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PREDIMED is a Spanish study (recruited almost 7,500 high-risk participants) that was designed to assess two variations of the Mediterranean diet, based either in extra virgin olive oil or nuts.

These two types of Mediterranean diet were compared to a low-fat diet, which is the standard recommendation for people at high risk for cardiovascular disease. The main targets of the study were to find out how many of the participants would suffer from serious cardiovascular conditions (stroke, myocardial infraction, hypertension etc) or develop diabetes (metabolic syndrome) during the study.

Essentially, the study wanted to find out whether Mediterranean diet can actually prevent any of these conditions. Participants were advised to not reduce their calories in any way or increase physical activity. The only requirements were the consumption of extra-virgin olive oil or mixed nuts (both supplied on a weekly basis) or reducing dietary fats respectively.

Benefits of Mediterranean Eating

Based on previously published data, the study was designed to last for 6 years. From a statistical point of view, that amount of time would be sufficient to show whether Mediterranean diet had indeed any preventive value. The results quickly showed that participants eating a Mediterranean diet enjoyed superior health benefits, which the participants in the low-fat group were increasingly missing out.

The PREDIMED study produced an impressive amount of data regarding the therapeutic and preventive value of the Mediterranean diet. Since 2013, hundreds of studies have been presenting parts of the results. Below, I am outlining two golden nuggets from this important study that highlight the importance of this specific diet for our long-term health.

Participants who complemented their diet with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, enjoyed a reduction in risk of combined heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease by 30 percent and 28 percent respectively. In the graph below (taken from Estruch et al., 2013), we can clearly see that as years pass, the difference in risk between the people who followed a Mediterranean diet and the low-fat group is gradually increasing.

In other words, the more the study would continue, the low-fat group would be increasingly more vulnerable to cardiovascular disease and risk of death. These results reached statistical significance for men but not for women.

Reduction in CVD risk

A different analysis of the some of the PREDIMED data shows that individuals in high-risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) can reduce significantly their oxidative stress markers, such as oxidized LDL, very fast. This is important because it is now recognized that chronic oxidative damage of tissues is key in the development and progression of CVD and in fact most chronic debilitating diseases. The graph below (taken from Estruch et al., 2006) shows just how much oxidized LDL levels are reduced within three months of following a Mediterranean diet.

A different analysis showed that both types of the Mediterranean diet outperformed low-fat diet, by reducing the risk for developing the diabetes and/or metabolic syndrome by a whopping 52% (Salas-Salvado et al., 2011)!

Reduction in oxidized LDL within 3 months

Because of all the health benefits associated with the two types of Mediterranean diet, it became obvious that the participants of the low-fat group were increasingly essentially harming their health during the study.

Since all scientific research is required to protect the health and safety of all participants, the PREDIMED study was terminated on average at 4.8 years, instead of six, having adequately established the preventive value of Mediterranean diet for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Mediterranean Diet for Healthy Pregnancy and Babies

But the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet do not stop in cardiovascular and metabolic health of high risk adults at all. Expectant moms and their babies could actually reap some great benefits too. There is evidence from another important scientific study (following 3,500 women more than 9 years) showing that women who eat frequently Mediterranean-style meals before pregnancy have significantly reduced risk for serious pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia (a condition characterized by hypertension and protein in the urine). Preeclampsia is intimately linked to maternal obesity and it increases the risk for developing cardiovascular disease later in life.

Just like CVD and diabetes, preventing preeclampsia is a significant public health issue. More than 6.5 million women worldwide develop preeclampsia every year. In the US alone, 18% of maternal deaths and 15% of premature births are due to this condition. We don’t know what causes preeclampsia but we know that the only way it passes is by delivering the baby as soon as possible. There are very few ways to manage it successfully and until recently, no way to prevent it.

Now we know that the more women eat a Mediterranean diet, the more health benefits and protection from gestational hypertension they enjoy. A different line of evidence shows that, another component of the Mediterranean diet, the consumption of fruit and vegetables during pregnancy, also helps to prevent gestational hypertension and therefore preeclampsia.

The right diet before and during pregnancy could help many babies to be delivered full term, rather than prematurely. Premature babies are extremely vulnerable to several health problems, both short- and long-term, so any way to prevent such complications is much needed and welcome.

Perhaps for the first time we have a safe, inexpensive and non-invasive intervention that could improve the perinatal and long-term health of mothers and their babies.


Estruch R, et al. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. The New England Journal of Medicine, 2013.

Salas-Salvado J, et al. Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes With the Mediterranean Diet: Results of the PREDIMED-Reus nutrition intervention randomized trial. Diabetes Care, 2011.

Estruch R, et al. Effects of a Mediterranean-Style Diet on Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Annals of Internal medicine, 2006.

Schoenaker DA et al. 2015. Prepregnancy dietary patterns and risk of developing hypertensive disorders of pregnancy: results from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health. Am J Clin Nutr. 102(1):94-101.

Danielle AJM Schoenaker et al. 2014. The association between dietary factors and gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMC Med. 2014; 12: 157.

Eleni Roumeliotou is a clinical nutritionist, geneticist and founder of Primal Baby, a health sanctuary for all things pregnancy: before, during and after. Eleni passionately helps women, who are trying to conceive or are already expecting a baby, to optimize their diet and lifestyle in order to conceive naturally and have the healthiest baby possible. Her passion is to empower women to take control of their fertility and their baby´s health, safeguarding the wellbeing of the next generation, one baby at a time. Read all of Eleni's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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


Lemongrass Leaf With Water Droplets

Photo by iStock/photographer unkown

Click here to read Part 1 and here for Part 2 of this series.

Lemongrass is more than just a beautiful garden plant – it’s a favored ingredient in Asian and Thai cooking, perfect for stir fries, marinades, and grilling. All portions of the plant are edible and add lemony flavor from Happy Hour to the dessert course.

This great plant also grows well all season so you can harvest frequently through the summer.

Harvesting Lemongrass

Lemongrass grows lots of stems out of a bulbous base and the lower portions are edible. When stalks reach about ½-inch thick and the plant is at least 12 inches tall, you can harvest the stem.

Just twist off at the base (much like picking rhubarb) or cut off with a sharp knife. The plant will continue to grow throughout the season and can be harvested until the first frost.

Cooking with Lemongrass

Lemongrass Sliced For Cooking

Photo by iStock/photographer unkown

After harvesting, remove the outer, woody layers and leaf tips as they can taste bitter. The remaining portions of the plant are all edible and will add a delicious hint of lemon to your dishes. Here are just a few ideas for cooking with this amazing plant:

Fresh Leaves. Whole fresh leaves can be tough and must be mashed, simmered, and chopped very finely if you plan on eating them. They can be used, though, brewed into hot or cold tea; coarsely chopped and added to marinades or stews, or submerged in oil or vinegar for a lemon infusion.

Dried Leaves. Place in a dehydrator and dry to the point where leaves can be crumbled and ground  such as with a bay leaf. Store in an airtight container and use either whole or ground to flavor meats, vegetables, and sauces. Whole dried leaves are great added to stew or combined with other herbs for a meat rub.

Bulbs and Stalks. The bulbous portion and lower thicker stalks are the most commonly used part in cooking. Similar to how you would prepare scallions, slice into rings and add to stir fries or grilled dishes or slightly mash to release flavor into your dish.

Try using the whole stalk as a meat skewer when grilling to infuse your dinner with lemon-flavor. Lemongrass can have a hint of ginger which is complemented if combined with dishes using chili pepper, garlic, or turmeric. Mashed leaves, whole bulbs, or sliced rings can be frozen for up to six months.

Make Your Own Mosquito Repellent

Spray Bottle DIY Bug Repellent

Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control

Why turn to chemicals when you can use common garden plants and grocery ingredients to make your own mosquito repellent? All-natural and really effective, these concoctions have been used for centuries to deter insects. And the bonus: they’re much cheaper than store-bought bug sprays! Just make sure to test first on your skin or clothing to make sure it won’t cause a rash or damage the fabric.

Vinegar of Four Thieves Recipe

This powerful bug repellent dates from medieval times. Lore says thieves used it during the Black Plague to protect them from disease while they were robbing the sick. Scientists now think it repelled the fleas that carried the disease. Be warned: It is very strong smelling!


• 32 oz. Apple Cider Vinegar
• 2 Tbsp of each of these dried herbs: sage, rosemary, lemon thyme, mint, and lavender


Combine vinegar and herbs into a large glass jar and seal tightly. Shake well every day for three weeks. After 3 weeks, strain the herbs. Mix remaining liquid with equal parts water and keep in the refrigerator in a spray bottle.

Herb Combo Witch Hazel Spray Recipe

This spray uses multiple fresh or dried herbs and smells great while keeping bugs at bay. Tweak your batch to make your own signature scent.


• 1 cup distilled water
• 1 cup witch hazel
• 4 Tbsp dried herbs or 1 cup of chopped herbs (include at least one mint family herb)


Bring distilled water to a boil and add herbs. Stir well and turn off heat. Cover and let steep until cooled. Strain herbs and mix remaining liquid with witch hazel. Pour into a spray bottle and keep refrigerated.

You can also use these recipes to make a homemade “mosquito strip” by spraying them onto pieces of cloth and hanging near your outdoor spaces. To keep the odor strong, you’ll need to keep the strips moist, though, so the concoction doesn’t quickly evaporate.

Julie Fryer is a landscaper, gardener, and sugar-maker. Clovers Garden is offering a free Mosquito Repellent Plants ebook which also includes five original garden designs (like the one shown here). Readers can gain instant online access by signing up hereEven more great ideas can be found at their website.Any gardening questions, feel free to contact Julie at Read all of Julie's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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


Have you ever wondered how to make your own herb-infused oils, homemade bug repellent or thyme-infused honey? What about the best herbs to use for a good night’s sleep? Those answers and more can be found in some of the many works published by Thyme Herbal with illustrations by Chelsea Iris Granger.

Based out of Massachusetts, Brittany Wood Nickerson founded Thyme Herbal as a teaching platform to instruct courses in herbal cooking and homesteading, to publish supportive and informative works, and to share her knowledge and experiences of herbs and healthy living. The Thyme Herbal website includes a blog in which Nickerson posts healthy recipes and observations.

Granger and Nickerson jointly created the Everyday Living Series that includes booklets and posters designed to educate and share daily tools that can inspire and help cultivate a healthy lifestyle.

The Everyday Living Series includes a kitchen medicine poster, a moon calendar, a spring cleaning pamphlet, and two zines: Cooking for Winter Health Wellness, and Sacred and Mysterious: Healing Wisdom and Herbal Lore for Those Who Menstruate.

These works, Nickerson says, are supposed to serve as supportive guides for individuals to interpret and use as resource for building their own healthy lifestyles. In many of these publications, she writes to the reader about her experiences with these topics and encourages them to create their own experiences with these same topics.

For example, she writes:

Lavender footbaths are a great way to relax. There are many nerve endings in your feet that run up through your entire body. When I waited tables, I used to rely on foot baths to sooth my sore feet and help me calm down after a long shift. Lavender also has wonderful anti-bacterial properties . . . surprise, surprise!

She then follows with more scientific explanations of how lavender affects the body and instructions on making a lavender footbath.

Separately published from the Everyday Living Series, but under the same company, Thyme Herbal, Brittany also wrote a short book entitled Herbal Homestead Journal in 2015. This short book contains herbal recipes, do-it-yourself projects, and general knowledge and advice divided up by months and seasonal relevance, sort of like an herbalist’s version of a farmers’ almanac.

In the introduction, Nickerson writes on the purpose behind the book:

This is a do-it-yourself kind of an experience, starting by pointing out what is happening outside during the seasons, what plants the season may offer and then offering a few suggestions of how YOU can use those plants and how they can help YOUR body. And at the end of the year, you can reflect on your participation in the cycle, the grand cycle of nature.

She then goes on to explain her reasons behind writing the book:

These days, the practice of home healthcare is a form of activism. It requires us to work outside of the conventional systems and offerings of our culture and allows us to take ownership over our own well-being. . . Practicing herbal medicine and other forms of folk medicine at home is one of the most empowering choices one can make; it puts our belief that we can heal into our own hands—helping us to feel in control, capable and . . . healthy!

Nickerson is currently working on another book set for release in the spring of 2017, independent from the series. Nickerson’s text and Granger’s illustrations combine to create a product reminiscent of old-school, 1970s MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and we’re excited to see what their next book brings to the table.

If these works interest you, you can buy any of the works in the Everyday Living Series or Herbal Homestead Journal from Thyme Herbal, or buy a Kindle edition of Herbal Homestead Journal on Amazon. Granger’s illustrations are also available in her Etsy store.


Herbalism has a rich, beautiful history and is once again finding a place in many modern homes. The herbalism revival that began in the 1970s has become a renaissance of renewed interest in the healing arts of the past. Now is a vibrant, exciting time to be an herbalist! 

A Growing Community of Herbal Visionaries!

The herbal community is growing by leaps and bounds. We are seeing this very clearly here at the Herbal Academy, where an astonishing number of new students are joining us each and every day! More and more people are interested in becoming home and family herbalists and more people than ever are reaching out with questions about how to use herbs to support their health. Each year, new herbal gatherings join the annual tradition of bringing eager students and wise teachers together from far and wide to learn and connect.

Herbal Academy classes

So much about this herbal revival is shared collectively, and yet each person is on his or her own path. Among these passionate individuals are some who will be inspired to become the next teachers, healers, and herbal entrepreneurs. These are the herbal visionaries of our time!

The potential and possibility that these individuals can see wherever they look is what sets them apart. They go on to become leaders, healers, business owners, writers, and even farmers – they have found their calling and follow an internal compass that directs them to work with complete dedication to educate themselves about the science and art of herbalism.  

How You Can Be an Herbalist

Do you long to be a part of this exciting herbal resurgence? Are you one of these visionaries? You may already be an herbalist of sorts but not be aware of it!

Herbalism Revival and New Opportunities

An herbalist, at the heart of the matter, is simply someone who studies and uses herbs. How an herbalist uses or studies herbs can take many different paths, from the very informal use of herbs in daily life all the way to in-depth study and training. Perhaps you tend a few herbs in pots to make teas for your health or enjoyment even though you live in the city. Maybe you are a grandmother or grandfather who teaches your grandchildren how to harvest dandelion and honeysuckle.

If your goal is to be one of the visionaries of the herbal resurgence – to teach, to help others, to create a vibrant future for herbalism – you may find that a more formal path with an herb school or an apprenticeship may help you progress more rapidly and confidently toward your goals. But it’s also important to remember that at this time there is no governing body that declares when someone is “officially” an herbalist (read more about herbalist certification here)!

It’s up to you to determine when you feel ready, and to look to other herbalist role models to judge when you have learned enough to feel comfortable with transitioning from study to practice. 

The Path of the Herbalist

Becoming an herbalist is a noble, honorable, and grace-filled vocation. You will be able to share the journey with other enthusiastic students and wise, creative instructors. If we let it, the bountiful and beautiful tradition of herbalism can teach us much more than using plants as allies and healers. Learning about plants, our bodies, and natural systems can teach us the power of collaboration and cooperation, appreciation and gratitude, and respect and wonder. Studying the plants that surround us can help us listen more deeply and speak more wisely. 

Bringing vision into reality can be a long and difficult process, but it becomes easier when there is a framework of reference, a base of collective knowledge, and experiences from which to draw. With the herbalism revival taking place now, herbalists benefit from more opportunities and more community! Here at the Academy, we’re seeing more and more students desire to take their education to the next level to prepare for a career in herbalism – may that be clinical work or more entrepreneurial, such as creating an herbal product line.

Paths Designed for Herbal Visionaries

The Herbal Academy has worked diligently to bring together many current visionaries and professionals of the herbal community to create online courses that are relevant for the modern herbalism revival. By sharing perspectives, wisdom, and knowledge, these herbalists have collaborated as part of the Herbal Academy to create educational opportunities unlike any others in their diversity, depth, and ability to prepare students for a professional career in herbalism.

You can be a Herbalist

Courses at the Herbal Academy can be taken individually or as part of an Herbalist Path that helps guide you toward your educational and career goals as an herbalist. The Introductory Herbal Course is a popular way for new students to get their feet wet and learn how to use herbs safely and effectively at home. Filled with recipes and hands-on learning, the Introductory Herbal Course is a flexible and affordable way to begin your herbal journey and build community with student herbalists like yourself.

The Entrepreneur Herbalist Path helps prepare herbal visionaries to create their own vibrant herbal businesses by learning from the experiences of other successful herbal entrepreneurs.

The Clinical Herbalist Path takes students from a beginner level all the way through the advanced concepts of herbal theory and critical thinking that it takes to become a successful herbalist practitioner.

Wherever your herbal journey takes you, may your path be one of peace, joy, and vibrant community. 

Photos provided and copyrighted by Herbal Academy.

Marlene Adelmann is the Founder and Director of the Herbal Academy, the home of the Online Introductory Herbal Course and the Online Intermediate Herbal Course, and meeting place for Boston-area herbalists. Through the school and online herbal classes, Marlene has brought the wild and wonderful world of plant medicine to over 1,000 students across the globe. Marlene spent several years studying herbs and learning under some of the most revered modern herbalists and continues to practice plant medicine through correspondence courses and teaching others. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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



Read John’s previous thoughts on healthy living, One Man’s Search for a Healthier, More Sustainable Life.

Eating Well While on the Road

I love the idea of continuing the legacy of the Native Americans and living off the land, hunting and gathering. Overall, by changing my diet and cutting out fast food and soft drinks, I lost about 50 pounds. Being a touring musician poses its own set of challenges. Nurtition wise, I’m always trying to figure out how to get the vitamins and nutrients I’m used to without having to carry a garden behind the tour bus.

The answer for me is juicing. I started juicing organic beets, organic appeals, organic carrots, celery, ginger, and turmeric. Turmeric is extremely great for inflation — it’s been used for thousands of years in the East and is particularly important for me as a drummer.

I can definitely feel it if I haven’t juiced in a while. Ginger is also great for immunity. If I get sick, I mix hot water, ginger, lemon, and honey, and it’s such a wonderful remedy. The juicing helps me to stay energized, and it’s incredible the amount of micronutrients you can ingest that way. If I actually ate the number of carrots of apples or celery that I consume through juicing, I wouldn’t be able to stand up.

Apple cider vinegar is another one of my favorite remedies on the road. When I’m starting to feel sick, I’ll mix some hot water with organic Bragg’s apple cider vinegar, lemon, and SCOBY — similar to kombucha — and it tastes like hot apple cider, but the health benefits are incredible.

Nowadays, there are many healthy options on the road. Even the airports have juice bars and other healthy alternatives. Of course, you need to make sure the juices you drink aren’t chock full of sugar and are being made with well grown vegetables that aren’t filled with pesticides.

When I’m on the road, I always try to find local restaurants that are off the beaten path, as opposed to the easy, fast food options. It’s so interesting to find cultures and communities of people in almost every area of the country who are trying to grow and eat organic. There are even some apps now like "Around Me” that can help you find healthy options, whether it's a vegan restaurant, a Whole Foods, or a local farmer’s market.

I’m a coffee nut, so I’m always trying to make sure the coffee we consume is healthy and high quality. We have a Kuerig on the bus, but instead of using the regular k-cups, we go out and get organic coffee, grind it with a small coffee grinder, and use a real filter to make our own coffee in the machine.

I like to use my own mug, as opposed to using Styrofoam, which of course you can’t recycle.

Sustainable Drum Sticks

There are things you can do in almost every profession to live more sustainably and help the environment. Since I’m a drummer, I decided to switch to a drumstick company called Vater, that makes their sticks out of hickory.

One of their employees goes to the factory every month and brings all of the excess hickory wood shavings to a local farm to be used as animal bedding. Hickory is also great for drummers because it’s very shock absorbent. The hickory tree grows at a nice rapid pace, so it’s very sustainable. It’s great to find like-minded companies that are aware of their environmental footprint and can help us live more sustainably.

Healthy Living During Pregnancy and Parenting

My interest in healthy lifestyle increased exponentially when my wife became pregnant. My daughter is doing so well, and I think that’s because my wife lived such a clean, organic lifestyle while she was pregnant.

We tried to eat all organic — it’s so important for mother’s to consume the right nutrients and minerals for fetal development. She also took a great organic prenatal vitamin, as opposed to the typical over the counter vitamin you get from the pediatrician.

She had an all-natural birth, without an epidural or pain medication. We're also strong believers in the importance of breastfeeding, if it’s an option for your family. It’s amazing how the mother’s milk provides the exact level of nutrients, vitamins, and cholesterol the baby needs.

We try to stay away from cow’s milk, because of all the stuff that goes into it, and are very conscious of the water we drink, making sure we aren’t consuming fluoride.

I like to use a copper mug, because the copper has antimicrobial properties that kill germs. We only get fluoride-free toothpaste and try to use diapers that are made with more environmentally conscious materials.

You can’t do all of this overnight. There are times when I kick myself for not doing enough to keep my family healthy. But we can’t be perfect. There are many steps that we can take to stay healthy, no matter what our lifestyle and personal challenges are, and we have to take it one step at a time.

This guest blog post for MOTHER EARTH NEWS was written by John Fred, drummer for the band Black Stone Cherry. The band’s new albumKentuckyis on sale now.

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


Entertainment: reading, radio, word games, TV (1-hour per kid per week), animals, nature. How do you currently fill your spare time? Is it with things that are time wasters or things that are productive? How do you entertain yourself when living off-grid?

Without electricity and/or internet, many people today would feel extremely deprived. Recently I visited Cuba to find a country without much internet access and the people filled the streets with music, dance, talk, playing soccer, laughter, and human interaction.


Thought on Life Without Internet

Currently, I have been without internet for about 4 days and the withdrawals are intense. I feel disconnected from the world and afloat. I hadn’t realized how interdependent on the internet I have become.

Not having the internet has given me time for reflection, contemplation and planning. I have used this time to lay out 15 articles I would like to write for Mother Earth News. I feel I am not a very good writer but also feel the compelling need to get to writing some of what I now know to be a very unique upbringing.

Growing up, everything we did tended to take awhile, so we didn’t seem to have much time to “waste." We hauled water for ourselves and our animals, fed the animals and ourselves, and generally always found things that needed fixing or building.

My brother and I were always tinkering with bicycles, my sisters always spending lots of time with their horses, my dad working on the truck with my brother or building something new for the animals, my mom cooking or working in the garden. We tended to do things together as many hands make light work.

Also, since we didn’t stay up very late, we didn’t have many extra hours to waste. I went to bed at dark and woke up at daylight normally, although I do remember times that I would be so engrossed in a book that I would stay up all night reading it and not realize it until 5:30 a.m. or so when my dad would wake up to say get to sleep.

Being able to read well has served me in my pursuit of knowledge. I still read 2 or 3 books a week and maybe watch one show a month on the internet. My love of reading has distilled in me high levels of knowledge on myriad subjects. I still love reading and learning. Books are readily accessible and us kids would study and read about our interests.


We had a good battery-operated short-wave radio. I grew up with our whole family sitting around listening to variety radio shows like Prairie Home Companion or Whaddaya Know while we read or did patchwork or needlework or knitted or played a card or board game.

I remember people’s astonishment when they stopped us in our covered wagon to talk and dad would turn down the volume on the shortwave where we were listening to the BBC from Europe or a radio show from the middle east. I guess they thought because we were traveling low tech with the horses, we also shunned all other technologies.

Currently I have a solar-powered and hand-crank short-wave radio that I can use or I stream on my phone either podcasts or radio stations, like my favorite station in Brazil.

Not Watching Television

I grew up not watching TV and I don't watch TV now, although recently I did go over to a friends house for a political debate party. I remember our family’s first television was a little portable 4-inch black-and-white one that we ran off of the cigarette lighter plug on dad’s truck. We would set the TV on the hood of the truck to watch our show. We were only allowed 1hour of TV per kid and I remember the shenanigans trying to get the other kids to watch your show so you wouldn’t use up your hour but rather they would.

Later in life, I ended up going through a period of watching TV nonstop for 3 or 4 months — I guess to get it out of my system. I would say the only disadvantage of not watching much television is people quote from movies and TV shows a lot in regular day-to-day life. Many jokes are based on these same things.

The first movie I saw in the movie theatre was with a group of 12 or so teenagers. We went and saw Running Man when I was I think about 11, and I was not prepared to have my senses so assaulted with such intensity that I was a bit shell shocked and I had minor anxiety attacks from loud noises for a few weeks. I also had a nightmare of being chased by a chainsaw-wielding man.

We don’t think how TV affects children, but I am glad that I wasn’t exposed to very much movie or TV chaos.


When I was younger, I remember being given a small like matchbox car and I ended up spending hours in the woods under a tree that had a lot of moss around it pulling up the moss to make roads, building houses out of sticks and moss, and generally building a whole town. I don’t remember actually driving the car through my town much at all, but I used the car as a catalyst for my imagination to build a whole town.

My house had a fire station, police station, library, many houses, a playground (that was hard to build the miniature swing and see-saw), but I don’t remember building a school. I don’t think my imaginary town would have a school.

Have you ever wondered why we park in a driveway and drive on a parkway? Funny quirks in language such as that were an everyday game with us.

A great pastime for me was my goats. I pictured myself as an old timey goat herder tending to my flock. Most of the time we didn’t have fences, so I would either tether the goats or would herd them with a stick and throwing stones in the air to fall in front of the wandering goat to frighten it back into the herd. We cleaned with goats many a property of exotic plants that were taking over and killing the trees like kudzu or honey suckle.

Our father left us kids with the ability to see fun in everything, to know that there is always something to do, to play word games, to have an ability to create our own fun.


What do you do for fun that is not just time wasters ?I look forward everyday to the interactions I have on my Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Facebook page and hope you will join the discussion there. Stay energized.

Aur Beck has lived completely off-grid for over 35 years. He has traveled with his family through 24 states and 14,000 recorded miles by horse-drawn wagon. Aur is a presenter at The Climate Reality Project, a fellow addict at Oil Addicts Anonymous International  and a talk show co-host at WDBX Community Radio for Southern Illinois 91.1 FM. Find him on the Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Facebook page, and read all of Aur's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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



My interest in farming and the outdoors began when I was about 8 years old, helping my grandma in her garden. I remember she asked me to get some peanuts, but when I went down to the garden, all I could find were tomatoes and squash.

“You have to dig them up!” she said. That was the beginning of my education. I also remember seeing my Uncle Fred garden when I was 4 years old, growing all kinds of great vegetables. My father is a huge pepper nut — he grows the most amazing hot peppers and cans them with my mom and grandma.

Growing Up to Grow a Sustainable Life

In 2002, two women who lived in a bungalow on the edge of my family's property passed away, and I took over the land. I started to build a home in a sustainable way, reusing and repurposing furniture and other objects found around the property. My grandfather collected antique furniture since he was 12 years old, and seeing all of his stuff growing up, I never wanted to buy furniture at one of the big stores. I love reusing old pieces that have great history and that don’t leave a big carbon footprint.

My lifestyle started to change around 2011. I was eating tons of fast food, and drinking tons of soft drinks. I started noticing that I was overweight and that I didn’t feel well, and something clicked. I decided I needed a change and started researching and discovering people like Daniel Vitalis and David Wolfe. I became inspired by the concept of “ReWilding,” eating raw foods, and blending. My wife and I started exploring this together, and that’s when we started our own garden.

I found an old book called The Farmer’s Almanac. My father always talked about it, but I never gave a second thought to it before. We bought some non-GMO heirloom seeds and tried to do everything totally natural.

I remember thinking it would be a small garden, but it ended up being 60 feet by 40 feet. My uncle helped us get started and we did everything by the letter, planning it out by the phase of the moon, making sure we started it on the right day of the week, etc.

I discovered that our garden was in the same spot where the old ladies’ garden used to be, and it felt great to keep their legacy alive. We planted tons of squash and other heirlooms, always making sure to get non-genetically modified seeds. We had an incredible black calypso bean bush, heirloom arugula, and a ton of pumpkins — but the squash was our favorite.

Inspired for Healthy Living

As our garden grew and we learned more about the benefits of natural and organic seeds, our interest in healthy lifestyle began to spill over into every aspect of our lives. My wife earned a degree in health and wellness, with the goal of working in alternative medicine. In the U.S., we’re so focused on treating diseases after the fact, but when you look at eastern medicine, there are so many things people can do to stay healthy by taking supplements and making sure to get the minerals, nutrients and vitamins you need from plants and other raw foods.

We always tell our friends who aren't feeling well to take a look at what they're eating and try to invite more raw or organic grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts into their diets. In a lot of places around the country, people aren’t getting the nutrition they need.

Hunting and Food Foraging

Going out into the woods and finding great natural foods became a passion of mine. I go hunting for dryland fish morels, a type of mushroom. My friend used to tell me that when you find them, you need to keep it a secret or people will dig them all up — they’re so delicious. When you dig them up, make sure to pull all the way from the root, because the spores go into the ground and you can sometimes replant them and get another crop.

There’s also a tropical fruit in Kentucky called the passion flower, with a green orb. Once the orb falls off, you can pick them off the ground and break them open, and it has the most delightful floral smell. You can suck on the seeds, and they’re actually used in a lot of homeopathic calming remedies. So, now I have a whole vine of passion flower growing in the back of my house.

We have local persimmons, which are incredible, and pawpaws, or what we call "hillbilly bananas.” We make salads out of dandelions by taking out the root and drying it out, and it actually makes a great coffee substitute that’s great for your kidneys.

One of the greatest things we discovered was that our propriety has a huge set of pecan trees from the 1940s. Pecans are expensive! Every other year, they produce a great crop and we always pick them and give them out as gifts, or make them available for everyone to enjoy.

My transition to a healthy, sustainable lifestyle didn’t happen overnight. There are times when I kick myself for not doing enough to keep myself and my family healthy. But we can’t be perfect, either, and the journey to living better is about making mistakes and finding successes. There are many steps that we can take to stay healthy, no matter what our lifestyle and personal challenges are, and we have to take it one step at a time.

This guest blog post for MOTHER EARTH NEWS was written by John Fred, drummer for the band Black Stone Cherry. Connect with John on the band’s website, and check out their new album Kentucky, on sale now.

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

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