Beef that is truly 100 percent grass-fed comes from cows that have grazed in pasture year-round rather than being fed a processed diet for much of their life. Standards and labeling laws for grass-fed beef are controversial and confusing. The terms “grass-fed” or “pasture-raised” are allowed even if your beef really came from cows that spent little or no time outdoors in a pasture setting. U.S. beef labeled as “grass-fed” but not bearing USDA certification may be the result of various combinations of grass and grain feeding including grass finishing. If the label doesn’t specifically say “100 percent grass-fed,” or carry the USDA or similar certification, there’s no guarantee.
Even under USDA certification standards, however, cows labeled “grass-fed”can be confined much of the year and fed antibiotics or hormones. The USDA’s standards are lower than those of the American Grassfed Association (AGA), an alternative organization that, like the USDA, offers certification for grass-fed beef. The AGA certification standards focus not only on what the cows eat, but also include assurance that they have never been treated with growth hormones or antibiotics, that they have been treated humanely, and that the environment has been protected. If you’re going to make the effort to buy and eat grass-fed, you might as well make sure the label includes the AGA certification stamp or get verification that the cows were 100% grass fed.
Does “Organic” Mean Grass-Fed?
Organic beef by itself doesn’t guarantee the cows were pasture raised or grass fed. The USDA’s organic regulations do little to assure cows’ pasture access or intake of grasses. However, certified organic beef is much less likely than conventional beef to expose you to unwanted pesticide, antibiotic, or hormone residues. Plus, certified organic beef cannot have been genetically modified or irradiated.
Grass-Fed Beef Is Healthier
The biggest health advantage that comes from 100% grass-fed beef is the higher quality of fat. Grass-fed beef contains increased amounts of healthy omega-3 fats and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) while also having less fat overall. However, there are other health advantages to grass fed beef as well. Let’s take a closer look.
- More carotenoids—beta carotene and lutein. Compared to grains, grasses contain a much higher content of important disease-fighting phytonutrients like carotenoids. Grass-fed cows incorporate significantly higher amounts of two important carotenoids—beta-carotene and lutein—into their muscle tissue as compared to grain-fed animals. Beta carotene concentrations, for example, are 7 times higher in grass fed beef.
- More vitamin E. Grass fed beef has an average of three times more vitamin E than grass-fed beef. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant for defense against cancer, heart health, and vision.
- More B vitamins. Concentrations of energy-producing B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B12 have been all been found to be higher in grass fed compared to grain-fed beef.
- Less total fat. A grass fed strip steak trimmed of all external fat contains an average of 2.8% total fat compared to 4.4% total fat in the same conventional cut trimmed of external fat. That’s nearly twice as much total fat in the conventional steak.
- More omega-3’s—alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Grass-fed beef contains considerably higher levels of ALA, the same essential fatty acid found in flax, as well as EPA and DHA, the same omega-3’s found in oily fish. These three essential fatty acids are absolutely necessary for good health, especially cardiovascular and brain health.
- More favorable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. To prevent excessive inflammation in the body, a healthy diet should contain only about 1 to 4 times as much omega-6 fatty acids as omega-3 fatty acids. The standard American diet, however, contains 11 to 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3, contributing to the epidemic of chronic inflammation-related diseases. The average omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of grass fed beef is quite healthy at 1.53, while the grain fed ratio comes in at a whopping 7.65!
- More conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Grass-fed beef contains two to three times more CLA than what is found in non-grass-fed beef. CLA is a unique fatty acid associated with possible health promoting effects in obesity, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, diabetes, insulin resistance, inflammation, and various types of cancer, especially breast cancer.
Additional Grass-Fed Beef Benefits
Besides the health benefits, grass-fed beef offers additional advantages over conventional beef. It’s healthier for the cattle that evolved to eat grass and not much else and therefore decreases the need for treatment with antibiotics. It’s also better for the planet, especially in terms of reduced greenhouse gas production and less reliance on petrochemicals.
For all these reasons and more, it’s worth it for health-conscious and earth-conscious meat eaters to seek out 100 percent grass-fed beef! There are plenty of health-promoting diets that incorporate lean cuts of grass-fed beef. You can find articles on how to include beef into your regular meal plan at Natural Health Advisory’s website, here. Have you found a healthy way to incorporate beef into your diet? Let our readers know your thoughts and tips by commenting below.
References:  J Anim Sci. 2008 Dec;86(12):3575-85.  J Anim Sci. 2009 Sep;87(9):2961-70.  Nutr J. 2010 Mar 10;9:10.
You say the word ‘health’ and a lot of us tend to think of the bad things that could happen. Maybe more people are thinking about co-pays, insurance and Obamacare in this current climate but besides that, we tend to think about the worst case scenarios. We could get cancer or have an organ fail, get an infection or need some major surgery. Even those who think positively about health do so for the prevention of those bad things from happening. Eliminating chemicals from our lives, eating natural food and exercising to keep our heart and body strong all go toward this goal. And though it can feel as if things are looking dark when you read about health in the news, statistics are actually on our side. We may get something serious in the future but the number of days we are fine vastly outnumber the days we are not. But with the major health scares making up most of our worries, it’s the minor stuff that takes up most of our time.
There are headaches from dehydration and tension that slow us down. We eat the wrong foods, or maybe just too much food, and we feel bloated or get painful stomach cramps. An insect bite annoys us for days. A small scratch heals a little slower than it used to. Maybe an old injury starts aching more frequently as time goes on. Ask anyone older than you are now and they’ll say ‘it’s all downhill from here’. And to help us with these issues our modern society has given us basically two options: buy something or deal with it. History however shows us that there are other choices.
If you are not yet gardening then you should. It has more benefits than I can write about here. Growing plants can be relatively easy if you just check on them frequently. The difference between having a green thumb and not is just the attention given to the plant. And if you are gardening then growing another kind of plant is not any different than what you are doing already, so there is no excuse there. A lot of herbs we use in food can also be used as medicine so you may already have them established, but it’s knowing how to use them for medicine that makes the difference between pain and comfort. Take peppermint for example. Peppermint is probably most well-known for its flavor. You find it in toothpaste and scented cleaning products among other things. It can also be good for indigestion. You take some leaves, fresh or dried, and put them straight into a tea. Leaving them to air dry is easy and cost zero dollars. But to get more of the medicinal properties out you really need to extract the oils within the leaves. Sound hard? Not really.
Making a Peppermint Extract
We created a double strength peppermint extract this summer. We took some leaves and kind of roughed them up a bit like a loan shark looking for his money. This squeezing, tearing and pinching releases the oils and gets it into the extract more easily. We placed the leaves into a jar and poured in 80-proof vodka until it covered them by a few inches. The jar then went in our dark pantry for about three weeks, shaking gently once a day. You can do that right? Just put it in front of the cookies you love as a reminder when you grab for them. After that we strained the leaves out and added more for another three weeks, hence the double strength part. Once that was done, we strained those leaves and put the bottle in our medicine cabinet. Now its story time!
I was having trouble sleeping one night. My stomach was not happy with something I had eaten. This wasn’t just gas but painful bloating too. I was tossing and turning, and getting further away from sleep just thinking about how little sleep I would get. Then I remembered the extract in the cabinet. This was big for me because I had grown up with the ‘tough it out’ mindset. But why would I sit there and suffer when I could try the extract? I was pretty sure it couldn’t make my stomach feel worse so I pulled off the covers and got up. I heated a small cup of water; just enough for a few gulps and just warm, not scalding hot. I grabbed the extract and added a tablespoon into the cup. I drank it, went back to bed and within five minutes the pain was less intense. So much so that the amazement of how well it worked was now keeping me from sleep instead of the pain. The longer I laid there the better I felt until all of a sudden, it was morning. I now think nothing of adding a teaspoon in my tea whenever my stomach is a little upset or if I feel congested like I have been lately.
The Many Medicinal Uses for Peppermint
Now you could reach for some Pepto-Bismol for that relief, or tough it out like I used to but think of this. On top of the wonderful flavor, revitalizing scent and indigestion relief; peppermint has also been proven to ease toothaches, itchy skin, infections, morning sickness, nausea or vomiting, painful menstruation, bacterial overgrowth in intestines, lung infections, spasms, cough and cold symptoms, inflammation, muscle or nerve pain, and so on. It’s worth having some around. And what are the side effects of peppermint? Anybody? (Bueller?) There may be some rare individuals who have an allergy to peppermint but even those side effects such as heartburn, flushing and headaches are minimal. Peppermint does seem to slow down how quickly the liver can breakdown certain medications, but you should be careful ingesting combinations of any medicine regardless, so nothing new here. The side effects for Pepto-Bismol you ask?: Anxiety, possible loss of hearing, confusion, constipation (severe), diarrhea, difficulty in speaking or slurred speech, dizziness, drowsiness (severe), fast or deep breathing, headache, increased sweating, increased thirst, mental depression, muscle spasm, muscle weakness, nausea or vomiting, ringing in ears, stomach pain, trembling, uncontrollable flapping of hands, vision problems. Sounds like you can take some peppermint to ease the discomfort brought on by that pink stuff.
A lot of our modern medicines have its chemical formula derived from the plants that we’ve been using for centuries. They manufacture it and refine the process to decrease costs and increase profits. Why don’t we cut out the middle man? Why don’t we all have a planter of peppermint for drinking, eating and medicinal use, and leave the plastic bottled pink liquid that does only a fraction of the things peppermint does at the store? It may not always work perfect and it may not always solve all of our problems, but it certainly gives us another option. It certainly gives us more control of our health in a time when healthcare is looking pretty scary.
For more: WebMD Peppermint Entry
Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar. Pg. 184
Aaron Miller lives in Olympia Washington where he grows organic vegetables and herbs. He and his wife make natural products at home in pursuit of a simpler life. They share their products and ideas at www.TheMillerCollection.org and ItsAllTheSameThing.Wordpress.com/
Looking for some gift ideas? Need to put the final touches on your stash of stocking stuffers? Or, perhaps you’re just looking to treat yourself during a busy holiday season! As you shop, consider these great natural beauty products, all of which I’ve tried myself and would recommend to a friend. I’ve become increasingly aware of the harsh (and, quite frankly, scary) ingredients in many over-the-counter beauty products, so I’ve sought out companies that keep their products’ ingredients simple and natural.
1. Keep Buzzin’ Hand Creams
I love the hand creams from Keep Buzzin’ Body Products. I have one by my desk and one by my bed on the nightstand. They’re thick and creamy in texture (but not greasy), and they’re richly scented without the fragrance being overwhelming. I’ve tried the Tangerine, Cherry-Almond, and Lavender scents — and while I like them all, I’d have to say the Cherry-Almond is my favorite. (You can also choose a non-scented option.) These hand creams include cocoa, mango, cupuacu and shea butters and never include parabens, sulfates, oxy benzone or added color.
This company also seems flat-out cool. The packaging and branding is fun and pretty, and they even use jars made in the U.S. out of 100 percent recycled materials. Their slogan is “Good for Your Body — Good for the Planet.”
Retail Price: $10
2. SoapBox Soap Bars
The philanthropic vibe of this company is my favorite thing about this product. More than just your garden-variety bar of soap, SoapBox Soaps are trying to change the world. For every bar of SoapBox soap purchased, the company donates a bar to a child in need. These bars are eco-friendly, biodegradable and contain ingredients harvested from sustainable resources. The team running this company is a group of young people trying to make a difference. The soaps are made and milled in Indiana, and some of the available scents include Spearmint, Lemongrass, Orange, Cinnamon and Lavender.
Retail price: $4.99
3. Noya Lip Balms
I’m a chapstick junkie. Actually, a recent episode of Dr. Oz I saw practically changed my worldview because he warned to be careful not to over-apply chapstick. (I still do — but this is a different conversation.) The lip balms from Noya Beauty work wonderfully, smell great, feel nice on your lips, and they’re totally natural, containing just a handful of ingredients: coconut oil, beeswax, organic olive oil, natural flavor and stevia. Choose from Cherry (which is the one I use), Spearmint, Vanilla or Classic.
Retail price: $3.99
4. Radiantly You Whipped Face Wash
I’ve tried a few different beauty products from Radiantly You, and this fabulous face wash is my favorite. It has a unique texture that feels amazing when you rub its rich lather on your face. The company boasts that the face wash helps with problem skin, eczema, psoriasis and acne and that it removes toxins and is abundantly moisturizing. Radiantly You all-natural products were created by Melissa Brown, a mom entrepreneur who wanted to empower and educate mothers (and families) on how to take back their own health and eliminate the harmful chemicals found in most products on store shelves. The face wash is made of organic coconut oil, sustainably harvested palm oil, olive oil, organic unrefined shea butter, dead sea mud, water, tea tree essential oil and vitamin E.
Retail price: $13
5. Keeki Pure & Simple Nail Polishes
Your average nail polish and nail-polish remover can dissolve and harm the natural oils on your nail beds. This line of nail care products, though, is nontoxic, water-based and 100 percent biodegradable. All Keeki Pure & Simple products are gluten-free, vegan, paraben-free, phthalate-free and petroleum-free. The nail polishes go on smoothly and come in so many fun, vibrant colors (I tried the “Cherry Pie” color). This company is dedicated to sourcing natural, quality products, and is the creation of Natalie Bauss, a mom of two who lives on an organic farm in West Michigan.
Retail price: $9.99
6. Everyone Liquid Hand Soaps
I am crazy for bar hand soaps (ask my friends), but when I come across a great liquid soap, I still appreciate it. The Meyer Lemon + Mandarin scent in the Everyone hand soap line is truly the perfect soap to have by your kitchen sink — so refreshing and clean-smelling and citrusy. These soaps are made using pure essential oil blends.
Retail price: $4.99
7. Shhh (Shampoo + Shower + Shave) Bars
What a cool concept! This is a one-stop shower bar, good for shampooing, washing and shaving. “Shhh” (that’s really what it’s called) has a lovely, light scent, and of all the shampoo bars I’ve tried, I like this brand best. If you’ve never shampooed with a bar, expect a few days to get used to it — your hair will feel very clean and a little different from what you’re used to with liquid shampoos. My favorite part about a bar is avoiding all the plastic bottles. Shhh is designed for both men and women, and the product is free of parabens, gluten, phthalates, petrolatum, synthetic dyes, preservatives, artificial fragrance and coloring. The bar is made from natural oils, castor seed and an essential oil blend. All packaging is 100 percent compostable and recyclable.
Retail price: $5 for the small bar; $17 for the large bar
8. Green & Glam Body Care Kit
This is perhaps the most decadent and indulging of the natural body products I’ll recommend. While admittedly the price is a bit high, if you’re looking for the right gift for someone who really needs and deserves the spa treatment, this could be just the ticket. The gift sets come in three scents/themes: Harmonize, Inspire and Unwind. I tried Unwind — and unwind I did. Designed to calm and relax with a soothing blend of 100 percent natural lavender, marjoram, neroli and clementine, this kit includes body wash, body oil, body butter and a natural sponge. The Green & Glam product line uses herbs, botanicals, organic oils and essential oils, and the products are free of parabens, preservatives and other harsh ingredients.
Retail price: $58
9. Love Nature NYC Soy Candles
I can’t write about all of these great natural products without mention of candles — because, while they don’t go on our skin, they help create a relaxing ambiance and fill our homes with a warming fragrance all winter. Soy candles are much cleaner and longer burning than those made from paraffin wax, which is a byproduct of crude oil refinement. The Love Nature NYC brand of artisan soy candles is special, because every candle is wicked, blended, poured and packaged by hand. The candles are made of only natural soy wax, natural lead-free cotton wicks, and phthalate-free essential and perfume oils. I love the White Peach scent, and next I want to try the Spice and Spruce scents. The company also sells one called Tomato Leaf — and as an avid gardener, I’m thoroughly curious.
Retail price: $28
10. Evergreen Naturalworks ‘Silky Scents’ Perfumes
I actually don’t like perfume. Most of them give me a headache. But when I discovered the Evergreen line of Silky Scents, I was totally sold. The don’t smell “perfume-y,” they just smell wonderful — which is probably because they’re all botanically based. You’ll really have to check them out to see what I mean. I’ve been using the Sensual Vanilla scent for months, but there are several other great, natural scents to choose from, including Brown Sugar and Fig, Vanilla Pear, Citrus Basil, and Agave Cactus Blossom.
Bonus: Evergreen Naturalworks is a family-owned business located on a farm in Missouri, and it uses 100 percent solar and wind power in making its products.
Retail price: $18
Enjoy trying out or gifting these natural beauty products! If you have any feedback about any of them, please leave a note in the comments section below.
Shelley Stonebrook is MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine’s main gardening editor. She’s passionate about growing healthy, sustainable food and taking care of our environment. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.
I had the pleasure of interviewing my husband Alex Poptodorov regarding his journey to pursuing his N.D. Degree. I am excited to be bringing this interview to our Mother Earth News readers to provide some insight into Naturopathic Medicince and why he chose this field.
At one point you wanted to practice Western medicine. What created the shift in your life and why did you decide to pursue the Holistic route instead?
There were two main reasons. One is that I always had an affinity for health and vitality. I admired people who looked strong and lived the healthy lifestyle.
The second reason was when my health started to fail. I had anxiety, panic attacks and was officially diagnosed as bipolar.
I also had severe digestive and eliminative issues.
After 8 solid years of going to psychiatrists and being on heavy medications and being told there was no cure I thought to myself, there has to be a better way.
I started to research, read and apply the principles I was learning. It was not long after that I was able to get off of all 4 medications. Little by little I started to feel better and my digestive issues started to drastically improve.
It took me about 3 years to really learn and fix the issues I had.
Was it during this time that you decided to pursue your N.D. Degree?
It was towards the end of those 3 years that I decided to pursue my N.D. degree because I first hand experienced and saw the healing power of what I was applying. Nothing can be more perfect that what God gave us in nature.
I also started to apply many of these principles with our clients and experienced tremendous results.
How do you feel about western medicine? What are your views?
When it comes to diagnostic tools and physical trauma we have come far and beyond. Doctors today can put a person back together after severe trauma and the advances can truly save lives.
As far as medications go, there are certain medicines in rare cases that can be useful in acute situations such as someone contracting a severe infection.
As far as other medications go, I personally feel our society has become quite dependent on them and many people are heavily medicated when they don’t need to be. There can be a severe amount of damage and side effects from these medications.
How do you feel the Holistic approach can relieve someone from being dependent on medications?
It is my personal belief from what I have seen, researched and experienced myself that the Holistic approach is really very simple. It consists mainly of stopping what is hurting you and starting to employ life principles that keep your body in balance. These are principles that your body needs in order to function optimally. For example, breathing clean air, drinking clean water and eating/sleeping properly.
Conventional medicine tends to focus on treating the symptom and never really addressing the root cause of the problem.
Holistic medicine focuses on identifying and treating the root cause rather than the symptom.
This way, you experience a long lasting effect.
What do you plan on doing once you receive your ND degree?
My plan is to be able to help touch as many people as possible. Our technology era is phenomenal because it allows me to take advantage of the inter net to reach and help people all over the world. Advances such as Skype, inter net and other technology make this possible.
I want to educate people how to live a proper lifestyle and use our God given resources on this earth to heal their bodies. This is done through implementing proper healthy living principles.
How have you grown and evolved since starting your ND program?
I am expanding my knowledge on herbs and their use quite a bit. I am also starting to appreciate more and more the life giving energy of our food supply. I am deeply researching the methods of our food production and delivery. As a result, I have embarked on a local food movement and my next step is to grow my own food.
Ultimately, one day I would like to be able to find/purchase my own pristine land that I can live off of self sustainably by growing food/medicinal herbs, meat, dairy/eggs and vegetables.”
Give us a day in the life of Alex. How do you pursue health and feed your body?
First and foremost, I try to get at least 8 hours of quality sleep per night. I turn off all EMF emitting devices at night before going to sleep. I also make sure the room is in complete darkness. I keep my window open and the temperature around 70-72 degrees.
First thing in the morning I wake up and drink 16 oz. of purified water with Himalayan sea salt.
I then begin to arrange and set up my vegetables for my juice. In the meantime, I drink another 8-10 oz. of purified water with apple cider vinegar.
I will then make and drink my juice usually consisting of celery, cucumber, lemon, lime, cilantro, parsley and beet.
My breakfast consists of a smoothie with 8 ounces of raw goat milk kefir (we just did a blog post on making your own kefir at home if you are interested)
Alex's Start-the-Day-Right Superfood Smoothie
1 Tbs of Goji berries
1 Tbs of Dr. Shultz Super food
1 inch of turmeric root
1/2 cup wild blueberries
1/2 mixed berries
4 fertilized egg yolks
1 Tbs of dried nettle
1/2 cup raw nuts
Lunches usually consist of wild caught fish or grass fed/pasture raised meat with lots of fresh/lightly steamed vegetables and one to two avocados.
I snack on RAW nuts throughout the day.
Dinner usually consists of a luscious green salad with some good quality meat.
I typically train with weights 3-4 times per week intensely with 2 to 3 days being dedicated to cardiovascular activities, sauna and stretching/trigger point therapy.
I had a dream once. - I am standing in a vast green summer field looking down into the earth. The ground is a large glass roof in the shape of a cross. I can see tropical plants and seedlings flourish in the warm, light flooded space beneath. There is a sacredness to the space that is breathtaking. - I woke up and remembered both the beauty and impossibility of the vivid dream. Plants growing happily underneath the earth? Can't be.
I met my farmer friend Verena a few weeks later and my dream came up during a conversation. She said, “Yeah, it's called an earth-bermed greenhouse. You can build such a thing and it's been done before.” Really? Well then, I thought, let's make a dream come true.
It took me a while to find the person who was willing to embark on the adventure with me. My friend Jesse, a natural builder who is always on the lookout for new territories to explore, gave in to the calling.
What was supposed to take a couple of months at the most turned into a year long journey, as he ended up not only building a practical and functioning earth-sheltered greenhouse, but a piece of green architecture that feels and looks like the sacred space I dreamed about three years earlier.
We used the basic building plans from Mike Oehler's book The Earth Sheltered Greenhouse for the layout and material list.
An earth-bermed greenhouse is best build into an already existing South facing hill with full sun exposure. We started clearing shrubs and fallen trees from an area close to the house matching these conditions and decided on a 16x16 foot growing space. Oehlers's plans include digging out a 3-4 foot deep “cold sink “ at the South side of the greenhouse. A space that is designed to allow cold air to settle into at night, rather than hovering over your tender seedling that are growing in the work space.
The soil in our area has a lot of clay and does not drain water well. We added French drains around the whole outside perimeter to redirect the water flow around the structure. French drains are trenches with perforated pipes that are wrapped in landscaping fabric. The trench then gets filled up with crushed #4 stone and covered with top soil.
Next we started digging the 3 foot deep post holes. Even with the drainage system in place, the holes immediately filled with water and we decided to add PVC socks to the 6x6 pine posts to make sure they would not be exposed to moisture in the ground, preventing them from rotting. After setting the posts the holes where back filled with cement.
Next, the walls went up. We found a good deal for rough red and white oak boards which we planed. Pine or hemlock would have worked as well, but we found a reasonable source for oak and we knew the walls would look beautiful when oiled later.
Oak does not do well when exposed to moisture, especially red oak, and we had to come up with a solution to protect the outside of our walls from the constant moisture in the ground that would surround them. We used a pond liner to protect the outside of our walls but also had to make sure that no moisture would condensate in between the walls and the rubber liner.
We had just replaced a cedar shingle roof on our house and used a product called cedar breather to provide airflow in between the cedar shingles and the plywood it gets nailed into. It allows the shingle to dry faster and prevents it from rotting, extending the lifespan of the shingle by many years. We decided to use the same product between the greenhouse walls and the pond liner to ensure airflow and avoid condensation and water damage.
We used a heavy duty pond liner and wrapped it around the whole structure, making sure not to rip any holes, and stapled it to the top of the walls.
Then we had to protect the pond liner from ripping during the back-berming process. We covered the pond liner with cheap sheets of plywood to make sure not to rip any holes into the rubber. Once the crushed stones settle against the plywood, the plywood can safely get wet and rot away over time.
We choose SunTuff for the roof. It's an affordable polycarbonate corrugated roofing material that does not gas off chemicals, has a decent R factor and comes with a 10 year warranty against UV degradation.
We looked into double pane roofing material as well but the costs were astronomical in comparison and we felt we found a good compromise. To make the space feel more open and connected, we added a large safety window glass at the South side which provides a beautiful view into the surrounding woods and the feeling of being inside the cockpit of Starship Enterprise.
To ensure ample airflow and cooling for the seedlings during hot days, we added two large automatic vents to the South facing front and three vents above the North back wall.
There is no access to electricity close to the greenhouse and we contemplated a solar powered automatic vent system. Adding a solar panels would have been too expensive and we found Univent automatic vent openers instead. Univents are oil piston operated vent arms which automatically open when the air inside the greenhouse heats up and close again when the temperature drops at the end of the day. You can fine tune the opening and closing temperate by turning the pistons a half or full rotation further into the threads. These turned out to work really well and the growing space is self ventilating without the need for an additional fan.
We used all natural Tung Oil and citrus solvent to seal the walls and trusses. These do not fume any harmful chemicals into the space when the greenhouse heats up.
The whole structure was protected with cedar shingles and back bermed, first with #4 crushed stone to provide drainage and prevent the clay soil to push and heave against the walls, then with soil.
Large stones form the surrounding area were used for the floor to collect even more heat during the day and give it back to the space at night.
55 gallon barrels filled with water and stacked against the sun exposed North side act as heat sinks and balance the temperature in the greenhouse when they give their heat back to the space at night. We found recycled food grade plastic drums at Capital Containers in Albany for $18 a barrel.
We used cedar to build the doors and a window on the West side to let a little bit of extra afternoon sunlight flood the growing space.
Instead of using the typical cement blocks and wood pallets for the seed tray tables we decided to build hanging tables to protect our seedlings from rodents – which worked really well. We can also unhook the light weight cedar frames easily and use the space for other types of events, such as herbal medicine classes in the fall.
Later in the summer, when all herb seedlings have fletched and left our green mother womb (as we call her) the greenhouse is turned into a drying space for herb harvests. We keep the same hanging tables and simply lay fiberglass mosquito screen on the tables, then lay the fresh herbs out on the screen and let them dry with plenty of air circulation from the vents. When the herbs are dry we simply roll up the screen and carry the dried herbs out to the garbling station (garbling means separating leaves and blossoms from stems and other unusable parts).
The outside of the greenhouse provides for a a lot of new growing space. The whole front is South facing with full sun exposure and now hosts many new sun loving and low growing herbs.
The East side was bermed high and gets a lot of morning sun. We added key holes to the planting area so the whole herb bed can be reached easily without having to step onto the soil and compacting it.
Stone steps where added on the West side to hug the window and Jesse burned two beautiful sacred geometry patterns into the cedar doors, the Flower of Life and the Kiss of Venus.
And just to top it off, the whole space is covered with sacred geometry carvings and details that keep reminding you that you are not just standing in a greenhouse, but in a living breathing growing space for sacred plant medicine, just like in my dream.
There she is. Mother womb for our green medicine babies. My dream come true and a immeasurable gift from a very dear friend of mine that means more to me than words can say.
Thank you, Jesse.
With endless gratitude,
Susanna Raeven - Raven Crest Botanicals
I always get a little smile on my face when I see people bagging up their grass clippings or leaves in preparation to throw them away. They don’t even realize what they have. What valuable materials they are thoughtlessly tossing off to a landfill. Just like the pre-Columbus Native Americans who had gold lying around but never gave it the value the Europeans who came to conquer them did. As I get more into gardening and gain the knowledge of microbes and the ecosystems we can create, it’s empowering to think about all the rich material I have on my small ¼ acre lot.
All the limbs I cut down are used in multiple ways. The large ones get cut into logs for our summer campfires under the stars. The smaller ones are the kindling or plant stakes. If the power goes out it gives me the comfort of knowing I can keep my family warm and fed without the need of a gas powered generator. This is not only good for me but also good for my fruit trees that the limbs come from. It allows for new growth to come in and help the tree stay healthy for years to come.
The leaves from those branches are used as compost. With most experts saying you need 25 units carbon to 1 unit nitrogen (but never explaining exactly what a “unit” is) I need all the brown stuff I can get my hands on. I pull the leaves off and let them dry a bit so that I can then run them down with my reel mower into smaller pieces. This makes it easier to breakdown and thus it breakdowns faster. Without a good amount of this brown material for my compost it won’t have the right texture or beneficial organism growth, and therefore a lower potential nutrient capacity than it could have. All free from my own yard.
I also use the leaves and grass clipping as mulch. I really love the idea of mulch because like compost, it does so many good things without taking much effort from me. My favorite chores are those that make my life easier. Placing the leaves or grass clippings in my garden beds help keep the soil moist during warm weather and warm during cold weather. It provides food for the healthy micro-organisms that break that organic material down as well as protection for the worms, beetles and other arthropods who keep the soil fertilized and loose as they crawl around eating those smaller microbes.
All these things are invaluable when you really see it for what it is and so much so that I don’t get enough to satisfy my compost and mulch needs from my little plot of land. It’s doesn’t help that daily I drive through the neighborhood and see all those fallen leaves, just begging to be picked up. I wouldn’t mind not having access to all that brown gold if it was being used but what makes it worse is that most people, and the Homeowners Associations forcing them, remove this material from the property to make it look “pretty”. This essentially starves their yards and forces them to buy things to add to the soil, feeding that general thought that you need to constantly add chemicals and fertilizers to your yard and garden. When was the last time the Amazon rain forest was fertilized and aerated?
My greedy nature just took over watching all this waste. I wasn’t going to stand by and let all that beautiful brown treasure blow away and end up in some dump surrounded by shoe boxes and McDonald's cups. I made a decision that night and the compost bandit was born.
I waited until a rainy day when the streets would be empty. Being in the Pacific Northwest I knew my wait would be a short one. It was a Saturday morning when I saw my chance and so I ran out to the garage, grabbing my rake and trashcan. Casually walking down the street with my hood pulled up high, I fought the urge to move too fast and draw attention to myself. My heart pumping loudly in my ears and the adrenaline coursing through my veins, I got to the spot by the community mail box and bolted into action. Rake, rake, scoop; rake, rake, scoop. I laughed wildly like a mad man high on the rush of my heist. I knew I needed to be fast and checked my watch for the time. 10 seconds down, 10 to go. Smash and grab was the name of this game and I knew from watching ‘Point Break’ a hundred times that I needed to just walk away from what I couldn’t get in that time limit. Better to live and rake another day then lose to your greed and get caught. My watch beeped and I grabbed the handles of my trashcan full of loot, made an about face and carried on smartly.
I got back to the garage and closed the door then ran upstairs to my wife. I grabbed her, dipped her backward and laid a passionate kiss on her lips, feeling more alive than I had in a while. She could tell there was a change in me, which I contributed to this new bad boy image I now had after the getaway.
A few days later, after still boasting about my trashcan full of stolen brown loot, my wife came home and said “Honey go down to the neighbor’s house and get her leaves, she said she would bag them up and leave them out for you.” Apparently she had stopped on her way home seeing the neighbor raking the rest of the leaves and had asked if we could have them. Leave it to my wife to show up my trashcan full of leaves with a truck load full of them. Well played Michelle, well played.
As I drove my truck down to get the bounty, I thought to myself that it was far from over. This may satisfy me and my garden for now but mark my words; the compost bandit will strike again.
Dry skin during the winter months is a dreaded yearly occurrence for many. Winter dry skin is not only unsightly, it’s itchy, painful and can even be dangerous: If you develop very dry skin that cracks or bleeds, you’re more prone to infection.
Unfortunately, many over-the-counter skin creams and moisturizers contain toxic endocrine disruptors that can make you more prone to numerous health maladies—everything from weight gain to heart disease to cancer. And, the over-the-counter lotions that are organic and paraben-free can be very expensive. Instead, use this DIY lotion made from organic ingredients as a natural dry, cracked hands remedy. It’s very cost effective as each batch makes enough to last all winter long.
1/8 cup grated beeswax
1/3 cup organic coconut oil
1/4 cup organic sweet almond oil or avocado oil
1 cup organic, unrefined shea butter or organic cocoa butter (The refinery process removes many of the nutrients from the shea butter that make it so good for your skin.)A few drops of the essential oil of your choice such as lavender or lemon (If you plan to add an aromatherapy essential oil, use shea butter instead of cocoa butter. The essential oil is better absorbed in shea butter. Plus, the cocoa butter already has its own scent; the essential oil aroma may clash with the cocoa butter scent if you combine the two.)
If your hands are already cracked and/or bleeding, use the cocoa butter instead of shea butter and add one or more of the following ingredients to promote faster healing:
1 tablespoon organic honey
1 tablespoon aloe vera gel
A few drops of lavender essential oil (There may be a peculiar scent when you combine the lavender oil and cocoa butter, but both of these will promote quick healing. Plus, lavender is an antiseptic and analgesic, so it will help eliminate the pain and prevent infection.)
Beeswax can be found on various online shops including Amazon. The coconut oil, almond oil, avocado oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, essential oils, honey and aloe vera can be found at most health food stores or online vitamin stores.
Add all the ingredients except essential oils, honey and/or aloe vera in a double boiler on the stove over medium heat until the beeswax, coconut oil and shea butter (or cocoa butter) melt. Make sure to heat the mixture until there are no solid particles remaining.
Add the essential oils, honey and/or aloe vera and heat until completely dissolved in the mixture. Be sure to stir while heating so the ingredients are well-dispersed throughout the mixture.
Let the mixture cool to room temperature; then, store it in the fridge until it chills and hardens. (It takes about 3 hours to harden.)
Whip the mixture in a blender for approximately 5 minutes (until it looks like runny whipped cream).
Store in a mason jar for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature; this will allow it to solidify.
Keep lotion stored in the fridge to remain spoilage-free.
What DIY lotion has worked well for your family’s winter dry skin?
If you have a remedy to heal dry, cracked hands, share it with us in the comments section (link below). Let’s help each other fight the dreaded winter dry skin!
Contributing editor, Jami Cooley, RN, CNWC , is a registered nurse and nutritionist in the Dallas area where she conducts natural health research and writes for Natural Health Advisory Institute. She has also written a free e-Book, Natural Health 101: Living a Healthy Lifestyle. Contact Jami by commenting on one of her blogs.
Photos by Dreamstime