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

5 Questions for Deborah Niemann

Deborah Niemann

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

Eating real food (not the foodlike substances sold by big corporations.)

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

Premier1 ElectroNet fencing.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Having babies born on the homestead (just had two litters of piglets and triplet goat kids born today!)

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

Food cooking with garlic in it.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Never say never.

Deborah Niemann is a homesteader, writer, and self-sufficiency expert. In 2002, she moved her family from the Chicago suburbs to a 32-acre parcel on a creek in the middle of nowhere. Together, they built their own home and began growing the majority of their own food. Sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, and turkeys supply meat, eggs, and dairy products, while a garden and fruit trees provide produce. Niemann presents workshops across the United States and in Canada. She is the author of Homegrown and Handmade, Ecothrifty, and Raising Goats Naturally.For more on Deborah check out!

5 Questions for Janet Vorwald Dohner

Jan Dohner

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

Something to read. A book, a magazine, a newspaper, digital, paper - doesn't matter. The very idea of being stranded somewhere without something to read is terrifying.

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

Murray McMurray Hatchery chicks. 100 years of shipping chicks to farms. I love pouring over the catalog, ordering my choices, and picking up that cardboard box at my local post office.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Family. Dogs. Playing with yarn. Reading on a tropical beach.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

Lilacs or fresh hay in the barn. Either one makes me inhale deeply.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Never stop learning and trust your curiosity.

Janet Vorwald Dohner is the author of Farm Dogs and Livestock Guardians. She has 35 years of experience on her small family farm and has relied on livestock guard dogs and corgis with her sheep, goats, and poultry. She writes for magazines, including MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and she gives presentations on livestock guardians and predator control at various conferences. Dohner is a board member of the Kangal Dog Club of America and a member of several learning communities for working dogs. For more on Janet check out!

5 Questions for Joe Putnam

Joe Putnam

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

A well worn flannel shirt.

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

Misono Swedish Steel Chef Knife. Quick to take an edge, holds it very well. Has developed an attractive patina from cutting tomatoes and onions through use.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Remember that flannel shirt I mentioned earlier? Putting it on.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

It's a tie between garlic and onion sautéing in cast iron skillet or line-dried laundry.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Advice from my Mother, "Companion plant with garlic. You'll keep pests away and wind up with much more garlic."

Joe Putnam works as a marketing copywriter and occasional shepherd for Premier 1 Supplies. He frequently appears in Premier's instructional how-to videos on YouTube. Putnam can be found at farm industry events, where his gentle, hands-on approach makes even the most complex farming topics simple. When not at work, Putnam spends time on his family's 40-acre farmstead in southeast Iowa. There the family raises cattle, sheep, poultry, multiple gardens, corn, hay, and oats. For more on Joe check out!

5 Questions for Ellen Zachos

Ellen Zachos

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

Good food.

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

Vitamix blender and Excaliber dehydrator.

What brings you the greatest joy?

My husband, my family, my friends, and my cat.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

A moist forest full of mushrooms.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Make sure you love your work because you'll be doing it every day.

Ellen Zachos shares seasonal recipes and tips on foraging at She teaches foraged mixology workshops to bartenders in partnership with Rémy Cointreau USA, and is a regular contributor to several Edible magazines. A longtime instructor at the New York Botanic Garden, Zachos is the author of six books, including Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn't Know You Could Eat. For more on Ellen check out!

Food Fermentation at the FAIR

At the 2015 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, I attended a talk by Sandor Katz on an introduction to the fermentation of vegetables, and checked out some of the cool new vendors who have joined the fermentation revitalization.

Sandor began by saying that we might think of canning as old-fashioned, but its a relatively new form of preservation, invented in 1815 or so in France. Fermentation is a much older, ancient process that predates recorded history. Sandor calls himself a fermentation revivalist. He says, people think of biodiversity as about whales and wolves but “no less important is the biodiversity inside of us." In fact, “fermented foods are the embodiment of biodiversity."

The revival seems to be going well, as the number of fermentation vendors, workshops, and books at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS are growing quickly. They are a creative, energized lot, the fermentation revivalists.

Last year, Tara and her fermentation bus, Fermentation on Wheels, attended the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. Fermentation on Wheels, established in 2013, is a traveling culinary research hub with a mission to harvest & preserve, encourage sustainability, and teach fermentation. Tara travels around in her bus and teaches and demos, sharing the word and the starters for all kinds of ferments.

This year, my local friends from Maryland, Rachel and Luke of The Sweet Farm, brought their spankin' new fermentation truck to vend at the fair. It has that old-timey old truck feel, but its a decked out refrigeration truck with pull down wooden bars, chalkboard walls and three fermented soda taps for three flavors: ginger beer, lemon lime and blood orange. They also sold brine pickles on a stick and dilly beans, along with their line of Sweet Farm krauts. The Sweet Farm has been going strong since 2011.

Fermented products need to be kept at the earth's temperature or lower, ideally around 55 degrees. They can be refrigerated or kept in cold storage, like a basement or cellar. Sauerkraut at the store is processed to be in the jar, on the pantry shelf, so it loses its beneficial properties. Health food stores sometimes sell refrigerated fermented products, like Bubbie's Pickles.

Sandor says you really need to make fermented foods yourself to get the healthy benefits that our bodies need. If you are lucky, there might be a local small business making and selling small batch fermented products near you. They can keep you stocked when you can't make your own, and provide valuable expertise in the revival of fermentation.

I would say Sandor Katz has been an exceptional revivalist. His books are considered must-have guides to fermenting food for good health and easy, effective preservation. Since his first book Wild Fermentation came out in 2003, he has been educating people about the benefits and easy methods of fermentation. Sandor's newest book is The Art of Fermentation. His books have been guiding me with my at-home pickling and kim chi making these past few years.

Fermenting vegetables is easy to do. Search Mother Earth News for many resources, including a couple blog posts I wrote about fermentation: Sarah's Farm Chi, Make Old-Fashioned Dill Pickles. You can also sign up for the new Food Preservation newsletter on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Photos by Ilene White Freedman

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 Mother Earth News Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life at Mother Earth News  and, easy to follow from our Facebook Page. For more about the farm, go to

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 

Vegetable Quiche Recipe from Leanne Brown’s 'Good and Cheap'


As much as I love this quiche hot, I like it even better cold out of the fridge the next day. It makes a great, fast breakfast or lunch (paired with a side salad). The quiche in the picture uses broccoli, but you can make it with pretty much any kind of vegetable. Some of my favorites are roasted green chilies and cheddar, winter squash with goat cheese, zucchini and tomato, or spinach and olive. Spreading out onions on the bottom of the quiche adds a crust-like layer and a bit of crunch. Serves four


• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 large onion, sliced into half-moons
• 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
• 1/2 tsp pepper, plus more to taste
• 3 to 4 cups chopped vegetables*
• 8 eggs
• 1 cup milk
• 1 cup grated cheddar or other cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Melt the butter in a cast-iron or ovenproof skillet over medium heat. (If your skillet isn’t ovenproof, transfer everything to a pie plate in Step 3 to bake it.) Add the onion slices and sprinkle a bit of salt and

pepper over them. Cook the onions until they are golden brown and starting to caramelize, about 10  minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and spread the onions evenly across the bottom. Spread the vegetables evenly over the onions. The dish or pan should look fairly full.

* For hardier vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or winter squash, I suggest steaming or cooking them before adding them to the quiche to ensure they’ll be fully cooked. For tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, or any other quick-cooking vegetable, just use them fresh.

4. In a bowl, use a fork to beat the eggs lightly with the milk, cheese, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper, just enough to break up the yolks and whites. This is a savory custard mixture. Pour the custard over the vegetables and onions and enjoy watching it fill in all the open spaces.

5. Transfer the quiche to the oven and bake for 1 hour. Once the surface is lightly brown all the way across, it’s fully cooked.

6. Let the quiche cool for about 20 minutes, then slice into wedges.

Leanne Brown’s book Good and Cheap can be found online in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS bookstore.

Photo courtesy of Workman Publishing

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Prepare for Winter Wellness with Garden Sage Body Oil


Sage is an herb of ancient repute, long valued as a culinary and medicinal plant. The Romans called it herba sacra or “sacred herb. Both the common name and botanical name, Salvia officinalis, originate in the Latin salvare, meaning “to save” – perhaps referring to its ability to save health. Sage, a native of the Mediterranean region and cultivated worldwide, is a familiar herb, with a fresh, warm-spicy, herbaceous aroma that many of us associate with the Thanksgiving holiday.

It has a stimulating, heating, and drying energy, and in the herbal medicinal realm, is a well-known cold germ and flu fighter, having particularly potent antimicrobial, respiratory antiseptic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, astringent, mucolytic (mucous thinning), antispasmodic, and vulnerary (tissue healing) properties.

With summer’s warmth waning and the fall/winter season rapidly approaching, it’s prudent to start thinking about stocking your natural medicine cabinet with beneficial herbs that will arm you in your preemptive strike against the onslaught of cold and flu “bugs.” Sage is definitely one of those herbs.

The recipe below is of my favorite culinary sage medicinal formulations and a bottle of this lovely infused oil is always in my arsenal of herbal remedies against colds and flu. My suggestion is that you make a batch now and start using it as soon as the fall weather hits. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.” So true!

Preparation Note: If you have plenty of sage growing in your garden right now, and want to use the fresh leaves in the making of this recipe, you will see that the ingredient list calls for either dried sage or “freshly wilted sage leaves.” Allow me to relate what “freshly wilted” means and explain the procedure:

Wilting (Partially Drying) Herbs           

Wilting is the drooping and withering of the leaves or other parts of a plant – it is the first stage of drying.  When you make an infused oil from fresh herbs, you need to wilt the herbs first; the process removes sufficient moisture from the plant material to inhibit mold and bacterial growth without affecting the healing properties.

The process of wilting is simple, and I’ll use fresh sage leaves in this example. To make 3 cups of freshly wilted sage leaves, pick approximately double that amount to allow for shrinkage. Some delicate plant parts, such as rose petals and calendula petals, shrink considerably, while lavender buds and chamomile flowers don’t as much. Thick leaves such as rosemary and sage will shrink a moderate amount, while more tender leaves, such as lemon balm and peppermint can shrink significantly.

You’ll learn through trial and error how much fresh material to pick – it’s not an exact science.

To begin, simply snip the sage leaves from the stems after the morning dew has dried, but before the sun gets too warm; or, harvest them on a cool, dry evening. Spread the leaves on a clean screen, pillowcase, or length of lint-free cloth (a long strip of paper towels will do as well) in a warm, still location that is mostly shady and is protected from wafting animal dander, dust, and flies. I usually wilt my herbs on a table in my study or in the backseat of my car – away from my curious cats.

Allow the leaves to wilt for 24 to 48 hours, depending on temperature and humidity. If humidity is very high, add another 24 hours. You should notice a distinct change in texture, from firm and fresh to limp and soft, or even a bit on the leathery, resinous side, especially if the temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity quite low.

The size of each leaf will diminish as the water evaporates out of the plant material. The amount of shrinkage depends on the temperature and level of humidity; the warmer and drier, the greater the reduction in herb size.

Keep this in mind: Unlike dried herbs, which can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 1 year, wilted herbs are still relatively fresh and cannot be stored for any length of time. They must be prepared a couple of days prior to when you intend to make a given recipe.

Winter Defense Sage Body Oil Recipe

Traditional healers around the globe have used sage for centuries. With sage growing in your garden, you have an elixir of good health right outside your door. Their soft, gray-green leaves will be at the ready for making this potent, aromatically earthy, warming infused oil.

When massaged into the skin from head to toe on a daily basis, sage-infused oil aids in strengthening the body’s immune system, supporting its defenses against outside invasion of the three main sources of disease: bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The oil conditions the skin, too, keeping it soft, elastic, and healthy.

I can hear you thinking, “If I put sage oil on my skin, won’t I smell like Thanksgiving stuffing?” No worries. The fragrance may be rather potent in the bottle, but it becomes quite subtle upon application.

Note: I prefer to use the stovetop method of extraction for this formula, as I feel that the resinous sage leaves release their best medicinal properties and strongest aroma when processed in this manner.


• 1 ½ cup dried or 3 cups freshly wilted sage leaves
• 3 cups extra-virgin olive, soybean, or almond base oil (use almond or soybean oil if you want a lighter fragrance and texture)
• 2,000 IU vitamin E oil

Equipment: 2-quart saucepan or double boiler, stirring utensil, candy or yogurt thermometer, strainer, fine filter, funnel, plastic or glass storage containers

Prep time: 4 hours

Yield: Approximately 2 ½ cups


1. If you’re using freshly wilted sage leaves, first cut or tear the slightly leathery leaves into small pieces to expose more surface area to the oil.

2. Combine the leaves and base oil in a 2-quart saucepan or double boiler and stir thoroughly to blend. The mixture should look like a thick, pale green herbal soup.

3. Bring the mixture to just shy of a simmer, between 125 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Do not let the oil actually simmer — it will degrade the quality of your infused oil. Do not put the lid on the pot.

5. Allow the herb to macerate in the oil over low heat for 4 hours. Check the temperature every 30 minutes or so with a thermometer and adjust the heat accordingly. If you’re using a double boiler, add more water to the bottom pot as necessary, so it doesn’t dry out.

6. Stir the infusing mixture at least every 30 minutes or so, as the herb bits tend to settle to the bottom. After 4 hours, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

7. While the oil is still warm, carefully strain it through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a fine filter such as muslin — or, preferably, a paper coffee filter — then strain again if necessary to remove all debris. Squeeze the herbs to extract as much of the precious oil as possible. Discard the marc.

8. Add the vitamin E oil and stir to blend. The resulting infused oil blend will be a rich medium to dark green in color, depending on which base oil you chose. Pour the finished oil into storage containers, then cap, label, and

9. Store in a dark cabinet.

Storage: Store at room temperature, away from heat and light; use within 1 year

Application: Once daily

Application Instructions: For maximum benefit, massage this infused oil into slightly damp, warm skin — fresh from the shower or bath. Apply daily for at least a month prior to cold and flu season, and continue to use it throughout the winter.

Bonus Sage oil makes a terrific diaper rash preventive and is wonderful added to salves and balms to help heal minor skin afflictions, respiratory infections, and dry, rough skin on the feet, elbows, and knees.

Find this and more recipes for smoothies, green drinks, frappes, shakes, nut milks, and other luscious, health-boosting, raw food beverages in my latest book, Hands-On Healing Remedies: 150 Recipes for Herbal Balms, Salves, Oils, Liniments & Other Topical Therapies (Storey Publishing, c2012). I’ve also written many other books, including my best-selling, Organic Body Care Recipes (Storey Publishing, c2007), Hands-On Healing Remedies(Storey Publishing, c2012), and Raw Energy: 124 Raw Food Recipes for Energy Bars, Smoothies, and Other Snacks to Supercharge Your Body (Storey Publishing, c2009). Please visit my website to learn more about me and what I’m up to these days.

Stephanie Tourles is a licensed holistic aesthetician, certified aromatherapist, and gardener with training in Western and Ayurvedic herbalism. She is the author of ten books — which are available at MOTHER EARTH NEWS Shopping— including Raw Energy in a GlassHands-On Healing RemediesOrganic Body Care RecipesRaw EnergyNaturally Healthy Skin365 Ways to Energize Mind, Body & Soul, and Natural Foot Care. She lives in Orland, Maine.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.