No More Shampoo

Did you know there are a lot of people that don’t use shampoo or conditioner on their hair? Until very recently, I didn’t know that. Not long ago we posted an article about Trying to Escape Chemicals that talks about toothpaste, deodorant, fluoride, sugar, BPA, aluminum, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. As I was clicking around reading different articles and blogs I ran across The Homesteading Hippy which had an article titled How To Make Homemade Shampoo. This reminded me of our journey to escape chemicals, so I read it. What I read there lead me to do a search about leading a no shampoo life. I was amazed at what I found.

You see, Frank has not used shampoo or conditioner for as long as I can remember. He only uses Dove bar soap. I, on the other hand have always used a shampoo and conditioner. About 20 years ago I started having an itching problem and tried many different brands and types of shampoos and conditioners. After a few years I was diagnosed with psoriasis and have since used a liquid medication on my scalp along with selenium sulfide shampoo twice a week, in between using a very mild shampoo and conditioner. I have kept up this regimen for years and years.

When I read about the no shampoo information and all of the chemicals found in shampoo and conditioner I wondered what impact it might have on my itching problem if I could eliminate them altogether. My only reservation was the possibility of having very greasy hair. You see, I have long hair. But I was excited about the possibility of clearing up some of my psoriasis problem as well as not having to use the chemicals found in the medications I have been using for years.


Then I read about the chemicals found in many hair care products and realized this was another source of toxins my body was being exposed to everyday. Here is a list of just a few of the sites I read while researching the ‘no poo’ movement that is out there. I think a lot of this activity has been sparked by the desire to live more naturally. Some of these activities can be taken to the extreme, but some are just good common sense.

How To Go No Poo

No Poo Method

Cancer-Causing Chemicals Found In 98 Shampoos and Soaps

Finding a Safe Shampoo, and What Ingredients To Avoid

Toxic Ingredients in Personal Care Products

Hair Care Products, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

What Chemicals Should You Look Out For in Your Personal Care Products?

It’s quite a list, isn’t it? The more I read and researched, the more I realize that we have been using many chemicals for years and years. Even just a few years ago, I really didn’t give it much thought. I knew there were chemicals in the food, water and everything under the sun, but I was not serious about eliminating as many as possible. It appears that now is my time of awakening and action, so I want to share what I am learning along the way. If it is of use to you, that’s great. If your time has not come yet, I perfectly understand, mine was years in the making.

After reading a lot of information, this is the regimen I chose. I had bought some condiment containers from the warehouse market, the kind you use for mustard and ketchup. These worked great for my ‘shampoo and conditioner’ bottles. I mixed up one tablespoon of baking soda with two cups of water for my shampoo. For the conditioner, I mixed up two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with two cups of water. To wash my hair, I wet it down first, liberally put the ‘shampoo’ all over my scalp and hair, then rub it in all over. I let it sit for about two minutes, then rinse it out. I only put the conditioner on the lower two thirds of my hair and not on my scalp. This is to, hopefully, prevent the hair on my scalp from looking greasy. I rub this in my hair, then rinse. That’s it. I thought my hair would be really hard to comb out since it’s so long and I wasn’t using a traditional conditioner, which I had to have just to comb it out without major tangles. But, you know what? I think it is easier to comb out now than with the commercial conditioner. I was very surprised.

After one week

So, am I happy with my hair? Yes, I really am. One, my head isn’t itching hardly at all and that is a real blessing. And two, my hair is thicker. Is that because it is dirty? I really don’t think so. Is it because of the baking soda? I don’t think so, but I really don’t know. My hair feels very different, not bad, just different. In the shower, my hair feels more like my skin, and in some ways it feels more natural. It’s kind of like when I started using baking soda instead of toothpaste. I thought my mouth wouldn’t feel as clean, but it was just the opposite. I don’t feel like my mouth has a coating of ‘stuff’ on it from the ingredients in the toothpaste. I think it is the same way with my hair. It doesn’t feel as if it has a coating of the stuff in the shampoo and conditioner. The last time Frank trimmed my hair, yes he has been cutting my hair for years, he thought my hair was much thinner. I had been noticing the same thing for a while. Now it feels much thicker and I don’t think there is near as much left in my comb or brush when I comb or brush it out. I’m not sure why. My only theory is that it is stronger or healthier, but I really don’t know if that is the case. I only know that there is not near as much coming out or breaking off in my comb and brush.

It has only been a week since I began this new routine. So far I am very happy with the results. If any adverse affects come about sometime in the future, I will let you know. This is one more experiment I wanted to share. We all have times in life where different learning opportunities come along. Enjoy yours. Don’t be afraid or wonder what others will think. Do what is best for you and your family. Always.

Until next time – Fern

Reclaiming the Strawberry Bed

Last summer we started a new strawberry bed. As you can see, we grew a lot of grass and weeds along with a few strawberries. 

The bed was started in a brand new place. We laid down sheets of brown paper, the kind painters use to protect windows or floors, and covered it with pine needle mulch, since berries and fruit like acidic soil. 

Some nice, friendly armadillo dug around in the bed, tearing the paper in many places allowing the grass and weeds an avenue to grow. With gardening season keeping us busy, we didn’t weed or tend to the strawberry bed much and it became very overgrown during the course of the summer.

Well, now that spring is upon us again, I found a good sale on strawberries and ordered 25 plants. In the meantime, I explored the strawberry bed and discovered that more of the plants made it through the weeds and winter than I expected. I just needed to uncover them and see how much of the grass and weeds I could remove to reclaim the bed. I pulled back the dead weeds and grass along with a nice layer of oak leaves from the large tree by the house.


Then I used a shovel to loosen all of the bare areas and make it easier to pull the grass out. After pulling up as much grass as I could, it rained so I had to wait a few days to get back to it.

I loosened the soil again with my hoe, then started planting my new plants.

I found some blooms on a few of the old plants. Maybe we will have a few berries to eat this summer. 

Now that the new plants are in, I want to mulch the bed again to try to keep the grass and weeds down. 

This time, I took thick layers of newspapers and tucked them in all around the plants with an extra thick layer up against the fence. 


I covered all of this will another layer of pine needles that I raked up in the yard. It’s nice of these trees to drop another layer of mulch for me each year. This wagon full of pine needles didn’t even make a noticeable dent in the layer of needles under these trees.

To try to ward off the armadillos, I have spread around some dog hair from Pearl’s last haircut. Maybe this will convince the them to go root around somewhere else.

It looks much better, doesn’t it? Even though I don’t have the whole bed mulched and finished off yet, it feels good to have this project up an running once again. Who knows, we may even get something to eat out of the deal. This is another possible source of perennial fruit that could add a few more handfuls of food each year to our diet. Besides planting, harvesting and preserving our garden each year, I am trying to establish some perennial sources of food that will stretch our food supply just a little bit farther. I pray we don’t have to depend upon what we can produce, even though it looks like we may have to more and more with each passing day. What do you have growing?

Until next time – Fern

The Tale of the Sunchokes

We have long wanted to have a patch of sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes. We tried years ago at our first homestead. From everything we read they would grow just about anywhere and spread profusely. Not for us.

After we arrived here we wanted to get a patch started, after all, they are very nutritious for livestock and humans. We planted the first batch in the garden, yes, really, in the garden, just so we could get them started because we didn’t have anywhere else to put them at first. They were very happy and grew quite well. (All of the pictures here are compliments of Google images.)

In the fall we dug them up to move them to their new home. Well, things happened and they stayed in the wagon until they all died. Yes, all of them. Well, except for the few that came up in  the garden the next year, but they were easy to recognize and pull up, so, no, they did not spread all over the garden.

The next year we planted a very large patch out in one of our smallest pastures where we were going to start an orchard and try to grow some other feed crops. Not long after they were planted it rained and it rained and it rained. They were standing in water for weeks. And then…..we had one of the hottest, driest summers in a long time. So the ones that didn’t rot, cooked and died. All of the fruit trees we planted out there died as well.

Two summers ago we decided to try yet again. Since we had been through two years of very hot, dry weather the ground was difficult to work. We got the bright idea of using the auger on the tractor to dig some holes for the sun chokes. So we did, about 30 of them. After they were dug, we filled the holes back in with the dirt and planted our new patch. We were happy with the process, it wasn’t near as back breaking as trying to dig all of those holes with a shovel. Then it rained and the dirt sunk down into the holes about six inches. That’s when we figured out that we had planted them way too deep. They still came up and grew last summer, but they didn’t get as tall as I expected and they never bloomed like the first batch did.

So, guess what? We’re going to plant some more this year in a different place and try to get yet another patch growing. We have ordered them, and they should be here before long. We will show you the new patch as we plant them and the ‘too deep’ patch as they come up. We are still determined to have a patch or two of these perennial tubers as another source of food. Even if they just grow and spread for a number of years without being harvested or eaten, they will be another source of nutrition, another source of food storage, if you will.

This is a story of, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, and again and again. There are many such stories in each and every life, yours, ours and everyone you know. The important thing is to keep trying. Period. Does that mean we don’t ‘give up’ for short periods of time every now and then? No. But then we go back to that big bucket of gumption we have been storing up, grab a handful, put it in our pockets and get back at it. Life is a precious journey and the most important part of it is what you make of it. Make it worth the time you spend living it.

Until next time – Fern

The Woodpile Report

Hello, Frank here.

Hope all are well. This morning I was reading the Woodpile Report and I realized that each article by Ol’ Remus was hitting a resonant chord. You know how sometimes you will be skimming articles or magazines or internet sites and a particular article or column catches your eye and strikes you deep? Well, this is what happened this morning while reading the Woodpile Report. Idea after idea was sending a pulse directly to my core. 

So, tonight I’m going to feature the Woodpile Report. I am relatively sure that Ol’ Remus does not need help from Frank and Fern, but that’s not the issue here. This person, Ol’ Remus, writes with a style and a manner that few have mastered. It’s not the ‘big words’ that he uses, it’s the idea or concept underlying what he is saying. It has a depth that challenges

my abilities to understand. So, you ask, why do I read it? I have read a few medical reviews that I have a little trouble following, the same with some legal briefs, but his is a different style of writing. And I ask again, why would I read something that I find challenging? Because we all need to stretch ourselves, sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, but we all need to stretch ourselves intellectually, otherwise we fall into the trap of complacency. Some writers will try to use vocabulary that shows that they are well educated, but that’s not the case with Ol’ Remus. Yes, he does use an occasional word that I need to open up the dictionary for, but I feel that he stretches my intellectual capabilities. Some that know me would say, well that’s not too difficult, is it? 

I hope you enjoy the articles in this version of the Woodpile Report. And after you read them, read them once again, because his depth and style is not always appreciated in the first reading. The things I read today scared me. There wasn’t a whole lot that was new, but it’s put in a way that makes it more imminent. I have read the Ol’ Remus site now for about six years, and I look forward to it every week. Folks, if you don’t know, we are in serious trouble.

We’ll talk more later. Frank


To Chore or Not To Chore

A number of years ago we were visiting with a doctor. I don’t recall the exact topic of the conversation, probably something about keeping things going at home. His comment was, “That’s why they’re called chores.” Chores are just something you do, most of them everyday. Seasonal chores, daily chores and some people have weekly chores, and I guess there are some we do monthly. 

Getting the chores done is what keeps things going around the homestead. Chores aren’t punishment, but they can be. Chores aren’t meant to be fun, but they can be. Some think of a chore as a negative, it all depends on how you look at it. 

Frank used to teach his high school kids this story. Picture two guys working on a car, both are changing a water pump. One man is building him a hot rod, and he loves changing that water pump. The other man is working on a piece of broken down equipment, and he does not love the job he is doing. Both are doing the same thing, it all depends on how you look at it. Some kids love feeding their dog, and some kids hate feeding their dog. 

Would you consider making a living a chore? For this conversation we are. Some people love their jobs, some people performing the same job, hate their jobs. I was at a function not too long ago and overheard someone say, ” You’re not supposed to like your job. It’s just a job.” Kind of like chores, I guess, some people like them and some people don’t. 

But it dawned on me that some people don’t do chores anymore. Some people leave their trash where it drops. Some people don’t appreciate anything. I used to give things away to people that I thought were needy, and I quickly learned that when people have nothing invested in something, then it often means nothing. Example: We used to raise dogs, nice dogs and charged a nice price for them, too. But on occasion, we would give a dog to a needy family. Those animals were seldom ever treated well or respected. The folks that paid top dollar for an animal, took a whole lot better care of it. I used to give away a lot of chickens, still good hens, producing. Then you hear talk come back around of how stupid that guy is that gives away things. So I don’t give things away anymore either. Sometimes I may charge a dollar or two, but I don’t give them away.

So, what does that have to do with chores? I think if you do a chore everyday, or weekly, or whenever, you have a vested interest in it. I wish everybody could find some happiness in doing chores. Many a child has been taught to feel that he or she is a contributing member of a family by doing the smallest chore. So, are chores good for you? People that were raised doing chores would tell you, yes, of course they are. People that drop their trash on the floor and wait for someone to do everything for them, would probably tell you that doing chores is stupid or beneath them.

Frank’s Daddy did this in World War II.

I have only changed a couple of diapers in my life, and it’s not a chore that I would enjoy doing. And I don’t think I could kid myself to where I could find it to be enjoyable, until you look at that smiling baby. Then you know that someday that child will be doing chores, too. I don’t think that our society values doing chores anymore. I wonder if my daddy and all my uncles considered fighting in World War II a chore? Maybe one of those

things that you just do for your country? Yea, I wonder where ‘chore’ picked up the bad meaning along the way? So, is it a chore to load everybody up on a Sunday morning and go to church? It would be easier to stay in bed, wouldn’t it?

Gotta go. Got chores to do.

We’ll talk more later, Frank.

Disbudding the Baby Goats

We usually disbud the baby goats ourselves, but this year we have both been ill with a weeks long cold/flu/virus something that has happened right in the middle of our busy spring season. When we are well again, we hope to have produced massive amounts of antibodies that will last us for a very long time. There are many people in our neck of the woods that have been sick with this illness that seems to drag on forever.

Anyway, back to the baby goats’ horns. This year we had the vet come out and burn the horn buds on all six of our babies. Velvet’s boys were three weeks old and their horn buds were getting pretty big, but the vet’s burning iron had a deeper depression in the tip than ours does, so he said it should take care of the three week old buds. We are very grateful we still have the services of the vet to call upon.

You know, burning baby goats horns is one of the most disgusting things we ever do. It’s one thing to kill an animal and butcher it. We make sure they have a quick, clean, merciful death. But to take these cute little baby goats and burn their heads, listen to them holler and smell the burning hair is awful. I won’t pretend

Our electric iron

otherwise. So, why do we do this? We tried letting some of our goats that were born here keep their horns. They were tame and wouldn’t try to use them on us, but they did use them on each other, especially the ones without horns. Then one day Frank realized that even if it was unintentional, it would be easy for a goat to lift up their head, or shift positions when we were bent over pouring feed into the trough and put out one of our eyes, or otherwise poke or gore us with a horn. We also had goats start getting stuck in our fence, which is field fence. Sometimes they had been there a long time and we had to cut some of the fence to get them out. Next thing we know, they had moved down about four feet and got stuck again. It’s just the nature of the beast. These two things changed our perspective about leaving our goats in their natural state with horns. You will find many people that are adamantly opposed to removing a goat’s horns. You will find just as many people adamantly opposed to leaving the goats with horns. If you have, or are going to get goats, this is something you will have to decide for yourself. Choose what works best for you and yours. There is no right or wrong choice. The choice you make is the one that is best for you.

We took the first baby goats we had after we moved here to a vet to have them disbudded. When we got home, the mother refused to take them back. She wouldn’t let them nurse unless I clipped her collar up to the fence. The babies would cry and she would answer them, but even if they were standing right beside her, it’s like they didn’t exist anymore. So this time, we had the vet come to us. We don’t have electricity in the barn, so we loaded the babies up in a large pet carrier and drove them down to the garage where the vet had plugged in his burning iron to heat. His assistant held the babies on the ground and held the ears back out of the way, while the vet held the goat’s nose to prevent as much wiggling and struggling as possible. Our youngest babies were ten days old, so the vet held the burning iron on for ten seconds on each horn. It always seems much longer to me.

We also have a burning iron that we will be able to use when there is no electricity. You heat it up in a fire until it glows, then it’s ready. I was looking around at some blogs the other day and ran across a post at The Riddle Family Farm titled Dehorning Goat Kids, Old West Style using this type of iron. It was the first time I had seen someone use it and describe how it is done. It’s very informative and interesting, so go take a look.

As soon as the vet was finished, I took the babies back to the barn, put salve on their horns and turned them loose. They usually nurse and get some reassurance from mom, then take a nap. After that, it’s like nothing happened. They are up running and jumping, just like they do everyday. After a few weeks, the scabs will come off, the hair will grow back, and you will never be able to tell they had their horns removed……except for the fact that they don’t have any.

There are many things that have to be done in life that are distasteful and unpleasant. That is when you have to dig down and pull up a big handful of gumption and get with it anyway. If you don’t, who will? It’s your job, so get with it. Go do whatever it is you have on your plate that needs doin’ that you haven’t done yet. Time’s a wastin’.

Until next time – Fern

Researching a New Feed Ration

The more I read about and learn about GMO corn, the more I wish we could totally eliminate it from our diet, even though I know that’s close to impossible. We do have a few cans of store bought corn in the pantry, which I don’t even like to eat anymore. But, for me, the biggest stumbling block we have is the feed we give our animals. So, more research and more reading.

We used to have our goat and chicken feed mixed according to our own recipe at a small, family owned feed mill. This location does not have that option, so we have been mixing our own. Wheat was one of the ingredients we used to include that has not been available here. A few days ago when we were at the feed store, I noticed a bag of wheat bran that I didn’t remember seeing before. I didn’t know what the nutritional value of wheat bran would be for goats, so I came home and looked it up. According to Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, wheat bran has 13.3% digestible protein and rolled oats have 10% . Hmmm….okay. The alfalfa pellets we use have 17% protein and the sweet feed has 10%. 

Summer 2013

The ideal protein ratio for milking does is around 12%. So, what I am trying to figure out is a mix of these grains, minus the GMO corn chops we are currently feeding, that would give me about a 12% feed combination. Another thought I have had is sunflower seeds. Black oil sunflower seeds are very nutritious for both goats and chickens. We grew our first ever sunflowers last summer and actually had seeds to harvest. This summer I hope to grow hundreds of sunflowers all around our place with the plan to harvest them for animal feed.

So, the new feed ration we are going to try is:

  • 6 parts rolled oats
  • 4 parts sweet feed
  • 1 part alfalfa pellets
  • 1 part wheat bran
  • 1 part sunflower seeds

For now, all of these ingredients will come from the feed store. This combination will give me a feed ration of about 11.5% protein. Of course, the protein content is always dependent upon growing conditions.

Summer 2013

I am also going to start several patches of comfrey this summer. Right now I have one plant in my herb bed. I have ordered and received 5 more roots which will begin bed number two. Then the next step will be to start comfrey seedlings. 

Once I have them up and established, I will plant bed number three. Comfrey, also called knitbone, has long been used as a medicinal herb and as a supplement for livestock feed. It is very high in protein and vitamin B12.

Another crop I am going to try to get established for supplemental livestock feed is plantain. I have read about it for a number of years, but didn’t really pay much attention to it. When I was ordering some more herb plants from Crimson Sage, I ran across plantain again, right after I had read another article about feeding it to chickens. I have been wondering what I could grow that would supplement our chicken’s diet more naturally than grains. It would have to be something that is easy to grow, pick and dry for winter use. So I ordered some. I will let you know how it grows and how the animals like it.

Fall 2013

The third thing I am going to grow more of this summer is kale. I have a few rather sad looking plants that made it through our cold winter. After reading this article, I started picking off some of the bottom leaves and feeding them to the chickens. They took to them right away, but the goats didn’t seem to care for them. I will try feeding them to the goats again after they have started producing newer leaves.

Summer 2013

We will try our hand once again at growing carrots, sugar beets and turnips for the animals. Last summer, our fall garden didn’t produce much of anything. I got started late and the weather didn’t cooperate very well either. If we are really going into another Maunder Minimum, we will see how that affects our ability to produce plentiful gardens like we have in the past.

We may all be learning to garden a little differently if the quality of our sunlight and warmth are affected by decreasing solar activity. Another thing to learn more about so that I can adjust our growing habits to match what nature is providing.


There are many things to take into account when pondering feed rations for both animals and humans. Learn all you can, put it to good use, and hold your family close. They are the most important thing there is in your life. Don’t let anyone, or anything, convince you otherwise.

Until next time – Fern