body erect. Yes, this means leg strength, so you might want to consider doing more squats to increase the strength of your thigh muscles.

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While you are bending at the knees, keep your hands and arms at waist level. Use your hands (palms down) to balance and further help distribute your weight. In the dark, or even in places where the light level is very low, this can help you avoid smacking low tree branches. Picture the form: knees bent, torso erect, hands spread wide between rocks or trees. This is the perfect position to pounce upon unsuspecting prey or move quickly if you are suddenly ambushed.

4. Breath differently

If you have ever watched a horror film and watched someone find a great hiding space, only to give it away with their labored breathing, you will find that this is a true fact, not just a movie stunt.

Of course, you need to breathe, but be aware of how loudly you are breathing. Many people find that they can breathe more quietly with their mouth open.

Another trick that indigenous people used was not staring directly at the person or animal until they were within range and ready to attack – believing that humans and animals could sense, somehow, that someone is watching them.

If you are not in a position to shoot or if you simply want to avoid being seen and your prey looks at you or even in your general direction, do not assume you have been spotted. Freeze right where you are. Eyes will quickly catch movement, but objects that are stationary, not so much.

Depending on your skin tone and what your purpose is, you might want to consider the lighting. This is why most native people painted their face and upper body (even their horses) with streaks of black and dark red. This helped them appear more like shadows. If you have very light-colored skin and will be in a low-light area, you might want to cover it with some streaks of dirt. While an animal might not recognize a shadow, a person surely will. Be aware of your position in the sunlight to avoid projecting a human shadow. Many native tribes tried to keep the sun on their back as they knew that most animals, and people, will turn their faces away from direct sunlight.

5. Check the wind

While you most likely could not smell a deer or a person (unless that person was using perfume or lacked deodorant) until you were almost upon them,  almost all animals have a better sense of smell than you. If the wind is chasing your scent directly to your prey, even an average deer can smell you coming from half a mile away! All the stealth in the world won’t help if your prey can smell you coming. Check the wind, no matter how slight, and be certain that you are upwind!

What Native American stealth skills would you add? Share your knowledge in the comments below:

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