Archive for September, 2010

Several years ago I read about the wonders of Broad Leaved Plantain, a “weed” that grows everywhere. It’s also known as: Bird’s Meat, Common Plantain, Great Plantain, Rat-tail Plantain, White Man’s Foot.

I have it growing all over the gardens here at Chiot’s Run and I’m quite happy about it. It comes in very handy when I’m out working late and get bit by mosquitoes or if I get stung by a bee.

All you have to do for a quick salve is grab a leaf or two, chew them up and apply them to the bug bite. I often do this while I’m out working if I need to, but I prefer to make a poultice with some baking soda as it stays on better and I think it works better. (as with all wild plants, make sure you know exactly what you’re picking & using!)

What I usually do is take a few leaves, cut them finely, add a pinch or two of baking soda and a little water. Then I grind them to a wet paste in my mortar & pestle and apply to the bug bite. It instantly works to get rid of the itch or sting and keeps it coming back.

This salve is also very beneficial for using on cuts and scrapes, I often add some turmeric and comfrey when I’m using it for this purpose as turmeric helps with inflammation and pain and comfrey speeds healing.

Plantain has medicinal uses of all sorts: bites, cuts, scrapes, rashes, skin problems, intestinal pain & issues, worms, boils, bronchitis, coughs, colitis, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, dysentery, vomiting, bed wetting and incontinence and many other things (for more info read this and this). I have yet to use it internally, but I use it often for bug bites, stings and cuts. I’m trying to make plantain oil for using medicinally. Since it’s an herb with no known side-effects I definitely want to try using it more often.

Have you ever used plantain? Do you use herbs/weeds for medicinal purposes?

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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Anti-Cancer, A New Way of Life

As I told you last week I have been intentionally and methodically reading and learning all I can about making wise diet and lifestyle choices for not only my mom who is going through chemotherapy, but for my family also.

I also let you know that diet seemed to be overlooked as way of fighting cancer in our community cancer center where my mom is being treated.

When she was first diagnosed I turned to books, those that had been through this before, and the internet for information.  One of the books that I purchased is called ‘Anti cancer A new Way of Life’ by  David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD.  He himself is a 2x cancer survivor.

Of everything I have read this book was the one that I was most deeply moved by, as it is a book that is memoir, part scientific study as to the inner workings of cancer and what makes it grow. It takes a practical view of the roles traditional western and alternate health care can play in cancer treatment and prevention.

In the very center of this book is a glossy colored section called ‘Anticancer Action’ which in tables and and easy to read graphs summarizes the actions to take to help avoid cancer. It even has a grocery list of things to have for an anticancer diet!

Here are a few of the suggestions:

Avoid products containing industrial chemicals whenever possible.

Example, air our your dry-cleaned clothing, avoid chemical cleaning products, avoid parabens and phthalates in cosmetic products.

Eat Grass-fed organic animal products

Eat a balanced diet.  Reduce your intake of sugar and white flour and trans-fats.  Increase your omega-3 intake.  Increase you intake of anticancer products like green tea and specific anticancer vegetables and fruits

Filter you tap water

Spend 20 to 30 minutes a day in physical activity

Expose yourself to sunlight for 20 minutes a day (vitamin D)

Here is what the ‘anticancer plate’ looks like

A colorful plate full that is divided between the largest portion of fruits, vegetables, and vegetable proteins like beans and lentils. The next largest being filled with multi-grain breads and whole grains like rice and quinoa.  Next is good fats high in omega 3’s like olive oil and flaxseed.  Herbs and spices are an important part of this plate too, tumeric, mint, and garlic are included.  Lastly is the optional animal protein section that included organic meats, eggs, and dairy products.

This is certainly the most insightful, well-documented and practical of all that I have read so far.  There is deep and  compelling evidence that we all have the capacity for not only prevention of disease but to actually participate in healing of our own bodies.

I highly recommend this to not only cancer patients and their families but anyone interested in prevention of disease.


I would also like to thank you all for your great comments last week.  I learn so much from all of the readers here!


Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and…a camel!


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A child who learns from gardening
is a child who is unlikely to robotically walk around with dead eyes.

Lee May


Watching children in the garden and out in nature is a wonderful thing, the joy of discovery, the fascination with an emerging plant, and the joy in the little things like a handful of leaves. Mr Chiots and I don’t have children of our own, but we do have nieces and a nephew and we get to watch them in their own garden and in my mom’s garden. They enjoy gardening, especially our nephew who is fascinated with all things dirt. They also love heading to the family cabin to go on nature hikes and they love my parents garden that is filled with all sorts of wonderful things like tall grasses and garden ponds.


Jennifer here. Most of my daughter’s education has taken place outdoors. By the time she was three she could identify all of the springtime flowering trees in our area. She helps in the garden, fishes with her daddy, swims in the creek on hot days, and hikes with her aunt and me. I find it ever so important that any child that spends time with us has the same opportunities to learn from and spend time in nature.


child and chicken

raspberry picking



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Autumn is Upon Us


The days are officially getting shorter, the weather cooler, and the trees are getting their signals to start changing their colors. It seems like Autumn goes by quickly. That no sooner does the foliage change than the leaves start piling in our yards. Cool and sunny afternoons turn into rainy, cold days, and before we know it Old Man Winter is knocking on our door.


If you’re like me you enjoy bundling up in a warm sweater and spending time outdoors amongst the yellows, oranges, and reds. Raking leaves has never been an unpleasant task for me. If you’re lucky you’ll have the opportunity to spend some time to enjoy the scenery. Before you plan your outing, here are a few helpful resources that may help you plan your journey:


Helpful Sites:

Leave No Trace: How to enjoy the outdoors ethically and responsibly.

Fall Foliage Maps by Region. The Weather Channel has a great mini-site advising when to expect foliage color changes.


Leaf Identification Websites:





Recommended Field Guides:

Peterson First Guides: Trees by region

National Audubon Society Field Guide: Trees by region

National Audubon Society Field Guide for birds

Pocket Naturalist Guide: Trees & Wildflowers by state





Drawing paper, pencils, watercolors

 Bird Call Apps for phones

Plan ahead and enjoy this time of the season. It doesn’t last long!

What’s your favorite part of Autumn?

Jennifer can be also be found at Unearthing This Life where she shares excerpts of the life she spends with 7 chickens, 2 cats, 1 frog, 1 fish, 1 child, and 1 husband (there can only be so many to look after!).

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I have learned so much over the past few weeks about the treatment of cancer…specifically breast cancer.

There are so many drugs, treatments, and surgeries that can be used in the modern medical arsenal in this life and death struggle

We have received loads of paperwork describing the symptoms to expect with the varies methods of treatment. We have received an equal number of paperwork describing how each treatment effects the body.  And even more on how to cope with them.

I have read every single word on every single line on each page of information.

What I have found completely shocking is the lack of reference to good nutrition before, during, and after cancer treatment.

Actually there had not been one word…NOT ONE!

How is that even possible?

The link between what goes in our mouths and the health of our bodies is very clear.  Study after study shows that basically ‘you are what your eat’.

Yet in the fight for her life not one single doctor, nurse practitioner, RN, or CNA  has even mentioned diet or nutrition.

I asked the very nice nurse in charge of her ‘chemo training’ about getting some information on nutrition.  And note that this is a fairly large dedicated cancer center my mom is being treated at,  full of different oncologists, chemo treatment rooms, labs, radiation treatment rooms, and such.

Here is the conversation I had with her….

Do you have any hand-outs on what to eat during chemo to help keep her healthy and her immune system up?

A hand-out?

Yes, one covering nutrition.

Ummm…we don’t have anything like that.

You have hand-outs covering everything else including how to buy a wig but you don’t have anything on nutrition?


Me looking confused.

But there is a dietitian over at the hospital that you could possibly see.

Does she specialize in treating cancer patients.

Well no, she mostly sees heart and diabetic patients.

Me looking astonished.

To be honest we usually tell cancer patients to eat whatever sounds good.

Even if its McDonalds Big Mac and fries?


Me sitting there dumbfounded and speechless

I did not expect diet to be a big part of her treatment.

But to completely ignore the effects of diet on a sick patient seems utterly inconceivable to me.  It is short-sighted and ignorant in my personal opinion.

So I have been devouring every book I can get my hands on, reading website after website on the subject of diet on disease, especially cancer.

I will be back next week to let you know what I have learned.

And be assured I firmly believe that diet does indeed play an important part in treatment of disease…cancer included.

Even if the medical establishment in our town chooses to think otherwise.

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The potato produces more calories and protein than any other food crop in terms of space and amount of time. It also stores for up to 6 months under good conditions and can be grown in marginal soil anywhere from sea level up to 13,000 feet. The potato produces about 10,000 pounds of food per acre. A 100 foot row can yield 150-300 pounds of potatoes per year. The average American currently eats about 140 pounds of potatoes per year.


Here at Chiot’s Run I’ve been focusing on growing food that does not need to be processed for storing, so of course potatoes are at the top of that list. I’ve never grown a large amount of potatoes before, just harvesting 10-15 pounds from my tiny potato plot. This year however I planted tons of potatoes and was pleasantly surprised by my harvest. I ordered the heirloom potato sampler from Seed Savers to share with my sister. I planted about 15 pounds of 9 different types of seed potatoes and I ended up with a harvest of around 200 pounds of potatoes for the winter. I’m very pleased with our harvest, the best part is that potatoes need nothing but to be stored in a cardboard box in the basement, no canning, no freezing, no time/energy used for preservation. I was pleasantly surprised that the fingerling potatoes produced the highest yield. Here are a few photos of my Terrific Tubers. (Here’s a list of the varieties I grew this year)


Do you grow potatoes in your garden?  How many do you grow?

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Now that the heat is going away, we are spending even more time outdoors. I find it extremely important to teach my daughter about the environment around her, and how to take care of it. This morning we went for a hike on the nearby Natchez Trace. This is the second official “hike” she’s gone on with me and I was afraid we’d already taught her poor lessons about nature. Thanks goodness my sister came to the rescue. She’s been going to school for, well, years – I call her the tenured student. She’s studied geology, teaching, and biology; she’s worked as a tutor, homeschool teacher, nanny, camp counselor, nature guide; and she’s more patient than I have been as of late. If it wasn’t for my sweet sister, I’m not sure I’d have the desire to take my daughter back on a hike anytime soon.


So what could be so hard about taking a six year old hiking on a nature trail? She got upset when I told her she could not take home some leaves and sticks to save in her nature box. The girl talked and talked and talked, then talked some more, as we were hiking – interrupting all the conversations we older gals would have. She wanted to stop at every water crossing for snacks and drinks. It was a special treat for her, but it was frustrating to stop every 15 minutes for a break. We quickly learned that we’d have to work around the Kid’s desires. I don’t feel the need to leave her at home for these shorter hikes, but we quickly found some tools to keep her interested in the world around her instead of the “plans” she’d made. Ahh, it’s tough having a perfectionist as a child, but even more difficult when you’re a perfectionist and idealist yourself!

rock table

My little sister, she who is seven years younger than myself, she without her own children, she who’s been going to school for just this thing for, well, forever… she showed me how to manage my own daughter on a hike and I love her for all of it! In my excitement to spend time out in nature, exercising my tired bones and spending time with my sister, I’d forgotten that part of the reason of taking my daughter with was to teach her something.


  • Get them thinking about the world around them by engaging their brains.
  •  Ask children about what they see.
  • Why would a plant grow in one place instead of another?
  • Why should we cross streams on rocks instead of tromping through the water, overturning every rock we come across?
  • Why is it important to stay on the trail?
  • What can your children see that is significant of the season?
  • Count the different sounds you hear.
  • birds, bugs, water, wind through trees, raindrops, sticks breaking, nuts falling.
  • Have the children guess what could be making those sounds. What type of bird do you think is singing? Do you think that squirrel is angry with us? And so on
  • Can you imagine why it would be so important for an animal to have good senses?
  • Why is it important to take only photographs and memories with you?
  • Imagine someone coming into your house and moving all of your food and furniture around. How would that make you feel?
  • Even items that aren’t food for animals can be food for other things like mushrooms, trees, and so on. The circle of life affects all organisms.


Having my sister with us on our hike today gave me insight of how to teach my own child about the world around us. What techniques and tricks do you use with children when out in the wild?

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Lately I’ve been thinking about things I can do to save time in the garden and I decided trench composting would be a great way to do this. I started composting directly in the garden areas that need the most help. Now I don’t have to worry about nutrients leaching from the compost pile, which is something I’ve been reading about. If your compost pile isn’t covered, the rain will leach nutrient from the compost into the soil below. Why let all that hard work get leached away? I started trench composting a couple months ago. My parents used to do this when I was growing up. It’s a quick and easy way to compost all that stuff from canning.

All you have to do is dig a trench in the garden area and add a layer of your compostable things. Then back fill with the soil you removed. By spring it will have turned become compost and the worms will have distributed it in the garden. No turning, no layering, it’s quick and easy! You can dig one long trench and simply fill along as you add the compost items.

I still have my regular compost pile for the large amounts of garden waste, but I’m thinking of starting to put this pile in the garden areas I need to amend, that way any nutrients that leach out with the rain will at least be going into a garden area I’ll be using in the future.

Do you practice various forms of composting?

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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“Fresh herbs offer an astounding palette of vibrant and glorious tastes, but their delights go beyond the flavors they lend to food. For a cook, there is joy in simply handling fresh herbs in the kitchen. Who can resist stroking the proud sticky needles of rosemary, rubbing a plush sage leaf, or crushing a crinkled leaf of verdant mint between their fingers? When yous trip the fragrant leaves off sweet marjoram or tuck a few sprigs of shrubby thyme in a simmering stew, you feel connected to the soil and the season, no matter where you kitchen is.”

Jerry Traunfeld The Herbfarm Cookbook


Here at Chiot’s Run I add a few new herbs to the garden each year. I have annual herbs that are sown each spring including dill, parsley, cilantro, chamomile and several types of basil. My gardens are also filled with all sorts of perennial herbs like: Greek oregano, English thyme, catmint, anise hyssop, peppermint, spearmint, chives, sage, and many more. I also have houseplant herbs, they usually spend their summers outside and winter over inside so I can use them in all my winter dishes these include: rosemary, lemon thyme, chives, seasoning celery, parsley, lemongrass, hops flowering oregano, lemon geranium, lemon verbena and a pot of ginger. I also have a few herbs that are used for medicinal purposes like a tea tree oil plant. Herbs are used here for seasoning purposes and for medicinal purposes. I’m learning a little more each year about using them medicinally and I’m quite happy with the results.


It’s Jennifer from Unearthing This Life. Like Susy, I’m slowly learning more and more about herbs and their benefits for our bodies. But their benefits for our spirits has been well known to me for quite some time. Oh! The smells they offer us! The tastes! The textures! I recall being a teenager making concoctions of oils and vinegars as gifts, basing my recipes on herb books and my own senses. If I could I think I’d have an entire lavender garden to walk in on rainy days, right next to rosemary shrubs and thyme.

lemon thyme

lavender and chrysanthemum

I’ve also studied the benefits of herbs for our gardens and how they affect my fruits and vegetables. Plants like borage and lavender can draw pollinators like bees and butterflies to your garden. Basil and cilantro can benefit tomatoes and peppers by keeping humidity high and help by shading roots.


Since we visited the Cherokee last year I became much more interested in our native herbs. Mullein, goldenrod, and other plants that are beneficial just amaze me. I never knew such wonderful things grew right outside my back door and that I didn’t have to special order them from some far away gardener. Now that I know better I’m not so prone to trim back all of those “weeds” growing around our lawn!

purple coneflower



What kinds of herbs are growing in your garden?

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When we did our ‘Real Food’ challenge here at Not Dabbling we gave up processed cereals.  Toast with homemade bread, eggs from our chickens, and oatmeal replaced the out of the box stuff.

I have recently taken it a step farther and have started making breakfast the night before with whole grains and my slow cooker.

Here are a few things I’ve learned…

Although most recipes seem to call for a ratio of 4 to 1 water to grains…I prefer 4.5 to 1 for a creamer dish.

I had trouble with the edges getting a little burnt and crispy, so I found that if I put water in the slow cooker and put another bowl in it (like a double boiler) there are no burnt edges.

Coating the bowl with a touch of oil will save on clean up.

We have used the following grains so far…

Whole oat groats

Hulled barley (not pearled)


Wheat berries


Brown Rice

Wild Rice

You can cook these in water or a combination of water.  Just put your liquids, your grain (try different combos), and a touch of salt in your slow cooker set on the lowest setting.  Turn it on right before bed and you have hot whole grain porridge in the morning!

You can also jazz it up with dried fruits and spices like cinnamon!

There really is no end to the yummy concoctions you can come up with whole grains and your handy dandy slow cooker!

So what about you?  Have you tried whole grains for breakfast yet?

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