Mother Earth News Fair

Our FAIRS bring living wisely to life with hands-on workshops in organic gardening, country skills, renewable energy and more.


The 2013 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Puyallup, Wash., last weekend was again a source of great energy and exceptional education, thanks to 15,000 attendees, more than 125 presenters and some 300 sponsors and exhibitors. Major sponsors this year included Bob’s Red Mill, Botanical Interests, Brinsea, CeCe Caldwell’s Paints, Earthineer, Envirolet, Ford, King Arthur Flour, Klean Kanteen, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Mountain Rose Herbs, Nature’s Flavors, Purina, Rub with Love, Shambala Permaculture Farm and Nursery, and Theo Chocolate.

Here's a summary of some of the highlights from Puyallup 2013. (And for those of you who are not able to travel to the FAIRS, watch for our new DVD later this year, featuring a selection of presentations from previous FAIRS.)


Among them:

  • A new heavy-duty cider press from Bob Powell, developer of the wonderful Vashon broadfork (
  • Super-lightweight aluminum three-legged ladders made in Japan by Hasegawa
  • An outstanding affordable ($180) cedar cold frame with stainless steel hardware and corrugated polycarbonate glazing (
  • BCS two-wheeled tractors, including a walk-behind sickle-bar mower attachment for small-scale hay making
  • The super-efficient Sun Frost refrigerators

Several solar power installers were on hand.

And all of them told me that the costs of solar power have dropped by at least 20 to 30 percent in the last year or so.


Fairgoers mobbed Botanical Interests' booth, where they could choose from thousands of seeds at a special price of $1.00 per packet. Other seed companies and organizations exhibiting this year included Shambala Permaculture Farm, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply, Victory Seed Co., Seed Savers Exchange, Raintree Nursery and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.


This year's FAIR featured a huge and wonderful Poultry Show organized by the Washington Poultry Exhibitors and sponsored by Purina. Fairgoers also enjoyed Dexter cattle, always-adorable alpacas, assorted sheep and goats, llamas under harness pulling carts, herding dogs, several breeds of pigs, and bees a-buzzin’. Kids attending got to feed the (goat) kids.


There were more than 240 workshops this year, making it tough to single out high points. But I have to mention the live demonstration of how to butcher chickens hosted by David Schafer and Joel Salatin (you can watch a video of an earlier version of the presentation on the FAIR YouTube channel) and the plethora of natural health information provided on the Mountain Rose Herbs Stage.

Crowds at the Puyallup Mother Earth News FairThe FAIR wrapped up with a rousing standing-room-only presentation, "Don't Be Scared, Be Strange," by farmer/author/activist Joel Salatin. Joel’s insights and energy are always inspiring—a fitting close to two great days of learning, laughing and connecting around living wisely.

If you’re curious to know more about workshops you didn’t attend, or would like to jog your memory about those you did, peruse the full Puyallup program. Also visit the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR site and sign up for the FAIR e-newsletter. You’ll be notified as soon as the schedules for the upcoming FAIRS in Seven Springs, Pa., (Sept. 20-22) and Lawrence, Kan., (Oct. 12-13) are available. The e-newsletters will also keep you abreast of future speakers, special promotions and other news.


Pressure cooking was my mother's go-to culinary technique. As a full-time student and a part-time farmer, she had no patience for complicated cookery. Using a pressure cooker meant she could load the dining table with tasty, fuss-free meals that she'd thrown together quickly. In short, the pressure cooker was my mother's best kitchen friend.

dinner-in-pressure-cookerEventually, mom turned over most of the cooking chores to her only daughter — me. I'd always been interested in cooking anyway, toddling around the kitchen with my nose dusted in flour at a young age, and she understood that I was ripe for culinary picking. Our pressure cooker was one of the first implements she taught me to use.

Mom's cooker dated from the 1950s. Unlike quiet modern models, its jiggle-top pressure regulator rocked and hissed during operation. Despite the noise, that old aluminum pot produced many tender and flavorful beef stews. My personal favorite was chicken and noodles, made with a free-range bird from grandma's farm and dough mixed of pastured eggs and wheat flour. Our farm-fresh ingredients produced a nutritious dish, but the pressure cooker got credit for the amazingly short cooking time — less than 15 minutes from start to finish.

Resembling heavy, lidded stockpots, pressure cookers are designed to seal tightly so that their contents can cook under pressure—about 15 psi (pounds per square inch). Because water under pressure boils at 250 degrees Fahrenheit rather than the standard 212 degrees, food inside a pressure cooker cooks rapidly. Most dishes cook in just one-third of the normal time.

Pressure cookers have other benefits besides saving time. Steam pressure tenderizes tough meats, making inexpensive cuts fork-tender. Flavors inside the pot are concentrated because food is steamed using a small amount of liquid. Stoves use less energy because cooking times are short, and kitchens aren't heated up during the summer months, thereby increasing a home's energy efficiency. What's not to love about pressure cooking?

While new models cost anywhere from $60 to more than $200, old pressure cookers are available for a pittance at garage sales and flea markets. If you buy an old cooker, count on replacing some parts. The lid's rubber gasket must be in good condition to contain the steam that brings the pot up to pressure. The lids of pressure cookers are fitted with operating valves, dials and pressure indicators, many of them made of plastic and all of them capable of cracking and breaking. In the end, you may decide that a new pressure cooker is worth the extra cost, particularly when you factor in modern safety features such as release valves and locking handles.

My mother got rid of her old pressure cooker more than a decade ago. After she learned that I'd begun cooking with a new model in my own kitchen, we discussed all the benefits of modern pressure cookers. She was unaware of their quiet operation (compared to the old jiggle-tops) and built-in safety features. We reminisced about all the delicious pressure-cooked meals we'd made back in the day, salivating over memories of savory stews, stocks and soups. And then she asked me to buy her a new pressure cooker for Mother's Day.

For pressure cooking recipes and information on how to use a pressure cooker, see Get to Know the Wonder-Working, Timesaving Pressure Cooker.

Rebecca Martin will present a workshop at the Puyallup, Wash., FAIR. 

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about future FAIRs: June 1-2 in Puyallup, Wash., Sept. 20-22 in Seven Springs, Pa., and Oct. 12-13 in Lawrence, Kan. Tickets are on sale now. 

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.


In just a few days, I’ll have the exciting opportunity to be standing in front of MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR-goers and teaching them how to make lotion.

Homemade LotionExciting, yes, but I must admit — I’m a little nervous! Luckily, making lotion is a skill that’s easy to acquire, as it’s a simple, go-with-the-flow process. Much of what you add to your lotion recipe is entirely up to you — you can mix and match liquid oils, add herbs and herbal tinctures, and scent your lotion with any essential oil you choose. So whether I get shaky-leg up on that stage or not, I’m thrilled to pass along a process that I think is not only beneficial, but also a lot of fun.

The recipe I use to make my lotion is from a book titled Earthly Bodies and Heavenly Hair by Dina Falconi. Her recipe is quite detailed, and the book has all kinds of natural body care recipes, so I highly recommend taking a look if you’d like to find more information or experiment even further. Here’s my version of Falconi’s recipe. Yield: 19 ounces of cream.


6 oz. liquid oil
3 oz. solid oil
1 oz. grated beeswax
9 oz. water

According to Falconi, any carrier oils — such as peanut, jojoba, olive, or apricot kernel — can be used as the liquid oil, and any oils that are solid at room temperature — coconut oil, shea butter or cocoa butter — can be used as the solid oil. For my variation on this recipe, I used 3 ounces of olive oil and 3 ounces of jojoba oil for my liquid-oil portion, and 3 ounces of coconut oil for my solid-oil portion.


Combine your liquid oil, solid oil and grated beeswax in a measuring cup. Place in a double boiler (or a pot partially filled with water) over medium heat and stir until dissolved.

Remove the measuring cup from the hot water and allow the mixture to cool to body temperature. Stir the mixture as it cools.

While the oils are cooling, pour your distilled water into a measuring cup and place it in the hot-water bath to heat it to body temperature.

When both the oils and the water have reached body temperature, pour the water into a blender or food processor, or pour it into a mixing bowl and use an immersion blender. Slowly add the oil mixture to the whirling water. Continue to process until the oil and water have blended together into a thick, creamy liquid. This will happen in about 20 to 30 seconds with a high-powered blender, but could take as long as 15 minutes if you’re using an electric mixer.

Add essential oils until your mixture smells the way you want it to smell. I used 1 drop per 2 ounces, so about 10 drops for this 19-ounce batch.

Pour the cream into clean, dry jars and let it set overnight. Store the cream out of direct heat and sunlight. For longer storage, keep it in the refrigerator.

A little of this lotion goes a long way, so experimenting with small batches until you get your ideal lotion will be helpful to you, and your 19-ounce batch will likely last longer than you think.

And most importantly, have fun and experiment! You can color your lotion with natural additives, such as herbs, teas or flowers. Substituting a bit of aloe gel for some of your water will cause your lotion to last longer, as will adding grapefruit seed extract. You can double the batch for your whole family to use, or portion the lotion into attractive jars to give as gifts.

If you can't come to the FAIR, I hope you're still able to enjoy the recipe above. Making your own lotion is a satisfying endeavour, and offers a sweet reward in the form of healthy, smooth skin.

Amanda Sorell will present a workshop at the Puyallup, Wash., FAIR.

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about future FAIRs: June 1-2 in Puyallup, Wash., Sept. 20-22 in Seven Springs, Pa., and Oct. 12-13 in Lawrence, Kan. Tickets are on sale now.

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.


I’ve gone through an evolution in homesteading in three phases.

In the ‘60s, I built a house in Big Sur, developed a water supply, and terraced a hillside for farming. I was intrigued with the idea of self-sufficiency, and along with all of the changes going on in the ‘60s, the back-to-the-land movement was a powerful force.

We had a big garden, planted fruit trees, and I could walk down the canyon to the beach to get fish and abalone. Pretty soon after finishing the house (built out of mostly salvaged materials and hand-split shakes) and getting set up for farming, fate intervened, and I left Big Sur for a 5-year stint building geodesic domes.

Flash forward to 1971. I bought a half-acre in a small Northern California coastal town and built another house. This time we got farther into homesteading. We had goats, 50 chickens and 5 colonies of bees. We raised a lot of our own food. I cut hay with a scythe. We learned a lot of the “forgotten crafts”: making butter and cheese, brewing beer, baking bread, smoking fish, and many skills and crafts that had been part of our ancestors’ lives.

After several years, I realized that all this was taking too much time. Tending dairy animals is time-consuming and tricky. Bees need attention. Raising a good portion of your own food is demanding. (I’m talking about small plots of land here. If you have acreage, then everything is different.)

I started cutting back. First, we got rid of the goats (a half-acre is too small for dairy animals anyway). Then the bees. I started putting more time into publishing, less into food production and home crafts. We didn’t give up on these things, but scaled back.

The third stage in our homesteading lives is where we’re at right now. I’ve learned that you can’t be self-sufficient—self-sufficiency is a direction; you never get there. But you don’t give up because you can’t do it all. You do what you can, tailoring your homesteading activities to your life, work, and location—country, suburban, or urban.

These days we’ve blended the homesteading in with other aspects of life and, over the years, it seems we’ve achieved a pretty good balance. It works for us.

 Lloyd Kahn's HomesteadBack in the ‘70s (the ‘60s happened in the ‘70s, right?), there were 6-7 couples in my small town, on small pieces of land. Between us we had cows, goats, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, and bees. We made wine and beer. We had a food co-op. We shared experiences and inspired each other. We published three booklets on local food production.

Well, it got to be too much for everyone. We stuck with it, albeit on a smaller scale, but none of the other couples are still doing any of this. It was unsustainable.

I’m not the first to notice that a lot of the concepts of the ‘60s are being rediscovered (or newly discovered by younger generations). There’s a huge interest in fresh, home-grown food. Foraging. Recycled building materials. Small(er) homes. There are community gardens and the occasional small flock of chickens (sans roosters) in the cities. Using your hands. Small-scale homesteading as a hobby, if you will.

Lloyd Kahn's gardenIt not only feels good to grow some of your own food, but there’s the quality: the taste of a homegrown sun-ripened tomato just knocks your socks off; broccoli cooked within minutes of picking is sweet, entirely different from store-bought; fresh eggs cause you to think, “So this is what eggs are really like.”

My friend Louie says there is a word in Italian, abbondanza, meaning plenty, richness, good feeling. You walk into a kitchen where there are people, a meal is being prepared, good ingredients, things smell good, there’s wine—there are good vibes—and you say, as a salute to plenty: abbondanza.

And there is the ancestor thing. Practicing some of the skills of the not-so-distant past means re-connection with ancestors’ lives. I was sharpening a chisel by kerosene light in Big Sur years ago, and I felt a jolt of familiarity, as if I had done this before (maybe my great-great grandfather, and it was in my genes).

Finally, there’s fitness and fun. Using your body to garden or build is an antidote to hours spent at a keyboard. Doing these things is fun. Watching your plants grow. Gathering the eggs. The satisfaction of making something with your own hands.

Lloyd Kahn will present a workshop at the Puyallup, Wash., FAIR. 

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about future FAIRs: June 1-2 in Puyallup, Wash., Sept. 20-22 in Seven Springs, Pa., and Oct. 12-13 in Lawrence, Kan. Tickets are on sale now. 

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.


Aquaponic gardening is a fascinating way to grow two food products – vegetables and fish – together in an organic, symbiotic ecosystem. Beneficial microbes convert the fish waste into nutrients for the plants growing in a soil-less medium, and the plants return clean water to the fish.

Growing vegetables is a familiar process for most of us, especially if we were lucky enough growing up to help with the family garden every summer. But growing game fish for food is unfamiliar to most gardeners and can be somewhat intimidating. Even for experienced aquarium hobbyists, growing a plate-sized tilapia is a whole different animal.

Aquaponic Fish 

The key to growing fish for food, or any fish for that matter, in aquaponics is to consider what stresses the fish in a captive environment, and lessening, or eliminating, it. There are three categories of fish stress: physical, chemical, and biological.

Physical Stress – This includes all the environmental conditions that we control for our fish, the most important of which is temperature. All fish have a temperature range within which they will thrive, and a wider range within which they will survive. Fish are cold-blooded animals and do not have the ability to expend energy to maintain a constant internal body temperature like we do. They are completely at the mercy of the temperature of their surrounding water. If that water temperature goes outside of their optimal, or “thriving”, range they will eat less, or stop eating all together, and they become more susceptible to disease. That said, this is sometimes carefully employed as a technique called “cold banking” in order to slow down their growth rate. Cold banking is especially effective with fingerlings, when you are trying to stagger your fish production.

Another form of physical stress is sudden exposure to light and vibration. Fish are alarmed when we flip on a light switch and shock their world instantly from night to day. They will often start banging against the walls of the tank to escape the light. However, just like with cold banking, this sensitivity to light can be used to the aquaculturalist’s advantage by employing a technique called “phase shifting” whereby you trick the fish into thinking that it is spawning season (or not) by timing the amount of light they get during the day to mimic the season in which they normally spawn (or not).

And because they “hear” vibrations with their entire bodies, rapping against the wall of a tank feels like “yelling” to them and will also cause them undue stress.

Interestingly, another form of physical stress can be water velocity. Fish originating from still lake waters, like tilapia and perch, do not like much movement in their tank water. However, river fish, like trout, find it stressful not to have a current present in their tank.

Chemical Stress – This is mostly centered on maintaining the quality of the water Escalating ammonia and nitrite levels stress our fish. Nitrate levels, however, can go as high as 500 – 700 ppm without harming the fish. Maintaining a very low pH can also be stressful. And insufficient filtration of the solid waste and not enough dissolved oxygen are, not surprisingly, other forms of chemical stress.

Biological Stress – This last category refers to viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Just like in our world, most of these pathogens are often present but only fully express themselves when the right conditions occur. For fish, this likely means that some of the stress factors listed above must also be in place for biological threats to have an impact.

Catching an Aquaponic Fish

In aquaponics we have adopted the technique of “salting” fish or adding salt (sodium chloride) to the water to help them ward off disease. But this practice can be harmful to our plants because they may be sensitive to sodium. I’ve recently heard that it is the chlorine that helps the fish, and not the sodium. You can actually get the same effect with a more “plant-friendly” treatment such as potassium chloride or magnesium chloride.

So, just think like a fish and give them a relatively stress-free environment and they will live long in your aquaponics system and be delicious!

Sylvia Bernstein will present two workshops at the Puyallup, Wash., FAIR. 

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about future FAIRs: June 1-2 in Puyallup, Wash., Sept. 20-22 in Seven Springs, Pa., and Oct. 12-13 in Lawrence, Kan. Tickets are on sale now. 

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.


Joel SalatinHave you ever dreamed of taking your part-time homestead to a full-time salary? What's holding you back? Business books say most people are more afraid of success than failure. After all, if you're successful at a creating a credible business from your self-reliant craft or farm venture, you'll need to think like a business. Marketing, production, finance, accounting, permits – enough already!

As I've thought back over my success as a full-time farmer, several key ingredients come to mind.

1. I've never been alone. I grew up here, in this community, on this land, and although Mom and Dad never made it a going concern – always working in town to keep the farm vision quasi-alive – that psychological and financial support were key when Teresa and I decided to leave outside employment and return full-time to the farm. I always had other people who could complement my weaknesses with their strengths. Today, our staff of 20 brings gifts and talents to our farm that I could scarcely imagine.

2. I've not been in debt. Because the land was paid for, we could live cheaply, at $300 per month. A few dollars go a long way when you're not paying debt service. We grew all of our own food, lived in an attic apartment in the farm house, heated with wood, bought clothes from the Salvation Army thrift store, drove a $50 car (in our first 20 years of marriage, our total automobile expenditures, cumulative, were under $10,000), and never went anywhere. We didn't even buy baby food – just used our little hand mill and fed the kids what we ate. And cloth diapers.

3. I've let function drive design. Our farm does not sport white picket fences or picturesque barns. Before we had our own bandsaw mill, we tore down dilapidated barns in the neighborhood to scavenge lumber for building projects. Function over form drives our projects, and while they may not look like something to grace the front page of Southern Living, they work. We build sheds with rafters made of poles – like much of the world uses for their houses.

4. I've concentrated on portable infrastructure. Ultimately, this creates a portable farm, which is not only cheaper than stationary buildings, but it also gives tremendous flexibility. I can move structures around the farm or I can take them up the road to another property, temporarily, and scale our farm into nearby nooks and crannies. Nook and cranny farming offers unprecedented opportunities to utilize land owned by others.

5. I've value added. Whether it's firewood turned into shed roof rafters or branches chipped into animal bedding or chickens fully processed into parts and pieces, creating more value from raw materials is critical to generate a salary from a small acreage. Commodities rely on large volumes at low margins. High margin farming creates opportunities for small acreage because the farmer wears more hats – producer, processor, marketer, distributor. If the middleman makes all the profits, that's what we need to be.

6. I've diversified. The permaculture concept of stacking and multi-speciated symbiosis produces more per square yard of land and benefits sales through the one-stop shop concept. Leveraging an existing customer into buying a complementary item is the fastest and most efficient way to increase sales. It's a lot easier to find 100 people to spend $1,000 with you than 1,000 people to spend $100.

7. I've centered my equity in management rather than infrastructure. The proverbial capitalization hurdle in farming can be pared down dramatically if we substitute management for buildings, equipment, and land. By loading our equity into information (why you should read MOTHER EARTH NEWS) and management, it's not only portable but also easier to purchase. Few people go into debt for information or experience. You don't have to buy management savvy from a bank.

We'll talk about this and much more at the fairs this season. Hope to see you there.

Joel Salatin will present two workshops at each of the 2013 FAIRs. 

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about future FAIRs: June 1-2 in Puyallup, Wash., Sept. 20-22 in Seven Springs, Pa., and Oct. 12-13 in Lawrence, Kan. Tickets are on sale now. 

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.


You are now entering a stress free zone 

Stress is something that we all experience on some level in our everyday lives. While a little stress can help motivate us to do the things we want to do, too much stress can take a toll on our bodies and our emotional wellbeing.

After giving energy to family members, work projects, home duties, and friends there is often little time left for ourselves! Taking a few minutes to brew, sip, and enjoy herbal tea provides an easy and much needed opportunity for personal reflection and self-care during an otherwise hectic day.

Adding herbs with calming, nervine, and adaptogen properties to your favorite tea blends can benefit your whole body and mind by strengthening and preparing your nervous system for the busy day ahead.

Herbs like Skullcap, Milky Oats, Holy Basil, and Chamomile can help ease anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, aches and pains, muscle tension, and can support us during times of heartbreak and grief. Thank goodness for the generous healing comfort they offer!

Here are a few of my favorite calming herb tea recipes that can be enjoyed daily.  Feel free to play with the ratios to find the best cup of tea for your needs.

Good Morning Tonic Tea

Good Morning Tonic Tea

1 tsp Skullcap Leaf

1 tsp Peppermint Leaf

1 tbsp Yerba Mate

Add 3 droppers of Milky Oat Tops tincture

Skullcap is a wonderful nervine herb that is nutritive to the nervous system and helps ease anxiety. Peppermint is a great choice for the morning since it helps promote mental focus. Yerba Mate is rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, and caffeine for a stimulating boost that is mellower than coffee. Milky Oat Tops are a classic tonic for the nervous system.

Afternoon Uplift Chai

Mountain Rose Herbs Firefly Chai 

1 tsp Holy Basil Leaf

1 tbsp Firefly Chai or loose-leaf chai of your choice

Holy Basil is an important adaptogenic herb in India that helps the mind adapt to incoming stressors. Chai is spicy, mildly stimulating, and balancing. You can use a rooibos, green tea, or black tea chai for this blend, depending on the amount of caffeine you want in the afternoon.

Sunset Tea

Sunset Tea

1 tsp Chamomile Flowers

1 tsp Catnip Leaf

1 tsp Skullcap Leaf

1 tsp Rose Buds

Chamomile is a mildly sedative herb that helps promote healthy digestion. Catnip is another mild sedative that can be helpful for headaches and is gentle enough for children. Skullcap is a wonderful nervine herb that is nutritive to the nervous system and helps ease anxiety.  Roses help elevate your mood and can offer antidepressant effects. This is a gently relaxing blend to be sipped 1 hour before bed.

Wishing you much peace and relaxation!

Erin McIntosh of FAIR sponsor Mountain Rose Herbs will present two workshops at the Puyallup, Wash., FAIR. 

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about future FAIRs: June 1-2 in Puyallup, Wash., Sept. 20-22 in Seven Springs, Pa., and Oct. 12-13 in Lawrence, Kan. Tickets are on sale now. 

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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