Tag Archives: herbal remedies

herbal medicine part 3 of 5 ~ 5 original remedies and a story

This week, not only do I have two original salve recipes and three original tincture recipes for you, but I would also like to share with you our most recent success story, of how the compress recipe from last week played a role in preventing Chickie from needing stitches when she fell out of her sister’s bunk bed yesterday!

This post is the third part of a five-part series on making and using herbal remedies. To read the first two parts click here and here.

I appreciate the kind thoughts some of you shared about the last post in this series. One of you asked a very good question – what does comfrey look like? I hadn’t planned on sharing any pictures of comfrey because so many of our homestead photos seem to show them in the distance. If I keep posting them, I sometimes wonder, will people think I’m obsessed with comfrey? Haha. But, honestly, if you have kids and you’re planning an herbal garden, comfrey is one herb I would strongly suggest planting. So here’s today I will share photos of comfrey and of Chickie’s healing cheek.

This is how it all went down.

I woke up Monday morning to screaming. And not the “my brother just stole my teddy bear” scream, the “I just gashed my cheek on a toy falling out of bed” scream. Which is exactly what happened to Chickie before we had even gotten up for the day.

I ran to the bedroom, picked her up, only to see blood streaking down her face. When I set her down on the couch to clean her up, I quickly realized the bleeding had not stopped. After putting pressure on it with a paper towel and then a wet wash cloth, I found the small, yet fairly deep cut on her cheek bone.

Considering the shock we were all in, my first instinct was that Chickie would be the first of our children to be going to the ER, and I needed to make plans immediately to get her there. By the time I finally reached Papa at work a few minutes later we had begun to calm down and the bleeding had slowed significantly. Chickie was still a bit fussy, but would calmly sit still if I stayed right by her side. Papa made plans to pick up a few extra first aid supplies and be home as soon as he could. In the meantime I taped gauze with my first aid salve to her face with cloth tape.

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Long story short, we both took a good look at it and decided that even though it went through a few layers of skin, it had not gone terribly deep. The biggest concern was how, based on its location, the cut pulled apart when not held together. So we re-bandaged it as seen in this photo, gently pulling the skin underneath upward as we taped it to encourage the two sides to meet. I changed it again last night and this morning, replacing the first aid salve with a comfrey/mullien tea infused piece of gauze.

This morning I was amazed at how wonderfully her cut was coming together and healing. This is how it looks this evening. A couple more days of bandaging to prevent infection and I think she’ll be set to go. And to think we were so close to bringing her in for stitches, when a well applied bandage and a couple of herbs were all she needed after all.

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So! If you have kids and you want an herbal garden (or even if you don’t have kids!) get yourself some comfrey!

Now, stories are helpful and encouraging, but they won’t do much good without directions on how to make remedies yourself! This week I’ll be sharing the last of my original recipes with you, including for the first aid salve I’ve been putting on Chickie’s cheek (alternated with the comfrey/mullien compress).

After ice packs, salves were the next application I learned how to make when preparing  medicinal herbs. I like salves because you can make them ahead of time, store them for long periods, and use them as needed. With salves prepared from fall harvesting, you will have herbal remedies to last all winter for certain ailments, or much longer if you have a deep freezer!

Baby Bum Salve

This basic salve made from just two gentle herbs heals diaper rash quickly, just as well as name-brand creams! In fact, it is the only remedy I have used on three of my babies. It’s safe to use on circumcisions for faster, more comfortable healing as well. This remedy is safe on the most sensitive skin, with no known contraindications.

The great thing about herbs though, is that they aren’t good for just one ailment. This salve, which I made with sensitive baby bums in mind, is great for healing all sorts of injuries to the skin. My grandmother shared that it “works well on winter-time cracks on my fingers”, something I have also used it for!

Here’s how to make it ~

Ingredients and supplies

  • A 1qt glass jar filled half way with fresh comfrey and topped off with calendula
  • 1 qt of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb organic beeswax, grated
  • About 20 – 2oz containers

Pour the olive oil into the glass jar of herbs, making sure the herbs are completely covered. Carefully slide a butter knife along the inside wall of the jar and gently push herbs around to loosen up air bubbles and allow them to float to the top before topping off the jar with oil. Screw the lid on tight and place the jar in a cool dark place for 6-8 weeks, turning over every week or two to make sure all the herbs have adequate oil covering them, otherwise the leaves could grow mold.

When the oil is infused, strain out the oil into a clean jar and compost the remaining plant material. Some herbal remedies require simply using this method of infusing oil, such as remedies for treating ear infections, but in the case of salve, this is just the first step.

Next, pour the oil into a sauce pan and heat on medium-low. While you are waiting for the oil to warm up, begin grating the bars of beeswax. Add the beeswax to the pot and stir until completely melted. Carefully pour the melted oil and beeswax into your chosen storage containers and allow to harden before putting the lids on. Mark the date on top if you wish and store in a dark, cool, dry place until needed. We prefer to use those little disposable plastic tubs you buy in large packages in the coffee aisle. If you are concerned about leaching of chemicals into the salve, glass is the ideal material for salve containers. Pimento jars are the perfect size, as well as screw-top lip balm containers.

Before making this recipes, you should also know that the amount of beeswax needed to make salves is somewhat subjective. Some prefer it very soft, some prefer it stiff, and some like it in the middle. The beeswax is not a necessary part of the healing attributes of the salve, it is simply a carrier, so this part is simple a personal choice. To decide what texture you like best, try putting only most of the grated beeswax in the oil, and once it melts pour a little into one container. Allow to harden while the rest of the oil is on low heat. If you like the texture once the sample has cooled, pour the remaining oil and beeswax mix into their containers. If you want it the salve stiffer, add more beeswax until you are happy with your salve.

To store, keep one or two small containers of your salve readily available at room temperature for easy use. I keep ours in our medicine cabinet. If you have a dark, cool, dry room, store the remaining salve containers there for up to 6 months. if you do not expect to use all of your salves within 6 months, store the remainder in a freezer, either in the back of your fridge and freezer unit, or in a deep freezer. Use within two years if possible, but I have found that they do retain their medicinal benefits much longer!

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(a full-grown leaf of comfrey)

Using the same directions, also try our ~

Nature’s First Aid Salve

My hope for this salve was to replace the standard antibiotic cream I kept in our first aid kit. I wanted something that could be used universally for minor injuries, and despite having used it extensively for the past few years, I have yet to be disappointed! I have used to sooth and heal sunburns, relieve very achy joints, heal dry, cut, and bruised skin, to reduce swollen bumps and rashes, and more that I have surely forgotten!

It can be used for burns, swellings, bruises, sun burns, achy muscles, cuts and abrasions, insect bites, and nose bleeds. This salve is antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial. It may provide relief for muscle spasms, restlessness, muscle pain, neuralgia, and sciatica. It provides a safe alternative to most antibacterial creams for minor wounds.

One of our customers share about this salve, “I LOVE it for all manner of surface wounds but especially for diaper rash, it would clear it up within days if not hours”. And another customer wrote:

“Our family has been using [Mama’s] first aid salve for a couple of years now.  It’s been one of our go-to’s for all things “Boo Boo”!  The kids ask for “[Mama's] lotion” more often than not when they have scrapes or cuts.  It’s works great, relieves pain, prevents infection and heals wounds very quickly.  I’m so happy to be able to use a home grown first aid salve made from ingredients created by God rather than a store bought version with artificial, man made ingredients.  God’s ingredients are always better!”

Here’s how you can make your own ~

Ingredients and supplies

  • A 1qt jar filled with equal amounts of fresh calendula, chamomile, yarrow, lavender, rosemary, valerian, comfrey, lemon balm, thyme, and echinacea
  • 1 qt extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb organic beeswax
  • About 20 – 2oz containers

Use the directions for making and storing Baby Bum Salve shared above. This recipe is safe for everyone, but use caution if you are epileptic, allergic to ragweed, or have hypothroidism. Negative reactions are unlikely as these are applied topically in small amounts, but in these cases you will want to do your own research before choosing to use this recipes.

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(comfrey plants, after I trimmed it back this week)

I know this post is getting long, and we’re not done yet! Thank you for hanging in there with me, I’m sure you will find this information helpful! Next up are our three original tincture recipes.

Tinctures are great for systemic illnesses, such as bacterial or viral infections, or chronic conditions. They are a good alternative to teas, and much faster to take doses of for acute infections.

The following tincture recipes are written so you can choose to make single herb  tincture bases for use in one recipe or mix and match the bases for numerous recipes, or you can choose to skip the single herb bases and the remedies based on teaspoons of bases and go straight to the 1 quart method in which I will show you what proportions to make 1 quart of a tincture remedy. I prefer infusing individual herbs in alcohol separately, prior to mixing the remedies together, so I can use one base tincture in more than one recipe. You can also choose to skip the base tinctures and purchase pre-made single herb tinctures to mix together as the remedy recipes call for.

Clear Mind Tonic Tincture

Papa, who isn’t normally great remembering many new names at once, started taking this tincture daily as he was beginning his new job 2.5 years ago, working with about 30 new people. He memorized their names in less than a week, and he attributes it to the mental ease he felt after taking this remedy.

The greatest success story of this remedy came from a customer who used it on her preteen son who struggled with ADHD that led to concerning, aggressive behavior. The medications his doctor had prescribed were not helping as well she had hoped they would, so she added a daily dose of Clear Mind Tonic to his regiment, and before long those around this young boy were noticing a big difference in his personality and behavior. Finally he calming down, and his mom was very happy with the positive effect of teaming this tincture with his regular medication. Today this boy is happy, polite, and has a healthy amount of energy.

The herbs I chose for this remedy reduce nervousness and anxiety, lighten the spirit, and prevent depression. It can be used to revitalize the adrenal glands, reduce stress-induced insomnia as well as nervous indigestion, as well as improve alertness, awareness, memory, and energy. Large doses may cause stomach upset, cause uterine contractions, act as a stimulant for a small number of people, or aggravate hypothyroidism, so be smart!

Here’s how you can make it yourself ~

Ingredients and supplies for the base tinctures needed for this remedy

  • A 1qt glass jar filled with fresh basil
  • A 1qt glass jar filled with fresh chamomile
  • A 1/2 pint glass jar filled with oregano
  • A 1/2 pint glass jar filled with lemon balm
  • A 1/2 pint glass jar filled with valerian
  • About 3 quarts of 100 proof vodka
  • 48 – 2oz glass dropper bottles

For the remedy tincture, pour into each 2oz glass dropper bottle:

  • 4 1/2 tsp basil tincture
  • 4 1/2 tsp chamomile tincture
  • 1 tsp oregano tincture
  • 1 tsp valerian tincture
  • 1 tsp lemon balm tincture

One quart method. Mix these herbs in a 1qt glass jar. Top with vodka.

  • 4 1/2 parts fresh basil
  • 4 1/2 parts fresh chamomile
  • 1 part oregano
  • 1 part valerian
  • 1 part lemon balm
  • 16 – 2oz glass dropper bottles

Fill the glass jars with herbs as described in either the base tincture or one quart method ingredients list, and fill each to the top with vodka, making sure that the herbs are completely covered. The amount of alcohol needed can very depending on how much you fill the base tincture jars before infusing the alcohol. We use vodka as it has long been recommended for its ease in calculating how much alcohol is needed for making a base tincture, but others can be used. You may want to research pros and cons of alcohol types useful for making tinctures before you make your own. Either way, once you fill the jars with herbs and alcohol, place in a cool, dark place and allow the alcohol to infuse for 6-8 weeks.

When the time is up, strain out the tinctures into separate clean jars and compost the remaining plant material. If you are using the one-quart method, simply pour the strained tincture into the dropper bottles, label and store. If you are using the tincture remedy method, measure out the correct amounts of individual tinctures as described in the remedy ingredients list above into each dropper bottle, label, and store.

If stored in amber colored glass bottles, tinctures have been known to retain their medicinal benefits for up to 20 years. I recommend that you keep one or two bottles in your medicine cabinet, and keep the rest in a cool, dark, dry place, such as a food pantry to make them last as long as possible. Do not freeze.

Dosages ~

While the amount of alcohol consumed in one dose is low, some prefer taking advantage of the long shelf life of alcohol-based tinctures, and then heating a dose enough to evaporate the alcohol before ingesting. To do this, steep one dose in one cup of water for a 3-5 minutes. Use honey for sweetener. Adults: For chronic problems take 2.5 to 5 droppers of tincture under the tongue per day and chase with water. For acute illnesses  take 1-3 droppers of tincture every 30-60 minutes. The elderly should limit dosages to half that of younger adults. Children: Children under the age of 2 should take no more than a quarter of a dropper of tincture. Increase dose with age, up to 1 dropper of tincture for a 12 year old.

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Using the same directions for infusing alcohol and taking doses of tinctures, try our…

Headache Relief Tincture

Some of our customers have found that combining this tincture with over-the-counter medications is the only way they can adequately treat their migraines. Others simply find it helpful for relieving tension headaches and promoting restful sleep. This remedy can be used for tension headaches, to rest an anxious mind, and promote sleep. Large amounts may cause stomach upset, mental confusion, aggravate hypothyroidism, or cause uterine contractions. Do not use in children under the age of 2, or if you are allergic to ragweed.

Here’s how you can make it yourself ~

Ingredients and supplies for the base tinctures needed for this remedy:

  • 2 – 1qt glass jars filled with fresh chamomile
  • A 1/2 pint glass jar filled with fresh chamomile
  • A 1/2 pint glass jar filled with fresh lemon balm
  • A 1 pint glass jar filled with fresh valerian
  • About 3 quarts of 100-proof vodka
  • 48 – 2oz glass dropper bottles

For the remedy tincture, pour into each 2oz glass dropper bottle:

  • 9 tsps chamomile tincture
  • 1 tsp valerian tincture
  • 2 tsps lemon balm tincture

One quart method. Mix these herbs in a 1qt glass jar. Top with vodka.

  • 9 parts fresh chamomile
  • 1 part fresh lemon balm
  • 2 parts fresh valerian
  • Pour 12tsp into each of 16-2oz glass dropper bottles.

And again, using the Clear Mind Tonic tincture infusion and dosage information, try our…

Digestive Aid Tincture

We have used this remedy to aid in treating stomach cramps, constipation, and diarrhea of either viral or unknown causes, with good success. It can also be used to stimulate digestion, reduce colic, and expel trapped gas. It should not to be used for babies under 3 months of age, or by people allergic to ragweed. Large doses may aggravate hypothyroidism, cause uterine contractions, decrease mother’s milk supply, cause stomach upset, or act as a stimulant in a small number of people.

Here’s how you can make this recipe yourself ~

Ingredients and supplies for the base tinctures needed for this remedy

  • A 1qt glass jar filled with fresh chamomile
  • A 1 pint glass jar filled with fresh chamomile
  • A 1 pint glass jar filled with fresh anise hyssop
  • A 1 pint glass jar filled with fresh yarrow
  • A 1/2 pint glass jar filled with fresh lemon balm
  • A 1/2 pint glass jar filled with fresh valerian
  • About 3 quarts of 100-proof vodka
  • 48 – 2oz glass dropper bottles

For the remedy tincture, pour into each 2oz glass dropper bottle:

  • 6 tsp chamomile tincture
  • 1 tsp valerian tincture
  • 1 tsp lemon balm tincture
  • 2 tsp yarrow tincture
  • 2 tsp anise hyssop tincture

One quart method. Mix these herbs in a 1qt glass jar. Top with vodka.

  • 6 parts fresh chamomile
  • 1 part fresh valerian
  • 1 part fresh lemon balm
  • 2 parts fresh yarrow
  • 2 parts fresh anise hyssop
  • Pour 12tsp into each of 16-2oz glass dropper bottles.

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If you made it all the way through this post, I congratulate you! This may be my longest yet!

If you try one of our recipes, please share your personal experience with it. Next up – the herbs I have grown in my gardens, and why I love them.

herbal medicine part 1 of 5 ~ our story and your no-nonsense plan to making remedies

When I was fifteen years old, I began volunteering at a home birth midwife’s office. My work assignments began with childcare for clients and sitting in on childbirth education and parenting classes, as well as prenatal visits with the midwife. Gradually I was given more responsibilities, and more opportunities to learn the work of a midwife. I became a birth doula at the age of sixteen, providing support to laboring moms and their families.

It was through this training that I first learned about herbal medicine. Until then, I believed herbs were only useful for seasoning food and making relaxing teas. Promoting the prenatal and postpartum health of women through herbs was my gateway into the world of herbal medicine.

Still, until I became pregnant with Papa’s and my first child at the age of 19, my knowledge of medicinal herbs consisted of theoretical ideas and watching other women use them. I had no personal experience.

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It was only natural that when I did become pregnant, my midwife (the same I had trained with) recommended a number of herbs for various complaints. Among them were red raspberry tea, evening primrose oil, black and blue cohash, and crampbark.

But it was the herb comfrey that inspired me to grow my own herbs instead of buying pre-made remedies. Comfrey opened up my eyes to the power of carefully and lovingly cultivated and prepared herbal remedies.

With comfrey I healed my body after giving birth, healed my babies’ diaper rashes, and reduced many a swollen bump on my toddlers’ heads. These were just the beginning of my discovery of the power of comfrey. I began to wonder – if comfrey could be so healing, what other herbs could be used in the family medicine cabinet? Thus began my exploration of the world of herbal medicine.

In two years time, in 2008, I was preparing basic remedies and using them on my family as well as giving them to friends and family as gifts.

Every time I chose a new herb to add to my garden and tested it on an injury, illness, or chronic condition, I was amazed all over again at God’s wisdom in creating something so uniquely and perfectly designed to heal.

Now, when my family needs treatment for something, I first check my stock of herbs (sometimes even among my seasonings) to see if I have something useful before resorting to man-made medicines.

Why this ebook blog series?

I love herbs. I am so thankful for them. From the beginning of my relatively short experience with herbs, I have wanted to share them with others. How could I possibly keep something so wonderful to myself?

After giving away some of my first herbal remedies, I began researching herbal medicine in earnest, experimenting with new blends for refined treatments, and sold them in 2011 to a growing number of interested friends and family members, along with their own loved ones.

The results were fantastic, and the feedback (some of which I’ll be sharing with you over the next few weeks) encouraged me to continue experimenting with my own recipes.

Having my fourth baby in 2012, along with the work on our homestead, have reduced my herbal remedy production. Yet the personal stories and never-ending requests for more products that continue to pour in, made me wish I could produce those remedies on a grander scale.

Right now, that is just not in the cards for me, which is OK. But my passion for herbs and sharing their many benefits has subsided not a smidgen. Since I can’t sell many herbal remedies, the next best thing is telling you how you can make them yourself.

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Granted, there are many herbalists out there with more learning, training, and experience than myself. My first exposure to herbal medicine began just thirteen years ago, and many herbalists have been in the business for decades. I will not pretend to be something I am not, which is why I will openly tell you that I have limited experience. Thus I will share additional resources at the end of this series to support my own experience.

Yet, with so many positive results coming from the use of my unique recipes, it just didn’t make sense to keep them from you, simply because I am relatively new to herbal medicine.

I give credit to the many herbalists I have learned from in person, online, and in books. It is because of their willingness to share their experience that home herbalists like myself can learn and grow in knowledge.

You will not find every herbal remedy I have tried listed in this series. There are several tincture and tea remedies in my cupboard which I have bought, and I have grown or bought some herbs in the past that I have since forgotten about. Nevertheless, you will find in this series the majority of herbal remedies I currently grow, prepare, and use for our family.

Considering the number of people who have praised these recipes; people of various backgrounds, ages, genders, and with different medical histories, as well as our own family, I am sure you will find these posts helpful as you begin or advance your own herbal experience.

Getting started with herbal medicine

My eyes may have been opened to the world of herbal medicine through the experience of one herb and one application, but when I began digging into that world, I quickly realized how overwhelmed I could become with all the possibilities. A little research on any herb produces an extensive list of uses and ways to apply it.

By way of poultice, compress, tea, salad, tincture, lip balm, syrup, skin wash, lozenges, shampoo, hot wax treatments, creams, salve, oil, and spray, either by itself or mixed with other herbs, you can treat long lists worth of ailments.

Upon realizing the options are practically endless, a person can either be inspired or overwhelmed, but in my experience, even the inspired can be at a loss.

Questions seemed more abundant than answers early in my journey. Questions like ~

  • Which herbs should I start with?
  • Why do some people prefer different herbs for the same use?
  • Which recipes should I use?
  • Why are there many different recipes with very similar proportions of herbs?
  • What about allergies?
  • Side effects?
  • Do herbal remedies even work?

This series will not answer all your questions about growing, making, and using herbal remedies. I will provide you with additional reading material in the last post on June 30th, which will point you in the right direction for researching particular herbs, uses, and more.

What I will do is help you to focus your direction as you begin your personal journey through herbal medicine.

The world is full of seemingly magical properties. There are trees, vegetables, herbs, and flowers that produce oils and essences useful to the human body. I have yet to learn of an injury or illness that cannot be treated by some vegetation or other, even cancer!

As you begin down this path to making better medicine for your family, I believe it would be encouraging to first stop and admire the perfection of the world. The One who created the universe was so wise and kind as to perfectly design healing properties, readily available to humankind to be used as needed. That doesn’t mean you have to cultivate a little bit of it all in your backyard. Nor does it mean you need to ensure access to every natural medicine for every potential injury or illness you might encounter.

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But when you stop to admire and appreciate what is available, the abundance of nature, and the overlapping healing properties between varieties of vegetation, you may begin to feel more confident starting a small garden and expanding your list of resources within the community at large for things you do not produce yourself. Thus you will have the peace of knowing you can treat the injuries and illnesses most likely to occur in your family, and know where to go for natural remedies if you can’t treat them yourself.

Even after growing herbs and making remedies my family for about eight years, I still have fewer than 20 varieties of herbs growing in my garden. With those 20 herbs I have treated almost every single injury and illness that has occurred in my household of six, with an occasional tincture or essential oil purchased from another source.

If you have never grown an herb in your life, and you want to get started without getting overwhelmed, this is how to start.

Your no-nonsense plan to growing herbal remedies.

  1. Decide what types of injuries and illnesses you want to treat. Keep it simple the first year. What is it that your family needs most, and uses the most medication for? Focus on your top four needs.
  2. Invest in a good quality herbal medicine dictionary. You can borrow one from the library, but you will want to have one on hand to refer to, so I recommend purchasing it. I’ll recommend my favorite books in the last post of this series.
  3. Make a list of herbs. Get out some paper and a pen, and make four columns, listing the injuries and illnesses you want to treat at the top. Using the dictionary, list every herb you can find that is recommended for each one, writing them down in the appropriate column.
  4. Narrow down your list. Compare your columns. Because all herbs have a number of properties useful for treating many things, you are probably going to find the names of some herbs repeated in each column. Try to narrow down your list to just those herbs which appear in each column or at least in two columns, and to those herbs known to be especially potent in treating the ailment you want to be prepared for. Your goal is to grow herbs which can be used for more than one purpose. Each person’s list is going to be different than the next, but you should have a goal of fewer than ten individual herbs at the end of this editing process.
  5. Know your herbs. Use your dictionary and an online search engine if necessary to learn as much as you can about your chosen herbs. Learn the climates they grow well in, how much sun the prefer, and how much water. Can you grow them indoors or harvest them wild? Make a plan for growing each of these herbs. If you discover that one of the herbs you chose is not inclined to grow well in your climate, consider going back to your four-column list and choose an additional herb that can be used for the purpose you intended.
  6. Learn how to use your herbs. Many herbs can simply be ingested by tea or made into a simple salve, combining them as needed to produce the result you’re looking for, but you may want to invest in an extensive herbal remedy recipe book, or prepare to spend time online sifting through recipes available which you can adapt to fit your needs. In the next two posts I will share eight recipes we use that you may find useful, and I will also share about each of the herbs we have chosen to grow and why.

Once you have a basic plan for what herbs to grow, how to grow them, and how to prepare them, you are well on your way to producing natural medicine for your family. The hardest part is now done.

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You may be wondering though, why did I suggest that you pick out your herbs before choosing recipes? And that would be a great question! One with a very important answer.

If you skipped the first steps and went straight to #6, pouring over recipe books and websites to find what you’re looking for, you will be overwhelmed; perhaps enough to discourage you from taking the brave step to choose which herbs to grow, or making the mistake of planting too many your first year.

Simply looking up recipes for one ailment, say, headaches, will provide you with way more recipes than you need. And each of them will be slightly different, inspiring the question – how can I possibly know which herbs are best for treating headaches and which recipe should I use?

If you remember that many herbs treat the same ailments, it answers the question why so many recipes can treat headaches even though they are different from each other. If you instead choose the herbs first, based on their known medicinal benefits, and on which herbs can be used for more than one thing, you will have narrowed down the potential list of recipes to a hopefully more manageable number, all of which are bound to work just as well at treating headaches.

To take the headache example one step farther, let’s pretend headaches are at the top of one of your four columns. Underneath, you would list every herb you can find recommended in headache recipes. You would then cross-reference those herbs with herbs recommended for the ailments in your other three columns to find which herbs would be most useful to you. You have then easily reduced the number of recipes to choose from, and the number of herbs you need to grow.

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If you learn about certain herbs that would be useful for your remedies, but it is just not possible to grow them in your climate, look into local resources. Are there any natural food stores in your area which sell herbs? Are there any herbal growers in your area who have learned how to work around climate issues to grow those herbs (for example, with green houses). Or, can you choose to use a reputable online herbal seller to meet your needs (see my list of resources at the end of this series). It is highly unlikely that you will not be able to find a source for herbs which you need.

Each year you will grow a little more confident with your herbal garden and your remedy-making process. You will likely make some changes along the way as you learn and experience more. I can tell you that it is a wonderful realization when you find a need you can easily fill; that when your child comes inside with yet another minor injury from active play, or when a loved one develops an unusual illness, or anything in between, you will either think of an herb off-hand that can help, or you will know how to find one quite easily. Before long, you may have family and friends asking you for advice on how to treat something, or asking you for some of your magic salve!

from the inside of a whirlwind

Whew! What a week. So many activities and events, and while I don’t feel ready to make a whole post out of each by themselves, these goings-on do explain why the stories I have shared have been a little more spaced. I simply have been too distracted and too busy to focus on writing more consistently. But that’s okay! Your life carries on just fine without me! :::smile::: And when I do have time to write, I’m not quite sure where to begin.

Nevertheless, I’ll catch you up on the chaos that has been our life this past week or two, in no particular order. And embarrassingly, with only two pictures. Like I said, too busy lately.

Illness, recovery, and more goodbyes

Three more loved ones have left this earth. A friend, a friend of a friend, and my step grandmother. Then my great aunt had a heart attack and died six times on the operating table before stabilizing.

My aunt who I requested prayer for a couple of months ago regarding her cancer had a very steep low over the holiday season, but from what I understand her treatment couldn’t be going more smoothly at the moment. She is preparing to receive a stem cell transplant from her brother this weekend. It still isn’t going to be easy for her. at all.

We had a two to three week reprieve from serious illnesses and deaths, and now it seems to be back again. Not sure where to go with that except how thankful I am for God’s healing and saving hands.

Oh yes, and our family all had the 24 hour stomach flu over the course of 3 1/2 days.

Homeschool

Despite all that is going on we have been trying to keep up with our learning projects. It helps to have routine, normal activities to depend on.

This week (before the flu) we went to a local grocery store for a tour. Our guide (who happened to be an old friend of mine) did an excellent job providing lots of age-appropriate information. The kids were able to see how different machines work, meet the department managers, see how the shelves are stocked, and even got to use a cash register.

Girlie started reading lessons a couple of weeks ago, but we decided to stop for now. She was sounding out three-letter words, but still doesn’t recognize many letters (despite much practice). Now is not the time to be forcing it, so we continue to focus on letters instead.

Otherwise, school is about the same; reading Chronicles of Narnia together (starting the Silver Chair shortly), math and language arts workbooks, science projects, arts and crafts, etc. Tomorrow we are having an ice cream party with homeschooling friends to celebrate their five-year old son who just reached a big goal.

Another chicken story

A week ago we had 12 hens and a rooster. One of the older hens had been sick with a cold of some kind. She appeared to get better, and then one night last weekend… she was done.

11 hens and a rooster.

Then Monday my sister came over with her 10 month old puppy. She (the puppy!) had never seen chickens before, and I forgot to tell my sister that the chickens were out that day. Long story short, puppy wanted to play, chickens did not, and when I went to shut them in that evening I realized three of them were missing. Daylight was disappearing quickly and despite looking everywhere I could not find the chickens. The next morning Papa and I heard squawking three times around 6am, and so we believed that even though the minus zero temperature did not kill them, a predator had.

8 hens and a rooster.

This morning I went out to give the chickens water and heard a small cooing sound coming from the wild rose bush next to the coop. I looked over and saw one of the missing hens! Immediately I had to check the coop lock. There was no way she came back after two and a half days, one of them must have somehow escaped from the coop! But no, it was a miracle. The one hen had returned.

9 hens and a rooster.

This hen, a buff Orpington named Mustard, remained in the rose bush the entire day. She appeared fine from where I could see her, but when she still hadn’t come out by late afternoon I got worried and decided to find my way in. Not easy to do with a rose bush. I put on old clothes and used bush clippers to cut my way in the side. It was then I realized she had been injured. Something had bit her real bad in the rear. No idea how she escaped. I put a towel over my chest and as carefully as I could, amidst all the thorn-covered branches, picked her up and brought her inside the camper.

I hate leaving animals to suffer. I had no idea if she would live or not, but I couldn’t leave her outside like that. I put her in the bathtub and when Papa came home we took a closer look at her. She lost a little piece of what looked like her intestine. Never a good sign. But after she had had a slice of bread and a bowl of water she gained some energy and decided she didn’t like our bathtub anymore. After multiple escape attempts Papa decided she was perky enough to go back in the coop and brought her out. She seemed happy to be put on her roost. We prayed for her at bedtime tonight. Now we’ll see what happens.

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The garden 2014

On the rare night with no other projects Papa and I have begun working on our plans for spring. I finalized my seed order, though I haven’t sent it in yet. Hopefully that will be taken care of shortly.

Papa has been busy at the drawing board (or notepad) with ideas for a greenhouse, among other things. We’re not quite ready to share about these; I’m sure as spring gets closer we’ll share quite a bit about these plans as they become more firm.

A recipe book

I’ve started working on my next book, featuring recipes for the herbal remedies I create and use for our family. I’m very excited about this project, but because I’m squeezing writing time into spare moments, I don’t expect it to be ready before summer. Who knows! I may surprise myself!

This might be the first time I have shared publicly about this project, and if so, this is not a very good way of introducing it, but it has still been a big part of my thoughts, and I couldn’t hold in the news much longer anyway!

So! This book, which I can’t wait to share with you, will feature ~

  • ten original recipes
  • growing, harvesting, and storage tips
  • ideas for getting your own herbal garden started and choosing herbs to grow
  • personal stories from customers who have used our products
  • useful information about some of my other favorite herbs

It will be released at a low price on PDF so everyone can access it easily as they plan their next garden.

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(Buddy made his own herbal oil and salves during the holiday season)

A new company

A few weeks back, Papa started working on a personal project, which turned into a, “hey, this is something other people would like!” idea and now we are in the process of launching a new company to promote a specific product inspired by the original project. We’re not ready to share it with you yet, but I have to say, it’s really cool.

The launch date is March 1st. At that time we will share the website with you and have quite a few products ready for purchase. Part of the fun will be sharing the story of its creation, and the collaboration with others that this project is creating. It’s been fun.

And, just to be clear, this new company has nothing to do with AmericanFamilyNow.org. AFN will remain as it is, and this new company will be a separate entity.

For those of you concerned about how much we are taking on, this project is overall not taking much time. Yes, a lot of effort is being put in now, but we are not the only ones working on this project. It is something that will (if it takes off) require of Papa, mostly managerial skills and a little extra time at his workplace. It’s hard to explain without telling you about the product, so you’ll have to wait for the story to learn more, but its a good idea, folks will like it, and who knows, maybe it will help build our house!

New life

Papa’s brother and sister-in-law are preparing for the birth of their first child soon! We’re so excited for them. Plus, I was honored that they asked me to be their doula, so I will be able to attend the birth of three out of four of my niece and nephews so far!

Girlie has been telling me we need to have another baby and that it has to be a boy so we can call him Chap. Before Chickie was born, we didn’t know her gender, so we picked Chap as a boy nickname. Now the name Chap needs a purpose and she keeps reminding me of that. We decided that when we talk about him here, we’ll call the newest cousin, Chap.

I look forward to sharing baby pictures and bragging about the cute little guy, Chap.

~~~~~

Well, let’s see. I think that’s about it. There are dishes in the sink, something made a mess of the trash outside, and I’ve got to take care of all that before we have friends over tomorrow for sledding and ice cream. Life goes on… Thank goodness.

2012, a year for growing roots

I love the New Year. It is fresh. It is new. It is full of opportunity. You start the year with a clean slate, except you get to build on the past; lessons learned, accomplishments made. I know creating goals are a tradition often kept at this time of year, even though these same goals are often broken before the year has gotten well under way, but I still like to create an outline of sorts that helps me to figure out what I want to do with myself for the year. As our family grows, this has also become a convenient time of year to review where our family is at and where we want to see ourselves this time next year. Without creating unrealistic goals, this has been a helpful way to guide us as we move forward.

For starters, I updated our Who We Are, Q&A, Favorite Reads, First Time Here pages, and even our welcome note. No longer are we in the middle of a move, or unemployment, and our progressive changes in lifestyle ought to be reflected in the background we have provided for you, so please check them out!

It has been a while since I gave you an update on where we are with the foreclosure process. Not intentional, I assure you; there are just too many things to write about! So, in a nutshell, this is what’s going on. While Papa’s new job has enabled us to bring home a little more mula, it is still far too little to pay our mortgage as well as take care of our family, so we cannot pick up the mortgage payments and attempt to get back to where we were in May 2011 when we stopped paying them. We are, however, still paying on the home equity loan we had, at least until our mortgage company and bank decide this is not necessary.

Foreclosure, we’ve discovered, is not as simple as handing in the keys and avoiding the payments. Papa has filled out countless forms, mostly repeating the same information over and over, as to why we are unable to make the payments, etc. In early December we were finally handed a notice of foreclosure by the local court house, saying that the mortgage company is threatening to repossess the house. We have not been issued an eviction notice, but because we told the mortgage company we’re not living there, they have winterized the house.

In the meantime, the mortgage company, and the bank who owns our home equity loan are arguing over whether or not the lien on the property for the secondary loan can be dropped in order to make the house available for short sale. At this point that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Politics.

However, with all that said, a relative of one of our neighbors, as the property used to be in the ownership of their family, has recently made an offer of $25,000 to buy the place. Our realtor agrees with us that it would be stupid for the mortgage company not to accept the offer, but again, it will be mountains of paperwork and countless phone calls, and who knows how many weeks before it is decided whether they can purchase the place for that little or not. We don’t know exactly how a sale would impact the foreclosure process or our relationship with the mortgage company or the bank, but it appears that one way or the other, the house will no longer be in our possession by the end of 2012. Time will tell.

Not entirely a nutshell I guess…

On the home front, our addition to the camper is closed in. Papa has installed windows, a temporary door, and closed in the edges of the exposed side above and to the sides of the camper so that it is protected from the elements. When we are able to save up enough money, insulating the porch will be the next project. We may begin heating with the woodstove anyway, to help thaw out the 50 gallon barrels of filtered and bleached well water, but we’re taking it one day at a time.

While we intend to have the porch complete in preparation for winter next year, Papa and I have been toying with the idea of (once summer comes) attempting to move the camper out from the porch, selling it, and using the income to build an additional room on the opposite side of the porch (where the camper was) to basically create a small home. The sale of the camper would more than cover the cost, and it would give us more freedom to create a furniture layout that works while we save up for our forever home. The downside: having to figure out a new water system if we aren’t using what’s in the camper. However, this is all in the talk stage right now. It may or may not happen.

Sometime before Chickie/Chap arrives, we also need to purchase a family car. Right now we are still using Papa’s truck and a borrowed car. I was hoping to cover the expense of a car with my herbal remedy sales, but the transition from unemployment to employment left us with no income for three weeks and the herbal money was pretty much what we lived off during that time. Now, we hope that the income tax return we get in February will cover not only our midwife expenses, but a used car as well. Something will work out.

I do want to stop here and point out something I know I’ve mentioned before, that while each of the difficulties we’ve faced are disappointing, there have been blessings throughout: we may be without a car of our own, but we have family who have lent us one to use in the meantime; we weren’t able to use the herbal sales as a jump start for a car fund, but it bought our groceries when we didn’t have an income; we weren’t able to finish the addition before winter, but we have a place to store water and we’re staying warm. There are just so many ways that God has provided for us and we are so thankful, because we know we don’t deserve it.

Moving on into the year – sometime in March we will welcome our fourth baby into the world, here at home with our midwife team. During and after this time we’ll be taking a break from homeschooling. I suppose that may sound funny to be thinking about considering Buddy is only in PreK, but I do like to keep track of all our projects and activities, and I don’t want to commit to that during my babymoon. I am also working on scheduling about eight weeks worth of guest posts during that time frame. This part I’m really excited about because there are so many bloggers who I know would be able to make a wonderful contribution to this blog. More info on this will be coming soon I expect.

Our homeschool year begins June 1st and ends May 31st. This year Buddy will begin Kindergarten and Girlie will begin PreK. Their education is largely based on experience – applying early reading, math, science, and social studies to family conversation, farm work, home duties, baby care, art and craft projects, etc. I have a few ideas for basic “book work”, but will be avoiding textbooks, fill-in-the-blank or rote work pages, and tests for a few years at least. I have ideas for posts on our homeschooling practices, which I expect to be sharing in the next month or two, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but I’m very excited about our early education plans!

In 2011 I took my five years of backyard herbal growing and home remedy making to selling them. It was on a very small scale, using herbal parties among family as our platform. Based on the performance of the sales, I do believe it is worth pursuing this as a home business. However, it is a lot of work, for which I am not entirely prepared to do with a new baby this year. Instead I want to focus on preparing more tea to sell to past customers, and researching business development for herbal sales in 2013.

Papa and I do want to expand our vegetable and flower gardens this year. Last year we produced enough food to have more than we needed to eat fresh veggies for the summer, but not quite enough to make preserving them worthwhile. This year we want to produce enough to can for winter eating. We also found a more local heritage seed company that we want to support when we’re ready to begin.

As for the chickens, we are pleased with the production we’ve had this year. On a good day we collect 10 eggs and a duck egg, on a bad day we find 5 or 6 eggs and no duck eggs. What we don’t use we sell to family and friends for $2 a dozen (with donated egg cartons). We have had to keep the birds in the coop for a couple days at a time to ensure they are laying the eggs where we want them, but they are mostly free ranging. This year we are planning to experiment with raising chickens – incubating a small number of eggs and seeing if we can get them to hatch. If we can, raising chickens for meat and eggs will probably become a long term project for us. And, believe it or not, meat rabbits have also been discussed around here.

Another change that I will try not to spill too much about because I want to devote it to another post has to do with a sudden jump in readership here at AFN. As I will share with you soon, it has been a surprise and a joy to see that not only are we attracting readers with similar views, but they are actively pursuing similar lifestyles, and apparently, we are helping them to accomplish their goals! I had a vision for this blog, but I honestly did not expect for it to take root as quickly as it has. Because of this, Papa and I are researching development of this blog to keep up with the growing needs of our readers. I am absolutely in over my head here, but excited all the same! Stay tuned to hear how you can help, and to learn what ideas we have in mind for the future of American Family Now.

an herbal remedy review

Last week I attended my eighth and probably my final herbal remedy party for the season. Not only am I thankful God blessed us with the extra income while we were in limbo between unemployment and the first paycheck, but I am also very excited to report that not only has customer feedback back simply positive, but a couple of my remedies have far surpassed my hopes in their design.

Like I tell my customers, I have no further education in herbal medicine – everything I have learned has been through countless hours of research and experimenting on my family. The trouble is, experimenting on one’s family takes a long time to learn the effectiveness of a time-old remedy’s use in today’s world of over-the-counter meds. So it is very exciting to see volunteers come forward, use my remedies, and give amazing feedback.

This is not a sales pitch, but I do want to tell you about these wonderful herbs because God deserves the credit for designing them.

Many of you know that for a couple of years I have been making a diaper rash cream out of comfrey. I’ve been giving this salve away to friends with babies, and confirmed that it wasn’t just my baby’s bums it could heal (because sometimes I really do wonder if I’m just imagining the miracles this salve works), but that it really is a great alternative to store-bought creams.

This year I added a new salve to my line of products, using not only comfrey, but several othe herbs: Calendula, chamomile, yarrow, lavender, rosemary, valerian, lemon balm, thyme, and echinacea.

My hope was that this remedy could be used to treat minor wounds and replace the need for antibiotic ointment. Then Papa discovered that both salves removed pain from his elbow joints, and I was amazed to discover that the first aid salve was able to remove both joint and nerve pain from my hip (thank you pregnancy!). This really is a universal first aid product!

The second most popular remedy among my customers was the clear mind tincture, which I made from basil, oregano, lemon balm, chamomile, and valerian. This remedy was made for treating various nerve-related symptoms such as insomnia, stress, indigestion, and depression. Some of the herbs have been used historically for increasing memory and energy, but while I did say that was a potential benefit, I was excited to see that it was a quick responding treatment for memory problems! The most incredible story yet came from a customer whose son has tourette syndrome. His meds were not really helping with the tics, so she got permission from his doctor to add my clear mind tincture to his morning routine, and right away the tics were dramatically reduced!

Next year I want to work on new ideas I have, such as a cold and flu treatment for young kids, and comfrey ice pack kits, but with a new baby on the way and sleepless nights ahead, I may instead be devoting much of my herbal time to drying and combining teas. We’ll see. I am happy with how the parties went, and I still hope to start a business in the next couple years, but for now I’ll use the remedies I have and encourage family and friends to use herbs for medicine. They really work!

(if you are a family or friend of mine, I do still have TONS of salves and some tinctures available for sale, email me if you are interested!)

herbal remedies 2011

We may have closed our online herbal store, but we still have a larger variety of remedies this year to sell locally, and use for our own family. I’m very excited about what I’ve come up with; learning how herbs work and in what combinations they can be used, for so many ailments.

Five years ago I began with comfrey ice packs and each year I have added a few more herbs and preparations, experimenting on my family to see what worked and what didn’t.

This year, in addition to a few single herb teas and tinctures, here are the newest remedies I’ve added to my medicine cabinet.

Nature’s First Aid Salve. This salve is the result of a hope I’ve had for some time to replace pharmaceutical antibiotic cream for minor wounds.

Baby Bum Salve. Last year’s salve did not have calendula, like this year’s version, but everyone I’ve given a tub to now swears by the stuff and won’t put anything else on their baby’s bum. My only frustration with this year’s salve is that while I thought I used the same proportions of oil to beeswax, this year’s did not turn out as creamy. Oh well, it’s not supposed to be a lotion, since it is to be applied as needed for rashes.

I made three different teas using varying combinations of herbs to create woman’s tonic, cold and flu remedy, and asthma relief teas. I did not realize how much dried herb it takes to make tea, so this supply is limited, but I did want to share something really neat that happened when Papa was helping me prepare the asthma tea.

Papa has had trouble with cedar-induced asthma, and his airways haven’t been quite the same since his allergic reaction to the wood. While he was breaking up the herbs, he said he started breathing easier – just inhaling the dust from the herbs breaking down! I was really hoping to create a tea that would help him, and I think I may have done it, but next year I hope we can build another solar dehydrator so I can dry more herbs at one time!

I then created three tinctures: a clear mind remedy to improve memory, alertness, energy, and reduce stress; a headache relief remedy – self explanatory; and a digestive aid to help with cold symptoms and colic.

What herbs did I use in my remedies? Here is a list of the plants that grew well in my garden this summer (not including other cooking herbs and veggies): calendula, chamomile, yarrow, lavender, rosemary, valerian, comfrey, lemon balm, thyme, echinacea, horehound, anise hyssop, sage, basil, and oregano.

I already have fresh ideas for remedies I want to make next year, but until I know how well my remedies will sell this season, I don’t want to get too excited; I still have to think about adjusting to having four kids next year!

Why we are closing our herbal store

Yes, it is true. Just weeks before our 2011 herbal remedies will be available, we have decided to close our online store.

Why the change of plans? For three reasons: one, response to the salves we had available last year was less than exciting; two, I have six herbal remedy parties scheduled among friends and family so far and I don’t think I will have much left afterwards to sell online.

The third reason is a little more complicated. We live in Maine where making and selling herbal remedies is legal, but in order to avoid FDA regulation (which is cost prohibitive to a home-based business) we have to keep our sales within our state.

My interest in herbal remedies began in part because increased government intrusion into people’s lives made me wonder how long it would be before over-the-counter medications became a thing of the past. I wanted to ensure that even if that happened I would be able to treat my family’s illnesses.

My suspicions grew when herbal remedies were made illegal in the UK. How long before pharmaceutical companies decide they don’t have enough control over home-made remedies and start banning them in the US? It’s not that far-fetched, really.

My hope is that not only will growing, preparing, and selling herbal remedies locally will enhance my knowledge and skills, but that I will also inspire others to take responsibility for their own healthcare as well.

That inspiration is why I will continue to share with you how we prepare our remedies, because even if I can’t sell them to you (if you live out-of-state), I can do my best to encourage you to do it for yourself. I have found it a rewarding experience and I’m so glad I was inspired to start in my humble kitchen.

Making herbal teas

We have had far more rain recently then we could ever wish for. Because our camper sitting on top of an underground river, not only did we get our vehicles stuck in the field, but we also have to deal with moisture inside. Which is why I freaked out when my “dry” chamomile was damp.

So, on an already crazy evening, Papa and I did an emergency rescue of the dried herbs before they went bad. Thankfully I discovered that the paper bags were wicking moisture into the herbs before it was too late, and after a little baking of some of them we repackaged them into plastic bags to avoid that problem again before we can sell them.

I’m almost ready to finish my remedies, finally update our online herbal store, and start offering herbal parties to friends and family. I’m so excited to be sharing my new knowledge of herbal medicine with others and really hope it takes off! Stay tuned for the unveiling of our new store, probably late this month!

a few changes

A whole week without posts, I can’t imagine how you have managed without updates from our family! (I do hope you hear the sarcasm) Even with the week off, I was in doubt for a few days whether I would have enough time to accomplish my short-term goals for blog development before the time I told you I would be back. Despite the craziness of the past couple weeks I have still managed to make a few changes and breakdown my goals into easy steps which I can take over the course of the next few weeks while still posting updates.

a friend comes to visit

 Updates to AFN this week include adding mentions of our newest baby and house updates on the Who We Are page and Q&A. The Store page has been updated with our current Sale on comfrey salves in prep for the release of our new remedies this fall.

 I also removed comment moderation, which means new visitors will be able to share a comment and not have to wait until I approve it to see their comment on the page. Spam will hopefully be caught by the WordPress program, but if not I will delete it as soon as it is spotted. The last of the noticeable changes is the option in the side column to add AFN to your RSS feed, which some blog readers prefer over email subscription. We want this blog to be convenient for our family, friends, and new visitors to enjoy.

 I can’t wait to put all my ideas in action, but it may take some time. Keep checking back to see what’s new. Don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already, and share your thoughts – we love comments!

Entrepeneurism in the blood

We totally get ourselves over our heads. Glen and I both are dreamers and we’ve always got the most awesome idea, that rarely comes to complete fruition. Think Crystal Iris, No Poop Coops (which we haven’t given up on yet), midwifery (as of this date), pregnancy support center, adopting a dozen kids (which we may still do, years and years from now), the Square Up, and a bunch of other things I’ve already forgotten about.

Atlas, wrapped in the same blankets that kept Glen warm when he first cam home from the hospital.

But at the heart of all this is the spirit of entrepeneurism. If that’s not a word, I’ll bet you can gather the meaning anyway. We like to create, design, imagine. And if we couldn’t do those things life wouldn’t be much fun really.  While we do these things because we enjoy them, we’ve also clung to the hope that one day our ideas would provide some kind of income, so that Glen would be free to pursue asset-building that uses his mind more than carpentry does. Don’t get me wrong, we both GREATLY appreciate his job, and Glen has repeatedly said that he couldn’t ask for a better employer, but it’s just not us.

Nemo making blueberry muffins

And so, the pursuit of home industry as a family goal has been on our minds since the founding of our home. I don’t want to give away too much right now because I plan to do a couple special posts next month which will have a lot of what I want to say now, but think greenhouses, farmstands, organic eggs, and herbal remedy parties, and you’ll get the idea.

Chicken Hotel - in process of upgrading the chicken coop

Take these bloggers for example, who use every available resource on their small property to produce useful and beautiful things. While we don’t intend to use every square inch of our property in this endeavor, we really do want to get the most out of the assets we have, including our minds. And if that means we can generate an extra income together, wonderful! It’s something we can involve the kids in, it’s healthy, we can help others to be healthy, and it just plain feels good.

Daphney helping me make hand lotion

What is your family’s home industry? How do you inspire entrepeneurism and financial independence in your children? Please tell me, I love ideas!

Oh yes! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with your families!