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Archive for the ‘Holistic Management’ Category

I was knocked down by yet another cold this season. This is hard for me to wrap my brain around (especially in the cold-induced foggy state.) I have been healthy and cold free for about 2 years and this year is completely different.

I have learned a lot over the past few years about herbs and foods and characteristics that are helpful, but I have also found that my best intentions haven’t prepared me to fight these colds.

I want to grow elderberry bushes so I can make immune boosting syrups and tinctures and even wine. I want to grow calendula and chamomile, horehound and stinging nettles. I want to grow sumac and dandelions and ginger. I know I can grow these things. I have a few growing now. It just takes time and I have to realize that I can’t do it all overnight!

Even though I can and will grow these things, it isn’t practical to think I can grow and make my own “everything” all at once. I need to step back and realize that I can (and should) buy some of these wonderful dried herbs and fruits and just start making the tinctures and syrups and throat lozenges so when I am hit with a cold I am prepared. When my bushes and trees and herbs mature I will then know what to do with them and be thrilled I can use my own.

Drying some horehound to make throat lozenges

There are a few things I did during this last cold that helped me to fight it off faster. I drank hibiscus tea and I also drank garlic tea. Garlic is chuck-full of great antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. I cook with garlic a lot, but drinking the garlic tea is another way to get it into your system and help fight off the effects of the cold or flu. You can read about garlic tea right here at Not Dabbling in Normal.

Along with losing my appetite I also lost my sense of taste and smell. To help get me through this cold I made a healing chicken soup that I know helped nourish me and get me through this much quicker. I made a bone based chicken broth and threw in ginger, onion, hot peppers, dark leafy greens (kale and chard and spinach), turmeric, and garlic along with basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. I wasn’t really thinking about taking photos while I was sick, so the photo you see below is the second batch of soup I made when I started to feel better.

This past week I got together with a culinary group I belong to. The theme this month was “soup.” One of the ladies brought an “Immunity-Boosting Winter Soup” and it was the first soup I ate that night. It was so much like the one I make, but hers included freshly harvest dandelion greens.   We talked about her soup along with the ingredients and the properties that each ingredient has. I was thrilled to know I was on the right track with my soup.

What went into my healing soup?

  • Ginger – works on congestion & great for nausea
  • Spinach/Kale/Chard – full of vitamin C, and A, folate and potassium
  • Hot peppers – help to relieve pain and stimulate endorphins
  • Turmeric – antibiotic properties
  • Garlic – an expectorant, natural antibiotic
  • Red Bell Pepper – high in Vitamin C & A

The immunity-boosting soup that my friend made also had a pinch of cinnamon (infection fighter), calendula flowers (immune stimulator), dried thyme (antibiotic & expectorant), astragalus root (help to strengthen the immune system) and dandelion greens (high in vitamin C & A and many trace minerals and is especially high in potassium)

I am back on my feet and the fog has cleared. I attribute that to the things I ate and drank. Now I better start making a list of things I would like to order so I can get some syrups and tinctures made up to help keep my immune system in tip-top shape.

Do you have any herbal or home remedies that work for you?

disclaimer

Sincerely, Emily

You can also read what I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily

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Since Kim talked about using garlic to help deal with a cold or flu I thought I’d talk about one of the things we do around here to boost our immune systems not only so we don’t get colds but also to help protect us against cancer and other baddies. Along with a healthy diet and lots of exercise, eating mushrooms regularly can help you fight off the cold and flu and help you fight all sorts of things like cancer, obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. Here’s an interesting article about mushrooms and immunity. When it comes to mushrooms, usually the tastier the better for you, although even white button mushrooms help boost your immune system.

You’ll want to look for the more obscure mushrooms like: shiitake, hen of the woods, oyster, morel, etc. I’m lucky that we have a local mushrooms grower that specializes in these types of mushrooms. Each week at the farmers market I buy whatever mushrooms they have for sale. Last week I found Hen of the Woods mushrooms for the first time. I also really like baby portabella mushrooms, which I buy at my local health food store.

We also forage for mushrooms in the spring, so far we’ve only found and eaten a few varieties of morels. I really want to learn more about growing mushrooms myself so I can grow them in the garden. I’m thinking of talking to the people I buy them from at the market to see if I can buy spawn from them since I know the ones they grow do well in my climate.

I’m quite lucky because I LOVE mushrooms of all shapes, colors and sizes. Some of the more exotic ones take some getting used to, but after a few times you’ll find them quite delicious. Mr Chiots used to refuse to eat mushrooms when we first got married, he’s come around though and now happily asks for seconds when we’re eating sauteed mushrooms.

Are you a mushrooms lover? Have you ever considered adding more mushrooms to you diet for health reasons?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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This past Thursday Warren posted about creating financial security by investing in the stock market.  A few days before that Kim posted about real estate investing as a way of creating financial security.  Now it’s my turn.

We don’t have a “retirement” plan.  Retirement is not a concept I understand.   It is certainly not a way I could live.  I can’t imagin being “done.”  When they put the last shovel full of compost on me I’ll retire.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a plan for the future.  We do.  We recognize that we will not be able, or willing, to work forever at the same things or with the same intensity that we do now.  Life is change.  Being prepared for that makes life enjoyable.  So here are some of the things we are doing to be prepared.

1. Avoiding debt.  Right now we have a very small mortgage on our house and farm and no other debt.  That is a choice we make every day.  We bought our farm about 5 years ago and put a lot down.  We had money from the sale of our previous home which made a big difference.  But the biggest factor was we bought something that needed A LOT of work.  Because it needed so much work we got it for about 1/3 the price of a similar house in better condition.  Instead of following the bankers advice and adding a second mortgage to use to remodel the house we have been doing it ourselves, paying as we go.  5 years and we are still not done.  Only three more rooms and a porch to go.  It is a slow process, but the house will be paid off soon and we will be debt free.  We have also done the same with cars.  Our two, a 14 year old van and a 20+ year old truck, are paid for and we just keep fixing them rather than buying something new.  That probably won’t work for ever, but it’s working for now.

2. Creating a self-supporting way of living.  We are actively investing in creating a place and a way of life that supports it’s self.  Some of that is through micro-businesses we are developing.  Some of it is through the gardens, orchards, and animals we are adding to the place.  The rest comes through changes in how we live, how we generated our energy, where our water comes from, etc.  It’s not done yet.  Even on paper it changes from time to time.  But the goal, the vision is out there, written down, used as the target for all our planning. 

3. Investing our resources to meet future needs.  We stayed with CC’s parents before we moved here.  Her dad had been in a care facility and was coming home.  We were there to help with that transition.  It gave us a glimpse into the future.  We took that knowledge with us when we came here and wove it into our planning.  We have a stock portfolio through CC’s work.  It’s far from perfect (we are looking at ways to use it to support greener things) but it is matched by her company, and building up some future financial reserves is an important part of meeting future changes.  If we the money, I’d rather have some planned savings we can take it from instead of adding debt to the farm.  We also did things in the house as we remodeled that we wouldn’t have done.  We have a room on the first floor that can (and someday probably will) be used as a bedroom.  The first floor bathroom has an accessable shower rather than a bath.  ETC.  We saw some of the future and are using our resources to prepare.  We are also investing time in building community.  As a culture we have become more isolated and disconnected.  We are actively building connections here.  Taking care of people, sharing, supporting, and allowing others into our lives and accepting their care and support (for me that is the hardest part.)

4. Insurance.  We have insurance.  Health, home, car.  We are working on ways to reduce our need for some of those and the financial burden they place on us.  But, we are also investing in insurance every day.  Not life insurance, but insurance for life.  It’s called EDUCATION.  College is not an optional thing for our kids.  They will go.  They will get a degree in something.  Having that piece of paper is a kind of insurance.  CC and I keep up on our training and skills.  We are both employable, though not both employed right now.  Having a spouse with the skills, training, current licences, etc that allows them to be employed is a better insurance policy than any life insurance you could buy.  Same with the kids.  Instilling in them a good work ethic and a desire for education is a huge step toward insuring their future.

So, that’s some of what we are doing to finance our future.  What are you doing?

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I usually check the news in the morning while I’m waiting for the coffee to get done.  I try not to obsess, but I like to keep up with what’s happening in the world at large.  So, this morning I turned on CNN and listened to a bit of the wrangling over the Health Care bills.  Everyone who came on had their little bit they were supporting or fighting.  Everyone hanging desperately on to their little bit, pulling in their own direction.  It reminded me of leading my goats to pasture.  Every morning I have to take our 12 goats to what ever bit of pasture we have fenced for the day.  I hook them all onto one long lead, grab the collars of the two leaders, and we all walk to the paddock.  The goats pull against each other rather than fighting with me.  Since I have the two strongest going the direction I want, we usually get there without much trouble.  If they all decided to go the same way for a change, there would be no way I could control them.  (An Alpine dairy goat can pull about 400 lbs, times 12… my 150 lbs wouldn’t stand a chance.)

Anyway, I was thinking about dysfunctional governments, the broken healthcare system, and how unlikely it was that anything meaningful would come out of this process as I went to do chores this morning.  I walked into the barn and this is what I saw

Epiphany!  All the little pieces of my brain came to gether and I Understood.  They asked the wrong question.  They asked how they could fix the system, and everyone grabbed a bit to fix or protect.  They should have asked “What is the best health care system for everyone?” and worked from there on creating one that worked.

That’s what happened with this lovely fence.  Three years ago we had a goat about to give birth.  It was her first time, and I could tell that it wouldn’t be easy.  I needed a pen where I could isolate her.  So I scrounged two old gate panels and a short piece of 4×4 and cobbled together a pen.  It did the job, and has served similar purposes since then.  But it wasn’t built properly, it was in the wrong spot, it was too small, and it wasn’t really goat proof.  Shortly after building this pen I realized it had some problems.  So, I fixed them.  I added a patch to the bottom to keep the kids from crawling under the fence and getting into things they shouldn’t.  I tied one of the gate panels to the other so I could open it like a gate to let mom out.  It was basically functional again.  Later one of the goats discovered she could hop the fence between the pens and then hop the gate on the small pen and get out.  After discovering her out of the pen with her nose in the chicken feed a couple of times I realized the fence was too short.  So another old gate was salvaged and wired on to the top of the fence.  That kind of worked, except over the gate area.  So I strung some wire.  Success again.  Then the cow leaned on the fence and cracked the old 4×4 so the whole thing leans.  If I don’t keep an eye on it every day someone will find a hole and slip through.

My epiphany was that I’d been asking the wrong question.  I asked “How do I keep the goats from getting through or over this fence?”  The result was the cobbled together mess in the photo.  It worked, kind of…  If, three years ago I had ask, “What do I need to house and care for my goats properly?” I would have designed and built a different system.  I would have used many of same materials.  We always scrounge here first.  But rather than spending my time trying to fix the crisis of the moment with what ever came to hand, I would have created a system that worked. 

There is an idea in Holistic Management that I try to use (but completely forgot in this case.)  “Problems push, goals pull.”  When we problem solve, we react to the part in crisis, often without considering the whole.  When we have a goal, a vision, we act to advance toward that vision.  We attend to the rudder and to trimming the sails, not just to the flapping bit of canvas that seems to be causing a problem.

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Soil is an extremely important “product”  as you surely know. I don’t care if you have thousands of acres or just one—-you must have good soil to have good health and good products. Not only does it make the vegetables or animals harvested taste better and be better for us it also can reduce or eliminate some work since disease and insect problems will be reduced or eliminated (depending on disease and/or pest of course).

Like most people we have had to work at improving our soil for the entire time we have been on this property. We did not get lucky enough to purchase perfect, organically cared for fluffy top soil. Not one drop of it.

Our property was not in very good shape when we first arrived since the previous owners rented the land to the neighbors for commercial beef and stripped off most of the trees (and top soil) AND strip contoured the ground for erosion control (the type of control now deemed very detrimental to soil and erroneous in the extreme). And though it still has room for improvement after all that hard use, we have been working very diligently at making it better and it shows. One thing that has been a “hitch in our get along” is the cost and convenience of finding some items. We are…and always have been, organic. In my area organic is still “out there” in the farming community and our local (and most not so local) mills carry only chemical versions of all amendments. Bummer.

So…we have had to think outside the box when it comes to improving our pastures beyond normal lime and a few other common amendments found everywhere. It is one thing to spend lots of money on kelp, green sand, bagged natural sources of phosphate and other needed amendments for your vegetable garden but it is much much harder when it comes to acreage. If you have one or two acres maybe it’s not so bad, but when you have more to cover it can be quite pricey at many hundreds of dollars per acre more than even conventional amendments are. Unless, of course, you really are a “hobby farmer”.

Of course each area is different and some organic amendments may be cheaper in your area. Obviously if you live in say… Maine…. kelp will be cheaper, but in my not very organic area and you don’t generally find the items organic gardeners need unless they ship it in (adding freight costs) or it is purchased in small home gardener 5 pound bags.

However, if you are like us and either live in an area with a low organic philosophy or have limited money to spend (or both) you can think outside the box like we have. And no…the ways I will list are not the do all end all of ideas, just some of our better and easier choices. We have tried many many things to improve our soil and not all have shown us results. At least not highly noticeable results. I will not list those since I would like to stick more with something that will absolutely work and not with things that are still theory, or were low yielding, here on our farm.

One thing we tried to improve our soil was to make movable feeders to feed our hay  in every single day to our animals  (For years! And sometimes it was very tedious!!).  Beyond using the feeders we would also at times lay the hay on the ground if the area was clean –as in no manure recently there. We would of course move the spot each day, whether in the feeder or laid on the ground, feeding only enough hay for that day. We moved each not by just over a few feet either….we don’t want health issues of course. We would move the hay over by 40 or so feet eventually coming back and filling in the gaps. * Part of the reason for only feeding a day or two worth in a movable feeder was that we are very very hilly here and often had to move it by hand. 50lbs of hay still not eaten can be quite heavy to haul up a hill in a not so light feeder to move it out of a soggy manure filled spot in the rain*

Now as you wonder why we did this let me explain we had some “pastures” that literally had almost no top soil and grew only the rankest of weeds. To have skipped these spots and never grazed an animal there would have been defeating the ability to ever use them and as mentioned…money was an object on our farm. I would also like everyone to remember a quote that I read at one time. I can not remember it exactly so please excuse my misquote, however it went something like this: “Buying in feed and hay is like buying someone else’s land” (Off subject for a moment you can think of that even to the extent of toilet paper, cereal boxes, cotton clothing and on and on—every bit helps if you make a way to use it) So anyway… keeping that in mind we spread other people’s land all over our pasture….again and again and again. Using their land in the form of hay and feed to build our soil. Through rain and wind and bad and good weather….we spread and spread and spread. We also spread our livestocks manure at the same time since every place we fed them…they would poop and pee right there.

Another thing we did to improve our soil was to condense our animals into groups that more heavily utilize the grass we did have instead of being able to spread out and pick and choose where they would like to eat. You know that type of grazing…that perfect spot all animals go back to over and over to eat until they kill it off. And instead of explaining this concept myself I am going to send you to Throwback at Trapper Creek because she does a fine job explaining it in a recent article here. (She aka Matron of Husbandry also writes for us her at NotDabbling as many of you know).

Beyond reading the article I would like to say if you raise livestock and have never discovered the “magazine” Stockman Grassfarmer….do consider purchasing it. You will learn TONS of good things about grazing livestock (they do not advocate grain usage) soil fertility, improved grazing, livestock handling and all types of things you could not have imagined you needed to know to own animals. Mostly it is about cattle but there are often articles about pigs, chickens, goats and sheep. Even if you own just two goats…and one acre…consider it a subscription. Better yet if your just into healthy food—read Stockman Grassfarmer and understand good ways that people grow healthy food and help spread the ideas around to others. You’d be surprised at what you can learn even from something that doesn’t SEEM like it relates to your life. However…we all eat and so how our food is raised does affect us all.

Lastly (for this article anyway), one thing that has been a problem for us is fertilizing our pastures. Not adding top soil per se..but just plain old nitrogen. We have known we needed nitrogen on our pastures for a while. One sure way to tell even without a soil test is if you can see where your larger livestock have urinated. You know..those roundish looking spots that are slightly, or immensely, more green than the surrounding grasses? We have considered many many ways…some too much work and others really either too expensive or beyond our ability since we don’t own a tractor large enough to do some of the “scut” work. We do live in an area heavy with chicken houses but most houses (beyond the fact that they are NOT organic and feed medicated feed to the birds every day) are contracted out to larger farmers or commercial enterprises before the chicks are even installed in the house. So…no manure for us even if we were willing to overlook some of the chicken house “issues”. And let me tell you….when you get desperate you sometimes will settle for things you might not consider other wise.

We also considered raising our own chickens in movable chicken pens ala The chicken tractor book or Joel Salatin…but we did NOT want to hassle with marketing the chickens. Blah! Too much work!

Recently though a friend of ours…who aspires to some day own his own farm….decided to do a chicken tractor. He successfully raises, butchered and sold almost all of his hundred birds (there were a few losses but it is to be expected) from just his slightly larger than normal size back yard. He’s in the country with very accepting neighbors which is how he got away with this on a smaller yard.

Anyway, after seeing his success, and hearing him lament about space, we said “hey…use our pastures. No charge.”

He feels he is getting the better deal.

We KNOW we are.

Even by chemical fertilizer standards we are getting about a $450 per acre return based on cost in our area.

With two pens installed on our property and those birds pooping out loads of manure and other people’s property (they do have to have food beyond just our grass) we are getting exactly what we needed for no money and no required work on our part. Yeah :-) Oh yeah, we do supply a bit of water—but that is quite low compared to what we could be paying.

You can see a picture of some of the birds below.  Compared to those chicken house birds in the countryside around  us — these happy, healthy, pooping birds that are doing a fabulous job here on my pasture improving my soil and fertilizing it at the same time.  They are enjoying the summer weather and the occasional insect dumb enough to chance going into their cage— really…there’s nothing to compare. I know which one I prefer and appreciate.

So..if your in a bind like we are remember there are lots and lots of ways to improve soil matter and fertility that do not require chemicals or super high costs. Or even a tractor. Yes…it can be a bit of labor but then hey: You didn’t decide to raise livestock or be a farmer because it was a low labor job after all !

Have a great week everyone :-D

chickenschickensupclose

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Life is a bumpy process.  Sometimes the road is filled with potholes, speed bumps, or police barriers. Other times some bit of the machinery of life gets neglected and starts thumping and shaking things about (this is happening with one of our cars right now).  Usually we can fill the potholes, fix the wonky bit of the system, or bump our way through, riding out the rough bits and moving on.  This happens to everyone, and is one of the things that makes life interesting (at least in retrospect.)  Every once in a while as you are cruising down life’s super highway something else happens.  The wheels start falling off the wagon for no apparent reason.  Makes a BIG mess.  This happened to us recently.  CC and I each realized that what we were doing wasn’t working.  She hated her job (loved the people individually, and the work with the kids, but hated (to the point of feeling ill every day) the job.  I hated the stupid broken-down, under-funded farm, the livestock, the kids, the crappy old house, everything.  One day things just snapped.  We each, almost simultaneously said, ” it’s time to move.”  Things just weren’t working.  We have been over this ground before, and usually we find something new and interesting to do somewhere else.  Lots of moving, lots of adventures.  EXCEPT… this was a really bad time to move.  The real estate market is terrible, jobs are hard to find, and we would have to do a ton of fixing to even be able to sell this place.  The other thing that is different this time is our reason for being here.  In the past we have taken interesting jobs in fantastic locations and gone for the adventure.  Once the adventure was over it was time to move on.  This time we picked a spot that wasn’t very interesting because it was where we wanted to create a home base.  It was close to family and friends.  It was enough space to live the life we wanted.  It was affordable.  There were jobs in the area.  It is a nice, mostly safe community where we are happy with the people we know, the connections we have made, and the lifestyle we have.  We should be happy, but we were not.  The wheels were definitely coming of the wagon at high speed.  Then it happened.  Huge, gaping pothole.  Crash and burn, bits go flying everywhere.  Goats in the garden.  DESTRUCTION!  The produce for the market was ruined.  It would take at least 6 weeks to get back in production.  The worst 6 weeks of the year.  It’s hot, dry, and the things we had planned for the market won’t germinate well.  Our costs will go way up because we will have to shade a lot more and irrigate a lot more.  Profits out the window.  Why are we doing this anyway?

Five years ago when we were planning this move we worked our way through a brilliant book At Home With Holistic Management by Ann Adams.  As we worked through this book we wrote a plan, starting with a vision of the life we wanted to create.  Then we moved out here and set to work creating the place and the enterprises we thought would get us what we wanted.  Somewhere along the way we lost sight of the vision.  If we had been following ALL  the steps in the book we would have been checking every decision against our vision and adjusting what we were doing to ensure all our actions moved us toward our vision.  Instead we worked on creating successful enterprises.  CC worked on job success and kept moving up in responsibility and pay.  I worked on successful market gardening and had really hit my stride this year.  The enterprises were really ticking along.  Successful.  Except the number one thing in our vision was time together as a family doing the things we love doing.  The more successful our enterprises were the less time we had that fit our vision.  CC hated her job and resented us because she had to work away from home.  I resented the kids, the animals, the house, and CC because they always demanded my time and I wasn’t getting things done the I needed to in order to be a successful market gardener.  Fortunately the gods gave us goats, and they helped us stop, analyze what we were doing, and get back with the program.  The past month and a half we have spent building a new plan that fits our vision better.  CC is renegotiating her contract for something that is a better fit and beginning to create a private practice.  I’m gardening for the family, growing things I love with lots of help from the CC and the kids.  I’m also launching a new line of goat milk fudge.  It has been a great success at the market, and I’ll be offering it on line soon.  We are checking back with our vision and our plan as we make decisions, and working our way through Ann’s book again.  We’ll soon have the wheels back on the wagon and be moving down life’s byways again.  The road will still have bumps, and the wheels aren’t the same ones we started with, but we are still together, in this place, living the dream.

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