Check out what I picked off of the roof yesterday! There are lots of calendula flowering, too… if they don’t freeze tonight, I may harvest them and make a nice oil or something.

And, since I begin my third trimester tomorrow (Oh My God!! Where did time go??!!) I thought I’d post a belly picture. I really feel very large! I’m still not 100% convinced that there aren’t two in there 🙂 And we already know that this child will not sleep all the time like Kaia did, ’cause he never stops moving!

Simple Soap Recipe

I’ve been making my own soap for about 10 years now. It started out as glycerine soaps, but they melted away so quickly. One of my first dates with Toby was making lye soaps, so it’s been lye every since. I love making a big batch of yummy smelling soap, having enough to last us for a long while, and being able to give some as gifts. It’s so nice to pull one of my own soaps from the closet when I need more.

So, here is my quick and easy soap recipe. I almost always start with this and add to it whatever I’m in the mood for. (I promise to post pictures of these steps the next time I make more soap!)

You will need:
-200 grams of lye (it’s not so easy to find this any more. Recently, I was able to get some at the ACE Hardware store. It may be called ‘Red Devil Lye’)
-19 ounces water
-21 ounces Olive Oil
-14 ounces Palm Oil
-16 ounces Coconut Oil
-cooking thermometer
-rubber gloves, old clothes, glasses
-old rubber mixing spatula
-electric beater/mixer

(this will make ~20 3-ounce or 15 4-ounce soap bars)

The first thing I do is line my soap mould. You can use a bread loaf pan, a rectangular tupperware, anything that is around 6×14 inches, or so… not an exact science (it’s also nice if your mould has a cover or something that will work as a cover). You will want to line this with wax paper, making nice crisp corners and taping everything together. This keeps the soap from coming into contact with the actual mould. (If you are using a flexible tupperware, this isn’t necessary since you can pop the soap out, but I still find it easier to line it.)

Next, measure out the lye into a large glass bowl.

Measure the water into a separate container (I use a quart jar).

Take both of these things outside, wearing your rubber gloves and other protective gear. Slowly pour the lye into the bowl of water and mix with the spatula. It will get hot very fast (up to 200 degrees) and put off nasty fumes. At this stage, it is also caustic and can easily burn the skin. So stay up wind of the bowl and mix carefully until the lye is dissolved in the water. Then wait for the lye/water mix to cool to 80-100 degrees.

While waiting, measure all the oils and warm them in a large ceramic or stainless steel pot until the oils are at 80-100 degrees.

When both the lye solution and the oils are 80-100 degrees, carefully pour the lye mix into the oils. With protective gear on, use the mixer/beater to mix it all together. This is called saponification (when the oils and lye come together and neutralize the lye) . It may take 5 minutes, it may take 20, but at some point you will notice that the mixture gets a little thicker. You will see the mix ‘trace’ or leave a mark of where you have just mixed… Kind of like cake batter, but not that thick.

At this point, you are ready to add any extras. I usually use essential oils and will add 2 Tbsp. of what ever smell or mix of smells I chose. I might also add ground herbs or flower petals, ground oats, clays or poppy seeds (for a good scrub). I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m thinking of adding colors, like a little poke berry juice or turmeric, to see what it looks like.

Blend these all in quickly.

Pour into your mould.

If you want to have swirls in the soap (like the pictures in the post below), you can add your powdered herbs or colorants at this stage and use the spatula or a butter knife to gently cut/mix them in.

Cover your mould and place it in a warm place to rest (I usually wrap mine in a towel to keep the heat in).

Check your soap every day. After one to three days, your soap will be firm enough to cut into soap slices. (I almost always cut it up after a day… this recipe seems to harden pretty quickly.) You can cut it into whatever shape you want. I usually cut them about 1-1.25 inches by 3 inches, or so… again, not an exact science.

Lay the soap out to finish curing for at least 3 weeks. Some people like to cut the tops and edges off to make them look more finished or take the ‘ashy’ look off of them. I leave it all on… it’s not harmful and I like the home made look.

There are so many different ways to make soaps and so many things that can be added… milk, honey, cocoa butter, other oils…. Start with a simple recipe and have fun experimenting. Get a good book, too, so you have good references.

Week in Picture Review

Here’s all the lard after it was canned. Looks like creamy milk, doesn’t it! I’m really enjoying using it to cook up eggs, veggies, etc…

Kaia and I spent some time making some holiday soaps. This was a batch of Wintergreen/Sweet Orange soap, and she’s mixing in a little cinnamon powder ‘to make swirlies!’, while enjoying a piece of Halloween candy.

The next day, we cut it up into pieces and will let it sit 3 weeks before using it (so it cures and isn’t so caustic). The first batch made 20 pieces of soap (~3 oz each)

The second batch we doubled and ended up with another 44 bars! This one is Clarysage/Ylang Ylang with swirlies of cardamom.

We’ve been getting the garden beds ready. Made 8 raised bed frames with scrap wood. Hopefully that will be enough to get us started this spring. Toby tilled the soil and mixed in lots of leaves and some roof dirt (which will help break up the clay and add some compost). I need to add more compost, manure and soil and will plant some rye for the winter.

We gave Kaia a mini-sling to practice carrying doll babies… But she found a fuzzy, wiggly doll baby she likes better… Snuggle or torture? It depends on who you ask.

She’s also decided she wants to learn how to knit. So she plopped down in the rocker by the fire (an appropriate place for knitting, I think) and pretended for a while. We are going to start a kids knitting group with some other moms when we get back from Disney.

And, what post would be complete without snuggling kitties… Isabella, Daisy, and Chub Chub Max.

Rendering Lard & Italian Delicacies

I’ve been reading a lot of books on food lately… Real Food by Nina Planck, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Know your Fats by Mary Enig… All of them have got me thinking about my own use and consumption of fats. I primarily use Olive Oil (imported), Coconut Oil (imported), and Butter (haven’t found a local farm supply, yet) in my cooking. And though all of these oils are healthy fats (non -hydrogenated), none of them are local, and they can cost a pretty penny. So, I decided to head down the road to a sweet family run farm and get some fatback! Hickory Nut Gap Farm raises their animals organically, free range, grass fed, and with love. AND They sold me the fatback for $1/pound!!! I’ve never rendered fatback into lard before, but after learning more about how healthy lard actually is for you, I thought it would be nice to learn how to use it better. (After the big push for using vegetable oils and fat-phobia, lard use has seriously decreased. But, did you know that lard is actually better for you than vege oils which are often hydrogenated (much worse for the body) and extracted with nasty chemicals! lard raises HDL (‘good cholesterol’), lowers LDL (‘bad cholesterol’), is 60% unsaturated fat, and has Vitamin D, E, and antimicrobial properties.)

So, this morning, I began the rendering process. I got most of my directions from here (Jan 12th entry).

I started with 12.5 pounds of fatback, but put 2 pounds aside to make Lardo (see below). I cut the remaining 10.5 pounds into little chunks, as small as I could without agonizing over it. (The more surface area you have, the faster it renders).

Then I put the chunks into a pot with ~2-3 inches of water on the bottom (this helps keep the fat from burning on the bottom, and boils off before you are done). I was worried about the pot overflowing, so I got a second pot going. (In the picture, the larger pot has been cooking for a while and looks more gray.) But once they cooked a while, I ended up combining the two.

The fatback should boil over low/med heat to melt the fat. Stir it very frequently to keep it from sticking or burning on the bottom.

When I was reading about it online, people complained about the smell and recommended doing it out doors. But, I liked it…. the smell was like cooking ground beef or hamburgers and wasn’t overwhelming.

I spent most of the day in the kitchen, stirring the lard and making other food. By 4pm the fat was getting close. There was a little scum on the top, so I kept skimming that off.

About 5pm, the oil seemed to change… the boiling bubbles were smaller and the oil looked more golden. It didn’t seem like I was getting any more out of the little pieces that were left in the pot. So, I poured the oil through a cheese cloth and strainer into a large pot, then poured the oil/lard from the pot into pint canning jars. It made ~8.5 pints. What was left in the strainer and in the bottom of the pot is called ‘cracklins’. They were mostly crispy and are supposed to be great on salads or spread on bread. I tried them and they were ok, but a little too heavy for me. So, I put them in a tupperwear and will give them to the dog with her meals. Lucky dog!

The jar that wasn’t completely full, I put in the fridge, and the rest I canned. I followed my canning books recipe for canning pork. I filled the jars full and put them in a pressure canner at 12 pounds for 90 minutes.

The lard turned out white and tasty! I plan to use it when cooking eggs, frying, with pastries… when ever I can! I have to say, I’m proud of myself. I said prayers of thanks for these animals who gave their fat and feel good that I’m using all of the animal and not being wasteful…. Meat for eating, lard for cooking, bones for broth… If I’m going to be a part of this omnivore cycle, then I want to thankful to those plants and animals who nourish my body and eat as sustainably as possible.

While I was making the lard, I also decided to try my hand at an Italian delicacy, Lardo. It’s the italian way of preserving fatback. Instead of just salting it, they also add spices. I got my recipe from here. I made a salt water brine and then added garlic, rosemary, sage, bay, and juniper.

I put 2 pounds of fatback in a glass container and, once the brine tea cooled, poured the tea over the fatback. The fatback wanted to float, so I used a half-pint canning jar to hold it down and then put the top on. Into the fridge it went, where it will stay for at least three months (though some italian recipes call for 6-10 months!) Every 30 days I’ll flip it over. Once it’s done, you take it out and dry it off. Then you slice it very thin and eat it over toast or polenta.

Some Body Stop Me!

I can’t stop canning things! Unfortunately, each recipe gets sweeter. I really need to work on adding some vegetables to the canning mix! Shesh!

This is the Apple Berry Syrup that I mentioned in the last post…

Yesterday, I canned up a 1/2 bushel of peaches!!

We made Spiced Peaches in a very light syrup, Peach Applesauce, and then dried some peaches.
Tonight, I made a peach pie with this recipe. We topped the pie with home made whipped cream and some home made chocolate rose syrup!!

The Chocolate Rose Syrup is something that I tried yesterday at a meeting (meetings with herbalists always entail great foods!) and I thought I’d try my hand at canning it too!!! It would make a great present.

The recipe made 25 4 ounce jars!!!
Here’s how to make it:
3 cups cocoa powder
4 1/2 cups honey
2 1/2 cups rose water
2 cups water
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Mix all in a pot and simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Pour into jars and process in a boiling hot water bath for 25 minutes.
Sit down and lick pot and all cooking utensils! Mmmmm!

OK, so next, I’ll work on green beans! 🙂

Yummmy, Yummy, and just plain yummy!

Kaia and I went apple picking yesterday at the Long Branch Environmental Education Center, about 30 minutes north of us. They have 57 varieties of heritage apples! But they also had a ton of blueberries ripe and ready for picking. So, we ended up getting ~a gallon of blueberries and ~35 pounds of apples! I have no idea what kind of apples. We just hopped from tree to tree picking the best looking ones. Then we came home and did some canning!!
We made Spiced Apple Rings, Spiced Apple Berry Syrup, and Caramel Apple Butter!!!! MMMmmmmmm
Here are the recipes:

Spiced Apple Rings
6 pounds of firm tart apples
2 cups of sugar
6 sups of water
1 1/4 cups vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
3 Tbsp. Whole Cloves
8 Cinnamon Sticks

Combine sugar, water, vinegar, cloves, and cinnamon in a large pan. Heat to a boil and simmer 3-5 minutes.
Core, peel, and slice apples (I use one of those apple slicer thingies that does it all at one time). Place apple rings into wide mouth pint jars and fill with hot syrup, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Tighten lids and process in a hot water bath for 25 minutes. Makes 8 pints.

Spiced Apple Berry Syrup
6-8 cups Berries
Apples, cored, peeled and in little chunks
8 Vanilla beans
Big pinch of Chinese Five Spice Powder (you don’t have to have this for the recipe, but I do, so I used it 🙂
pinch each of nutmeg and cardamom
2 cups honey

In a large pot, put 6-8 cups of berries (I used blueberries, hawthorne berries, and rose hips and cover with water 2 inches over the top of the berries. Add to this vanilla beans, Chinese 5 spice, nutmeg and cardamom. Simmer until berries are soft (about 30-40 minutes).
Strain out berries and vanilla, pressing out as much juice and pulp as possible (if your berries have no seeds, you can keep them in the syrup! Just remove the vanilla beans.)
Put the juice and pulp back in the pot and add honey, stirring well to mix.
In your 4 or 8 ounce jars, put cored, peeled apple chunks.
Cover apples with syrup, leaving 1/4″ head space, and seal the jars.
Process in a hot water bath for 25 minutes.
Makes 18 four ounce jelly jars!

Caramel Apple Butter
8 pounds Apples
1 cup water
3 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
8 whole cloves
2 Tbsp. peeled, minced ginger root
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Core, peel, and chunk apples and put them in a large pot with the water. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often.
In another pan, heat 2 cups of the sugar over medium heat until it melts/caramelizes.
When apples are soft and mushy, pour the liquid sugar into the big pot of apples, as well as the last cup of sugar. Tie the spices in a muslin cloth and add to the mixture. Simmer for an hour, stirring often. Remove the spice bag, add lemon juice, and put into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head room. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Makes ~9 half-pint jars.

Herbed Figs

Man! I am on a canning roll! Look out, or I might just stuff you in a jar and plop you in the hot water bath!

Here’s the recipe I used for tonight’s extravaganza. It was given to me by a friend.

Herbed Figs

  • ~20 ripe figs, quartered
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 2 tsp. sugar (raw or brown)
  • pinch of Thyme (dry or fresh)
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon

Place all of the ingredients in a pan and simmer until juicy. Put figs and juices in a jelly jar leaving 1/2 inch of room at the top. Boil for 5 minutes in a water bath. Makes ~4 8-oz jars. Mmmmmmm!

Yummy Jam

Kaia and I spent most of yesterday canning up Jams of every sort… there was Raspberry jam, Strawberry-Raspberry Jam, Blueberry-Blackberry-Raspberry-Strawberry Jam… and they all came out perfect and delicious! We found great, simple recipes in the Pomona Pectin Boxes, and they only used a little honey.

Here’s the “Everyberry Jam” on the stove:

Canning Frenzy!

We’ve been canning all day today! Woohooo!
Friday we canned up 8-8oz. jars of salsa. It’s a fantastic salsa fresh, but not as tasty cooked. Still, it’s pretty good. Today, we canned up 12 pints and 2 quarts of Basil Marinara sauce and 6 quarts of Roasted Tomato Garlic Soup. The marinara sauce turned out good, but could use more oomph, so we’ll have to add a little fresh spice to it when we use it. The Roasted Tomato soup turned out absolutely delicious!!! I’m excited to have all these yummy soups to look forward to this Fall and Winter! So, here’s the soup recipe (we doubled it):

Roasted Tomato Garlic Soup
8-12 tomatoes (depending on the size)
2 carrots — cut in 1″ pieces
1 large onion — quartered
2 large whole heads garlic — peeled
olive oil
2 1/2 cups chicken or Veggie. broth
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil — (or 1 Tbsp. dried)
1/2 pint cream

Core tomatoes and cut in half. Place, cut side up, on foil covered cookie sheet. Use enough tomatoes to cover the cookie sheet. Then add carrots, onion and garlic to the cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil. Bake at 400F for about an hour, or until veggies are roasted and a little blackened. Place in a large saucepan with the broth and basil and simmer for about 10 minutes. Blend with a stick blender (or in small batches in a blender) until almost smooth. Add cream. To can: Process in a pressure canner, pints for 60 min. and quarts for 70 min. For dial gauge canners use 11 pounds pressure at 0-2000 ft., 12 lbs. at 2001-4000 ft., 13 lbs. at 4001-6000 ft. and 14 lbs. above 6000 ft. For weighted gauge canners use 10 lbs. pressure at 0-1000 ft., and 15 lbs. over 1000 ft. This makes ~3 quarts of soup.

Anyone have a good low sugar raspberry or blackberry jelly recipe for canning?

Tomatoes and Berries galore!!

Kaia and I went Blackberry picking yesterday and got gallons of blackberries, and even a few raspberries. The vines were dripping with berries as big and juicy as I’ve ever seen. The raspberries weren’t ready just yet, but the farm owners had picked some of a different variety a few weeks ago and frozen them. So, I got a few gallons of raspberries too. So, we should have lots of yummy jam soon!!

Look at how huge these things are!

We’ve also been canning up some tomatoes. A local organic farm had some problems with their packing boxes and ended up with some bruised tomatoes that their buyers wouldn’t accept. So, they were trying to get rid of them and selling 20# boxes for $12!!! We got two boxes and I can’t find a bruise on them! They are perfect!!

So, tonight we canned some salsa, and on Sunday we are going to can some Pelati and some Roasted Tomato Garlic Soup. MMmmmmm…..

All is well on the baby front. I was showing so early and measuring ahead of dates, that we though we might have twins. So, we decided to go for an ultrasound just to be sure all was ok. Turns out there is one happy baby in there and one freakin huge placenta! From what I understand the main reasons for big placentas are moms with Syphilis (which I don’t have), diabetes (which I don’t have), Rh incompatibility (which we don’t have), and just because. I guess it’s just because. Big placentas often grow big babies… :-O

Isabella and Daisy went in to get spayed last week. Daisy came back her usual self and just bounced all over the place. We tried to keep her calm so that she wouldn’t break her sutures. She did fine, but for some reason Isabella’s wound opened a tiny bit, about the size of a pencil eraser, and she was having some swelling under one of her nipples. So, we took her back in and they put an adhesive on the skin to get the wound to close. But they also had to give her a cone to keep her from licking it.

She was not happy about it, walked around the house backwards, and somehow still got around it to lick the wound. Within a day it was opened up again, so I decided to do it my way. I cleaned the wound and put a sterile dressing with honey on it, then wrapped her belly in an ace bandage. So far so good. She’s able to move around and hasn’t tried to take it off. She’s eating well and I’m giving her some herbs in her food to keep down infection and to decrease the swelling (which is gone now).

Coconut Milk Ice Cream-Mint Chip

Here’s a little recipe I put together yesterday in an attempt to ease a craving for mint ice cream. It came out very good and has no dairy or soy in it, so everyone in the family can eat it.

In a blender blend:
2 cans (13.5oz) Full Fat Coconut Milk
2 heaping Tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 tsp. Mint extract
3 Tbsp Agave syrup

Blend until fully mixed. Then stir in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips. Pour into a bowl/dish/tupperwear suitable for freezing and place in the freezer. I stirred it every hour for ~6 hours, until I went to bed and left it in the fridge over night. It may do fine if you just leave it in the freezer without stirring, but I don’t know. (I don’t have an ice cream machine, and the freezer method seemed to work just fine) In the morning, I had a delicious spoonful of mint ice cream and was even better than the store bought!!!

You could make all kinds of variations to this, as long as you have the basic coconut milk…. like vanilla and fresh fruit, or vanilla and cookie dough chunks… etc.

Let me know if you come up with any that you like!

Delicious day!

Kaia and I have had a great day so far. We spent the morning watching old Bugs Bunny cartoons, then she got completely pruned in the bath, and this afternoon we baked ourself a treat!

The recipe is from an old restaurant that use to be in downtown Asheville. When I was in high school, down town Asheville wasn’t really a place you would go to, unless you were headed to the 2 antique stores that were there. Most of the buildings were run down and uninhabited. At some point, The Stone Soup, opened with an amazing bakery and fun sandwiches. It started bringing more people down town and more people became interested in transforming the place. Now Asheville has a fantastic downtown with great restaurants, shops, buskers, music, etc. I don’t know what ever happened to the Stone Soup. But, here is the recipe for the cinnamon rolls.

Stone Soup Cinnamon Swirls

2 eggs beaten, room temp.
2 T. dry yeast
2 ¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. Cloves
¼ tsp. Allspice
4 ½ unbleached flour (I didn’t have any, so I used Oat flour and it worked fine)
12 T Butter
½ cup water
1 2/3 cup milk (I used rice milk)
2 ½ whole wheat flour

3 T. butter
2 T. sugar
1 T. cinnamon

1) Combine dry ingredients, except whole wheat flour, in a bowl and set aside.

2) Combine and heat butter, water, and milk until lukewarm. Put this in your mixing bowl. Add the beaten, room temp. eggs and the dry mixture. Mix thoroughly.

3) Add the whole wheat flour slowly until the dough pulls away from the bowl. You might not use it all OR you might need a little more. Be sure you check the dough’s consistency while adding the WW flour. You don’t want the dough to get too heavy, which is easy to do. Knead the dough in the mixer for 7 minutes OR by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover in a bowl and let double in size. This will take AT LEAST 30 minutes. It will probably take longer. Be patient. You will be rewarded.

4) Make the filling in the mean time. Carefully melt butter and add sugar and cinnamon. Put aside.

5) When the dough has risen, roll it out into a rectangle about 14 inches by 9 inches. Paint the melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar mix on the dough leaving the ½ inch bare at the bottom.

6) Carefully roll it up starting from the top, moving toward you. Pinch the seam together.

7) Cut the rolls into 1 inch (or a little bigger : )) and place them on a baking sheet (lined with parchment) evenly, at least 2 inches apart.

8) Bake in a preheated 350* oven until they have a light crust all the way around, ~25 minutes. The sides should not be soft, but golden brown and delicious!

9) Glaze as desired. I used powdered sugar, rice milk and a few drops of orange essential oil.


Delicious non-dairy ice cream

I tasted this at the local health food store and it was delicious!. So I fiddled with the listed ingredients and think I’ve got it pretty dang close. So here you go. A fantastic substitute for those who like mint chocolate chip ice cream, but don’t do dairy:

2 cups Raw Cashew butter
1/3 cup Coconut oil
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/2 tsp. Mint extract
handful of chocolate chips.

Gently melt the coconut oil on the stove. Turn off the heat and add the cashew butter and agave. Mix well until creamy. Add mint extract and chocolate chips, mix well. Cool it in the fridge and then eat up! Oh, and you don’t need much of it to get full satisfaction!

Care Package Give-Away

I was just the lucky recipient of a lovely care-package from Two Frog Home. It was full of love, attention, and friendship, and it felt so wonderful to open this gift from a far away friend that I’ve only met through the computer. So, I’d like to continue this expression of friendship by offering a home made care package give-away from Dirt Under My Nails! If you want to be in the running to receive it, just leave a comment by 5pm Friday, Feb 8th (and be sure your email address is included). I’m sure something herbal will be included, something edible (although if the winner is international, I will leave out the perishables) and more!

Good luck!

Happenings at the homestead


The chickens are doing well. Still laying a bunch. Since they got use to laying in their boxes, they still go back their to lay even though they are completely free range now. No problems with predators, but we’ll see how that goes once the cold weather comes along and food gets more scarce.

Our two new hives are doing well. They seem strong. We’ve started feeding them their winter sugar syrup. They had a huge field of ragweed and goldenrod to gather pollen from, so they should have enough protein to last them through the winter.


Things are moving along well at the house. We are working on getting the stairs in (with the funky angles in our house, this is a bit of a chore). They are made of Oak and Ash and I can’t wait to try them out. I know Suki (the dog) will be happy that she can finally explore the upstairs too. The plumbers are coming out tomorrow, and we hope to do the electrical at the end of the month!



I’ve been having fun scrolling through Ebay finding lights, sinks, faucets, etc. Here is the sink I got for the master bath. It’s a glass vessel sink, so it sits above the counter. Cooooool, Eh???

This is the sink for downstairs… it’s a hand painted mexican Talavera drop in sink!


I’m also making some hand made paper sconces for a few of the rooms. I bought a pretty cheap glass sconce, traced it to make a pattern and added a few inches to each side to have room to fold the edges over. Then I used a spray adhesive and attached the paper, leaving the top rough and unfolded. Then, I used some dried curly willow branches and glued them (with a craft glue) onto the paper.

Here’s the final product… Cool eh? I thought these would look nice in our bedroom, and maybe in the from hall as you walk into the house.


Today’s Haul

Toby and I headed out today to pick up the shower and some wood for exterior (upstairs) siding.  On the way, we stopped by the Habitat store to see if there was anything new and got a great haul!  We picked up another antique door (this one for our bedroom) for $25, a cast iron kitchen sink in great condition for $75 (retails new for $400), and a jenn-air gas convection oven for $125!!!  The oven is between 6 and 9 years old, but is in great condition.  We found similar models on the internet for ~$2000!!!  Wahooo!!

Right now, I’m enjoying a little popcorn snack that I’ll share with you, since you asked…

Pop up some popcorn in a little olive oil (we use the stove instead of a microwave).  Then add a splash of tamari (enough to get some flavor but not so much as to really wet the popcorn).  Sprinkle on some nutritional yeast (I like lots… add it to your taste), and a dash of spirulina.  A really yummy treat with lots of minerals and B-vitamins!  (Well, Toby thinks it’s gross, but I love it!!)

make your own…

Last week Kaia asked me why we didn’t chew gum. I told her it just wasn’t something we did. I was a huge gum addict when I was younger. I use to have a drawer in the fridge that I kept my gum in. My mom hated it! Mostly because it was chewed gum that I believed would regain it’s flavor if you cooled it down and then tried chewing it again. Anyway, at some point, I just stopped chewing gum. Now, with having Kaia, I think I didn’t want to get into it because I wasn’t ready to deal with gum in the hair, in the bed, stuck to furniture…

Anyway, last week when she went to play at her grandmother’s, Kaia came home with a pack of gum and she has been chomping on it for dear life. She loves it! Any chance she gets she asks me for another piece. And get this… She found a little corner in the fridge and stores it there… new and used gum! Now she wants to know how to blow bubbles (gum in the hair, here we come)!

So, looking at the ingredients in the gum (the pack she had was loaded with artificial sweeteners) I decided we were going to learn how to make our own and come up with our own special flavors. So, I ordered this and also got the ingredients to follow this recipe. We’ll see how they all turn out!  (Oh, by the way if you ever happen to get a wad of chewing gum stuck in your belly button, Q-tips work really well to get it out.  Just keep twisting it around and it will get it all out… 🙂
After looking up how to make gum, I got in the ‘makin’ mood. So, we decided to make some ice cream. Since we don’t have an ice cream maker, we followed both of these recipes for Pumpkin Ice Cream (also from the Leener’s site we got the gum recipe from… cool site!) and for Fruit Ice Cream (we used a frozen fruit mix at the end). They both turned out fantastic!!! Kaia is bouncing off the walls right now while Toby tries to get her into bed! (Mental note: no more ice cream right before bed!)


Kaia, smiling like the nut she is, mixing the pumpkin ice cream.


Here we are kneading the bags of fruit ice cream. Kaia has a cloth over hers to keep her hands from getting too cold. You can see the pink ice cream in the bag I am holding.


Savoring the fruit ice cream. (No, she didn’t eat all of that! We put most of it back in the freezer.)

I think I am going to order her the “Play and Freeze” ice cream maker for her birthday.


This is what Kaia and I harvested for dinner last night.


I also had some fresh nettles and green onions. So we fried up the nettles, morrels and onions in some butter and mead for dinner, and washed it down with a plantain/spearmint tea. It was delicious!

I love walking around the land and picking food from here or there! It’s such a great feeling to wild harvest foods and then such a healthy feeling to eat them!!

Dandelion Mead and broken fridge


Once the Dandelions started flowering all around, I planned on making a dandelion mead. But, when I went out the other day to gather dandelion flowers, I also found a field full of violets, a wild patch of lemon balm, a huge amount of nettles, and a few other yumminesses. Above is a picture of the bottom of the 5 gallon that I brew my mead in (minus the nettles). Isn’t it pretty? I can’t wait to sample it!

I taught two herb classes this past week for the local school and felt completely drained. I love teaching community classes about herbalism to people who have no clue about it. Afterwards, I feel energized. But these 3 hour classes to aspiring herbalist just drain me. They make me think too much when I am teaching 🙂 No, seriously, I feel like I am being pulled along by this wave of people who are all doing great herbal things, but may want to be ‘bigger’ herbalists than I do. Writing books, teaching at conferences… I wouldn’t mind being known and making good money, but it’s not a goal of mine. In fact, it stresses me out. I really just want to live simply, have time for playing with my family, and to be an effective healer. If I never taught another class or wrote another article, but had enough clients to keep me happily busy, I would be good with that. But, right now, I have to teach classes and write, etc. to get my name known to build clientele. I think lot of it is that I feel like I am teaching over my head. I mean, I know my herbs and all, but I don’t know all the constituents in Pipssissewa, and I don’t know all the drug/herb interactions for people on cardiac medications. And even when I am teaching anatomy and physiology, I am definitely not an expert and sometimes don’t even feel like I should be up there teaching. I don’t know what I am trying to say here… I guess, I am just remembering the whole reason that we are on this land and building our own house, and it’s not so that I can always be elsewhere trying to make a name for myself as an herbalist. My vision to be a part time herbalist and full time mom/wife/friend/land lover has somehow gotten to fulltime+ herbalist and on occassion mom/wife and even less time for friends and time on the land. Hmmmm… something needs to change.


HOLY SHIT!! The Fridge just blew off the porch!!! The weather man predicted wind gust of up to 65mph for the next 2 days… and the brand new $600 fridge just blew off the porch and landed on a concrete statue! We had 20 eggs in the fridge and now there are only 2 left! The rest are plastered all over the inside of the fridge. Broken bottles everywhere… The whole thing is dented up and the light isn’t working. So we don’t know if the light is burnt out or if the whole fridge is broken. CRAP, CRAP, CRAP!!!
The out house is blown over now too! Major CRAP!! I’m not looking forward to cleaning that one up! Things are flying all over the place and I keep having visions of the whole house tipping over! I hope the chicken coop stays put!! And I really hope the tin stays on our roof! It is really insane here right now, and a tad bit scary!!

June asked about herbal books for house pets. Juliette Levy also has one on this subject. Haven’t read it, but I would bet it is good. I also have The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care and Dr. Pitcairn’s New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, both of which I like. There are a ton of other pet herbals out there, too.

Stella, I’m not sure what will happen after graduation. I definitely still want to do consultations. I may start by doing some at the school (you can rent out a room for $10). The only thing with that is that the rooms are made to be massage rooms, so they are dark, with no windows. So, I have been talking with a few herbie friends of mine about opening up an herbal clinic downtown… maybe having a free day once a month, and offering walk-in clinic time too. Once our main house is done, I could use some of the little house space as an office. But, I think people would be more inclined to make an appt. if they didn’t have to drive out of town.

Oh, and here is the finished outhouse. I forgot to post this picture earlier… it has been done for ~1 1/2 weeks and is going great so far. The main drawback is that I always have to get up and go pee first thing in the morning and I am too lazy to climb off of the bed, climb down the squeaky ladder, out the front door and across the yard to the outhouse. I end up trying to hold it and then when Kaia wakes up and has to go it ends up being a race to get us there! I think we are going to have to rig up an indoor system for this winter, definitely!

There is the bucket in use under the seat, and an empty bucket next to that one. Toby built a lid to fit over all of it and that lifts to take the buckets out. There is also a bucket with sawdust for covering up. We screened in the top and bottom to allow for airflow and cut down on any smells. But, so far, there have been no smells with the bucket/sawdust system! Cool, eh?
Kaia helped with the painting… can you tell?

Weekend progress

We had a very productive weekend, despite the rain! We stayed up on the land in Toby’s mom’s camper, which was awesome! This was the first time we have actually been able to sleep out on the land! The night was cool and moist, the peeper frogs were singing their songs, and on Sat. night the stars were vibrant! Each morning we would wake up to a misty fog, and the rain has made everything so lush and green! It’s like living in a rainforest.

Here are some pics of this weekends progress: Continue reading »

pox and such

Well, I think we are over the rough part of chicken pox with K. She developed full blown symptoms last Thursday (fever and some small spots) and has had a rough weekend. But she is such a trooper! She loves taking her oatmeal baths and she helped me make a lotion to soothe her spots. She is even using visualization to help! (I told her to imagine a purple, sparkly sunshine just outside of her body and that when she takes a deep breath, the sunshine goes into her body and warms her up and helps her feel better. She was so cute… taking deep breaths and trying to concentrate on the purple sunshine.)
Here she is taking a little break on the couch:

Today, K helped me make some home-made chia pets. I don’t know how they will work, but it was fun anyway. We took old panty hose and put a layer of red clover seeds on the bottom. Then we stuffed it with seed starting soil and the end of a wick (I used some yarn since I didn’t have a real ‘wick’). Then, we tied up the ‘head’ and stiched on some buttons for eyes, nose and mouth. Then I dunked the whole thing in water and for a minute and placed it over a jar with water and am letting it sit in the window. I’ll let you know if it works. I think the hose may be to tightly woven and the seeds won’t be able to break through…

We also went up to the land this weekend. We had hoped to camp, but with K feeling under the weather, we decided against it. Still waiting on the Atty. to finish the paper work before we can close. Hopefully, next week.

Another Year Younger!

So, yesterday was my 32nd birthday! I woke up to breakfast in bed (blueberry pancakes) and some snuggle time with the whole family in the bed (well, except the dog 🙂 Today, Toby is throwing me a birthday bash complete with a karaoke machine!! I will be sure to get lots of pictures and maybe some video. Until then, I’ll leave you with the recipe for “root soda” that I made for tonight:

  • 2 oz Sassafras Root
  • 1 oz Sarsaparilla Root
  • 1/2 oz each of Burdock Root, Dandelion Root, Fresh Ginger Root, and Licorice Root

If you don’t have some of these, substitute with other nice roots, like astragalus, but the sassafras and sarsaparilla are key ingredients for the flavor.

Put the roots in ~1 gallon of water and bring to a boil. Then simmer for 30 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool. Strain out herbs and add sweetener to taste (I ended up adding ~1 cup of brown sugar). Then add enough carbonated water to make it fizz. It should remind you of a gentle root beer.

This makes a bunch, so scale it back if you don’t want a ton in your fridge.

Three things…

Ok, first – watch the david letterman show tonight at 11:30! My good friend’s brother’s band, We Are Scientists, is going to be on there! Cool, eh?

Second, I am trying to get into the habit of saying ‘thanks’ before eating a meal. I want K to learn this ritual as a way to calm down before eating and to thank the earth for the food. A friend of mine taught me this great little blessing and I really like it:

Ths silver rain, the shining sun, and fields where scarlet poppies run
and all the ripples of the wheat are in the bread that we do eat.
So, when we sit at every meal, with thankful hearts we always feel
that we are eating rain and sun in fields where scarlet poppies run.

Isn’t that sweet!!

Third, I tried this amazing tea the other night by Tazo called Passion!! It is this fantastic mix of flowers and sweet roots and barks. Anyway, I had to figure out how to make it and I think I have got it. So, give it a try and let me know how you like it!

6 parts Hibiscus flower
3 parts Orange peel
3 parts Licorice Root
3 parts Cinnamon bark
3 parts Rose hips
2 parts Lemongrass
2 parts Food Grade Citric Acid (which you can get at some health food stores, or online)
(a part is by weight measurement, like ounces or grams. So, if you use one ounce of Hibiscus, you would use 1/2 ounce of the rest, except Lemongrass which is 1/3 ounce.)

Use 1 teaspoon per cup of water. Boil the herbs in the water for 15 minutes, strain out the herbs and add honey. After tasting this tea, you will be prone to saying “MMMmmmmmm, OOOOoohhh, that’s gooooood” in a somewhat orgasmic way!


Hey! Sorry most of my posts have just been my herb reviews lately. Things have been really busy around here and I haven’t had much chance to catch up on the blogging. I did, however, have time to try to make a little chocolate! I ordered cocoa nibs from Chocolate Alchemy and roasted them Sat. morning. Then I put them through my champion juicer to try to make a liquor, but it just seemed to be grinding it up and making them into a paste. Then, the juicer started to smoke, so I thought it might be a good idea to move on to another appliance. So, I put it all in my Vita-mix blender and added a little grain alchohol and maple syrup (thinking I could make a tincture for “chocolate medicine!”). Then, I poured it all into a bottle. But, when I checked it this morning, most of the cocoa seed pieces have expanded to take on the liquid and now it is a thick paste stuck in the bottle!! SO, I am going to let it soak there for a few weeks and then either try to scrape it out (it’s a narrow neck liter bottle!), or cut the glass in half!! I am not throwing my chocolate away!!!

I still have a pound and a half of the nibs left. I don’t know what I am going to do with those yet.

roasted nibs

ground nibs

Yummy Yummy,

Oh, and only 1 gram of fat per serving!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
1 1/2 pound sweet potato, scrubed and peeled
2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce or Tamari
1 tsp. Veg. oil
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut potatoes into 1/4 inch strips. Whisk together Soy Sauce, Garlic, Oil, and Sugar. Toss Potatoes into the liquid mixture. Lightly oil a baking sheet and place the potato slices in a single layer on the sheet. Cook for ~20 minutes, stirring once at 10 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. ~4 servings.

I cut up a ton extra and tossed it in the liquid mix, then put it in baggies in the freezer. We’ll see how they turn out after they have been frozen.


I’m not sure what that title is about… I think I am tired of thinking and that is what came out.

So, how come, the more I just want a simple, relaxed life the busier it gets. I feel like there are so many things happening right now. So many details to keep track of in my head and crap, that I can’t turn my brain off for a second to relax! I can’t remember the last time I sat down and read a book for pure enjoyment and not for the sake of learning something new. (That will all change on the 16th when the next Harry Potter book comes out!!!)

Anyway, enough bitching…

Here’s what K and I did this morning:

First we made a sling for her little bear that she has been carrying all around lately. She loves the sling. She only took it off to sleep!

We also made playdough this morning. Here are K and her bear (still in the sling) learning how to “mash da paydow”:

Here’s the recipe for the playdough. It was really simple. We made blue and pink. (It takes lots of food coloring to make a vibrant color)
1 cup water
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 c salt
1 Tbsp cream of tartar
food coloring
mix all of this in a sauce pan and heat until warm (and most of the salt is dissolved). Take off the heat and add 1 cup of flour. Stir, then knead until smooth. Keep in an airtight container.

Herb Spiral

I’ve been trying to make another raised bed for some poor little herbs that are in desperate need of a home. But, I seem to keep finding reasons to put it off. Well, I have finally been inspired by Stella and Steph to build a spiral herb garden. I needed to build something more creative than a rectangle. Thanks for the advice ladies!!

Here is the bed before the dirt and plants:

And after:

So far, there are only comfrey, chives and jeruselum artichoke in the bed. But, I will be getting a bunch more from another herbalist this weekend!! Yay!

And just because I am so proud of myself for taking a fairly decent picture with my camera, I have to post this. It is the flower of the pitcher plant that is in the ‘pond’ in our back yard. Cool, eh??

And just because I am so proud of myself for producing something so damn scrumptous I have to post this, too. She likes to pose for the camera and squints because she know the flash will go off. So, this is what happened when I said, “don’t squint, open your eyes.”

And after a little practice…

I could just eat her up!!