5 Keys to Food Security in Extreme Weather, for Home Gardeners

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Back in August 2015, I wrote a post about the findings of a joint task force of experts from the U.K. and U.S. The group had released recommendations for Extreme Weather and Resilience of the Global Food System. You can read the original post on food security here: 

Read More: “Extreme Weather and Food Resilience for Home Growers”

Quite frankly, that report was pretty scary. It detailed all sorts of reasons why our global food supply was in serious jeopardy. When that report was released in 2015, I had noted how relevant it was in light of a number of catastrophic weather events going on at the time, wreaking havoc on crops and raising food prices in some areas.

Now, just a couple of years later, the situation has become even worse. Hurricanes, mudslides, drought-related fires, disrupted weather patterns, wars, and more have caused crazy fluctuations in food supplies around the world.

In March 2017, the Food Security Information Network (FSIN) released a Global Report on Food Crises 2017.1)http://www.fao.org/3/a-br323e.pdf In that report, they indicated that the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity had increased by 35% since the release of the 2015 report.

Quite a bit of that lack of food security was related to conflict. However, catastrophic weather events like droughts had also driven up the costs of staple foods, making them unaffordable for large groups of people.

If you think this can only happen in poor, war-torn countries, then consider this. In the U.S. in 2017, there were at least 16 weather events that cost over a billion dollars each and resulted in losses of crops, livestock, and other resources, as well as of homes, businesses, personal property, and lives.2)https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/US/2017 In 2016, there were 15 of these weather catastrophes; in 2015, there were 9; in 2014, there were 8; and in 2013, there were 9.

It might be too early to say that 15-16 catastrophic, billion-dollar weather events is the new normal for the U.S. However, new data modeling shows that there are real risks that both the U.S. and China might simultaneously experience catastrophic crop losses that could drive up prices and send more countries into food famine in the coming decades.3)https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/15/climate-change-food-famine-study

In 2017, due to a weakened dollar, food prices in the U.S. increased by 8.2%.4)https://www.thebalance.com/why-are-food-prices-rising-causes-of-food-price-inflation-3306099 That trend hopefully won’t continue in 2018, but between weather and world volatility, isn’t it better to bank on building your own food security independent of global markets and events?

We think so, too! So, we want to give you some ideas to help you build your own food security at home.

Food Security Recommendation #1: Understand Your Risks

Building on the ideas from our earlier post on “Extreme Weather and Food Resilience for Home Growers,” it’s really important to know the risks for your area and plan your gardening practices to be resilient even when disaster hits.

Many  governments and global non-governmental organizations have made predictive models for the likely regional effects of climate change available. You can use these models to identify trends in your area. Here are a few example models available:

Even if you don’t live in one of these areas, a quick Internet search for “climate change impacts” for your area should give good results. This search may link to articles about impacts as well as to modeling tools. Focus on search hits from government or academic websites for more comprehensive, peer-reviewed climate change data.

Food Security Recommendation #2: Consider Using Permaculture-Based Landscape Design

There have been so many weather-related disasters recently that it is hard to know what to prepare for anymore. In California, extreme dry weather and winds made for a devastating fire season. Then, the loss of vegetation from the fire season led to severe mudslides during torrential rains. Parts of Australia have also been suffering similar catastrophic cycles of drought and flooding.

In Western North Carolina where I live—a locale that we chose specifically because it is expected to be less impacted by climate change (e.g., sea levels rising, coastal hurricanes, etc.)—we’ve had extended dry periods followed by heavy rains that led to lots of vegetation losses in our area.

Drought-flood cycles are extremely damaging to plant life. In dry periods, plant roots dehydrate and shrivel. Soil also shrinks from water loss. Then when heavy rains come, the soil and roots no longer have the water-holding capacity they once did. Rather than the rain being absorbed, it sits on top of dry, compacted soils in flat areas, causing flooding. Or it moves downhill, taking topsoil and vegetation with it as it goes, causing mudslides and flash flooding in other areas.

When you use permaculture design in planning your foodscapes, you take into account these kinds of cycles of drought and heavy rain that would otherwise be damaging to vegetation. In fact, you make them work for you. Simple solutions like catching and storing water high on your land can help you better weather the cycles of drought and flood.

By applying permaculture principles, you can help safeguard your food security by making your landscape more resilient to weather extremes and diversifying your food supply to ensure you get good yields regardless of weather.

To get an idea of how permaculture works, check out this tour of Zaytuna Farm given by Geoff Lawton.

Also, if you want a short but powerful introduction to what permaculture can do in extreme landscapes, check out these titles by Sepp Holzer:

Food Security Recommendation #3: Manage Your Microclimates

Every property has microclimates. For example, in North America, it will almost always be a bit warmer along the edges of a south-sloping blacktop driveway. This is because the path of the sun will cast more sun on southern-facing slopes. They are literally like sun scoops, catching its rays.

food security - blacktop asphalt

“Closeup of pavement with grass” by User:Angel caboodle is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Additionally, dark colors absorb more heat than light colors. If you painted that same driveway white, it would still be warmer due to its southern slope. However, the white paint would reflect light and heat away from the driveway and would keep that same area cooler than with a blacktop driveway.

The physical mass of blacktop asphalt material also acts as a heat sink. It draws in heat during the day and releases  it back into surrounding areas as air temperatures cool at night. The same driveway made with light-colored concrete might not absorb quite as much heat as an asphalt driveway due to its color. However, it would still act as a heat sink by virtue of its mass.

The shade of a large oak tree creates a cooler area than the dappled shade of a pruned fruit tree. Large bodies of water will help regulate extreme temperatures. A wide, stone knee wall around a raised bed will insulate the soil inside better than thin wood boards because of its mass. Boulders in your landscape are also heat sinks. Even things like black trash cans can impact temperatures directly around their vicinity.

Gaining a basic understanding of how colors attract light waves, learning how different kinds of mass (rocks, soil, trees, etc.) store heat and divert wind, and knowing the path of the sun at different times of the year in your area can help you use microclimates to moderate the effects of extreme cold and heat. Using your slopes, like north-facing slopes to keep things cooler and south-facing slopes to heat things up, can also help. Working with shade patterns to minimize or maximize sun exposure can help moderate hot and cold temperature extremes.

For example, I live in USDA planting Zone 7a. With the extreme cold weather we’ve had this year, our conditions were closer to Zone 5.  Some of my plants—like rosemary, which is hardy to zone 7—were killed by the cold. After our last risk of frost passes, I plan to replant rosemary bushes in front of our south-facing house and mulch them with dark stones. In that location, even if we have Zone 5 conditions again, my rosemary should make it just because the heat mass from our house and the stones, the southward orientation, and the wind protection give it the right microclimate.

Cold frames, greenhouses, and underground areas (e.g., walipinis) are also good ways to create microclimates on your property to ensure longer and more secure food production in extreme conditions. Check out this post from Marjory to learn about building your own underground greenhouse.

Read More: “Underground Walipini Pit Greenhouse Construction”

Food Security Recommendation #4: Go Big on Organic Matter in Your Soil

If I pour a bucket of water over some of the heavy clay soil in my landscape, water runs off on slopes. In flat or cratered areas, it sits on top, eventually making a big muddy mess that becomes algae-covered if we don’t have enough wind or sun to dry it out.

If I pour a bucket of water over the same approximate amount of area in one of my vegetable garden beds, loaded with compost, the bucket of water soaks in. Even on sloped beds, the water sinks and stays put rather than running off.

Soils that are high in organic matter are more porous and spacious than compacted soils.

If you try the same experiment with sand, the water will also soak in as it did in my garden bed. Unfortunately, it won’t stay there. Come back a few hours later and that water will be gone, which means it is not stored in the root zone for later use by plants.

Soils that are high in organic matter also preserve moisture better than sandy soils.

In order to hold water in your soil during droughts and catch it during heavy rains, you need a lot of organic matter in your soil. Here are a few easy ways you can up your organic matter quotient at home.

  1. Add compost.
  2. Mulch with things like wood chips, straw, old hay, grass clippings, and mulched leaves.
  3. Plant, then chop and drop cover crops like grain grasses, clover, mustard, or chicory.
  4. Use no-till or minimal till practices and leave decaying roots and plant matter in the soil.

Check out these TGN posts to learn more about these methods.

“No Till Gardening: Homesteading Basics (VIDEO)”

“Build Your Compost Pile Right On Your Garden Beds!”

“From Weeds to WOW: The Weed Island”

“No Bare Soil! Vegetable Garden Cover Crops”

Adding organic matter not only slows the flow of water in your landscape and sinks it deeper into plant roots, but it actually sinks carbon dioxide, too.

Yes! Building soil that is higher in organic matter can actually help solve our CO2 problem. And solving our CO2 problem will moderate the disastrous effects of climate change and can mitigate future weather extremes. (No, this one answer won’t solve all our problems—but if lots of us do it, it will help!)

Food Security Recommendation #5: Remember ABC—Always Be Cover-cropping

Plant roots are like plumbing for your soil. They create little channels that help divert water down into the earth so it can be accessed by the plant and other biological soil inhabitants. By growing something in your soil at all times, you keep those pathways open for water to filter down into the soil.

For annual growing areas, planting cover crops in off seasons is critical. However, even for the rest of your landscape, having some sort of cover crop is necessary for extreme weather resilience.

Many of us grow lawns as our primary perennial cover crop. Traditional lawns, though, are shallow-rooted and do not contribute much to soil health. Growing grasses with deeper root systems like perennial rye and other prairie- or meadow-type grasses can be even more beautiful and give you deep roots to help sink water further into your soil.

Using vegetative perennials (i.e., that die back in the winter) with expansive root systems is also a great way to prevent soil erosion and build biomass in your landscape. Yarrow, Russian comfrey, curly dock, burdock, vetches, and even invasives like mints are useful for covering bare soil in a hurry. Since these plants lose their leaves each year and can be heavily pruned in the growing season, they make great green manure or mulch plants, too. Tap-rooted trees like black locust and paw paw also drill water and air down deep into your soil.

In addition, having a continuous cover of plants (or leaves from those plants) keeps your soil cooler on hot days and warmer on cool days. This protects all the biological life in your soil like bacteria, fungi, worms, and more so that they can work year-round. Their continued hard work means that your soil will get better year after year so that your plants will have more disease resistance and resilience during bad weather streaks.

Bare soil  = No biological life = More pests, more diseases, and greater weather sensitivity for your plants

Covered soil = Year-round biological workers = Healthier plants better adapted to your weather extremes

If you are willing to do the research and the work, there are plenty of things you can do to mitigate your risks from a changing climate and more volatile weather patterns. These ideas are barely the tip of the iceberg (which is lucky for us since glaciers are now melting at an alarming rate)!

What about you? What other ways are you safeguarding your food security against extreme weather patterns?

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References   [ + ]

1. http://www.fao.org/3/a-br323e.pdf
2. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/US/2017
3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/15/climate-change-food-famine-study
4. https://www.thebalance.com/why-are-food-prices-rising-causes-of-food-price-inflation-3306099

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Are Tire Gardens Toxic? The Case For And Against

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Are tire gardens toxic?

In a newsletter last year, I shared some thoughts on tire gardens, along with this video:

In response, one of my readers wrote:

“Hello David,
Tires do leach toxic, carcinogenic chemicals into the soil and plants grown in them. No time to research this? Then do not show pictures of plants grown in tires. That is irresponsible and bad karma as you pass on injury to others. Look into it. Fact: tire gardening and straw bale gardening are bad if you do not want toxin-suffused vegetables.”

And Sheila writes:

“One year, my father and I planted potatoes in tires. Just put on another tire and add dirt. We had lots of potatoes with seven high. PVC pipe with holes in it to water the plants. Problem was that they tasted like tires. Since then, I am not a fan of tires for living or gardening.”

Vegetables tasting like tires? And bad karma! Oh me oh my, I just want to give up.

Actually, I don’t care about tire gardens, though I do like the idea of recycling a waste product into a gardening bed.

But growing vegetables in tires isn’t a method I have any personal stake in. I’m happy to drop the method if it’s got its downsides, like straw bale gardening seems to have.

So—are tire gardens toxic? Let’s do a little digging.

Are Tire Gardens Toxic? The Case For Tires

Tires are, of course, cheap and widely available even in the third world. ECHO uses them in their urban garden demonstration area. You can set up tire gardens on driveways, on roof tops, in rocky lots, and in tight spaces.

They’re convenient, too. But are they toxic?

When Patrice at Rural Revolution blogged about their tractor tire gardens, she got a similar response to that which I got … but even harsher.

Someone wrote:

You could have created a floral landscape, a Dutch Masterpiece, an English Rose Garden, a French Formal Garden, and you chose Fords-Ville, Michelin Man, and polluted Mother Earth. Scrap timber is everywhere, so are bricks, tiles, even rockery stones, but tires no. Are you sure the food grown will be free of carbon rubber tire oil moisture? A carcinogen?

You can read Patrice’s response and entire defense of tire gardening here, but most of it boils down to what she wrote here:

“Tires have a lot of nasty things bonded into them, things that arguably ARE carcinogenic. But it’s the term BONDED that must be considered. Intact tires are distressingly inert (that’s why they’re everywhere rather than quietly decomposing into Mother Earth).”

She then quotes extensively from research done by Mr. Farber of www.tirecrafting.com (which now redirects to an Etsy site so the original essay appears to be missing):

Used tires already exist, and in their solid state, they are as safe or safer than any other construction material. The process and the result of this global discard nightmare being recycled by industry, whether grinding them up for road base, burning them as fuel, or recouping the oil, releases more hydrocarbons while costing the global economy billions of dollars for tire cleanup and commercial recycling. Modifying tires to create green space and home gardening available to everyone would not only absorb hydrocarbons, it could well be the key to salvation for practically every family on the planet that is otherwise excluded from adequate sustenance. Personal tire recycling potential benefits far outweigh all perceived hazards.

Still, I am not convinced. After all, if vegetables are tasting like tires, well, that doesn’t inspire confidence. Yet I do love what Patrice has done at Rural Revolution. In her case, it made sense.

Are Tire Gardens Toxic? The Case Against Tires

According to Brighton Permaculture Trust:

“Due to commercial secrecy, it’s difficult to find out the exact ingredients of a tire, and there are lots of different types. The list below is from a ‘typical tire’:

  • Natural rubber
  • Synthetic rubber compounds, including Butadiene—known carcinogen
  • Solvents: Benzene—known carcinogen, Styrene—anticipated to be carcinogenic, Toluene—has negative health effects, Xylene—irritant, & Petroleum naphtha
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: Phenols—some are endocrine-disruptive, Benzo(a)pyrene—linked to cancer
  • Heavy metals: Zinc, chromium, nickel, lead, copper & cadmium
  • Carbon black—possibly carcinogenic
  • Vulcanising agents: Sulphur & zinc oxide
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls—known carcinogen
  • Other synthetic chemicals”

Again, though, these terrible things might have off-gassed during the tire’s usable life or been stabilized and made inert during manufacturing.

Yet as Mischa argues in that article:

“When it comes to growing food in tires, why take the risk?

Whilst the quantity of toxic chemicals may be small, we don’t know the exact amount used in tyres because of commercial secrecy.

People generally grow food organically for themselves to avoid exposure to synthetic chemicals. It seems ironic that a ‘Permaculture way’ of reusing tires could be unintentionally reintroducing potentially harmful chemicals back into the equation.”

And over at Science Daily, it gets scarier:

“Draper’s method has been to make up clean samples of water like those inhabited by several kinds of aquatic organisms—algae, duckweed, daphnia (water fleas), fathead minnows, and snails—and under controlled laboratory conditions, put finely ground tire particles into the samples. By letting the particles remain in the water for 10 days and then filtering them out, she created a “leachate” that included substances in the tire rubber. All the organisms exposed to the leachate died, and the algae died fairly quickly.”

This is not complete tires, of course, but tires will break down slowly over time in the garden—and if it kills ground life, well, that’s obviously a bad thing.

The science isn’t settled, but it is unsettling.


After multiple hours of research, I am now leaning against tire gardening. On my new property, I have not built any tire gardens and I don’t plan to add any.

If you’re in an urban setting, have terrible soil or no soil, and no options, etc., there might be a place for tire gardens. I built mine for fun in a few minutes and have enjoyed them, but I now have no desire to expand and add more. Yet digging beds is free—so why use tires at all?

Especially if it’s going to ruin the karma I don’t even believe in.

If you want simple, tried-and-true and even off-grid methods for growing lots of food without much money in tough times, stick around The Grow Network and keep learning!

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Featured Photo Credit: Mark Buckawicki / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain


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What Do YOU Think? (3-Minute Survey)

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The Grow Network is already the premier online Community for people who produce their own food and medicine — and we’re looking for ways to get even better!

Your feedback is really important to me and our team as we decide how The Grow Network can be most useful to you. Would you be willing to take a brief survey to let us know?

There are only 7 short questions which should take you about 3 minutes to complete. Just answer and click —  it’s easy!

Click Here To Take The Survey:

Thank you so much for participating in this survey!

Big hug,




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Crowing Hen? Is That Even Possible?

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OK—so, the title of this post is really a trick question. If your laying hen is crowing, then she’s already undergone a hormonal change that is causing her to display rooster-like qualities.  And since roosters don’t lay eggs … guess what? Neither will your crowing hen.

I only know this because a few days ago, I was in my goat barn, milking one of my goats, when I heard this poor, strangled little rooster crow coming from just outside the barn.  I set down my milk pail and headed toward the sound, expecting to find one of the neighbor’s young roosters in my yard.

Instead, there stood my fattest Buff Orpington hen with her head cocked back, crowing like a rooster.

Yes, this is a true story. And I have a video to prove it.

All Hail, Kale! Growing Kale at Home (With Recipe)

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I have to confess … despite all the hype over kale, I didn’t really think it was a superfood until I started growing kale in my own garden. The stuff at the grocery store just kind of tasted like old collards. Even bacon grease and balsamic glaze couldn’t turn curly kale into something I would eat voluntarily.

Then, a couple years ago, I bought a collection of seeds that were supposed to grow well in early spring. Vates Blue Kale seeds were in the mix. Even though I doubted I’d eat them, I was curious to see how they would do in our garden and figured I could feed the leaves to the chickens, if nothing else.

When those first tender baby greens sprouted from the start of my kale stalk, I tore one off and tasted it. Fireworks exploded and TGN blogger Scott Sexton began singing songs that sounded somewhat reminiscent of fairy tale cartoon movies from my childhood.

(By the way, if you haven’t already heard Scott’s song—you must! Seriously, it will make your day: “Gardening Humor: Need a Laugh? Watch This Now!”)

The Goods on Growing Kale

Super Nutritious

Kale is the ultimate superfood. You want vitamins A, C, and K—it’s got plenty. And those thingamabobs—oh yeah, antioxidants—it’s got twenty (at least). If you want to be where the calcium, iron, manganese, and fiber are—plant some kale and have some for salads. (Yes, this is a play on Scott’s song. So, if you haven’t already listened to it, please check it out so I don’t sound like a total idiot!)

Seriously though, kale is loaded with nutrients and light on calories. It’s even got OMEGAs![note][/note]


Well, not so delicious if you get it at the grocery store. But, if you grow it at home, it’s a whole new world! Cooked in bacon grease or butter, raw, juiced, smoothied (that’s a verb, isn’t it?), rubbed with vinegar and tossed with olive oil, made into kale chips, chopped up, fermented, and used a relish … this green’s got it all. And it’s …

Easy to Grow

Yes!! Growing kale is easy. In fact, in temperate climates it can even grow through winter and into the next spring. Of course, like most cole crops, it grows best in cooler weather. But used in an edible landscape with a bit of heat and sun protection, it can keep producing even in warmer weather.

Edible Landscape Favorite

I love to grow greens under my fruit trees to increase my food production and add seasonal, edible interest. Kale is one of the most beautiful and longest-lasting seasonal greens I grow decoratively. Those giant Lacinato dinosaur leaves hearken back to prehistoric times. The stunning Red Russian fan-like displays call to mind Caribbean coral reefs and add flare and flavor to your edible landscape areas. And the pale, blue-green Vates leaves add amazing contrast and interest.


If you can manage not to eat all your baby kale straight from the garden, then taking those larger leaves and coating them with olive oil, salt, and some red pepper flakes and toasting them on a sheet pan in your oven is a real treat.

We call these kale chips. But with half the calories and 10 million times the goodness of potato chips, you don’t even have to feel guilty eating these. If red pepper flakes aren’t your thing, add your favorite herb or a handful of Parmesan instead.

I’d give you a formal recipe, but kale chips are so easy that all you need to know (besides what I just told you) is to cook them on about 350°F or 177°C for about 10-15 minutes until the edges just start to brown and curl.

Some people remove the stems before baking. Personally, I find this to be too much work. I leave them in, and if they aren’t tender enough to eat, I just nibble the leaf parts and take the leftover stems to my chickens.

Kale chips taste best when leaves are mid-sized. I’d keep the baby leaves for salad and the jumbo leaves for soups.

A Few Cautionary Things to Know About Growing Kale

Now, there are also a couple of things to be aware of before you make kale part of your garden and your diet.

It’s a Cole Crop

Yes, another cole crop, like mustard and arugula—our two most recent greens of the month. In case you missed those greens, you can check them out here.

Read More: “Mustard Greens: What you Need to Know Before You Grow (With Recipe)”

Read More: “Growing Arugula: The Rocket in Your Salad Bowl and Garden (With Recipe)”

However, since you can absolutely grow kale with your mustard and arugula and create waves of delicious color and interest in your garden bed, this doesn’t need to be a downside.

Just remember to only plant cole crops in the same beds once every 3-4 years to minimize pests like cabbage moths and cabbage aphids.

Health Concerns

A single serving of kale has almost 700% of your daily dose of vitamin K. This isn’t an issue for everyone. But it can be a serious concern for people on blood thinners. Kale also packs a fiber wallop, so you might want to add it to your diet slowly and give your gut time to adjust.

Growing Kale

Soil Preparation

Kale can tolerate a wider variety of soils than most other cole crops, which is why it works great in edible landscapes as well as in prepared vegetable garden beds. As long as your soil is the 6.0–7.5 pH range, kale will grow well with a little prep work.

Here’s the big secret to growing kale at home. Ready?

Kale absolutely loves compost.

I mean, loves it! I usually apply at least 3-4 inches of well-aged compost to my kale beds before planting. I also top dress with a sprinkling of worm castings across the entire bed for some bonus fertility. If we get runs of hot weather in spring, I’ll even top dress with another inch or two of compost to keep kale from becoming woody and bitter.

Compost is so important because kale is a nutrient hog. And in good soil, it will set a deep, central tap root, as well as lots of smaller side roots that can sometimes run out and down over several feet in their quest for nutrients. Heavy compost keeps the soil moist so that these nutrient-seeking roots can dig deep to get what they need.

If your soil is mineral light, then you also want to amend with some rock dust.

Seed Starting

Kale seeds can germinate in temperatures ranging from 40-80°F or 5-26°C, which is pretty astonishing for a crop that prefers to grow in cool weather. This makes it a great option for both early spring and late summer planting so that you can eat it for the better part of the year.

You can also start seeds indoors and transplant into the garden. However, in my experience, it’s better to transplant when the plants are only about an inch or so tall. Larger plants tend to get stunted after transplanting and take longer to mature than smaller transplants. Though, if you are super careful not to damage the roots, you can get away with transplanting larger plants, too.

Direct-seeding is my favorite method, though. With daily to twice daily watering (to keep the top layer of soil moist), you can get in-ground germination in 4 days.

A healthy kale plant can grow pretty vigorously. Space plants a foot apart for dwarf varieties and more like 14-16 inches apart for larger varieties.

Young Plant Care

Since kale can often be direct-planted weeks before your last frost, if the weather takes a turn for the worse while the plants are still young, you can protect them with cloches. Fancy cloches are made of glass, look like bells, and come equipped with knobs for easy carrying. But you can make your own with plastic bottles by cutting the bottom off.

For best yields and the sweetest-tasting kale, make sure to keep the soil consistently moist. If we don’t get rain, I’ll water the top few inches of soil every other day as necessary.

Some people start kale every few weeks to keep a good supply. I usually start an early round (like now), then one about a month from now. I eat baby leaves from my early round until my second round matures. Then I let my older plants get larger leaves to use for kale chips, soups, and sautéed greens.

Mature Plant Care and Harvesting

The key to mature plant care for kale is to harvest regularly. Harvest leaves from the base toward the top. Leave the top intact since that’s where new growth will come from. Yes, this means your kale will end up looking like a palm tree. But palm trees are beautiful.

If my kale starts to tower too tall in my garden, I will chop off its head at about 4-5 inches from the ground. So long as the stalk is still in great condition (e.g., not already on the way out), I’ll get some side shoots and more production.

This is a gamble, though, because those cut stalks often start to rot and the plants seem more prone to insect infestation. Still, I have actually kept several plants alive for over three years by doing this. However, new plants are more productive, taste better, and take less work.

Kale is also more susceptible to aphid infestations as weather warms. So be ready to scrub your leaves with soapy water at the first signs of aphid invasions.

Varieties of Kale

Hands down, the easiest kinds of kale to grow in my area (zone 7a—hot early springs, hot fall, late winter) are Vates and Red Russian kale. Lacinato is also pretty easy, but in our heat and humidity, it doesn’t seem to hold up as long as I imagine it would in more Northern climates. Siberian kales tend to bolt in our hot, humid conditions. However, there are lots more kale varieties than these.

Cornell University has a page you can link to that has a long list of cultivated kales:

Read More: Cornell Kale Varieties List 

Unconventional Growing Tips for Adventure Gardeners

Have you heard of perennial kale that will even grow well in sand? Yes, I am serious. It’s called Lily White Kale or Sea Kale.

The seeds are a bit tricky to germinate. You need to remove the outer corky layer and then nurture your seeds in the ground for 21 days or longer. You may also need to give them a bit of shade protection if you are trying to direct-start outdoors.

Like rhubarb and asparagus, it’s better if you give your sea kale a year or two to establish before you start harvesting. But, it can produce for 10 years on average. With a little work up front and some patience, you can grow a come-and-cut kale that will thrive for a decade.

If you are a kale fan like I am (now that I grow my own), we’d love to hear about any trick you have for growing, your favorite varieties, or recipes. Just use the comments section below to share with our reading community! All hail, kale—the superfood that really is super tasting!


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Cold-Weather Chicken Care: How to Keep Chicken Water From Freezing

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In my neck of the woods, winter weather is almost behind us. But some parts of the globe are still up to their ears in some of the worst winter weather conditions they’ve had so far. So, as our final post in our cold-weather chicken care series, I want to offer up a few solutions for how to keep chicken water from freezing even when the temperatures plummet.

In case you missed our earlier posts on cold-weather chicken care, you can check them out here.

Cold-Weather Chicken Care: 11 Quick Ideas to Improve Chicken Comfort

Cold-Weather Chicken Care: The Tale of the Frostbitten Chicken and Lessons Learned About Prevention and Treatment

Cold-Weather Chicken Care: Cold-Hardy Chicken Breeds

Now for some ideas to warm up your chicken water!

On-Grid Solutions

If I lived in a place where dealing with frozen water was a regular issue, I would most definitely get some power to my coop and use some kind of electric heat to keep my chicken water flowing. Plug-and-play devicesonce you have a reliable electricity source installedare about the most headache-free way of keeping chicken water from freezing in extreme conditions.

Even after you have electricity, you still have some decisions to make on which devices will work best for your purposes.

The Heated Coop

If you are giving your chickens supplemental heat and light to keep them laying in winter, and you have an insulated coop, then you likely just need to keep your water bowl close to your heat source.

If you are thinking about going this route, brooder lamps are a classic go-to for winter heat. But newer technologies like chicken-safe heat walls may require less maintenance, and are definitely better from a fire-safety perspective.

Heating Units That Work With Your Existing Watering Devices

If you have a lot of chicken-watering devices and just want to find a solution that works with what you’ve already got in place, consider these.

Fount heaters, which are basically heated pedestals, can be used with your existing self-watering founts and poultry waterers. They can also work well with the nipple-style bucket watering devices. They often look like an upside down pie tin with an electric cord. A high-quality unit will usually cost around $50.

DIY Fount/Bucket Cinder Block Heater

You can also make your own fount pedestal heater for around $10-$15 using a concrete block, paving stone, lamp socket with cord, mounting bracket, and a 60 or 100 watt bulb. Alternatively, you can use an extension cord and a plugable light socket.

The lamp socket you buy should be rated for use with a 100-watt light bulb. Also make sure you get a good fit between your cinder block and your paving stone to ensure that no water can drip into your light socket and create an electrical fire hazard.

Assemble the light kit, mount the light inside the block, and cover the block with the paving stone. Some people will drill holes to run the cord through the concrete block or will buy notched cinder blocks and use a file to deepen the notch to pass the cord through. If you have an elevated wood floor, you can also just drill a hole in your floor, run the cable through the hole, and set the open bottom of the cinder block over your light.

Plug in your cord. Turn the lamp on. Put your waterer on top of the paving stone. And voilà! The lamp will heat the paving stone and the paving stone will heat your watering device. The concrete barrier also provides some degree of fire protection.

You can build this in just a couple of minutes. In many cases, a 60-watt light bulb will be sufficient to keep the water flowing. But depending on your temperatures and the density of the paver top you choose, you may need to upgrade to a 100-watt light bulb to fully heat your water. As with any DIY project of this nature, you must keep a close eye on your homemade heater to make sure there are no safety issues until you are completely confident that your setup is working well.

Submersible Water Heaters

In addition to pedestal heaters, you can also modify your existing watering systems using a submersible deicer. These work particularly well for watering systems that have easy-access openings at the top. They can range in price from $15-$50 depending on design and quality. Many chicken keepers who live in extreme cold opt for higher-end heating models because they tend to last longer and end up costing less over time.

If you have larger water systems, like Marjory’s 55-gallon drums, then you would need to opt for a higher-powered submersible device. Make sure the device you choose is rated for the number of gallons you plan to heat.

To learn more about Marjory’s watering systems, check out this video:

(video) Simple And Effective Watering Systems For Small Livestock

Watering Devices With Integrated Heaters

For about the same price as high-quality submersible or fount water heaters, you can buy watering devices with built-in heaters.

This one is not my favorite method because I like to fill up my water containers in my house on cold days and bring a fresh container to my chickens as needed. So, I keep several watering devices ready to fill on my porch and just swap them out as needed. That means I’d have to buy three or four of these waterers with built-in heaters, and that’s a lot more expensive than just plugging in one fount base heater and using my regular fount water containers or buckets.

If your coop is close to your water source, though, then using a watering device with an integrated heater might be right for you.

There are lots more on-grid options for heating chicken water, but these are a few of the more common, tried-and-true methods to consider.

Off-Grid Solutions

Not all of us are able to run electricity to our coops. Luckily, there are some good off-grid solutions to keeping chicken water from freezing. Some of the ideas that follow are geared more towards us hard-core off-gridders who love to tinker and push our homesteading limits. But even if they seem a bit out there, most of these can be adapted to your average suburban backyard.

Easy Fixes: Double-Wall Waterers, the Saltwater Trick, Placement, and Insulation

Depending on your conditions, you may be able to keep water from freezing longer with a few easy fixes.

Metal, double-walled chicken waterers have better insulation and may keep water from freezing a bit longer than your standard single-walled waterers.

Saltwater has a higher freezing point than fresh water. By submerging a plastic bottle filled with saltwater inside your chicken waterer, you can increase the freezing point of the surrounding water. Make sure your submerged bottle is well-sealed and does not leak into your fresh water, though, or you may overload your chickens on sodium.

By using a dark-colored waterer and placing it in sunlight, it will absorb more heat and be less likely to freeze even in cold temperatures. I like to use blue or black buckets or black rubber concrete mixer containers set against a south-facing wall on top of dark-gray gravel. The dark containers draw the sunlight. The wall and gravel act as heat sinks, absorbing heat and releasing it back to my water container even when the sun slips behind the clouds or horizon.

Create an insulated water area in your coop, such as by making a bagged wood-shaving igloo. If you use wood chips in your coop anyway, just stock up and use the box-shaped bags as building blocks. Or, create a permanent insulated watering nook inside your coop to buy you lots of time between waterings. Similarly to protecting your pipes, buying appropriate insulation and creating a more weatherproof space for water access might even get you through extended subfreezing conditions.

Keep in mind, if you change your chicken water area in cold weather, you want to make sure they know where to find it. I like to leave a fermented scratch trail to the new water station as both a cold-weather treat and a training device.

Longer-Lasting Lake Effect: Use Large, Deep Containers Filled With Warm Water

In cold weather, I give my chickens warm water. I do this because they love it, and because I discovered that it actually buys me time in bitter cold before I have to bring out fresh water again. Here’s why.

When I use large buckets filled with warm water, the water at the surface actually freezes a bit faster than when I use cool water. This is something called the Mpemba effect. And it’s the reason why you can make ice cubes faster if you fill your tray with warm rather than cold water. However, once that surface-layer freezing occurs, that ice layer actually insulates the water underneath, keeping it from freezing. The ice layer will become thicker over time, but it will happen at a much slower rate than if you had the same volume of water in a shallower container.

With their powerful beaks, my chickens will then just break through the ice as needed to get to the fresh water below. Frankly, my chickens love breaking the ice, so this adds a bit of bonus entertainment for them in less-than-pleasant weather conditions.

Even during a string of single-digit days, this little trick meant I only needed to water once in the morning when I let my chickens out and once again in the afternoon when they were doing their heavy pre-roost eating.

Overnight, in cold weather, I remove access to food in the coop and do not try to offer water again until morning.

Keep in mind that chickens are not designed to be water animals. So make sure whatever container you give them can be easily accessed from the ground and does not create a risk for drowning.

If you are a really hard-core off-gridder and have the space, then you may just want to let nature do the work for you with our next suggestion.

The Drip Effect: Offer Constant Drip Water Sources

We have a spring-fed pond that always has at least one section that continues to flow even in our coldest weather. If it does start to ice up around the flow point, I’ll just break that area up with a shovel and keep it flowing longer.

Even if you don’t have a spring-fed water source, you can use this idea to keep water flowing in your coop. By using a bit of grit, you can jam up a nipple feeder to keep it dripping. Make sure to put some kind of collection receptacle below it to collect the constant flow so you don’t get ice patches in your coop.

Similarly, if you set up your watering system with ball valves, you can create a small wedge with a pebble in your valve suction so that the water keeps flowing in. This is like what happens when your toilet handle is breaking and the toilet keeps on running after you flush. If chickens don’t keep up with the flow, then you may need to set your water bucket or bowl in an overflow box full of absorbent material like wood shavings or sawdust.

In both of these scenarios, water will be constantly dripping, so you will need to keep a close eye on it to make sure your watering system doesn’t run out of water or overflow your collection areas.

The Underground Winter Coop

Now, this idea is speculative. I haven’t tried it. But, since we all know a well-built root cellar will keep liquids from freezing, adding an underground component to your coop should also work great to give chickens a suitably warm location for year-round water.

Keep in mind that a cellar will only work if you dig it well below your frost line. So make sure you find out the cellar specifications for your area before you build. Also, you need to take special precautions in your design to avoid potential flooding in your wet season or structural failure over time.

Now, a chicken cellar is probably only worth considering in extreme cold, or if you have a lot of time and are looking for a fun project to tackle.

Here’s one more idea that takes a bit of work, but also gives you great compost in the end.

Watering Chickens the Jean Pain Way

A Jean Pain Mound is basically a giant compost pile of wood chips with a heat-safe coil of tubing buried inside. (The method also calls for a methane digester—but that’s not necessary for chicken watering.) When the compost heats up, cold water is drawn through the coil and forced up through the pile where it comes out hot on the other side. This is called a thermal siphon.

Now, Jean Pain used this method with a really large pile to heat his whole house and also to trap methane gas. But you can also use this concept with smaller piles—like, say, your standard 4′ x 4′ compost pile.

During the winter, when I am giving my goats extra bedding materials and hay rations, I clean their barn thoroughly every 3-4 weeks. That gives me enough material to build a 4′ x 4′ compost pile in just a day. Since the chickens love to hang out on this pile anyhow, I discovered that I could make a divot in the center of the pile after it starts composting, insert a bucket, and keep water from freezing for several days. As the pile shrinks, I top it off, dig a new divot, and insert my bucket.

If you wanted to take this idea up a notch, you could install a thermal siphon that feeds into a bucket from a storage receptacle using a ball valve. The water may come out too hot to drink direct from the siphon, but thanks to Mpemba effect, it will also cool rapidly.

If you are really clever, you could even go further and create a repeating loop with a watering nipple system by harnessing the natural heating and cooling cycles of the water in relation to the thermal siphon. You’d just need to make sure to place your nipples at a point in your loop where the water is cooled enough to drink.

Check out this tutorial from Cornell University to get a basic idea of how to use compost piles to harness heat. Then you’ll be ready to start designing your own creative methods for turning that information into a winter water supply for your coop!

Learn More: http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/2012/10/01/compost-power/

There are literally hundreds of ways to supply your chickens with warm water, even in freezing conditions. I’ve just covered a few to get your creative juices flowing. If you have a wacky, innovative idea for watering your chickens in winter, please share your ideas with our readers using the comments section below.

Now, as winter eases into spring, be on the lookout for more posts on chicken care—including ways to effectively use chickens in your garden and more!


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The post Cold-Weather Chicken Care: How to Keep Chicken Water From Freezing appeared first on The Grow Network.

Growing Arugula: The Rocket in Your Salad Bowl and Garden (With Recipe)

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One of my favorite things to do at the end of an exhausting and stressful day is go home, put on some comfy clothes, and pour myself a giant serving of … arugula. I know arugula might not be the most obvious choice for everyone, but those little rocket-powered leaves are exactly what my body needs to hit the reset button and transition from tough day to a relaxing evening.

Something in the peppery—but also creamy, buttery, and almost meaty—taste of those almost-impossible-not-to-grow little greens just gives me a rocket-like boost. And since “rocket” is actually the common name for arugula in the UK and France (actually, roquette in France—but that’s French for “rocket”), I suspect I am not alone in my appreciation of the power of these peppy plants.

The really great thing about growing arugula is that many of you will even be able to plant it right now for a really early spring crop of super-food-rated greens.

The Goods on Growing Arugula

Nutty Nutritiousness

If you are looking for a nutty-tasting, low-calorie snack option that offers a vitamin, mineral, and phytochemical power punch, you can eat one-third of a teaspoon of almonds at 5.4 calories. (Actually, this is probably not even the equivalent of a single almond.) Or, you can eat a cup full of arugula at only 5 calories.1)https://www.nutritionvalue.org/comparefoods.php?first=12062&second=11959

I can tell you from experience that you will feel a whole lot more satisfied eating the arugula than the caloric equivalent in almonds. Which is why arugula is a great option if you are trying to cut calories and simultaneously increase your energy levels. Arugula is high in fiber and water content, both of which contribute to your satisfaction level when eating it.

Like mustard greens (our Green of the Month for January), arugula is high in calcium and in vitamins A and K. In addition, arugula has lots of glucosinolates, which may help protect against cancer.2)https://guidedoc.com/arugula-health-benefits-superfood-cancer-prevention

Read More: “Mustard Greens: What You Need to Know Before You Grow (With Recipe)”

Like spinach, arugula also has high levels of iron. Calorie for calorie, arugula has more iron than beef … by a long shot. Just 25 calories of arugula will get you 8% of your daily iron intake. Meanwhile, you’d need to eat about 160 calories of grass-fed ground beef to get that same quantity of iron.3)http://superfoodprofiles.com/arugula-health-benefits

Just in case you are not totally convinced: In terms of calories consumed, arugula also contains high levels of folate, B vitamins, and trace minerals like magnesium, manganese, potassium, and chlorophyll (which is believed to be a good blood cleanser).


Now for the best part. Arugula tastes amazing. It is so darn delicious that I am constantly snapping off leaves in the garden to pop in my mouth. And, as with potato chips, once you start you just can’t stop.

Arugula can spice up almost any meal. It can be used as a stand-alone salad with just a splash of oil, vinegar, and salt. You can mix it with other greens to make a mesclun salad. It is incredible wilted on top of omelets or pizzas, or made into a pesto and served over pasta or on crusty bread with mozzarella. You can even puree it and add it to smoothies, toss it in soups, and so much more.

Easy to Grow

Arugula is one of the easiest cool-weather crops you can grow. And if you don’t mind it being a little spicy and stemmy, you can even grow it all summer long. Giving it a little mid-summer shade will help extend your arugula season.

The wild variety of arugula, in fact, grows like a weed. You can grow arugula as an annual in the garden or as a self-seeding, short-lived perennial in your edible landscape. It’s even great for growing in containers. The plant is mature in about 40 days, but you can also cut baby greens earlier.

If you like great-tasting, low-calorie, high-nutrient-density greens that are as easy to grow as it gets, then arugula is for you!


In case you need more convincing that you need arugula in your garden this year, then get yourself a box of it from the grocery store now and make your own homemade arugula pesto to spread on bread, toss with pasta, or use to dress up your chicken breast.

Easy Arugula Pesto Recipe

  • 2 c. arugula, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic (or a tablespoon if you are a garlic junky like me)
  • ¼ c. finely grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
  • ¼ c. olive oil for thick, spreadable pesto, or ½ c. olive oil for saucy pesto
  • 2 T. chopped nuts (Pine nuts are expensive and don’t grow well in my region. I use almonds, pecans, or even sunflower seeds in my pesto.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put all this stuff in a bowl and mix. Serve or refrigerate. (See, I told you it was easy!)

If you have a food processor, you can skip all that pre-chopping. Instead, throw your chunks of Parmesan, whole nuts, and garlic cloves into your food processor and pulse until they are finely crumbled. After that, toss in your arugula and pulse 2 or 3 times until the arugula is chopped. Finally, stir in your olive oil and salt and pepper.

Seriously, the hardest part about this recipe is waiting to sample some!

A Few Cautionary Things to Know About Growing Arugula

Now, in my opinion, there’s no downside to growing arugula. But, there are a few things you may want to be aware of before you plant.

It’s a Cole Crop

Even though most of us think of arugula as a lettuce, for the purposes of crop rotation, it’s actually a cole crop like cabbage. Avoid planting it after other brassicas like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.

Self Spreads

Since we grow most of our food at home, arugula gets bonus points for its eagerness to spread itself around my yard. If it shows up somewhere that I don’t want it to grow, I just dig it up and move it somewhere else. But if you are one of those meticulous gardeners who hates to deal with unwanted plant volunteers, then make sure you do not let this plant flower (even though the flowers are great for pollinators, as well as being edible and delicious).

Short Shelf Life

Unlike many of the other cole crops—such as cabbage, which can keep for weeks, months, or even years (as sauerkraut)—arugula is best consumed fresh or, if kept in the fridge, within a couple of days after being harvested.

Flea Beetle Favorite

As the weather warms, my arugula leaves often have tiny little holes in them that evidence the fact that I am not alone in my love for this stuff. Flea beetles seem to munch on it almost as much as I do. Since the minuscule portions those pests eat seem to have no effect on the production of the plants, and since I’m an organic gardener, I just resign myself to share. But if it bothers you, you can use whatever organic pest-control method you use on your other cole crops to discourage flea beetles.

By now, I’m hoping that your mouth is watering and your inner gardener is begging you to grow some arugula. So let’s dig into the details of how to plant.

Growing Arugula

Soil Preparation

Like most cole crops, arugula likes well-prepared garden soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8. But, it will grow in less-than-ideal conditions, too. Just throw an inch or 2 of compost on your existing garden bed or row, water well, and get ready to plant.

If you are brand new to gardening and need some ideas for how to prepare your beds, check out this post.

Read More: “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”

Seed Starting

You can start arugula indoors under grow lights if you want to. But in my experience, it really does best direct planted. I just scatter the seeds on my soil, then cover them with about a quarter inch of compost and water. Seed guides say it takes 5-7 days for germination, but I usually see my little seedlings popping up in about 3-4 days.

If you like a more uniform appearance, you can also use your finger to make a little trench row to plant in. Make your finger rows about 3 inches apart and plant seeds the whole way down. Then push just a bit of soil back over the seeds.

Arugula will germinate best in soil temperatures of 40-55ºFKeep surface soil moist until plants have several true leaves.

Young Plant Care

Arugula will grow with almost no care so long as you get a little rain each week. However,  you will get the biggest yields with regular watering. Annual arugula has fairly shallow roots, so watering deeply on a weekly basis and shallowly every couple of days will help maintain consistent moisture in the root zone.

Also, if you live in an area that has big temperature fluctuations (like 40ºF one day and 75ºF the next), the best way to keep your arugula from bolting is to mulch around your plants and keep them consistently watered with cool water.

Mature Plant Care

Arugula is ready in about 40 days and can be used as a come-and-cut crop for a couple of months. But since it is quick to bolt and can get stemmy and extra peppery as it ages, rather than worry about long-term mature plant care, think about next-round seed starting. Arugula is one of those plants you want to start often. Some people plant more arugula once a week, but personally, I go for about once every 3 weeks.

Because arugula is so fast-growing, I tend to use it almost like a cover crop in my beds that will be primarily used for warm-weather crops. But you can also add more compost to your existing beds and sow in the spaces between your mature plants.


I like to start picking baby greens when the plants are about 2-3 weeks old. I’ll just take one or two leaves from each plant to snack on as I do my gardening chores.

Once the plants are growing well and have leaves that are about 3 inches in length, you can harvest about one-third of the plant about once a week. Trim off the larger, older leaves first.

If you want to eat arugula every day, then mentally divide your arugula patch into seven sections based on days of the week. For example, harvest your Monday section only on Monday, your Tuesday section only on Tuesday, etc.

If you are planting continuously, as your first plants begin to exhaust, you can start cutting from your next round.

Varieties of Arugula

There are two basic varieties of arugula to choose from—wild and common.

Wild arugula has smaller leaves and tends to be more flavorful. However, it is also more stemmy and is harder to harvest. It grows a bit slower than common arugula.

You can generally find two different kinds of wild arugula seeds for sale:

  • Diplotaxis tenuifolia, often referred to as wild rocket or Sylvetta, has yellow flowers and can be grown as a short-lived perennial in some areas.
  • Diplotaxis erucoides, also called wild arugula or wasabi arugula, is an annual with white flowers.

There is also a variety called Diplotaxis muralis, or wall rocket, that grows wild in poor-quality, disturbed soils. You probably don’t want to plant this one in your vegetable garden. But sometimes seed sellers will also refer to Diplotaxis tenuifolia as wall rocket. So, make sure you are checking Latin names on seed packets to get the variety you really want.

Common arugula, Eruca sativa, has much larger leaves and a milder taste than wild arugula. It is slower to bolt in the heat. It also grows faster and produces more leaves per plant than wild varieties. The flowers are white.

For heavy, consistent, and easy-to-harvest leaf production, choose common arugula. For effortless growing, spectacular taste, but more work on the harvesting end, choose wild arugula.

For either variety, you can find improved versions from different seed retailers that may have been selected over time for different flavor profiles and growth habits. So, feel free to try seeds from different distributors and then save your own seeds from your favorite plants.

Unconventional Growing Tips for Adventure Gardeners

Since I am a total arugula addict and really want to eat it year-round, I discovered a trick for germinating arugula outdoors, even in mid-summer. I interplant my arugula with buckwheat. The buckwheat comes up quickly, providing some shade and a bit of a microclimate for the arugula. I don’t know if this will work in extreme heat, but it has worked for me in 80-90ºF temperatures as long as I keep my buckwheat/arugula patch well watered.

When grown late in the season, the arugula will bolt and flower more quickly.

I usually only get a couple of cuttings before the plant sends up flower shoots. At that point, I just let it. Mixed in with the buckwheat flowers, it makes for great pollinator food. (In the photo above, you can see arugula growing alongside my lamb’s quarters—another great green that grows well wild and even better in your garden! I think the combination makes for a really pretty pollinator plot.)

I hope you let this wonderful little rocket plant take flight in your garden and on your plate this year!

We’d also love to hear your ideas and suggestions for using and growing arugula. Please leave us a line in the comments section below.


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References   [ + ]

1. https://www.nutritionvalue.org/comparefoods.php?first=12062&second=11959
2. https://guidedoc.com/arugula-health-benefits-superfood-cancer-prevention
3. http://superfoodprofiles.com/arugula-health-benefits

The post Growing Arugula: The Rocket in Your Salad Bowl and Garden (With Recipe) appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Art of Growing Onions

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Onions are a staple food in our kitchen. Depending on what we’ve got cooking, we use between 2-5 pounds of some kind of onion every week. Since we grow most of our food on our homestead, this means we have to grow a lot of onions.

Just about any growing guide will tell you that onions are easy to grow.

And they are. You can start them from seed, plants, bulbs, or even food scraps (as Marjory shows you here).

Read More: “The Simple Trick to Regrow Onions”

Onion plants will survive even if you forget to water them through droughts, leave them in the ground over winter, and stick them in just about any kind of soil. Now, I said “survive” and not “thrive,” so I wouldn’t recommend these strategies if you actually want large yields of onions to eat.

We’ll dig into the details of how to grow onions in a minute. But first, let’s take a look at the varieties of onions.

What Are the Onion Types?

To most people, the word “onion” automatically brings to mind those dried balls of make-you-cry-when-cut goodness you find at the grocery store.

Yep, those are onions.

They are storage-type onions and are the most common variety available to consumers. They also come in two flavors—sweet and cooking. Sweet onions, like those famous Vidalias (which are simply sweet onions specifically grown in the Vidalia region of Georgia), contain a lot more natural sugars and can even taste a bit like dessert if you caramelize them in your cast iron pan with butter and a splash of good balsamic vinegar.

If you cook much, you probably also immediately thought of green onions or scallions. Those grocery store favorites are actually a group of onions called “bunching onions” that are grown specifically for their lack of ability to produce large bulbs.

Beyond those basics, there’s a whole world of often-unexplored onion types available to the home grower.

  • Onions come in a host of shapes, ranging from bulbless to torpedo to round to doughnut shaped.
  • They can range in size from thin slivers of grass to cantaloupe-sized onion bombs.
  • Some can be cured and stored, and others are best eaten fresh from the garden or within two weeks of harvest.
  • There are onions that can be grown as perennials and harvested multiple times per year, like the multiplier onions and Egyptian walking onions.
  • You can also branch out into other members of the Allium family and grow leeks, shallots, common chives, garlic chives, wild onions, and garlic to add bite and health benefits to your savory meals.

If you want to read more about the history of onions and take a closer look at some of the lesser-known varieties, check out this great post.

Read More: “Unusual Onions—The Lowdown on Some Forgotten Members of the ‘Stinky Rose’ Family” 

Onions, and all their family members, are so good for you and make simple meals taste so extraordinary that anyone with a sunny window ought to be growing chives and anyone with a small plot of land ought to be growing onions for bulbs and greens.

And you can start now with just a little bit of know-how.

Growing Onions

Start Onions Early

Here’s the first thing to know about growing onions: They like an early start.

In my area of North Carolina, USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7a, I’ll be putting mine in the garden by the end of February. And since I start mine from seed at home, I start my seeds in trays under grow lights and then move them to the greenhouse at least 8-10 weeks before transplanting.

Onions will do most of their green leaf growing while the days are short and before temperatures get too warm. Each leaf of top growth will produce one ring of the onion. Larger leaves produce larger bulbs.

I’ve been told that the perfect onion will have 13 lush green strands, but so far I’ve only been able to grow 12-leaf onions in my area.

As the summer solstice approaches, and with it come longer days and warmer temperatures, onions will start to set bulbs.

When they begin putting energy into their bulbs, they won’t grow those greens anymore. That means that if you only have a few spindly leaves in late May, then you probably won’t get very impressive onion bulb yields. However, those underperforming onions do make great “spring” onions, so go ahead and dig them up and chop them into your salad.

Now don’t worry—if you missed your seed-starting window, you can also buy onion plants. Onion plants are usually pencil thick and ready to transplant directly into the ground. They are usually sold in bunches of 50 and cost around $11-$15 a bunch for heirloom varieties from specialty growers. You can also find onion plants at country produce stores for less, but these are almost always hybrid varieties.

Some people also grow onions from dried bulbs called “sets,” too. These usually only cost a few dollars for a bag of 50. You can pick these up at just about any hardware or garden supply store seasonally. You can also often find them loose and sold by the pound at country produce markets.

Varieties are limited on onion sets. Additionally, sets often produce smaller onions than plants of the same variety. If you are trying to maximize bulb size, then choose plants rather than sets.

Sets will usually get you small to medium-sized storage onions, so you may need to grow more sets than plants to get the same yields as plants in pounds.

Choose the Right Day-Length Varieties

Before you buy seeds, sets, or plants, the other thing you really need to know about onions, particularly bulbing onions, is how many hours of daylight they need to set bulbs. Bulbing onions are classified as short-, long-, or intermediateday varieties.

  • Long-day varieties will need 14-16 hours of daylight to set bulbs and only grow well in Northern areas with cooler summers and longer days.
  • Short-day onions will only need 10-12 hours of daylight and tend to be selected to grow better in areas with hotter weather.
  • Intermediate-day onions will need 13-15 hours.

If you live in Florida and plant a long-day variety, at best, you’ll end up with some darn fine scallions from long-day seeds. More likely, though, your long-day onion plants will bolt at the first sign of heat and you’ll be eating flower heads in your salads.

Choose Your Fertility Plan

Onions like to grow in high-quality vegetable garden soil with good drainage and a pH between 6.2-6.8. In good soil, they will grow surprisingly deep and expansive root systems that will help regulate moisture and seek appropriate nutrients.

For softball-sized onions, you’ll need to give them a kick-start by using a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorous than nitrogen and potassium—like a 10-20-10 bag of store-bought fertilizer. When using 10-20-10 fertilizer, it is recommended to make a 4-inch trench between your onion rows and apply fertilizer in the trench. You will also need to fertilize every 2-3 weeks with either 21-0-0 or 15.5-0-0 fertilizer as the tops are growing to ensure bigger bulbs later.

You can apply new fertilizer to your trench. See here for more specific details.

Personally, though, I don’t buy fertilizer. Instead:

  • I prepare my onion beds with about 3 inches of homemade compost gently incorporated into my existing garden soil.
  • When I plant my onions, I sprinkle roughly one teaspoon of worm castings around the plant about 2 inches from the base.
  • I also spread a light coating of wood ash on the soil between my plants (so light you can still see the soil underneath).
  • From that point on, I water my plants every 2-3 days (unless we get sufficient rain) using water from my duck pond or compost tea for continuous fertilization.

If you want more info on homemade fertility, check out these posts on worm castings and compost tea:

Read More: “Leachate, Worm Tea, and Aerobic Compost Tea—A Clarification” 

Read More: “Manure TeaAn Easy Way to Stretch Your Compost”

Read More: “Simple and Effective Worm Composting on Your Homestead” 

How to Plant Onions

Once you’ve decided on your fertility plan, the next step is to plant. Those pencil-thin onion plants should be planted no more than 1 inch deep in the soil. These will start to set roots very quickly. But, keep a close eye on them until they are deeply rooted enough that they stand erect on their own, ensuring that they don’t get knocked over by wind or critters.

Onion sets can be planted a little deeper because they take longer to grow roots and will sometimes swell out of the soil during heavy rains if they haven’t set roots yet. I plant mine about 1.5 inches under soil and then cover the soil with an inch of very loose straw.

Onion Row Spacing

One of the big debates in onion planting is how to space them in beds and rows. Conventional growers tend to space them about 4 inches apart on 1-foot rows. This effectively means you are planting 3 per square foot. It makes weeding with a hoe easy and works well for soil with low organic matter.

Other methods recommend planting bulbing onions on 4- to 6-inch centers, or planting about 4-12 onions every square foot. For scallions, they are planted at a rate of about 16 onions per square foot.

I think the reason for all the confusion on plant spacing is that we are all growing in different conditions and growing different varieties with various expectations for bulb size. What you really need to know is that onions can’t stand competition. That means, depending on the variety you choose, you need enough space that your onions won’t grow into each other. And, you also need to be able to fit your hand in and weed around your onions often. You also don’t want too much space between plants, or weeds will move in and take over.

Personally, for my storage onions, I am looking for bulbs between 3.5 and 4 inches in diameter.

For mass plantings, because I have big, farm-girl hands, I like to plant them on roughly 5-inch centers so I can fit my hands between my nearly full-sized onions without breaking my green tops. I start planting from the center of my 4-foot-wide beds and leave a few extra inches around the edges of the beds empty. That area tends to dry out faster and my onions just don’t grow as well on the outer edges of the bed.

For scallions, I go for about 2-inch centers, and for leeks, garlic, and torpedo onions, I plant on 3-inch centers.

Alliums are also great for interplanting with your other crops as a pest deterrent. Since spring-grown cabbages and onions go in the ground at about the same time in my area, I like to plant onions at the corners of my cabbage plants. This seems to cut down on cabbage moth visits to my Early Jersey Wakefields. Make sure to give the cabbage plenty of room, though, or it will quickly overshadow your onions.

Soil quality matters for spacing, too. The first year I started my garden at our current homestead, I knew I wasn’t offering my onions the most perfect growing environment, so I gave them a little more space than I do now. This made for more weed pressure, so I mulched with straw several times during the growing season to help cut down on weeding.


Once you get your onions in the ground, they will need to be watered and weeded regularly for best results. Onions don’t like to be soaked or flooded.  If you live in a really wet area, you might want to mulch around your onions with an inch of fresh, double-shred hardwood. This also works great if you live in dry areas. Just keep in mind that when you water, you will need to make sure it passes through your mulch layer and soaks several inches into the ground to be beneficial.

In my area, onion tops grow quite fast from about mid-March through mid-May. If you are not seeing a whole lot of top growth during that time, you may need to add more nitrogen either with an infusion of compost tea or by using additional fertilizer. From mid-May and after bulbs start forming, avoid adding nitrogen to your onion beds, as this can cause issues with bulbing.

If your onions have lots of good top growth but don’t seem to be bulbing up well, you can incorporate some bonemeal into the surrounding soil. Follow the application instructions on the bag for best results. However, be careful not to disturb the roots of your onion plants as you apply. If you mulched around your plants, you can just push back the mulch and apply underneath your mulch layer. Then, push the mulch back in place.

Harvesting, Curing, and Storing Onions


Now for the fun part! After all your diligent care, it’s about time to harvest your onions.

When havesting onions for tops, like scallions, those are generally sweetest and most tender when the tops are around 6-8 inches tall. But if you want more meaty tang, you can let them grow a little longer.

If you only plan to use the greens, you can cut the tops and leave the whitish parts and roots in the ground and then let the greens grow back. For torpedo-type onions, as soon as the partial bulb forms, you can harvest as needed for fresh use. Just make sure your torpedoes are all out of the ground before the top growth dies back.

As your storage-type bulbs begin to form, they will draw energy from those green leaves you grew so carefully in early spring. When those tops begin to fold over and yellow, that means the energy has transferred from the tops to the bulbs. As soon as the tops start dying, your onion will also become more susceptible to pests, particularly root eaters in the soil like wireworms. Some people will wait until most of the leaves have yellowed, but I normally harvest when just a few tips are yellow so that I don’t have any pest-related losses.

For best drying results, let the soil dry out for a day or two before harvesting. In good soil, those onion roots get pretty deep. I like to use my hand hoe/rake combo to harvest because the hoe works well to loosen the soil around the onion, and then I use my hands to do the detail work of getting the onion out of the ground. After that, I use the rake side to scrape the soil off the roots. (This is the tool I use. It’s incredible for bed preparation and harvesting.)

Curing Onions

Personally, I only dry my best onions. The rest I cook up within a couple weeks of harvesting. Onions that don’t grow to their full size potential just don’t seem to store as well, even if they don’t have any obvious defects or show signs of insect damage.

The key to curing onions is good airflow and making sure they don’t get wet during the drying period. You can dry them on a tabletop as long as you flip them daily to make sure they dry evenly. Or you can just clip them to a clothesline in any covered area that is not too humid. I installed a clothesline on my porch that I use for drying onions, garlic, and herbs. Not only is it convenient, but it makes for a beautiful, rustic scene and an aromatic spot to seek shade in mid-summer.

Storing Onions

Depending on your conditions, it may take 2-3 weeks to cure onions. When the tops are completely dry, you can cut them down to about 1 inch and trim off the roots. You can also leave your dried tops on and make onion braids for storage. Personally, though, I like to use my collection of old grocery store onion bags to store my homegrown onions. You can then hang those bags on a rope in a basement, food cellar, or whatever other dark, cool, somewhat humid space you use for winter food storage.

Onions seem to know when it is time to grow.  So, I find that around this time of year, my stored onions start sending up more green leaf shoots. This means they won’t store much longer. Luckily, though, this is also the time that my chives start coming up in the garden.  So I use up my stored onions quickly and start harvesting chives, then later I eat my scallions to hold me over until my next round of storing onions are ready.

I hope you all have great success growing onions this year!  If you have any tips and tricks you’ve learned that will help us all grow better, I’d love to hear what works for you.


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Cold-Weather Chicken Care: Cold-Hardy Chicken Breeds

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WOW! Did we have some crazy-cold weather this winter?!

I don’t know about you, but some of our cold nights had me rethinking my chicken breed choices. Luckily, most of my ladies are pretty hardy to begin with. But my lightweight, giant-combed Lakenvelder rooster and my dear, sweet rooster Rasputin had me a bit worried. And as I discovered, when it came to Rasputin, I was right to be worried.

You can read more about the plight of my poor frostbitten chicken, Rasputin, here:

Read More: “The Tale of the Frostbitten Chicken and Lessons Learned about Prevention and Treatment”

Now, read on for some recommendations to help you choose chicken breeds that will come through the cold with flying colors!

When picking chickens for cold weather, there are three simple things to keep in mind: weight class, feathering, and comb size.

Let’s look at weight class first.

Weight Class

Choose chicken breeds that have a fair amount of fat. Heavier birds tend to have more cold tolerance than lean birds. In most climates, dual-purpose breeds that are good for egg and meat production are usually sufficient for cold temperatures just above single digits, and maybe even a little below, on the Fahrenheit scale.

Consider these breeds for winter-friendly fattiness:

  • Plymouth Barred Rocks
  • Black Australorps
  • Rhode Island Reds
  • Delawares
  • Buff Orpingtons
  • New Hampshire Reds

If you live in conditions where you also have warm summers to contend with, these breeds tend to have decent heat tolerance as long as they are given sufficient access to shade and lots of fresh, cool water.


For even more winter protection, choose chicken breeds that have extra-heavy feathering. The feathering gives a few more degrees’ worth of cold tolerance. However, in some conditions, feathery feet may actually be more at risk for frostbite if wet feathers ice over. So, in extreme conditions, take measures to keep your chicken’s feet feathers dry.

Consider these breeds for extra feathers:

  • Cochins
  • Favorelles
  • Brahmas

Comb Size

One of the biggest risks to chickens in cold weather is frostbite on their combs. In warmer temps, combs are actually a cooling device that helps regulate the rest of a chicken’s body temperature. This is why roosters, who often have more fat and more feathering, tend to have larger combs than hens. (Well, that, and because those great big combs are like flashing neon signs of virility and masculinity that help attract the beautiful ladies.)

Unfortunately, in wet, windy, and icy conditions, large combs are a liability. They are more prone to losing circulation from the cold and becoming frostbitten.

Choosing chickens with compact combs, such as pea or rose combs, can cut down on the risk of frostbite. Also, paying special attention to the condition of larger rooster combs in winter is important.

Cold Hardy Chicken Breeds - Buckeye

Consider these breeds for compact combs:

  • Buckeyes
  • Dominiques
  • Wyandottes
  • White Dorkings*

*Note: The Dorking breed may have either single or rose combs. If you are looking for cold-hardy combs, choose the White Dorking with a rose comb.

The really wonderful things about all of the cold-hardy breeds above is that they are great egg layers, excellent backyard chickens, and happen to be beautiful to boot! So, you don’t have to compromise chicken cuteness, productivity, and good disposition, to also get great all-winter birds.

Regardless of which breed you choose, if you live in areas with potential cold conditions, you want to make sure you give your chickens a coop that offers sufficient protection from the elements, while also being well ventilated.

Additionally, you want to be prepared to offer your chickens some emergency cold-condition remedies if you have weather that’s more extreme than normal (as many of us did this year). You can read more about some easy ideas for increasing chicken comfort in winter here:

Read More: “Cold Weather Chicken Care: 11 Quick Ideas to Improve Chicken Comfort”

Also, remember the lessons learned from Rasputin, the frostbitten chicken. And make sure you have a plan for how to prevent and treat frostbite.

In our next installment of our cold-weather chicken care series, we’ll cover methods for keeping water from freezing in the coop. In the meantime, though, you can check out these general tips on winter livestock watering for inspiration.

Read More: “7 Ways to Keep Livestock Water Tanks from Freezing”

Thanks for reading, and please share your comments about your cold-weather-breed favorites using the comments section below.


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Cold-Weather Chicken Care: The Tale of the Frostbitten Chicken and Lessons Learned About Prevention and Treatment

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Frostbite isn’t normally something I worry about in my holler here in Surry County, North Carolina. However, this year, with record-breaking cold temperatures lasting for weeks at a time, I learned a few lessons in preventing and treating the frostbitten chicken.

It all started when Rasputin, my rebel rooster, refused to use good sense and get out of the cold. As our temperatures dropped into the single digits and 40 mph wind gusts sent the rest of the flock running for shelter, Rasputin planted his feet firmly—in a few inches of frozen-over snow—and held his ground.

I don’t know if it was the wind that made him crazy, or if the idea of being stuck in a coop with 22 unhappy hens kept him from the coop. But, even as his comb began to swell, then turned white at the tips, and his feet flushed red … he stood tall.

Now, Rasputin happens to love being held and cuddled. So I repeatedly picked him up, gave him a warming snuggle and took him to one of our many straw-laden sheltered areas. Yet each time I went back out to deliver warm water to my flock, I would find him out in the cold. Again.

So, here’s lesson No. 1 in frostbite prevention:

Lesson 1: If your chickens don’t have the good sense to get out of the cold (and stay there), lock them up!

Our coops keep predators out, but they can also be used to keep chickens in. They might not like it. But for their own safety, don’t hesitate to keep your chickens in the coop during extreme cold.

Now, I have to confess, I wasn’t really thinking about the frostbite when I carried Rasputin back to the coop. I was concerned about how much feed he would eat if he burned all his calories out in the cold. He’s a big rooster, with a big appetite, and I like to keep my feed costs low. Also, I had a few other hens out in the yard—namely my Buckeyes and my Salmon Faverolles—showing no signs of cold whatsoever.

It was only later, when I noticed that some white spots on Rasputin’s comb started fading to black and shriveling up, that I realized what had happened. Now, Rasputin is descended from a rescued fighting rooster, so he is very heavy and tall and has a few circulatory problems. His comb is more susceptible to episodes of ringworm than the combs of my other chickens. So, even though the timing was odd, I thought those white spots were just a little ringworm recurrence.

Discovering that I’d missed the early signs of frostbite in my big boy helped teach me these next two lessons:

Lesson 2: Comb size matters. Pay extra attention to your roosters with large combs and wattles and to any chickens with standard combs.

My cold-hardy breeds like the Buckeyes and the Salmon Favorelles have small combs that sit tight on their heads. In cold weather, your chicken’s body will preserve heat by cutting blood flow to the comb. This puts chickens with larger combs at greater risk because large combs are more exposed to the elements.

Many people who keep chickens in cold climates swear by slathering petroleum jelly on larger combs and wattles to help prevent frostbite, and some talk about lanolin as a more eco-friendly alternative. Keep in mind that humidity, even more than cold, is a factor in causing frostbite, so make sure you have proper ventilation (but no drafts) in your coop to keep the humidity level as low as possible.

Now, even cold-hardy breeds, with cold-suited combs, can be subject to frostbite on their feet. Which brings me to my next lesson:

Lesson 3: Know how to identify the early signs of frostbite and take action sooner rather than later.

Early frostbite looks a whole lot like a minor case of ringworm. Patches of pale white appear on the affected areas on the comb and wattles. As the frostbite continues, the areas start to darken and spread. If the area becomes solid black, it then begins to dehydrate and look a bit like crispy bacon (though not nearly as appetizing).

On the feet, frostbite shows up as splotches of red. The tend to be most prominent between the toes, but the splotches also show up on the legs. Some cases may result in swelling and blistering.

Severe frostbite can also impact behavior. Frostbitten chickens can become lethargic and disinterested in normal activity, and can lose their appetites.

Once you know what to look for, then you need to be prepared to act if necessary.

Treating Early Frostbite

If you see the early signs of frostbite while they are happening, take your chicken to a warm place and slowly bring affected areas up to temperature. For example, have your chicken stand in a warm foot bath (around 100ºF) and gently press a warm wash cloth around the comb area. Do not rub either of these areas as that will likely be painful for your chicken.

Once your chicken is sufficiently warm, give them time to dry before returning them to their coop.

Treating More Severe Frostbite

If your chicken is showing signs of lethargy and loss of appetite as a result of frostbite, this is likely a more serious case. Keep your chicken confined to a warm area and monitor their affected areas and behavior for a couple of days before returning them to their coop.

If they develop more severe symptoms like blistering or continued loss of appetite, infection may be a concern. At that point you will want to refer to your chicken health manual for details on how to treat infection and when to enlist the help of a veterinarian.

The one I use and recommend is The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow.


What Happens After a Chicken Suffers Frostbite?

In Rasputin’s case, he recovered quite quickly from his frostbite. He never faced infection and always had his appetite. However, the most affected areas on his comb are in the process of sloughing off as the damaged skin dries and withers. A little while from now, he may lose some of the tips of his once-stately rooster comb. He probably won’t notice this loss most of the time. However, in hot weather, his reduced comb area may impact his ability to cool himself quickly. So, I’ll need to give him a little more attention in hot weather now, too.

In case this crazy cold weather has made you consider cold-hardy breeds for your coop, the next post in our series Cold-Weather Chicken Care will highlight a few breeds to consider for your spring purchase. Or for emergency cold-weather care ideas, check out this post:

Read More: “Cold-Weather Chicken Care: 11 Quick Ideas to Improve Chicken Comfort”


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Cold-Weather Chicken Care: 11 Quick Ideas to Improve Chicken Comfort

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Until recently, if you asked me about cold weather chicken care, I would have said, “Choose the right chicken breeds for your climate and build your coop for your weather conditions.” With iguanas freezing and falling out of trees in Florida and alligators using weird ice-survival strategies in North Carolina, I have realized that answer needs an addendum.

Let’s face it. Our climate is changing. As a result, weather patterns are becoming more extreme and erratic. We have to start  preparing for worst-case scenarios in our livestock care.

We also have to be ready to act quickly because weather patterns and predictions are not as reliable as they used to be. This morning, for instance, I woke up to a few inches of snow when last night my forecast said there was a 0% chance of precipitation. Having a repertoire of simple solutions using things you already have on  hand is really helpful.

We’ll be running a series on different cold-weather chicken-care strategies in the coming weeks. But, today I want to kick things off with some easy strategies you can use to keep your chicken coops comfortable during unexpected cold snaps.

Adult chicken body temperatures run around 105-107F. A chicken’s body temperature can drop as low as 73°F before it will die of hypothermia. Chicken feathers do a darn good job of trapping body heat, so luckily chickens don’t get chilled easily.[note] However, if your chicken is molting when the cold hits, or has missing feathers due to roosters or hen-pecking, they will lose heat fast.

Assess Chicken Feather Health

As a first step to cold weather chicken care, assess the feather health of your flock. Any birds with missing feathers may need special care for the duration of any unseasonably cold periods. Also, if you have Mediterranean breeds, that are lightly-feathered, treat those breeds as you would a more hardy chicken in mid-molt.

If you are facing extreme cold and have a half-naked chicken in your uninsulated, unheated coop, you may also have to consider moving that chicken to a heated area or offering heat in the coop. For less severe conditions, some of the following tricks might be enough to keep your at-risk birds, and the rest of your flock, cozy in the cold.

Make a Chicken Sweater

For birds with feather damage mainly in the saddle area (the back), you can consider using a chicken sweater to help protect your chicken’s skin from the cold. You can make or buy fancy versions like those found on Pinterest and Etsy (just search “chicken sweater”). Or you can also just cut up an old sweatshirt, blanket, or towel and use twine to make as less-fashionable, still-functional version.

Create a Chicken Couch

Feather loss in the bum area is a bit more tricky to protect though, since that’s also the drop zone for chicken poop. Provide butt-naked chickens with warm places to sit (other than the nest boxes) by adding lots of extra litter to your coop floors or filling empty boxes with straw, hay, or wood shavings to make chicken couches. Just be careful not to make your chicken couches too cozy, such as by providing head cover or tucking them into a dark corner, or your cold-weather couches might get mistaken for new nest boxes.

Up Your Chicken Feed and Offer More Cracked Corn

Chickens eat more food in cold weather in general. However, in extreme cold, you want to make sure they have access to an all-you-can-eat buffet of high quality chicken feed so they don’t burn through their fat stores trying to keep warm.

Extra carbohydrates can also help chickens keep a bit warmer. I increase the amount of cracked corn in my fermented scratch grains during cold-weather snaps. Scratch grains are not the most nutritious food source, but just like humans have a cup of hot cocoa to warm up on a cold day, a little carb-loading in extreme cold can be helpful.

Read More: “Ferment Your Feed for Healthier and Happier Chickens”  

Shrink Your Chicken Coop Space

Hatcheries ship young chicks in batches and small boxes, even in cold weather. By forcing chicks to huddle together, they keep each other warm in a confined space.

You can offer your adult chickens a similar option by using stacked straw or hay bales or plywood to make larger coops smaller and force chickens to group together. A smaller coop, coupled with the cold, may make them a bit moodier, though. So scatter scratch in your coop floor or hang a cabbage on a rope to give chickens something to do during forced confinement.

Shrink Your Chicken Roost Bar Area

If you have extra roost bar room in your coop, consider taking out a bar or two to force chickens to roost closer together at night. It may mean getting out your drill to detach a bar. But this might be easier than trying to rig up a way to supply supplemental heat for really cold nights, particularly in an off-grid coop.

Cover Hardware Cloth Windows

If you live in warmer areas and have hardware cloth windows for good ventilation, you may want to consider covering them with clear trash bags temporarily. This still allows in light while also helping trap more heat in your coop during cold spells. Keep in mind that chickens still need ventilation so they don’t develop respiratory issues as a result of inhaling too much ammonia. If your coop is already super-sealed in other ways, then covering your only ventilation source with plastic might not be the best option for you.

Put Up a Tarp Tent

Similar to covering windows, if you have coops that you can stand up in, then putting up a tarp tent in cold weather can help trap the warm air generated by your chickens closer to the ground and roost bars where chickens spend most of their time.

Since my coop is shed-style with wood slat walls, I can just use a few scraps of wood, a handful of screws, and a tarp to make my coop into a fortress of warm air. But if you don’t want to drill holes in your coop walls, then you can also rig up a tarp using ropes, bungee cords, and even things like Velcro to make it work.

Bring in the Hot Water

I give my chickens buckets of warm water to drink on freezing days because it takes longer for the water to freeze and buys me time before I have to bring them another bucket. Chickens also seem to love drinking hot water as a cold weather pick-me-up.

Bringing in a five-gallon bucket of hot-as-you-can-get-it water and placing it in the center of your coop, particularly after you have shrunk your chicken space and put up a tent, can also help warm the area. Similarly to how we use drums of water in a greenhouse, all that heat in the bucket will dissipate out in the small coop area and infuse the air with more warmth.

Now, you won’t get big gains with this little trick, but sometimes all you need is a few extra degrees to avoid having to think about electric heat. Also, keep in mind that water weighs about eight pounds per gallon, so you may want to fill the bucket halfway and then top it off with water from another bucket to lighten your load.

Install a Heat Source

In really extreme conditions, you may need to use drastic measures—like running a power cord to your coop and adding some kind of space heater. It’s important to think about safety when you go this route. Cold, confined chickens are liable to have a few more disputes than happy, foraging, spring chickens, which means they could accidentally bump into your heat source and injure themselves or knock over your device and start a fire.

Rather than trying to heat the whole coop, create a cozy corner by hanging a brooder lamp or setting up a ceramic heater in a less-traveled area of your coop. Cold chickens will flock to this area, while hot-tempered, more energetic chickens might keep their distance. And check on your heat sources and your chickens often to ensure their safety.

Turn Off Your Laying Light

A lot of people use supplemental light to induce chickens to lay eggs in the winter months. However, in extreme cold, your chickens are already working overtime to keep themselves warm. So, unless you are also offering supplemental heat to keep your coop well above freezing, then consider giving your layers a break and turn off your laying light until temperatures pick back up.

There are many more great ways of keeping your chickens warm in the cold, both on and off grid. If you have some good ideas you want to share with our community, please include them in the comments section below.

And remember, your chickens rely on you to take great care of them and to do that, you also need to take great care of yourself. So, check out these other posts to help you stay warm and healthy, too!

Read More: “3 Tips for Working Outside in the Cold”

Read More: “Mustard Greens: What You Need to Know Before You Grow (With Recipe)”

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Health Care Alternatives: A DIRE Need

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

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

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

It was time to go to the hospital.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No. No. It needs to be lanced.”

But he insisted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you leave me a comment below?

Huge thanks!

The post Health Care Alternatives: A DIRE Need appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Key To Reinventing Our Food System … Is YOU!

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

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

Unfulfilled at work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Middle class malnutrition

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

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

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

What’s the solution?

YOU are!

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

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

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

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


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My Biggest Financial Mistake Will Make You Wealthy

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

True wealth has nothing to do with money.

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

Because the cold, hard fact is …

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

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

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

In it, I reveal:

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

Then, would you leave me a comment below?

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

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

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

Thank you so much!


Click here to get your FREE pass!

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How To Make The Perfect Batch of Homemade Sauerkraut

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What I love about fermenting cabbage is that you start with a raw, sort of bland cabbage head and end up with a crunchy, salty taste without cooking or adding a bunch of other ingredients. And making the perfect batch of homemade sauerkraut is so EASY!

If you’re thinking about making sauerkraut but are hesitating because you think it’s difficult, let me guide you through the process. Simple, basic kitchenware is involved. It’s not complicated, takes just a few steps, and there is nothing to fear.

There’s one basic ingredient: Cabbage!

You’re chopping cabbage, adding salt and an optional spice or vegetable, and letting it sit to ferment. That’s it.

If you’re worried that you might mess up your batch and get food poisoning, don’t be. Fermented vegetables are safer than raw vegetables, according to the experts. Wild-fermented vegetables (as opposed to using vinegar) kills bad pathogens you might otherwise find with vegetables in their original state.

This technique has been used since ancient times to preserve food.

What’s so great about homemade sauerkraut?

Homemade sauerkraut is mouthwatering, sour, and crunchy. Use it as a condiment to jazz up a sandwich or make it a go-to side dish for dinner. Sauerkraut is there waiting in the fridge. It also satisfies that craving for salt that you sometimes get. You know the feeling … where you go looking for a bag of chips or tortillas. Okay … it’s not exactly the same as chip munching, but it’s a good substitute.

Fermenting helps protect your body against disease

Sauerkraut is a natural probiotic, teaming with live, healthy bacteria cultures that promote a healthy gut, improve digestion, allow you to absorb nutrients better, and retain vitamins and enzymes.

Regarding vitamins, sauerkraut preserves the Vitamin C in cabbage, and makes the Vitamin C more bioavailable. The fermentation breaks down proteins into amino acids, creating a kind of predigested food, making it easy for the body to use.

Bubble and Fizz

The fermentation process is what creates sauerkraut’s gut-friendly bacteria—and its saltiness. For that to happen, the cabbage needs to be starved of air. That’s the reason you pack the shredded cabbage tightly and cover it. As the cabbage ferments, aided by the salt, it becomes acidic. This encourages the lactic acid in the cabbage to produce certain strains of good bacteria to thrive, namely lactobacillus.

Billions and Billions

Other types of disease-causing bacteria and microorganisms don’t like the acidic condition and die off. And we’re talking lots of good bacteria … billions or even trillions. Bacteria outnumber the cells in our body by 90 percent, so good bacteria is necessary.

A few words about starter cultures

When you become more experienced, you may want to play around with starter cultures and add other vegetables, seeds, and spices. I’ve read about a batch of sauerkraut using a starter culture that was sent to a lab. The report came back with a phenomenal number of friendly bacteria … in the trillions.


Buy Fresh, Local Cabbage

Your best bet for delicious, healthy, homemade sauerkraut is your own fresh-picked harvest or locally sourced cabbage. If either of those isn’t possible, at least buy organic. If you live in a cool climate, you may be harvesting cabbage from your garden right about now. In warmer climates like South Texas, you may be expecting a harvest in late fall.

Does the type of cabbage matter?

It’s whatever you like. Sometimes, I mix a little red cabbage in with the green. It gives sauerkraut a pretty bright-pink color.

Cutting the cabbage

There’s nothing magical about how you cut the cabbage. The easiest way to cut the head is into quarters or eighths and then slice. Shred it any thickness you desire. Again, it’s a matter of personal preference.

Other ingredients

Add other ingredients to your batch of homemade sauerkraut for some interesting tastes.

Some options include: Herbs, seeds, spices or other vegetables. Some common ones are caraway seeds, dill, garlic, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, carrot, radish, beet, ginger, hot pepper, apple, or green leafy vegetable (spinach, Swiss chard, kale).

Go easy on the added vegetables—particularly the dark green ones

The fermentation process brings out strong flavors. You don’t want those strong flavors to overpower your cabbage … or maybe you do. If so, that’s okay. Some people like to kick up the heat with peppers. I prefer additions as subtle accents.
My favorite combo is carrots and caraway seeds.


How To Make The Brine


The salt performs several functions. It helps draw the water out of the cabbage to create the brine, helps prevent surface mold, and slows down the fermentation process. In the summer, fermentation takes place more quickly. If you want your sauerkraut to be firmer longer, use a bit more salt in summer and less in winter. Also, if you want to lessen the saltiness of the sauerkraut, use less salt.

Salt isn’t a requirement for fermentation, so feel free to experiment to reach the salt level that tastes great for you or don’t use it at all.

I prefer using salt because it quickly draws out the cabbage juices (brine). And I like it on the saltier side. Use kosher salt or sea salt, not table salt. Minimize the use of any salt containing preservatives.

What You Need to Start

Don’t let the “fermenting cabbage” supply list that you’ve read in other places intimidate you. You don’t need a sauerkraut crock with water sealing systems, special airlock lids, or utensils. When you’re making large batches, crocks are handy, but there’s nothing special about a crock. Don’t bother buying a tamper either. Use your fist to push down on the cabbage. We’re going for the simple version.

After packing and covering, add pebbles to a glass jelly jar for the necessary weight. Push down once or twice a day, compacting the cabbage and drawing more brine to the top. You want to keep the cabbage submerged under the brine at all times.

Container Options

A glass mason jar is just one type of container you can use to make sauerkraut. If you’re just starting out, it’s the easiest. Use either a one- or two-quart size. You’ll be able to fit a medium head of shredded cabbage in a one-quart jar. Go for the container that will tightly pack your cabbage.

Fill as much of the jar as possible to crowd out any empty spaces that could fill with air. Fermentation likes an anaerobic environment.

A word of caution on containers: Never use plastic or metal containers. Plastic can leach chemicals and metal can give the cabbage a metallic taste.



Why you need a cover

Use a covered glass jelly jar or a small inverted plate that will fit inside the mouth of the jar if your jar is packed to the rim. Before adding the weighted jar, cover the top of the sauerkraut with a piece of discarded outer cabbage leaf—it helps keep the cabbage covered below the brine and protects it from direct contact with the weighted container. Put a small kitchen hand towel on top and secure with a rubber band.

Under pressure

Fermenting is going to release pressure the first few days or so. During this time, don’t screw on a lid. The brine will bubble, and you may even hear it fizz. When I first made sauerkraut, I was thrilled to see bubbles. That’s how I knew I was on the right track.


How You Know When It’s Ready

There’s no set number of days until your sauerkraut is ready. Taste test it every so often. It’s ready when it tastes good to you. As soon as you put it in the refrigerator, the fermentation will slow down significantly.

This is such a great fall and winter food, especially if you like your sauerkraut on the salty side. You can let it ferment longer, as it does, it will taste saltier.

What Could Go Wrong?

Very little can go wrong.

Some of the reasons for rancid or moldy sauerkraut are:

  • Unclean containers or tools
  • Air allowed to enter cabbage
  • Cabbage not packed below the brine
  • Salt contains additives


If the sauerkraut goes rancid, your sense of smell will tip you off. Toss it out if that happens. Your jar, utensils, or other materials that come in contact with the cabbage need to be washed well in hot soapy water, and the cabbage must be packed tight and covered.


If a little bit of mold forms on top, you’re ok. Skim it off and make sure the cabbage stays under the brine. After a few days or whenever the bubbling stops, make the jar airtight by adding a lid. This will reduce the chance of mold forming. If mold starts growing down inside with the cabbage, throw it out.

Bad taste?

Push down on the weighted container to prevent the cabbage from turning bad. It’s also possible that additives in your salt might affect your batch. When in doubt, take a sample taste.

The Recipe


  • Big pot
  • Large sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • 1 or 2 qt. wide mouth canning jar (Mason jar), sterilized
  • Small glass jelly jar and lid, sterilized
  • Pebbles (for weights)
  • Small kitchen cloth
  • Rubber band


  • One head green cabbage (or part green, part red)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 tbsp. kosher or sea salt (or to taste)


  1. Cut cabbage into quarters. Remove the white core, and cut into thin slices. Keep a piece of the outer leaves and compost the rest.
  2. If adding other vegetables, peel and slice thinly.
  3. Place in large bowl or pot. Add salt. “Massage” the shreds for about 7 to 10 minutes. The cabbage will start releasing moisture. It will become limp and more translucent when ready. Save this liquid. It’s your brine.
  4. Add seeds, herbs, spices, or any other vegetables, if desired.
  5. Pack cabbage and brine tightly into Mason jar.
  6. Snugly place a piece of the saved outer cabbage leaf on top of the shredded cabbage, below the brine.
  7. Add small pebbles to a jelly jar or use another container with weights that will fit into the mouth of the jar, pushing down as far as possible to remove any air pockets.
  8. Cover with a cloth and secure with a rubber band.
  9. Set jar in a cool, dark place away from direct sun.
  10. Each day, or even twice-a-day, push down on the weighted container to keep any stray cabbage down below the top of brine and to keep the air out. Be sure to put the cloth cover back on.

Your cabbage will bubble, and might even fizz (or it might not). That’s great! It’s working.

After about three to five days, give it a taste. If it tastes right, it’s done. Screw the mason jar lid on and refrigerate. If it’s not to your liking, let it sit for another few days before you taste it. It could take a couple weeks or more, depending on the time of year and the room’s temperature.

Enjoy your homemade sauerkraut as an appetizer, snack, side dish, or as a condiment in a sandwich. It will keep in the refrigerator for a year or more.

Smelling, tasting, and looking to see if anything is growing in the cabbage will be your tip-offs to its expiration.

Have fun! Experiment with different flavors. You’re doing your digestion and overall health a big favor making nature’s super probiotic!

Looking for more Probiotic recipes? Click here for 5 More DIY Probiotics

Have you made sauerkraut before? Tell us your yummy story in the comments below.


“Lactobacillus Effectiveness, How It Works, and Drug Interactions on EMedicineHealth.” EMedicineHealth, WebMD, www.emedicinehealth.com/lactobacillus/vitamins-supplements.htm.

Ducrotté, Philippe, et al. “Clinical Trial: Lactobacillus Plantarum 299v (DSM 9843) Improves Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG, Baishideng Publishing Group Co., Limited, 14 Aug. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3419998/.

LaBorde, Luke. “Sauerkraut (Home Food Preservation).” Home Food Preservation (Penn State Extension), Pennsylvania State University, http://extension.psu.edu/food/preservation/safe-methods/sauerkraut/extension_publication_file

Sarah. “The Crucial Difference Between Pickled and Fermented.” The Healthy Home Economist, The Healthy Home Economist, 7 July 2017, www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/the-crucial-difference-between-pickled-and-fermented/.

Henry, Derek. “Lab Results Reveal This Truly Superior Source of Probiotics.” NaturalNews, NaturalNews, 25 June 2014, www.naturalnews.com/045720_probiotics_digestive_health_sauerkraut.html.

Mercola, Joseph. “Fermented Foods Contain 100 TIMES More Probiotics than a Supplement.” Mercola.com, 12 May 2012, articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/05/12/dr-campbell-mcbride-on-gaps.aspx.

Mercola, Joseph. “Dr. Mercola Interviews Sandor Katz about Fermentation.” YouTube, YouTube, 28 Aug. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkXT-XgyzkI.

Gould, S E. “Sauerkraut: Bacteria Making Food.” Scientific American Blog Network, Scientific American, 26 July 2014, blogs.scientificamerican.com/lab-rat/the-science-of-sauerkraut-bacterial-fermentation-yum/.


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Take The Plunge Into Apartment Homesteading

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With everything happening in the world right now, including politics, climate change, natural disasters, a lifestyle of grotesque wastefulness, and our reliance on technology and fossil fuels, you might have cause to worry. As someone who lives in an apartment or condo, what do you do? Apartment homesteading is the way to go!

The movement toward small, single-family farms and gardens, growing and raising one’s own food, and learning the skills of our ancestors shines as a little glimmer of hope for all of us.

My Story

I rent a one-bedroom apartment in a moderate-sized city. This apartment has a small patio, limited kitchen space and storage, and is located off of a state highway in a huge complex with tons of college students. There is very little I can do in the way of serious “survival” or “old-world” skills.

If I can homestead, so can you!


Let’s take a look.

What is Homesteading?

“Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs … Modern homesteaders often use renewable energy options, including solar electricity and wind power. Many also choose to plant and grow heirloom vegetables and raise heritage livestock. Homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make.”

There are some very important words for us Apartment Dwellers!

  • Self-sufficiency
  • Subsistence agriculture
  • Home preservation of foodstuffs
  • Renewable energy
  • Plant and grow
  • Raise
  • Lifestyle choices

When you think of modern homesteading, do you picture a large plot of land in a rural area with a house that runs on solar power, a few acres of vegetables, a working well, a mature orchard, a stocked pond, sheep, goats, chickens, and rabbits? Does the picture include a homesteader who makes his or her own clothing, cans his or her own food, and could pretty much survive off the grid without too much trouble?

The Homesteader’s Philosophy

The most important words on that list is “lifestyle choices.” The entire homesteading philosophy is built around the quest for changing or altering your lifestyle in ways that promote self-sufficiency, sustainability, and positive change.

A Homesteader …

  • … educates and trains himself or herself to grow, make, raise, or cultivate everything he or she needs to survive.
  • … gets to know his or her surroundings so that he or she can work with it to do what he or she needs to survive.
  • … uses, reuses, mends, creates, and remakes the resources he or she has so that he or she can sustain his or her lifestyle.
  • … is an agent of change in a society that relies too heavily on mass production and technology to survive.
  • … learns how to survive by his or her own means, and perhaps, to teach the skills and lifestyle to others.

It’s not where you live. It’s how you live.

Even now, in my tiny apartment, I consider myself a homesteader.

I am an Apartment Homesteader, and you can be, too!

  1. I could do everything to save money, read and learn about homesteading during my apartment tenure, and dream about my future homestead. But I would not be acting as an agent of change. I want to promote change NOW.
  2. My homestead looks a lot different from the ideal of a “modern homestead” that you might have pictured.
  3. There are herbs and potted vegetable plants are on the patio and kitchen counter.
  4. Conserve as much energy as possible, and use as little as possible.
  5. There isn’t an option for a gray water system, so conserve water use in your apartment.
  6. The thought of raising livestock in an apartment is very funny! Seek out homesteaders and organic farmers in your region who sell at the farmer’s markets or who are willing to trade labor for goods.
  7. It isn’t about where you live … homesteading is about how you live TODAY.

The methods may be different, but the philosophies are the same:

  • Educate yourself on how to grow as much food as you can.
  • Learn where to find everything you need to survive. Make a list of the things you will need to survive.
  • Get to know your region to find gardeners who share your ideals and desire change.
  • Purchase from companies who have sustainable practices and business models.
  • Get to know the energy and resource systems that are connected with your apartment.
  • Find ways to conserve water and electricity, and implement more sustainable energy practices.
  • Use, reuse, mend, create, and remake all of your clothing, gear, cleaning supplies, and personal care products. This lifestyle choice helps conserve resources and promotes sustainability.
  • As much as you can, end your personal reliance on mass production and technology for survival.
  • Learn and do everything you can to survive on your own means as much as is possible, where you are now.

Are you ready to take the “Apartment Homesteader” plunge?

Why be an Apartment Homesteader?

It isn’t easy. Becoming an apartment homesteader takes work—intentional work.

But the benefits are amazing!

First, write down why you want to be an apartment homesteader. When times get tough, your big WHY will help you get through. It’s super-easy to cave into buying that mass-produced item or slipping out to grab a cheap burger when you can make it healthier at home.

Putting Down Roots

The first true benefit in Apartment Homesteading is the way in which a temporary home feels more permanent with a few acts of conservation and sustainable living.

Apartment Homesteading gives those of us in “temporary” living situations a sense of place and the ability to put down literal roots. It gives us a sense of permanency and a sense of being home, which makes it feel less transient.

Through the acts of growing our own food, being present in your environment through conservation and sustainable acts, and living within your means in preparation for the future, we feel as though we belong to the earth, the land, our communities, and ourselves.

Our identity is bound to that belonging.


The idea of belonging leads to a truly beautiful benefit of apartment homesteading: community.

As an apartment or condo dweller, it is impossible to be a subsistence gardener. It is impossible to grow all of your own food, raise animals for meat, milk, cheese, or eggs, or get “off the grid” through the use of sustainable solar and wind energy.

Like-minded Individuals

However, connecting with like-minded people to trade goods, resources, and talents to get all of the food you need is a great idea. You can learn the skills you need from modern homesteaders and work with your community in a garden space that benefits everyone.

It is mutually beneficial to help homesteaders operate by trading labor for goods, which allows you to get your hands dirty and be a part of the production of all of your food.

Apartment homesteading gives you the opportunity to reach out to people around you who have the same goals, ideas, and concerns.

It provides a community connection for those of us living in what is typically a solitary life.

Broadening the Sustainable Living Reach

Finally, one of the best benefits of apartment homesteading is its ability to bring the move toward sustainable living into the most unsustainable lifestyles and locations.

We literally live on top of one another in our apartment complexes. We don’t live in places known for sustainability practices. Many of us live in cities whose carbon footprints are off the charts, and most of us don’t know what to do about it.

As apartment homesteaders, we make the choice to live sustainably and lessen our reliance on big-ag and big-pharm.

As we plant and use our herbs for medicinal purposes, make chemical-free cleaning supplies, and conserve our use of natural resources in our apartments or condos, we demonstrate to the people around us that sustainability is a choice we make for ourselves—not a decision dictated by where we live.

If I can do it, you can do it. And if we can do it, they can do it.

Apartment Homesteader Goals

Every homesteader needs to set some goals. In order to make a difference with your apartment homestead, create goals that are specific, manageable, and easily accomplished.

We want to promote change! That means you have to be the change.

What goals can you implement in your apartment to move toward self-sufficiency, lessen your reliance on big-ag, preserve food and resources, conserve energy and natural resources, and make sustainable lifestyle choices?

Look to these major categories for the changes you can make:

  • Conservation – Water and Electricity
  • DIY – Do as much as you can for yourself, or learn how
  • Chemical-free living – make your own cleaning supplies and beauty products
  • Gardening – container gardening is perfect, even in small spaces
  • Home Medicine – growing herbs on your kitchen counter is a good place to start
  • Community – reach out to like-minded community members

Here are 12 first-year goals for your apartment homestead, one for each month:

  1. Unplug appliances when not in use
  2. Replace all chemicals in your home with natural, sustainable products that you make yourself
  3. Plant two vegetables in pots for indoor or patio growing
  4. Experiment with Instant Pot and traditional canning techniques to preserve food for cold months
  5. Grow at least 5 different herbs in a mason jar herb garden
  6. Learn the basics of herbal medicine and implement herbal remedies for common maladies
  7. Find and inquire about volunteering for two modern homesteaders in your region
  8. Find a co-op, CSA, or community garden in your area
  9. Cook all of your own meals from scratch
  10. Take a basic living skills class in your area, such as baking bread, growing food, sewing basics, canning, home repairs, emergency preparedness)
  11. Learn basic first aid and CPR
  12. Hang your laundry out to dry (even inside!)

None of these goals are too big or cost a ton of money. As a matter of fact, they may save you money! All of your goals should be somewhat flexible to account for life happenings. Start small, because those small steps will make a big difference in the long run. Celebrate each goal as you accomplish it. If you have already accomplished some of these goals, choose another one?

What skill do you need to add for your apartment homesteading success?

We are defined by the lifestyle choices we make

There is one trap that every homesteader risks falling into—unrealistic expectations.

When it doesn’t work

Sometimes sustainable living projects that you attempt in your apartment simply won’t work.

You may discover that some of the modern homesteaders you hope to work with don’t practice what they preach.

Relying on the systems may be something you have to do, meaning you may not reach all of your goals. Be kind to yourself. You tried. Be curious. Is there another way to accomplish that goal?

None of these “shortcomings,” mean your apartment homestead has or will fail. Keep moving forward!

Remember that any change toward sustainable living is a good change.

Set realistic, manageable, and sustainable goals in your apartment homestead projects, but remember you may experience setbacks and have to alter your original plans.

Find or Create Community

And most importantly, find or create a community you can count on for support.

Share your ideas and goals and your testimony of change with your apartment- or condo-dwelling friends.

Seek out leaders and guides in sustainable and self-sufficient living practices and glean all that you can from them, and offer your support, too.

A tribe of apartment homesteaders can make real, measurable waves in the urban housing world.

Next in this series, follow along as we explore each apartment homesteading goal. Then, implement your own apartment homesteading goals where you live.

You’ll get the REAL story of this apartment homesteading adventure…

… remember, it’s not about where you live; it’s about how you live.

We—the apartment homesteaders—are defined by the lifestyle choices we make, not where we live.

Need some small space composting ideas? Check out this article: 5 Cheap And Easy Solutions For Small-Space Composting.

Are you Apartment Homesteading? Tell us your story in the comments below.


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15 Foods That Are Tooth Pain Triggers

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Sharon had tooth pain that wouldn’t go away, so she went to the dentist. Her dentist asked if she had been indulging in the tomato harvest. Sharon smiled and nodded her head. The dentist told her that tomatoes are one of those foods that can erode the enamel of your teeth and cause tooth pain or sensitivity.

Nobody looks forward to his or her bi-annual visit to the dentist. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to lower your chances of needing expensive dental work with some eating strategies?

How food damages your teeth?

There are two main food ingredients that harm your pearly whites: sugar and acid.


The millions of bacteria already in your mouth are super-happy when you eat Sugars, especially sucrose (table sugar). The bacteria feast on plaque buildup and produce lactic acid, which erodes tooth enamel. Sucrose is the worst form of sugar because it sticks to teeth making it (and the bacteria) difficult to remove even with brushing.


Acidic foods, including some fruit, eat away at the tooth enamel and directly break down your teeth. In this case, the bacteria aren’t necessarily producing acid and causing tooth decay.

Wash away natural acids by drinking water. Ironically, brushing after consuming acidic foods or beverages causes more damage. Teeth are porous and acid softens them. If you brush immediately afterward, it breaks down the enamel even further. After consuming acidic foods, rinse your mouth with water and wait at least an hour before brushing.

If you want to keep your teeth in good shape, there are a lot of foods to avoid or consume in moderation.

Avoid these foods for Tooth Pain Relief

1. Soda.

No surprise here. Soda is one of the top foods to avoid for sensitive teeth. There are two ingredients in soda that irritate teeth and cause pain: sugar and acid. It’s a double whammy.

2. Ice cream.

Sad, but true. Ice cream is cold, and it has sugar that causes teeth to be even more sensitive. People who have sensitive teeth lack the enamel layer that acts as a protective barrier.

3. Coffee.

Coffee is also a double whammy. Not only is coffee a hot food, which can cause your teeth to hurt. The caffeine in coffee is very acidic, especially when consumed in large amounts, which can make your tooth pain even worse. You’ll want to limit your consumption.

4. Hard candy and cough drops.

Lollipop, peppermints, and cough drops. Oh, my! When you have sensitive teeth, skip the hard candy and cough drops. They are full of sugar and could also cause teeth to chip or break.

5. Citrus fruits.

Pineapple, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes are all highly acidic fruits. The acid makes your teeth more sensitive because it eats away the tooth enamel. While highly nutritious, eating these fruits and drinking the fruit juice is a cause of tooth sensitivity and pain. Moderation is key with citrus fruits.

6. Tomatoes & Tomato-based pasta sauces

When the tomato harvest is in full swing, many dentists report higher instances of tooth pain. Although tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, they’re also highly acidic. Note that tomato sauce, as well as raw tomatoes, trigger tooth sensitivity. Again, moderation is key!

7.  Sticky candy.

Toffee, caramel, gummy bears, and licorice are especially bad for people with tooth sensitivity. They are full of sugar and stick to your teeth. Extremely sweet and sticky foods stimulate the nerves in the Dentin, the layer below the Enamel. This is what causes the pain.

8. Dried Fruits.

There are several sticky foods, such as raisins, figs, and dried apricots that are packed with nutrition but can cause tooth sensitivity. Dried fruits and fruit leathers are high in sugar and can do a number on your teeth. The sugars in the fruits, even though it’s minimal, stay on your teeth and feed the plaque bacteria. Rinse your mouth with water right after consuming and brush your teeth about an hour afterward.

9. Pickles.

The vinegar used to make pickles is highly acidic. They are often made with sugar as well. While the cucumbers are healthy, the brine damages your teeth. Drinking water with your meal helps wash away acid and sugar, but remember to brush an hour later.

10. Wine.

Alcohol causes a dry mouth, which reduces your saliva production. The sugars are deposited on your teeth and cause tooth pain. White wine and sweeter reds do the most damage. If you have sensitive teeth, consume wine in moderation.

11. Potato chips.

Oh, these crunchy, salty flats of addiction. The texture of chips, which gets gummy as you chew, tends to linger in your mouth and get stuck in the biting surface of your teeth. No one can eat just one, so it is a non-stop snack of acid production. The acid-producing bacteria indulge in your snack and up your risk of tooth decay.

12. White bread.

There are a number of reasons why refined carbohydrates, like sandwich bread, aren’t good for you. For one, they are full of simple sugars that quickly dissolve in your mouth. As you chew it, white bread gets a gummy consistency. This means those sticky particles get trapped on the biting surface and in between your teeth. The dissolving sugars cause a surge of acid that erodes tooth enamel.

13. Sports drinks.

Isn’t a sports drink a nutritious re-hydrator after your morning workout? Nope! Sports drinks are packed with sugar and acid. Cavities, erosion, and tooth sensitivity are heightened because we tend to swish these drinks around our mouth to rehydrate.

14. Vinegar.

Vinegar is in a variety of foods from salad dressings to sauces. However, vinegar can trigger tooth decay. There is a bit of good news: Lettuce combats the damaging effects of vinegar, so keep enjoying your favorite balsamic vinaigrette on your salad.

15. Apples.

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but the acid in this fruit may have you at the dentist. Apples are full of nutrition, but they are high in acid and surprisingly hard on your enamel. Eating apples is fine, but be sure to rinse your mouth with water shortly after, and brush your teeth an hour later.

Taking Care of Your Tooth Enamel

What do you eat to take care of your teeth?

If you have sensitive teeth, it’s possible that some of your enamel has worn away.

To prevent further damage

Eat acidic and sugary foods in moderation, or if your teeth are extra-sensitive avoid these foods for a while.

Don’t brush too hard. If you brush your teeth with a heavy hand, stop! You’re taking off more than just plaque. Side-to-side brushing right at the gum line takes your enamel away faster. Use a soft-bristled brush and work at a 45-degree angle to your gum to keep enamel clean and strong.

Snack on these foods:

These treats moisten your mouth and fight acid and bacteria that eat away at your tooth enamel. Your saliva is a natural way to deal with acid, plaque, and the bacteria.

  • Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Plain yogurt

Drink green or black tea. 

Chew xylitol gum.

Rinse your mouth with water after consuming an acidic food. Wait an hour or so before you brush your teeth.

Read more about how to care for your teeth naturally here.

If you have sensitive teeth, and the symptoms last for more than a few weeks, be sure to talk to your dentist. Sensitive teeth may be a sign of a cavity that needs to be treated.

Do you have tooth pain due to eating acidic foods? Tell us your story in the comments below. We’re all here to help each other.



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

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Let’s go to the fair!

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

So many things to do and see

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

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

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

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

Livestock area

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

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

Expert Speakers

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

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

You even get to talk with these experts!

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

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

See you at a Mother Earth News Fair.

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

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


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5 Cheap and Easy Solutions For Small-Space Composting

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Whether you live in an apartment, condo, or tiny house, here are some easy and practical ways to combat your small-space composting dilemma.

Growing your own food is important to your overall health, as well as the planet’s. You want to do as much as you can, but you live in an apartment or condo with rules about what you can and cannot do on your balcony or patio. You barely have enough room to grow anything much less have some sort of compost pile.

There are a number of challenges you face as a Small-Space Composter


You barely have enough room for growing your own food. Where in the world are you going to put a compost been?

Ease of set up and easy-to-use.

A compost pile is daunting. You want the composting solution to be easy-to-set-up and easy-to-use.

Won’t attract bugs.

There is nothing worse than bugs in a small space. No bugs in the compost bin!

Works as fast as possible

Do you want to use the compost as soon as possible? There are solutions for that, too!

Small-Space Composting Solutions

There are many solutions for your small space composting. It all depends on what is important to you from the above list. What is your priority?

Here are some solutions to consider for your small-space situation:

Worm Bin

The easiest way to compost indoors cheaply, easily, and quickly is to use a worm bin. Vermiculture (or worm composting) produces worm castings that make worm tea that is perfect for feeding the soil of your container plants.

Read more about vermiculture is small spaces here.

Plastic Storage Bins

These are an excellent choice because they’re fairly inexpensive and easy-to-find. They come in a variety of sizes so that you can get the right size bin for your space. Ten to eighteen gallons is a good size. You can even stack the bins to save space. Make sure you drill aeration holes near the top to allow air into your bin.

Five-gallon buckets

Another option is very inexpensive and stackable. You can find 5-gallon buckets with lids at home centers and big-box stores. Also, large kitty litter containers work great, too! Be sure to drill aeration holes near the top of the bucket.


Old wooden boxes or wine crates can be turned into an indoor composter. Add a plastic bag stapled to the inside and cover with hinges or painters’ canvas.

Bokashi (Japanese term meaning “Fermented Organic Matter”)

The Bokashi method is easy and composts everything—from kitchen scraps to meat and dairy. You mix an inoculated bran filled with microbes into the Bokashi bucket and tightly cover it. When the bucket is full, seal it shut and set it to the side for 10 to 12 days. Every other day, drain the bucket (which also makes a nice compost tea). You’ll have a pre-compost, which can be put in worm bins or leave it for a month to let it break down further.

Where do you put a compost bin?

  • Under the Sink
  • Under a plant stand
  • In a hall closet
  • Out in the open (it’s a great conversation starter!)

How much do you put in?

Two types of material make composting work. They are nitrogen materials, such as food scraps and grass clippings, and carbon materials, such as leaves, shredded paper, and corrugated cardboard.

What to put in your compost bin:

  • Fruit & Veggie scraps
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags (If the bag is slippery, don’t put it in your compost)
  • Shredded paper
  • Trimmings from houseplants
  • Hair (yours and your pets)
  • Toilet paper rolls torn into small pieces
  • Dryer lint

What not to put in your bin

An indoor compost bin, doesn’t heat up as much as a hot outdoor bin, so there is less microbial action happening (except for the Bokashi method). This means that the kitchen scraps won’t break down very quickly, especially if you add in:

  • meat
  • dairy
  • fats
  • large chunks of anything

It’s also probably a good idea to avoid composting very smelly items, such as onion peels. You may smell it in the rest of your house. Try to avoid watery items, such as melons or squash. They might make your bin too soggy.

Tips for Success

If you want to be successful with indoor composting and get a bit of compost, too, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Have shredded paper or dry leaves handy. Every time you add food scraps or coffee grounds, plop in a handful of the shredded paper or leaves. This will keep your bin from getting too wet. Note: Junk mail works perfectly for this purpose as long as it is not the slick-coated advertisements.
  • The contents of your bin need to be turned often. Turning the contents of your bin warms it up and microbes very happy. It also mixes the contents, so they don’t get too wet or too dry. Move everything around with a hand trowel. An advantage to the round bucket method is that you can roll it back and forth a few times to mix it.
  • No matter what kind of bin you have, add small pieces. Pulp from your juicer will breakdown much faster than chunks of vegetables. Chop up your food scraps or put them through a blender, and be sure to shred your paper or cardboard.

It is possible to compost in small spaces, such as apartments, condos, or tiny houses. After a while, you’ll get a feel for what works and what doesn’t with your chosen composting method. It will be a great feeling to know that you’re saving waste from the landfill and making compost for your container garden.

What is your favorite composting method? The comments are waiting for you.


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Small-Space Vermiculture, Step-by-Step

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According to the EPA, 20 to 30 percent of what is thrown away should be composted. If you’re the type of person who hates to throw out kitchen scraps, but don’t have room for a compost pile in your small apartment, small-space vermiculture is for you!

What is vermiculture?

Vermiculture, or Vermicomposting is the breakdown of organic material by vermis, which is the Latin word for “Worms.” The worms take that waste and turn it into nutrient-rich “castings” or worm poo that helps build the soil. It is the most efficient way to compost most of your household waste.

Steps to your Vermicomposting happiness

Let’s bypass the trash collector and have your worms “eat” your garbage!

Make your worm bin

Start out with a cheap bin to get started. A $10 system works just as well. A 5-gallon bucket, large kitty litter bucket, or 16 in. X 24 in. X 8 in. (or 10-gallon) plastic bin will work just fine.

Next prepare the bedding

Shred about 50 sheets of newspaper into 1/2 in. to 1 in. strips. Avoid color print. It is toxic to worms.

Place the shredded newspaper into the bin. Add water to the newspaper until the bedding feels moist like a damp sponge. Add more dry strips if it gets too wet.

Sprinkle two to four cups of potting soil or soil from your yard into the bin. This introduces the beneficial microorganisms.

Get Your worms

Red Wigglers, or Eisenia fetida, are the worms you want for your worm bin. You don’t want Earthworms because they are large soil movers, and don’t do well in worm bins.

Get worms from a local source (if possible), because they are acclimatized to conditions in your area. Ask around, look on Craigslist, aquaponics or hydroponic stores, or ask other vermicomposters in your area.

How many worms do you need?

Say you bought a pound of worms. A pound of worms will eat half to their full eight every day. They are the best recyclers in the world! Think about how much waste you have.

Feed your new friends

Worms are vegan, but they can eat quite a bit. You’ll want to feed them a balanced diet, not just coffee grounds! As your bin gets going, you’ll feed those worms about half-a-pound to a pound of food in 24 hours.

Fun Fact: The worms don’t actually eat the scraps. They eat the bacteria that is breaking down the food scraps.

What to feed?

Feed your worms veggie and fruit scraps, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, tea and tea bags (the ones that aren’t shiny), such as peels, rinds, cores, etc. Cut or break the food up into smaller pieces. If you run it through a blender, that would be even better! For instance, juicing pulp is fantastic!

What not to feed?

Limit or eliminate citrus fruits and onion peels in your worm bin. Also, do not add meats, bones, oils or dairy products.

How to feed your worms?

  1. Feed your 1 lbs. of worms about three times their weight each week. So, for one pound of worms, you’ll feed 3-lbs of food each week, or slightly less than half-a-pound.
  2. Bury the food in the bin.
  3. Lift up the bedding. Add the food scraps. Then, cover the food with the bedding again.

Check the bin every week to make sure the worms are eating all of the food. Adjust the amount accordingly.

Harvesting the black gold

There are many methods to harvest the worm castings. These two techniques  work great.

  1. Try a melon. Place a piece of melon in one area of your bin. The worms really love musk melon or watermelon, because they don’t get it very often. Put that little piece of melon in the corner of the bin, and the worms will herd over there. Then, scoop out the castings from the other side of the bin.
  2. Vertical migration system. The whole point of a vertical migration system is to let a layer finish out and put a new layer on top with new paper and new food. The worms migrate up into a new layer where the food is. They don’t want to live in the lower layers that is filled with their poop. Essentially the system separates the casting for you, but in a much slower way. The lower bins still may have a few worms, but you can hand pick them. It’s not bad to get worms in your finished compost either. They’re going to end up living in the soil in your garden.

Tips for success

  • Place a full sheet of dry newspaper on top of the bedding. This will help maintain the moisture of the bin. It also keeps odor problems in the bin and prevents fruit flies.
  • If you find fruit flies or the bin is too wet, replace that top layer of dry newspaper.
  • Cover your bin and choose a place for your worms. Worms like it dark and between 55°F and 75°F. Under a sink, in a closet, or wherever is convenient for you, so you remember to feed and check on them.
  • Castings are high in nutrients and micronutrients, so make worm tea in a 5-gallon bucket. Or add it to your potted plants for a healthy boost.
  • We don’t always produce a pound of kitchen scraps in a day, or we’re on vacation or busy. You don’t need to micromanage your worms. You don’t have to feed them a pound of food every day.
  • Sometimes we produce more than a pound of kitchen scraps, or your worms aren’t eating as fast. If this happens, simple put the scraps in a container or baggie and put that in the refrigerator until it’s time for a feeding.
  • Worms don’t like light, so be sure to keep your bin in a quiet out-of-the-way place. They like warm, dark places.
  • If your bedding dries up, spray it with a bit of water. Fluff the bedding once-a-week to give the worms some air.
  • If you live in a cold climate and have your bin outside, be sure to bring it inside.
  • Rotting food will produce a strong odor. Stop adding food until your worms have caught up. Adding air by stirring the contents will help.
  • If the worms are crawling out of the bedding or onto the sides or lid, they may need more air, the bedding is too wet, or the bin is too acidic. Did you put too many orange peels in there?

Need other ways to compost in a small space? Check out this article!

Now we want to hear your wormy stories! Do you practice small-space vermiculture? Tell us in the comment below.


EPA. Composting At Home.


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5 Inexpensive And Homemade Natural Cleaning Products

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We live in a toxic world, but we can choose to step out of that world and create our own natural cleaning products that work just as well. Going completely chemical-free has been a goal of mine for a while now.

Going Chemical-free

I moved into an apartment (insert your sympathetic groan here). I’m working hard to establish my potted plants in my patio garden and implement my chemical-free lifestyle as quickly as possible in the transition.

Commercial products

There is a lot to like about chemical-free cleaning products on the market, but holy-moly, that stuff is expensive. Did you hear the whole, “I had to move into an apartment,” thing? I’m not exactly raking in the dough.

D.I.Y. cleaning products

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars to get every single chemical-free cleaning product on the market, I decided to find natural recipes for making them myself, or developing my own recipes.

Adding therapeutic-grade essential oils (EOs) in my cleaning supplies gives an extra-boost of bacteria-killing and cleaning-oomph to my cleaners.

Essential Oils for cleaning products

Before we get to the recipes, let’s talk about how EOs add to the power of cleaning supplies without the chemical yuck.

EOs are distilled from plants (woo, natural). Think of it as “plant blood”—they oxygenate and move nutrients through the plant, so it can grow and flourish.

When EOs enter your body through inhalation, absorption, or digestion, the essential oils oxygenate your blood and move nutrients through your body. The oils improve your immunity and help support every system in your body, from muscular to endocrine.

They keep our families and ourselves healthy!

Chemical Cleaning Supply Hazards

We know the dangers of inhaling bleach.

We have heard the horror stories of harsh chemicals that get splashed and irritate or burn the skin or cause rashes.

You probably have the local poison control number posted on your refrigerator. It’s in case you know someone who accidentally ingests poison in the form of laundry detergent or all-purpose cleaner.

Typical cleaning supplies …

… like bleach or laundry detergent, contain chemicals that fall into three categories:

  • carcinogens
  • endocrine disruptors
  • neurotoxins

Look at the label to see if the cleaning product has a warning.

If the label says:

  1. Protective clothing should be worn while using this product
  2. Says “proprietary blend of” anything as an ingredient, but doesn’t list the actual ingredients in that blend
  3. Warnings against major skin irritation
  4. Contact poison control in any occasion of use other than the intended use

The product probably has a nasty chemical that may be shown to cause cancer, mimic human hormones in the body, or disrupt brain activity.

Let’s stay away from those.

Stick with natural cleaning supplies that are cheap, easy-to-make, easy-to-use, and reasonably inexpensive.

Benefits of Natural Cleaning Supplies

With EOs, you get cleaning power and peace-of-mind, without having poison control on speed dial.

Not all EOs are created equally. Most essential oils on the market fall into one of three categories:

  • Aromatic
  • Perfume
  • Food Grade

Only the pure form of essential oil—the only one without chemical fillers or carrier oils added—is Therapeutic Grade.

How can you tell that an essential oil company sells only therapeutic grade essential oils?

Find out if the company owns and operates their own farm and has a promise of purity. If their standards are high, they grow their own plants, build their own distilleries, and are open about their processes and systems, you can bet that they are honest about the purity of their essential oils.

Using Essential Oils

I use essential oils in my cleaning supplies, but also in my food, in my fitness supplements, and in my personal care products. A lot of the same oils blend across the board, so cleaning with the same substances that I put on my skin is not a problem.

I won’t break out in hives from a laundry detergent I made with lemon, citronella, rosemary, and lavender essential oils. When I make my all-purpose surface cleaner with cinnamon, clove, lemon, eucalyptus, and rosemary essential oils, I know my skin isn’t going to burn when I touch residue left behind from cleaning the counters.

5 Inexpensive and natural cleaning products

Here are my recipes, equipment, and methods for making and using chemical-free cleaning supplies!

Chemical-free, Laundry detergent

Supplies: Glass Jar, Food Processor or Cheese Grater, Measuring Cups, Mixing Utensil

  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Washing soda
  • 1 Natural Bar Soap (Dr. Bronner’s, Lavender is great), grated into fine shavings
  • 15 drops EO, 3-4 drops each of Lemon, Citronella, Rosemary, and Lavender (whatever smells best to you will work!)

How to make and use:

  1. Grate the natural bar soap of your choice (bonus points if you make your own!) with a cheese grater or food processor.
  2. Stir in Borax and Washing Soda.
  3. As you stir, add drops of EOs to distribute the oil in the mixture evenly. Store in an air-tight glass jar. A large canning jar works great.
  4. Add 1 TBSP of the mixture to your laundry. Use warm or hot water—especially if you don’t grate the bar soap small enough. If the soap pieces are too big, cold water doesn’t dissolve the soap very well. Also, add a couple of drops of EOs directly to your laundry for added freshness (Extra drops of lavender when you wash bedding is heavenly).

Note: I’ve had great results using Lemon EO for stain remover in the laundry. Apply a couple of drops and rub it into a stain (common stains like dirty knee stains from garden) before washing it with the laundry detergent above.

Chemical-free, All-purpose cleaner

Supplies: Amber Glass Spray Bottle, Measuring Cups, Funnel

  • 1 cup Distilled water
  • 1 cup Hydrogen peroxide
  • 15 Drops of EO, 3 drops each of Cinnamon, Clove, Lemon, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary

How to make and use:

  1. Use a funnel to pour all ingredients into an amber or brown glass spray bottle.
  2. Shake gently to combine.
  3. Spray to clean counters, appliances, and other surfaces. Wipe down with a rag.

Degreaser Variation

Add extra-lemon EO and a little lemon juice to the all-purpose cleaner above.

Window and Glass Cleaner Variation

Use less EO, and cut the Hydrogen peroxide amount in half for window or glass cleaner. Try white vinegar as another window and glass cleaner alternative.

Chemical Free, EO Dishwasher Detergent

The ingredient amounts are in “parts,” so you can make large batches. It’s easier to measure the ingredients into a large container in general amounts.

Supplies: Glass Container, Funnel

  • 2 parts Borax
  • 2 parts Washing soda
  • 1 part Kosher salt
  • 20 drops or so Lemon EO

How to make and use:

  1. Fill the container with equal parts Borax and Washing soda.
  2. Add half of that amount of Kosher Salt.
  3. Add the EO, so it smells the way you want it to. It will depend on how much detergent you make.
  4. Combine all dry ingredients in a large canning jar. Stir while adding drops of the EO to distribute it equally.
  5. Scoop 1 TBSP of this mixture into the soap chamber of your dishwasher, and add 1 tsp of Citric Acid to each load. (I use LemiShine, but you can find citric acid at natural grocery stores in bulk, or on Amazon).

Note: For hard water, add more citric acid in each load and increase the Lemon EO amount in the recipe.

These are just a few of the natural cleaning products that you can make for your healthy home.

Do you make your own cleaning products? Share your ideas below.


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What It Takes To Homestead As A Working Retirement

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What are your plans for retirement? Are you looking forward to watching more TV, playing golf, or traveling? And when you aren’t doing those things, then what? This is why I’m looking forward to a “Working Retirement.”

Learning from previous generations

In my 50’s, I watched my mom succumb to Alzheimer’s, and later, my dad to heart medications. They both lived a long time. In particular, my father lived to be 92 years old. For me, that was a strong indication that I would also be long-lived. If I could do something about it, I didn’t necessarily want to end up in the same condition.

Why a working retirement?

At 60 years old, I still work full-time, which I enjoy. So why am I looking at homesteading as a “working retirement?” The last thing I want to do is spend all day watching television in an easy chair. This is what I watched my parents do, and it killed them. They both got to the point where they could barely do anything else.

On the other hand, regular activity has been proven to keep people young. A recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that even low levels of activity could increase life expectancy 4.5 years, regardless of body weight.[1] For an excellent example of this, look to Jack Lalanne, who was active from his teens until he died at the age of 96 years old.

A Permaculture Design Course opened my eyes

The other change that happened quite recently was taking a Permaculture Design Course (PDC). The information I received opened my eyes to the possibilities for using land, except I didn’t have land at the time. Instead, I lived in a townhome, which had restrictions against doing anything that didn’t stay on my back patio. Naturally, you can’t raise goats, chickens, or enough food to feed two people on a 4 ft. x 8 ft. concrete slab.

Our Working Retirement

Finding the land

Shortly before I finished the PDC, my husband and I decided to buy land and figure out how to grow our own food. We found four acres for sale in an area where the land prices were within our budget and not too far away from our current location.

While creating an initial planting of perennial edibles, we researched energy efficient housing possibilities. Once the house is built, we will further implement our design for the land, which will include ducks, goats, donkeys, bees, a straw-bale garden, and a variety of fruit trees.

Limited Time

Until then, working on our property is limited to the weekends. It is hard work, but also an excellent way to get away from sitting in front of a computer all day. When we go to the land, we move wheelbarrows full of wood chips onto our driveway, water all of our plants from the water collection system, clear weeds on our access road, and enjoy being in the sunshine and fresh air.

Reduce current monthly expenses

We know our current jobs won’t last forever, so we have been reducing our expenses and improving our quality of living at the same time.


First, growing our own food reduces one of our biggest monthly expenses—buying groceries. Also, we know what went into growing the food. I believe this is the biggest benefit of raising and growing your own food.


Second, we designed our new house to be energy efficient, using much less electricity than we currently use in our townhome. Eventually, we hope to provide our electricity with solar power. The solar power and the water well that we have on the property will significantly affect another big monthly expense—utilities. Also, we plan to use the sun for some of our cooking and drying clothes to make the most of this abundant Florida resource, sunshine.

Finally, we plan to use our current townhome and the new house as sources of income. I don’t think it is a good idea to rely on the government, so the more self-sufficient we can make ourselves, the easier our “retirement” will be financially.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?
What’s the reality of this scenario?

Financially, there is the investment in the land and a new house. We don’t have unlimited funds, so this is an important consideration. The biggest reason we chose the land was because the price was low, about 1/10 of what we would have paid for the same lot where we currently live.

The house

The house is an even bigger expense that had to be managed so we finish without using all of our reserves. If we were living in a house with land, we probably would have worked with that.

There is also some frustration in waiting for things to happen. Permits, plans, and designs all take time to create. We sometimes feel at the mercy of our general contractor, but we know the time will be worth it once the house is completed.

Friends & Community

Our property is about an hour away from where we currently live, go to church, and have most of our family and acquaintances. This was a sacrifice that may not be easy for others to make. In our case, we feel that it gives us an opportunity to meet new people and experience new things, so there is a trade-off. We also plan to invite friends and family to visit our new place, which will be a good experience for them, too.


The biggest drawback of our four acres in the country is the number of biting and stinging insects that live there. I have been researching what we can do about this and have found mosquito-repelling plants and smells, which won’t harm beneficial insects. We also plan to increase the bat population, so we can comfortably co-exist.

The Work

It’s true that there is a lot of work to be done. Thankfully, many people have done these things before us. There are a lot of videos and blogs covering the skills we have learned. We have reached out to like-minded people in the community, who have given us the benefit of their experience. The bottom line is that we are not alone.

In the meantime, we are putting a lot of sweat-equity into our property. It may not be the same amount as a younger person might put into it. However, when we look down a road we have just cleared of weeds or squash coming up where we buried our kitchen scraps, it’s a great feeling!

A little TV isn’t so bad

This is what we look forward to in our “working retirement”—better food and water, plenty of time outdoors, lots of exercise, accomplishments in new and varied areas, and making lots of new friends. And yes, when we watch some Netflix we won’t feel like couch potatoes.

Are you preparing a homestead? Tell us your story in the comments below.


[1] Wein, Harrison, Ph.D., “A Little Exercise Might Lengthen Life” Web Post, National Institutes of Health/NIH Research Matters, Published December 3, 2012, Accessed July 26, 2017, https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/little-exercise-might-lengthen-life

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Pueblo Farming Methods For Your Resilient Garden

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I spent the morning in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s Resilience Garden learning about the history of Pueblo Farming Methods. There are 19 Pueblos of New Mexico represented at the center.

The Resilience Garden tells the story of pre-contact foods and traditional farming methods all the way to modern plants and gardening methods for urban communities.

Watch the Interview (15:49 minutes):


The Zuni Pueblo is highly represented in the Resilience Garden because of its unique irrigation method, called a waffle garden. It is a brilliant technique to harvest and conserve water and is several thousand years old.

Zuni Pueblo Waffle Garden

Without a permanent water source, you can’t water a large area of crops. The waffle garden acts like a puddle. You hand-carry water to the beds and make sure the water stays concentrated where you put it.

The walls of the waffle bed are hand formed to catch any rainfall and focus that precious water around seeds and the roots of plants. It keeps the soil damp during the weeks of the dry season.

Water is a vital, life-giving element, especially in this desert climate. Pueblo cultures honor water through sustainable practices, as well as seasonal dances praying for generous rains, healthy plants, and a bountiful harvest.


Acoma and Laguna Flood Garden

Seasonal rains were crucial in Pueblo agriculture. Many of the Pueblos are located near plateaus. When the seasonal rains come, the rain runs off of the plateaus and into the flood gardens.

A wall around the flood garden holds the water in a particular area to water their crops. There were often multiple flooding areas, so if one area filled up with water, a wall would be removed so the water flowed into the next area and so on.

Pueblo crops planted in these types of gardens

The waffle and flood gardens were planted with melons and squash. The heavy amount of water would undermine a corn plant’s root system causing it to fall over.


The Pueblos are scattered throughout the state of New Mexico with a wide-variety of climates, from mountains to desert and plateaus to scrub. However, the Pueblo People concentrate their gardening around the Three Sisters (Corn, Beans, and Squash).

Community food production

Most of the crops grow in communal plots. Land was not owned, making it easy to move your garden each year. You weren’t planting in the same place (preventing pest and disease issues, and giving the land time to rest). By the time you got back to your original growing space, nature had time to rebuild healthy soil.

Want to know more about community food production? Click here to watch I Don’t Want to Grow All My Own Food. 

Prior to European Contact

Prior to contact with Europeans, there were many berries and different types of shrubs that were wild harvested.

Other pre-contact plants:

  • Mint
  • Cotton
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Wild Spinach
  • Yucca
  • Wild Celery
  • Tea (a tall grass)
  • Chokecherries
  • Wild plums
  • Wild mushrooms

Traditional herbs and many plants were not cultivated but harvested where they grew naturally.

Learning through history

Lessons were learned throughout history in places like Mesa Verde and Bandolier. These sites were built into cliffs with little or no space for agriculture to support such a larger community.

Corn is one of the oldest plants, which came from Mexico. The Pueblos have had corn for many thousands of years.

It is unknown when or how Beans and Squash came into Pueblo agriculture. There isn’t an exact story of where these plants came from.

The stories that have been handed down through the history of Pueblo culture speak to why they garden as they do and the way plants are cultivated or not.

When the Spanish came to the New Mexico, the pueblos were thriving. They had seven years-worth of food stored. The stored food kept the Spanish from conquering the Pueblos. It was the generosity of the Pueblo people that helped the Spanish survive in this harsh environment.

The Spanish, in turn, brought sheep, horses, chickens, and even the fruit trees that are grown today.

There are still families at the Pueblos who grow in the traditional methods and incorporate modern plants. Even the younger generations are becoming interested in the agricultural traditions once again.

Pueblo Ceremonies

Pueblos have many ceremonies throughout the year. The dances and songs vary from Pueblo to Pueblo. The reason many dances are not open to the public is because they are sacred. The dance and song are prayers to the soil, the plants, the pollinators, and gratitude for the harvest.

The season starts in the spring with ceremonies for preparing the soil and starting seeds. The ceremonies also bless the land with songs and dances.

Then throughout the summer, there are many dances that bless the field and crops, bring in the pollinators like the butterflies, and for a good harvest.

All of the dances, songs, preparations, plantings, and seasons lend themselves to the story of living life close to nature and gardening in a sustainable way.

Your Resilient Garden

At the Resilience Garden, they’re inspiring modern gardeners. Their methods are thousands of years of trial and error.

If you got out in your garden for the first time today, you would still come up with these methods on your own. Learning some of the best methods right away and adapting them to where you live will only help you create an abundant harvest.

The Resilience garden shows what gardeners have learned over the years:

  1. Preparing the soil is the foundation to sustainable gardening
  2. Planting the right plant in the right place
  3. Harvesting with gratitude
  4. Sharing knowledge with others

Resilience is a common theme for the Pueblos throughout history. They have survived contact with many nations and still remain humble, loving, and incredibly generous. The Pueblo agricultural methods and seeds are still alive after thousands of years. That’s pretty amazing!

The name of the garden is powerful and inspiring for the Indigenous people of the area, and anyone who comes to this space. There is even a Seed Bank, where the Pueblo people drop off seeds that have been in their family for many generations. That’s better than money!

If you’re in Albuquerque, please stop by and learn more about Pueblo Culture and the Resilience Garden. Click here for more information.

Historic Images: Library of Congress
Dance footage courtesy of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how do we get there?

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

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

In it, I talk about:

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

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

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

What type of giving brings you the most satisfaction?

How has giving created community for you?

I can’t wait to read your comments!


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

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

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

A True Story

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

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

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

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

Do you have the skills you need?

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

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

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

Where to gain homesteading knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s improve our skills together.

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

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Kids and Gardening: Fertilizing Our Future

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As a mother and a gardener, I cannot avoid children in my garden. Luckily, kids are natural helpers. They question everything and want to take part in what we are doing. These little “helpers” can frustrate us when we are short on time and NEED to get our chores done. Truthfully, kids and gardening go hand-in-hand!

While it is tempting to say, “you are too little” or “maybe when you get older,” we must remember that our mindset and actions as adults determine how much (or little) kids will continue to want to help. As adults, we have:

  1. The power to provide an environment where kids can learn and explore the wonders of the natural world.
  2. Responsibility to show them how to be good helpers, teachers, and productive members of society.
  3. A duty to teach them how to share the abundance in their lives—whether it be knowledge, compassion, or food—with others.

Outside in the garden is perhaps the best place to teach kids how to be good helpers, get them excited about food, and become closer as a family.

The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.
– Bill Mollison, Co-founder of Permaculture

Can I Help?

Our children want to help, but what can they do?

There are many kid-sized activities in and around the garden.  Some of the things they can tackle include:

  • Planting
  • Weeding
  • Watering
  • Controlling pests
  • Harvesting

Planting starts with seed selection. Children love to pick out their favorite foods from the seed aisle or catalog. They love to imagine what the fruits of their labor look and taste like. A child’s interest begins here, and their patience ends.

Be sure to help them pick out some quick growing crops such as lettuce, baby carrots, and bush beans. Having your child choose quick-growing crops ensures they can continue to be excited during the early and slow parts of the season.

Teaching them about succession planting is also useful, so they are constantly thinking about what to harvest and plant next.



Weeding, the chore everyone loves to hate

Luckily, pulling plants apart and out of the ground is a natural pastime for little hands. We need only guide their enthusiasm to ensure some of our crops remain to maturity. The time is perfect to discuss each plant that grows and answer some important questions such as:

  • What “weeds” are in the wrong place?
  • Which plants provide for us and each other?
  • Some plants can hurt us.
  • How do plant friends help each other?
  • What types of plants don’t get along with “this plant?”

Watering provides plants with their essential element of moisture and children their key element of playing and splashing. Just try and keep a 4-year-old out of a mud puddle.

Controlling pests combines two forces of nature: bugs and bug squishers

Bugs are some of the most fascinating and terrifying creatures in the lives of our children. Introducing them to harmful as well as beneficial insects sets the tone for their relationship with these creatures for the rest of their lives, ask someone who had a spider put on them at a young age.

Point out the pollinators, and tell the kids how bees and butterflies help fruit and vegetables grow. Talk about the life cycle of a butterfly. Tell them how bees work together to make honey.

Tell them about beneficial predators such as the praying mantis, ninja of the bug world, and the Braconid wasp, killer of hornworms.

Get them a bug house. It will always be full.


Bonding as a family

Working together outside in the sunshine and growing food for the table will also strengthen family bonds. It’s a way to build responsibility, excitement, and self-esteem in both child and adult.

Let the kids help in the garden, in the house, and in your life. Just like plants work together to improve the soil and protect each other, families work together to strengthen bonds.

Despite our urges to simply get stuff done, we must have patience with our children and take time to teach them. No matter our gardening successes and failures, they are always watching and learning.

Our most important crop is our children. Every experience and lesson are fertilizer to help them grow strong and wild into the best version of the individual. Of all the things we teach them, the most important lessons are how to be human.

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.
Masanobu Fukuoka, Farmer and author



Do your kids help in the garden? What is their favorite chore? Let us know in the comments below.


Mollison, Bill, Permaculture: A Designers Manual



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Prepare For A Natural Disaster – Your Family And Your Homestead

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Natural disasters happen all the time all over the world, fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. There is pandemonium and chaos, fear and heartbreak each time. Is it preventable? Most of the time, no. We are at the mercy of Mother Nature. But there are some things you can do to prepare for a natural disaster. Do you know how to prepare you, your family, home, pets, and livestock?

Right now, Marjory and her family are preparing for Hurricane Harvey, which is going to hit the Texas coast today.

Her homestead is expecting 20+ inches of rain and sustained winds of 40 mph. She says that is 2/3 of their annual rainfall.

Marjory knows how to prepare for a natural disaster. They’ve been to the grocery store, cleaned up the homestead, boarded up the windows, and scattered cover crop seeds in the pasture. In her words, “We’ve been broadcasting seed for the fall planting of pasture cover crops. Yes, the time to plant is before the rains or your likelihood of germination goes way down—you never know if/when it will rain again.”

Look for updates on Marjory right here on this blog post!

UPDATE August 25, 2017, 8:03pm CST: Hurricane Harvey has intensified. It is now a Category 4 storm as it makes landfall. Marjory has “battened down the hatches.” They are as prepared as they can be.

Prepare your family for a natural disaster

In 2004, my family and I were living in Florida. We went through 4 hurricanes back-to-back. Two boys, two cats, and I were huddled in the inner bathroom of our house. I lost three refrigerators full of food, and we lost power for weeks each time. It was the tornadoes spawned by the storm that finally got us. A 100 ft. pine tree with a 6-ft. diameter missed my car by inches. Our neighbors were not so lucky.

Make a plan

It’s better to prepare for an emergency or a disaster long before it happens. Choose reliable information sources, and know the warning systems in your area. Talk with your family about your plan, even young children will understand and not be so frightened. Be sure to include your pets and even neighbors in your plans.

  • Choose a safe place to meet.
  • Decide how you will contact each other (if cell service or electricity are out)
  • How will you find each other?
  • What will you do in different situations (fire, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, zombie apocalypse)?

Okay that last one was a bit of a joke, but all joking aside … what is your family’s disaster plan?

Create a disaster kit or bug out bag

Your emergency kit should be stocked and restocked regularly. Be sure to consider all of your needs and don’t forget your pets! You and your family may need to survive on your own for several days. You’ll need to be prepared with food, water, and other supplies for at least 72 hours.

Basic Disaster Supply Kit, or Bug Out Bag

Store everything in airtight plastic bags or put your entire disaster supply kit in one or two easy-to-carry plastic bins or duffel bags. Check the items regularly to make sure they work and have not expired.

  • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days. This is for drinking and sanitation.
  • Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio or NOAA Weather radio with tone alert. (Don’t forget extra batteries in your kit.)
  • Flashlight – battery-powered, solar-powered, or hand-crank (Personally, I prefer the hand-crank. I know it will work)
  • First Aid Kit – Check it regularly to make sure it is stocked.
  • Extra batteries – make sure you replace these regularly or use rechargables that get charged regularly.
  • Whistle to signal for help – A whistle is much easier to use than your voice and carries over a longer distance. Make sure that each family member has one.
  • Dust mask – in case there is debris in the air
  • Plastic sheeting – makes a great impromptu shelter
  • Duct tape- I never go anywhere without duct tape!
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Manual can opener for your food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with solar charger or a battery backup

Personal Emergency Supplies

  • Prescription medications
  • Non-prescription medications (pain-relievers, anti-diarrhea, antacids, and laxatives)
  • Glasses and contact lens solution
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
  • Pet supplies – Crate or carrier, pet food, and extra water for your pet
  • Cash
  • Way to cook food
  • Family documents (copies of insurance policies, identifications and bank account records, saved in a waterproof, portable container)
  • Sleeping bag and warm blanket for each person
  • Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in waterproof container
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant
  • Mess kit, cup
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles, cards, or other activities for children

After you create your disaster kit, remember to check it regularly.

Keep your canned food in a cool, dry place and replace expired items as needed. Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic containers. Rethink your needs each year.

Prepare your homestead for a natural disaster

Now that your family, pets, and you are safe during a natural disaster. Do you know how to prepare your homestead so it stays running?

  • Remove any debris that could become a dangerous flying object. This includes tomato cages!
  • Generator – if you have solar or wind power, it’s still a good idea to have a backup generator in case your alternative energy sources are damaged or destroyed by the natural disaster.
  • Reliable water source
  • Secure your livestock and small animals – have extra food, water, and bedding ready for at least a week. Have your halters and leads ready.
  • Stock up on vet supplies, including bandages, antibiotics, supplements
  • Make sure housing, food, and supplies for small animals (chickens, ducks, rabbits) are ready to withstand high winds or rising water. Create a make-shift pen in your garage, if necessary.
  • Put heavy farm equipment under cover and tie it down.
  • Tools & gloves – There will be a lot of mending after a natural disaster.
  • Keep a written inventory of all livestock, including breeding and expense records, with your other important family documents.
  • Make sure all animal branding, tagging, and other identification information are up-to-date.

Are you prepared? Tell us in the comments below.


Ready.gov. Be Informed
Tractor Supply. Storm preparedness on the farm.





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How To Choose A Natural Dentist

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You are taking control of your dental health. Now it’s time to choose a natural dentist. But where do you even begin?

As the evidence grows, it’s becoming clear that more and more people around the world are fed up with their treatment for oral health. It’s not just about a beautiful smile—it’s much bigger than that! Your overall health depends on a healthy mouth.

Finding out about the dentist’s beliefs and practices should be a top priority. You’re looking for the best match for your individual health needs, values, and priorities.

First be clear on your needs, values, and priorities where your oral health is concerned. Why are you considering holistic dentistry? This one question helps you come up with other questions that are relevant to your dental care.

Choose several holistic dentists in your area to meet and interview. Yes, you can do that!

Do an Internet search for “Holistic Dentistry” or “Natural Dentists” in your area. Check out there website for your values and priorities that you’ve already listed. Then, dial the phone!

Ask the receptionist … “May I talk to you about my dental health situation over the phone or should I make an appointment to visit your office?”

At your meeting whether on the phone or in person, ask some questions that are important to you.

Here are some questions you might want to ask the dentist:

Why did you decide to practice natural dentistry?
This will tell you whether the dentist is in it for profit or because he really cares of about his or her patient’s oral health.

What are your diet and lifestyle like?
You want your dentist to have similar values as you. If you have decided that oil pulling is one way that you will take care of you teeth, does your dentist understand and accept this practice?

Don’t know about oil pulling? Check out this article on 10 Ways To Take Care of Your Teeth … Naturally!

How much training and education have you had with the issues of toxic dental practices and materials?
You want to make sure that your new dentist understands and is knowledgeable about the latest toxic dental practices and materials.

Do you use bio-compatibility testing?
These tests tell whether various materials used in dentistry are compatible with your immune system and how sensitive you are to the different dental materials. A bio-compatibility report tells your dentist which materials are safest for you for each particular dental procedure.

During the initial exam and consultation, what can I expect?
Your initial exam should be longer than normal. It should include a thorough cleaning, a look at both hard (teeth) and soft (gums, neck areas) tissues, and x-rays to see what is happening below the surface.

Ask if the X-rays are low-dose radiation and if they use a neck guard to protect your thyroid.
The x-rays should show problems with your teeth, like fillings, missing teeth, cavities, root canal, and dead teeth. The neck guard will protect your thyroid from an overdose of radiation.

Want to know more about toxic dental practices? Click here to read The Hidden Dangers Of Commercial Dentistry.

Do you do microscopic analysis?
The microscopic analysis tells the dentist which types of bacteria are under your gums. It allows him or her to tailor a particular treatment regimen for you.

What training do you have in nutritional support supplements?
A well-trained holistic dentist will have a good foundational knowledge of nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, vitamins, and supplements. Ask about his or her background in these areas.

Does the dentist keep up with advances in technology and the latest studies about toxins in dental procedures and material?
Studies and reports in the toxins related to dentistry come out often. Is your potential dentist up-to-date on the latest studies?

What are the procedures for mercury or amalgam removal and replacement?
If you have fillings to replace, it is imperative that your new holistic dentist knows exactly how to take them out and replace them.

Asking these questions will put your mind at ease and ensure that you are getting the best dental care possible.

Will you be calling some Holistic Dentists in your area? Let us know your results in the comments below.


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Planting by the Moon and Stars: Great Idea or Hogwash?

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This method of gardening might be right up your alley, or it might be so far out there that it leaves you scratching your head. Let’s look at “planting by the stars.”

Farmers and Gardener have been planting by the stars and celestial bodies for centuries.

To add another layer to your garden planning: According to legends and stories, each sign has something to offer a gardener and his or her garden. Let’s take a look at some gardening tasks and the best signs to do them.

The moon moves through the various signs of the Zodiac every couple of days. Each of the signs is associated with different elements, which are suitable for different tasks in your garden, like watering, planting, harvesting, fertilizing, and cultivating the soil depending on which sign the moon is in.

The Elements

One premise of gardening by the stars is that the Universe is made up of four elementsEarth, Air, Fire, and Water.

The signs are connected to the elements like this:

Earth – Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn

Air – Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius

Fire – Aries, Libra, and Sagittarius

Water – Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces

The Earth signs are very fertile and good for planting. The root is the part of the plant that is associated with the Earth signs. Earth signs are particularly good for planting root crops or transplanting to encourage root development.

Air signs are primarily dry and barren, Libra is an exception, which is good for flowers and herbs. Melons like to be planted in Gemini and Onions do well if planted in Aquarius. It is a good time to harvest or cultivate the soil during an Air sign.

The water signs, Cancer, Pisces, and Scorpio are great for planting above ground crops. These are the best signs to plant in general.

In the fire signs of Aries, Sagittarius, and Leo, harvest, pull weeds, or get rid of pests. Harvesting is a good idea during a fire sign as the crops won’t rot in storage.

Planting by the Signs


It is best to fertilize when the moon is in Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces. These are fruitful signs. Use Taurus or Capricorn if necessary. Apply your fertilizer during the moon’s waning phase, preferably in the third or fourth quarter.


Root crops intended for food and fruits should be harvested during the waning moon in the third or fourth quarter in a dry sign of Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Gemini, or Aquarius. Harvest root crops like sweet potatoes at the full moon in one of the dry signs.


When the moon is in a watery sign, like Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces, it is a perfect time to water your garden. If that’s not possible, watering in Libra is good, too.


Mow your lawn or meadows to increase growth during the first or second quarter of the waxing moon, or during the third or fourth quarter of the waning moon to decrease growth.


It is best to prune during the third quarter waning moon in Scorpio to reduce branch growth and set better fruit.

Cultivating Soil

During the signs of Aries, Gemini, Virgo, and Sagittarius, cultivate your soil. To cultivate your soil, add organic matter, creating compost, improve soil texture, aerate, and mulch. During the first or second quarter waxing Moon in Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, or Libra, add cover crops to increase nitrogen and decrease erosion.

The Science

Ask a scientist, and they’ll give you a blank stare or laugh hysterically. And rightly so.

The nearest star is more than four light-years away (that’s four years traveling at the speed of light, which would be great if we could do it). The light from the stars would not affect plant life here on Earth.

However, first-rate farmers and gardeners follow the signs, and while they might do just as well if they didn’t garden by the signs, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to say whether it works or not. We only have experiences.

We do know that planting by the stars and moon phases does no harm, so why not try it as an experiment? Plant half your garden by the stars and the other half as you normally would and see for yourself which plot does best.

Be fair and let common sense make up your mind. Keep in mind everything you know about gardening, even the most devout “sign planters” take weather and temperature into account before undertaking a gardening project.

Quite frankly, Moon & Star Gardeners never asked why it works. The farmer who planted his homegrown food by the moon and stars has a bountiful harvest to show for it. Isn’t that really all that matters?

Did you see Part 1 of this series? Click here to read Planting by the Moon and Sun.


Do you plant by the moon or the signs? What are your results? We’d love to hear about your experiences below.


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

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

From the Inside-Out

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

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

Saliva and Oral Health

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

Watch Your Diet

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

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

Fruit and Vegetables

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

Sesame Seeds

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

How to care for your teeth and gums—naturally!

1. Brushing

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

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

2. Floss

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

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

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

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

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

How to Floss

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

Make Your Own Toothpaste

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

Get the recipe here!



3. Drink water

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

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

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

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

Make your own Mouth Wash

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

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

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

4. Chew xylitol gum

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

5. Oil pulling

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

How to oil pull:

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

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

What oil pulling does:

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

6. Tongue scraping

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

What it does:

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

How to tongue scrape:

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

7. Drink herbal tea

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



8. Herbs & Spices

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

Suck on a whole clove to lessen tooth pain.

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

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

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

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

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

9. Add supplements

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

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

10. Herbal breath fresheners

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

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


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





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Did You Know That 9 out of 10 Adults Have Gum Disease?

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“If you’re over 30 years old, chances are better than 90% that you have some form of gum disease.”
– David Kennedy, DDS – Past President of International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology

This is a pretty unsettling little fact, but it is a fact. Ninety percent of adults over 30 have active gum disease. That’s sad when you know that you can prevent gum disease. Signs range from swollen gums to bad breath and bleeding or receding gums to loose teeth. These symptoms are so common that most of us don’t even equate them with gum disease. We just think of it as business as usual in OUR mouth, and go about our daily brushing routines.  But if commercial toothpastes were really effective in preventing gum disease, would 90% of us be walking around with gum disease every day?  I don’t think so.


What is gum disease?

The bacteria in your mouth creates a sticky film called plaque that forms around your teeth and gums. If it isn’t removed daily, it will harden and become tartar. Plaque, tartar, and accumulating bacteria irritate and inflame the gums. This is known as gingivitis. When the plaque and tartar begin to form below the gumline your problem has progressed to periodontal disease. The bacterial infection spreads and destroys the gum, teeth, and bone structure. It could result in tooth loss.

Here is the path to prevent gum disease …

Your diet has a lot to do with your mouth health. If you eat acidic, junk, or sugary foods, your teeth and gums are going to have problems. When you eliminate processed foods and increase your oral health, your gums will begin to heal.

Some foods that cause acidity in the body:

  • grains (unsprouted or unfermented)
  • hydrogenated oils
  • sugar
  • some dairy products (low-fat yogurt, cheeses)
  • processed foods
  • Some fish (canned tuna, trout)
  • processed and fatty meats, salami, hot dogs, and corned beef
  • sodas, sweetened beverages, and fruit juices

Foods that help prevent gum disease:

  • Wild-caught fish (salmon, mackerel, and sardines, fish that is high in omega-3s)
  • Fresh veggie juice (helps reduce the inflammation in your body)
  • Chewing gum with Xylitol (xylitol helps prevent the build-up of bacteria)
  • Raw Vegetables and Apples (naturally clean your teeth)
  • Foods high in fat soluble vitamins (raw milk, coconut, beef liver, bone broth, grass-fed animal meat)

Other lifestyle choices to help prevent gum disease:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Chew on garlic (put it in your salads
  • Check your gut.
  • Oil pulling
  • Flossing
  • Make your own Toothpaste or Powder

Simple and Natural Tooth Powder


  • 3 tablespoons Bentonite Clay
  • 1 tablespoon Baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon Powdered cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Xylitol powder
  • 2 tablespoon calcium and magnesium powder
  • 10 drops of thieves essential oil
  • 20 drops of peppermint essential oil


  1. Mix all ingredients in a non-metallic bowl.
  2. Put your powder in a pint-size glass jar for storage. Use one jar per family member if you’re going to dip your toothbrush into it.

To use: Wet your toothbrush in hot water and dip it into your homemade powder. And BRUSH! Rinse with cool water. The powder can be used daily and is good for kids and adults.

If you’d rather have toothpaste, here is a Simple and Natural toothpaste Recipe.


What is your oral health regime? Do you use natural products, homemade, or commercial tooth care? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.



Gum Disease Natural Treatments & Causes. Dr. Axe.
Heal Gum Disease In A Week or Less. Natural News.






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7 Toxins Lurking In Your Toothpaste

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Over your lifetime, you’ll use about 20 gallons of toothpaste. The chemicals in that toothpaste can get into your bloodstream. Even though you don’t swallow it, your mouth can absorb it. Let’s take a look at what’s in your toxic toothpaste.

Toxins In Your Toothpaste

Look on the back of your toothpaste tube. What ingredients are listed? Can you even pronounce them? My thought: If you can’t or struggle to pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t put it in your body.

There are certain risks with a lot of common toothpaste ingredients, even though they are branded as “natural.” The chemicals in your toothpaste are known to cause mental and physical problems, inflammation, and cancer.

Artificial Colors, Flavors, and Sweeteners

Toothpaste often contains artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, especially toothpaste branded for children. These are linked to hyperactivity and behavioral problems.

FD&C and D&C dyes are made from petroleum. The term “lake” is a colorant made by combining a pigment with metal salts, usually aluminum, zirconium, titanium, and others.

Aspartame and artificial sweeteners are added to toothpaste to make it taste good. Aspartame in the body breaks down to wood alcohol and formaldehyde. Both of these are stored in your liver or kidneys. They are not eliminated from the body.


I could write an entire article on the dangers of fluoride.

In a 2010 study, researchers found that a beneficial layer of fluorapatite was formed on your teeth from fluoride, but it was only 6 nanometers thick. Let’s put that into perspective—you’d need 10,000 of those layers to be the width of a human hair. The ultra-thin layer disappears as soon as you chew something.

Now consider the toxic nature of fluoride. It is a chemical that accumulates in your tissue over time. It can cause neurological, as well as endocrine system problems.


To fight plaque and gingivitis, Triclosan, an antibacterial chemical is added to toothpaste. However, it has been linked to antibiotic resistance, endocrine disruption, and thyroid dysfunction.

Its chemical makeup is similar to thyroid hormones. Triclosan causes a wide-range of health problems including breast, ovarian, prostate, and testicular cancer, preterm and low birth weight babies, pre-puberty in girls, and undescended testicles in boys.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

This harmful chemical is responsible for the foaming action of your toothpaste.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate has also been linked to skin irritation and canker sores. It is registered as an insecticide. The manufacturer sought approval to market Sodium Lauryl Sulfate as an organic pesticide. The application was denied because of the potential environmental hazard.

Studies have shown that it may have toxic effects on marine life.

Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives

Some of the chemicals in toothpaste release formaldehyde—a known carcinogen. These preservatives kill microbes that might grow in the toothpaste.

The preservatives are absorbed into your bloodstream through the lining of your mouth. It can also cause allergic skin reactions.

Here are 10 Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives to watch out for:

  • DMDM hydantoin
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Polyoxymethylene urea
  • Methenamine
  • Quaternium-15
  • Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate
  • Bronopol
  • Bronidox
  • Glyoxal


These chemicals are endocrine disruptors that have been linked to cancer and developmental and reproductive issues. They act like the hormone, estrogen.

Keep an eye out for these chemicals in your toothpaste:

  • Methylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Isopropylparaben


This thickening agent is a suspected carcinogen. According to current research, food-grade carrageenan creates intestinal inflammation that can lead to cancer, even in small doses.

It has been linked to:

  • free radicals
  • inflammation
  • insulin resistance
  • glucose intolerance

Diethanolamine (DEA)

This foaming agent is a known hormone disrupter that reacts with other ingredients. It forms a potential carcinogen called N-nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), which is readily absorbed through the skin. It has been linked to stomach, esophagus, liver, and bladder cancers.

On another note …

Many kinds of toothpaste include ingredients that are genetically modified Organisms (GMOs). The only way to avoid these is to buy products that carry the USDA 100% Organic label.

So how do you brush your teeth with all of these toxins in your toothpaste?

There are several healthy and safer alternative products on the market. Look at your local health food store for some of their recommendations.

OR, with a few ingredients, you can make your own.

Simple and Natural Toothpaste

Brushing twice-a-day, this recipe lasts about a month.


  • 2 Tablespoons Raw cacao powder (promotes remineralization) Or Calcium Carbonate Powder
  • 3 Tablespoons Baking soda (it is alkaline, helps balance pH in the mouth)
  • 2 Tablespoons Xylitol Powder (natural sweetener, reduces cavity-causing bacteria, more is not better with this ingredient. If it is too sweet or if you get sweet cravings, reduce the amount.)
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons Coconut oil (naturally prevents candida in the mouth, boosts the microbiome in your gut)
  • 15-20 drops Essential oils for flavor (cinnamon, orange, or peppermint) This is optional, but it does add to the taste. I tend to like the peppermint.

How to make it:

  1. Melt or slightly soften the coconut oil.
  2. Measure the dry ingredients into a glass measuring cup.
  3. Pour the coconut oil into the dry ingredients, and stir. Mix the ingredients really well. It should be the consistency of cookie dough, or if you prefer, cake batter.
  4. Put the mixture in a small glass jar to store.

To use: Dip your toothbrush and scrape a small amount onto the bristles.

Your Diet

Also, remember that your diet is essential as the foundation for healthy teeth and gums. Your oral health depends on:

  • Vitamins C, D, and K2
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Calcium


How do you take care of your teeth and gums? Tell us in the comments below.



Is Your Toothpaste Toxic? Progressive Health.
Is Your Toothpaste Loaded With Toxins? Mercola.
Epoch Times August 26, 2015
Behind the Dazzling Smile: Toxic Ingredients in Your Toothpaste. Cornucopia report.


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Community And Friendship, With a Side of Sauce

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

“Give me an hour.”

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

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

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

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

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

It was the stories we told …

… The laughing we did …

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

In a word, it was the community and friendship

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

In it, I reveal:

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

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

Then, let me know…

What’s your favorite way to develop community?

How has being part of a community enriched your life?

Give us your thoughts in the comments below.


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

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How To Grow Equisetum Hyemale

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

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

The stems

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

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

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

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

The leaves

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


Grow Equisetum Hyemale

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

In your landscape

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

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


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

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


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


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

Click here to find your hardiness zone.


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

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

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


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


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


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

Here are 35 Homemade Organic Fertilizers to try!

Grow Equisetum Hyemale Indoors

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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10 Benefits Of Growing Lavender At Home

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Growing lavender is fun, easy, and has a number of health and culinary benefits. Lavender is known for its versatility and numerous uses, especially its oils, which are extracted from the flower of the plant through steam distillation. It is a member of the mint family, and can be used for medicinal or culinary purposes.

The flowers of the lavender plant have a soothing fragrance when they are fresh or dry, which is one of the many reasons why they are so popular among those who grow herbs.

The calming scent of lavender makes it a regular ingredient in aromatherapy. Lavender oil combines beautifully with other herbs, such as cedarwood, pine, clary sage, geranium, and nutmeg. You’ll find lavender commonly used in many personal care products, including lotions, gels, and soaps, as well as in sweet and savory foods.

In addition to the calming effect of its aroma, lavender oil has many other benefits.

On a related note … Did you see this article on the benefits of Mugwort?

10 Benefits of Lavender and Lavender Oils

1 Bug Repellent

Lavender oil is the perfect natural alternative to harmful bug repellents. The scent of lavender oil is too strong for many types of insects including mosquitos, midges, and moths.

If you have been bitten by a bug, rub a few drops of lavender oil onto your skin. This should relieve the irritation caused by the bite. Lavender oil has anti-inflammatory properties.

Next time you go out in the woods, keep a bottle of lavender oil in your Natural First Aid Kit.

2 Insomnia

One in three adults has trouble sleeping, (1) which heavily affects his or her ability to do day-to-day activities. The lack of sleep affects mood and the immune system, too.

Prescription drugs that help you sleep can have severe side-effects, including addiction.

Lavender oil induces sleep without any side-effects; a few drops on your pillow, or a sachet of lavender under your pillow, is all you need.

3 Nervous system

Lavender’s soothing aroma is known to calm nerves and reduce anxiety. It helps provide symptom relief of migraines, depression, and emotional stress. The calming fragrance relaxes your nerves, while revitalizing your brain.

Studies found that people suffering from anxiety and stress before an exam had increased mental function after sniffing lavender oil. (2)

4 Skin Conditions

It is common for people to suffer from acne breakouts during puberty, but some adults also suffer from this bacterial outbreak.

Lavender oil reduces the growth of bacteria that cause infections and regulates the over-secretion of sebum (oil produced by the skin).

Scars left by acne can be reduced by the use of lavender oil. By adding a couple of drops to your moisturizer, or even some water splashed on your face, should reduce your acne and its scars.

5 Immune system

According to the Journal of Medical Microbiology, “lavender shows a potent antifungal effect against strains of fungi responsible for common skin and nail infections.” (3) Lavender has antibacterial and antiviral properties, which protect the body from diseases like TB, typhoid, and diphtheria.

6 Circulatory system

Research has found that aromatherapy using lavender promotes blood circulation, lowers elevated blood pressure, and reduces hypertension.

The increased blood flow leads to increased amounts of oxygen in the muscles and the brain. Your skin also glows due to better blood flow, and your body is better protected against heart disease. (4)

7 Digestive system

Lavender oil leads to better digestion by increasing the movement of food in the digestive track.

The oil stimulates your intestines and the production of bile and gastric juices. This helps with upset stomach, stomach pain, indigestion, gas, colic, vomiting, and diarrhea. (5)

8 Pain relief

It can help with sore or tight muscles, joint pain, sprains, backache, and menstrual cramps.

For menstrual cramps, massage a few drops of lavender oil on your lower abdomen and apply a warm towel. Also, applying the oil on the bottom of your feet will help.

9 Diabetes treatment

In 2014, Scientists in Tunisia tested the effects of lavender oil on blood sugar levels to see if it would help with diabetes.

During their study, they found that lavender oil treatments protected the body from increased blood glucose, weight gain, and liver and kidney function. Researchers were amazed to find that the radical antioxidant properties of lavender were more effective than Vitamin C. (6)

10 Healthy Hair

Lavender oil helps kill lice, lice eggs, and nits. There are some studies that show that lavender can possibly treat hair loss and boosts hair growth by up to 44 percent after seven months of treatment. (7)



© maximkabb


Growing Lavender at home

Lavender is a very useful herb, it can be used for everything from taking care of you to cleaning your home. With these types of benefits, it would be great to grow your own lavender plants.

Here is one of the easiest way of growing lavender at home:

Grow Lavender in Pots

Growing lavender in a pot is easy, whether you use seeds, cuttings or bought plants.

If you’re going to use seeds, place them on top of sandy soil. Cover them lightly with a layer of perlite. In two to three weeks, your seeds should sprout.

If you’re going to use cuttings, make sure to take them below the node (the leafy part of the plant). Dip your cuttings in root hormone or an organic rooting hormone. Place them upright in warm, damp sandy soil.

Make your own Organic Rooting Hormone! Grab a small cup and cinnamon. Spit into the cup, or have your son do it. Dip your cutting in the saliva. Then, dip it into the cinnamon. Place your cutting into  your rooting medium. Saliva is a natural root enhancer, and cinnamon minimizes damping off of your cutting.

Whatever type of container you choose to hold your lavender plant, keep in mind that while lavender does need water, it does not like moisture. This means that you need a container with a good drainage system.

A container with plenty of drainage holes is perfect. If there are only a couple of holes, drill some more.

If your pot is going to be inside, then get a pot with a removable saucer at the bottom to catch the excess water. Do not get a pot with an attached saucer. You don’t want your lavender plant to be too damp.

Maintain your potted lavender

Once you’ve found the right amount of moisture in the sandy soil, maintaining your lavender becomes pretty easy. Ensure that the plant receives the right amount of sun exposure, water, soil pH, and temperature.


Place your lavender pot somewhere that it will get at least 8 hours of sunlight a day. Note: In places in the southwest and southeast where the sun is extremely strong, your lavender may need a bit of shade.


Lavender does not require much water. Let the soil become dry in between watering, but do not let it get so dry that the plant wilts.

Soil pH

Lavender does not like acidic soils. It may look fine the first year, but it will start dying off. This member of the mint family loves an alkaline soil with a pH between 6.7 to 7.3.


Depending on where you live, your lavender will grow best in the late spring to early summer. If you are in a cooler climate, you might want to look at varieties, like English Lavender, which will grow in your cooler temperatures.

French Lavender is at its healthiest when it is warm. There is a good chance it won’t survive a cold winter, which is why it is better to plant it in pots, so it can easily be moved when temperatures drop.

Harvesting Lavender

Lavender has many benefits in all its forms.

If you prune the first bloom in early spring, you may have a second harvest in the summer.

When re-flowering begins to slow, (after about a month of flowering), you’ll be ready for your final harvest. Remove the flower stems from the bush and gather the stems into a bunch.

Cut your lavender a few inches above the woody growth with a harvesting knife.

Drying Lavender

Dry lavender in bunches, on screens, with a dehydrator, or in a paper bag. Either dry in a cool, dark place hanging upside-down, or on a screen out in the sun. Note: The sun will change the color of the lavender.

Now use YOUR lavender for anything from crafts to cooking. However, the lavender oil, which you can extract through steam distillation, is lavender’s most popular use.

What is your favorite way to use lavender? The comment section is waiting for you below.


  1. Trouble Sleeping? [https://centracare.org/florida/blog/2016/05/23/trouble-sleeping/]
  2. Lavender Oil Benefits: Reducing Stress and Depression [https://www.drwhitaker.com/lavender-oil-benefits-reducing-stress-and-depression]
  3. Lavender Oil Has Potent Antifungal Effect. Science News. [https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110214201842.htm]
  4. Relaxation effects of lavender… [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17689755]
  5. Love Lavender? Try Lavender Oil. Mercola. [http://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/lavender-oil.aspx]
  6. Lavender essential oils attenuate hyperglycemia… [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3880178/]
  7. What are the health benefits of lavender? Medical News Today. [http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265922.php]


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Your TEETH Are Alive

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Yes, you read that correctly—your teeth are alive.

Did you know that 92% of U.S. adults between the ages of 20 to 64 have the pleasure of experiencing a cavity in their permanent teeth. The “drill and fill” method is painful, expensive, and potentially toxic.

Check out this article about the Hidden Dangers of Commercial Dental Care!

It’s no wonder people are seeking alternatives to dentists.

You can repair cavities without a dentist and have squeaky clean teeth—just like coming out of the hygienists office—and not pay a cent?

Yup, its true.

The Adventure Began

A few years ago, I was on an adventure (and you know by now that I venture pretty far off the beaten path). I found this amazing healer who lives mostly out in the wilderness.

Doug had watched how the animals take care of their teeth, and he learned from primitive peoples (like the Tarahumara Indians), how they take care of their teeth.

So a few years ago, I got an abscessed tooth. And I healed it using Doug’s methods.


Doug is kinda different.

Uh, some folks have called him a tree hugger. He has that indigenous, earthy sort of vibe to him. But so many people from all walks of life have bought the video because the information is so good.

Now, let’s talk about your teeth being alive!

It might be difficult to believe that your teeth are alive because they are so hard, but it’s true. Nerves inside your teeth control blood flow and nourishment, so this makes your teeth another organ in your body.

Just like other organs in your body, it’s important to keep your teeth clean and healthy. If your teeth are unhealthy, it can affect the other organs, as well as your quality of life.

It’s not only about your smile!

There are two basic parts to your teeth: the crown and the root. Then, there is also the gum tissue and the bone, which are both very important.

Tooth Parts

The crown is what you see above the gumline.

The root is what is below the gumline. It is about 2/3rds the length of the entire tooth.

There are four different tissue types that make up each tooth.

Enamel is the white part of the tooth. It protects the tooth from wear and tear, and is very strong. It is also the hardest substance in your body.

Dentin supports the enamel. It’s a yellow bonelike material, slightly softer than enamel, that holds some of the nerve endings. These nerve endings let you know when there is something wrong with your teeth.

The Pulp is at the center of the tooth. It’s made up of soft tissue that contains blood vessels, lymph tissue, and nerves. Your teeth get nourishment and signals to and from your brain through the pulp.

Cementum covers the root of your tooth. It helps attach the tooth to the bones in your jaw.

The Periodontal Ligament is a cushioning layer that sits between the cementum and your jawbone. It helps connect the two.

Knowing your teeth is important, because if a tooth is alive, it can also die.

What is tooth decay?

You probably know tooth decay as cavities. Tooth decay happens when bacteria found in plaque coats your teeth and produces an acid, which erodes and destroys the tooth enamel. Once it destroys the tooth enamel, it begins to work toward the pulp.

This type of bacteria feeds on sugar and carbohydrates. If left untreated, this tooth erosion causes pain, infection, and eventually tooth death.

Poor oral hygiene, junk food, and acidic foods and drinks promote tooth decay, and the death of the tooth.

But there’s good news!

The hard tissue of your teeth can remineralize. But it’s not as easy as just taking a pill for it. You’ll need to maintain a diet that is good for your teeth and make sure that plaque and tartar are not left on your teeth.

10 things you can do to help remineralize your teeth

  1. Get off the sugar! This is what the plaque bacteria thrives on.
  2. Reduce your intake of grains, beans, lentils, soy, nuts, and seeds, but remember these are also important for a healthy balanced diet.
  3. Increase your vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin A, C, and D, and Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, and Iron.
  4. Eat apples, pears, raw celery and carrots, and cucumber to dilute sugars and stimulate saliva production, which will protect your teeth.
  5. Kill the cavity causing bacteria with good oral hygiene.
  6. Fix dry mouth! Saliva is very important in protecting your teeth from decay.
  7. Make your own toothpaste, mouthwash, and practice oil pulling.


Do you need an alternative for your dental care?

Discover …

  • Dental hygiene without brushes, paste, or floss
  • Healing cavities with herbs
  • Treating abscesses with herbs and poultices
  • Treating cracked and chipped teeth

The post Your TEETH Are Alive appeared first on The Grow Network.

How To Make a Difference In Your Food Supply

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One online newsletter changed my food supply …

Most days, I’m on the Internet for work. I’m usually searching for information. There are a few online newsletters to which I subscribe in order to keep up with the issues of the day and general reports. I never thought my Internet searches would lead to my making a difference in my food supply.

It was through one of these online newsletters that I found a company who was canning high-quality beef and pork from a family farm. I checked out their website and looked for nutritional information.

It is always valuable, especially for someone like me who is sensitive to heavily salted foods. The nutrition information wasn’t available on their website, so I called.

The number seemed to be local to me, so I was intrigued. I like buying local.

However, the farm was located in Ohio. It turned out that one member of the family lived relatively close to me. I mentioned to him the missing nutrition information, and he promised to email it to me immediately.


Is it really pasture-raised beef and pork?

I’ve purchased pastured beef through my local grocery stores for years. My next question to the son was about that. He confirmed that the beef and pork was raised on grass, but was finished on corn.

While I had him on the phone, I learned that it was a family farm. I inquired if the corn was organic. Most commercially grown corn is genetically modified (GMO).

The person I spoke with wasn’t certain, but promised to speak with his father to find out for sure.

Family farm becomes aware

Not too long after that phone call, I got a call from his father, the actual farmer!

We had a long conversation about his farm, the cows and pigs, and the corn that was used to finish the animals before slaughter. I was disappointed to discover that he didn’t know whether the corn was organic or GMO. He told me that it came from a silo that was filled by several of his neighbors, as well as his farm.

Alarm bells are ringing

I was especially concerned because it was very likely that the corn was GMO. I spoke with him about my concerns about food that is genetically modified. He was assured by the experts that GMOs were safe.

Rather than argue about it, I decided to praise all the things he told me that were sustainable: using cover crops, rotating pastures, and using manure for fertilizer. I could see that he was really trying to produce the best meat possible for his customers, and I told him as much.

We ended the call on a positive note, and I thought that was the end of it.

Have you read this article on Food Safety and Nutrition by Tasha Greer? Click here to read it.

The food supply changes

About a week later, I got an email from the farmer’s son.

Imagine my surprise and joy to read:

“I’d like to let you know that we have researched the GMO issue, and we have decided to switch our operation in Ohio to completely GMO-free grains and hay. We are starting the process next week and will keep our customers and potential customers in the loop as to when we are completely GMO-free!”

I really didn’t expect one phone call to make that big of a change!

The moral to the story is to communicate and ask questions!

Whether you get the same result that I did or not, every person who takes the time to look into a product and ask questions will cause the market to change … and hopefully improve it for others.

It is true that the food sold in the U.S. is changing. For those of us still dependent on grocery stores, more and more of them are selling organic produce, pasture-raised meats, dairy, and eggs.

If the largest distributors, like Wal-Mart are providing organic foods for their customers, organic and pasture-raised is a big deal.

According to the OTA (Organic Trade Association), Americans spend almost $50 billion on organic foods annually. (1)

Check out this chart by the Organic Trade Association: Organic: Big Results from Small Seeds

If there is a product you like, but it’s not organic—talk to the producer, especially a small farmer. Anyone who takes the time to do that is important to them. What these farmers realize is that one person represents potentially hundreds or thousands of their customers.

You can make a difference! Sometimes, it’s just a phone call away.

Have you made a difference in your food supply? Tell us your story in the comments below.


  1. Organic Trade Association. [https://www.ota.com/resources/market-analysis]


Access our growing selection of Downloadable eBooks…

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

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24 Injuries and Ailments You Can Treat With Home Remedies

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(Length: 27:30 min.)

Snake Bite!

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

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

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

The two experiences could not have been more different.

Last time, it was my husband who got bitten.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was absolutely life-changing.

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

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

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

In it, you’ll learn:

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

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

After you watch, I’d love to know:

What are your favorite home remedies?

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

I can’t wait to hear from you!

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

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

How To Recognize Copper Deficiency In Goats

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What you don’t know about copper deficiency, can hurt your goats

It all started with goat cheese more than 30 years ago.

When I had my first bite of goat cheese at a party, I was 19 years old. I wondered where this amazing food had been all my life. Why wasn’t everyone eating goat cheese? When we started our homestead in 2002, I wanted a couple of goats, so I could make that wonderful cheese, which was too expensive for me to buy as often as I wanted.

Making goat cheese, which I learned was called chévre, was incredibly easy.

However, raising goats wasn’t quite so easy…

…And I never expected the little darlings to steal my heart.

Then the problems started

My goats started having problems with infertility, losing babies at all stages of pregnancy, and even dying. I was determined to figure out why. About a third of our does were not getting pregnant. Some never came into heat. Some gave birth to babies too small to survive. For the first five years that we had goats, we never had a buck that lived past three years of age. I went to more than half a dozen vets, including the university vet hospital. I paid for necropsies and tests that told us nothing.

One day my teenage daughter said to me,
“Mom, I think our goats are copper deficient.”

She showed me the information she’d found online. The symptoms matched everything we saw with our goats. The suggestion was to get “injectable copper,” which was only available with a vet’s prescription. I called four different vets and asked for the prescription. They all said, if we were feeding a commercial goat feed and had loose minerals always available, copper deficiency was impossible.

Then one day…

…a doe died and left behind two scrawny looking doelings that were barely two-months-old.

Even though it was June, the doe had not shed her winter coat. She had not been pregnant the year before. I called the vet and asked for her liver to be tested for copper. He replied, “You’re wasting your money!” I said, “Well, it’s my money.”

A few days later…

…he called with the results. Normal copper levels in goats are 25 to 150 ppm.

My goat’s copper level was 4.8 ppm!

I again asked for the prescription copper and to my complete shock, he said “no.” He told me that just because her liver test showed low copper levels that didn’t mean that all of my goats were copper deficient. It was just a fluke.

So, I read and learned all I could…

…about using copper oxide wire particles (a supplement made for cattle) to increase the copper level of my goats. I purchased it and asked an experienced goat breeder how much to give my goats. The giant cattle boluses (a large pill) were ripped open and redistributed into smaller goat-sized capsules.

I only gave it to the goats that I thought had a deficiency.

Within two weeks, the goats that had the copper looked so much better than the goats that did not. It was an easy decision to give it to all of them. When the goats looked like they needed it (based on their coat conditions), I provided extra copper. The next fall all of my goats became pregnant. They all carried their pregnancies to term and gave birth to healthy babies. Our oldest buck celebrated his fourth birthday! He ultimately lived to be ten-years-old!


Causes of copper deficiency

Goats can have primary or secondary copper deficiency. Primary deficiency means they are not consuming enough copper. Secondary deficiency happens when they are consuming enough copper, but they are also consuming a copper antagonist that reduces how much copper they absorb. Providing a loose mineral may be all some goats need. On farms with well water that is high in minerals, the loose minerals may not be enough. Iron, sulfur, and calcium bind with copper and cause secondary copper deficiency. The well-water goats need even more copper.

Want to learn more?

Even though veterinary researchers and breeders have learned a lot about goats and copper in the last ten years, there is a lot of misinformation being passed around. Outdated websites are still shared on social media. I’m lucky that I teach college, so I have access to scholarly databases, which include published research studies in veterinary journals. However, most people can’t read the research unless they’re willing to spend $20 or more. A lot of the studies are hidden behind paywalls.

Unfortunately, most vets graduated from vet school more than ten years ago, which means they were taught that the risk of copper toxicity was the only thing they needed to know about copper. They were told that deficiency in goats was not a problem. Goats are also considered a “minor species,” not too many vets use their continuing education hours to update their goat knowledge. That means it’s tough to find reliable information.

If you are interested in keeping your goats happy and healthy, I’ve created a free online course about copper deficiency in goats.

No one else should have to learn the hard way like we did

Watching goats die or give birth to premature kids is heartbreaking. The symptoms and causes of copper deficiency are easy-to-recognize and easy-to-treat. But there is no one-size-fits-all dosage. It has to be customized to the goats on your farm. That means you have to be informed and empowered to recognize when you have a problem. Then, you’ll have the means to take action.






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Homegrown Spices and Seasonings For Your Living Spice Cabinet

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(Length: 1:16 minutes)

How old are the spices in your spice cabinet?

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

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

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

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

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

Environment: Right Plant, Right Place

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

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

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

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

Here’s what you’ll need to consider:

  • Light Sources

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

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

  • Temperatures

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

  • Humidity

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

  • Airflow

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

Materials: Four Essentials

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

Here’s what you’ll need:

Fast-Draining Growing Medium

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

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

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

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

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

Liquid Fertilizer

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

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


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

Water: The Final Ingredient

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

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

It’s Time to Spice Things Up!

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

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


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



Sam Coffman Top 25 Herbs Chart


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10 Most Cost-effective Garden Vegetables You Can Grow

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There are a lot of benefits to garden vegetables that you grow yourself, but saving money is not necessarily one of them.

Some vegetables are simply cheaper to buy at the grocery store. I know. I hate saying that, too!

Over the years, saving money is not always the main reason we grow garden vegetables. Am I right?

Sometimes the work needed to keep the soil happy, the beds weed free, with healthy plants discourages us from planting crops that are “dirt cheap” in season at the grocery store.

If you’re growing vegetables to save money, or want to make the most of your garden, here are ten garden vegetables that can put money back in your wallet.

Did you miss this article about the cost of grocery shopping versus home grown food?

The Big 10 Garden Vegetables!

These veggies are easy-to-grow in your vegetable garden big or small. Depending on your growing season, you may even be able to plant two or three times. (See succession planting below)

1. Lettuce

I don’t know about you, but I go through a bunch of lettuce each year. At almost $2 per head, that gets expensive. Here’s the great part: They are pretty easy to grow in any part of your garden. They even do well in flower boxes. A seed packet costs about $2.50 for the heirloom variety (which I highly recommend). If you harvest the outer leaves of the plant, it will easily last for several months. Lettuce is also a great vegetable to succession plant.

2. Bell peppers

Bell peppers are fairly expensive, especially for organic. I’ve seen them as high as $2 each! If you start your little seedlings ($2.50 per packet) in small pots, you’ll be able to transplant them to your garden in a few weeks. Pick the peppers as soon as they get to full size.

3. Garlic

This popular plant has a lot of health benefits. Garlic is used in all kinds of recipes. This is a vegetable that I have on hand at all times. Plant the garlic clove in the soil before winter; six to eight weeks before your first frost date. You’ll have a bumper crop in late spring to early summer.

Find your first, and last frost dates here.

4. Winter Squash … including PUMPKIN!

Winter Squash is getting more and more expensive. Butternut squash (one of my favorites for winter soup!) is $1.69 per pound with the average being at least 2 pounds. Keep in mind that winter squash takes between 75 and 120 days to reach maturity, and sprawl 10 to 20 feet. Think vertically or try the bush or semi-bush cultivars in a small garden. And winter squash will store well in a root cellar.

5. Tomatoes (especially Heirloom)

These babies have multi-colored, scarred skin, and a high price tag. They are about $4.50 per pound or more, depending on where you live. Now, while the price may break the bank, the taste is amazing! Growing heirloom tomatoes can be a bit fussy. I lost all of my seedlings this year, but happily planted a friend’s transplants. One of the biggest problems you’ll face is disease. Now, if you don’t want to face the heirloom issues, try a cherry tomato that grows well in your area. You’ll have a plethora of tomatoes to can or dehydrate.

6. Carrots

While I didn’t have much luck with tomatoes this year, I did have success with carrots! These are a cool-season crop that takes 70 to 80 days to mature. Check your last and first frost dates, plant three weeks before the last expected frost date and two to three months before the first fall frost date. They are a delicious root vegetable that stores well in a root cellar and is usually resistant to diseases and pests. At $2.50 per seed packet, you’ll have more than enough of this vegetable to last you through the winter.

7. Potatoes

Welcome to the most popular vegetable in America! Growing potatoes is fairly easy, and the flavors of a freshly dug potato cannot be rivaled by the $5.00 a bag, grocery-store varieties. Choose a sunny spot with well-drained, loose soil, so the roots and tubers have room to grow. They do need a steady water supply to keep the plants happy. When the tops of the plants die off, the entire crop is ready to harvest. And some potato varieties store well in a root cellar.

8. Sweet potatoes

In my area, organic sweet potatoes run about $4 for a 3-pound bag. It costs about $21 for 1 pack of sweet potato slips (though I have found them cheaper locally, so check your local garden center). Plant them in the spring, and they’ll produce about 3 to 6 sweet potatoes per slip. They prefer a slightly acidic, well-drained, loose soil. If there is a possibility of frost, cover them. Harvest in 100 days. Sweet Potatoes store well in a root cellar.

Did you see David the Good’s article on Growing Sweet Potatoes? Check it out here.

9. Zucchini, and other summer squash

My grandmother would be proud that zucchini made the list. It was one of her favorite veggies to cook. However, she wouldn’t be excited about the $1.90 per pound sticker price. If your garden area is small, go vertical! At $2.25 to $2.50 per packet, the zucchini plant will yield between three and nine pounds of yummy summer delights. Harvest when they are about 4-inches long.

10. Green beans

At the grocery store, organic green beans cost about $2.50 per pound. A packet of seeds costs $2.50 per packet. You’ll get between three to five pounds of beans PER plant. That’s a lot of beans to freeze, can, and boy are they yummy, dehydrated!

BONUS: Herbs … Basil, Rosemary, Parsley, Mint, Lavender

I didn’t want to leave out some herbs. All of these herbs are easy-to-grow. Each of them costs about $2.50 per plastic tub at the grocery store. Parsley is less at $1.00 per bundle. If you are considering your footprint on the Earth, the plastic containers and twist ties need to be taken into consideration. A seed packet of each will cost about $2.50 per packet. It’s well-worth having your own herb garden. I’d even suggest starting your gardening adventures here!


How to boost the abundance of your garden vegetables

Here are a few tricks to help you make the most of your vegetable garden, even if it’s small. It will save you money on food all-year-long.

Only Plant What You’ll Eat

This sounds may sound silly, but there is no point in planting green beans if you don’t like green beans. You’ll have pounds of garden vegetables that will just go to waste.

Also, take into consideration who in your family will eat the different veggies. If you’re the only one who will eat squash, don’t plant ten of them.

If you rarely eat something, it’s better to buy from your local farmer’s market.

Still confused? Here’s a downloadable interactive guide to help you decide what to plant. Print it out and keep it in your garden journal.

Succession Planting

Succession planting is after one crop is harvested, another is planted in the same space. The length of your growing season, climate, and crop selection will determine how you will replant your favorite garden vegetables. In warm climates, you’ll be able to do several plantings of favorite garden vegetables, like tomatoes. In cooler climates, you’ll be able to get a second planting of peas.

If you have a small vegetable garden space, extend your harvest by planting different varieties of the same vegetable. You’ll have a crop early in the Spring, mid-summer, and fall. For instance, salad greens do well if you plant seeds each week, rather than all-at-once. This gives you the ability to harvest the outside leaves, while the other plants keep growing. You’ll have a supply of lettuce all season long!

Use the downloadable sheet (above) to determine how much to plant, for one person, for the most commonly grown vegetables. Don’t forget to include your succession plantings.

Coming Soon! Look for more articles on succession planting right here on this blog!

Which is your favorite garden vegetable? Is it cost-effective to grow it? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.


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The post 10 Most Cost-effective Garden Vegetables You Can Grow appeared first on The Grow Network.

Does A Compost Pile Destroy Weed Seeds?

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Does a compost pile destroy weed seeds? Or more specifically, does YOUR compost pile destroy weed seeds?

We are regularly assured by composting experts that hot composting destroys seeds … yet I have some pumpkins that beg to differ.

composting destroy weed seeds

Those pumpkins grew as volunteers from a compost pile a few years ago. Granted, it wasn’t a regularly turned compost pile, meaning they probably missed the hottest part of the heap, but how many of you turn your compost regularly? And I’m going to bet that you still had little tomatoes or weeds pop up in it. Come on, admit it!

My bet is ALL of you.

Here’s an example of “hot composting kills weed seeds” advice from Aggie Horticulture:

“The composting process also naturally kills weed seeds. Properly managed, a compost pile should easily reach 140°F, which breaks down all organic matter, including weed seeds.”

They recognize the difficulty, though, as the next line reads:

“The keyword is properly.”

My bet is that few gardeners reach that lofty, “proper” status.

Why Our Backyard Compost Pile Doesn’t Kill Weed Seeds

compost destroy weed seeds

A typical backyard compost pile isn’t insulated or turned often enough to maintain heat. Those viable seeds in the compost don’t get rotated through the hot center of the pile.

Yes, the heat generated by thermophilic bacteria (an organism living at hot temperatures) is high enough to destroy weed seeds, but getting every bit of your compostable materials hot enough to kill the seeds takes very good compost management.

My old compost pile didn’t do it. It was built from reclaimed landscape logs with too many gaps to get everything hot. Plus, turning it was a pain.

I imagine if you owned a cement truck and packed the barrel of it with a proper mix of carboniferous and nitrogenous materials. Then you rotated it every day or so, and perhaps insulated the inside with foam. You could get that compost to heat up perfectly.

I’m joking. A bit.

My composting methods have gone from complicated to simple over the years. I’ve realized creating perfect compost doesn’t really matter.

Nature doesn’t create perfectly sifted, totally rotted, brown humus. No! She throws logs and leaves on the ground. There’s always some finished material and some fresh material, fungi eating at this, and some insect boring away at that.

But let me back up. What prompted today’s post?

This Viewer Asked a Question

There was a comment that prompted today’s great big post on weed seeds in a compost pile. Four words that led to 1,145 words (give or take):


Martha asked this question on this anaerobic compost tea video I posted:

My answer was:

“Good question. I try to avoid throwing plants with mature seeds into the tea. They never seem to get completely die in a hot compost pile, either. Even though we hear all the time that “hot composting kills weed seeds!” It’s probably true for the ones in the middle of the pile, but I’m always getting volunteer tomatoes, wheat from straw, weeds, and pumpkins popping up even from a hot compost pile. My guess is that this tea method will rot down most of the seeds, if it sits long enough … but not all of them.”

It takes a lot of faith in your compost to deliberately throw in weedy materials, no matter how you’re composting.

If you have spiny pigweed going to seed in your food forest, do you really think you’ll be able to throw that in your compost bin and use the resulting compost in your spring gardens without spiny pigweed popping up?

Do you want to take that risk?

I hear you, “But I Compost the Right Way!”

That’s fine—I appreciate the “thermometer and sifter” brigade.

To those about to compost, I salute you!

I am totally sure that I could destroy weed seeds by hot composting if I thought it out properly. However, my interest is more in gardening than in the processes that lead up to it. Making a “perfect” looking compost pile, or compost for that matter, isn’t as important to me as growing corn, pumpkins, beans, yams, and fruit trees. I also don’t like spending money to make perfect systems.

If you enjoy it, that’s fantastic. I love the smell, look and taste (well, maybe not taste) of finished compost. I made some nice-looking stuff myself this year and just sifted it the other day.

composting destroy weed seeds

I made that compost with almost no work, though. No thermometers, no turning, no measuring ratios of carbon/nitrogen to get that 25/1 mix. No, I just threw it all on the ground in one of my garden beds.

And—oh YES—LOTS of seeds came up in it! Enough to start my new fruit tree nursery.

I view this as a feature, not a bug. Sometimes I just let compost piles turn into garden beds since there are so many volunteer edibles coming up.

But What About Killing Weed Seeds???

Right – that’s what you all want to know, right? How CAN you compost those pesky weedy plants?


My favorite method is to keep them out of the compost pile and gardens altogether.

In my former food forest, I would chop down weeds and throw them on the ground around my fruit trees and other shrubs. If they self-seeded and came back, I’d chop them down again.

Unlike delicate annual garden plants such as lettuce and cabbage, trees and shrubs don’t need to be perfectly weeded in order to produce. I just knocked down the weeds again and again. Every time I did, guess what?

Those fallen weeds rotted into humus.

Nature does this all the time.

The winter freezes come once-a-year and kill all the weeds. They fall to the ground and rot into the soil, which improves it.

If you want to use weeds to feed your gardens, you’ll have much better luck in a no-till system where you throw a pile of seedy weeds on the ground. Then, cover them up with mulch … and then, DON’T TILL!

If you till, you’ll bring those seeds up to the light and warmth. They’ll go crazy in your eggplants. However, beneath a layer of mulch, they’ll eventually rot away safely.

That’s my two cents on composting and destroying weed seeds. Yes, a compost pile can destroy weed seeds … BUT … and it’s a big but … most of us aren’t doing it “properly.”

Don’t trust too much in the magic of compost to pile-drive your pesky pigweed problems.

Personally, I prefer cold composting anyhow! I believe it keeps more of the good stuff in the pile instead of steaming it away into the air. Nature almost always cold composts! While that process takes longer, I think it’s a simpler and gentler method. I wrote an entire book on composting (Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting) and many of the methods in that book are cold compost approaches.

You might also like these composting articles from David the Good:

How to Build a Super Simple Compost Pile From Local Materials

Back to Eden Chicken Run Composting: Easy and Productive!

Nature Is An Extreme Composter—You Can Be, Too!

Manure Tea—An Easy Way To Stretch Your Compost

So, tell us … have you had success hot-composting seedy weeds? The comments below are waiting for yours!




The post Does A Compost Pile Destroy Weed Seeds? appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Simple Tricks To Regrow Onions

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(Length: 2:32 minutes)

On this edition of Homesteading Basics, I’m going to show you a really simple tip to regrow onions from the scraps.

Who doesn’t love onions?

I cook with onions, and we all know that when you’re getting ready to chop your onion, you cut the ends off. You cut off the top and the bottoms.

On that back end, where the roots are, you’ve got just a little bit of a scab. Here’s the tip: You can actually plant this, and it will regrow.

Take the scab of the onion. Put it in some dirt, and leave it there.

I’ve been doing this for the past couple of weeks. Look, you can see that some have already sprouted. Now, this is not going to make a whole new onion bulb, but rather beautifully small onion that looks a lot like a shallot. You can chop them up, and put them into soups and salads. They have that nice onion taste.

Another really great thing about this, they’ll become onion plants that sprout those big, beautiful allium flowers. They are very decorative.

This is a green that’s going to grow through the winter. The time to regrow onions is when it is moist and cool outside.

See…you’ll be able to get way more out of that onion than you first thought.

Other foods that you can grow from scabs

Simple and easy-to-regrow!

Place the root end in a jar of water and watch it regrow in a few days.  Just make sure to replace the water every couple of days or as needed.

  • Spring onions
  • Leeks
  • Scallions
  • Fennel

Smells so good!

  • Lemongrass

Regrow lemongrass exactly the same as the spring onions and leeks, but wait to harvest it until it is about 12 inches tall.

To the roots…

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger

Plant a small chunk of either ginger or turmeric in well-drained potting soil about two inches below the surface. Ginger and Turmeric like indirect sunlight in a warm, moist environment. The shoots and roots will begin to regrow in a few days. Once the plant is established, harvest by pulling up the whole plant, including the roots. Remove a piece off of that plant. Replant it to repeat the process or regrowing your ginger and turmeric.

  • Potatoes

Choose a potato that has a lot of good eyes. Cut it into 2-3 inch pieces. Each piece should have 1 to 2 eyes on it. Allow the cut pieces to sit at room temperature for a day or two. This will allow the cut areas to dry. Potato plants thrive on a high-nutrient environments, so be sure to add a lot of compost before planting your potatoes. Plant your potato pieces about 8 inches deep with the eye facing up. Cover the pieces with 4 inches of soil. Leave empty space above the 4 inches of soil. As your plant grows, you’ll add more soil.

Be aware! A lot of potatoes are Genetically Modified. Be sure you get your potatoes from a reputable source.

  • Sweet Potatoes

David the Good shows you how to grow and regrow sweet potatoes here.

How about some greens?

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Celery
  • Bok Choy
  • Cabbage

Cut the leaves or stalks off to about an inch above the roots. Place the root end in a shallow pot of well-drained soil. Make sure the roots are in the soil, but do not cover the rest of the plant.  Place the pot a sunny window and mist with water 1 to 2 times a week.


Boost Your Immune System

  • Garlic

Break a bulb apart a few days before planting. Leave the papery husk on the clove. (You can also plant garlic cloves in the ground before the ground freezes.) Plant a garlic clove 2 inches deep with the root-end down in well-drained soil. Sit the plant in a sunny window.  Once established, cut back the scapes (green part) and use for cooking. This forces the plant to produce a garlic bulb.

And don’t forget the fruits…

  • Pineapple

Cut off the leafy top about half an inch below the leaves. Twist the leaf away from the base. You’ll be left with the leaves and a stub. Remove the lowest set of leaves until you see roots. The roots look like small, brown-colored bumps around the stem. Plant your pineapple crown in warm and well-drained soil. Water your plant regularly. Don’t be afraid to water the leaves. They are meant to catch water. The roots should be established in about a month or two. Put your pineapple plant in bright, indirect light.

Of course, you can always plant onions:

Here’s a great article from Farmer’s Almanac!

Do you grow or regrow onions? What about other fruits or vegetables? Tell us in the comments below!



Access our growing selection of Downloadable eBooks…

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


The post The Simple Tricks To Regrow Onions appeared first on The Grow Network.

Food War: Grocery Shopping Versus Fresh Food

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Feeding a family isn’t cheap these days, and it only gets more expensive with each additional mouth. I’ve always wondered about the cost between Grocery Shopping and Fresh Food, but never really sat down to crunch the numbers … until now!

Eating healthy is also more expensive than eating processed foods loaded with artificial ingredients and sodium. In fact, following the government’s recommended dietary advice can add 10 percent to your monthly bill. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always more expensive than processed, canned, or frozen foods. If you want to go completely organic, count on spending sometimes double that.

The Criteria for the”Food War:”

We have to compare apples-to-apples and … well you get the idea. So, we’ll look at:

  • Expense
  • Health – Mental and Physical
  • Waste
  • Time

In the expenses, we’ll compare certain food:

  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Apples
  • Eggs

We’re also going to use $15 per hour for any labor costs or time spent.


And in this corner … Grocery Store!

According to the USDA 2017 Cost of Food Report, the average American spends between $100 to $300 per person per month on groceries. It may be higher or lower based on where you live. (1)

Grocery Store Expense (This is from your average local store, prices may vary in your area)


Organic Price: $1.69/head
Non-organic Price: $0.99/head

Carrots (3 lbs.)

Organic Price: $3.49
Non-organic Price: $2.99

Tomatoes (Heirloom)

Organic Price: No organics available when I went shopping
Non-organic Price: $2.99/lbs.


Organic Price: $2.99/pkg.
Non-organic Price: $1.99/pkg.


Organic Price: $1.99/lbs.
Non-organic Price: $0.99/lbs.

Eggs (1 dozen)

Organic Price: $5.69
Non-organic Price: $1.99

Most of the non-organic produce was from Mexico or Peru, and a lot of the organic produce was also.

On average, I spent about $125 per week for my family of three. I bought organic produce, grass-fed, free-range, no hormone meats and eggs (sometimes from the store, but usually from a local farmer).

Health – Mental and Physical

In 2016, the average American spent $10,345 annually on health care (insurance premiums, deductibles, co-payments, prescriptions, and medicines). (2)

According to a The Atlantic 2014 article, healthcare was the number one cause of personal bankruptcy and was responsible for more collections than credit cards. Forty percent of Americans owe money for times they were sick. (3)

More than 71 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and 16 percent of children and adolescents are struggling with obesity (4)

There are four contributing factors: (5)

  1. Processed foods
  2. Portion size
  3. Fast food
  4. Being less active

Let’s not forget to add in the hassle and headache it can take to go to the grocery store. You might not be able to be quantify it, but just bear it in mind.

Can you be healthy eating from the grocery store? Check out this chapter of the Grow Book!



The average American throws away 4.4 pounds of trash each day. The annual weight of trash from the entire country equals 254 million tons, that is the same as 1.2 million blue whales, and would reach to the moon and back 25 times, a journey of 11,534,090 miles. (6)

The sad thing is that you probably live closer to one of the 2,000 active landfills than you might think. Some inactive landfills have become public parks. (6)

Landfills also produce millions of cubic feet of methane gas each day. What impact does this have on our health?

Think of the waste from your groceries: food packaging, plastic produce bags, plastic bottles, twist ties, Styrofoam, and grocery bags that come along with buying groceries. This waste has to go somewhere. I kept track for several months of my grocery shopping days. Over half of my grocery list had some sort of packaging, which added up to about 10 lbs. a week.

Some cities are beginning to charge for every bag of garbage your put in the bin. The average cost is $2 per bag.

The good news is that 34.3 percent of garbage is being recycled or composted each year. That prevents 87.2 million tons of material from going into the landfill. (6)

Think about how much food you throw away because it spoiled in the refrigerator. Waste adds up!


It takes me an hour to shop, but I also spend about 30 minutes to 45 minutes preparing to go grocery shopping, making my list, and seeing what needs to be bought. It takes about 15 minutes each way to get to and from the store. The parking lot is always a madhouse. Add the stress of that up in the Health section above.

Pros of going grocery shopping:

  • You can have your favorite food any time.
  • It’s convenient to run to the store if you need something.
  • Loyalty cards/Cash-back programs
  • Prepackaged, quick food



And in this corner … Fresh Food!

(And the crowd goes wild!)

Even a small garden plot, can yield an estimated 7 lbs. of fresh produce per square foot. (It depends on where you live and what you plant.)


You will have an initial investment, which includes soil conditioning, garden beds, and seeds or plants. Based on my own start-up costs, I’m saying $250 for the veggies and $300 for the chickens. You can certainly do it cheaper. We’ll have more on that in future posts. I’ll average this out over the year.


Seeds: $2.50/pkt
Watering: 1 hour/every 3 days.
Labor: Minimal. I was surprised how easy this was to grow.
Final Yield: I had continuous salad mix by harvesting the outside leaves every couple of days. Estimated 5 lbs. throughout the season. I had a cup of salad greens every day for four months. I can definitely extend the season and produce more.


Heirloom Seeds: $3.00/pkt
Watering on system: 1 hour/every 3 days
Labor: Minimal. Didn’t do much at all. They grew really well without much help.
Final yield: About 6 lbs. Plenty to eat raw and dehydrate, can, and freeze.


Heirloom Seeds: $2.50 – $3.00/pkt  Heirloom Plants: $6.00 ea.
Watering on system: 1 hour/every 3 days
Labor: Average. About 15 minutes every other day, nipping suckers, watching for signs of disease or pests. My first seedlings didn’t make it, so I replanted heirloom plants.
Final Yield: A little less than 80 lbs. of tomatoes from 4 plants, enough to eat fresh and preserve for later in the year.

Basil (It’s difficult to grow basil from seeds)

1 Plant: $3.00 – $5.95
Watering on system: 1 hour/ every 3 days
Labor: minimal. Harvest leaves every few days. Grew like a weed.
Yield: Off of 2 plants, I got enough for 12 pint jars of pesto and a 16 oz. container of dried.


Bare tree: $20-$25
Watering: 1 hour/ every 3 days
Fertilizer: $10
Kaolin clay: $12
Labor: Intensive. planting, pruning, training, thinning, treating, picking up fallen fruit. About 20 minutes every other day.

Eggs (only have 6 laying hens and no rooster)

Feed: $100/mo. (This can be reduced with a little planning and a more mature garden.)
Water: 1 gallon per day
Room: about 100 square feet, including the coop and run. They free-range, too!
Labor: I do the deep-litter method, so there isn’t a lot of maintenance. I spend on average 30 minutes every day, checking, gathering eggs, feeding, cleaning the roost, and giving love.
Yield: average 2 dozen eggs/week. We keep one and sell one.


Health – Mental and Physical

New studies are showing that the microbes in the soil actually work a lot like Prozac. (7)  They give you good feelings, well-being, and happiness.

The food is healthy, too. You know exactly what was used to grow your groceries.

And let’s not forget the exercise factor. You can burn anywhere from 200 to 600 calories per hour gardening.


Growing your own groceries has minimal trash.

My family is still buying some food from the grocery store. Maybe one day, I’ll grow my own quinoa.

Now that I’m conscious of food packaging. I look for packaged food that can be recycled or composted. If not, I try not to buy it. My garbage went from one full bag of garbage every three days to a handful of recyclables, large bucketfuls of compostables, and less than 2 lbs. of actual garbage each month.

I’m still trying to minimize my footprint. The goal is zero-waste, or at least as close to it as possible!


In my small garden (about 100 square feet, if you put it together), I spend an average of 20 hours each month in the garden on various chores during the growing season between February and November. I spend about five or so in the winter months on greens, looking through heirloom seed catalogs, and planning next year’s garden.

All of my beds are on a timed and water-regulated irrigation system. In other words, if it rains, the system doesn’t come on. This saves water and time.

The chickens take an average of 30 minutes-a-day winter and summer. They are quite the characters, so they provide entertainment as well.

I didn’t keep track of my preserving time (canning, drying, and freezing), so an estimate is about 10 to 20 hours total for the entire season.

Of course, I see this as time well spent. Twenty hours in the garden or 30 minutes for the chickens could easily be more, because I love it so much.


And the winner is…!

As far as cost goes, fresh food from the garden wins by a slim margin. However, it is difficult to quantify your health and happiness into this equation.

I know for me. I’m happier when I’m gardening. I know I’m healthier because of the exercise and eating good, clean food. The dollar amount is interesting, but almost inconsequential.



  1. [https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodPlansCostofFood]
  2. Department of Health and Human Services;[ https://aspe.hhs.gov/pdf-report/individual-market-premium-changes-2013-2017]
  3. The Atlantic [https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/why-americans-are-drowning-in-medical-debt/381163/]
  4. [https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm]
  5. American Cancer Society: [ https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/body-weight-and-cancer-risk/health-issues.html]
  6. Save on Energy [ https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/body-weight-and-cancer-risk/health-issues.html ]
  7. [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-larry-dossey/is-dirt-the-new-prozac_b_256625.html]

Do you grow your own food and medicine? What savings have you seen? Tell us in the comments below.


Access our growing selection of Downloadable eBooks…

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






The post Food War: Grocery Shopping Versus Fresh Food appeared first on The Grow Network.

Food War: Grocery Shopping Versus Home Grown Food

Click here to view the original post.

Feeding a family isn’t cheap these days, and it only gets more expensive with each additional mouth. I’ve always wondered about the cost between Grocery Shopping and Fresh Food, but never really sat down to crunch the numbers … until now!

Eating healthy is also more expensive than eating processed foods loaded with artificial ingredients and sodium. In fact, following the government’s recommended dietary advice can add 10 percent to your monthly bill. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always more expensive than processed, canned, or frozen foods. If you want to go completely organic, count on spending sometimes double that.

The Criteria for the”Food War:”

We have to compare apples-to-apples and … well you get the idea. So, we’ll look at:

  • Expense
  • Health – Mental and Physical
  • Waste
  • Time

In the expenses, we’ll compare certain food:

  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Apples
  • Eggs

We’re also going to use $15 per hour for any labor costs or time spent.


And in this corner … Grocery Store!

According to the USDA 2017 Cost of Food Report, the average American spends between $100 to $300 per person per month on groceries. It may be higher or lower based on where you live. (1)

Grocery Store Expense (This is from your average local store, prices may vary in your area)


Organic Price: $1.69/head
Non-organic Price: $0.99/head

Carrots (3 lbs.)

Organic Price: $3.49
Non-organic Price: $2.99

Tomatoes (Heirloom)

Organic Price: No organics available when I went shopping
Non-organic Price: $2.99/lbs.


Organic Price: $2.99/pkg.
Non-organic Price: $1.99/pkg.


Organic Price: $1.99/lbs.
Non-organic Price: $0.99/lbs.

Eggs (1 dozen)

Organic Price: $5.69
Non-organic Price: $1.99

Most of the non-organic produce was from Mexico or Peru, and a lot of the organic produce was also.

On average, I spent about $125 per week for my family of three. I bought organic produce, grass-fed, free-range, no hormone meats and eggs (sometimes from the store, but usually from a local farmer).

Health – Mental and Physical

In 2016, the average American spent $10,345 annually on health care (insurance premiums, deductibles, co-payments, prescriptions, and medicines). (2)

According to a The Atlantic 2014 article, healthcare was the number one cause of personal bankruptcy and was responsible for more collections than credit cards. Forty percent of Americans owe money for times they were sick. (3)

More than 71 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and 16 percent of children and adolescents are struggling with obesity (4)

There are four contributing factors: (5)

  1. Processed foods
  2. Portion size
  3. Fast food
  4. Being less active

Let’s not forget to add in the hassle and headache it can take to go to the grocery store. You might not be able to be quantify it, but just bear it in mind.

Can you be healthy eating from the grocery store? Check out this chapter of the Grow Book!



The average American throws away 4.4 pounds of trash each day. The annual weight of trash from the entire country equals 254 million tons, that is the same as 1.2 million blue whales, and would reach to the moon and back 25 times, a journey of 11,534,090 miles. (6)

The sad thing is that you probably live closer to one of the 2,000 active landfills than you might think. Some inactive landfills have become public parks. (6)

Landfills also produce millions of cubic feet of methane gas each day. What impact does this have on our health?

Think of the waste from your groceries: food packaging, plastic produce bags, plastic bottles, twist ties, Styrofoam, and grocery bags that come along with buying groceries. This waste has to go somewhere. I kept track for several months of my grocery shopping days. Over half of my grocery list had some sort of packaging, which added up to about 10 lbs. a week.

Some cities are beginning to charge for every bag of garbage your put in the bin. The average cost is $2 per bag.

The good news is that 34.3 percent of garbage is being recycled or composted each year. That prevents 87.2 million tons of material from going into the landfill. (6)

Think about how much food you throw away because it spoiled in the refrigerator. Waste adds up!


It takes me an hour to shop, but I also spend about 30 minutes to 45 minutes preparing to go grocery shopping, making my list, and seeing what needs to be bought. It takes about 15 minutes each way to get to and from the store. The parking lot is always a madhouse. Add the stress of that up in the Health section above.

Pros of going grocery shopping:

  • You can have your favorite food any time.
  • It’s convenient to run to the store if you need something.
  • Loyalty cards/Cash-back programs
  • Prepackaged, quick food



And in this corner … Home Grown Food!

(And the crowd goes wild!)

Even a small garden plot, can yield an estimated 7 lbs. of fresh produce per square foot. (It depends on where you live and what you plant.)


You will have an initial investment, which includes soil conditioning, garden beds, and seeds or plants. Based on my own start-up costs, I’m saying $250 for the veggies and $300 for the chickens. You can certainly do it cheaper. We’ll have more on that in future posts. I’ll average this out over the year.


Seeds: $2.50/pkt
Watering: 1 hour/every 3 days.
Labor: Minimal. I was surprised how easy this was to grow.
Final Yield: I had continuous salad mix by harvesting the outside leaves every couple of days. Estimated 5 lbs. throughout the season. I had a cup of salad greens every day for four months. I can definitely extend the season and produce more.


Heirloom Seeds: $3.00/pkt
Watering on system: 1 hour/every 3 days
Labor: Minimal. Didn’t do much at all. They grew really well without much help.
Final yield: About 6 lbs. Plenty to eat raw and dehydrate, can, and freeze.


Heirloom Seeds: $2.50 – $3.00/pkt  Heirloom Plants: $6.00 ea.
Watering on system: 1 hour/every 3 days
Labor: Average. About 15 minutes every other day, nipping suckers, watching for signs of disease or pests. My first seedlings didn’t make it, so I replanted heirloom plants.
Final Yield: A little less than 80 lbs. of tomatoes from 4 plants, enough to eat fresh and preserve for later in the year.

Basil (It’s difficult to grow basil from seeds)

1 Plant: $3.00 – $5.95
Watering on system: 1 hour/ every 3 days
Labor: minimal. Harvest leaves every few days. Grew like a weed.
Yield: Off of 2 plants, I got enough for 12 pint jars of pesto and a 16 oz. container of dried.


Bare tree: $20-$25
Watering: 1 hour/ every 3 days
Fertilizer: $10
Kaolin clay: $12
Labor: Intensive. planting, pruning, training, thinning, treating, picking up fallen fruit. About 20 minutes every other day.

Eggs (only have 6 laying hens and no rooster)

Feed: $100/mo. (This can be reduced with a little planning and a more mature garden.)
Water: 1 gallon per day
Room: about 100 square feet, including the coop and run. They free-range, too!
Labor: I do the deep-litter method, so there isn’t a lot of maintenance. I spend on average 30 minutes every day, checking, gathering eggs, feeding, cleaning the roost, and giving love.
Yield: average 2 dozen eggs/week. We keep one and sell one.


Health – Mental and Physical

New studies are showing that the microbes in the soil actually work a lot like Prozac. (7)  They give you good feelings, well-being, and happiness.

The food is healthy, too. You know exactly what was used to grow your groceries.

And let’s not forget the exercise factor. You can burn anywhere from 200 to 600 calories per hour gardening.


Growing your own groceries has minimal trash.

My family is still buying some food from the grocery store. Maybe one day, I’ll grow my own quinoa.

Now that I’m conscious of food packaging. I look for packaged food that can be recycled or composted. If not, I try not to buy it. My garbage went from one full bag of garbage every three days to a handful of recyclables, large bucketfuls of compostables, and less than 2 lbs. of actual garbage each month.

I’m still trying to minimize my footprint. The goal is zero-waste, or at least as close to it as possible!


In my small garden (about 100 square feet, if you put it together), I spend an average of 20 hours each month in the garden on various chores during the growing season between February and November. I spend about five or so in the winter months on greens, looking through heirloom seed catalogs, and planning next year’s garden.

All of my beds are on a timed and water-regulated irrigation system. In other words, if it rains, the system doesn’t come on. This saves water and time.

The chickens take an average of 30 minutes-a-day winter and summer. They are quite the characters, so they provide entertainment as well.

I didn’t keep track of my preserving time (canning, drying, and freezing), so an estimate is about 10 to 20 hours total for the entire season.

Of course, I see this as time well spent. Twenty hours in the garden or 30 minutes for the chickens could easily be more, because I love it so much.


And the winner is…!

As far as cost goes, fresh food from the garden wins by a slim margin. However, it is difficult to quantify your health and happiness into this equation.

I know for me. I’m happier when I’m gardening. I know I’m healthier because of the exercise and eating good, clean food. The dollar amount is interesting, but almost inconsequential.



  1. [https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodPlansCostofFood]
  2. Department of Health and Human Services;[ https://aspe.hhs.gov/pdf-report/individual-market-premium-changes-2013-2017]
  3. The Atlantic [https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/why-americans-are-drowning-in-medical-debt/381163/]
  4. [https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm]
  5. American Cancer Society: [ https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/body-weight-and-cancer-risk/health-issues.html]
  6. Save on Energy [ https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/diet-physical-activity/body-weight-and-cancer-risk/health-issues.html ]
  7. [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-larry-dossey/is-dirt-the-new-prozac_b_256625.html]

Do you grow your own food and medicine? What savings have you seen? Tell us in the comments below.


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










The post Food War: Grocery Shopping Versus Home Grown Food appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Easiest Way To Prepare A Garden Bed

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In this short video, you’ll see the easiest way to prepare your garden beds.  Seriously, this is a way to take an area with grass and weeds, and turn it into a garden bed of your dreams.  This short, easy-to-watch video takes you step-by-step through the preparation process—from the very beginning when you fence off an area to the very last step, which is laying down the compost. Preparing your garden beds has never been easier!

This video is only one part of the “Instant Master Gardener Certification.”  If you like what you see, consider signing up for the full garden exploration! Click here to sign up for the Instant Master Gardener Certification.”


Learn to grow your own Food and Medicine!




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What To Do With A Bee Swarm!

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Have you ever come across a bee swarm? It can be scary, exciting, and overwhelming. What do you do?

All of us at The Grow Network do various kinds of homesteading. Nikki, our Director of Customer Success, is … among other things … a beekeeper. A few weeks ago, she shared with us that the bees from one of her hives had swarmed.

Nikki’s Story


Those little brown specs are bees flying all over the place.

Nikki said, “We have 2 hives in the yard, and one decided it was going to swarm to the top of our sycamore tree in the backyard today.”

With the height of her tree and the size of the ladder, it was going to be quite an ordeal reaching them.

She decided to sacrifice her 13 year old, and sent him up the tree. She jokingly said, “I am officially okay with being shorter than my kids now!”

Her son had to rig the ladder with a tie down strap in the truck.

He used his body weight to hold the ladder straight. There wasn’t a branch to rest it on. Her other son took the cutters and took down the branches. They worked together on two separate branches.

There were so many bees that their weight broke one branch just before her son had a chance to fully cut through. This sent thousands of bees raining down on top of her.

“This hive has the potential to give us more than 100 pounds of honey this year, so we definitely didn’t want to see the bees relocate. Now, they are safe and sound in a new hive. We are re-queening the other two hives we have, and hoping to have 3 healthy and hard-working hives,” Nikki said.

It sounds like everyone is trying to settle down from the experience.

bee swarm

Nikki said she wishes she had seen Jacqueline Freeman’s presentation at the Home Grown Food Summit before she had a swarm of bees on her hands, but all worked out well.

What? You haven’t seen Jacqueline’s Home Grown Food Summit Presentation, “Gentle Ways to Collect Bee Swarms.”  She is so gentle with these little buzzing sweeties. You can still get in on this goodness, click here.

Why bees swarm

According to Jacqueline, it’s very natural for bees to swarm. Bees swarm because there is no more room for them. Their home is full of honey, pollen, and brood (baby bees).

The good thing is that healthy and successful colonies create more healthy Queens and new colonies, so it’s a good thing for a hive to swarm.

Before they swarm, the Queen is slimmed down. All of the bees have a feast and fill their bellies with honey. Two-thirds of the colony will suddenly fly into the air. One-third stays in the original hive and re-queen. Bees will only leave the hive if there are new queen cells in the hive.

The other reason that bees swarm is so the queen can increase her fertility, and sunlight does that for her.

When do bees swarm

Jacqueline says that a swarm is a big, bunch of chaos that typically takes flight in mid-spring, around mid-day. There needs to be a lot of pollen available. It also needs to be warm and windless. When they first leave the hive, they fly into the sky in a big, buzzing, whirling cloud of bees. Jacqueline’s amazed that they don’t bump into each other. The queen is hidden in the swarm, so she is well-protected.

Eventually, the bees land on some object, a branch, fence post, vine, or anything that looks like a good spot. The Queen directs the bees to gather and form a tight cluster on the object.  Jacqueline says it’s about the size of a football that is clasped to the branch. This is their resting spot for a few hours to a few days. Then, the scout bees roam around trying to find a suitable place to live.

Typically, bees that swarm are very gentle, according to Jacqueline. She said, in the hundreds of bee swarms that she has captured, she’s only been stung four times, and they were all her fault. A bee swarm is not likely to sting you.

How to catch a bee swarm

There is only one way to catch a bee swarm, according to Jacqueline…gently!

Here’s how she does it:

  1. First, take a deep breath and calm yourself. Be respectful. Let the bee swarm know what you are going to do, and how you’ll do it.
  2. Hold a catching box underneath the swarm.
  3. Give the branch a good shake. The swarm will regather in the box. Put the lid on and leave an opening, so bees can get in.
  4. Let the swarm rest for 10 to 30 minutes so as many bees as possible get in the box.

How to transfer a bee swarm to a new home

When you’re ready to transfer the bees, have your hive ready. Remove a couple of the frames to give you room. Hold the box over the new hive. Give the box a good shake so the swarm goes into their new home. Jacqueline shows you exactly how to do it in her video. Get access to it here.


More from Jacqueline Freeman:

Bees Need Water, Too!






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True Wealth In Your Crazy Family Life

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In these next few video chapters of Grow: All True Wealth Comes From the Ground, I talk about family life, its diversity, and reveal why it can be a source of tremendous wealth—and show you the keys to unlocking that wealth.


(Length: 14:21 minutes)

My Crazy Family Life

My brother-in-law, Keith, does a mean donkey impersonation. He’s one of the most outgoing, gregarious guys I know.

And he’s completely different from his brother—my husband—Dave.

Dave is the introvert of his family. Quiet. Thoughtful. And definitely no donkey impersonations.

Remind you of any family you know? Where one sibling is the smart one, one is the athletic one, and one is the life of the party?

I’m willing to bet your family life is a lot like ours: a lot of differences … and a little bit nuts. That’s the beauty—and the challenge—of families, whether they’re related by blood, marriage, or choice.

In fact, I believe there’s a divine principle at work that ensures all families are a little crazy.

Definition of Family

There are all kinds of configurations of family. As we’re talking about it in this section, let’s agree that a family is a group of people who are committed to journeying through this life together, whether by blood, marriage, or choice.

The diversity of your family life is a true key to your wealth.

Creating Family By Choice

There are people who are part of your family, but aren’t necessarily related by blood or marriage. These people can also be included in your family.

And if you did choose a family, I hope you chose some crazy characters.

In this video, you’ll also learn:

  • What To Talk About When There’s Tension In The Air
  • The SINGLE Most Important Reason To Embrace Family Diversity
  • What That Recurring Marital Argument Really Means

Did you also see last week’s Grow Book video on Stress Management? Click here to see it now.

Then, will you let me know?

How do you define “family?”

What’s your favorite way to keep your family group strong?

Thanks so much for leaving me a comment below!

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How To Express Garden Gratitude

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(length: 3:30 minutes)

One of my favorite wild plants is the Farkleberry, or Sparkleberry. They are a native blueberry. If you cut out sugar from your diet…like I have…the berries can be really sweet! I always offer this plant what I call “Garden Gratitude” or “Plant Gratitude,” if you prefer.

I know this might sound kind of woo-woo. When I leave offerings and give garden gratitude to the Farkleberry that I’m harvesting, I see more and more of them. It’s almost like they call to me.

We know that plants give us air, food, clothing, shelter, and medicine—but did you know that these living beings are able to communicate, too?

Think of a beautiful flower. The beauty is what calls to us. This is that plant’s particular way of communicating with us. If you want to take it one step further, ask it why it called you over.

The Basics of Garden Gratitude

We tend to walk through the world without acknowledging that plants, animals, the wind, etc, are living things. If you walk through your life with awareness, you’ll be surprised how often plants communicate with you, and how they respond to you. We can choose to deliberately engage.

What It Is: Giving gratitude to plants, the elements, and animals is based on the premise that everything is alive, and that we are all interconnected. It is a two-way street in which the plant and the person achieve mutual understanding, each communicating in their own language.

Who Can Do It: Garden gratitude is natural and simple. Everyone can do it. It comes quickly and naturally once a person understands and practices it.

How to Get Started: There are two tricks to having garden gratitude for plants. The first is to believe it enough—even skeptically—to try it. The second is to actually speak to the plant. Third is to leave it an offering.

Ways to Give Gratitude to Plants

Offerings have been around for thousands of years. It is a practice that is found all over the world. However, modern-day society has forgotten the old ways.

Anytime I’m harvesting something I’ve planted, or even a wild one, I want to express my gratitude. My gratitude is for the plant producing the fruit and letting me pick and eat it, so I leave an offering. Plants also  exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen, helping us breathe, too! Some plants give us medicine, shade us, and clothe us.

There are many reasons to give garden gratitude!

garden gratitude

What Do You Have to Offer?

Anything can be used as an offering. I’m sure you’ll come up with a ton of them. Just make sure it comes from the heart.

Here are some offering ideas to get you started:

  • Hair (great source of protein, which turns into nitrogen)
  • Saliva (offers trace minerals and water)
  • Song (research has shown that plants grow larger with certain types of music)
  • Urinate beside them (it provides nitrogen for the soil)
  • Water (plants need water, too)
  • Tobacco (make sure it is additive and chemical-free, but is a source of decaying organic matter)
  • Cornmeal (stimulates and feeds beneficial micro-organisms)
  • Breathe on it (plants love carbon dioxide)

As you can see, there are some scientific reasons these offerings help the plant, too! Just making an offering of some sort is beneficial to your relationship with all wild plants.

Offerings do several things…

  1. It is an exchange of energy and a place of humility for you. We are all one and equal—You and the Plant.
  2. Offerings show you that we are all in the same world. All of us only get to be here for a short time, so be present and intentional with your time here.

It’s Not Magic!

Every couple of years, I grow tobacco. Tobacco is a plant that has been used for centuries by the Native People of the Americas.

It is believed that Tobacco offers its own gift of interpretation, which helps us with disputes.

Just a pinch, spread on the winds…with words of thanks and garden gratitude. Your words to the plant can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like.

Want to know more about working with nature spirits to grow more food? Check out this article.

Learning From Your Plants

What to Expect: Sometimes, in the same way that ingesting a plant affects our body, communicating with a plant will affect our minds. You can also communicate and have garden gratitude for plants when you’re dealing with strong emotions or difficulties. Different plants offer help in different ways. Which plant in your garden calls to you? Why has it called to you right now? What are you dealing with in your life that perhaps the plant is trying to remedy?

Why Some Plants Seem to Harm: Plants carry a level of energy that is very normal and safe for you to interact with. Even plants that can hurt you, don’t do it maliciously. In fact, once you accept that, you can work on understanding what else the plants are trying to communicate to you. For example, when people get a rash from poison ivy, often it is because there is an irritant or issue in that person’s life that they have chosen to ignore—something the plant is trying to get them to deal with. Once a person understands that, he or she can get a lot of help from that particular plant and others like it.

You can even give gratitude to animals domestic and wild. Here is a great article to get you started.


Be willing to communicate with your plants, animals, and the elements, means you say something and hear something in return.

Once you get over the doubt and skepticism, give it a try, and practice, it will become second nature.

Being in relationship means being nurtured by the plant and you nurturing the plant. Who doesn’t want that!

So tell us! Do you talk to your plants? Do you leave offerings? Inquiring minds want to know, so leave a comment below!



Access our growing selection of Downloadable eBooks…

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









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Outdoor Kitchens For Sustainability

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Summer Kitchen Revival

Before the days of electricity in the house or the air conditioner cooling off the living spaces from the heat of summer and cooking, there were outdoor kitchens.

It was an effort to keep the house as cool as possible. They are also known as Summer Kitchens.

The summer kitchen’s purpose was for putting up food for the year, canning, preserving, pickling, and processing. It all took place on a wood-fired stove, which created enough heat to chase everyone out of the house.

Outdoor Kitchens Still in Use Today

When I lived on a small island in the Caribbean, our tiny beach cottage had a kitchen on the porch. Why? So cooking a meal wouldn’t heat up the entire 400 sq. ft. house. Unlike summer kitchens of North America, this little work space was our main kitchen year-round rather than seasonally.

In the past, the food was often prepped in the kitchen, but it wasn’t stored there. Herbs would dry in the attic, flour and vegetables were kept in a cool cellar. You would walk all over the house to gather the ingredients for a meal.

When electricity started making its way into homes, the summer kitchen was abandoned.

However, these outdoor kitchens are starting to make a comeback because people want to get closer to their food supply. There is no better way to get closer to nature and the food we eat than having a summer or outdoor kitchen.

What do you need for an outdoor kitchen?

When planning your outdoor/summer kitchen, think about function, efficiency, and comfort. What do you need and what can come later?

An efficient summer kitchen space could be as simple as you want it to be or as elaborate. Oh and that pizza oven you want, is it necessary or is it a luxury?

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your Summer Kitchen:

  1. Do you want it to be seasonal or permanent?
  2. Does it need to be enclosed, partially enclosed, or open to the elements?
  3. Does it need shade?
  4. Do you need seating? A table?
  5. What will you need to store? Food? Spices? Cutting boards? Silverware? Plates & Bowls? Cookware?
  6. Is there a nearby herb or veggie garden?
  7. Do you need running water?
  8. What about a greywater catchment system?
  9. Is a compost pile nearby?
  10. What will you cook on?
  11. Do you need an oven? A Sun Oven? A dehydrator?
  12. Is the ground level where you want to put the kitchen?
  13. Do you need refrigeration?
  14. What will you do when it rains? When it’s windy? When it’s blistering hot?
  15. Who will be using the kitchen?
  16. Who will be in the kitchen, particularly at the same time?
  17. How do you spend your time in the kitchen? Cooking or baking? Entertaining? Dishes? 

Think triangular work space

The triangle is a great shape when designing an efficient kitchen workflow. No matter the location of the kitchen.

How do you work in the kitchen when you prepare a meal?

You take the food out of the fridge. Then it is taken either to the sink or the stove area, cleanup goes from the stove and prep areas to the sink, and leftovers get put in the fridge.

Have a plan before you create your outdoor kitchen. Take a good look at what will fit in the space that you’ve allowed for your summer kitchen. Two ways into and out of the space will help with flow.

Start with the Sink. That’s where you’re going to spend a lot of your time, cleaning, prepping, and doing dishes. You’ll also want a beautiful view while you’re doing your work, right?

In the Cooking Area, you’ll want to be able to socialize with family and friends.

You’ll probably want between 18 in. to 36 in. for a comfortable prep area. There’s nothing worse than not having enough prep area. Am I right?

Think about walkways and flow into and through your summer kitchen, too.

Set the kitchen up into 5 zones:

  • Food storage (fridge, cabinets, or pantry)
  • Dishes
  • Clean up (sink area)
  • Prep area
  • Cooking

Store items as close to their zone as possible. For example, knives, mixing bowls, cutting boards, and wooden spoons should be in the prep area. Cooking and baking pans should be in the cooking area.

Store your dishes close to the sink. Having a cabinet above the sink where your dishes dry and store all in one place is amazing.


Food preservation in your summer kitchen

When my grandmother canned her summer vegetables, outdoor kitchens were the norm, not a luxury. She’d set up her outdoor kitchen under a giant poplar with the chickens running all around the yard. If grandma did it, so can you!

Preserving your harvest is wonderful in the cold, winter months. It may take time and effort right now, but it is well worth it.

Life slows down a little bit, so you can enjoy family and friends.

There are three ways of preserving food that can be done in your summer kitchen: storage, canning, and drying.

The important thing is to start where you are. Check out this video for more tip.


A handful of vegetables can be stored, but only for a limited amount of time. Here is a great article about storing fruits and vegetables from the University of Missouri Extension Office.

You can store:

  • potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • beets
  • turnips
  • parsnips
  • carrots
  • leeks
  • radishes
  • horseradish
  • rutabagas
  • garlic
  • onions

Make sure veggies are firm. Remove any dirt, but do not wash the veg. Place the veggies in a box or bin. Air should circulate around the veggies. Slatted wooden boxes and wire baskets work great for this.


If you’re going to be canning, make sure you have all of your supplies handy.

  • Canning jars and lids
  • Water bath canner
  • Pressure canner
  • Funnels
  • Ladles
  • Pectin
  • Spices
  • Salts
  • Jar Lifter

Here’s a recipe for “Canned corn that’s sweet every time.”

Know which fruits and vegetables need to be pressure canned versus water-bath canned. The book, Stocking Up is invaluable for this purpose.


It’s super-easy to dry fruits and vegetables. You can even do it in a Sun Oven! Dried foods can be stored indefinitely, as long as they are kept dry.

You can dry:

  • root vegetables
  • beans of all kinds
  • cereal and grains
  • celery
  • herbs
  • peas
  • peppers
  • berries
  • fruits with high sugar and low moisture

Here is a great article with dehydrator recipes.

If you’ve ever thought of having a summer or outdoor kitchen, perhaps now is the time. Share your thoughts on how you would set it up. We’d love to hear from you. Leave your comments below!


Access our growing selection of Downloadable eBooks…

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





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Stress Management: When Wildfires Threaten … Do This First

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The horizon around me was choked with dark smoke.

We were literally surrounded by five separate wildfires. I needed stress management and fast!

One of the longest, most respected scientific studies has shown that there is a STRONG correlation between proper breathing, stress management, and a long life.

According to that study, the No. 1 indicator of life expectancy is…

…well, you’d probably be better off just watching the latest video chapter of Grow: All True Wealth Comes From the Ground.  In it, I explain all that, give detailed how-tos on various breathing techniques—and a whole lot more.

Watch the video for more on my story and how I overcame the stress of the situation. (Length: 21:22 minutes)

And, as I sat on the roof of my barn, I knew we were one wind shift away from having our property engulfed in flames.

We were ready to evacuate if the fires started coming our way. But until then, I focused on the one thing that could help me maintain a clear head, stay calm, and avoid stressing out…stress management!

I breathed. Deeply. In through my nose, filling my belly, then my chest, counting strategically, and then exhaling through my mouth.

Despite the circumstances, I could feel the increased oxygen jump-starting my brain. Whatever came next, I was ready.

Thankfully, that wind never shifted. The wildfires didn’t destroy our homestead. Our family and livestock were safe.

But I still remember that rooftop moment as a great (maybe extreme?!) example of a time when deep breathing helped me manage stress in a healthy way.

Proper breathing really can save your life.

  • What do you think? 
  • What’s your go-to in times of stress?
  • What are your favorite breathing tips?

Have you seen the other Grow Book videos?

I’m talking it out as I write it, and I’d love to get your feedback. You can see them here:

Grow Book Overview

Be Wealthy – Even If You’re Not Rich

Can You Be Healthy Eating From The Grocery Store?

What Toxins Are Hiding In Your Home?

Staying Healthy and Free—Even into Old Age!

How I Almost Lost My Leg!

I so appreciate you watching these videos and giving your feedback. So, please leave a comment below.

The post Stress Management: When Wildfires Threaten … Do This First appeared first on The Grow Network.

Home Grown Food Summit 2017 – Starts Monday at 9 a.m. CST!

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We can’t wait … the clock is ticking and we’re now just hours away from the kick off of our 3rd annual Home Grown Food Summit.

Are you registered yet?  Click here to register to watch for FREE now!

Check out the schedule below.  Or click here to download a PDF copy for print – so you tape it to your fridge.  Don’t miss any of your favorites!


Sign up to watch at www.HomeGrownFoodSummit.com

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