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You know when a dreaded cold is coming on: Your throat and voice feel a bit scratchy, your nose begins to run, your eyes resemble those of a frog, your energy dips, you get the chills, and, in general, you feel like a blob. Compound these symptoms with muscle aches, joint stiffness, occasional nausea and fever, and you’ve got the flu. According to my wise grandmother, influenza used to be called “bone fever” because you ache right down to your marrow and it hurts for someone just to touch you.

When you want relief from your misery, instead of reaching for some chemical-filled pill or ill-tasting syrupy medicine that will just leave your brain feeling clogged, why not add the following remedy to your arsenal of natural cold and flu therapies? With its analgesic, antibacterial, antiviral and respiratory-soothing properties, it’s guaranteed to help ease symptoms and bring comfort so you feel better soon. Combine this treatment with more-than-ample bed rest, hot organic chicken or vegetable-onion-garlic soup, and lots of herb tea, and you’ve got the recipe for healing!

Surround Me in Comfort: Warming Bath Oil

Feeling all stuffed up? Got the chills, aches, pains and general misery of a cold or flu? Then a detoxifying sweat session with this bath oil is just the thing you need to ease your symptoms, open your sinuses, warm your core and relax your entire body so that you can sleep soundly and get the healing rest you so desperately need. Ginger, thyme, lavender, palmarosa and pine essential oils deliver antiseptic and antiviral properties, stimulate sluggish circulation, induce perspiration, relieve muscle tension and aching joints, and even relieve headaches due to congestion.

Note: Do not partake of this heating therapy if you are running a fever, sweating, or are extremely weak and debilitated, as it will exacerbate your symptoms.

20 drops ginger essential oil

15 drops palmarosa essential oil

15 drops thyme (chemotype linalool) essential oil

15 drops Scotch pine essential oil

10 drops lavender essential oil

1 cup jojoba base oil

Equipment: Dropper, dark glass bottle with dropper top or screw cap

Prep time: 15 minutes, plus 24 hours to synergize

Yield: Approximately 1 cup

Storage: Store at room temperature, away from heat and light; use within 2 years

Application: 1 or 2 times per day

Add the ginger, palmarosa, thyme, Scotch pine, and lavender essential oils drop by drop directly into a storage bottle. Add the jojoba base oil. Cap the bottle and shake vigorously for 2 minutes.

Label the bottle and place in a dark location that’s between 60° and 80°F for 24 hours so that the oils can synergize.

Application Instructions:

This healing, detoxification process can be performed in the morning, if you are staying home for the day, and also at night before retiring. Turn up the heat or stoke the woodstove and make a mug of fresh ginger, cinnamon spice, or decaf chai tea, or just plain hot water with lemon juice. Run a hot bath, with the door closed. When the tub is nearly full, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of bath oil under running water and swish to blend. Ease into the soothing bath and lie back for about 20 minutes while you sip your tea. Sweating helps release toxins from your pores. Following your soak, gently pat yourself dry. Put on pajamas and socks, and climb under the covers. Do this once or twice daily for a few days, until you are well.

You can learn how to make more topically-applied herbal remedies by reading Tourles’ latest book, Hands-On Healing Remedies: 150 Recipes for Herbal Balms, Salves, Oils, Liniments & Other Topical Therapies (Storey Publishing, 2012). 

Stephanie Tourles is a licensed holistic aesthetician, certified aromatherapist, and gardener with training in Western and Ayurvedic herbalism. She is the author of eight books, including Organic Body Care Recipes; Raw Energy: 124 Raw Food Recipes for Energy Bars, Smoothie, and Other Snacks to Supercharge Your Body; Naturally Healthy Skin; 365 Ways to Energize Mind, Body & Soul; and Natural Foot Care. She lives in Orland, Maine.

Visit Tourles’ website,, her blog and Facebook page to find out more about her, and stay tuned for her 2014 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR speaking schedule.


The self-reliance tsunami arguably spawned by MOTHER EARTH NEWS in the early 1970s is a revolution for “integrity living.” That’s a powerful phrase, but I think it captures the essence of our movement.

I think most of us who attend MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS and read the full Ogden Publications curriculum have a deep-seated belief that most of modern America is living a lie. Hence the notion of “integrity living.” For example, it’s simply untrue that industrial farming, monocropping and petroleum-based fertilizers can actually sustain our civilization. We simply don’t believe genetically modified corn and soybeans are the difference between abundance and scarcity.

Healing The Earth

In our gardens and diversified, decentralized, compost-driven farms, we know how abundant the Earth wants to be if we respectfully massage nature’s templates. We don’t have to swagger into nature like a bunch of conquistadors to get the Earth to produce. Actually, abundance is nature's default position when we touch our ecological umbilical with awe and reverence.

Big industrial agribusiness would have us think that their Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) ensure life — that to deprive our planet of CAFOs would mean starvation for millions. But those of us who count ourselves among the MOTHER EARTH NEWS family know that pastured livestock — animals that move freely and eat perennials — actually produce more per acre than the animals on grain-chemical-pharmaceutical-petroleum-confinement factory farms.

Indeed, our movement is like the little boy in the fable who cried: “The emperor has no clothes!” We believe compost makes the richest soil, the most nutrient-dense vegetables and the most regenerative production. We dare to question the notion that life is fundamentally mechanical and that safety requires sterility. We know that most bacteria are good, and that bad ones that proliferate into pathogenicity only do so when our management is wrong.

We don’t believe Wall Street is more important than healthy earthworms. We don’t believe that petroleum is more important than clean water. We don’t believe knowing about the dysfunction du jour of the Kardashians is more important than what will become flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone at dinner time. We certainly don’t believe the answers to our societal maladies emanate from Washington. No, we think our civilization is only as healthy as our soil, our economy is only as healthy as our personal finances, and our health care begins in our own kitchens and gardens.

To believe otherwise is to drink the Kool-Aid of a cult that promotes disempowerment, and corporate and governmental dependency. If wellness comes from drugs rather than our gardens, we’ll spend quite a bit more on drugs. If our homesteads heal us emotionally, physically and spiritually, what need have we of so much health care in the first place? If our mission is sacred enough and noble enough to consume our life focus, when do we become depressed about our physical appearance enough to demand corrective surgery? We glow naturally when we’re consumed with redemption and nurturing.

Everything else is chasing a lie. I know that may sound strong, but I think days like those we’re currently living in demand clarity. It’s not good enough simply to slow down. If you’re going the wrong way, slowing down won’t get you to your destination. You have to turn around and go the other way. Our community of rebels, of humble truth seekers, wants to turn our culture around. We don’t despise our country. We don’t desire failure. We desire light, a beacon to show the world that our wealth need not show the way to more rapid destruction, but can be leveraged to heal more acres, more backyards, more communities faster than any civilization on the right path has ever done it. That’s our goal, our truth.

Now let’s keep going if we’re going, and let’s start if we’re not going yet. We are the truth antidote for our society. Let’s show it in our gardens, our compost piles, our vermicomposting bins and our domestic larders. That’s not hoarding: It’s ultimate freedom, liberty. Here’s the truth: Security does not come from outside. It comes from inside. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at this year’s FAIRS. Until then, keep reading and keep doing. Our homesteads pulse with the heartbeat of truth. Here’s to a great 2014.

Photo by Fotolia


Who knew that making a soda so delicious was so darn easy?! This office experiment is our most rewarding yet. I mean, Marlin is cool with his aquaponic system and all, but I definitely don’t want to drink fish water. (See "Office Trials: Aquaponic System.") Our ginger beer is so refreshing, surprisingly effervescent and just plain awesome! So you’d like to know how to make it yourself, right? Well, I will gladly share the steps and recipe with you.

It all started with a little ginger bug. I wanted to make the ginger beer from scratch which means I had to make the yeast or “live” part of the soda. In researching the ginger bug I came across an article from 1981 by none other than MOTHER EARTH NEWS about how to create your own! Always a trusty source.

The following recipe and instructions were loosely based around the article, but I made a few changes to make it my own. You can do the same!

Start a Ginger Bug

1½ cups filtered water
3 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root
3 teaspoons organic raw sugar
1 wide-mouth quart jar
Cheesecloth or coffee filter

Starting your ginger bug is ridiculously easy. Combine filtered water, finely chopped ginger root and organic sugar together in the quart jar. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Place cheesecloth or coffee filter over top of jar and secure with rubber band around mouth of jar. This allows the ginger bug to breathe, but keeps out any unwanted debris or creatures!

Daily, for about 7 to 8 days, add 2 teaspoons sugar and 2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root and stir. You’ll want to agitate the ginger bug twice a day by stirring to be sure it stays activated. I made the mistake of letting it sit for a day or two without any stirring and it went dormant. It can easily be brought back to life with the sugar, ginger and a little agitation.

You’ll know your ginger bug is ready to use when it starts to fizz upon adding ingredients and stirring. It should take 7 to 8 days, but depending on temperature and other variables, it may take a bit longer. Because I let it go dormant, it took our ginger bug about two weeks to be ready for the ginger beer process.

How to Make Ginger Beer

Ginger bug
3 lemons
¾ cup organic raw sugar
½ gallon filtered water
 ½ gallon container

After your ginger bug is all fizzed and ready to go, you’ll need a larger container to store your ginger beer in. In my case, there is a brewery located conveniently down the road from the office so I bought a growler to make my ginger beer in. It is a glass container and I wouldn’t use any other material for fear of leaching, but you must be very, very careful with glass. When the pressure of the beer builds up it creates perfect conditions for the glass container to blow up! You must release the pressure daily once the beer has been concocted.

To start, strain the ginger bug through the cheesecloth (I found this worked much better as a strainer than a coffee filter) into the container. Be sure to keep the solid parts of your ginger bug! I’ll let you know what to do with it in the following section. Next, juice the three lemons through the cheesecloth to prevent the seeds from going into the mix. Finally add the sugar and fill the rest of the container with filtered water. Be sure to stop about an inch from the top to allow fermenting to occur. Give it a shake, seal the top down tight and put it on the shelf. This should take about 4 to 7 days to be ready! 

As I said before, if you use a glass container be sure to release the pressure daily by opening the lid. You don’t want your bottle to bust everywhere. That would be one sticky mess! After 4 days here, we opened the bottle and it fizzed violently like a shaken soda bottle. It was obviously ready for consumption! Once you get this type of reaction from your ginger beer you’ll place it in the refrigerator to stop any fermentation. Once it’s cooled, it is ready to drink!

Back to the Bug

1½ cups filtered water
2 teaspoons organic raw sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root

To keep your ginger bug alive be sure to keep the solid portion of your ginger bug after straining. Add filtered water, sugar and ginger root back into your quart jar and repeat the steps for keeping the ginger bug. The cycle will keep going as long as you keep your ginger bug active! 

To conclude, I had a great time with this process. It really is a fun soda to make and so easy. Every step was done at my desk… It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (trust me, I’m no chemist either!). If I can make it so can you and it takes no time at all. Over the course of the past three weeks I’ve grown oddly attached to my little ginger bug, and I’m sure to stir it twice a day to keep it kickin’. We’ll be making another batch of ginger beer after the holidays. It may become an office staple.

Stay tuned to the blog! We’ll be posting about our homemade (or office-made) apple cider vinegar, aquaponic system and we’ll keep you updated on our hydroponic system!

Check out the FAIR website at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for fun how-tos and FAIR updates! 


Set-up (Day 1)

We received our 3-gallon aquaponic system, graciously donated to us by We were super excited, but we had no clue where to start. Fortunately, the company included a trifold pamphlet explaining how to set up the system—and it was quite simple. First, we had to purchase a fish. James and I happily
drove to PetSmart and picked out a flamboyantly colored beta (the recommended type of fish). When we got back to the office it was time to prepare the tank. Back to our handy dandy set of instructions. We had to give the fish a bath…give a fish a bath? Yes. This is required to clean any scummy disease that it could possibly transfer into its new aquaponic home. 

As the fish was lounging in a tepid bath, we filled up the aquaponic tank with water and added the D-Klor (to de-chlorinate the water). Once the tank water was ready, we set the fish in while still in its container from the pet store. This step is to get the fish used to the temperature of the water without stunning it. 

After 10 to 15 minutes, we opened the container and set the fish free in its new home. He seemed happy and swam around joyously out of his tiny pet store container. We named him Morrissey, turned out the lights and headed home for the night.

Set-up (Day 2)

Morrissey is dead.  This was devastating.  We thought we had done everything right!  Scooping him out of the tank and heading back to the pet store, we traded our dead fish in for a live one and decided to try again.

“New fish”, as we called him for three days, was set free. Now it was on to installing the plant part of the system. We washed the grow stones and prepared them to be put in the individual containers on top of the tank. We turned on the pump and water began to spill out into the top compartment to feed our prospective plants. After placing the stones on the tank, it was time to plant some seed, but first we had to soak our wheatgrass seeds overnight before placing them on the grow stones.

Planting (Day 3)

Walking into the office warily, we went to see if the new fish had survived the night and… he did! Relief. The wheatgrass had also become waterlogged, but this was the point of letting them soak. Covering the grow stones evenly with the seeds, now it was time to wait for our seeds to grow!

Growth (Day 4)

Well that didn’t take long.  We came into the office to find that the wheatgrass had popped up over night!  How cool.  It had only grown a bit, but we couldn’t believe that it had grown so much in just one night.

Harvest (Day 6)

This lovely little self-cleaning, self-maintaining (besides feeding the fish) aquaponic system had produced about six inches of wheatgrass and it was time to harvest some for a salad! James did the honor of cutting some and sprinkling it on his salad. I had already eaten lunch, but I will try it soon!  

In all, it was a bit of a bumpy start after losing Morrissey, but from day 2 we’ve had great luck with our aquaponic system! Marlin, fish #2, is happy as a clam and stares at James frequently. I’m pretty sure they have staring contests in his office.  The wheatgrass is growing beautifully, and everything in this little environment seems happy. Our next venture is learning how to fill the tank every so often. The water evaporates and is fed to the plants so it slowly dissipates, but I’m sure this won’t be a problem.

We are very happy with our aquaponic system that so graciously donated to us for our office experiments. Stay tuned to the blog! We’ll be posting about our homemade (or office-made) apple cider vinegar, ginger beer and we’ll keep you updated on our hydroponic system!

Check out the FAIR website at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for fun how-tos and FAIR updates! 


With the current federal tax credits and some local utilities offering incentives, tapping into solar power is more affordable and pays off sooner than it did four years ago. Before you bring a solar energy expert out to your house, take some time to check your site yourself. Evaluating your home for solar is simple: Just follow these four easy steps.

Check your paperwork.
To be eligible for the solar incentives from the government and/or utility companies, the person who owns the system (you) must own the property where the solar array will be installed. The utility account for the property must be in your name as well.

Check the orientation.
Southern-facing roofs are optimal; west-facing is the next best. Do none of your roofs face the best directions? Fear not. There are solutions. Many people use pole mounts and racked panels to maximize their solar production.

Check your view.
Even a little shading can create a big problem. There are systems designed to deal effectively with some shading but there is a limit. There are ways to deal with shading challenges. Obvious solutions are mounting panels to poles or racks. For one Olympia, Wash., family the best place for their system was in their backyard. So, they built a pergola and used the photovoltaic panels as shading.

More dramatic (and often less desirable) solutions to shading would be removing trees that cause shading. A good solar installer will be able to give you a reasonable estimate of how effective tree removal would be before you break out the chainsaw.

Check your structure.
Outside: If solar panels will be installed on your roof, you need to take a good look at the roof itself. If the roofing is due to be replaced in the next 10 years, get it replaced before you have solar installed. To save money, roofers can replace just the area where solar panels are being installed. The rest of the roof can be replaced down the line.


Your roof and its supporting structure needs to be in good condition. Solar panels’ additional weight is minimal, but damaged and/or aging roofs require a different approach. If your roof is sagging, bowing or crumbling, getting your home safe and solid should be the highest priority.

Inside: Your home’s wiring needs to be up-to-date. The panels’ electric requirements are pretty low, but it’s best to make sure your home’s system is able to handle the additional needs.

Bonus step: Check the low-hanging energy conservation fruit first.
Before you go solar, take a good look at how you can save energy today. Seal air leaks in your walls and around windows and doors, properly insulate your roof and under your home, and use an efficient heat source. These fixes make a significant difference and cost less than a full array of solar panels.  


Kirk Haffner of South Sound Solar provides his solar power expertise to Washington state’s South Sound. South Sound Solar hosts free workshops covering the steps for DIY site evaluation in greater detail. These workshops also include information on the effectiveness of different systems and full information on available incentives and rebates. Check out the solar workshop page at


What is a salve or balm?

The dictionary definition explains in simple terms, “an ointment used to promote healing of the skin or as protection.” I like this definition as it explains a simple solution for what may be a simple or complex health issue.

Making salves and/or balms is also simple: They can easily be produced in your own kitchen with a few basic natural and organic ingredients. Most commonly, salves are applied topically for any number of skin issues, including rashes, skin reactions to bug bites or allergens, burns, eczema, psoriasis, acne, chronic dry skin, chapped lips and more.

Many balms and salves begin with the basic foundation of infused oils and beeswax.  The ingredients you choose, however, should address the specific issue for which the finished product is being used.

Infused oils are simply carrier oils that have been infused with a healing herb of choice. Examples of common carrier oils are sweet almond oil, hemp oil, grapeseed oil, olive or pomace oil, soybean oil, to just name a few. When a medicinal herb is properly infused into one of these carrier oils, you will possess a powerful healing oil which will become an integral part of your home herbal medicine cabinet.

Examples of a few healing herbal infused oils are St. John’s wort oil (anti-inflammatory), comfrey oil (skin tissue repair), calendula oil (deep moisturizer and skin softener), rosehip seed oil (antioxidant and scar minimizer), arnica oil (pain reliever, reduces bruising and swelling). Most any herb can be infused into a carrier oil.  Many of these healing herbal oils can be conveniently purchased already infused for those who do not have the time or desire to produce their own.

Following are common tools and equipment you will need to have on hand to produce your own unique homemade salve or balm:

•1 kitchen burner: This may be your stovetop or a single electric or gas burner

on which to heat your mixture

1 glass coffee carafe

•1 wooden spoon or skewer stick for stirring

•Measuring cups and spoons

•Sterilized container(s) to hold your finished product (bottles or jars can be

sterilized in a hot dishwasher)

•Label(s) for finished product

Recipe for Healing Lip Balm

(This is the recipe given in my presentation at the


5 tbsp +5 tsp organic beeswax

5 tbsp organic cocoa butter

5 tbsp organic coconut oil

10 tbsp sweet almond oil

5 drops lavender essential oil

10 drops vitamin E oil

Method: Pour coconut oil and sweet almond oil into the coffee carafe. Add cocoa butter and beeswax and melt all together over medium low heat until ingredients become a blended liquid, stirring occasionally with wooden spoon or skewer. Remove from heat and add lavender essential oil and vitamin E oil. Stir to blend. Cool slightly and slowly pour mixture into containers of choice. Cool completely before covering with lids and labeling.

Helpful Links:


In his excellent book Blessed Unrest noted author and entrepreneur Paul Hawken describes the millions of groups worldwide—ranging from neighborhood organizations to well-funded international organizations—working to protect the environment and fighting for social justice and human rights.

Hawken writes that this massive social movement acts as the immune system of the planet. In the same way the body’s immune system fights off viruses, these groups fight threats to the planet’s climate, air, soil and water resources, seeds and food, and people, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

I thought of this when writing an article about the GMO-free groups that have emerged across the United States. I spoke with ordinary Americans who became activated to fight threats to human health and the environment posed by genetically modified organisms. People such as Pamm Larry of Chico, Calif., Zofia Hausman of Philadelphia,  Tara Cook-Littman of Fairfield, Conn., Ed Stockman of Plainfield, Mass., and IrisWhalen of Ocean Springs, Miss.. A common response from them was: “I was an unlikely candidate to get involved in something like this.” But they felt the need to do something because of their concerns over GMOs. So they launched groups—such as, GMO-Free Connecticut and GMO-Free Mississippi, and No GMO 4 Michigan—to demand the right to know whether foods contain GMOs.

Their “immune response” is responsible for getting 26 states to introduce bills to label GM foods.

They face huge challenges: powerful multinational food and biotechnology companies that will spend millions of dollars in misinformation campaigns and threaten lawsuits against state governments to deny labeling, along with a federal government that allows biotechnology companies to claim that their GM seeds are unique and patented while declaring GM food the same as normal food.

Despite the challenges, momentum for GMO labeling is growing. Natural food retailers are either committing to labeling GMOs in their stores or removing them from shelves. National labeling legislation has been introduced. Even big food companies recognize the growing demand for labeling.


When labeling happens it will be because We the People demanded it. Isn’t that the way America should work?

Ken Roseboro is editor of The Organic & Non-GMO

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