Natural Health

Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.


12/11/2013

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

Natural Hand Cream

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

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

Keeki Natural Nail Polish

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) BarsNatural Shower Bar

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

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

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

Silky Scents Natural Perfume

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 .



12/9/2013

Alex PI 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.

X
X

 

Q: 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?

 

A: “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.”

 

Q: Was it during this time that you decided to pursue your N.D. Degree?

 

A: “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.”

 

Q: How do you feel about western medicine? What are your views?

 

A: “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.”

 

Q: 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.”

 

Q: 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.”

 

Q: 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.”

 

Q: 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 0z of raw goat milk kefir (we just did a blog post on making your own kefir at home if you are interested)

1 tablespoon of Goji berries

1 tablespoon of Dr. Shultz Super food

1 inch of turmeric root

1/2 cup wild blueberries

1/2 mixed berries

4 fertilized egg yolks

1 tablespoon 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 2-3 days being dedicated to cardiovascular activities, sauna and stretching/trigger point therapy.”



12/6/2013

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.

 pic1-prepared-areapic2-foundation

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.

pic2-posts

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.

pic3-walls

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.

pic4-ceadar-breather

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.

pic5-liner   pic5-plywood

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.

pic6-roof   pic6-window

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. 

pic7-vent1  pic7-vent2  pic7-vents3

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.

Univent in Action

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.

First Tung Oil Application   Freshly Oiled East Wall   

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.

South Side Bermed   North Side Bermed   

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.

Stone Floor   

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.

Water Barrels

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.

Greenhouse Door Inside   Greenhouse Door Outside

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.

First Hanging Shelves   Hanging Shelves in Action

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).

Greenhouse Converted to Drying House   Drying Shelves

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.

South Wall Herb Bed   Herb Bed 3 Months Later

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.

East Wall Herb Bed   East Bed 3 Months Later

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.

Entrance to the Sacred Space     The Flower of LifeThe 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.

Sacred Geometry Post   Where the North Wall Meets the South...

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.

Mother Womb. Inside...   … and Out.

With endless gratitude,

Susanna Raeven - Raven Crest Botanicals

 

 

 

 

 



11/27/2013

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 fMulching Leavesrom 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.Adding Mulch

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.



11/20/2013

dry skinDry 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.

Ingredients:

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:shea butter

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.

lavenderDirections

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



11/14/2013

petIt’s funny how differently we handle health issues and basic daily needs one way for humans and another way for our dear non-human friends, our pets. They eat the same food every day for years on end, and some for their entire life. I’m sure that’s not how nature designed it but it’s the way we do things now. Another thing we do is take them into the vet clinic anytime they have something wrong without a second thought (I notice this more in urban areas than rural ones though). We’ll go weeks with a cold but if poor little scruffy has the sniffles, call Dr. Grey cause I need the OR prepped, stat! But nothing bothers me more than paying hundreds of dollars just to have the vet tell me they don’t know and maybe try this or that, and to “keep an eye on it”. I could do that online for free. Though be careful, home diagnosis can be dangerous. In some mild cases, however, it can work out for the benefit of your wallet, your peace of mind and for the well-being of your best friend.

I have a goofy four year old Bulldog/Pitt-bull buddy named Winslow. If drooling all over the floor after drinking some water were a competition, he would be champion of the world. I recently left him in a kennel for a few days while I got married in August, more for my sanity than out of real necessity. Sure enough when he got back home he started in with the deep, throaty cough and hacking up of phlegm that accompanies the infamous “Kennel Cough” (he had the vaccine by the way). My wife’s parents were still staying with us and had their three dogs with them as well as our other dog Chester. Panic set in quickly for the household when they realized that kennel cough is what he had, being that it is very contagious. I had two choices; go to the vet or research some natural remedies. Being a responsible father I called our vet clinic first and asked some questions but received the answers I knew I would. There was nothing they could do but prescribe antibiotics. Sounds pretty serious right? If something needs antibiotics you don’t want to take chances right? Well that’s not necessarily the best outlook to have.

Antibiotic resistance is a real yet generally misunderstood problem, and part of the reason is overuse and lack of bacterial education. A little history lesson for you, in 1945 Penicillin was first used commercially. One year later 14% of Staphylococcus Aureus (the SA in MRSA) was resistant. By 1950, 59% was resistant and by 1995 the figure rose to 95%. Before the end of the millennium, the first Staph strain resistant to all known antibiotics infected its first three people, just forty-four years after being introduced. Today, the drug companies are making less and less new antibiotics so think about forty-four years from now. Three traits of bacteria help make antibiotic overuse a big issue. 1. Bacteria create new generations every 20 minutes which helps resistant mutations spread fast. 2. When they create a resistance to a particular antibiotic, they can create multiple additional resistances. Even to antibiotics we haven’t invented yet. 3. When they develop a resistance they can, especially during times of stress, pass that genetic code into the environment to other bacteria they come in contact with, even if it is a different bacterium.

Why am I lecturing so hard on antibiotics and kennel cough? Antibiotics work on bacterial infections only, not viral ones, which most kennel cough is a mixture of both so this won’t ‘cure’ kennel cough. Most vets will offer to run expensive tests to verify what exact strands they have but that still ends with a ‘keep an eye on it’ and an antibiotic to just sort of ‘cover the bases’. And given the very real problem we have with resistance, we have to leave them for emergencies only. It is not so far-fetched that within our children or grandchildren’s lifetime, they will be as vulnerable to infection as we were just 100 years ago. We all need to do our part to slow this end of the antibiotic golden age and nature is here to help. Pay attention to keywords such as “anti-bacterial” and “anti-viral”, this is why they work.

kennel cough

Treatment

The first thing to do is keep them from over exerting themselves. Every time they cough and hack or throw-up, you get irritation in the airways and more inflammation. Keep them relaxed, keep them calm. It’s good not to have company over so they don’t run around like a crazy person (or dog). Oatmeal is good for calming and be sure to limit exercise.

Just like a chest cold, warm humid air helps open up the airways all clogged with mucus. I took a shower with Winslow and turned up the heat but kept the exhaust fan off to fill the space with steam. This helps though in our case I only did it once. If the problem would have persisted, I would have done it more but he started improving so fast that I just ‘kept an eye on it’.

Honey. Oh boy do dogs love honey, which is good because it coats the throat and helps with the irritation that causes them to cough and irritate the airways and throat. It also has fantastic disinfecting properties as well as anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. Though the strength of these properties will vary depending on what plants the pollen was taken from, all honey has these traits. Make sure it is raw honey too. We know a lady not 5 miles away that does her own beekeeping and we buy our honey from her and her husband. Supporting local business and fresh raw honey; win-win. Winslow is 80 pounds so a tablespoon three times a day is fine but if you have an 8 pound dog like our Chester, you may want to give smaller doses.

Fresh Garlic. Garlic has fantastic anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties to it. It can however be tough to get your dog to eat garlic so I recommend a mixture that includes some other ingredients that I will mention towards the end.

Cinnamon. This is another good tasting natural product that has great anti-viral properties. Sprinkle some on the dog’s food and let them go to town.

Coconut Oil. This also contains strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Additionally it helps coat the throat and ease discomfort. The aroma makes it easy for dogs to enjoy without much persuasion. Too much coconut oil can lead to diarrhea so use less if this occurs. 

What I did besides giving Winslow honey a few times a day was create a mixture that I gave once a day. The mixture had a few tablespoons of coconut oil, one tablespoon honey, a couple cloves of garlic and sprinkled cinnamon. Some dogs are more sensitive to certain foods and some could have allergies to the ingredients so it’s best to always watch your pets anytime you try natural remedies. If the cough worsens, take your dog to the vet immediately.

Sources: foodsafety.ksu.edu/articles/280/molecular_mechanisms_antimic_resist.pdf

www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/11_10/features/Kennel-Cough-Remedies_16067-1.html

www.kennelcoughhelp.com/kennel-cough-remedies.php

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 



11/6/2013

An elderberry tree has been growing on the side of our house, and when it was found it clusters of ripe fruit sagged on the branches against the neighbor’s garage.

I was on my way out as the neighbors were cutting down the juniper trees long overgrown in front of their garage door. I made a mental note to take them when they ended up on the curbside the next garbage day.

“Hello, Erik,” said our kindest neighbor sincerely.Ripe Elderberry Fruit On Tree

“Hi?” I replied, questionably.

“Do you want the elderberries growing between your house and our garage before we cut down the tree?” she asked.

“No thanks,” I said with a half glance in the general direction.

“Oh. Because it’s full of elderberries right now and a lot of people like to make jelly or pies with them. I thought maybe your girlfriend would want them,” she continued in a persuasive manner.

A lot of what kind of people are you talking about? I know nothing of this nature.

“No thanks,” I said again. “But thanks.”

She looked at me weird. Real weird.

“Wait. What?” I nearly stuttered, this time with a curious passion. “What are they?”

Further insight into this generation’s disconnect from natural forces. My generation. To my own disconnect.  

I may have gone into a mild form of shock. Many times this mind has run off onto thoughts of how to get what source of fruit and where on-site. The sudden discovery of the elderberry tree confirmed once again that I am not the one in charge. I love that gust of wisdom which sometimes sweeps through the garden.

The elderberry tree is native to central and eastern North America. They line the roadsides of northeast Pennsylvania, and my only experience with them is throwing them at the guys I landscape with and getting hit by them in return. I had no idea what they were.

That surprises me. Packed with iron, calcium, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and anthocyanin, the Native Americans used them to treat the common cold, sore throats, fevers and even rheumatism.

Although Native Americans never had the tools to scientifically test the elderberry’s nutritional value, today universities do. Purdue University studied elderberries in order to test their market potential. In comparison to other small fruits, elderberries have a lot to offer nutritionally.

 

Fruit

Water

Energy (kcal)

Iron (mg)

Phosphorous (mg)

Vitamin A (IU)

Vitamin B6 (mg)

Vitamin C (mg)

Blueberry

84

27

0.28

12

54

1.052

9.7

Cranberry

87

46

0.25

13

60

0.057

13.3

Elderberry

80

73

1.60

39

600

0.230

36.0

Grape

81

69

0.36

20

66

0.086

10.8

Mulberry

89

43

0.62

22

214

0.030

21.0

Raspberry

86

52

0.69

29

33

0.055

26.2

Strawberry

91

32

0.42

24

12

0.047

58.8

From Elderberry as a Medicinal Plant by D. Charlebois

Over 100 different types of products contain elderberries, from shampoo and body lotions to herbal teas and supplements. One study suggested that juice from the elderberry may be healthier than the fruit itself.

Last year about this time I recall enjoying a craft beer brewed with elderberries. Because I do not see them in the grocery store I must have assumed they grew somewhere distant. Maybe that’s why I slipped into a state of shock when the neighbor asked me about elderberries growing on-site.

I took a look at the cluster of purplish-black berries and went inside to research them. Not only can elderberries be turned into pies and jelly, they can also be canned, frozen, made into wine, or elderberry dumplings, according to Faith B. Lasher, in a Mother Earth News article published in July/August 1973, which is packed with all sorts of recipes. But it gets better.

Elderberries can also be turned into a cough syrup used to treat the common cold. That sold me instantly. One quick glance over the ingredients of over-the-counter cold medicine is all it takes for me to put it back on the shelf. From high-fructose corn syrup, to caffeine, to gelatin, I choose to believe those products inflict harm rather than good.

Instead, I choose to believe in other forces to heal my body. Forces such as water, fasting, silver, plants, and in extreme cases of cough and cold a honey-based cough syrup.

Local honey

And that’s exactly what elderberry cough syrup is – honey-based. A quick trip to the farmers market, a short conversation with the Beekeeper’s Daughter, and off I was to the kitchen with a 5-pound glass jar of raw and unfiltered buckwheat honey. According to the woman bundled up in her winter coat, beanie and gloves behind the foldable sales table, buckwheat honey has the highest amount of antioxidants, making it the most popular choice for use in cough syrups. Off I was.

Once picked and washed, I had 2 cups of elderberries to work with. A good percentage was left on the tree for the birds to eat. That seemed most important.

Raw elderberries are not appealing to the taste buds. Besides their tartness, tiny seeds are in the middle. They made me spit it out when I tasted one. According to Lasher, the berries must be cooked in order to appreciate their flavor. I placed the 2 cups of elderberries in 6 cups of water, brought them to a boil and simmered them for 45 minutes. After smashing the elderberries with a potato masher, I strained them with cheesecloth and added 2 cups of buckwheat honey.

Full mason jars

I then stored the finished elderberry cough syrup in quart-size mason jars, where they will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. I plan on taking up to one tablespoon a day as a preventative measure. The taste is incredibly enjoyable and I may just start pouring sip-size cups every day. I have been recently experiencing a nasty tickle scratching in my throat. What great timing!

I have asked the neighbors to keep the elderberry tree right where it is. All I need to do is stake it against the west-facing wall of the house to keep it from leaning against their garage and the tree can stay.

As for the cut-down junipers, they never did make it to the curbside for me to take. But who cares about anything else once you can make homemade cough syrup from berries off a tree in your garden.

Hello forces of nature. I am re-connecting.

Wait. Did I say elderberry beer?

Top photo by Fotolia/Hellen Sergeyeva

I hope to learn to live off the earth, in harmony with its forces and elements, and inspire others to come in contact with both their natural environment and inner selves through organic gardening, and by writing about my experiences on my blog. “All Is One” through our interconnectedness is the important thing I believe needs to be addressed. 











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